Monday, November 18, 2013

Rubbish Free Week

Moreland council is encouraging people to participate in a  "Zero waste for a week" challenge. We just completed our week . I was surprised that it wasn't too hard to do. In Moreland we can recycle soft plastics like bread bags and other plastic wrappings so that helps (I just realized we could do this through our curbside collection a couple weeks ago-we had been collecting them up and taking them to Coles for recycling). We did end up with four pieces of rubbish for the week: a foil-like plastic wrapper from a chocolate bar we got at WVD-I'm pretty sure this sort of plastic can't be recycled with soft plastics (someone please tell me if I'm wrong), a foil-like plastic wrapper from some crackers I'd opened before the week began, the wrapper of a stock cube and the small bit of paper towel I used to re-season our wok (I probably could have used a cloth for that). We compost all our food scraps and recycle all the packaging we can. I realized we can probably downsize our bin (it's not that big anyway but if would be nice if it took up less space). Maybe we'll be able to do a completely rubbish free week in the near future.

                                    Our 1 week of rubbish 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goldilocks Lunchbox

Last week my boss ordered us all Goldilocks Lunchboxes for our monthly staff meeting. We'd been talking about having the option to order them once a week after one of my coworker's daughter was raving about them. They are amazing. Each week has a theme (last week was a literary theme, the week before was French). They contain something big, something small and something sweet and are hand made and hand delivered to your workplace. She offers a vegetarian option and is able to cater to vegan and gluten free diets. The lunchboxes are presented beautifully (last week's box was tied up with some fancy string and had a pencil included). The sandwiches were wrapped in a quote from Tom Robbins (taped around with some of that decorative sticky tape). The were 3 sandwiches, each on a different type of bread. One had roast veggies, one was cucumber and hummus. I can't remember the third now but they were all amazing. There was a bamboo tray of fresh berries and a bamboo tray with an apple pie/crumble dessert (the non-vegan lunches contained fresh made scones with cream and tiny jars of jam). Everything,including the container and the cutlery, are recyclable or compostable. The lunches are $15 each (or 4 weeks for $55).   They are worth the money. Right now there's only a few suburbs that she delivers but she seems to be expanding a bit (I think the business is run by a woman and her father? and has only been around for just over a year). This week is a Thai theme-- I'm very excited for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How I trained for Tough Mudder

I decided to do the spring Tough Mudder last April-ish.  I had been working out 3-5 times a week (often with Gillian Michaels' videos) since last spring but when I thought about joining my husband's cousin's team for Tough Mudder I realized I probably need to see if I can run.  I used to run a bit when I was at university but the last time I remember going for a run was June 2002, just before I left Southern California (and it didn't go well since we lived on the side of a mountain and I hadn't run for a year or so).  I never ran for more than 30 minutes (I think I ran for 35 minutes once) so I was only ever doing around 5km.  I'd need to be able to do around 20km for Tough Mudder (but there would be breaks at the obstacles).  Since I had decent cardio fitness I decided to go for a run to see how far I could run without stopping to walk.  I then looked at the couch to 5k program and decided my running fitness level fit around week 4. The program was great and I was easily running 5km within 6 weeks.  I continued to build from there (my cardiovascular system had no problems handling the runs, it was just strengthening all the muscles used in running that took time).  
I started alternating runs and Tough Mudder Boot Camps (or other strength training activities, including Zac's cousin's boot camp style group fitness sessions with her new business Fit Queen) 6 days a week. 
I changed the way I ate during training too.  This year Zac went back to school so we had to cut back on expenses, which meant less eating out and take away.  I started avoiding a lot of packaged foods too (way less store bought vegan cheese that is generally not very healthy but oh soooo good) and eating more wholefoods.    
Pre-workout I would usually have some sort of snack if it was right after work (crackers with tahini, dates, bananas or something along those lines).  I would also make sure I'd been hydrating well over the last hour or 2.  
After I'd finish I would either have a homemade energy bar (usually something like this one, based on this formula) or a smoothie (often banana, frozen berries, chia seeds, nuts, a bit of soy milk, water and maybe so kale). I also made sure to continue to stay hydrated.  
No Meat Athlete and Happy Herbivore had a lot of useful information on training on a vegan diet.  
During my one 15km run and Tough Mudder I used Clif Shot energy gels that I got from Uproar.  Cliff shots seem to have the most natural looking ingredients in energy gels.  BSC gels (I've seen them at Woolies) are also vegan but the ingredients looked a bit weird to me and I wasn't sure if my stomach would handle them.  Clif Shots actually tasted pretty good too (although I'm sure the one I had during Tough Mudder, I took in as much mud from the outside of the packet as I did gel) and I didn't have any stomach issues (the gels my teammates used definitely weren't as tasty).  
When I researched how to fuel for events like Tough Mudder (half marathons) most people recommend light breakfasts beforehand.  I seem to work better when I've had a carb heavy meal within an hour (or less) before a long run.  My best longer runs (10-15km) were the ones that I had a bowl of pasta (like Vegan Yum Yum's  Hurry Up Alfredo- the Vegan Yum Yum site seems to be down but I've linked to someone else who posted the recipe.  Hopefully the site will be up again soon and I can link to her actual site) 30 minutes or less before running.  The morning of Tough Mudder we were all up early (our start time was 10:40, we were up by 7ish).  I had a big bowl of homemade baked beans (made with a can of 4 bean mix, a can of diced tomatoes, some garlic and spinach) on toast and then later had a few fork-fulls of left over hurry up alfredo and a couple dates just before we left and just before we started the event.  I also had my husband bring me a peanut butter and banana sandwich so I would have some food at the finish line.  It was great that bananas were available at a few of the water stations along the course (I only used 1 energy gel because of this).  I never felt hungry or overfull at any point during or after the event.  
I found Tough Mudder easier than I expected (and although the Arctic Enema was terrible it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be).  I will be doing another one.  We had a great time.  

Friday, October 04, 2013

Neglected Blog

I haven't touched my blog in a LONG time.  There are a lot of reasons.  One of the main reasons over the past several months has been lack of time.  A good part of this was because I decided last April that I was going to do Tough Mudder in September.  When I decided that, I decided I was going to need to train hard.  I started working out 5-6 times a week about a year ago, trying to focus a bit on strength since I'm fairly active cardio-wise anyway.  When I decided to do Tough Mudder I upped the strength training a level and started running again (for the first time in more than a decade).  Turns out that I really like running and it came back to me quite easily (I think it was because with the strength training I'd been doing and that I had decent cardio levels to start with it was just about training the running muscles).  I was working out 40-60 minutes a day, alternating running and strength training/bootcamp style workouts, 6 days a week.  I liked doing it could feel/see myself getting stronger but it did take up a huge chunk of time (40-60 minutes didn't include making food to eat after--usually smoothies or homemade energy bars-- and showering). The payoff was that I had a great time doing Tough Mudder with my team and actually found the event easier than I thought it would be (and wasn't too sore in the days after).

 my team just before we crossed the finish line

It's been great the past couple weeks to be off work (we didn't run a holiday program since we were having more renovations done on the building) and not have to do ANYTHING.  I still went for a few runs (including a 10km run yesterday) and did a couple Jillian Michaels workouts (I really like the 3minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs circuits).  I'm still deciding what event I'd like to try next (the other day a friend tried to encourage me to do a triathlon with her.  That's something I've never even considered-- I don't really know how to do proper swim strokes for the most part but maybe it would be fun....).  I'd like to join the Run for Refugees team at the Melbourne Marathon next year and do the half marathon distance (so far, the furthest I've run is a 15km run and it went really well). 
I think my next post will be about some things I've found useful during training.  I've changed what I eat a bit.  Turns out I also have a weird fueling technique for before a big run but it works for me.  I also made some really good homemade energy bars that I like to keep on hand.  I'll also post some info about how I trained.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hellenic Republic

This year 2 women at my work who have been there for 30+ years decided to retire at the end of the year so we had a big celebration at the Hellenic Republic.  Our group of 18 booked the spartan table at the front of the restaurant in a semi private area and had a 4 course banquet.  My boss had given them a heads up that I was vegan (and there were a couple vegetarians and pescetarians too). The confirmed all dietary restrictions and allergies before we began.  One of the servers came out to confirm whether honey was ok with me.  I was impressed that I was asked and obviously they have a good understanding of vegan (I'm assuming that people who eat plant based diets for environmental or health reasons would just say "vegan" in a restaurant and would then say honey was ok with them).  I was brought my own separate dishes when necessary.
To start with we had flat bread and I had my own hummus (we assume the other hummus had some sort of cheese that normally wouldn't be in a hummus in it).  The next course I had 2 tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs.  I don't care for parsley (which was very strong in this dish) but I still liked them.  I also got a small Greek salad (made vegan) in lieu of on of the other dishes.  There was also an amazing salad with lentils, pomegranate and coriander (I had my own with no yogurt on top).  By the time the main course arrived we were all very full.  Mine was eggplant with tomato and some amazing flavours.  I was so full I couldn't finish the last couple bits.  A server came to confirm with me that I'd had enough food to eat during the night at this point.  Dessert was amazing. It had a long Greek name and was basically 2 small plates of preserved fruit- I think one was citrus and the other was watermelon.  The watermelon was amazing.  It looked nothing like watermelon.  It was 2 orange/clear, jelly looking blocks on a plate.  They did not have jelly texture at all though- it was a very firm watermelon like texture.  They were amazingly sweet but so good. 
I was very impressed with the service and the food.  I'd heard good things about the vegan food there (but for some reason I can't find the posts to link to them now....) so I was excited when we were told that's where the end of year/retirement dinner would be.  We all left completely overfull but the food was amazing and it was great having a semi private area where we were all at one table and could move around to chat to each other between courses.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

simple gift

 I wanted to give my co-workers a little something without spending much money and something that wasn't a baked good (we get so many of those from families and several co-workers are pretty health conscious so the amount of sweets is already a bit overwhelming).  I decided on cinnamon sugar-- probably the simplest thing possible to make but a nice treat (and it'll keep for a long time so it can just sit in their cupboard til they want a nice treat in a few months).  Basically it's a ratio of about 1 cup of sugar to 1 tablespoon of cinnamon mixed together.  I got some cheap spice jars from a $2 shop but decided to fix them up a bit so the scratched, painted silver plastic lids don't show.  Fortunately I've been collecting bigger size scraps of fabric from work and I hadn't come up with anything to do with them so I cut a bunch into circles to cover the lids.  Simple, easy and nice small gift (and it will come with a small photo card of Wombat in a santa hat).  I'm thinking next year I wanna make little bottles of vanilla extract (from this recipe).  It takes 6 weeks though so I'd have to get on to it early (I was going to get onto making gifts early this year but that never happened).
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Friday, May 11, 2012

Fair Food

We've been getting boxes from CERES Fair Food program for almost 2 years now.  We started getting them when my workplace was a host (a drop of point where I could collect our box and extras from).  This past summer I wanted to continue getting boxes while my work was closed but I realized there were no hosts really close to me.  I decided to volunteer to host since I think it's such a great program and I wanted to support them to grow. 
I love that everything about Fair Food has been thought through to be sustainable and ethical.  Most of the food is grown locally (a lot of it around East Brunswick and Coburg) so the food miles are minimal.  It is all organic (better for the earth, better for people).  The farmers are paid 50% of the price the consumer pays.  The workers in the distribution warehouse are disadvantaged people that are gaining skills based on environmental and social principles.  The packaging used is minimal and most of it is re-used and can be recycled.  The profits support programs at CERES Environmental Park.  Any left over food after the boxes are packed is given to a soup kitchen.  Scraps that cannot be used are composted. 
The food is also very reasonably priced for organic produce since the food is bought in such large lots to be distributed between each of the boxes for the week. 
There are several sizes and varieties of boxes that are available.  Our box this week was the "Basic Mixed Box" ($30):

It contained 1/4 pumpkin, 1/2 cauliflower, 2 capsicums, 2 parsnips, lots o' carrots, 2 beetroots, a leek, lots o' potatoes, 5 onions, 2 broccoli heads, zucchini, 2 oranges, several apples and a bunch of bananas.
There are also a TON of extra items available including pantry items, household products and extra produce.  There are food hosts (box pick up points) all around Melbourne (including some outer suburbs as well as close to the city). 
If you've ever thought about getting an organic produce box, I highly CERES Fair Food.  We tried it and loved it so much we decided to host. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dog Cookie

Wombat had some bad breath when she came back from the kennel so I decided to make her some cookies that hopefully would help with the breath (and other smelly issues). Wombat is not a picky eater (she very excitedly ate blocks of ice that Zac was throwing in the yard one day after I scraped out the chucks in the freezer) but according to her these cookies are amazing (lay-down-on-the-cold-kitchen-tiles amazing). All I did was take a very large handful of parsley, a small handful of mint, chopped them up, added wholemeal flour and enough water to make a thick cookie dough. I then added a bit of baking soda and mixed everything up really well. I made 5 large-ish cookies (I didn't want to make too big a batch because there wasn't anything to preserve the cookies in the ingredients). I baked them until they looked a bit golden and were cooked through (not sure how long that was-- maybe 15 minutes). Such an easy and healthy treat to make for Wombat, we'll have to make them for her more often (it would be so easy to make a small batch to throw in the oven when we're cooking something else or make larger batches and freeze them).


We did a 2 week trip to Canada over the school holidays to meet my new niece.

(all cute and bundled up at Fisherman's Wharf)
For Zac's birthday I managed to get up tickets to a Canucks game the day after we arrived in Vancouver. The picture makes us look really far away but they were actually pretty good seats and we could see everything. The Canucks won so that made it even better.

The night after the Canucks game we had tickets to see the lead singer from one of our favourite bands (The Weakerthans) do a solo show. As well as doing stuff from his newly released solo album, he played a lot of Weakerthans and Propagandhi songs.

When we got to the island my brother decided that we should do an overnight trip up the island to go see some family and go to Tofino (somehow I'd never been to Tofino before).

On the way up we stopped at Cathedral Grove to see some of the oldest trees on the island (up to about 800 years old!)

We got to see snow as we went over the pass to Port Alberni (and there was even snow in town when we arrived in Port Alberni but it was mostly gone when we left a few hours later).
We stayed at Crystal Cove Beach Resort in Tofino for a night. We had a private cabin with ocean view (we could have got one with a private hot tub but the ocean view hot tub cabins weren't available when we made our booking and we decided ocean view was more important). We did have a fire place and sat infront of the fire all evening after a walk on the beach. The bed was the most amazing bed I have ever slept on (all 4 of us agreed the beds were the best ever and even Maya slept longer than usual so I'm sure she'd agree it's the best bed if she could talk).

The next day we went to Long Beach and did a beach walk and hiked the Amphitrite Lighthouse trail.
The rest of the trip was mostly spent in Victoria enjoying the amazing spring weather, helping my brother with stuff at my mom's house and spending time with family. The Canucks made it into the playoffs while we were there, with game 1 happening the night before we were flying back out. We managed to get 2 tickets off a friend again and went to game 1 of the playoffs. Unfortunately the Canucks didn't do so well that night so it was kind of a sad way to end our trip but we did get free Canucks playoff towels from the game (hopefully we'll get to go wave those around at the pub if the Canucks go further in the playoffs and we actually make it down to the Imperial Hotel when they're showing the games).

On our way home we had a 10 hour layover at LAX so we decided we had to leave the airport so we didn't go insane. We managed to have a nice afternoon out, eating lunch at a veggie burger place and going to Manhattan Beach. I'll do a separate post about that part of the trip though.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Edgar's Mission

Last weekend we finally got to go to Edgar's Mission to meet the animals. Zac had organized the tour but there was a bit of a mix up in dates (the email said Sunday the 25th-- it was supposed to be Saturday the 25th but Zac read Sunday and Pam read 25th). No one was supposed to even be at the farm when we arrived on Sunday but they'd had to cancel an event and were headed out around lunch time so Pam gave us a slightly rushed tour and then left us to continue on with the animals and a box of Wheat-Bix. The place is pretty nice. There's some rescued dogs that followed us on our tour and one (Rory) that continued with me and Zac after Pam left. We got to meet a lot of the pigs (they were all VERY cute and loved attention). We walked down to the big paddocks and fed the sheep and goats. It was pretty cool that Pam could just point out each of them by name as they crowded around us for Wheat Bix.

This little goat was so cute (I'm not sure of his name because Pam had to leave before we got to him and his friends):

Cows have been one of my favourite animals for a long time so I was pretty excited to meet them. This is Hansel (I'm pretty sure- I've compared my photos to ones on the website). Zac became friends with him.

My favourite cow that came up to the fence was Tippi (pretty sure that's who she is). She's HUGE and has a huge rough tongue but was so gentle when taking Wheat-Bix.

We were hoping to meet Micaly because she was a best buddy that I got for Zac as a 3rd anniversary gift (traditional 3rd anniversary gifts are leather, I got Zac a rescued cow buddy instead) but she was sitting in the middle of the paddock with a couple other cows and wasn't interested in moving (she did move her ears when we called out Micaly though)

One of several gorgeous horses at Edgar's Mission:

I'm glad we finally got up there (and I wish we had been able to work it out a couple years ago when we first heard about Edgar's Mission). I will be going back again to help with one of their bi-monthly working bees and spend more time with the animals.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

hot and cold

I don't mind the heat but I need it to be somewhat cool overnight (lower than 20C) to be able to sleep. By the time Monday came I was exhausted from 3 nights with very little, not very good sleep. I was very excited to see that the forecast for today was that it wasn't even going to get to 20C during the day (and that it was only going to be like that for 1 day). I took Wombat for an extra long walk in the wind and rain then huddled inside most of the rest of the day letting the wind cool down our still pretty warm house. I'm cold now. I'm ready for the heat again. It's supposed to go down to 13C overnight tonight (that seems really cold to me) but then be in the mid-20s tomorrow. One cold day is just enough for me.
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Sunday, January 29, 2012


A couple weeks ago I decided to try to make some homemade tempeh. I was able to get a free sample of tempeh starter from here. The website also has instructions on how to make tempeh. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures until the very end so I don't have any of the process.
My plan was to make the tempeh when we were having a couple of hot days since it needs to incubate around 30C for 36-48 hours. I ended up doing it during the coldest couple days/nights of the week. First I soaked the beans for about 18 hours. Dehulling the beans was the most time consuming part since we don't have a grain mill so I did it by hand by rubbing the beans between my hands after they'd been soaking for a while and then removing the hulls when they floated to the top of the bowl.
After the soy beans had been mostly dehulled I cooked them in water with a bit of vinegar for 30 minutes, drained them and let them cool and dry for a bit before mixing in the tempeh starter. While the beans where cooling I took 3 zip lock sandwich size bags and poked lots and lots of little holes in the bag with a nail to allow the soy beans to breath while incubating. I filled each of the bags with about 1/3 of the soy beans and set up an incubator in our esky using a hot water bottle. I have no idea if it was at the right temperature and it definitely wasn't a constant temperature but it seemed to work. My best looking block of tempeh (the one pictured) looks a lot like the store bought ones because I had it sitting on a cooling rack over the hot water bottle (there wasn't enough room for all 3 on the bottom of the esky with the hot water bottle). I was a little concerned about the black bits but apparently that's normal (has to do with the air flow and heat levels). I fried a little bit up right after incubating it (I incubated mine 48 hours, I probably could have gone a couple hours or so more) and it tasted great. Zac made a stir fry with some of it the next night and it was sooooo good. What was left of it I sliced up and froze today (I sliced it so it would be easy to get just a bit of it if I want-- I hate trying to use just part of a frozen store bought tempeh block, it's so hard to cut). I'm impressed with my results in making tempeh but it was time consuming (mostly just trying to dehull the soy beans) and had to be well planned out so I was home when steps needed to be done.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coco Loco

Kleopatra's Brew with Kashew Milk, iced. So amazing!
We used to go to Coco Loco (High St, Northcote) fairly often but for some reason we haven't been in ages (we just haven't gone to High St. much at all). We were up there today and Coco Loco was open so we decided to stop by because Khaled makes the best chocolate drinks ever (and a lot of his stuff is vegan). The one I got was an orange flavoured chocolate drink. I got it as an iced chocolate today. So rich and chocolatey and so good! Zac got a lemon myrtle chocolate drink. Both of us had our drinks made with his homemade cashew milk. We need to go back again soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

attempting tempeh

I bought a bag of dried soybeans yesterday. While I was looking up information on how to cook soybeans properly I came across information on homemade tempeh so I'm going to attempt making that. I'm ordering a free sample of tempeh starter from Top Cultures (a Belgium based company). It doesn't seem to difficult to make so I'm hoping it turns out well because I do really like tempeh, I just don't buy it very often. I'll write about my tempeh making experience after I complete it. Has anyone else had any experience making tempeh?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Warung Agus

For our end of year dinner for work my boss booked us into the traditional Balinese restaurant Warung Agus (305 Victoria St, West Melbourne). Because we were a large group my boss had pre-arranged a set menu, including alternatives to the meaty dishes for the vegans and vegetarians in our group. I can't remember everything we ate (and I didn't take any pictures) but from looking at the online menu, our dishes included: Apokat Mebasa Santen Misi Oong (avocado with mushroom and coconut cream sauce), Krupuk Singkong (spicy vegetarian cassava crackers and peanut sauce), satay skewers (chicken for the meat eaters, tofu for the vegos), Toge (traditional Balinese gado gado - Mountain of steamed vegetables and bean curd with peanut sauce and cassava crackers), Tahu Istimewa (soya bean curd in lightly spicy sauce with crisp bean shoots, capsicum and cherry tomatoes), Temple Jagung (nutty flavoured soya bean morsels in sweet soy sauce with corn, spring onions and spices) and Mie Goreng (stir-fried wheat noodles with vegetables). Everything was presented amazingly and was really tasty. The servers were very friendly and made sure to point out which dishes were vegan as they brought them out. They also didn't make any effort to try to move us out even though I'm sure they were planning on turning off the lights and leaving long before we actually walked out the door. I'm looking forward to going back again hopefully in the near future.