Thursday, November 6, 2014

Small Wedding, Big Post

My brother snapped this shot. Live long and prosper, my friends.

It's closing in on one month since I married my partner of 6 years, Christine.

I had been working on a post to share with readers for weeks and ultimately decided to trash the whole thing. Why? Because there doesn't seem to be a way for me to describe what it felt like to marry the love of my life, surrounded by friends and family, and during one of the most emotional weeks of my life. A blog post just could not do that justice.

So, the long and short of it is that Chris and I were married, legally, in the state of New Mexico and in the eyes of the federal government, on October 12, 2014, at Hyde Memorial State Park in Santa Fe, NM. The setting was beautiful. The weather, not so much. After putting out decorations, food, etc., the skies opened up and rain came down, wetting our chairs and arbor and forcing us to relocate to inside of the lodge that we rented.


No biggie. It worked out just fine.

Family portraits suffered a tad. We weren't able to get a good one with Chris's mom. It was too cold to stay outside for any period of time. So cold it hailed! Look at me, trying not to look like I'm grimacing!

The two of us as newlyweds.

A number of other challenges presented themselves to us that weekend. In no particular order, there was:
  • The rain, obviously.
  • Running out of setup time. We didn't hang our lanterns or put our favors out on tables. We had to walk our seedlings around out of the box.
  • Chris's uncle, aunt, and grandmother were unable to attend due to illness. Grandma actually had to be admitted to the hospital for an infection and after a very long week ended up passing away the following Saturday.
  • And Whole Foods, despite saying our catering order would be prepared by 10am, did not have our food prepared when we went to retrieve it at 11:30. In fact, the woman who informed us just said, "no one made it," like this sort of thing happens all the time. I was so mad that I couldn't talk, but my mother took care of it and ended up getting everything for free. Even though when she went to get it the order WAS STILL INCORRECT. Stay classy, WF.
However, the pros outweighed these few cons. Here are some of my favorite photos.

Marshmallow-free crispy treats I whipped up before we left.

Our lemon-raspberry cake created by Tree House Pastry Shop.


My brother and his girlfriend posing at our photo booth.

Richard, my stepfather, instructing everyone on how to do the electric slide.

Me and my dad, shortly after the ceremony.

I couldn't resist being adorable. It's inevitable.

Mom insisted we get a group photo. I thought it was silly, but in the end it looks great.

Ultimately, I found myself very pleased with everything. I am definitely glad we did things the way we did. Some of my favorite moments included:

  • My brother's heartfelt speech. He told a story about the first time he spent time with Chris and I. He visited for Christmas and was prepared to give her some sort of talk about not hurting me, but after witnessing the two of us together he realized we were perfect for one another.
  • My mother creating Chris and I a romantic table for two, complete with extravagant flower arrangement; and photos of our fur-babies! Such a pleasant and heartwarming surprise.
  • After a heated dance-off between younger guests we awarded my grandmother with our wedding dance-off trophy.
  • And then grandma apparently felt so full of confidence upon securing her new title that she dragged my reluctant father out for a little dance.

The honeymoon began the very next day. I'll share photos and stories from select portions of that later. Of course, we had grandma in our thoughts 100% of the time. We were fortunate enough to be able to go to her funeral the week after we arrived home. Chris adored her grandmother and once we arrived all of her relatives and her uncle's friends shared stories with us about how disappointed she was to have missed it.

Being in California that weekend felt pretty surreal. We spent so much time with her family during our last visit. It didn't seem right that grandma wasn't there...

Until next time,
With love,
Mrs. and Mrs. Clements


Monday, October 6, 2014

Oh, My, Wedding

Have I ever learned the value of hiring a wedding planner!

As our pending nuptials draw near, I am more and more grateful that I have found the love of my life and that we are only going to get married once. There are so many things still left to be done, even though my last two weekends have been spent almost entirely devoted to "the wedding."

A couple of weeks ago, some coworkers and I celebrated my impending nuptials by going to Painting With A Twist. We fittingly painted sugar skulls wearing bridal ecoutremant. Take a looksie.


This is my finished painting. I smudged it at the top of the skull by accident. Oops! One of my coworkers was generous enough to paint hers to match and she gave it to me as her wedding gift. It's not identical, but we did both paint the Star Trek symbol in the center of the skull. Not our idea, lol, the instructor threw it out there during the tutorial. We both gasped and got all over that.

Here's hers.


The two of them are gazing fondly at one another above my entertainment center now. 

Everything for the wedding has officially been taken care of. Phew! Oh, except I'm being a major bridezilla regarding my apparel. I just can't seem to get it the way I want it. Today I'm heading to the craft store after work to get some glass pearls for jewelry and will hopefully be making something heftier than the oak leaf and vintage brass jewelry I ordered from Etsy. I just don't feel like it matches anymore.

I abandoned the handmade photo booth after failing at my attempts to create woodland creature masks. I ordered supplies from Oriental Trading again, which is where I ordered our plates and custom napkins.

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Soon!


I think it looks pretty stellar. 

We've ordered three dishes from Whole Foods; wraps, pasta salad, and quinoa salad. We'll also be getting green salad ingredients, chips and salsa, and maybe bread and hummus. We also ordered a lemon raspberry cake from Treehouse Pastry Shop in Santa Fe. I am most excited about that, lol.

I placed my order for candy through Natural Candy Shop online and was pleased with everything that came. It will be the perfect amount of candy for our 23 guests. I'll also be making peanut butter rice crispy treats which will be served on a 3-tier dessert tray I crafted from rough cut wood and glass candlesticks.

Our Honeyfund is still not 100% funded, but we've garnered enough support to have a perfectly wonderful honeymoon.

I'm excited to share photos from the "big day" and from the honeymoon! Next week! Bye!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taking A Break (At Enchanted Rock)

Never before have I understood why there are such things as wedding planners.

The past couple of months have been absolutely full of wedding planning, shopping, and scheming. And we're still not done with everything. It's less than one month now, people, and we're definitely feeling the pressure.

Which is why we packed up our bags Saturday morning and hit the road toward Fredericksburg.

Chris decided that all she wanted for her birthday was a tent. She's a big astronomy nerd and she has about reached the maximum of what she can see in the city with her telescope. The light pollution is just so terrible in Austin. Our hope was to spend some time stargazing at Enchanted Rock this weekend, but as the clouds rolled in and the chance of rain increased we realized that would not be part of our trip.

We did, however, go anyway.

The two of us started our day by puttering her Volkswagen up to the dealership. Even though the car had been there a few days before, it had started making a rattling noise inside the engine and definitely needed to be looked at. Chris has been struggling with cars for the past couple of years. Her baby, a 1998 Mustang, finally reached a point beyond repair last year. We traded her in for the VW. The price was right. But apparently that was because there were a bunch of things wrong with it. We've got $1700 left to pay on it, but depending on how the car does at the dealership we may be about to part ways. Yes, it is that bad. We won't know until Tuesday (hopefully). Until then we'll be getting practise as a one car family.

We hit up HEB afterward in order to procure camping supplies and groceries for the rest of the week. Home was next. We loaded the car, grabbed the poodle, and headed to REI for a lantern. And then, we were off!

Just as the rain started coming down!

Like in most instances, the weatherman was off in his estimate of when the rain would cease. The two of us scrambled to assemble the tent between showers once we arrived. Rather difficult without any practise, you know! When finally in a tent-like shape, the three of us huddled inside waiting for the drops to subside. They finally did, around dinnertime.



The two of us grilled a couple of zucchini and a bunch of vegan hot dogs. We happily ate them while we grilled a pineapple for dessert. It was at this point that Rusty made it quite clear that he did not enjoy camping. He either sat or stood and watched us quizzically as if asking us what on Earth we were doing, eating outside, sitting outside, doing nothing outside?? Who were all these people he could hear and not see?? Why was it so cold? And so forth. Eventually, he wound up in Chris's lap and fell asleep. Then, the two of us humans read until the sun began to set and then played an easier version of 20 questions in the dark.

Sleeping was troublesome. A large church group with many, many teenagers remained loud into the night. We also had neighbors close to us chopping wood very late and shouting swear words for no apparent reason. Oh, and the cement under the tent? Extremely uncomfortable. I awoke every few hours out of pain and had to turn over. Tent pad in our future? I think, yes.

We took turns eating granola and drinking cold brew coffee for breakfast. We loaded the car and drove to the Enchanted Rock trail.

I very much enjoyed photographing the local flora and fauna. Most visitors seemed to as well. There were, in fact, many, many visitors today. Enchanted Rock is so popular they sometimes have to close for a couple of hours to prevent there being too many people on the site itself.

It took us awhile to reach the top. Chris is still suffering from a foot injury she obtained while training for her 5k. She did a great, job, though, and so did our adventure poodle. Mr. Rusty enjoyed hiking a lot more than he enjoyed camping, that's for sure.


Now that looks fun to climb, no?

Considering the time of year, the rain really was a good thing. Otherwise the heat would have been oppressive and neither of us would have wanted to climb the Rock at all. Even with it being cooler the humidity made for a challenge.



It's almost like being on the top of Texas. Hahaha.

And at this hour in one month we will be wife and wife. Now that's one adventure I'm really looking forward to!


Until next time!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Three Months Left...

Well, we passed the three month countdown until our wedding day. It really does not feel like October 12th will be here in about 2.5 months. Chris and I have been so busy with things here that it has been very difficult devoting time to wedding planning. She has been especially distracted by work. Life in Texas has gotten rather complicated for us recently. In fact, the two of us have spent a lot of trying to figure out if we could afford to purchase a foreclosure house in rural northern New Hampshire on our current budget. One of the reasons we moved to Texas instead of New Hampshire after leaving West Virginia was because the cost of living here was so much lower than it was up there. Now it seems to be the same, even the reverse in some cases. It may not end up being better for us and/or our finances, but we'll take more comfort in knowing we have family very close by if we need help. The price on the home we were looking at went down by 16% recently. I am having my mother (a real estate agent!) take a look at it for us sometime this week.

My bridal ring set.
In the meantime, the crunch is really on now (for the wedding) and I've been trying to focus on all of the things we need to do. We've got most of the basics covered; the venue, officiant, hotel, my attire, and rings. We're trying to accomplish a few things while we're planning. While we want our wedding to be special we don't want it to cost a fortune nor do we want it to be terrible for the environment. We've ordered custom printed napkins and paper plates and straws. We'll be buying compostable plastic cups and bamboo cutlery to use while we're there. We bought non-diamond rings from a southwestern artist/designer. And we'll be having vegan food. The majority of it will be purchased from Whole Foods, mains, sides, salads, and potentially the cake. I'll also be making sweet treats like cookies and puffed rice treats for a candy/dessert buffet. That is the thing I am most excited about! I am ready and rearin' to order the candy from an online natural candy website but due to it being July I figured I should hold off for fear or the chocolate melting in the mail...

Because the two of us are quirky, Chris and I are coming up with some unique activities to make the day more memorable. She's learning how to DJ and we'll be having a dance contest for our guests. One of them will win a trophy. Also, I've printed "Wed Libs" to entertain everyone for at least a few minutes. And because we can't afford a photographer I have made a photo scavenger hunt game, too. This will also help us make sure we have photos of everything, in case we're too busy and forget to photograph something ourselves. And if that isn't enough things for me to craft, I am going to erect a DIY photo booth with forest themed backdrop and masks for everyone to play with!

Yesterday we went over the venue layout and determined where everything would be positioned. We also planned out the order of the day and determined how the ceremony will go. Like many same-sex couples we have decided not to include anyone else in the actual ceremony. While I asked my brother to be my Best Man, Chris's sister, her Best Man equivalent, is no longer coming and we were at a loss to come up with an alternative. So it'll just be the two of us and the officiant for now.

Our wardrobes still need completion. We ordered a suit for Chris from an online retailer based in India. No word on the progress! Hopefully it won't take too long. We both need shoes and accessories, though. But it seems like right now most of what needs to be done is to purchase things. Hooray! Oh, except for one very important thing.

I CANNOT DANCE TO SAVE MY LIFE.

In fact, I dance like a grandpa.

Any recommendations on good instructional videos would be appreciated!

Over the next two months I will be sharing with you all photos of my many various craft projects currently underway. Right now I am assembling a three tier dessert tray. I bought it at Hobby Lobby many months ago and am redecorating it to match our forest theme. That involves covering it in wood grain scrapbook paper and adorning it with artificial moss, flowers, critters, etc. This will be used for desserts. And I'll have to create owl or fox or little deer cake toppers if Whole Foods can, in fact, provide us with a vegan cake.

At some point throughout this process I'll try to remember to give you some recipes. Can't make any promises, though :-)

Thanks for reading! Y'all are the best!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oh, My! Tomato Pie!

When I first moved to Austin, Kerbey Lane Cafe was my favorite place to eat. I tried nearly every vegetarian thing on the menu. Then I went vegan, limiting my options a bit. Vegan pancakes and the breakfast platter became my usual picks. I have always been intrigued by their seasonal menus, which unfortunately don't usually have vegan options. The highlight of the summer menu is their Tomato Pie. I have never tried it but have always been intrigued.

So I decided to make tomato pie at home.

For starters, I used the all-knowing master of knowledge, Google, to see if any copycat recipes had been shared for Kerbey Lane Tomato Pie. Surprise! The KLC blog posted a recipe themselves. How about that?

I have made two versions of this pie since discovering the recipe online. The photos are from the first attempt, which I felt worked the best.

I'm not really good with pie crust... I made a traditional pie crust from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with regular flour and vegetable shortening. It was quite flaky and pleasant but it didn't roll very well at all and barely came to the edge of my pie plate. But it looks pretty darned good, eh?



Of course I was pleased to discover how incredibly tasty tomato pie is. In fact, I loved it. And it didn't really take that long to make, either. I typically shy away from dishes that require a lot of prep, but this baby was absolutely worth it. We were having seconds by 7:30.

The only challenge I really had was interpreting the instructions provided by the KLC blog. I'm not sure they're accurate... Maybe it's more like user error. Who's to say? The original recipe called for four tomatoes. It didn't specify which kind. It didn't indicate what size pie crust or pan to use, either. So, perhaps my pie plate was a bit too small for the original recipe, though I don't know how you could have fit that many tomatoes in a deep dish sized pie plate, either! Anyway, I used their recipe to inspire mine and I hope my version inspires you!



INGREDIENTS
2 ripe hothouse or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into thick slices
Salt, divided
10 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least 20 minutes and liquid drained off
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1-2 tablespoons plain Vegenaise
Pre-made vegan 9-inch pie crust or your favorite recipe (see note)
Vegan Parmesan, optional
Kalamata olives and fresh basil, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
Note, the second time I made this dish I tried my hand at a whole grain crust. I used 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1/8 cup refined coconut oil, and 1/4 cup water. I mixed it in a food processor until crumbly, then added an additional 1/8 cup water until the dough became soft and stretchy. I rolled it out on a well-floured surface and then transferred to the pie plate. I poked the bottom with a fork a few times and then baked it at 400 degrees for 11 minutes, until it started to look golden. It was crisp on top and had an excellent flavor! Anyway, moving on.

Place your sliced tomatoes on a wire rack over the sink. Sprinkle them with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then flip and repeat. You're trying to drain out as much liquid from the tomatoes as possible! Don't go too crazy with the salt, but sprinkle them evenly.

In a small bowl, combine the fresh basil and onions. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly squish the tofu with your hands until it resembles ricotta cheese. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, Vegenaise, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix well with a fork or a wooden spoon.

When the tomatoes have sat long enough, press them each between two paper towels to remove additional liquid. Press firmly but don't mutilate them! Then dice the tomatoes into small pieces.

If your pie crust isn't pre-baked, bake it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. It should be light brown.

To assemble the pie, layer half of the onion and basil mixture on the bottom. Then add the diced tomatoes. Top with the remaining onion and basil mixture. Pour the tofu mixture (effectively, the tofu cheese) over it. Push down with your fingers or a fork to ensure the tofu is pressed well into every nook and cranny. If you're using a smaller pie dish, like I did, you may have a little extra. If able, use a deep dish pan. If not, that's okay. If you want to use the extra tofu in something else, go ahead. Be creative!

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with a nice layer of vegan Parmesan cheese. I used a homemade recipe from the Non-Dairy Formulary. Bake for an additional 15 minutes until the Parmesan is nice and browned! If not using the Parmesan, bake for 45 minutes altogether.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Garnish with chopped olives and fresh basil. We ate ours with fresh green beans lightly sauteed in grapeseed oil and minced garlic!

Makes 4-6 servings. Depending on how much you love it. ;-)

Dont' forget to Pin It! Just click here to add it to your boards:
http://pinterest.com/pin/214624738467462343/

By the way, did you know that Tuesday is also known as Tofu Tuesday?? I have been sharing tofu recipes with readers via social networks where tofu is the main ingredient. If you'd like to join in on Twitter, click here to tweet about this recipe. Also be sure to check out some of my other tofu-centric dishes, like my Tofu Shawarma and Veganized Paula Deen Collard Greens (with tofu bacon bits).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe

So this is super crazy, you guys, but it's just over three months until my wedding! I cannot get over how close we're getting, not to mention how much stuff the two of us still need to do before the big day. I am beside myself with giddiness, glee, and excitement. This weekend will be all about the food. Yes, I'm a crazy whackjob and am trying to devise a way to cater the thing myself. It's not that unrealistic, okay? For starters, we're expecting less than 30 people. It's also going to take place midday. I'm also going to have lots of help from my family setting up, if push comes to shove. I'm all about getting my hands dirty in order to get things done. That's actually how I have fun. But anyway! Fun times this weekend.

It's been almost two months since Chris and I headed to Santa Fe to scope out our venue, catering options, and hotel. Of course, we were also excited to go on a mini-vacation. Vegans are no different about travel than anyone else, you know? I absolutely needed to visit the vegetarian restaurants there. The two of us had dinner at Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe that Friday night. The ayurvedic vegetarian eatery boasts an extensive menu with daily specials and an ever-changing bakery case. A lot of the items are not only vegetarian but are also vegan, can be made vegan, or are also gluten-free.

For dinner, I ordered the lentil-based Veggie Burger. 


I expected something spicy but the lentil patty ended up being 100% palatable and not frightening to someone with a low heat tolerance like myself. I particularly enjoyed the bun! Light and fluffy. I may have tasted a bit of potato starch or flour in there. It had a sweetness to it I found to be quite pleasurable.


Chris, meanwhile, ordered the South Indian Sampler.


The combo plate featured a savory pancake stuffed with vegetables, a soup with dumplings, and a savory doughnut.


Of course, she loved everything.


I adored my masala fries. They were the spiciest portion of my meal and even though I had difficulty fitting all of this food in my belly I made sure that I finished them. And yeah, I ordered dessert.


The last time I had pecan pie it had been made by my grandfather. I wasn't really fond of it, but I wanted to give it another chance. After all, vegan and gluten-free pecan pie had to be different, right? Well, it was most definitely different than my grandfather's but I can't say my mind has been changed about this type of dessert. I enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn't order it again. It's a texture thing. The flavor was great; delicate cinnamon and spice filling covered the chewy pecans while the doughy gluten-free crusty supported everything without getting mushy. I ended up eating mostly just the pecans and the crust. Gooey filling just isn't up my alley, I guess.

Chris indulged in a giant biscotti covered in chocolate. Now THAT was good. Also gluten-free. Soft and flavorful, definitely delicious.

I enjoyed the atmosphere the most. I mean, look at the light coming in through the window! The decor is exotic and inviting. Very soft music can be heard overhead. Outdoor seating is available, too. The deli style ordering is a bit of a challenge, especially if you want to add something on to your order. My advice is to make sure you order everything you may want when you get there so you won't have to wait in line again for dessert, or for another drink.

We had originally wanted Annapurna's to cater our wedding, but if all goes to plan I'm going to save a lot of money while being able to offer all of my guests food they're more familiar with. We'll see this weekend. At any rate, interested persons wishing to dine at Annapurna's can do so at any of their three locations; two in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe. For hours and directions, visit www.chaishoppe.com.

If you'd like to read more about our weekend in Santa Fe scoping things our for our October wedding, take a look at this post here. You'll get to see photos from our venue! If you're interested in more vegan options in Santa Fe, you can also take a look at my Thai Vegan write-up