Category: how to

How To Become Vegetarian Without Annoying + Alienating Everybody

Dear Sarah,
I am a vegetarian who lives in a small town. We are starting to get more soy/tofu products but I still feel limited when it comes to food. I was wondering, what are some of your favorite meals/recipes? How do you deal with being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian world?

Dear Sarah,
Why did you become a vegetarian? I’d love to read a post on that.

Becoming A Vegetarian

Just like starting anything new, it’s good to slowly ease into it – eating a few meatless meals every week, experimenting with fake meat products, avoiding the meat aisle at the grocery store.

While it’s not the case for me, a lot of new vegetarians report feeling a bit tired and mopey when they’re trying to get off The Meat, so make sure you’re getting enough sleep, taking your vitamins and being a bit more gentle with yourself.

Knowing How Much Protein You Need

Before you remove all the meat from your diet, it’s a good idea to calculate what your daily protein intake should be.

It varies significantly from person to person and if you’re Suzy Beansalot, then you might not even need to up your protein intake. The Fitness Pal app is a great place to run these numbers and keep track of how you’re doing.

Getting Enough Protein

I grew up in the sort of town that didn’t even have basil in the produce department, so you can imagine that meat substitutes were nonexistent. But you can get plenty of protein from stuff that’s widely available, even in Middleofnowhere, MN.

Beans are super cheap and provide a lot more protein that tofu, even! I love this super simple black bean soup, beans and rice, hummus and vegetarian chili. Also, I cannot recommend the Fantastic brand boxed chili mix enough – even if it creates gas so bad that you can’t eat if for lunch at the office.

Tofu does have a decent amount of protein in it, but it can be hard to find and a bit of a pain to cook with. If I’m using it, I usually use the silken variety and incorporate it into yummy desserts like chocolate pudding or tofu cheesecake.

(I’m totally that person who brings tofu dishes to small-town potlucks and then when people have complimented me on them I get all “Ha! There was tofu in it!” And then they never speak to me again.) It’s also important to know that soy is an endocrine disruptor so you probably don’t want to eat it at every meal.

These days, quinoa is widely pretty widely available. Quinoa is cool for multiple reasons. A) it is an ancient Andean grain B) it is the only non-meat complete protein C) you can eat it all the time, with everything, or maybe even with a fox in a box. I even eat it for breakfast!

You can use it in place of couscous in any recipe, as a side dish or a main. I really love this recipe with garlic and thyme and this one for quinoa vegetable soup.

If you’re really rushed for time and protein, just drink a protein shake. Really! There are actually some yummy ones out there these days. I quite like the chocolate and vanilla varieties of Body Fortress. I swear that if you can get past that ridiculous name, it’s really pretty good!

Getting Enough Iron

If you give up meat, there’s also a chance that you won’t be getting enough iron. You can certainly take iron supplements, but for some reason they give me terrible stomach aches, so I opt out.

Instead, I (try to) eat heaps of spinach, nuts and the occasional spoonful of molasses. I love this spinach strawberry salad and this spinach and pasta recipe. Here’s a list of other iron-rich foods if spinach isn’t your bag.

Eating Out As a Vegetarian

Not eating out is one of my secrets to living a champagne life on something of a beer budget, and being a vegetarian makes it even easier. When you’re vegetarian and you’re eating at a traditional American restaurant, you’re usually limited to soup, salad and pasta.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay $12 for something I could make at home for $3. As such, I usually opt for Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern food instead. It addition to being more veggie friendly, it’s usually cheaper, more fun, more flavorful and healthier, too! That’s, like, a win/win/win/win situation.

When People Ask You About Being Vegetarian

If you made the choice to become a vegetarian, you probably had a good reason for it, right? And, on multiple occasions, you will surely be called upon to discuss your decision.

There are heaps of reasons that people don’t eat meat: maybe they want to save money, lose weight, reduce their carbon footprint, observe their faith’s teachings on the subject, support animal rights or, like me, they just don’t like meat.

Whatever your reason for going veg, you should be prepared to talk about it in a calm and articulate manner. Because if you ever go to rural Minnesota someone will probably call you a Gawdam Hippie and tell you that you’re personally responsible for the plight of the failing family farm.

But I digress.

People are often genuinely interested to know about your choice and it’s nice to be able talk about it in some manner other than “but baby cows are soooooo ceeeee-ute!”

Not Alienating Everybody

Now. This is certainly not the case with everyone, but (like new converts to anything) the newbie vegetarian can occasionally be a total pain in the ass.

You know who I’m talking about. That girl who would sit next to you at the cafeteria table in 9th grade while you ate pepperoni pizza and shrill, “It’s not any different than eating your cat! I bet you’d do that too, wouldn’t you!?” Or that co-worker who insists on telling you that marshmallows are made from cow hooves.

And while these arguments carry some weight, they’re not going to win you any dinner party invites. We all have our causes. Some people picket. Some people donate money.

Some people change their eating habits. Who am I to say that my particular habits are any better than a meateaters? I could be eating all the veggies I want and drive a gas-guzzling SUV, shop exclusively at Wal-mart and kick puppies in my spare time. Eating habits do not a martyr make.

When people ask me why I’m a vegetarian I explain that I’ve just never really liked meat and that since I’ve been a vegetarian for so long, I’ve gotten out of the habit of eating it.

I might also add that since going veggie I’ve learned that avoiding meat has a huge impact on my carbon footprint, which is a pleasant side effect to something I was already doing.

Are you a vegetarian? Have you ever tried to be one?

photo credit: gabriel gurrola // cc

How To Buy The Perfect Vintage Coat

This is an incredibly useful post from the always helpful Tara over at Nothing Elegant. And you know she’s a girl after my own heart – what with my obsession with vintage eskimo parkas and what not!

Most of us have at least one irresistible obsession, and mine happens to be outerwear. Not the naughtiest addiction ever, but it’s an addiction nonetheless! I just can’t seem to say no to a good trench, blazer, peacoat, military jacket, or swing coat. I’m inexplicably attracted to faux fur, rhinestone buttons, bell sleeves, and funnel necks. Yes, I’ve got a problem, but luckily I’ve learned to indulge my habit without breaking the bank! Over the years, I’ve realized that the best way to keep my coat compulsion satisfied is to stick to buying vintage.

Why I Buy Vintage
:: From classic 50’s swing coats to avant-garde 80’s cocoon coats, there is a breathtaking array of styles and silhouettes available out there.
:: In my experience, the price for a great vintage coat is, on average, at least 50 percent less than a newer version…and in today’s economy, that is saying a lot!
:: Vintage outerwear is often made with better materials and craftsmanship: just imagine how expensive a brand new coat made with thick wool or velvet, silk lining, glass buttons, and little details like brocade trim or rhinestones would cost at a department store.
:: I’m helping the environment by not contributing to waste! This is an added bonus to buying vintage — why buy something new when there are already so many options available?

Of course buying vintage can be daunting: Where do I start? What about condition? And what about…that musty smell? Here are some of my tried-and-true tips…

Tips on Buying Vintage:: Have a budget in mind and stick to it. I rarely spend over $60 for a coat, and for a jacket I keep it to around $15-$25. But the budget will depend on a variety of factors, like your area (vintage is more costly in bigger cities), as well as the material and age of the coat.
:: Ask questions! If you’re buying from a thrift store,you’re on your own, but if you’re buying from a vintage dealer, get as much information as you can to help you make your decision.
:: Check for stains — getting rid of stains on vintage fabric can be daunting and difficult. Unless the stain is on the lining where no one will notice, I usually shy away from the purchase.
:: Check the lining. Lining can be replaced, but sometimes changing the lining can cost as much as the coat itself –just weight the cost/repair ratio before deciding {and if you are a masterful sewer, then you are good to go!}.
:: Check the smell — because of the thicker fabric,vintage coats seem to hold a musty smell. This can often be removed with a simple dry-cleaning. Ask your dry cleaner for their advice if you have concerns about the fabric holding up. Dryel sheets are also a good, inexpensive way to get musty smells out of fabrics.
:: Check the details, like buttons, buckles, etc. Most things can be fixed or replaced, but you always want to be sure you are aware of the work you will need to put into it before buying.


Places to Start Your Own Vintage Outerwear Addiction
:: Thrift stores! Some of my best vintage coat finds were at Goodwill and Salvation Army.

:: Vintage store and boutiques. While these will be a bit pricier, the quality is typically more consistent and the items will usually be cleaned and mended.
:: Estate sales — if you’re into waking up early and beating the crowds.
:: Ebay is the place to go for great deals without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Search by era, material, style, etc.
:: Etsy has a gorgeous selection…and superfriendly sellers. Just for a taste, check out Good Grace, Dear Golden, Cassie’s Attic, Thrush and Bad Girl Vintage.Good Luck and Happy Shopping!

Are you addicted to vintage coats? Any other tips to share?

How To Become A Morning Person (Or At Least Fake It)

Is it possible to become a morning person? Can you create a morning routine you actually enjoy? You can! Click through for 5 tips to use today.

Would you hate me if I told you that I’m one of those awful morning people?

Most days I pop out of bed completely awake, all full of intention and purpose and eye boogers. I’ll be the one chattering glibly in your ear while you try not to punch me in the throat.

But of course, I wasn’t always this way. I spent most of my childhood waiting till the last possible moment to leave my bed and most of college growling at people who dared talk to me before 10 am. The nerve!

Now, I’m not sure that a dyed-in-the-wool night owl will ever be able to cross over completely to the land of Brightandearly, but there are a few things that can help you ease into your day with as few curse words as possible.

5 ways to become a morning person

Sleep Well

Blowing your mind, aren’t I? But mornings are obviously less painful if you can wake up feeling rested. You probably know all the tricks already, but they bear repeating. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Sleep in a dark, slightly cool room. Don’t do exercise, watch exciting TV, or read exciting books right before bed.

Make sure you’re getting enough aerobic exercise. Don’t drink caffeine after 4 pm. Sleep in something comfy. Have the right pillows and mattress. If you’re looking for something to help you sleep, try some Chamomile tea or a bit of lavender aromatherapy.

Get the right alarm

Of course, you’re going to be an unpleasant breakfast partner if you wake up to a shrieking alarm clock! Why not try dawn simulator (I swear by mine). You could try setting your phone to wake you with something lovely and sparkling? I like Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, but you could use chirping birds, Feist or robot noises if that’s your thing.

You can get alarm clocks that vibrate you awake and even one that you turn off by shooting it with a retro video game gun! Or you can just leave you bedroom door open and awaken to your cat licking your face.

Make your morning as relaxed as possible

You’re bound to hate mornings if you’re only allowing yourself 15 minutes to shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. This might seem counter intuitive, but I actually enjoy mornings more when I get up earlier and give myself plenty of time to read blogs, eating a nice breakfast and try on seven different scarves.

I try to save a variety of little treats for myself in the morning – really nice Greek yogurt, swanky good-smelling Aveda hair products, a really good cup of peppermint tea. They all make the morning a bit nicer!

If you can’t manage to wake up any earlier, channel your second-grade self and pack your lunch, shower and choose your outfit the night before. You’ll save yourself a) time b) a headache.

Engage in some non-threatening physical activity

I’m not going to recommend that you work out first thing in the morning. I mean, it is a really good idea, but I wouldn’t do it so why encourage you to do so?

However, I do love a good three-minute stretch, a few rounds of the sun salutation or even just rocking out to my favorite song. I can very highly recommend The Knux or Wild Beasts for the latter! If there’s any way that you can walk or bike to work, it is not an exaggeration that it will change your life. It’s so lovely to see the sunrise against the skyscrapers and arrive at work all pink-cheeked and awake.

When in doubt, add caffeine

Really, a cup of coffee or strong tea can make all the difference, right? Of course, developing a 9-cup caffeine addiction isn’t particularly advisable but a single cup in the morning never hurt anybody.

Of course, you can also get an energy boost from a bit of deep breathing, a hand full of peanuts, drinking a big glass of cold water or singing a few bars of your favorite song.

Are you a morning person convert? If you’ve got some good tips, share them in the comments!

P.S. Becoming a morning person is just developing a series of habits – this will help!

Photo by Joseph Gonzalez and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

How To Backpack With a Toddler (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of Eternal Voyageur’s incredibly helpful post on how to travel with the kiddos. For clever responses to nay-sayers and packing list suggestions, do pop over and check out Part 1!

: I didn’t take one, but some people swear by them. Research the state of the country’s roads, pavements and public transport before you decide to take one, and remember that you’ll be carrying the stroller half of the time. If you don’t have a super-lightweight one that folds up and can turn into a spaceship at the push of a button, get a cheap second-hand one that you won’t mind ditching before your return flight, if only to make space for souvenirs.Baby carrier: the Ergo carriers are probably the best for travelling, as they are famous for zero back pain! Ergos are also super-light and they roll up really small. You can wear them on your front and back, and you can even buy a fleece cover for cooler weather. Scour Ebay for cheap second-hand ones!

Leash: Now, the idea of a leash is not that your child is straining on it like an untrained puppy, but that it gives you extra security while the child holds your hand. When one end of the leash is on your wrist, you can feel safe that the child won’t suddenly wriggle its little hand out of yours and run across the street or escape while you need both hands to get money from your purse. Pequenita actually likes her a lot, it seems to give her a sense of security! The one I have can also be used to strap smaller toddlers into a chair in restaurants.

General Travel Tips

Don’t just get stuck with doing only child-friendly stuff. Kids will learn to participate in many grown-up activities, if you give them the chance. I’ve seen a 2-year-old daughter of musician friends who could sit quietly through hours-long classical concerts, just because the parents had always taken her with them.Do remember to do things for your child: go to one place where they can have the time of their life for a change. It doesn’t have to be Disneyland, a pretty park with a fountain can be just as delightful! Take frequent breaks, where the child can stretch their legs. Just let your kid free to run around wherever it is that you are. Take the time to point out and explain stuff to your kid, even if you think they don’t understand much.

How to occupy your child

Bus rides, waiting in the airport, and (the hardest) waiting for the food in restaurants – all of these are tough. Make origami animals from napkins, play some finger games, and bring out the notepad to draw in. Teach your kid to observe the space around them, spot things out of windows, count them. Bring snacks!
Surviving flights and drives

The good news: it does get better. Kids are extremely adaptable. Travel during the night, when you can. Most kids usually sleep everywhere. If yours can’t, he will probably learn fast. Arrive early at the airport or the bus station. If all the seats are not full, chances are that you’ll be placed next to some empty ones. Ask for seats that have more space (usually the front in airplanes, and the front and near the exits in a bus).During the waiting time at the airport/bus station, let your kid run free. Better still, chase them to tire them out. Don’t be the first to board, you’ll only have the rest of the passengers pushing against you as you try to squeeze your toddler into the seat. Using the same logic, disembark last. In the plane, you can always go to the back and ask the air hostesses for extra food or drinks for your child. For best results, bring your kid with you. Pequenita discovered that she could charm the hostesses into giving her more crackers! If your child is having a tantrum that’s disturbing the other passengers, take her and her tantrum to the air-hostesses room at the back of the plane.

Surviving museums

This was the toughest part for Pequenita. In some of the museums she could run around (an away), in others she struggled to escape from the carrier. So I don’t really know a fool-proof way to do this.However, here are some tips: Eat before going, make your child walk or run a bit, and try to time the visit before nap time. A fully-fed sleeping kid in a carrier is perfect for museums! Be prepared to cut your museum visit short, or even go there twice. We learned our lesson when we spent hours looking at the introductory pieces and then had to rush through the best stuff (which is always at the end).

Prepare a ‘kid pack.’ Since you can’t take your usual bag into museums, prepare a tiny bag with whatever your child needs: water, diapers, snacks, a toy. Don’t condemn your kid to boredom – point things out to them and describe it in simple language. They won’t understand it all, but they do grasp a lot. There is a lot of delightful every-day items that kids will recognize; Pequenita liked cups and bowls in the shape of animals.


Simple is best. Try something healthy, that takes little time to prepare (kids are so impatient in restaurants!) Pequenita thrived on delicious Peruvian fruit smoothies and I was thrilled: they always arrived instantly and she couldn’t have chosen a healthier alternative! Other favorites were bananas, beans, corn… You can always ask for a small portion of something simple, with one or two ingredients and no spices, most restaurants readily oblige. Also, let your child try whatever it is that you are eating and you’ll find out what they like. Resist the temptation to feed them chocolates and junk to keep them quiet. Small kids usually love fresh fruit and you can always find healthy local snacks. Lots of restaurants try to bring everyone’s food at the same time – tell them that you’d prefer your child’s meal to be served earlier, if possible.I hope that all of the above tips and ideas will help you have a smoother journey with your little one. However, there is nothing that can really prepare you for backpacking with a toddler: you’ll have plenty of crazy stressful moments, as well as unexpected adventures, lots of fun and laughter. Your child will teach you patience, a sense of humor, and will show you the amazing little bugs walking on the grass blades of the Altiplano. Just go, and take them with you. It will be a whole new experience!
Got the travel bug?  Check out my ebooks and podcasts on making long-term travel a reality!  Only $15 forpetessake!

Operation Get Shit Done


As of late I’ve been suffering from a bit of fear. You see, out of the corner of my eye, I’m pretty sure I can see the proverbial Brass Ring. And I’m pretty sure that if I stood on my tip toes (or just wore some tall shoes) and stretched just a littttlllle bit out of my comfort zone? That brass ring would be mine. As well as the over sized stuffed tiger and that cool t-shirt with the airbrushed Camaro.But apparently, I’m a bit afraid of The Success. What happens if I get everything I’ve ever wished for? Then what? Things are cozy and comfortable and familiar here in Prettygoodville! Would I feel out of place in Emerald City? What if there’s a dress code and they don’t like my thrifted, $7 outfits?

I was discussing this neurosis with a good friend of mine, a lady who’s also poised on the edge of Great Things, but engaging in a good bit of self sabotage in an effort to maintain the status quo of Prettygood. Why design business cards when I can watch an episode of The Office on Hulu? Why write a book proposal when I can spend the afternoon trying to convince my cat to wear a sweater? I need to be doing those things – every small step adds up to something bigger. And each one is a step towards the life that I want.

So the friend and I developed a plan to end this foolishness, a little plan that we’re calling Operation Get Shit Done. This plan has two, incredibly complex parts.

Part one: Print out this Marianne Williamson quote, look at it every day and burn it into my psyche.

Part two: Have an accountability buddy. The friend and I each make weekly goals (smallish, doable, quantifiable ones) and then email each other every Thursday to see how the goals are progressing. We give each other pep talks, coo over accomplishments and give each other (virtual) stern looks and inspiring links if things aren’t quite going well.

Having someone that I have to report to each week has helped me immensely – I don’t want to let myself (or her) down and talking through what worked and what didn’t is helpful in itself. Plus it gives me an excuse to look at photos like this one. Okay, and this one. Just as I’m less likely to spend a Saturday in my underwear, consuming entire bags of shredded cheese if there’s someone around to witness it, I’m more likely rise to the occasion if I know someone’s watching. Here’s hoping that what I’m working towards is worth watching!

What do you do when you’re trying to get through a big project? Is anybody else afraid of getting what they wish for?

5 Cheap, Doable, Homemade Beauty Tips

 If you love DIY beauty advice and homemade beauty tips, this post is for you! Click through for DIY mask recipes and my trick for razor burn and dry cuticles!

I’m not sure that I would consider myself a beauty expert. I don’t know how to pluck my eyebrows, my morning routine takes all of 15 minutes and I frequently forget to wear deodorant (don’t worry – I’m freakishly non-smelly. Probably because I’m part robot.)

But! I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, tricks that keep my beauty budget low and keep getting me carded even though I’m quite a few years away from 21.

5 homemade beauty tricks I swear by

If you’re acne-prone, make yourself an aspirin mask

Did you know that aspirin contains heaps of salicylic acid – the main ingredient in most acne fighting products? To make this mask, all you need is a big ol’ bottle of dollar store aspirin (seriously? cheap, uncoated aspirin is better) a dollop of yogurt and a bit of honey.

In a little bowl, crush 4 – 8 aspirin – the oilier your skin, the more aspirin you’ll want to use. Add about a tablespoon of yogurt and a tiny squirt of honey.

You’ll want to use more honey if your skin is dry. Mix it all together till it’s grainy and spread it onto the oily parts of your face. I usually leave mine on for about five minutes, but you might want to start with a shorter amount of time. Wash it off and feel smug about your glowing skin, all to the tune of three cents.

Use olive oil instead of shaving cream

Instead of using Skintimate or your conditioner, use your bottle of Bertolli. Just spread it on your legs the way you would any other shaving product and have at it.

It can get a bit messy. You’ll have to clean your razor a bit better than usual and make sure you clean your tub afterwards so you don’t slip in any left over oil, but I promise you that your legs will be smoother and stay moisturized longer than with anything else you’ve ever tried!

Stop razor rash with triple antibiotic ointment

Whenever I shave or wax any of those tender bits so prone to red bumplies, I do it before I go to bed and then top off the area with a generous slather of triple antibiotic ointment. I let them spend the night au naturale (so stop wearing high cut tank tops after you shave your armpits!) and in the morning everything’s hair and razor rash free!

Make your own exfoliator with baking powder

If I’m running low on my beloved St. Ives Apricot Scrub, or winter has made my skin too tender for all that, I exfoliate my face with tablespoon of baking powder. It’s super cheap, works wonders, is gentle enough to use in the depths of December. Clever!

Use your lip balm as cuticle cream

You know when you’re applying lip balm? And you find yourself stuck with a lone Sticky Finger? And then where do you wipe it? A while ago, I decided to stop wiping it on a) the inside of my pant’s hem (?!) b) my desk chair and start massaging that extra bit of balm into my cuticles. To birds! One stone!

What are you beauty secrets? Do share!

P.S. My 3-product, minimalist makeup kit!

Photo by Sarah Gray on Unsplash