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!