Welcoming 2013 with a Giveaway!

Happy 2013! Even though my tummy issues prevented S and I from having a very exciting New Year’s Eve, we still enjoyed our quiet evening at home with the pup. So far, 2013 has been just fine, with lots of good food and good company.

On Friday, I skipped out of work a little early to drive up to Wisconsin Rapids to visit one of my best friends, who lives in Italy but was home for the holidays. We had a fun night playing games with her family and watching various shows on DVD, and her mum fed us a delicious tofu stir fry with brown rice and homemade bread. It was a quick visit, but totally worth it.

I drove back to Madison in the early afternoon on Saturday, and then S and I had a dinner date with the friend whose New Year’s Eve party we missed. She’s also vegan, and she served us a delicious gluten-free dinner. We started with crudités and a fantastic Brazil nut spread, then moved on to a blended parsnip soup flavored with Chinese five-spice. The main course was rolled eggplant slices stuffed with tofu ricotta and tomato sauce, and then we rounded out our meal with Coconut Bliss chocolate-hazelnut ice cream topped with chocolate-hazelnut cookies and homemade fudge sauce. Oh, and of course we drank lots of wine and a homemade orangecello (like limoncello… but with oranges). Much of our conversation centered around vegan food and restaurants, which is always fun – it’s wonderful to have someone who gets it and will happily gush about vegan eateries! She also sent us home with a bag of extra cookies. :)

And now it’s Sunday and we’re getting back into our normal routine – we’ve planned our meals for the week, I’ve gone grocery shopping, and tonight we’ll finish watching the Two Towers extended edition. Life is good.

To help you have a delicious 2013, I’d like to give away three cookbooks! I’ve been feeling a pull towards minimalism lately, and because I received three new vegan cookbooks for Christmas, I feel compelled to get rid of three that I don’t use all that often.

Three cookbooks fanned out on a wooden table.

One winner will receive the following [gently used] cookbooks:

  • How it All Vegan, Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard
  • La Dolce Vegan, Sarah Kramer
  • The Garden of Vegan, Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard

I inherited these cookbooks from a friend of a friend, but I just don’t use them that often, for a variety of reasons. But maybe you will! If you’d like a chance to win, just leave a comment telling me what you’re excited about in 2013. I’ll choose a winner next Sunday, January 13th, around 7:00 PM CST. (If you already own one or more of the books, enter anyway – I’ll split ’em up if need be!)

Good luck, and happy 2013!

The Post-Holiday Rambling Rundown: Part I, New Year’s Edition

HELLO MY FRIENDS! HAPPY 2011!

I was all excited about posting from RI, but when I was actually there, sitting on the couch in my parents’ living room and enjoying the Christmas ambiance, I realized that I had much, much better things to do – things like catching up with friends over tea or brunch, and spoiling my doggies with love, and visiting my sweet grandmother in her nursing home, and playing really cheesy LAN games with my family, and being generally inane and ridiculous with my sister. So I’m not sorry for not posting – I see my RI family and friends so rarely that I wasn’t about to squander my time with them by putzing around on the internet and reading blogs when I could be enjoying their company – no offense. ;)

And when I finally got back to Madison, a day and a half later than expected thanks to some major travel!fails*, I was tired and stressed, and blogging was sort of beyond my comprehension. Then I had a quick two days of work before taking off for a New Year’s Eve celebration with some of my best friends from college. I did bake cookies for our celebration:

Flat Stanleys.

Oh, they look a little flat, you say? Oddly thin and grotesquely large, you think? Well… yeah. I won’t argue with you. I had a little baking!fail with these Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies from 500 Vegan Recipes – had to keep the travel!fail company, y’know? I suspect I must’ve added a bit too much EB – I was a little sloppy while measuring. But they still tasted rich and delicious despite their dubious appearance.

And, while making them, I got to use the brand new sifter and cooling rack my wonderful parents gave me for Christmas, which was very exciting for me!

Sifty sifty!

I think cooking or foodie-related gifts made up half of my Christmas haul this year – my family knows me so well. As for me, I felt all filled with Christmas cheer when I watched my family open the plethora of handknitted gifts I spent months creating – look out for them in an upcoming post. :)

Now, though, I’m thinking ahead to 2011. I never made an official resolution until two years ago, when I made a very deliberate decision to improve my outlook on life and to replace my characteristic pessimism and negativity with optimism and positivity. Despite my skepticism, I succeeded, and last year I extended that resolution with what I called my “Positivity Plus!” goal, which was essentially just keeping up a [mostly] positive attitude.

This year, though, I’m focusing on a few other things. I definitely will maintain my newfound optimism, difficult though it can be at times, but I also want to extend it to my shyness and social anxiety – half the reason I get nervous about various situations is because I always think about them in negative terms; I’m convinced that they’ll be terrible and awkward, and I set myself up for failure. No more! I will consciously try to not do that anymore.

At my NYE gathering, my friends all issued 2011 challenges for one another. For example, my physics major friend is tasked with reading 4 books this year. What a terrible challenge, right?! Oy. Anyway, my challenge is to try one new fitness DVD/YouTube video a month and to write a review of it for my friends. So – anybody have a suggestion for that? It can be serious or otherwise! :)

Those are my two serious goals for 2011, but I also have some general thoughts about other things I hope to achieve. For example:

* Continuing to buy mostly used/upcycled/thrifted clothes and other household items
* Trying out new crafts, like crocheting and embroidering
* Making time to volunteer with the Humane Society
* Taking risks!
* Being more active in general
* Focusing more on really learning Italian and ASL (instead of dabbling in multiple languages)
* …a few other personal things :)

Whew! Those are my thoughts for 2011… what are yours? Do you make resolutions? Set goals? Issue challenges? I’m so excited for this year! Are you?

* Things that are good about travel!fails: Extra time with your family, the possibility of compensation by the airline for their screw-ups, an extra day of vacation
Things that are bad about travel!fails: Being too tired to enjoy extra family time because you had to wake at 4:30 to catch the flight that failed you, needing to take 1.5 more days out of work than anticipated, not getting compensated because everybody’s blaming everybody else for the fail
…overall, though, I didn’t mind the extra time with la famiglia. :)