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Monday, July 30, 2018

Meal Ideas for Vegan Vegetarian + Meat Eating Households

I've been working on this post for a loooong time now and I really hope you enjoy it! Please leave a comment below if you have any dinners to add! I love you guys!


My husband is a little picky. He's not big on vegetables. And I thought for sure we would have a lot of fights when I decided to transition to a vegan diet. But it's been really great. He's been really great.

I thought this might be helpful for anyone out there wanting to reduce their family's meat consumption. These are different meals we've had and how we adjust them for our family. I really hope it helps.

Veg chili with vegan red lobster biscuits (recipe HERE). They seriously taste just like regular ones! 
Just skip the ground beef. My husband doesn't mind it without any meat, but if he really wanted to, he could simply fry some up and add it to his bowl individually. Sometimes I do miss cheddar cheese with this, so I'll add a little nutritional yeast or veg cheddar to my bowl.

Sometimes you're just in the middle of your dinner and realize you forgot to take a pic of it for your blog! :)

Grilled cheese & tomato soup
I use a spicy hummus (I'm going to mention it a lot, so HERE is the recipe, I often use it to replace cheese) with nutritional yeast for my sandwich. If we have some vegan cheddar shreds, I might add a little bit of those. I add some cooked chickpeas to the tomato soup for a boost of protein and that's it. So yummy. My husband and toddler can eat regular grilled cheese like usual.

Can you believe this plate doesn't have any meat or dairy?
I make myself a cheesy sauce (there are a lot of recipes out there and I haven't found one I really like enough to share just yet) and use some cheddar shreds and my husband can make his nachos like usual. I make a taco seasoning/black bean/salsa mixture for my "meat" and he fries up his own ground beef.

Mmmmm salad

There are so many options for salad. Taco salad is a good one. My husband adds his own beef, while I'll add beans for my protein and pureed salsa for a dressing. Plus onion, peppers, tortilla strips, corn, etc. Or buffalo chicken/tofu salad. He can add meat, I can add whatever I want.

This sourdough bread from Aldi is sooo good. Cover it in veg butter and fry it on the skillet a couple minutes. 
Sandwiches are great because everyone can choose what they want on theirs. I like to do a BLT without the bacon. I toast some sourdough bread, add Just Mayo, tomato slices, and lettuce and POW, it is so good. And my husband can add cheese and salami or whatever he wants to his own.

Brussels sprouts and zucchini with soybean noodles. 
There are a bunch of different pasta recipes to choose from (haven't tried this one yet, but HERE's an example). My husband picks out the veggies and adds in some chicken if he wants it. He could always add some Parmesan to his bowl if he really misses the cheesy flavor.

Greek marinated tofu kabobs recipe HERE with zucchini, red bell pepper, & onion.

Tofu or meat. Everyone can pick and choose what they want on theirs.

Quesadillas are a family favorite around here. 

Quesadilla are another good one where everyone can pick their own ingredients. My husband and toddler will usually have a plain cheese quesadilla. I'll put spicy hummus and zucchini on mine. You could always add beans and salsa too. Mexican style food really is great for veganizing, plus we've discovered our toddler seems to like stuff inside tortillas.

Pancake with peanut butter, maple syrup, and chia seeds.

Breakfast for dinner (pancakes)
HERE's the recipe we use & BAM everyone's happy! I like to add peanut butter along with my syrup.
These crescents have halved grape tomatoes inside.

Crescent rolls 
Pillsbury brand crescent rolls are vegan (but not all other brands are, so check!). And you can put whatever you want inside a crescent roll. My husband and toddler do hotdogs, sausages, pepperoni and cheese, etc. I like spicy hummus, tomatoes, or I just make them plain and put some veg butter and jelly inside (super healthy dinner I know :)). Or fill with veg mozzarella and dip them in marinara. So many options.

I always have my husband roll my wraps because I'm not any good at it. Then he lays them out all fancy-like. 

Buffalo wraps
I use cauliflower or chickpeas, my husband gets chicken. Plus lettuce, onion, cheddar, ranch, buffalo sauce, etc. I cook the chickpeas in the crockpot all day after soaking overnight, then coat them in buffalo sauce and bake at 350 for like 30 min. You don't have to bake them of course, but baked chickpeas are the best, just saying... For the cauliflower I just coat in buffalo sauce and put them in the oven at 350 for 30 min or so too.

This bun is one of those super thin lower carb buns, they were the only wheat ones at Aldi that day! I usually eat regular buns. Also these fries were homemade and my husband said they made him feel healthier. Haha. 

This one's easy peasy. My husband has meat. I have a veggie burger. We both have fries. Done and done. Everyone's happy. You can find my homemade recipe HERE.

Red lobster biscuits, one half of a small potato (because I sacrificed the other half to my toddler), some baby carrots, and  a sweet potato.
Crockpot chicken & potatoes 
In the past, we ate this a lot on days I knew we wouldn't have a lot of time for dinner. I just added a chicken breast and a couple potatoes to the crockpot and let it cook all day while I was at work. I add water and half a packet of onion soup mix to it. Now I add a couple extras like carrots and a small sweet potato for myself and my husband can eat the chicken and potatoes like he usually would. He's not a fan of sweet potatoes.

Veggie flatbread pizza. Sooooo yummy, I don't even miss the cheese. 
Personal flatbread pizzas
I make my own flatbread with THIS recipe. I season and fry up veggies like cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini. My husband uses pepperoni and cheese. We just use marinara for the sauce. It's great without cheese, but you can always add nutritional yeast for a little extra flavor.

This is actually a picture of my husband's leftovers at work the next day because I totally forgot to take a picture of my dinner the night before. :)

Philly cheesesteak
My husband gets meat and cheese like usual. I use onion and bell pepper with veg mozzarella for myself. I need to look into a vegan Worcestershire sauce though...

I love fried rice. I wish I had some fried cauliflower to go with it!
Fried rice
This is super simple. If he wants a side of meat, he can add some orange sauce or teriyaki sauce to some chicken. Sometimes I'll bread and fry some cauliflower for myself.

Trying out the fancy "food" filter on my new phone. :)

Teriyaki tofu and rice
Along the same lines as the fried rice, I will marinate some tofu in teriyaki or orange sauce, fry it up. And my husband can do the same with some chicken. Super easy.

Quinoa with taco seasoning, salsa, black beans, and lettuce in a flour tortilla. You could add some nutritional yeast too.
Quinoa tacos
I was never a big fan of tacos before, but quinoa tacos are awesome. I make some quinoa like usual, then stir in some taco seasoning. I used to puree salsa and mix that in, it's super yummy, but my husband wasn't a fan, so I just add my salsa separately now.

Bean and corn enchilada with a side of roasted tomatoes. Sometimes I do a side of steamed broccoli.  
Bean enchiladas
I cook the beans then mash up part of the mixture so it's in between regular beans and refried beans in texture. Add enchilada sauce. And I definitely add veg cheddar shreds because I really miss cheese with this particular meal. My husband doesn't even alter this one, he eats it just as it is.

Other stuff we've tried that is vegan for us both:
Sweet potato broccoli soup (my husband was not a fan, but I thought it was awesome)
Chickpea & sweet potato curry
Mexican casserole (based on this recipe HERE)

I really hope these gave you some ideas! This has been a much smoother process than I thought it would be. I hope your family members are supportive of your lifestyle change too!

Good luck.

Friday, July 27, 2018

VEGAN Red Lobster Biscuits

HERE is the original recipe. I've changed very little and I want to give credit where it's due.

These seriously taste just like regular Red Lobster biscuits. I like to make them with chili or potato soup.


Biscuit Dough
2 1/2 cups Biquick
4 Tbsp veg butter
1 cup veg cheddar shreds
3/4 cup plant milk
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp oregano

Butter Topping
2 Tbsp veg butter
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp oregano

Mix the Bisquick and veg butter first. Then add in the other ingredients and mix with your hands, roll into loose balls and plop them on a baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Slather them with the butter topping mixture and devour.

I really mean devour, because they are just that good! I ate like way too many the last time I made these.

You can also freeze them if you just want a couple at a time. Just up the cooking time a couple minutes and keep your eye on them. You'll have to remake the butter mixture every time you make a couple though.

Thanks for reading (and requesting!)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

How I Henna My Hair : Light Mountain Red Natural Hair Dye on Medium Dark Brown Hair

Watch the video HERE.

I've been dying my hair with henna for several years now and this is what works for me to get the brightest red.

I've experimented with other colors and combinations of henna and indigo, but I keep coming back to the red, I find it so stunning, especially in the warmer months.


Step 1:
Shower and shampoo. No conditioner. I usually do this a day in advance.

Step 2:
Mix your dye.
Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice for a brighter red.
Add hot water until the consistency is nice.
Let the mix sit for half an hour (or so) so the color can activate.

Step 3:
Prepare your work space.
Put a towel on the floor. Wear junky clothing, especially a top that you can get over your head very easily. Get plastic gloves for your hands. Get a mirror to view the back of your head. Maybe invest in a little hair dye brush for more precise application.

Step 4:
Apply the henna.
I like to start at the top and just form each section into a bun on top of my head. When my hair was shorter, I had to use clips to keep the hair up and out of the way. I've tried starting from the bottom and working up and starting from the top working down and I find starting at the top is a little easier for me personally. Then you also don't have to worry too much about running out of product toward the end, it's not a big deal if it's the underside of your hair.

Step 5:
Wrap hair in plastic wrap for a brighter red. Put a beanie on top for even more warmth and brightness. And wait. Try to keep it on for at least two hours. The longer, the better.

Step 6:
Time to rinse.
Use conditioner to rinse. I don't use shampoo for about 2 days after I henna. Rinse with conditioner many times. When you think you've rinsed for the last time, do it once more just in case. This time I rinsed three times with a cleansing conditioner.

Step 7:
Blow dry your hair so you can immediately see the results.
I have no patience. I need to see how things turned out immediately, so I almost always blow dry right afterwards. :)


The color lasts amazingly well. It will stay bright until you're ready to do your roots again. There's no need to touch up the overall color, the only time I know it needs to be done is because my roots are getting out of hand. And when I am ready to do my roots, I will focus on them, but still drag the color through the rest of my hair too just for a little refresher.

I typically dye every 3 months, but this time around it's been a lot longer, about 6 months! Ever since the birth of my first son in May 2016, I've stretched the time between colorings more than I did before the kiddos.

I really hope this was helpful for you and you found some good tips. I've been dying my hair with henna for several years now and this is what works for me.


Beginner Vegan : Should I Throw Out Non-Vegan and Cruelty Free Makeup?

Here is a random topic I have been contemplating since I completed my one week vegan challenge after Memorial Day weekend.

I've been transitioning my diet. We've been using up all the non-vegan food in our house and let me tell you, we're getting pretty close now. We finally used up some feta and mozzarella cheese in a lentil lasagna over the weekend and we've given away a LOT of random stuff. We had nearly two full packs of cheese snack sticks, two bottles of Parmesan, cream of chicken soup cans, tuna, and a bunch of other stuff. We also have some items that are going to take awhile to get through, such as the three jars of beef/chicken bouillon cubes in the cabinet! And I accidentally bought the wrong breadcrumbs a couple weeks ago and they totally have milk in them. It feels really wasteful to simply throw all this stuff out, so we've been using it up.

The thing what's occurred to me recently is, what am I supposed to do with all the non-vegan stuff I already own (that isn't food)? Like my makeup, hair products, shoes, etc.

I didn't think I owned any leather shoes, but it turns out my current favorite flats are leather. I just always thought leather was expensive and I don't buy expensive shoes, so I just assumed I didn't own any leather ones. Wrong. I just bought these while I was pregnant with Eren so they're pretty new and it feels like a waste to toss them out. Should I donate them and find a different pair? Should I just wear them until they're spent?

I do need to go through my shoe collection and donate stuff I don't wear anymore anyway. Since becoming a mother, I have come to appreciate functional footwear. I just don't have time for shoes in every color or any kind of heels or anything that isn't super comfy. I wear booties in the winter, sandals in the summer, and tennis shoes year round. I don't need much more than that.

I own a leather jacket that I literally wear once every other year. But I have this attachment to it. I really wanted it when I was in middle school and my parents got it for me for Christmas and it surprised the crap out of me because I know they spent a lot of money on it and they never got us big, expensive stuff like that. It just reminds me of that Christmas. And although I will probably never wear it again, I feel very conflicted about letting it go.

I have unused bottles of body wash and shampoo that are not cruelty free. I have so many hair products (that I really don't even use). I have a lot of makeup. (this blog used to center around makeup, so I own a lot of stuff) But isn't it wasteful to throw it all out? And what is it that bugs me, do I oppose the waste itself or the fact that I'm wasting money by throwing it away?

I wanted to get some new shorts recently. Instead of going to Ross or Target or whatever, we stopped by the Goodwill. And while yes, there are internal issues with the Goodwill corporation itself, at least I wasn't directly fueling the fast fashion world we live in. I bought two pairs of shorts for like $5 and I felt really happy.

My trusty, standard black Old Navy flip flops broke on the first day I put them on this year. They were probably five years old. So I "need" a new pair of black flip flops. I've been looking into vegan and more ethically made options. It's crappy though. Me, being a cheap skate, never spending over $30 on a pair of shoes. I look at this $2 pair of Old Navy flip flops, then I look online at $40 sandals and I'm like holy crap, is it really worth it?!

But I try to remind myself that it's all supply and demand. Every dollar you spend is a vote for a better world. If I apply that to my food choices, shouldn't I be applying it to my clothes and the rest of my life as well? I should be concerned about the working conditions of humans all over the world just as much as I am concerned for the animals who are enslaved to feed us.

Diet was pretty easy. But all of this other stuff is hard.

- Alaina

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Transition from 1 to 2 Kids

Was it easier or harder than expected?
I think it has been about as hard as expected but perhaps in different ways than I thought. For example, I thought having to sit down and nurse Eren while trying to make sure Cal wasn't doing something he shouldn't be was going to be hard, but that's actually not bad. Cal is very independent and he seems to understand that I can't really help him a whole lot with a baby attached to my chest. He understands he has to wait for me to get him a snack or fill up his cup and he's been really great in that aspect. However, the hard part has been when they both cry. Eren was colicky for the first 2+ months. When Eren cried, Calvin would cry, and vice versa. They just feed off each other's sadness. I was not expecting that. Listening to two crying kiddos, not being able to figure out what's up is really hard. It makes you want to just walk out the door and leave them to fend for themselves some days...
And the extreme exhaustion was unexpected. Chasing a toddler is hard. Caring for a newborn all hours of the day is hard. But both of those things together? That sucks.

Do you love them both equally?
I have to be honest. When Eren was a colicky little newborn, I did not feel an ultimate, bonding connection with him. I talk about that more in my "love at first sight" video HERE. But once we overcame his super fussiness at 2.5 months old, I can honestly say yes, I have a ridiculous amount of love for them both and it's incredible. I can honestly say now that yes, I do love them both equally.

Did Calvin understand? How did he react?
I definitely underestimated that little dude. He was almost 22 months old when Eren came. I think he's had a much bigger understanding of this whole thing than I knew a little boy could. I truly feel like he understood the pregnancy more than I thought. He's never patted my belly and said "brother" since Eren was born. He knows brother is on the outside now. And he's never been mean to Eren. He's never acted like he was mad at him. He's never acted like Eren needs to leave or he doesn't belong. He's never seemed overwhelmed by the fact that sometimes I just can't get to his needs as promptly when Eren needs something. Overall, I know he really gets it. He just knows Eren's part of the family now.

How do they interact together?
It's more amazing than I expected. Seeing Calvin give Eren kisses is literally the best thing ever in the world! It's perhaps my favorite part of being a mommy right now.
Calvin loves his brother. He is always asking about him. If I'm laying around with just Calvin and my husband is off with Eren, Calvin asks about him. He says things like "baby brother sad, hungry?" It's just too cute to see his concern for Eren.
And Eren is finally starting to notice Calvin more too, here at four months old. He will watch him as he walks around the room. He gets so happy if he lays by him on the floor. He cries when he leaves him. He actually cries when anyone leaves him.

Laundry? Diapers?!
I knew there would be a lot of laundry. I knew there would be a lot of diaper laundry. And diaper laundry every two days is perfectly fine, it works out great. But now that I'm back to work, in the middle of the week, I can get a day behind. Three days of diaper laundry sucks. Two days; I can deal with. I even completed the Flats & Handwashing Challenge on maternity leave, which was pretty fulfilling, actually.

So overall, things have definitely been different than I expected, but not all in negative ways.
I hope you enjoyed this little post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My Working Mom Morning

This morning I really didn't want to leave the kiddos. I didn't want to go to work and not see them all day. I sat on the couch with my oldest, thinking about freezing time still so I could just sit with him awhile longer. He curled up with me all lovey (an act he does less and less these days as he's a busy toddler with lots to do). I wished I didn't have to go get little brother ready, that I didn't have to gather all our things in the car and shuffle the boys out and off to grandma's.

I guess I just have phases like this. Sad and overwhelmed by life. I had one in the late summer of last year when I had been working five days a week instead of four. That took a toll on me. I missed my son so much that summer and I struggled a lot with working mom guilt.

This year I have two boys to miss. My littlest Eren is only four months old right now. It makes me jealous of moms in other countries who actually get decent maternity leave. I took eight weeks. And I used my vacation time, like 16 hours a week, I don't get actual paid maternity leave.

Breastfeeding, Working Mom

Sometimes I worry about my milk supply. I was consistent pumping at work for my oldest, Calvin, but I started running short around 11 months with him. I worry about the same thing happening with Eren. I pump 3x at work each day, but of course Eren's eating more than that. I just have to keep my fingers crossed it all evens out and I don't get behind because there are days in the office where I just can't get back to pump on time. There are busy days when half my coworkers are gone and I can't just remove myself. There are days when there are meetings in the conference room and no one lets me know so I can't schedule around them by pumping early or whatever. I have to pump before work some days just so I can make it to my first pumping session at work without engorgement.

I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. As I was loading the boys in the car, I even said to myself, "just go grab a banana from the counter," then I still forgot. I bring salads for lunch at work, very basic, nothing extravagant. Without breakfast, I'm going to be starving come dinnertime. But I can't run out to grab a lunch that would be more filling because I already take time out throughout the day for pumping.

And yes, I am very fortunate to have a great milk supply. And I am proud of myself for persevering through all the struggles I've had with both of my boys. It was not just a given. There were never any magical, perfect first latches like so many women talk about. It's hard, even the second time around, it may have been even harder than the first in some ways.

Working at Work, Working at Home

The work load of actually going to work and taking care of a house and family is overwhelming. I wake up, go to work, come home, do more work. Last night I was up later than I wanted to be just to wait for the dryer to finish our diaper laundry so I didn't have to fold it in the morning (and good thing I did because obviously I was running late this morning, I didn't even have time for breakfast).

I plan our entire month's dinners out at once, I go to the store, I go to the store again when I forgot an important ingredient, and again when we run out of milk and fruit and veggies. I cook dinner. I do some dishes (honestly my husband is really good about dishes). Laundry: the never-ending constant stream of laundry! Oh and speaking of never-ending; I feed the baby. When he is awake, he is perpetually attached to the boob, it seems. I come home to a cluttered kitchen and living room 5 of 7 days (Thursdays and Friday mornings I usually tidy up before I leave for work). Some weeks it feels like the whole house is in this impossible, messy limbo of toys and dishes. Seeing the clutter overwhelms me.

Many evenings when I get home with the children, our littlest wants to nurse and take a nap. If you've ever nursed a tired baby, you know full well that such a nursing session will take twice as long as a typical nursing session. He's not really drinking his milk, he just wants to be comforted to sleep. I understand and I do love it, knowing I'm the only one to comfort him in that way, and I try with all my might to enjoy those nursing sessions without worrying about the rest of the evening. But there are lots of things to do when I get home from work, like starting dinner. I like to start dinner when I get home with the boys. Justin gets home about 30 min after me, so I can have dinner ready as soon as he gets home. If I'm nursing Eren instead of making dinner, dinner is thrown off by 30 min, which throws off the entire night.

And on top of that, I try to get in some of my own mommy time, which is actually just more work: keeping up on my two YouTube channels. I have been putting out consistent content 3x per week for months now. I love the feeling of being consistent on my channels, but let me tell you, it's a whole 'nother work load altogether. I work on it in the evenings if I successfully get Eren to bed at the same time my husband is putting Calvin down. You know, after I worked all day at work, then came home, made dinner, probably did some laundry and cleaned up.

Just last night my husband was telling me that he felt sad lately. When I asked him why, I kind of already knew the answer because it's the same reason I've been feeling kind of sad lately too. He said it's because it's like every day is just a repeat of the day before. It's just this endless cycle of work at work, work at home, sleep, repeat. We're burnt out.

Maybe what we need is a vacation. Or maybe there’s nothing we can do about it and this is just life. I try to tell him it’s just a season. It’s hard when the babies are little. When Eren starts sleeping through the night, or moving around more, or eating solid food, or playing with his brother, maybe we’ll get more relaxation. But it hurts to even think such things. We wish away the baby months when we should just be enjoying our little ones in that moment.

Does it all come back around to the fact that I’m not able to take months of maternity leave? If I were at home all day with the children, all the household chores would be complete (well, let's just say mostly). We wouldn't have to spend every evening doing laundry. We wouldn't spend all weekend cleaning the bathrooms or grocery shopping. Would being a stay at home mom make any of this better? For either of us? Dinner would still need to be made. Dishes would still need to be done. The children would still need help going to bed. The baby would still wake in the middle of the night. 

I don't have any solutions. I guess I just needed to vent. Moms have it tough. Working or not. But motherhood is truly the best job there is, if you ask me.

Oh, and get this, when I got home from this day of missing my babies, I learned that my mother in law saw Eren roll from back to front for the first time today.
I missed Calvin's first steps when he was little too. 

Thanks for reading.
I love you guys!
I hope your day feels a little better than mine.