Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cranberry Cacao Scones

Music: Archangelo Corelli, Christmas Concerto

Jim is the sweets-maker in our house now since I rarely eat sweets. But I sometimes indulge once in a great while. These are vegan (of course) and deliciously moist. No eggs or dairy required to enjoy this sweet goodness!

1 C organic unbleached white flour
1 C almond flour (we used leftover pulp from making almond milk)
1/4 C coconut sugar (or date or turbinado sugar--the less processed the better)
3 tbsp raw coconut oil
1/4 C cacao nibs
1/2 C dried currants or cranberries
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
3/4-1 C soy or nut milk (if using almond pulp, use only 1/2 C milk)

Combine sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in coconut oil into sugar/flour mixture. Stir in cacao nibs and cranberries. Add milk and stir until dough forms. Use hands to gently knead into ball.

Cut dough in half. On floured board, flatten into circle 1/2" thick. Quarter them into triangle shapes. Bake on parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy with a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture(s) of the Day: Carnegie Trees

Space-themed tree w/stars & rockets

On my afternoon break last Friday, I popped into the Carnegie Museum of Art next door and took a look at the Carnegie Trees. While very pretty, it isn't what I'm used to. Last year, when I attended for the first time, I was expecting rooms full of holiday trees, all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are just seven in this exhibit, all large and majestic in size, but the theme changes every year; this year's theme is the Worlds' Fairs, in honor of the current major exhibit in the museum. It's magical, but I could wish for more!

Hats of the Worlds' Fairs tree

Gilded Age artist Walter Gay-themed tree

Hall of Architecture.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Little Old Lady Cat

My cat is very old. How old? I'm not quite sure but we've had her for over fifteen years. When we adopted her (from the Michigan Humane Society), her paperwork said "over one year," but the scribbled hot pink sign on her cage said she was four. She had had a litter of five kittens and was named "Mommy" because she was a good mother to them. But there was just no way I was going to keep that name; she became Holly Golightly, for the ambivalent, elusive main character in Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Holly Golightly is loving and sweet, but she's also temperamental, tough, and quickly lets you know when she doesn't like something. As we like to say, she's no pushover.

Because she's old, because I care about her, because she's affectionate...I worry about her emotional well-being. It seems to be important to her to be cuddled in our arms, petted, and paid attention to.

As a result of my own worries, I feel I cannot leave her longer than three nights when I leave town on vacation. After that, I feel she acts out (misses the litter box, stops eating as much). I really think she needs our connection and, when there's a cat sitter, she doesn't get it. Or rather, I should say, she doesn't permit it.

You see, Holly Golightly is only friendly to Jim and me. She hisses and growls at everyone else if they try to get too close. She'll sniff you and meow loudly in greeting, but that's as close as she'll allow.

Right now, she's holding her own, with a heart murmur, a very tiny weight of under 7 pounds, and daily yowling (for food? for attention?) in the early morning and late at night. But she eats well, uses her litter box, climbs up and down stairs (her only exercise as she no longer plays), and is on no prescription drugs. Last Christmas, we almost lost her when she stopped eating for four days. But she wasn't yet ready to go.

Lately the vet has been saying things like, "this is probably her last rabies shot" or "you shouldn't expect her to live to a very old age and, when she goes, it will be fast because she's so underweight." I accept that. I realize her low weight means that something is going on inside her and she's too old for me to make her undergo any invasive (not to mention expensive) tests to find out. She's not in pain.

So I'll just love her and, when the time comes, let her go.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Catching Up on Eleventh Stack

My sincerest apologies as it has been several months since I posted my regular blog posts for Eleventh Stack, the award-winning Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's blog. You can read them at the links below. Catch up now and enjoy!

Julia Erickson with the corps de ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Photo by Rick Sofranko)
 At the Ballet In 1973, when I was four years old, my mother enrolled me in ballet classes at Pamela’s School of Dance in Dearborn, Michigan. Little did I imagine that I would continue to study ballet for the next eleven years with classes twice a week, annual recitals, countless rehearsals, and membership in the local ballet company.

A Woman's Prerogative Ever since childhood, I’ve disliked change. Probably because I fear it.  So I cling toroutines. I’m slow to win over and I’m reluctant to try new things, until I either first research a topic to death or circumstances force the issue. Then I’m at peacewith it. This is most likely why I’m child-free and why only a job loss could prompt me to leave my beloved home state two years ago.

BooI’m not a Halloween fan in the least–come to think of it, I’m not a holiday fan at all. But since it’s nearing All Hallows Eve, I thought this post might create the appropriate atmosphere for the cold and dark season ahead.

 Living Even More Lightly on the Earth I’m at it yet again! Seeking more and even better ways of reducing my carbon footprint on this precious earth. I wrote about this last year, but I wanted to tell you about some improvements I’ve made since then.

Claude Debussy Sesquicentennial In 199o, I saw the controversial NC-17 rated film Henry & June; in fact, I watched at least a dozen people walk out of my theater. While the movie was definitely provocative, it was the gorgeous soundtrack that sang to me.

The Gilded Age When I was a teenager, I saw the movie Ragtime  and I was fascinated by the depiction of the history of turn-of-the-century America, the elegant and stylish clothes, and the music.

Literary Lives: Real and Imagined I once heard the children’s non-fiction author Seymour Simon say that library books shouldn’t be labeled ‘fiction’ and ‘nonfiction’ but, rather, ‘true’ and ‘untrue.’* Indeed, many people get the labels mixed up thinking the ‘non’ in fiction means it’s untrue; well, some of it is!

 Why I Don't (and Won't) Own a TV When people visit my home, the first thing they notice is that there is no television in the living room. Usually it’s a laid back “so where’s your television?” but more often than not it’s an incredulous exclamation, “you don’t have a television?!”
Raw I’ve been vegan for almost five years but I still continue to look for ways to improve my health even more. During this time, I’ve removed all processed sugarand most processed foods from my life, stopped drinking my usual espresso in the morning and tea in the afternoon and, during the last month, have been eating more raw food every day.

Family Affair Ah, family. They say you don’t get to choose your family, only your friends. But through thick and thin,  I know mine will always be there for me. There’s plenty of fiction out there about the joys and sorrows of family but have you tried non-fiction?* 

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Hot Chocolate

Once in awhile, I indulge in a cup of hot chocolate. And Jim makes me the perfect cup. 

We no longer use traditional cocoa--many years ago, in our pre-vegan days, we used Nesquik, then we bought a Dutch processed cocoa from Penzey's in the Strip District here in Pittsburgh, now we just buy raw cacao powder. Considered a superfood, it's part of my journey to eat less processed foods and more whole foods.

And, as I said in a previous post, we also now make our own raw almond "milk." I find I can really taste the chocolate now, especially since I have also weaned myself away from sweets.

8 oz nut milk
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp sweetener (I use stevia or coconut sugar)

We steam it in our cappuccino maker but you can heat in a small saucepan on the stove. Makes two small servings or one large serving. 

Note: if you love sweets and eat them often, this may not be sweet enough for you, so feel free to add more sweetener.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Light Up Night, Pittsburgh

This was the first time Jim & I attended the annual Light Up Night downtown, when Pittsburgh officially turns on the holiday lights and decks the halls with boughs of holly. 

Market Square

Market Square

PPG Place, with ice skaters

Might be more magical without the cars!

Market Square

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Peanut Butter Cups

Jim recently celebrated a birthday and, since I no longer eat sweets and it's just the two of us (so, silly to bake a cake), he made these peanut butter cups to enjoy at his leisure. These are so good, not so sweet and definitely much better (and fresher) than commercial peanut butter cups! 

This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.

1/2 C Earth Balance Buttery Spread
3/4 C crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened & unsalted)
3/4 C graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
1/4 C maple sugar or other granulated sweetener (he used coconut sugar)
1 C non-dairy chocolate or carob chips
1/4 C soy, rice, or nut milk
1/4 C chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts

Line either a muffin tin or baking sheet with paper liners.

Melt "butter" in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar and mix well. Remove from heat. Divide mixture among paper liners.

Combine chocolate and milk in another saucepan and stir over medium heat until melted and smooth. Spoon mixture over peanut butter mixture in paper liners. Top with chopped nuts. Chill or freeze until firm. Store in either refrigerator or freezer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

Wow. That's what I first thought when I saw this ceiling--the ceiling!-- over the main staircase at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Main Library in Oakland. There are lovely touches like this all over this building and I'm so lucky to work in a historically beautiful building as this! It is a painting that looks like you're looking up at the clouds in the sky! I'm not quite sure but those may or may not be pineapples (I'll have to look it up!) on the edge which mean "welcome." And just look at the molding. The little rounded arches you see below are the tops of windows. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

Music: Frank Sinatra: Point of No Return

Here we are on the Forbes Avenue side of the Carnegie Museums of Natural History and Art in the neighborhood of Oakland. This fountain only seems to be on when the museum is open, so perhaps it's a signal to the public? I like to stroll by it on my daily afternoon walks around the city block that is the library, museums, and music hall--about a nice 20 minute walk. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

Even after a year and a half, I still cannot quite wrap my head around the fact that I work in such a beautiful building filled with so much history (and you all know how much I love history)! This is a view of the main staircase going up to the second floor (where I work in the Reference Services department). Marble steps, gorgeous moldings, curved archways and windows, and those immense lamps. Not the brightest of lighting to be sure but it still looks lovely. This shot was taken around 9:30am on a cloudy morning.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What Else Can You Make with Zucchini?

Music:  Anne Queffelec/Satie: GymnopĂ©dies; Gnossiennes; Sports and Divertissements

Eating more raw this past summer, I discovered several new and delicious recipes. When people get an abundance of zucchini, they make zucchini bread. Not me. I make this: 

Raw Zucchini Hummus (adapted from Judita Wignall's recipe in her book, Going Raw):

1 cup peeled and chopped zucchini (usually 1 medium-sized zucchini; I'm never exact so it's usually more like 1- 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (again, I use less, usually 2-3 tbsp from 1 good sized lemon)
3 cloves garlic (1-3 cloves depending on how much you like garlic)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 C raw tahini paste (raw tahini is more expensive but it's much easier to use, and just tastes better than the roasted, plus your hummus will be completely raw)
2 tsp minced fresh parsley
Paprika, olive oil for garnish

1. In a food processor, blend all ingredients except tahini paste until smooth.
2. Add tahini paste and blend until creamy.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in parsley and other garnish.

I use this hummus in sandwiches, on crackers, and even as a dressing over chick peas (kind of like musabbaha).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This is the view* from fifth stack at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Main looking into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History! How cool is this?! Yes, those are real dinosaur bones that millionaire and industrialist Andrew Carnegie had brought into Pittsburgh for its museum. Fifth stack is level with the second floor of the library, right across from the main Reference Room. I get to see neat stuff like this every day. I love my job!

Here's another view:

*Thanks to my good friend James M. for suggesting I post this! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This is the Catholic church closest to my house in Mt. Washington, appropriately named Saint Mary of the Mount. It is smack dab on Grandview Avenue (Pittsburgh's "front porch") with a very grand view overlooking downtown Pittsburgh. I am a lapsed Catholic but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate beautiful architecture. It was dedicated in 1897; for its history, read more here. Also, here's an interior view:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

I'm not a baseball fan but I used to be. This is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's on the North Shore (on the Allegheny River). When we took a riverboat cruise this summer, this was one of the highlights. I have yet to attend a Pirates' game, but I hope to (perhaps when they play the Detroit Tigers?) next year. When they play, they even close the Roberto Clemente Bridge to traffic to allow for pedestrians to have free rein. It is said to be one of the nicest ballparks in America; you can't beat the view!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This is the Mezzanine level of the stacks section of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main Library. There are eleven floors of stacks and the shelves are the entire support for this section of the building! The aisles inside each book stack (the shades of green you see on the right and the left) are made of glass while the main center aisle is marble. On this level, which is open to the public, you'll find books in the A-L sections of the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. Yes, they use LC instead of the more public library-popular Dewey Decimal system here and I'm lost without consulting a guide. Only three of the stacks are open to the public: third stack (which is level with the first floor of the library), fourth stack (which is called the Mezzanine because it's between the first and second floors of the library), and fifth stack (which is level with the second floor). 8th stack is only open to the public with a staff member and that stack is level with the third floor. The rest of the stacks (including 1st and 2nd stacks which are in the basement) hold serials, music folios, engineering standards and codes, government documents, and reference, circulating, and oversized Dewey Decimal system books (from before they switched to LC) and LC books. 

Oh, and lots of old coal dust. Really.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

Today's picture is of a beautiful Pittsburgh monument but which currently is in a sad state. The Christopher Lyman Magee Memorial fountain stands right outside the front doors of the Main Library of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, overlooking Schenley Plaza in Oakland. It was designed by sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a well-known and accomplished sculptor.

What makes the situation sad is that this fountain does not work at this time. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has it on their repair list but, right now, it is used as a gathering place for smokers, some who have no respect for the area and litter it with cigarette butts. Littering is bad enough but, around a work of gorgeous art, it's a sacrilege. I hope the parks department fixes it very soon!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

I live less than three miles from downtown Pittsburgh (and most of it is vertical!) and it's that time of year again in this sports-loving town.* Steelers' games have begun and, with it, all the advertising planes and blimps. Unlike others, this one was actually quiet! Sometimes, if the wind is a certain direction, we can even hear the roar of the crowd at Heinz Field. As I'm not a sports' fan at all, this is my time to take advantage of quiet and empty stores and neighborhoods if I want to take a walk as everyone else is watching the game.

*It's so sports-loving that, when there's a game, everybody but everybody wears black & gold apparel, from shirts to hats to scarves. It's an obsession here. They even dress up statues around town, including the dinosaur by the Museum of Natural History.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

I walk a lot. Even if I can't realize my dream of actually walking to work, I manage at least two walks per day, even on the weekends. This shot was taken on a walk along Bigham Street in Mount Washington. I couldn't believe the size of the heads on these sunflowers! As large as dinner plates! As you can see, the other flowers (in pink) are just as pretty and I see that hummingbird feeder on the left, too. Nature lovers. Like me. I can tell.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This is Mellon Institute, part of both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh in the neighborhood known in Pittsburgh as Oakland. It might be famous for other reasons but, for me, since moving to Pittsburgh in 2010, it's the site for the latest Batman movie. It also filmed downtown (about 4 miles away) and Jim was able to watch filming on his breaks. Mellon Institute served as Gotham's City Hall in the film.* On this lovely almost-fall day, however, it was the site for what I like to call "parades," aka ridiculously large, garish, and showy bridal parties. I guess it's a popular photo spot for weddings much like Grandview Avenue is with its panoramic views of downtown from Mount Washington. 

*I have not seen the movie; I'm just taking information from this news article.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This fountain is in the courtyard area of the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History which is right next to the Main Library in Oakland where I work. As you can see to the right of the fountain (and also the picture below), there are tables so that you can eat outside; I like to do this on Monday evenings when the museum is closed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

Today's picture is actually two pictures. This is my branch library, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Mount Washington. It's about half a mile from my house, an easy 10 minute walk. This building was built in 1901 and, while it looks impressive on the outside (lovely stained glass over the entrance, wood doors, pretty front garden), inside it needs some improvement. We're hoping it will soon get air conditioning,--right now, when the temperatures are too hot in summer, they have to close early--a new roof, and other aesthetic improvements. The staff is very friendly and welcoming and, as it sits right on Pittsburgh's front porch, the panoramic view of the city from the front doors on Grandview Avenue can't be beat. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pittsburgh Picture of the Day

This is Clayton, Henry Clay Frick's Victorian mansion. It's so beautiful and it's only about 7.5 miles from our house in Mount Washington.

About 90% of the possessions & decor are original to the house fully restored through the donation of Frick's daughter, Helen in 1986. A good friend from Michigan is visiting and he loves history as much as we do so he just loved this place. We strolled the grounds after the tour, enjoyed some cool drinks on the patio at the cafe, and then visited the Frick Art Museum also on the grounds (which is Helen's private art collection). It's an amazing place. Read more about Clayton & the Fricks here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homemade Hazelnut Milk

Well, we finally took the plunge: we bought a high-powered blender. Thanks to my brother-in-law, a chef, we were able to acquire a Vitamix! Ultimately, we decided to follow my brother-in-law’s recommendation and, since we use our blender daily, sometimes twice a day, it has been a worthwhile purchase.

The first weekend, within two days, we used it seven times, to make smoothies, hummus, pesto, ice cream, and salsa!

So J. has been itching to try and make his own hazelnut milk especially since we’re always trying to find ways to cut down on waste and recycling. It looks well, fresh! And tastes so good. Obviously, it would be fresh compared to those aseptic boxes sitting on the shelves for such a long time.

It was delicious with my raw muesli and fresh blueberries!