2021 Year-In Review

Hello my lovely readers!

How have you been these last several months? I hope all is well for you this year, and I apologize for losing touch with you. It has been a trying year for me and my creativity and desire to write suffered greatly. I listened to my body and took the break I was needing, but it took me a lot longer than anticipated to feel ready to go again.

Continue reading “2021 Year-In Review”

Our Anniversary, and a Happy Easter Too!

Good morning my friends!

It’s a beautiful, sunny Sunday, it’s Easter, and it’s mine and Michael’s TWO YEAR anniversary! I can’t believe how much time has just flown by since I met him. Since today is Easter and he has to work (he is a project engineer and his plant does installs on holidays while they’re shut down and employees are off site, so he has to be there to oversee things), we did our celebrating yesterday.

We ventured downtown yesterday morning and I stopped by Spanish Street Farmacy, a local old-timey general store and restaurant that sells locally grown items, fresh baked bread, and herbs – I picked up a chamomile plant that I’m going to plant in the herb bed later today. We had a late breakfast there, and tried their ginger turmeric tonic – which was so delicious!

After that we ran to the actual pharmacy to pick up Michael’s prescription for the steroid ointment that he for his skin (he has CTCL, Chronic T-Cell Lymphoma, which presents as dry red patches on his skin and is treated with UV light therapy and topical steroids). Then we went back downtown and browsed an antique store in search of fun items for food photography props – sadly I didn’t find anything that really caught my eye.

Then came the fun! Our favorite downtown spot, Ebb & Flow Fermentations, was having live music and launching their new menu. It was a sunny and warm 65 degree day and they have a gorgeous brick patio perfect for sipping some drinks, eating some food and listening to some music. Their new menu was loaded with vegetarian and vegan options, which I absolutely love! It is so difficult to be plant based at most of our local restaurants, because about the only thing on the menus that don’t have meat or cheese is a salad and fries.

Ebb & Flow came through with flying colors. They had a salad with edamame, apples and chickpeas. They had a chickpea wrap, two different kinds of hummus with veggies and pitas, roasted sweet potatoes, a roasted sweet potato and mushroom sandwich, and a pickle plate. Plus plenty of fun and unique options for the meat-eaters of the world too. Their menu is one-of-a-kind and diverse and I loved it! Not only did they fit everyone’s needs, they also deliver on taste and quality too. The chef who owns Celebrations, the original fine-dining restaurant in Cape Girardeau, also owns Ebb & Flow, designs their menu, and trained their chef. Their self-brewed beers are unique and fantastic as well. They definitely know their stuff!

When we finished up there, we went out for dinner. We originally planned to go to Gabriel’s, an Italian fine-dining restaurant. But with a perusal of the menu online, I quickly realized that their current entrees offered nothing that was plant based-friendly. They had a vegetarian lasagna, but of course that has cheese. So as much as we had been looking forward to that, we altered plans and ended up going to The Southerner. They had enough dishes that could be altered to accommodate plant-based eating, and I ordered the tuna poke bowl.

I had a couple of bites of the tuna, but I’ve been noticing especially here lately that when I do have meat of any kind, I can’t stomach very much of it. A few bites and then it just starts to taste undesirable to me. But the poke bowl came with edamame, so I was able to just scoot the tuna aside and eat the rest – greens, rice, edamame, tomatoes, carrots, avocado, sesame and a soy miso dressing. It was delicious!

Sadly I failed to get any pictures at Ebb & Flow…which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while! Speaking of which, it’s time to move on to the weekly meal planning and prep. I’m getting ready to move to the kitchen and start whipping up some food for Michael for the week as soon as I’m finished writing to you.

I will be making the Tikka Masala today, as well as some oil-free vegan banana muffins and the stroganoff. I’ve never made tikka masala before, so I’m excited to give it a try. Michael and I went to St Louis on Thursday for his quarterly oncology appointment, and I was craving some Indian food. The Indian restaurant we had at home closed so we haven’t had Indian in quite a while. Unfortunately none of the Indian places in the area around the hospital opened until 5, and we were finished at the hospital at 3:30, so Indian didn’t happen. But we did find a place that had Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern food.

We picked up lots of yummy stuff. Michael got some kabob sandwiches, and I had a chickpea tomato stew (can’t remember what it was called). And we got a small plates sampler that had Baba Ganoush, Falafel, Makdoo and Stuffed Grape Leaves. Soooo good, and I’ve decided I’m going to try making some baba ganoush at home! But for today we’re going with the tikka masala, with a side note to start searching for some more Indian and Middle Eastern recipes to expand our recipe repertoire.

On that note, I will leave you with some snaps of the only food I remembered to photograph last week – tempeh tacos, which were not one of the planned meals, but whipped up on a hungry whim!

And with that, I’m off to make some food! I promise I will remember photos this time – I’m bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and the whole day is my oyster. Food, photos, then yard work and gardening! Happy Easter my friends!


Good morning my friends!

In true fashion I was awake before 6 this morning, and have been lounging with a cup of coffee in my living room while thinking of what adventures await me today. It’s sadly going to be a chilly day here in Southeast Missouri – only 57 degrees after a high of 80 yesterday! Probably not much work outdoors for me today, except for weeding the yard and fertilizing my roses. And I may be making a run to a garden center somewhere to pick up a new outdoor rug to replace the old one that has met the end of its useful life.

I also need to get the meal prepping done sometime today, and have the week’s meal plan to share with you. It will be short and sweet for us this week – the boys have Spring break from Thursday until next Tuesday so they go to their dad’s Wednesday night. Which means I only have to make one full meal this week! Then Michael and I will get a little time alone to celebrate our two year anniversary! It is actually on Easter Sunday, and I have the boys for Easter this year so I pick them back up on Saturday. So we are celebrating on Friday night…official plans as of yet undecided.

At any rate, here is the meal plan for this week:

Tempeh Tacos

As for the rest of the meals, they are largely improvised using ingredients I always have in the house. Like these tempeh tacos I made last night using the rest of a package of tempeh I had open, some spinach and arugula, and pickled red onions. I topped it off with fresh cilantro, salsa and avocado, and it was a really quick, easy and delicious dinner (sometimes I actually remember to snap photos!

Besides food, I’ve also been working hard outside. I’ve spread 45 bags of mulch so far, and need to pick up about 5-10 more. The lawn received its first mowing this week and is ready to be weeded this afternoon now that we’re due for a couple of dry days. I repaired my Strawberry beds (boards were falling off because of old rusty screws) and topped them off with some soil. I got my pots filled and ready to be planted with flowers in a couple more weeks when the danger of frost has passed.

I put out a new trellis for my clematis, and strung twine between the pea trellises for them to climb. The peas are already up an inch or two, so they’re doing fantastic! All of my greens have sprouted, I thinned my beets, and the green onions and carrots have finally broken through the soil in the last couple of days as well. The radishes are up and going strong, so I need to get outside here shortly and thin those as well. I’ve also removed all of the rock from the tomato bed, so I need to get the bone meal and fertilizer in place and till the soil under.

The rose bushes were trimmed back a couple of weeks ago and are ready to be fertilized (something else I’ll be doing today), and the hostas shoots have broken through the soil and new mulch. The last outside work on the agenda for today is to pull up the outdoor rug and toss it in the garbage because it’s reached the end of its useful life – it has molded over and can no longer be cleaned, so I’m heading out to buy a new one. Then I will be able to sit back and enjoy my patio again until it’s time to start planting flowers!

It feels SO good to grow food, and flowers. I’m hoping to focus more on flowers this summer since I have the veggie gardens where I want them. I have a butterfly bush and clematis so far, so I want to bring in some phlox, sunflowers, zinnias and other bee and butterfly drawing flowers. It’s a little tough in my yard because I don’t quite get enough sun to really make these plants happy, but I’m definitely going to do my best!

It’s now almost 10am, so I need to get myself to work in the kitchen. Then it’s off to the garden center and working more on the yard. Have a wonderful Sunday, and I will see you back here soon!


Yard/Garden Plans and Spring Fashion

Good morning my friends!

Or I guess afternoon by the time you will be reading this. It’s set to be an absolutely gorgeous Sunday here in Southeast Missouri! Yesterday Michael and I picked up 20 bags of mulch, some potting soil, rose food, lawn food, and Preen weed preventer. We spent our day together yesterday, and now today we’re each on our own to get some things done. It’s currently sunrise and pretty chilly outside, so I’m taking this time to get a blog post out for you and a little meal prep done for Michael, then it’s outside I go!

This has been quite the rough week – in case you noticed a Thursday post didn’t go out. I caught my youngest son’s cold and was sick Monday and Tuesday. I also had some teenager drama to deal with – I’ve been fortunate that both of my boys have had good heads on their shoulders their entire childhoods. And they still do, but my oldest pushed some boundaries and is trying to “spread his wings” as I heard it stated. And some of his judgment calls haven’t been the greatest.

I’m still fortunate that he isn’t doing anything bad, and a little correction now should resolve things. But it can be hard to switch to “tough mom” mode, particularly when he is so much like me and we are very close. But my first role in his life is parent, and sometimes the discipline must come out. It doesn’t come without a toll, however. I’ve not had anxiety in a very long time but I sure did this week. Being sick and dealing with something emotionally draining at the same time has been a major challenge on my stress levels and on my sleep.

It’s proving to be a slow recovery, especially on the sleep. I’m going to enact some sleep hygiene rules that I had set for myself while struggling with insomnia, to ensure that I don’t end up back in that state again. I am very lucky that I have an amazing and supportive human in my corner, too. Michael has been such a huge help, from talking me through things and giving me ideas, to just squeezing me tight and giving me some needed comfort.

The boys are at their dad’s for the weekend and I will be heading off to pick them up this afternoon. Tomorrow starts a brand new week, and I’m hoping that everything will start to move forward.

On the meal planning front, I actually didn’t plan anything for next week – I was sick on Tuesday, my normal meal planning/grocery order day. So I just threw a bunch of usual items into my order and decided I’ll wing it. If you’ve been around for a long time then you know I used to love creating recipes. But with Michael and Gabriel around now I find it’s a lot easier to plan ahead for so many people to find things that will please them all – especially Gabriel who is even pickier than Hunter was at that age, which I didn’t think was even possible!

This last week got completely away from me with everything that was going on. I had planned some quesadillas for one meal, and a lovely roasted veggie dish at another meal – and none of it got made! Which may be a plus, since I didn’t get to plan for this week. I can just make those meals for this week instead. The poor boys lived on sandwiches, leftover pizza that Michael had from the weekend before, and Chinese that I ordered on Monday, which was enough for two days.

I don’t recommend ordering out and avoid it except on occasion. But it is nice that the place I order Chinese takeout from has a vegan-friendly (although sadly definitely not oil-free) dish on their menu. It’s a tofu and veggie dish in a Hunan sauce that is pretty tasty. I always order with the noodles, too, instead of rice. Both boys, Michael and myself actually prefer the noodles to the rice, so it’s kind of nice to have something we all agree on!

While the meals didn’t get made this week (Michael’s dinner and lunch did, because I made it on the weekend before I got sick), here is the plan:

Here are the photos of the Salmon Salad and the Black Bean Salad, plus a stuffed sweet potato that I made for lunch one day and managed to snap a picture of to help fill in the gaps!

I’ve also been trying my hand lately at video shooting and editing, which it turns out I actually enjoy more than photography because there is just so much more creativity and fun things you can do with video. I’ve been shooting primarily on my iPhone for Instagram right now – no YouTube yet – but I’m loving making reels of my cooking and kitchen work. If you’re not following me on Instagram yet, I would love for you to see what I’ve been up to! You can check out my Instagram account at plantbasedloren. I just posted the latest reel over there of the healthy banana muffins I often make Michael for breakfast.

The one thing that has truly brought me some joy this week, is my Spring and Summer wardrobe makeover! I always add a few new pieces each year, but this year has been a bit of a wardrobe transformation with the change in work situations which is likely to be permanent. My professional wear has been retired to a rack in the basement, and I’ve been building a more fun, casual wardrobe since I’m now working from home.

I don’t have to worry about whether the outfits are A) business casual, or B) suitable to a dress code. That means I can buy tops that are V-cut, a little cropped, spaghetti strap, etc. I can wear shorts and cropped pants, and my skirts and dresses can be above the knee. It’s so freeing!

TJ Maxx Haul

Michael and I went to TJ Maxx yesterday to do a browse and I came home with a haul. Their dressing rooms are still closed because of Covid, so I have to buy, try on at home, and return. I ended up keeping about half of what I bought – three flirty, floral tops and a blue and white stripped dress that will look lovely with the new tan waist belt and sandals I have arriving soon from ThredUP. And I picked up a beautiful white Vince Camuto sweater – as if I really needed another white sweater!

I’ve ordered items from Chic Wish, petal & Pup, and ShowPo, and ordered a pair of white crop leggings from Amazon. My color palette is very much white, pink, sage and periwinkle for the upcoming Spring & Summer season. Now to hope that everything fits and there isn’t too much returning and exchanging!

I’ve never ordered from Petal & Pup before so I’m not sure what to expect from their dresses. But I have a lace top and pink skirt from Chic Wish that I am absolutely in love with, so I can’t wait for the new skirts to arrive! The ShowPo order I’m a little skeptical about – I’ve ordered from them several times, but the sizing is usually off because it’s an Australia-based company that doesn’t necessarily get their US sizes right. Sometimes my normal size fits and sometimes it’s tiny.

My normal size in the shorts already showed up in my email invoice as an AU size 6, and the current pair of shorts I have from them that just barely fit me say 8 on the tag – but the pink shorts also have an elastic waist so it might be okay – we shall see! The dresses are a toss-up. I bought in the same size as other tops and dresses I’ve ordered from there – sometimes they fit and sometimes they swallow me whole and I have to exchange for a smaller size. If the shorts and dress both fit and neither need exchanged, it will be a miracle.

That is the most frustrating part about ordering online – but honestly, the brick and mortar stores just can’t keep up with online fashion. I would love to purchase all of these lovely items from local stores, but they just don’t carry fashion like this. TJ Maxx is the only store in my town that has items that fit my style. We have a shopping mall, but it’s very hit or miss, and definitely geared more towards teens and 20-somethings.

We also have stores like Target & Kohls outside of the mall. But again, they are very hit or miss. Actually, Kohls is just a miss – they have a teenage girl section, and a frumpy older women’s section that offers very little for those of us aged from upper 20’s to upper 40’s. And they definitely don’t have much for small-framed, petite women like myself (anyone else in the 5’3 club??). Even their smaller sizes are still meant for women who are full-figured in the hips and thighs, which I frustratingly am definitely not.

I feel like these companies need to watch their online competitors and adjust accordingly if they hope to compete with a web-based world that is forcing their brick and mortar closures. The styles and the fits that they offer are lackluster in comparison.

The sun is up and shining brightly now (it’s nearly 9am), and it’s warmed us up to whopping 41 degrees. I need another 20 degrees to be comfortable out there, but by the time it’s that warm I will already be on the road. So I will have to bundle myself up and get to work. On the yard and garden plan for today:

  1. Water my tiny little sprouting seedlings in the raised bed (we’ve had tons of rain but they’re hiding out under a cold frame/greenhouse cover)
  2. fertilize my roses and mulch the beds around them
  3. spread preen in the garden beds and lawn
  4. start mulching the large bed in the front yard, and replace any landscape fabric that has ripped or shifted
  5. if there is time left – mow the lawn and spray for weeds (I suspect this will need to wait for another day)

I also need to till up my tomato bed and work in the bone meal that I bought yesterday, but tomatoes won’t go in for about another month so I don’t need to be in a big hurry. I have pots needing filled with soil so they can be planted with flowers in another month or so once the lows begin raising up above 35 at night and the danger of frost is past.

At this time of year it really is more yard work than gardening. The grass is starting to come back to life – and the weeds always outpace the actual grass, so this is the time for weed control if I want to keep it from getting out of hand. I sow my grass seed in the fall so that it can sprout and take root before winter. That way I can spread pre-emergent weed control in the spring (this is the kind that prevents weeds that come up from seed, like crab grass, from growing and taking over the lawn) without having to worry about it killing my grass seed. I also spray a 2-4-D weed killer on the lawn to hit all of the broad-leaf weeds that come up from root rather than seed (goggles, gloves and mask are a must for this). Both the pre-emergent and the weed killer will need done again around the 1st of July . I also re-mulch everything since leaf cleanup around here sadly takes a lot of the mulch along with it.

About mid-April, the fun stuff begins! I get to plant the rest of my vegetables and pretty flowers. I’m planning to buy a new trellis for my clematis since it’s outgrown the one I had up for it. I’ll get to start more herbs in my herb garden too, and the strawberries and lilac bush should be in bloom. Since I’ve finally sorted out my garden situation (my back yard struggles for enough sun to grow vegetables, so I’ve had a lot of trial and error the last four years), I can start to work more on flowers and I’m very excited for this!

Okay lovelies, it’s time to stop talking and start doing! I’m headed to bundle up and get outside. Thank you for reading, and I will see you back here again soon!


Communication and Teaching Responsibility to a Teen

Happy Sunday my friends!

It’s been another beautiful week, and I’m still flying high on the Spring vibes. I don’t think I realized just how negatively the winter affects me until it started to warm up again. I’ve planted my Spring garden, chipped and vacuumed up the lingering leaves, cut back my rose bushes, trimmed up the shrubs, and prepared my beds for mulch. I’ve also swapped out my closet – moving all of my winter clothing to the rack in the basement and bringing my warmer weather clothes up to my room, with just a few sweaters still hanging around.

I’ve been busy adding pieces to my wardrobe for Spring and Summer too, including a couple of new bathing suits, ahead of our June family vacation trip to Savannah and Tybee Island. There is so much to look forward to, especially now that vaccines are going out and COVID is going down. They’ve even lifted the mask order here in my town, which might be a bit premature yet but is a very positive sign of some normalcy to come.

This week in food:

That’s it, I give up! I’m sorry friends, I just can’t seem to remember to take photos of our meals on weeknights! I get pictures of the dishes I meal prep on weekends, and occasionally even remember to snap a photo of my lunch. But I get busy making dinner for the fam and the last thing on my mind is pausing to take pictures (it takes time to set up a scene and snap lots of photos to get that perfect one). I’ll share the week’s photos with you here, and I’ll share the meal plan. There just won’t be photos for everything on the plan. This is my weakness, and I’ve accepted it!

The Meal Plan

The Photos

Life & Things

I’m probably really late to the game on this one, but I’ve discovered Brene Brown. I know, I know…old news by now. But I never did get around to checking out the hype until an Instagram post led me to some podcasts, which took me to my library’s Overdrive app where I placed holds on her audio books. Two have already become available – I finished one and am in the middle of the other.

I’ve gone through so much personal growth in my life over the last several years that sometimes it feels like I’ve nothing left to learn – which is never true! I’ve discovered several things in her books that are new perspectives for me and are changing the way I look at things, why I do things, and how I can look at and do things differently to be the best mom/girlfriend/friend/family member possible. There is something about the idea of becoming my best self that always keeps me thirsty for new information, and open to putting it into practice.

There is something to be said for our default settings. We can read, listen and watch all we want…but when it comes down to it, our brains go into auto-pilot and we default right back to what we know and where we’re comfortable. It takes lots of work, conscious effort and practice to change that default setting, but I never met a challenge I didn’t look forward to taking head-on.

Brene’s work is teaching me new things about communication…something I thought I was already pretty well-versed in. How to ask questions, get more details, not make assumptions or “make up stories” due to lack of information. I think my favorite thing in the current book I’m listening to, Daring to Lead, is asking “what done looks like”. An example she gave that I just heard last night, was when someone asked her to gather up all the invoices and have them ready by 4:00. She said okay, no problem, and completed the task. But when she handed them over, he was frustrated because it wasn’t what he needed.

He needed invoices going all the way back to 2005, but he hadn’t specified that and she didn’t ask for more information, so they both ended up frustrated. By asking “what does done look like”, in other words, what do you need me to do for this task to be considered done, it opens up communication that allows you to work together and bounce ideas off of each other so that each person is set up for success and can get it right. I realized this is something I’ve witnessed in my own organization. What someone expects and what they actually ask for don’t always line up, and when they get frustrated it leaves me thinking “well I’m not a mind-reader!”

The book has given me a lot of ideas on how to more effectively communicate at work. But it’s also given me a lot of ideas for how to handle communication in my personal relationships, too.

My oldest son, Hunter, is 16 now. He’s had his driver’s license for about a month, we have a checking account opened up for him, and he just started his new job at a local pizza place on Friday. In two years he will be legally an adult, and I’ve recognized the need for him to outgrow his childhood – which frankly breaks my heart to even think about – and start taking on some adult responsibilities. He has a job, a car, a checking account, and just filled out his first tax forms yesterday before leaving for his second day of work. Like it or not, adult responsibilities are here and he needs to know how to manage them.

It’s hard to think about, because I know that once you become an adult, enter the workforce and take on responsibilities, there is no going back. The freedom of being a child and getting to play all the time with no responsibilities is over, and I feel sad at the loss of those childhood days for him. I feel even worse that I’m going to be that “bad guy” who forces him to give it up and start moving into adulthood. But I also know that it’s the right thing to do, because the time has come for it to be necessary. He needs to be prepared for adult life, and it’s my job as a parent to prepare him.

He came home from work Friday night and said that since he’s working Saturday evening he’s planning on hanging out with friends in the morning (the kid never gets out of bed before noon on a Saturday!). He asked me to make sure he gets up at 8:30. I thought about it for a second, then I said “you have a cell phone, set yourself an alarm.” He said if he did he’d just sleep through it. I took the opportunity to tell him that he’s becoming an adult now and he’s not going to have me to make sure he gets out of bed every morning, he needs to learn to do that for himself.

When Saturday morning came, I heard him up at 8 in the bathroom. I thought well good, he’s gotten himself up. But then he went back to bed and I didn’t hear from him again until after noon when I got home from dropping Logan off at Grandma’s house. He asked why I didn’t get him up. I said “I told you that if you wanted to be up by 8:30 that you need to set an alarm and get yourself up. If you chose not to do that, that’s on you. You were up at 8 and you went back to bed. If you wanted to do something with friends you should have stayed up.”

Just before leaving for work he complained about how his whole day was wasted and he didn’t get to do anything. I pointed out that he was going to need to make adjustments to account for this new step in his life. Stop staying up until 4am and sleeping until noon, make plans with friends for during the day, then be home on time to be ready to leave for work at 3:45.

I’m seeing this week that he has a lot to learn about responsibility, and he’s going to need clear communication from me about what responsibility looks like and what will be expected of him. He is starting to learn already, though. He woke up at 8 again this morning, and he stayed up because he didn’t want to waste his day off. That’s one lesson learned already, but I need to tackle with him both time and money management.

It’s a little overwhelming to think about, because I feel like this stage snuck up on me. We spent so much time focusing on his permit and driving hours and getting his license, that we didn’t really think about what all comes with it. Now here we are – a whole new side of this parenting coin. I’m confident, though, that all will go well. He’s a good kid and he’s plenty smart enough to figure it all out.

If you have experience with this stage of parenting, please leave me any tips or advice in the comments! Otherwise, I wish you a lovely and relaxing Sunday. I’ll talk to you again soon!