Saturday, January 31, 2015

Healthy Vegan Coleslaw

My grandmother liked to give me a hard time about me being vegan, albeit in a loving way. She made an amazing coleslaw that happened to be vegan. She passed in October 2014, and while I was moving into our new home, I found this recipe laying in my nightstand drawer. I figured it was time to post it, and have added the recipe below. Enjoy in memory of my grandma!

Vegan Coleslaw
yields 12 servings

1 bag coleslaw mix
1/4 c. bell pepper
1/4 c. onion
2 stalks green onion shallots
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1/8 c. vinegar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 Tbsp. poppyseed

1. Add coleslaw mix, bell pepper, onion, and shallots together and toss well in a bowl.
2. Mix dry mustard, salt, and sugar together and add to vinegar and oil, stirring until thick.
3. Combine all ingredients and add poppyseed until well mixed.
4. Chill coleslaw until ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top 3 Places to Donate & Cash in on Clutter

While researching for this blog post, I found an amazing article by a minimalist that covered a detailed list of where to donate anything. If you're looking for that kind of guide, be sure to read Miss Minimalist's guide, 101 Places Your Clutter Can Do Good. I thought I'd cover a few places where I like to go when I'm ready to get rid of something. With the three of these, we've been able to pare down much of our possessions to what we truly need and care about. Because, really, do you need 50 t-shirts?! I've found that with less clutter, I have way more time to focus on The Little Red Journal and spending time with my husband while we're not at work!

Goodwill | There's over 2,700 locations nationwide, and I can think of two within a three-mile radius of our new home. Not long ago, I found myself bringing home less than $450 a paycheck cleared after taxes. I had no other choice but to shop at Goodwill for clothing. They will literally accept nearly any type of household item or article of furniture and clothing. You're also creating job opportunities for people who sort, price, and sell the items, which I always thought was a great perk. Their pricing is great, too, if you're needing a new item of clothing or are looking for some used furniture. I'm all about donating, and think it's great to free your home and mind of the clutter.

Half-Price Books | I don't know how we amassed a library of books. When we lived in Huntsville, Texas while I attended Sam Houston State University, my now brother-in-law asked me, "Who do those books belong to?!" As if they magically appeared out of thin air or we were storing them for someone else. When we moved from Austin, we filled up two reusable bags and hauled them over to Half-Price Books. I was stunned to be offered nearly $50 for the lot. I cashed out and tossed it into our savings. We saved the hassle of packing two boxes during our move and we haven't even missed those books.

Craigslist | This one can be hit or miss, but when we moved out of Austin to Houston, Texas, we definitely cashed in on some items that we wouldn't need for one year. We sold a couch to some total hipsters (vintage holds its value in Austin) for $300 (and I made $50 profit!), and we sold a record player cabinet for $130 that I had only paid $100 for originally. So for higher-priced items, it is definitely worth it, but I wouldn't recommend trying to sell items of clothing or small trinkets around the house. Not worth the time you will spend going round and round with a potential customer. Big items, though—YES!

Interested in minimalism? Read some inspiring posts!
How Minimalism Made Moving Day Less Painful
Minimalism 101: We The Tiny House People
Skipping the Holidays: Minimalist Style
Cutting the Clutter: The 5 C's to More Happiness
5 Lessons I've Learned by Decluttering
Cutting the Clutter: Kitchen Revamp
Top 5 Reasons for Cutting the Clutter
Embracing a Minimalist Lifestyle

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vegan Cheesy Spinach Manicotti

While thinking about what I was going to buy at the grocery store, I suddenly became overwhelmed with the idea of manicotti. I haven't had a nice manicotti in a long while, so I knew this had to be the first dish that I cook in my brand new kitchen. It wasn't pretty while I was in the process of stuffing the manicotti, but it turned out amazing and I ended up eating this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That's how good it was!

yields 6 servings

1 package manicotti shells
1 package meatless crumbles
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 jar tomato and basil sauce
1/2 bunch spinach, stems removed
2 garlic cloves
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 bag Daiya mozarella style shreds
1 package silken tofu
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. nutritional yeast

1. Cook manicotti shells according to package instructions.
2. Brown meatless crumbles in a nonstick skillet with olive oil. Add water while scraping the bottom of the skillet with flour. Pour in tomato and basil sauce and simmer on low heat.
3. Combine spinach, parsley, and garlic cloves in a food processor.
4. Add in 3/4 of the bag of Daiya shreds, tofu, spices, and nutritional yeast to the food processor.
5. Stuff manicotti shells with filling and add to 9×13 and 8×8 Pyrex dish.
6. Top with meatless crumble sauce and top with remaining vegan mozarella shreds.
7. Cook at 350° for 40 minutes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ina May Gaskin: Reducing Fear of Birth in US Culture

Ina May Gaskin is a hero of mine. I'm currently reading her book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which is filled with real, inspiring stories of other women and their labors. It's been great to read, and I started to seek out other information that she provided online. I ran across this TEDx talk, and wanted to share with others who may be interested in natural childbirth or midwifery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Healthy & Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I love a good tomato basil soup and aimed to find a recipe that would satisfy my cravings during my pregnancy. The first time I made a recipe from Vegetarian Times, and then I modified it to be even creamier. One important ingredient that I'd like to call attention to is the can of Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes. I received these for a lasagna dish that I created (also using another kind of Red Gold tomatoes), and knew this would be the perfect addition to my soup. It's a superior product and I highly recommend Red Gold!

My husband and I tag-teamed this one in the kitchen and he helped to tweak it further. Enjoy this with some garlic bread or a vegan grilled cheese sandwich using Daiya cheddar style shreds.

Healthy & Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
yields 8 servings

2 medium white onions, chopped
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
4 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. sugar
1-28 oz. can Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 c. water
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
2 c. unsweetened almond milk

1. Heat oil to saucepan over medium heat and add chopped onion. Saute for 3 minutes.
2. Add tomato paste, garlic, sugar, Red Gold Crushed Tomatoes, bouillon cube, water, and spices to saucepan and stir well.
3. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 minutes.
4. Add almond milk to saucepan and blend soup with immersion blender.
5. Serve warm with garlic bread or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Healthy Child—A Holistic Approach [to Pregnancy & Childbirth]

I've been watching the trailer for Happy Healthy Child for several months now (as soon as I found out I was pregnant, it was something that came up early on during my research). Shortly after we found out we were expecting, I teared up as I watched the first video below and knew that I had to have it. It's a four-part series and discusses several topics that were of interest to me, including doulas, how to reduce labor time, how to minimize my risk of a c-section, and much more.

I discussed the purchase with my husband since it was $89.95 for the four-disc set. I knew it was an investment I was more than willing to make, as it has several experts that I have come to respect over the last few months, including Christiane Northrup, MD, Bruce Lipton, PhD, Joseph Chilton Pearce, the late Marsden Wagner, MD, MS, Ina May Gaskin, MA, CPM, Robbie Davis-Floyd, PhD,  to name just a few!

I'm happy to report that I watched the entire series spread out over a few nights with my husband. I was thrilled with the content and so happy to be reassured with my natural birth that I have planned. The interviews were amazing, and I loved the content and topics they covered. So is it worth the price? YES! We enjoyed learning more about the choices we're making and things we hadn't yet thought about. I've even lended my copy to a coworker who is due two weeks after me!

Check out the trailer below and another video with a message from the producer/director of Happy Healthy Child! 

NOTE: I am in no way receiving any compensation for endorsing Happy Healthy Child, but felt the message was so amazing and positive, that I had to share this with my readers! Check out their website to learn more or to purchase it online via Amazon or through their store. Before I purchased it, I signed up to receive a few teaser videos, and they were great. After seeing the snippets of footage, I knew I would be buying it to watch the whole thing. Certainly well worth it!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Update Your Loveseat for Only $12—in Less Than 2 Minutes!

When we moved into our house, I knew the formal dining room in the front was way too fancy for our lifestyle. Early on (even before we officially owned the house), I had designated the front room off of the entry a playroom for our little Eleanor (due in roughly six weeks!). When we moved our furniture into the 1,653-ft house, I loved that we had plenty of room to roam and that it wasn't super cluttered.

I'm all about saving money, so after we had our things where we wanted, I asked my mother-in-law if I could have a small couch that was sitting unused in her garage. She used to own a farmhouse and had some extra furniture that wasn't claimed yet by her children. While I supervised my brother-in-law dragging the coffee table out of the garage that is now sitting in our living room, I spotted the couch but didn't think too much of it.

The next day, I asked her if we could have it, thinking I could use it for a small sitting area in the playroom if grandparents decide to visit or if I need a place to lounge while watching Eleanor play. It measures 52 in wide × 32 in deep, so it's small enough to not take up the whole room, yet offers enough sitting for two. I didn't love the fabric and dreaded the thought of trying to sew pillow covers for the six pillows (two on the back, two on the bottom, and one for each side). My sewing skills are subpar, so I knew I needed to find an easier fix.

Hello, Pinterest! I saw a pin that had a canvas drop cloth draped over a couch and knew that would be the answer to this situation. Durable, washable, and a quick fix to modernize this little loveseat with minimal effort. And I mean like two minutes worth of effort... EASY! After some quick Googling, I found the best deal on a canvas drop cloth within a 10-mile radius of me (Harbor Freight Tools had a 9 ft × 12 ft for $24.99 on sale for $14.99). When I used my 20% off coupon (that I also Googled while standing in line), I only paid a little over $12 for the cloth.

I won't lie. I pulled that mofo out of the bag and made a face when the smell of the drop cloth hit me. It smelled like straight up chemicals, but I also had a quick fix for that, too. I tossed it in the washer using hot water on the Ultra Wash setting. And I repeated four more times. So yeah, that was kind of annoying, but then I pulled it out of the dryer and it smelled wonderful (mountain breeze, anyone?)! I'll stop talking now and just show you the results...

...and only two minutes later!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hospital Of the Future (1950's Sliding Drawer with Baby)

This is just a quick post because I thought it was hilarious. This video was made in the 1950's and features a sliding drawer for a mother to see her baby from the nursery directly into her private hospital room. Interesting idea. I'll be laboring at home until I enter active labor and then will be heading to the West Houston Birth Center to give birth. Enjoy this retro video below!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Minimalist's View of Frozen's Anthem: Let it Go

I was teasing my mom recently because she's been talking about the movie Frozen for weeks now. She bought the movie because she heard it was good. I have not yet seen it, but of course, I can sing the entire theme song from memory because it's just so popular! Well, I think the title of that song has some great advice. So, I'll write this post while being completely ignorant about the context of this song, and we'll just wing it.


I'm talking about anything and everything in your home that causes you to cringe when you walk by it. Do you have a pile of items sitting in a junk drawer that you can stand to look at? Well, let's let Elsa do the talking here. We'll take chunks of the lyrics and apply them to minimalism. This should be fun!
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I'm the queen
Alright, so here we have the perfect intro: your house is your kingdom and if it was cluttered up like mine a few years ago, you'd feel like the queen of a great treasure trove. But it does feel a bit isolated because you don't have the room to really breathe and enjoy your home. What's next, Elsa?
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried!
By now, you know there's something not quite right in your life, and you really do want to make some changes. Where do I start? How do I even begin to tackle the clutter in my life? You've tried to buy some organizational totes and you're too embarrassed to admit you totally fell for those bags that you stuff full of extra bedding, sweaters, and sheets that you really don't need, only to realize as you're sucking out the air out of the bags with your vacuum cleaner attachment, that you'll just be tossing these to the back of the closet once you've sealed them in their tomb.
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!
Crap, you have visitors and they showed up at the most inopportune time. Why didn't they call beforehand so you could do some speed cleaning?! How are you supposed to tidy up the house when you hear that knock on the door?
Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!
No, no, don't lock the door and run away in shame! This is your chance to make some big changes in your life. You don't need to speed clean once you have decluttered your home. Why? Because everything has a home and nothing is left strewn about. You'll look like the queen on your kingdom and everyone will wonder just how you keep your house so tidy. They may comment how well-polished the home looks and you can probably get away with those unswept floors if people aren't focusing on a pile of magazines or other items that tend to pile up.
I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
This is the attitude you will have AFTER you've made peace with donating any unnecessary items and letting go of those things you thought you needed. Once you realize that your home has a profound effect on your mental well-being and ridding yourself of the clutter can actually improve your outlook and attitude, then you'll be donating like crazy. Some people may not understand you or why you're letting go of things in your home. That's okay, and you should remember that this change only matters to you!
It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!
Once you see your possessions as what they really are, whether they be useful to you now, or five years ago, it will be so much easier to decide what stays and what goes. I'm not saying you'll be packing everything up, but you'll realize you really don't need three extra sets of bedding or 50 t-shirts. You'll soon be free of those preconceived notions and feel good about helping someone else out by donating an item that was once useful to you but is now surely much more useful to someone else today.
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I'm free!
So what are you waiting for? You can totally do this. There are no rules to minimalism. It is what you make of it. If that means removing items from your home, that's great! If you find that reducing the amount of time commitments you make each week is helpful to ease your mind, then that's also another way to minimize. Don't compare your journey to anyone else's, because it's a deep-rooted change that takes place, and it looks different for everyone.

Best of luck to everyone during their journey into minimalism, and I'd love to hear how it goes.

Helpful Minimalism Blog Posts
Embracing a Minimalist Lifestyle
Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.
Top 5 Reasons for Cutting the Clutter
Cutting the Clutter: The 5 C's to More Happiness
5 Lessons I've Learned by Decluttering
Cutting the Clutter: Kitchen Revamp

Friday, January 9, 2015

Perfectly Crispy Vegan Garlic Bread

I have been making lots of Italian dishes lately (vegan manicotti, tomato basil soup, and lasagna). The perfect pairing and easiest side I could think of is crispy garlic bread. I used to eat Garlic Texas Toast from the freezer aisle, but guess what? It ain't vegan. Now, I'm not saying this is super healthy (hello, butter...), but if you enjoy carbs as much as I do, then you'll love these.

Perfect Crispy Garlic Bread
yields 24 mini garlic breads

1 large loaf of fresh baked bread (from store bakery)
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1. Warm butter, garlic, and italian seasoning in microwave for 1 minute in a microwavable dish.
2. Cut loaf of bread into small pieces.
3. Place on silicone baking mat on cookie sheet and cook at 350° for 12 minutes.
4. Serve with your favorite dish.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Benefits of Pinpointing Financial "Leaks" & Tightening Budgets

Once I set up our account, it was clear to see where we had our financial leaks. For the last two years, I had made it a habit to bring my own lunch to work each day, but my husband had not. This was the first of a few different mistakes I could see that we were making. Another was the frequent trips to the convenience store and my unnecessary smaller purchases. I had cut my shopping sprees to Goodwill mostly out of our new budget, but now we had every single purchase under my close watch like a microscope.

I've learned so much about money and happiness over the last several months, and there's been some great perks to paying more attention to our debt. Here are some of my favorite changes that we've made since paying down the debt and saving up for the house.
  • Eating more [vegan] meals at home
  • Watching Netflix instead of going to the movies
  • Investing my time into The Little Red Journal
  • Removing negative energy from my life
  • Deleting my Facebook account to achieve more mental peace
  • Spending more quality time with my husband
  • Relaxing more and having a peace of mind I've not had before
  • Preparing for the arrival of our first child
So, what are some of my biggest tips to help you achieve your financial goals?

1. Track every single penny. I'm not even kidding when I say this. You should know exactly where every dollar is spent, and if you need to switch to only using a debit card, then do so. My parents refuse to get a debit card, but chances are you're in your 20s like me, and are willing to commit to using a debit card to track every transaction. If you have to use cash, then dutifully (and manually) add a transaction to your account. I've occasionally had to do this, and it's super easy,

2. Identify the "financial" leaks. That's right! Once you start paying attention to every single transaction, then you'll immediately see which categories or budgets are really giving you problems. For us, it was my trips to Goodwill (when I wasn't donating, I was buying), and my husband's frequent trips to the convenience store. Our solutions to these budgets? I will buy him his Red Bull when I go to the grocery store. They cost double at the convenience store, so he is still able to keep his habit and I'm happy that he's saving half the cost that he'd otherwise be spending on them. I also stopped needlessly shopping and have put a halt on purchasing any additional items for my wardrobe.

3. Tighten the budgets accordingly. I refuse to cut one budget: our food budget. I overspend every single month on "eating out". Yep, once the baby gets here, I'm hoping that will force us to trim the budget, but hey, I know how it is. We all have a vice, and for us, that's food. Figure out where you can trim back (can you cut cable and switch to Netflix?), and then go from there. I closely monitor our bills and if I see even a $5 or $10 increase in the bill, I will call with no mercy. (I'm looking at you AT&T and Comcast!)

So, best of luck with all of your financial goals, and let me know how I can help. Feel free to drop me an email.

Ready to pay off your debt and find your financial freedom? Check out the posts below for inspiration!
How to Create a Monthly Budget—and Stick With it!
How We Saved $16,000 in Less Than 7 Months to Purchase Our First Home
How To Pay Off $17,000 of Student Loan Debt in Less Than 18 Months
Knocking Out Student Loans One at a Time
Finance 101: 7 Reasons Why I Love
Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.
Reality Check: The Evolution of Your [Financial] Goals

Monday, January 5, 2015

Make Your Closet Feel More Luxurious With Velvet Hangers

When it comes to purchases that are completely unnecessary and nonessential, I tend to think about them for a long, long time. For several months now, I have been keeping an eye out for a good deal on velvet hangers. Why? I have no idea, but I loved the look of them in some closets I had seen while reading about minimalism. The fact that you'd pay a little more for a hanger (upwards of $0.30–$0.50 each) would sort of force you to keep your wardrobe in check.

Even while I'm nearing week 32 of my pregnancy, I have managed to keep a very small wardrobe with a limited number of tops and bottoms to get me through. I was able to use several tops from my prepregnancy days during this time and was fortunate enough to borrow several pairs of pants from a colleague who was pregnant over a year ago with her first child. Even my original wardrobe had been whittled down to my absolute favorite items and classic styles (all purchased at Goodwill or other thrift stores). 

I received a $25 gift card to a home store and purchased three packs of 25 hangers at $12.99 for a total out of pocket cost of roughly $15 with taxes. Then I got home, started hanging away and tossing my cheap, mismatched plastic hangers we had collected over the years. While I was at it, I also stood there in my closet for several minutes carefully looking at every single item of clothing hanging on those glorious new hangers. Could I trim a few more items from my closet?

After considering the wardrobe I had, there were some items I was able to let go of, including some dresses that we were hardly worn, a few of my not-so-favorite tops, and a few pairs of shoes that hadn't been used in months. I urged my husband to let go of a few more of his shirts, and we were able to clear out some more items in our new walk-in closet. I added a hanging organizer that I snagged for less than $10 and hauled away all of the donations to my nearest Goodwill, less than a mile away from our new home. 

So, is it worth it? When I walked into the house with my new hangers, I looked at my husband and said, "Look, I know this sounds crazy, but I bought some hangers." His response: "Why?!" I know it may make no sense to many people, but knowing that you only have a set number of hangers can keep you from amassing more clothing just because you have the room for them. Our new closet is larger than our laundry "room", so I want to be sure to keep it in check. Here they are, in all their glory. And yes, this is all of the clothing we own. I also own five pairs of shoes, while my husband owns ten. He loves t-shirts, as you can tell, also. 

Looking for some velvet hangers? You can find them in a discounted home goods store like Ross, Marshall's, or TJ Maxx. I bought our set at Home Goods ($12.99 for 25) and then bought another at Wal-Mart ($9.99 for 30). 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Red Gold Veganized Lasagna with Meatless Meat Sauce

I have been on an Italian kick for the last few weeks and when I received an email from Red Gold Tomatoes asking if I'd like to create a lasagna using their products, I jumped on the opportunity. I perfected a veganized ricotta-inpsired cheese blend of tofu and "mozarella-style" shreds and knew I could whip up something that hit the spot and be filling, as well. They sent me information on Laura's Lean Beef, but I opted to use my own meatless version and substitute with pureed meatless meatballs instead. Here's a quick tip o' the hat to their latest campaign,
Again, a special thanks to Red Gold Tomatoes for sending the noodles and Red Gold products! They are hosting a giveaway from January 13th–February 3rd on Facebook, where they will be giving away 750 aprons. They'll also be giving away 6 Gourmet Lasagna Party Prize Packs, which will include a Le Creuset Lasagna pan. Check it out and enter to win!

1/2 package lasagna noodles
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 package of meatless meatballs
2-14 oz. cans of Red Gold Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, and Oregano
1 bag fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
8 oz. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. Daiya Mozarella-Style Shreds
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
paprika for garnish

1. Cook lasagna noodles according to the directions on the package.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add meatless meatballs in olive oil. Once cooked, puree in food processor.
3. Warm both cans of Red Gold tomatoes in saucepan and stir in pureed meatless meatballs.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.
5. Spread a thin layer of the meatless meat sauce on the bottom of a glass 9×13 glass Pyrex dish.
6. Add three lasagna noodles as the next layer.
7. Spread a layer of the spinach puree.
8. Repeat steps 6–9 once more and top with optional paprika and additional mozarella shreds if desired.
9. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes uncovered.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello 2015, Goodbye Successful 2014!

We had a big year in 2014 with lots of accomplishments. I'll keep this post short and sweet and list off my favorites.

January 1—Moved from of Austin, Texas to Houston, Texas.
January 6—My husband started his new job in the outskirts of Houston.
January 8—I joined my husband in moving in to his cousin's three bedroom, two bath home. (We thought this would be temporary!)
February 17—I started my new job as a copywriter in Houston.
April 10—We officially paid off my husband's student loan debt ($17,000 in less than 18 months).
April 14—We had a student loan debt payoff party at my parent's house. We began saving for a house the next week.
June 11—I was hired on as a full-time employee from a contracting position at my job.
June 18—I found out I was pregnant with our first child.
July 28—We heard our little one's heartbeat for the first time during a prenatal appointment.
August 18—We saw our baby during our first ultrasound session.
October 16—We celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary and found out we were having a little girl named Eleanor Jane.
November 15—We saved up $16,000 in less than 7 months for our first house and put in an offer on the seventh home we looked at that day.
November 16—The sellers accepted our offer and we began the contract period on the home.
December 12—We signed on our home after a few bumps in the road, and moved out of my husband's cousin's house.

Overall, it was a good year, and we can't wait for what 2015 will bring.