It’s The Little Things.

So, we all know the basics we’re thankful for every year on Thanksgiving: family, friends, food, clothing, a roof over our heads, having a job. Absolutely. I agree completely and am thankful for each of those every day of my life. However, I feel like the little things are sometimes forgotten. Things that we overlook, take for granted. Things that make our lives easier and less stressful. Things that make you smile. So today, I would like to share my list of little things I am thankful for, and perhaps it will make you thankful for a few little things of your own.

  • soft toilet paper
  • toothbrushes & toothpaste
  • pets (cats, dogs, hamsters, you name it)
  • pasteurized milk (multiple varieties)
  • chocolate
  • bubble baths
  • public transportation
  • Wal-Mart (or other get-everything-in-one-stop-inexpensively shops)
  • recycling centers
  • yoga
  • sticky notes & dry erase boards
  • cell phones, specifically the iPhone (& really, any Apple product)
  • public wi-fi
  • contact lenses
  • hybrid cars
  • hair ties
  • forks, knives, & spoons
  • Febreeze
  • ATMs
  • central heat & air
  • Groupon & Living Social
  • Arrested Development
  • flowers
  • sunglasses

So, as you sit around your table with your family tomorrow, take a second to remember the little things in life that make you happy. Things you are lucky enough to have, that don’t really get the credit they should on a regular basis. I am so grateful to have my friends and family in my life that continuously make me a better person. I know I complain from time to time about my job (who doesn’t?), but at the end of the day, I am lucky to have one.  And thanks to that job, I can afford my apartment, clothes, and food. So embrace the day to day extras that we are lucky enough to have in our lives. It’s the little things that are the icing on the cake, or rather the Cool Whip to our pumpkin pie.

Must Try: Portabella Mushroom Burger.

Recently, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time with a friend who happens to be a vegetarian. It’s kind of a great thing; I’ve experienced a lot of fantastic (and rather healthy) food I would never have normally tried on my own. I feel inappropriate and/or immoral ordering something for carnivores when we go out to eat, so I end up secretly sneaking to Chic-Fil-A in the mornings for breakfast from time to time still. I’m not quite turned to the other side just yet, but I’ve definitely cut down on my consumption of meat. The Richmond Vegetarian Festival was a blast. Lots of interesting vendors and activists, a variety of musicians and bands, and a huge row of vegan and vegetarian friendly food and drink tents. Not to mention some fabulous hippie-esq clothing I mentally took note of for future shopping ventures.

Okay, back to food.

Fake chicken is tasty, especially with cranberries and goat cheese. However, I’m glad I found out what it’s made out of after I decided I liked it. A while back I tried tofu and absolutely hated it, but after giving it another try a month or so ago, it’s actually pretty legit. I guess it’s all on how you cook it. Also, there’s a place downtown, Sammy T’s, where I tried my first tempeh burger. It was rather salty and had a very interesting texture, but I could have it every now and then as something different.

Additionally, I’ve amped up my servings of vegetables quite a bit over the past few months. One of my favorites is mushrooms, in omelets, on burgers, in stir-fry, everything. So, I went hunting online for an easy, quick meal involving mushrooms. I happened to find one, however, changed quite a few things to make it my own. Here’s what you’ll need and how to make them.

2 portabella mushroom caps
2 kaiser rolls
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 sweet onion
1 container of roasted red peppers, seasoned
1 fresh mozzarella ball, thinly sliced
1 small package of herb chèvre
olive oil
Montreal steak seasoning, for those of us who don’t own each seasoning separately
butter

Slice the onions and peppers into 1 inch slices. Add olive oil and seasoning to pan. Cook onions and peppers until soft, caramelizing the onions, about 7-10 minutes on medium heat. Coat the mushrooms in olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and grill for about 5-7 minutes, or until tender, depending on the size. The longer you cook them, the tougher they will be. Just before the mushrooms are done, slice the kaiser rolls in half, butter, and toast in a pan until golden brown. Add peppers, onions, and roasted red peppers to the bottom, set the mushroom cap on top, place the mozzarella slices above that, and spread the chèvre on the top bun. Give it a minute to let the cheeses melt a bit.

Probably one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. There’s a lot going on, but it tastes fantastic. Only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and cook, and guess what! All your crazy non-meat eating friends can enjoy it with you.

Bon appétit!

Fine, Call Me A Tree Hugger.

Originally, I had started this post because a friend (or frenemy, rather) brought up the idea that reducing my carbon footprint means nothing. I, as one person, am not going to change a single thing. Buying organic toothpaste, recycled paper towels, or a Brita filter will do nothing but cost me more money than if I were to purchase regular merchandise. However, I beg to differ.

  • If every family in the country purchased one package of 100 percent recycled napkins instead of regular, it would save 1 million trees.
  • Last year, the US used over 39 billion (yes, billion) plastic bottles–enough to circle the globe 190 times. Each Brita filter can save up to 300 of those bottles from being tossed in a landfill.
  • By replacing one box of 48 ounce petroleum-based powder laundry detergent with Seventh Generation’s vegetable-based detergent, we could save 96,000 barrels of oil–enough to heat 5,500 houses per year.
  • It takes 75,000 trees to print one run of the New York Times Sunday edition. Read news online.
  • The average grocery shopper uses between 500 and 1,200 plastic bags per year. Buying a couple reusable bags from your grocery store will save those bags from resting in landfills.

Anyway, those are just a few things I can personally do that A) make me feel like I’m making a difference, B) don’t take a lot of effort, and C) show how one person can, in fact, change the world. My goal for next weekend is to actually buy a sorter for my paper, plastic, and aluminum waste that I can keep in my kitchen. My apartment complex does not have a recycling facility, but there is one exactly 4.2 miles away. That is my next step in becoming a little more eco-friendly each day. Not to mention, we keep our townhouse at a whopping 64 degrees, unplug the electronics, and reuse our water glass each night. And perhaps down the road, an environmentally friendly wedding theme will be in the picture. Basically, I want to do good. I want to see others doing good as well. I’ve joined the Green Team at work, and would like to see one established in my neighborhood. To sum it up, at the risk of sounding completely cliché:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi

High Dynamic Range.

High Dynamic Range, or HDR, is one of my favorite types of photography. It is an interesting process to achieve this look, something I have yet to accomplish, but will one of these days. You can either take one image, or a series in different exposures (over and under exposed) and combine them for a very unique type of picture. It also requires (to look legit and not Picniked) software that costs money that I don’t have. Anyway, by combining the different exposures, you end up with images as such:

I actually have a very good friend of mine who is working on perfecting his skills. He’s just now playing with HDR and is already phenomenal. He makes me wish I had actually gone to school for photography, not just taken one class. I admire him, look up to him. One day I aspire to have works as great as his (in general, not only the HDR). I have yet to ask his permission for reposting his work, but keep your fingers crossed he’ll be happy his work is getting exposure.

If you’re interested in learning more about HDR, I definitely recommend checking out Stuck in Customs. This guy’s work is amazing, and gives a very user friendly tutorial on how to make your own HDR images. Kudos to you, Trey Ratcliff, for your ability to make beautiful artwork.