INSIDE THE LINES: Stencils Aren’t Just for Old Ladies

I’m cleaning and organizing the house (when the fabulous ladies of Lehigh Valley Style are coming over, it can make you a little neurotic – will the humorous irony of the cardboard deer head come across?!).  I really love this house but I want to shake things up in terms of color and texture.

After making an endless list of DIY projects I want to do, I stumbled across some old craft supplies from my design school projects and felt a surge of inspiration!

This is my rolling kitchen cart. I have flanked it next to this folding table on which Ryan made a makeshift tiered bar out of scrap wood and bricks. This created a kitchen island – okay, peninsula – and gives a lot of workspace for me to toss dried spices all over. The back of the cart faces the living room. The black back isn’t horrible, but it’s certainly nothing special.

Time to change that!

I used a flower stencil I found for a dollar at a craft store about 2 years ago. Normally, the thought of stenciling something makes my stomach turn over on itself as I recall so many ivy vines and ugly floral trims. Thankfully with the resurgence of gorgeous modern wallpaper in the past few years, stencils have seen the same update.

Out of sheer luck, I found the stencil two days ago, and tonight I found the remnants of some bright paint and brushes. Since I already had everything on hand, this project was FREE!


And don’t worry about doing this project while you’re by yourself and wondering if your partner will come home and be upset that you’ve painted pink flowers on things, because 1) it’s easy to cover up/change and 2) the Philly Phanatic has a residence on the bookshelf in the living room for all to see, so I don’t want to hear it. (Love you, honey.)

Stencils are really cheap! You can make your own – go HERE for some directions – or find them at a craft store or online.

I used a tube of basic craft paint, it probably cost less than $2 and craft paint comes in a million colors! The brush was a very soft medium-sized paint brush, but you can also buy foam brushes that work well for stenciling. Remember, you want to push the brush into the stencil and “dab” the paint on, NOT paint in long strokes as if you were painting a wall!

Go try your own! I love it, and already have ideas for the fireplace. Stay tuned…

SOWING THE SEEDS OF DINNER: I’ll Try Gardening (Again)

It’s 2:15am. I have the flu, and after sleeping all day I also now have insomnia. I’m using my time to try to learn about a subject near and dear to me, something I absolutely love and support with every essence of my being. And something I’m ashamed to say I do terribly: backyard gardening.

Me and my pals gardening back in 1954.

My mother tells a great story (every year on September 28th) about going into labor and trying to call my Grandmother to tell her, but not getting through because my Gram was out in her garden. (I also came an entire month early, surprise!) My family members are great at getting things to grow. One summer at my parents house we found a bunch of little watermelons all over the backyard because earlier in the year I spit seeds over the side of the pool. Classy.

If all goes according to plan, my yard will look exactly like this.

But when it comes to me, solo, intentionally trying to grow something, I am met with resistance and an almost spiteful contention.

I’ve tried. My goodness, have I tried. Last year my mom came to town and helped me attempt container gardening. A few things survived… well, until they died. In the end, I was left with a few red peppers clinging to their stems for dear life. Then my neighbor’s dog ate them.

Seed packet art is absolutely beautiful! Some should be framed. Vegetables are so pretty.

I have gone from living with no yard for years to a large, private yard with excellent sunlight and a beautiful shaded walkway up the side of the house that looks wild and romantic when the sun is setting late in the summer. In theory, I should be harvesting beans and squash til it’s bursting out the kitchen window.

While I’ve accepted prior defeat, I am pulling myself up by my gardening clogs (I want pink ones) and attempting to do my part in the Grow Your Own movement.

I’ve already talked to local gardening superstars, and they’ve agreed to let me into their lush vegetation to see how it’s done. I’m hoping Ryan’s dad will help me with the tools needed to make raised beds, and I’ll be taking a trip (video to come!) of some urban public gardens in various parts of the Valley.


Until then, I’m browsing catalogs and making lists of everything I’d like to grow. If even half of the veggies make it, I’ll be able to cook many inspired dishes with rations from the yard.

This is where I call upon you to offer guidance, advice and support. If you have a favorite gardening catalog, website or personal knowledge, please pretty please share it here!

I’m lucky enough to live near Rodale Farms, and my friend’s brother is the editor of nationally known Organic Gardening Magazine. I have resources. Time to take advantage of them! And keep all extremities crossed for luck.

So many of you have already responded with tons of info (via my personal Facebook page) – keep it coming, please! I’ll compile everything and make gardening updates moving forward. You’re the best!


I always feel a burst of excitement when I come across a recipe or nutrition article having including kale. This particular leafy green is not only one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, it’s something I never ate until relatively recently in my life, and as you know has become almost symbolic of my quest for advocating a healthy body & mind via this blog.

In the past week there has been an exciting accumulation of kale sightings. Here I’ve compiled some of the best to share with you. And if you come across any awesome kale news, please share it here!

Jan/Feb 2011 Issue, on newsstands NOW!

The current issue of Vegetarian Times magazine is shining it’s spotlight on kale as the feature vegetable this month.  The feature 5 Kickin’ Kale Recipes includes: a kale lasagna (can be made vegan with cheese substitutes), kale shorba with cucumber raita swirl “thick indian soup laced with spices” (use nondairy yogurt), flash fried kale with peanuts, kale-pecan pesto, and the inventive rice and chickpea kale rolls with pineapple salsa.


It also provides the following nutritional info as per 1 Cup chopped raw kale:

  • 34 calories
  • 80 mg vitamin C (more than a medium orange which contains 70 mgs!)
  • 299 mg potassium
  • 1 mg iron

From the most amazing Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy (and the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, among her many books and projects), behold this All Hail the Kale Salad.

All Hail the Kale Salad, via

Yields: 6-8 servings

-2-3 bunches curly kale, chopped or torn into small pieces
-1 red onion, chopped
-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
-3 tablespoon olive oil
-2-3 tablespoon Braggs liquid aminos
-2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
-Cayenne pepper to taste

Put kale in bowl and pour on olive oil. Stir with salad tongs to make sure all leaves are coated.

Add in rest of ingredients and mix well with tongs.  If possible, let marinate at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


I stumbled across THIS AWESOME T-SHIRT while doing some online search. “Kale is the new Beef.” I LOVE IT. I love it so much I would consider even wearing a t-shirt in public (this one, obviously). These come from the informative website of Dr. Fuhrman. They are made of 100% organic, pre-shrunk cotton and come in regular crew neck and v-neck options. Only $19.95, they can be ordered HERE.




Many thanks to my pal Shan for directing me to an excellent website for all things nutrition/recipes/supplements/health – for real, you could spend hours milling around on New Hope 360. You can watch video reviews of gluten free bread AND find out what creepy ingredients are lurking in your cosmetics while you plan dinner. Love!

I love this recipe for Kale and Napa Cabbage Slaw with Edamame:

1 bunch Tuscan (lacinato or dinosaur) kale, center ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced

1 small head Napa cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced

1 large fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 large red bell pepper

1 pound frozen shelled edamame

1/3 cup mellow white miso

7 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup flaxseed oil

1 tablespoon low-sodium, wheat-free tamari sauce

3 ounces daikon sprouts

1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. 

2. Place kale, cabbage, fennel, and onion in a large bowl. Cut bell pepper into quarters and remove seeds and membranes. Peel skin off each quarter with a vegetable peeler; then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Add to vegetables in bowl.

3. Add edamame to boiling water and blanch for about 1 minute. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again thoroughly. Add to vegetables.

4. Combine miso, garlic, and lemon juice in a bowl and mash together with a spoon or silicone spatula until smooth. Stir in tahini, oil, and tamari until thoroughly blended. Add to vegetables and toss until well mixed. Divide among plates and garnish with daikon sprouts. Serve at once.

Love you, Kale.


I’d like to redirect those of you that live in the Lehigh Valley to my other blog HERE. Yesterday I was given a tour inside in the still-under-construction SteelStacks building. It’s breathtaking and inspiring. The views are incredible. We are all very lucky.


“QUIT ACTING DIPPY”: Vegan Sweet Ranch Dip with Fresh Herbs

I’d like to dedicate this post to my Gram. When I was little all the cousins would get together for holidays and run amok in her house she would yell from various adjoining rooms “Quit acting dippy!”, a nice grandmotherly way of saying “Stop hitting each other and breaking all of my things!”

Today’s recipe comes from a book I’ve meant to read for a long time, and finally started last week. Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman is SO nutritionally insightful. It is a weight loss “program” (though everything can be applied to a lifestyle – and should be, it’s good stuff) that just happens to be plant-based. (There are recipes in the back for a modified diet, which includes some animal products for those who need help with the transition.)

I love books like this because it doesn’t say HEY I’M A VEGAN BOOK – it’s just got a great reputation, is often recommended by family doctors and is factually sound without being too technical – so people are inclined to pick it up instead of bypassing it because it’s “that weird vegan thing”.

The book can be summed up as a nutritional plan that focuses on eating as many nutrients as possible, calorie for calorie.

There is SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT THIS WONDERFUL BOOK, I will have to do a full review in another post. Until then, know I’ve been following the plan as much as possible since starting to read it, and last night made my first recipe directly from the book.

(SWEET) RANCH DIP as per Eat To Live, pg. 259-260

  • 6 oz (half a package) silken tofu
  • 3 dates, pitted (I didn’t have dates so I used 2 Tbsp of fig preserves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried italian seasoning (or that amount of dried herbs like basil or oregano)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I like flat leaf better than curly)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp tamari or low sodium soy sauce/Braggs
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS – Throw everything in the food processor. Done!

I really like this simple dip, which can also be used as a dressing or sandwich spread. There is NO FAT at all (no oils!), but there IS protein from the tofu, and the health benefits of raw herbs and garlic.

Give it a try, and be sure to check out the book Eat To Live if your body isn’t feeling as healthy as it should.


She so eloquently sums it up…

“If I profess to be a compassionate person, it doesn’t mean I get to be compassionate only to those I like or who agree with me. It means I strive to be compassionate towards everyone.

That’s the thing about compassion – it’s gotta be equal opportunity or it’s just inauthentic. It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people. The challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom I disagree.”

As per Colleen Patrick Goudreau, super-woman with incredible knowledge and the biggest heart.

This is something I think about all the time, not just in the way of vegetarianism/veganism but in so many aspects. What would happen if, instead of criticizing someone for not knowing, we were happy to teach them something new?

If instead of jumping to conclusions, we asked?

If instead of polarizing each other, we became more considerate?

Instead of taking something as personally insulting (even if that was the intent of the sender), we used it as a constructive way to make an improvement?

GETAWAY: Getting to the Good

I don’t for one moment take for granted the incredible weekend I got to spend in such a beautiful small town, and certainly not the accommodations, the friendly people, the animals, food or inspiring shops. This is something we’ve been planning for a while, and it was every bit as relaxing and blissful as I’d hoped. Join me for a trip to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border.

There is way too much goodness to fit into one post, so today I’ll focus on FOOD and SHEEP. Enjoy!

VEGAN eggs Benedict and breakfast potatoes. (Tofu "eggs" and nondairy/non-egg hollandaise sauce!)

Our first stop was brunch at the super delicious Sprig and Vine in New Hope, PA. Brunch (best meal of the day) paired with an amazing all-vegan menu started the trip off right. If you don’t think it’s possible to make vegan versions of your favorite foods, this should prove you wrong.

Chicken Fried Oyster Mushrooms with biscuits and gravy!

Ryan got the “eggs Benedict”,  we split tempeh sausage, and I ordered the most incredible, soul-foodesque meal of chicken fried oyster mushrooms with buscuits and gravy. Ohhhh man. (*Note: “Chicken fried” doesn’t mean fried with chicken, it means it’s coated and cripsy the way fried chicken is. No animals harmed!)

Three wines for the price of one glass!

That night, after having drinks at a beautiful old bar with a tin ceiling and candles, we went to Lambertville Station for… well,  more drinks and I got this amazing WINE TREE. You pick the type of wine you want (in this case, Pinot Noir) and they bring you three different samples from various wineries. It was AWESOME. I later found out the wines, sold as a bottle, ranged in price from $60-100. Whoa! Thankfully the wine tree cost much, MUCH less than that.

A mere fraction of the wine cellar in Lambertville Station.

As much as I like modern architecture and crazy colors, the historic aspect of these  towns  was absolutely perfect. Everything was covered in snow and everyplace had candles and fireplaces. Certainly cozy, certainly relaxing and going during off season meant we were able to find little corners to have just for ourselves. Perfect.

Good morning indeed.

Mornings at the inn are amazing – they bring you coffee and tea, a copy  of the paper and the sheep are awake and Baa-ing outside the window. I felt completely spoiled and wish I could do it every weekend!

Speaking of the sheep… what beautiful creatures! They were so well cared for, happy to hang out in their sheep-house and roam around as they pleased.

Being around animals like this is a great reminder that ALL animals can think, feel and love. ALL have personalities and a desire to live happily and peacefully.

If you have a dog or cat, you already know this. You clearly have a big heart, too, to care for a being and love it so much! Consider that every other animal – a chicken, sheep, pig, etc… is just as capable of the great spirit we love within our companion animals.

If you are able to find a sanctuary to interact with animals that you may not have ever had a chance to meet in person, take that opportunity. Your heart will swell.

I can’t wait to do an update about the rest of our excursions on this most wonderful trip! But the things you can’t see in photos is the calm, the peace of mind, the restoration of mind and heart that it brought. Sometimes, to get away from what can seem overwhelming, we need to literally get away from our lives and our towns. It can be a vacation, or a single day trip to rejuvenate and restore our love for home.

Now go hug a pet or a friend and have an awesome day!


Today I’ll be working on editing the short video from the sheep pasture at the Bed and Breakfast we stayed in earlier this week, and the photos too! Also, pictures from some of our eating and shopping adventures. Check back tomorrow! Until then…

Doesn’t she look like the Snuggle Bear?

SERENDIPITY (THE PINK DRAGON): One Year Changes Everything

Confession: I didn’t really know what “serendipity” meant until I saw that John Cusack movie. To this day, when I hear the word I remember a video I loved when I was a kid. My mom and I would walk to the local tape rental store – remember those? – and I’d usually pick out a Faerie Tale Theatre movie or Serendipity the Pink Dragon.

Yesterday I had a day that can I can only describe as serendipitous. “Making fortunate discoveries by accident.” I’m having a hard time finding a way to write about this without sounding like I’m bragging, and I hope if you continue to read you’ll see this post for it’s intention – which is to highlight the incredible things that can happen in a short period of time, the way life can absolutely transform when you work hard to fix the parts that you’re able to fix.

And I hope you’ll stick through this til the end when I explain why all of this happening on the same day is such a beautiful coincidence.

My morning began by meeting Jon and the excellent crew of GreenLeaf Productions in Easton, where I was interviewed and taped for Steelstacks Live (airing locally/going online in February)! Everyone was so friendly and it made me miss all the fancy video production equipment when I was getting my Communications degree.

This venue will open in May 2011. It's going to be amazing!

I was invited to stay to watch a band performance that was taped after me. The music was so good, like Will Oldham and the Great Lake Swimmers and Neil Young all rolled into one. It sounded the way September feels at 7pm.  The studio is in an old church that was breathtaking, and the morning overcast sun came through the stained glass windows making an incredible backdrop.

Have you ever been in a place that is just buzzing with positive, creative energy and you can actually feel it course through your veins?

I went into my favorite Easton Cafe to do some writing, wondering if I’d run into my friend Laini who’s office is right across the street. After 2 hours, as I was about to pack up and leave, she came walking past the window with her gorgeous dog Boomer. I told her what I’d done that morning, why I was in town, and then she got excited and made me an incredible offer. “Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before! I need someone to write a feature article for the next Bethlehem book about ArtsQuest and Steelstacks. Would you want to do it?”

Laini, the sweetest pea in the pod! The new Easton book was just released, be sure to pick up a copy!

As if she needed to ask! Let me explain why this is so big: Laini is the woman behind the Little Pocket Guides, books that come out annually that are directories of all local businesses and services. It’s an up to date list of independent shops, galleries and restaurants, and Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown all have their own books. They are printed by the tens of thousands and sold in locations all over the LV, as well as getting directly mailed to residents. So I get to write this feature for a book/project that values this Valley and the spirit of community (and get paid, too!). I was (am) humbled and excited and immediately called my mother.

While my head was still in the cumulous clouds of the beauty  of the day, in the evening I checked my email only to receive another incredible, truly sensational opportunity.

The editor in chief of Lehigh Valley Style magazine (a gorgeous glossy page monthly magazine, and best selling local publication) wrote to ask me if I’d be interested in being featured in an upcoming issue. I will be interviewed, a photographer will come to my home to shoot photos of me cooking and of my food, and I will get three recipes printed in the issue.

(pause for taking all of this in)

(still trying to wrap my head around this day)

When I called Ryan to tell him about all of this, he asked “Geez, what did you DO today?” and that’s when it hit me. That day. January 6th. The realization gave me goosebumps. Here’s why:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Exactly one year ago on January 6th, 2010 I began a journey of treatment for anxiety and depression that had become so crippling it nearly cost me my job as I had become a “vegetable” (no pun intended) of a person. I took a medical leave from work for quite a while and went into an intensive program that changed my life, and began really putting in the hard work to help myself get better.

(Why does it feel so strange to talk about and admit mental illness? If someone has a disease like MS or cancer or diabetes, we  can respond with concern, care and help. Why is mental illness treated like something we need to “just get over”, why is it so common to look at someone with this illness and roll your eyes and think “What do you have to be sad about?” without knowing any contributing factors or personal triggers, by assuming that just because someone has elements of their life they are happy with, they “shouldn’t” feel the way they feel, as if it’s all controlled?)

I’ve mentioned it before, but when I began Save the Kales! (a year old next month!) it stemmed from having been at a point in which everything I loved and had interest in suddenly had negative connotations and lead to severe panic attacks. I had to hide away all my design books, abandon my home and stay elsewhere leaving behind all of my things because even driving down the street I lived on made me ill, completely stop listening to music, among other things. Everything I loved became poison.

Except cooking and writing. Those were still inherently mine.

In the past year I have put in a tremendous amount of work to get myself healthy, change the things I didn’t like, fall in love with my community, and begin projects like this that gave me a new reason to get up in the morning. Days like yesterday have proved how much the hard work has paid off, how many improvements I’ve made and that when you begin to value yourself and your life others can do the same.

I’m so excited to continue to improve myself and work toward making a living doing what I love. Thank you so much for being a part of the journey of healing the past, maintaining wellness now, and looking forward on what is surely proving to be an unbelievably wonderful future.

A year can change so much, and I believe you can begin the process of making your life everything you want, too.

NEW YEARS EVE!: What is NOG, anyway?

This year after party-hopping among the homes of wonderful, creative people I settled in at my pal Alison’s colorful home for some of the tastiest vegan delights a celebrating girl could ever wish for!

Since the only thing I saw made from start-to-finish was the pizza, I’ll give you a step by step for this wickedly incredible indulgence, and the rest will have to come from a guest post and/or collaborative video with Ms. Alison herself. (She’s cute, you’ll like it!)

You’ll have to sit tight for this mixed drink recipe based on the Master Cleanse. No, really. Think: fresh lemonade, cayenne pepper, and various alcoholic additions like whiskey and bourbon. It was weird and awesome. Just don’t get silly and try to drink only this for 10 days. I won’t be responsible when you get fired and your partner dumps you because you’re a sloppy drunk.

Onward to the pizza! This is super easy, takes only a few minutes to put together, and can obviously be made with whatever ingredients you want. But know this: it was the best pizza I’ve had in a really long time. Thanks in no small part to the use of my favorite condiment ever ever ever, buffalo wing sauce. (Can we all agree to a universal new name for this? “Buffalos are cute Sauce”?)

Let’s watch Shiner make us this most delicious, hard-not-to-inhale food.

STEP 1: Begin with pizza dough. You can find balls (huh huh, I said “balls”) of dough in the freezer section of most grocery stores, but Shiner told me about this neat little trick where you can call a local pizza place and ask to buy just some of the dough, and most will sell it to you! They probably won’t even think you’re weird! (Ask about ingredients, obviously.)

STEP 2: Add the Sauce. I believe in this case he used an organic jarred marinara (spaghetti) sauce. Get crafty and make your own – and if you know how to do that, invite the rest of us over so we can learn, too.

STEP 3: Heat some breaded faux-chicken patties, cut into small pieces, then put in a container that has a lid. Add Buffalos Are Cute Sauce (see above), put on the lid and shake it all up til all the pieces are coated in spicy goodness.

*Note: I’ve made a lot of buffalo sauce stuff with unbreaded fake chicken, but really, the breaded stuff is SO MUCH BETTER on a pizza like this. Shiner has made a billion vegan chicken pizzas and concludes that breaded faux-chicken totally the way to go. I now concur.

STEP 4: Here comes an avalanche of Daiya! Daiya is still a relatively new vegan item, and has won so many accolades in the past year for being the very best metling vegan cheese ever. EVER. Cheddar and mozzarella flavors are available, in this case we used the latter.

And check this out: 1/4 a cup of Daiya cheese only has 90 CALORIES! If you like melty cheese but hate the gas/bloating/fat/sad cows, give this a try. I would NOT recommend something that tastes bad for fear it would forever turn you off to vegan alternatives. Your mind will explode. Truth.

STEP 5: Bake in the oven until cheese is melty and crust is a little crispy. Try 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.


I could sing Marvin Gaye songs to it all night long.

Alison wasn’t done with the tricks up her cardigan sleeve just yet. She outdid herself when she emerged from the kitchen with a punch bowl of VEGAN EGG NOG. It was incredible! I MUST have her here soon to fill you in how to do this, but I know it did include: rice milk, banana, nutmeg and cinnamon, some sort of liquor, etc…

That lead us all to a question that I’m still not sure I know the answer to. If you have insight, please comment below. WHAT IS “NOG”? It sounds horrible. Disgusting. Like something you cough up when you’re sick. Nog. Noggg. Ew!

The internet tells me this: “Nog used to refer to strong ale in England.” That’s not good enough. I can’t believe anyone would actually, willingly call something nog when there are so many more combinations of consonants and vowels available.

In any case, the vegan egg nog was delicious, despite the ridiculous name.

In the words of my pal Melanie “2011 is going to be my year even more than 2010 was”. HECK YES. Happy 2011!