Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Waiting for warmer weather...

Monday, March 28, 2011

12 Vegan Snack Ideas

Here is a round up of some of our favorite quick, easy and yummy vegan snacks. 

The simple:

1. Green popcorn Drizzle freshly popped popcorn with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with nutritional yeast and spinach powder (or spirulina). For a red hot variation, try sprinkling with garlic powder, paprika and a little cayenne instead.

2. Ants on a log's a classic! Spread peanut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins. For a variation, try cashew butter and chopped, dried apricots.

3. Trail mix I don't know about you, but I hate sifting through bags of unwanted sunflower seeds, which is what pre-made trail mixes inevitably become. Explore the bulk section of your local natural food store. Make your own mix with only your favorite fruits, nuts, sesame sticks or pretzels (and maybe chocolate)! 

4. Edamame I always make sure I have a bag or two of these soybeans in the pod in the freezer. Seapoint Farms has some that are ready to eat and thaw in a couple minutes under hot water.  We eat them plain, but they are good with a sesame dipping sauce, too.

The savory:

5. Pita chips with hummus Make your own pita chips! Cut pita bread into wedges, and lightly brush with olive oil. Arrange in a single layer and bake at 425F for about 7 minutes. Serve with hummus. If you want to get fancier or make it a meal, serve with dolmas, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke and olives.

6. Lettuce wraps Top large lettuce leaves with your favorite filling and roll up like a burrito. Try vegan "egg" or "chicken" salads, baba ganoush or try this raw Italian Veggie Medley. Top with sprouts.

7. Easy tacos Top hot corn tortillas (get yourself a bag of Masa and make your own- it's so worth the few extra minutes) with avocado and a little salsa or tabasco. Add some green onion or grated vegan cheese, if you want.

8. Baked tofu sticks with dipping sauce  There are lots of variations on this one: roll tofu sticks in seasoned bread crumbs and serve with marinara or BBQ sauce, or marinate the tofu and dip in a peanut sauce.  I do not have a favorite go-to recipe for the tofu sticks, but I have a few recipes bookmarked that I am planning on trying out soon. Peanut sauce is easy; just mix together some peanut butter, coconut milk, agave (or other sweetener), soy sauce and a touch of lime juice.  Red pepper flakes are good to give it a little kick, and I like to add a little galangal (use ginger in a pinch).

The sweet:

9. Apple sandwiches Core an apple and cut into round slices. Spread half of the slices with peanut butter and top with the remaining slices. Try different nut butters and top with granola, shredded coconut, banana slices, or chocolate chips.

10. Apple wedges with caramel dip Let an 8oz container of vegan cream cheese soften slightly, then add 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix well, until sugar melts. Serve with apple wedges.

11. (Homemade) granola Serve with your favorite non-dairy milk, or layer with fruit and yogurt in a pretty glass bowl for a guilt free parfait. For some reason I never ate a lot of granola, but since getting my friend Megan's Maple Walnut granola recipe, it has become a staple at our house! ( 

12. Banana con leche (banana milkshake) I fell in love with this drink in Costa Rica years ago. It is so easy yet amazingly delicious, and quite filling. Simply blend 1-2 bananas with your favorite non-dairy milk until frothy and serve in a pretty glass. 

I'll leave you with a not quite as healthy bonus, just because they are yummy and I'm enjoying some with a mug of peppermint tea as I write this post...

Lazy "Quick and Easy" S'mores Top graham crackers with vegan marshmallows and semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Facebook Giveaway!

This short break from school combined with a friend of mine getting excited about one of my wraps recently got me inspired to start dying again when it warms up a little more, though I will probably end up with some tie dyed children as well... In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to have a little giveaway when I get 100 "likes" on my Catnip Creations Facebook page!

The lucky winner will receive this cotton sun hat:
(Cute model not included.)
For your chance to win, simply head on over and "like" Catnip Creations on Facebook, and don't forget to share with your friends!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bummis Easy Fit Cloth Diaper Review

Miss H modeling her Easy Fit.
I figure I had better get in a couple cloth diaper reviews before we are totally finished with diapers here.
Well, after going through two babes in quite a few different kinds of cloth diapers, I've labeled myself as a prefold user with a weakness for fitteds. Which is to say that I love fitted diapers and pockets (I find AIO's too thick and long on the drying time, and not being able to separate the layers for washing kind of creeps me out), but because I am reluctant to wear out the elastic and stuff on all those pretty fitteds and pockets with all the washing and drying, I mostly use prefolds with a wool cover.

That said, I had the opportunity to try out a Bummis/Tots Bots Easy Fit cloth diaper recently. Tots Bots diapers are sustainably and ethically manufactured in Glasgow, Scotland. The Easy Fit it is a one size pocket diaper (snaps to fit 8 lbs. to 35 lbs.) that features an attached insert. The built in insert is definitely my favorite part of this diaper! One thing that I really hate doing, yet find myself doing way too much, is hunting for inserts. Because the liner pulls out of the pocket (and doesn't get lost- did I mention that already?), I know that the whole thing is getting really clean in the wash. Speaking of washing, I found that the underside of the insert got quite pilly after some washes, but this doesn't affect its performance whatsoever, and it's not visible (except for when it is drying on the line, maybe). The laundry tabs, on the other hand, have remained pill-free.

The Easy Fit is trim enough to fit under pants that my LO normally can't wear (nice!), and we haven't had any leaks. In my opinion, the only downside to the Easy Fit is the Velcro-type closure. I have never been able to keep a diaper with a velcro-type closure on either one of my kids, so as cute this one is, and as well as it fits, it really has not gotten a lot of use. (ETA: maybe just to prove me wrong, or maybe because she knew how stinkin' cute she was in it, she actually left it on after I took the pictures that day!)

Buy it:
Check out all the cute prints and buy directly from, or use their convenient search feature to find a retailer near you!

I received a sample of this product for reviewing purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All expressed opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Water Day

Happy International World Water Day, my friends! Every time I turn on the water tap at home, I feel so blessed. I love water: drinking it, bathing, swimming, you name it. I do turn off the water while brushing my teeth and I reuse some of my grey water for watering plants, but I admit that it is an area of weakness as far as my conservation efforts go. Drinking water is something that many of us take for granted because it seems so abundant. Turn the tap and out it comes in a seemingly endless supply! In reality, however, only about 1% of the Earth's water is fresh water that we can actually use. Approximately 1 in 6 people worldwide do not have access to safe fresh water, and millions of women and children make numerous trips every day, walking an average of 10 miles each time, in order to collect water from distant and often polluted sources. Want another sobering fact? Over 4,000 children die every day from lack of clean drinking water.

You are probably aware that there are all sorts of great organizations and missions that develop wells in areas where people don't have access to clean water. But did you know that 1/3 of the wells built in the past 20 years are broken? I didn't!

I was pretty excited when I found out about The Adventure Project's campaign to raise $10,000 USD in one day (that would be today, by the way), not to build more wells, but to train and equip men and women in India to repair and maintain their region's water wells.  The $10,000 would allow well mechanics fix hundreds of wells for years to come and turn water back on for 300 people a month. If the goal is met, The Prem Rawat Foundation will match the donations, doubling the impact in India. 

Won't you consider a $20 donation to help bring clean water to those who so desperately need it? Simply click below, or go to

Monday, March 21, 2011

Springtime rambling

I was surprised by this flower stalk I found
on my rhubarb yesterday!
I came to the conclusion on an especially warm and sunshine-y day a couple days ago that spring is my favorite time of year. Spring makes me want to get colorful, pull out my toys and play outside, sip on fresh juices and nibble on tender green salads. Did I mention sandals and, even better, bare feet, and oh, the anticipation of swimming weather!?
I love being surprised by all the little buds and shoots popping up everywhere, even though I've realized over the past few years that I don't have as green of a thumb as I thought I did. I seem to do best with plants that thrive on neglect, but it is fun seeing some of the perennials that I planted last year or the year before come up again. Maybe I would do better if I lived somewhere where I didn't have to wrestle with this rocky red clay soil and fight off the fiercely determined critters that want to sample my hard work...
The extent of my gardening this year. 
Of course the weather is often deceiving here: just as you get excited about wearing short sleeves and shorts, you might get hit with a foot of snow.

And then there is something slightly maddening about springtime as well: gorgeous weather like this is definitely not conducive to studying. On top of that, I tend to get a terrible case of itchy feet around this time of year and each time I get in the car I am tempted by the open road and thoughts of impromptu cross country road trips. It was a grueling weekend as far as homework goes, but luckily for me, spring break started today! And now, I am turning off the computer and going to do some much needed... spring cleaning.

Maybe I have been watching too many princess movies lately, but I have this strange urge to throw open the windows and sing out for some little animal helpers...

We finally watched Enchanted the other night, too, but this one makes me a little squeamish!

What is your favorite time of year? What is your favorite thing about spring? Do you get a travel bug like I do when the weather warms up?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Juggling Couches

The beanbags on the bottom have been traveling with me
for close to 20 years! Wow!
I love the synchronicity of the universe. Days after I changed the subtitle of my blog to the thing about juggling, I encountered some jugglers who inspired and motivated me to start practicing my juggling again. To be honest, I suppose the seed was actually planted this winter when I was in Estonia and an old friend of mine asked me if I had done much two person juggling and suggested that we practice. Juggling is definitely a nice skill to have in one's arsenal; it makes for a great ice breaker and it is great deterrent of awkward silences and the like. I took a juggling class when I was a kid (thanks, Mom!), but I never advanced much beyond a simple 3 ball cascade (and a tiny bit of partner juggling). Over the years I have definitely spent more time traveling, busking and playing with devil sticks and fire poi than with juggling balls. When I was in circus school, my focus was more on acrobatics and "con-torture" and I didn't do much juggling at all. Now, however, after this long hiatus, I'm discovering that balls are a little easier to tote around than, say, a fire staff, and take less room to use than poi. Juggling balls and beanbags also just seem to be a little more sociable somehow.

But I digress; after doing a little juggling in Estonia, I headed back to the states with great plans of digging out my juggling balls and starting to practice every day. Arriving home, I did get out my balls, but a couple of months passed and that's about as far as it got... until the aforementioned juggler(s) made their appearance.

This appearance was exciting in and of itself because the jugglers came in the form of couch surfers.  I signed up on a couple years ago, but never really expected that anyone would request to surf my couch; I don't exactly live in a place that is on the way to anywhere else. (The girls and I did couch surf in Italy this winter, but that's another story.) Needless to say, I was quite excited when I found a request in my inbox a couple weeks ago, and even more thrilled when I saw that the request was from someone with a serious juggling habit. Spending a couple of rainy days with a skilled juggler seems to have sparked something in me and I have barely been able to put my juggling balls down this past week (ok, I'm exaggerating a bit... as noted I'm also juggling a bunch of other stuff).

I'm not doing anything too fancy, but I'm having so much fun! I've learned a couple new three ball tricks and can *almost* juggle close!! I'm glad to finally be moving beyond the most basic moves.

Just for fun, a picture of me busking years ago
 with a set of my handmade devil sticks
(just before the cops showed up, haha)
Your turn! Have you ever dreamed of running away with the circus? ...or are you afraid of clowns? (Personally, I have a bit of a clown fetish!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Words, Letters and Thoughts on Starting Homeschooling

I have really been enjoying watching my kids develop lately.  The focus has definitely been on linguistics during the past month.  H, at almost 2 years, is in that super cute phase of starting to put words together and form her first simple sentences.  So far, the phrases have mostly been in Estonian, so I might skip the translations for now... I just love the expression and her intonations.
K, who turned 4 at the end of December, has been reading up a storm!  Last night I pulled out the Bob books again and she read four books in one sitting and exclaimed after each one, "This is SO FUN!! Can I read another one?" She has also been practicing writing her letters and numbers (mostly on the dry erase board and it usually gets erased before I can get a picture, unfortunately), but she gets a little frustrated with those. She has also been going through coloring books like they're going out of style.  I love watching her color; she is so precise. Here is one work in progress:

Miss K started telling me this past fall, "I don't know when I am going to school?" I have gotten her several workbooks and tracing books and she likes to sit at her little desk and "do her homework." I'm planning on starting to make some lap books with her, and I have been doing a lot of research on different homeschooling curriculums and styles and trying to figure out what will be the best fit for us, but it's hard to tell without actually touching and flipping through books. That's why I am really looking forward to the HEAV Virginia Homeschool Convention this June!  Of course, since K is only at a kindergarten level, we have a lot of time before we have to settle on anything. I do tend to lean towards unschooling, anyway. 

Because I tend to be a little bit unstructured, but want to make sure I hit all the important topics and give my kids a good foundation, I was thrilled to find this great booklet entitled Kindergarten Basics- Building a Solid Foundation. It provides a practical and straightforward (yet flexible and creative) outline of all the skills that a kindergartener should be mastering, with tons of ideas, resources, and planning tips.  For $15, it's totally worth it, and I highly recommend it. I was able get a print copy last fall, but it looks like it is only available as a download at the moment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Save the Girail!

Years ago I ran a campaign to save the girails.  It was sort of an interactive street theater concept revolving around the then endangered girail, the animal that both snails and giraffes evolved from. I drew lots pictures of girails, but never did get a photograph of one. When I logged into my classroom last week and found that one of the two options for our midterm assignment was to combine two animals to create altogether new one, I knew right away that I would be making a girail.  I already had pictures of giraffes from when we went to Safari Park for H's first birthday last year, and I came up with this for my rough draft:

It obviously needs some work and fine tuning, but I was pretty pleased with the result. Yesterday, however, I listened to the audio feedback from my Digital Imaging teacher, Mr. "If I Was Me, Which I'm Not, But if I Was", in which he said that:

1.  If I want to use a picture of a giraffe, I need to go to the zoo and take a picture myself.
2.  The giraffes need bodies; they look sad without bodies.

Seriously? Now, if I were making a picture of a giraffe with a snail shell on its back, which I'm not, but if I were---

But I'm not making a giraffe, and girails don't have giraffe bodies or giraffe legs. It just doesn't seem that it would be nearly as interesting, nor would it make much sense, to simply plop a snail shell on the back of a giraffe. How would that be creating a whole new animal? It's because of people like this that the girail is now extinct. 

I think I have to tread carefully in my response; I don't know how this teacher responds to defiance.  
In any case, I have decided to keep the girail picture for myself, and to turn in something else (still using the giraffe, which I photographed myself)  for my assignment...

What do you think? What would you do in this situation?