Remembering the Boston Marathon Bombings: Two Years Later

Today is the two-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, and it has been weighing heavily on my mind.

I have shared my thoughts about that terrible day twice before on this blog.  On April 22, 2013, one week after the bombs went off, I shared my first-hand account of that day and the days that followed. A year later, I wrote about the regrowth that had taken place in the year since the bombs had gone off.

Another year has gone by, and this one brought us the trial and conviction of the cowardly terrorist whose actions brought about the deaths of four innocent people and the maiming of countless others.  Personally, his conviction does little to lift my spirits, as it can in no way make up for the pain, fear, and damage he caused.  But it does in its own way mean justice for the victims, and I sincerely hope it has brought them and their families some peace and comfort.

And so we continue to move on, to heal, and to remember.  And yes, I will be bringing my infant son out to celebrate his first Patriots Day on Monday.  It seems to me that the best way we can honor the memories of those that were lost is to continue to live our lives as joyfully as possible, without fear.

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Giveaway Winner and Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the Happy Herbivore Light & Lean cookbook (as selected by random number generator) is Laura!  Laura left the very first comment on the post, saying:

“I’m craving the Deviled Eggs! This cookbook looks amazing!”

Congrats, girl!  I will be emailing you with further details.

Speaking of Laura (and by total coincidence, I swear), I am honored to have been nominated on her blog This is Thirty for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award!  The award is for the loyal fan/commenter, whether the recipient is a fellow blogger or just someone who follows and comments regularly.

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One of my favorite things about blogging is the community of wonderful people that I’ve been introduced to.  I follow several dozen blogs and look forward to reading them every single day.  It is truly amazing to be able to connect with people all over the world, most or all of whom I will never meet in person, but whose personalities and unique voices have nonetheless become so familiar to me.

Giving and receiving comments is one of the many ways that I participate in this community.  Every single time a new comment pops up on my blog, it puts a smile on my face, and I try to pay it forward by leaving as many comments as possible on other blogs too.  Anyway, getting this award from Laura means a lot!

The rules for Dragon’s Loyalty Award are:
1) Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2)  Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back (duh!).
3)  Share  7 things other bloggers may not know about you.
4)  Nominate up to  15  bloggers for Dragon’s Loyalty Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5)  Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.

7 things you may not know about me:

1. I am allergic to eggplant (GMO or otherwise), a sad fate for a vegetarian.

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2.  Growing up, I was really into music and art.  I was a singer, played violin, clarinet, and piano, and my dream was to become a Disney animator.   Now I’m a lawyer, which in many ways is the opposite of a creative profession.

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3.  I own all 10 seasons of Friends on DVD and have seen every episode multiple times.  Last year I got H into it as well and we watched the whole series together from start to finish.

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4.  While we’re on the subject of H…that letter actually stands for the first letter of his last name, not his first (and it doesn’t stand for “Husband” either)!  This is because when we first started dating (and when I first talked about him on the blog), we used to refer to each other by our last names 🙂  Rather than change it on the blog after I finally learned his first name, I’ve elected to keep him as H.

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H and me, about two weeks after we started dating! I used to be so cute.

5.  And speaking of H’s last name, it’s my last name now too!  But obviously I have continued to use my maiden name for blogging purposes.  I was way too proud of “A. Cook in the Making” to give it up.

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6. I am a huge Harry Potter nerd.  I have read each book several dozen times (the first three in Spanish, too) and own the British version of the series.  My sister and I used to dress up and go to the midnight book release parties, and I was one of the people on the message boards looking for emotional support after finishing Half-Blood Prince for the first time.  I also attended the midnight release showing of all eight films.

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7.  Despite growing up completely disinterested in professional sports, I now (thanks to H) follow all of the Boston teams, and am particularly devoted to (and frankly, obsessed with) the Patriots.

trophiesPosing with the Superbowl trophies at the Hall at Patriot Place

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Bringing a little Patriots pride to NJ (and no, I am not wearing the jersey of THAT #81…it’s Randy Moss, tyvm)

My nominees for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award are: 
1) Celeste of Honk If You’re Vegan
2) Ketty of Luminous Vegans
3) Cadry of Cadry’s Kitchen
4) Catherine of Veg Charlotte

And if it made any sense to do so, I’d nominate Laura herself again! She always leaves me nice comments 🙂

P.S. – Only one more week until Christmas!!!  Are you ready to go or do you still have tons to do?!  I am somewhere in between.

Sunshine Blogger Award!

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Over the weekend I was honored to receive a Sunshine Blogger Award from Catherine, the blogger behind Veg Charlotte!  I really enjoy Catherine’s friendly, approachable style and realistic take on what it means to live a vegan lifestyle.  Her Frugal Friday feature is particularly awesome.  Definitely check her out if you have a chance.

The rules for Sunshine Award are:

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3. Answer the same 10 questions given.
4. Nominate up to 10 blogs for the award, a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
5. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

So here I go!

1. Where would you most like to travel to?
I’ve done a decent amount of traveling outside the U.S. (England, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Vietnam, Uruguay, Canada, Israel, Palestine [the West Bank], Ireland, Panama)  but there are still many places I want to visit!  So the answer to this question is that it’s a toss-up between India, Thailand, and Peru.  Oh also, Turkey and Egypt.  Yeah I can’t pick just one.

2. Do you have a sweet tooth?
Yes!! Although it has waned a little in recent months, meaning that while I still LOVE sweet treats, I no longer have the need to have one every day.  Not sure why but I’ll take it.

Oh, but no matter what time of day or night, I would never say no to one of these:
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3. What motivates you to keep you blogging?
Blogging is the creative counterpart to my professional life as a lawyer, where my writing is necessarily dry and technical.  From the cooking, photography, and writing to reading other blogs and interacting with wonderful people all over the world, motivation is easy to come by!

4. Who is your favorite comedian?
Male: Andy Samberg; female: Amy Poehler.

5. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Horseback riding!  I spent a heavy portion of my middle school and high school years riding, training, grooming, and working with horses plus teaching lessons and working at riding summer camps.  I kept riding through college but after that I wasn’t able to keep it up because of work and financial constraints.  But it’s still the best thing I can think of to do outside.  I like running too but it doesn’t compare.

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This is me at age 15, riding my horse Penny in our county hunter pace.  Cover girls!

6. Who was your favorite teacher and why?
This is a tie between my two high school Spanish teachers, Sras. Barca and Vodhanel.  It has to be a tie because one of the great things about them was how these two petite ladies complemented each other.  Barca was dark-haired with a sassy wit while Vodhanel was fair with a soft voice and gentle manner.  They were great teachers, plus I was really good at Spanish so I did well in their classes (I think that always helps).  They were also my advisors in Spanish Honor Society and were just really good at coming up with awesome trips and fun outings for us (like going into NYC to see a play in Spanish).

7. Do you own any pets?
Stewie-bear and Marty-moose!! ❤
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8. Most embarrassing moment in your life? (That you are willing to share.)
Once in high school, I went to sit down at a table in the upper library and ended up crashing to the floor among shards of broken chair.  I think the chair must have already been broken before I sat down, but I still felt like a heiffer and everyone was laughing so all I could do was laugh along.  It sucked though and it kinda hurt too!

9. Where are you from?
I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, moved at age 2 to Neptune City, then moved again on my 9th birthday to Fair Haven.  A Jersey shore girl 🙂

10. How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
I got nothin.

And now, I am excited to nominate the following bloggers for the Sunshine award:

1) Becky of Veg Hot Pot

2) Ketty of Luminous Vegans

3) Sarah of Fried Dandelions

4) Becky of Glue and Glitter

5) Celeste of Honk If You’re Vegan

(By the way, I just realized that all five of the blogs I’ve nominated are ones I only discovered in the last 3 months, basically since I did Vegan MoFo.  It really is amazing how blogging can connect people.)

Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far!  And thanks again to Catherine for the nomination!!

Daiya Giveaway Winner and Weekend Update

Not this Weekend Update, unfortunately:
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First things first: the winner of the Daiya free product voucher is Donna!  Donna said:

I think I’m the last vegan on earth who hasn’t had Daiya. I’d like to try the mozz-style and make a pizza with actual “cheese!”

Congratulations, girl!  I hope your first experience with Daiya is a great one!

Thank you SO much to everyone who commented.  You guys really helped my self-esteem and I’m now super-excited about giveaways and hope to host another one really soon!  Actually I’ve already thought up an idea so it won’t be too long in any case…

Anyways, I know it’s only Thursday but I’m getting really excited for the weekend!  H and I are travelling to DC to visit my beautiful little sister M, who has promised to take me  on a tour of her favorite vegan and veg-friendly establishments.

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M and me the last time I visited DC

Sticky Fingers will obviously be involved.sticky fingers

And this is the Cherry Blossom cupcake I got on my last visit and HOLY HELL I still dream about this thing.  The crappy bar lighting from Millie & Al’s does it no justice, none.

While M is not vegan, she is lactose intolerant and so obviously avoids many non-vegan foods.  Apart from this, though, she has always been extremely open to eating vegan meals.  She particularly loves seitan and soy chorizo (a version of which I hear DC-area Chipotles are now serving btw!).

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I think we’ll have a good time, and I hope to take many photos!  Most of them will probably end up on Instagram (@acookinthemaking) but if there’s anything particularly awesome perhaps I’ll share it in a recap post next week.

Pile on the Miles update:
Week one went…okay.  So far I’ve done 6.3 of my 10 goal miles for the week, but the first 3.2 (on the treadmill because it was COLD and I am weak) did not come easily.  A little bit of walking and more than a little pain were involved.  All the more reason to stick with it though, right? And then last night I had this incredible outdoor run where I felt awesome and didn’t walk at all and kept up a good (for me) pace the entire time!  So who knows.  I’m hoping that by week four I’ll be back to being able to run an easy 5K without too many after-effects.

Also, I’m starting to remember why I never lose any weight when running or training for a race.  It’s not even one of those things where I run a measly 3 miles and then think I can eat whatever I want because I “earned” it.  The real problem is that the day after a run, I don’t feel like doing anything, or I convince myself I “need to rest,” so cross-training always seems to go right out the window.  The net effect is that I actually get less total exercise per week, even though my cardio minutes increase.

This is starting to annoy me and I’m working really hard at developing the mental focus to run 3 days a week and do strength training on 2 other days.    It really shouldn’t be that hard! I know that I am physically capable of doing this and that I’m not going to die or injure myself.  But somehow this irrational fear creeps in and I find an excuse.

This is something I just have to work on.  One of those personal barriers that you need to push past in order to grow as a person.  We all have them!  Identifying it is the first step, I think.

What are your personal barriers?  What do you do to try to break through them?

Also, any fun weekend plans?

Let me know in the comments!  I’ll be checking in from the road.

Working It Out and the Pile on the Miles Challenge

Good morning and happy November!

Exercise and fitness are topics I rarely talk about on this blog.  I mean, anyone interested in exercise or “healthy lifestyle” blogging has a bazillion options to consult before they need to look to a vegan food blog for pointers.

I hope this post isn’t too personal, boring, or off-topic, but it’s important to me to stress that there is much more to my vegan life and my personal goals than just the food.  When I first became vegan, I was very interested in the health benefits of a plant-based diet.  And I still am.   While I don’t necessarily think of my blog as falling into the Healthy Vegan Food Blog category (I just wrote a post about vegan jalapeño poppers, for goodness sake), I do generally feel that I lead a pretty healthy, balanced lifestyle.

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Some of that does factor into my writing on this blog.  I often discuss the challenges involved in trying to be the best wife I can be, maintain a home, and cook/bake things that are convenient and cost-effective yet still healthful and nourishing for both of us, while still having a full-time job.  It’s not easy, and this from someone that doesn’t even have kids to contend with.

On top of all of that, I feel pressure to make time for myself.  I enjoy exercising and want to do it, but my fitness goals and levels have fluctuated drastically over the years, and to be honest, lately I just don’t have a lot of time for it.  Currently the best I can do is to fit in 10 – 30 minutes of high intensity activity about 4 days a week, 5 if I’m lucky.  This includes a lot of HIIT workouts (Jillian Michaels DVD’s are amazing for this), tabatas, and CrossFit-inspired routines that can be done at home.  Obviously this amount of activity is better than nothing, and while I have not lost weight (that’s a different battle entirely), I have definitely become markedly stronger in the last 6 months or so.

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Although I am physically and mentally capable of working out for longer (I’ve run three half marathons [and trained for four…long story]), these days I face the dilemma that, if I want to do that, I must sacrifice something else.  Exercising for more than 30 minutes means that I either won’t have time to make dinner, or I could make dinner but then won’t have any time to myself to relax on the couch with one of “my” shows on the DVR before H comes home and it switches to “our” shows.

Even though it can be frustrating, I work it out the best I can!

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H and me right after I finished the 2012 Boston Run to Remember (with my red face and coconut water in hand!)

H and I ran the Cape Cod Ragnar relay back in May.  For those who don’t know, Ragnar is an organization that runs a series of races year-round in different parts of the country.  Teams of 6 or 12 runners work together over 24ish hours to cover approximately 200 miles.  It was an incredible experience but also completely and utterly exhausting (I think I slept a total of 3 hours in two days while running three legs of the race and consuming little besides Gatorade, granola, and bananas.  Also it was freezing!).

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[Most of] our team at the Ragnar finish line, with our medals!

Since then (perhaps understandably), I have been totally burnt out on running.  I think I have run maybe 4 times since May.  [Yup, just checked my calendar and I have run outside exactly 3 times and once on the treadmill.]

And here is the point that I’ve been leading up to this whole time, which is that yesterday, just as I was finally starting to miss running, I stumbled upon Run Eat Repeat’s 5th annual Pile on the Miles challenge:

Basically, you sign up for the challenge, enter a number of miles you want to run in November, and then check in every Friday throughout the month with your progress toward meeting that goal.  The aim is to keep participants moving during the calorie bombardment of the holidays, so that we can pile on miles rather than pounds!  The check-ins serve to keep you accountable.  Click on the image above if you would like to register and take on the challenge yourself!

I love this idea and am so excited to be participating!!  It’s given me that little spark I needed in order to recommit to my running and prepare for an even better Ragnar next spring (yes, we’re sadists and are doing it again).  I have committed to run a total of 43 miles in November; 3 tomorrow (no matter how long it takes me!), and then 10 per week for the remainder of the month.  I figure I’ll split it into two 3-mile runs and one 4-miler, but we’ll see.  It probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but my left foot has given me a lot of problems in the past (including during Ragnar 2013) so I’ll have to start slow and ease myself back into it.  But I couldn’t be more excited to do so!

I promise this blog will not become an exercise recap for the month of November, but don’t be surprised to hear me mention Pile on the Miles at least a few times. 🙂

If you have any tips for fitting in weekday workouts, or thoughts about how exercise factors into a healthy vegan lifestyle, please share them in the comments!

ALSO there is still time to enter my giveaway for a free Daiya product voucher!  Click here for details on how enter.  Giveaway closes Wednesday, November 6.

Have a great (and healthy!) weekend!

OMGinger

I have always enjoyed the taste of fresh ginger but lately my taste for it has grown into a passionate love.  When I make a recipe calling for minced or grated fresh ginger, I find myself adding a little more than instructed.  Fortunately, H loves ginger too!  He always comments on it when I make stir fry, a dish which, for me, is not complete without fresh ginger thrown in.

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Aside from the bright, sweet, slightly spicy flavor, I love ginger for its versatility.  It sparkles in foods both savory and sweet.  It also boasts a number of incredible health benefits.  Consider this description, excerpted from the World’s Healthiest Foods database:

“Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract). Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.”  Read more about ginger here.

For our holiday party this past year, I baked Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (my go-to dessert book, obviously).

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Here they are, served alongside a little vegan nog (check out the reflection!).  Can you say decadence?

I loved these!!  While they were a little on the spicy side for the kids that stopped by the party, they were well-received by the adults.  And they looked beautiful, if I may say.

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Also, a week or two ago I had the most incredible Thai dish from Lanna Thai, a diner right down the road from my office.  First of all, yes, it’s a Thai diner. The place is adorable.  It’s got maybe 5-6 tables and some stools at a counter, metal siding, the works.  But it’s Thai!!

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Second, they have great lunch specials, with excellent portion sizes and a good number of veggie options.  Third, the food is outstanding.  I have tried their Tofu Prik Pow, a perfectly sweet and spicy veggie and pineapple concoction, as well as their Tofu Red Curry (the control dish by which I judge all Thai eateries!), which was sweet and creamy with perfectly cooked vegetables. My favorite yet, however, was the Tofu Pad King, the ginger dish.

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This was SO GOOD.  A world of flavor, perfect texture to everything…I can’t say enough good things about this and I kind of wish I were eating it right now.  I thought I had a bunch more menu items I was going to try from Lanna but I might just be stuck on Pad King from here on out…

P.S. – Look at what came in the mail today!!Om Nom Nom Sampler photo iphone004_zps647c77dc.jpg

It’s the six-cookie sampler pack made by Om Nom Nom Cookies that I recently bought from Vegan Cuts!!  Clockwise from top left: Spicy Mexican Snickerdoodle, Ultimate Peanut Butter, Gluten-free Chocolate Chip, Orange-Zested Chocolate Chip, Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal, and Red Velvet.  Of course, there is no gingerbread flavor so I really have no excuse for including these in this post other than my sheer excitement.  I don’t even know where to start!

Thank God I’m training for a race right now.

Time Marches On

It feels great to be back to blogging after a six-month hiatus.  A lot has happened during the time since my last post, which I recap (with photos galore!) below.

I last blogged on August 12, 2011. 

On August 20, H and I moved out of our beloved Brighton to Boston’s South Shore.   Here I am “tail-gating” our move (aka, sitting on the back of my brother-in-law’s pick-up truck, eating a heated-up Amy’s frozen pizza off of the edge of a plate because the utensils were all packed away):
"Tailgating" a Move

I had a second bridal shower, thrown my by mother-in-law and bridesmaids, on September 10.  Check out some of the awesome vegan fare they had for me!

Fruit salad in a beautiful bowl:
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Hummus and veggie wraps:
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Roasted corn salad atop tomatoes, and pickles (of course!):
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All washed down with a chocolate raspberry vegan cookie:
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My cookie even came complete with a warning to protect it from well-intentioned omnivore dessert-seekers:
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Haha!

I spent the next five weeks shuttling back and forth between Boston and New Jersey every single weekend in preparation for my wedding.  On one of those weekends, I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of my best friend.  The following two weekends were the Jewish High Holidays; I went to synagogue by day and stayed up late into the night with my amazing parents and fiance hand-making wedding favors and placecards.  I actually had my final dress fitting on Yom Kippur, while fasting (it fit great).  I chose and ordered my cake and flowers just one week before the event.  I even bought my veil the day before the wedding, on the way to our rehearsal dinner! It was a whirlwind time!!

On October 16th, I married the most wonderful man in the world 🙂
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We spent a magical week on Cape Cod for our honeymoon, then returned to reality.  I busied myself with my job search and with preparing for our upcoming move to the MetroWest suburbs of Boston (yes, we moved twice in three months.  Who doesn’t?).

A week and a half before our move, I found out I passed the bar!!

We moved on November 12th.  I swore in to the bar on November 15th:
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Thank goodness we were able to locate our suits amongst all the boxes and suitcases!

I changed my name.  I looked for work.  I found a temporary position as a lawyer in downtown Boston, which started December 1st.  Then there were the holidays, and New Years. 
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Friends and family came to visit and stay with us (we have real guest bedrooms now after all!). The Patriots had a fantastic season, which we followed avidly (though it didn’t end the way we wanted). We had stay-cations and surprise parties for big events like Valentine’s Day and somebody’s 30th birthday…
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Now here we are.  It’s March.  I can hardly believe it!  So much has happened in such a short time in my life.  There have been a lot of adjustments–I’m no longer a student, I live in the suburbs, and, well, I’m somebody’s wife, to name a few–but life is good and I’m enjoying it one day at a time.

And I am so excited to be back to blogging!!!

I have been cooking tons. Now that H and I are both working full-time, I’m learning the ins and outs of menu planning, make/prep-ahead meals, and most importantly, packing lunches!  It’s been really fun (not to mention delicious) and I cannot wait to share some of the great new recipes I’ve found and time-saving techniques I’ve learned.  I hope you will enjoy them!