Thursday, February 28, 2013

Salad in a Jar

This is one of the EASIEST things EVER and has quickly become my favorite thing when traveling!  I saw this on the internet (the pic in the top left of the image here) and thought... why not?!  It's how to create a salad inside of a mason jar.  Uhm... ok!? 

Well... as a vegan in South Louisiana... being prepared with tasty foods is really important.  EVERYTHING we do here revolves around food.  It's the center of socializing really.  So when you're the only one NOT eating... it's awkward.  Especially when everyone around you is diving in to a piece of rare meat.  Bleah...

So I tried it.  I told a 32 oz. mason jar and created a salad (seen above).  I wasn't sure how it would look or taste when it came out since it sat in my cooler for a couple of days... but to my surprise it was AMAZING!  It literally pours out beautifully (as seen above) and tastes amazing.  The mason jar helps to keep it air tight and fresh.  The key is to layer your salad so that nothing gets crushed or saturated in the dressing.  

Since trying it, I now make this every time I travel to see my cousins in Lake Charles (who are all meat eaters and our weekends revolve around cooking) or whenever I know I'll be in the car over a mealtime.  Simple... simple! Yes it makes life so much easier now. :)  I've experimented and made all sorts of salads like this... so far I've yet to find any problems with any of them. ~ Christina

Friday, February 22, 2013

Panera Bread Black Bean Soup (Vegan)

One thing I miss about living downtown Orlando, is being able to walk over to Panera Bread on a Sunday after the Farmer's Market, and get a bowl of their black bean soup.

Now... with that said... I've recently discovered that it is NOT vegan (as I was told countless times by management there) but instead merely vegetarian (chicken broth is used, not vegetable broth). So... that's a fail.  Especially since it was the one saving grace there for a vegan like me.  

But I digress... recently I've been craving the soup so I went out to recreate it.  I've only made black bean soup one other time and it was totally different.  The beans were whole and there were vegetable chucks in it.  I wasn't a huge fan.

This time I got close.  Not exact, but close enough to curb my craving.  Score!  Love when that happens.

Recipe to be posted on my Crunchy Cajun FB page. :) ~ Christina

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Carnival d'Acadie

Ain't nothing wrong with da small town Mardi Gras!

This year, by the time Fat Tuesday rolled around, I was all Mardi Gras's out. Standing for hours, dealing with the elements (and other people's elbows), drinking all day.... It got old fast. So Denver and I decided to do something a little more low key.

Thankfully the rain held out long enough for us, and my MawMaw, to head over to the Crowley Mardi Gras parade. Small and simple... Just what we were looking for. It fit my "makeup free, glitter less, no tulle wearing" attitude. Plus it was actually fun. - Christina

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

8K Run

I'm a runner. Not a very good one. Not a very fast one. Not even a very consistent one. Hell... Most days I'm lucky to get in two miles. I much prefer getting on my yoga mat and breathing through a few sun salutations. But I do love how I feel AFTER a run.

Several months back I decided to set the goal to run a 10K. I've completed dozens of 5K races before and while I'd love to check off "marathon" from my bucket list, this seemed much more reasonable. So I've been doing a 10k trainer program the past few months. Now the caveat is I prefer doing those training runs on the treadmill.... It's air conditioned and my hands don't feel so puffy. Plus I can watch TV. I know.... I didn't say I ran for the right reasons

This past week I decided to take my run outside. My training program still had me doing 40 minute runs but I thought, "I wonder if I can even complete 5 miles?" I should add here that an 8K is 5 miles (the level between a 5k and a 10K). I have never run 5 miles before. Ever. So when I set my Nike trainer on that distance, it spit out, "You are estimated to complete this fun in 1 hour and 26 minutes." Oh geez.... I thought, "I'm gonna be running for that long?!" But decided to give it a whirl.

After running the first mile I decided there was no way I'd be able to even walk the full 5 miles and was secretly plotting ways to justify ending my run early. But then something amazing happened... 2 miles came and went (not terribly smoothly but still...) and then I decided I'd complete 3.2 miles (or a 5K). Yes... That's what is do. Then I'd walk the rest of the way home. Then 3 miles went by and I thought... Well hell.. I'm over halfway through. I may as well do what I can and walk when I need to.

But I only needed to walk ever so often... to reboot my mind mostly. And all of a sudden when I checked my phone it showed I had half a mile left.... And 6 minutes until I hit the 1 hour mark. My competitive self took over and thought, "How awesome would it be if I ran this in one hour?!" So off I went, finding sixth wind to push me forward." But it was short lived. That last half mile was hard. My legs hurt. And I wanted to quit so bad. It's crazy how the mind carries complete conversations with itself during these moments. So I just resolved to doing my best regardless of my finishing time.

"You have reached 5 miles and 1 hour and 20 seconds." When I heard that I literally wanted to cry. I did it!!! I not only ran the whole 5 miles... But I did it in an hour! My average time was 12.24 (I think)... And as far as I'm concerned that rocks! Marathons typically require you to keep at LEAST a 13 minute mile to qualify, so my time rocked if you ask me.

Next up... I'm hoping to actually run an 8 K race. I wonder if running with others will produce a better time? I'm betting it does if I know my competitive self like I think I do.

And by the way... Yes I know 5 miles is nothing for 95% of my friends. But I'm not that girl. I was the girl at Field Day getting side cramps during the relay race because my breathing was all wrong. In my book.... This was an awesome achievement!
- Christina

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Free Compliments - Take One!

You've seen these before... the "take a tab" fliers advertising everything from piano lessons to free puppies.  Well today... I made one that was just a little different.  As part of "Random Acts of Kindness Day" (with the Volunteer Vixens), I created one advertising FREE COMPLIMENTS & SMILES and hung dozens of them around town.  Patrons of the local gym, library and Starbucks will have a chance to take a free compliment home should they need one.  I'm anxious to check them this week to see if all the compliments are gone. :) ~ Christina

Handmade Headbands

A few friends and I have been drooling over the MOST adorable boho-inspired headbands (or wraps)... but the price tags make you stand up taller and walk on very quickly.  Ridiculous!  So... I decided to try my hand at making them.  Guess what?!  SUPER SIMPLE!! The photos here don't do them justice, but the three I created (two shown) came out so freaking cute that I immediately thought (who can I gift these too?!)  Instructions to be posted on my Rhythms of Grace Gallery blog this week.  ~ Christina

Super Bowl XLVII Volunteer

This was a COOL experience!  I don't know if I really need to say much about it other than I'm so grateful I was selected to be a part of SuperBowl XLVII.

Six months prior, I hadn't even decided to move to Louisiana.  I happened to be visiting for my MawMaw's surprise 80th birthday party and learned through a friend that New Orleans was looking for volunteers.  I immediately got online and applied.  Within a couple of weeks, I got notification of my acceptance.  And truthfully, I figured I'd have to back out as the date got closer... that is... until I decided to move here.

And let's be honest.  When you're immersed in a move, a volunteer obligation is the last thing you think about.  At least for me.  So I kinda forgot about it. Until I started getting reminder emails.  Volunteer Orientation.  Volunteer Packet Pick Up.  Etc.  

So I went.  And had a BLAST! I volunteered two days... Friday and the day OF the Super Bowl.  Both times I helped in the little kids area of the NFL Experience (in the Convention Center).  SUCH. FUN. Because of my artistic skills, I got placed in the "How to Make an NFL Penalty Flag" area... AKA the Arts-n-Crafts Section. That was AWESOME by me!

I met lots of great people... even made a few new friends.  Got to teach THOUSANDS of kids (and adults) how to draw a fleur de lis. And even learned a few tackling moves.  Overall, it was a fantastic time.  So glad that I did it. BTW - did you know this was the 10th Super Bowl to be held in New Orleans?  Kinda cool to be a part of THAT. ~ Christina

Saturday, February 16, 2013

DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner

If you're anything like me, you probably don't clean your makeup brushes quite as often as you should.  It really is something I need to work on.  But I tend to think about it and then see I'm out of my pricey cleaner from Sephora and then mentally add it to my "shopping" list... and then never pick it up.  It's a vicious cycle.  But alas! No more.  I decided to make my own using items from around the house... and how SIMPLE it was!!  Below is the "recipe" I used and it worked beautifully. I really can't explain how easy the makeup came off... much more so than the fancy Sephora stuff I used to use. :)
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 1 container to mix everything in
Mix the ingredients really good (I prefer using glass but that's up to you) and then dip yours brushes in one by one.  Give them a good swirl around the cup a few times.  You will see the makeip come right off the brushes, turing the water a murky color.  Rinse the brushes under luke warm water (tap is fine), reshape and then lay flat to dry overnight.

Viola!  Super simple with products you have lying around the house. :) ~ Christina

Carnival Cruise - Elation

With all the noise in today's media about cruise lines... it's a wonder their business is still booming like it is.  But I guess others' share my philosophy.  This life is ultimately in God's hands anyway.  Why live in constant fear of something going wrong?!!

Over a year ago, my best friend Emily invited me to join her and her family on a Carnival cruise.  The Elation ship to be specific.  I agreed, knowing it was a long way off.  Who knew where I'd be by then?!

Time flies these days... I guess that's a side effect of getting older.  All of a sudden the weekend was upon us and off we went! It was like old times.  Me traveling with the Heberts. Just like when Em and I were kids.  

The week long cruise was wonderful.  I won't bore you with all the monotonous details.  The ship itself was nice.  Older and a little smaller than some I've been on, but taken care of well over the years.  I give it a HUGE fat F- for their support of food allergies and veg-friend lifestyles.  That was NOT a fun or easy process on the ship. The staff tried their best, but just weren't equipped to provide viable options. And since food is a large part of a cruise experience, it could have easily ruined the vacation for me.  But I've long since learned to expect nothing more than ignorance when it comes to my food allergy and I'm pleasantly surprised when someone actually makes an effort.  So needless to say, I made do with my backpack of veg-friend snacks and fresh fruit all week.

Thankfully the non-sense of that horrific Carnival cruise ship took place AFTER we returned, so that wasn't on our minds.  It was all sun, sea and bikinis for us most days.  And that certainly doesn't suck. ~ Christina

Me and Em in front of the Elation
Our party (minus Moe who is taking the pic)
Truth :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Homemade Natural Dog Shampoo

I've elevated my "granola-ness" lately by experimenting with a few DIY home remedies.  The thought of all those chemicals we find in the most basic of items like cleaners, shampoos, etc. freaks me out.

Since Denver was out of doggie shampoo... he was my first guinea pig.  This recipe actually came out quite nice (I used the lavender essential oil) and was super simple to make.  Instructions below. :)


  • 1 cup Organic Castile Soap (any scent - I used nonscented)
  • 2 cups Distilled Water
  • 2 teaspoons Grape Seed Oil (or Almond Oil, Olive Oil - up to you!)
  • 2 teaspoons White Vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Guar Gum
  • Container for soap (I reused an old shampoo bottle)
  • Optional: add cedar wood, citronella, or lavender essential oil to help with pest control (I used lavender)

Use a whisk to mix ingredients together in a bowl and then place in your container. Wash away! :) ~ Christina

DIY Lavender Scented Car Satchel

Such a silly little project... but I HATE car fresheners.  I always find them too strong and end up getting a headache shortly after installing it.  So... I decided to make my own.  No clue what I was doing... I took a sheet of felt, cut it into smaller rectangles and began sewing with thick red yarn (I like that look). Inside I decided to put some dried lavender (still have a ton from my yoga eye pillows I made last year) along with a few drops of lavender essential oil.


Can we talk about how amazing these are?  My car smells so fresh, and the lavender is calming to boot.    It's a subtle smell (score!) and since it's all natural and nothing synthetically made... no headache.

Just call me Martha.  Wait... no don't do that.  Christina will do just fine. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Tap Room

Being new to the area (as an adult anyway), I've been asking around for suggestions on young (but not too young) fun places to go with friends.  The Taproom was at the top of the list given to my by several people.  So... when my girl Mallory was in town this past week, that's where we headed!  

Upon first arrival, we weren't impressed.  The clientele was fairly mixed in age, that wasn't it. There just wasn't that many people there.  So we decided to have one drink and then reassess.  I'm glad we did.  The place got jumping shortly thereafter.  Great music, good vibe and fun people.  If I'm not mistaken, there are about 36+ beers on tap so I can see this being a fun weekend hangout for sure.   We were there on a Wednesday night and they were doing Trivia.  Overall it was a great time.  Only disappointment was the very limited menu for a vegan.  I basically ate a sandwich dressed (literally lettuce, pickle and tomato only)... but hey!  At least they tried to accommodate me. :) ~ Christina

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Homemade Hummus

Hummus is a staple of the vegan diet. High in protein and an easy addition to hundreds of dishes, not to mention a yummy stand-alone. This has been one dish on my "must make" list for a while.... And I really don't know what took me so long to actually create it. So super simple to make and the options are endless. Forget searching for my favorite flavors... I'm all about creating them now!

Tonight's dish: Garlic & Kalamata Olive hummus - Christina

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Aloe Vera

Most of us turn to aloe vera for those dangerous sunburns (sunscreen people!!)... but did you know it's much more versatile than that?   There is nothing on this planet that offers the amazing variety of healing benefits granted by aloe vera. In a single plant, aloe vera offers potent, natural medicine that:

• Halts the growth of cancer tumors.
• Lowers high cholesterol.
• Repairs "sludge blood" and reverses "sticky blood".
• Boosts the oxygenation of your blood.
• Eases inflammation and soothes arthritis pain.
• Protects the body from oxidative stress.
• Prevents kidney stones and protects the body from oxalates in coffee and tea.
• Alkalizes the body, helping to balance overly acidic dietary habits.
• Cures ulcers, IBS, Crohn's disease and other digestive disorders.
• Reduces high blood pressure natural, by treating the cause, not just the symptoms.
• Nourishes the body with minerals, vitamins, enzymes and glyconutrients.
• Accelerates healing from physical burns and radiation burns.
• Replaces dozens of first aid products, makes bandages and antibacterial sprays obsolete.
• Halts colon cancer, heals the intestines and lubricates the digestive tract.
• Ends constipation.
• Stabilizes blood sugar and reduces triglycerides in diabetics.
• Prevents and treats candida infections.
• Protects the kidneys from disease.
• Functions as nature's own "sports drink" for electrolyte balance, making common sports drinks obsolete.
• Boosts cardiovascular performance and physical endurance.
• Speeds recovery from injury or physical exertion.
• Hydrates the skin, accelerates skin repair.

Recently I began digesting pure aloe each morning in my smoothie.  So simple and so healthy!  Here's what you do: 

  • Take a sharp kitchen knife and a sheet of paper towel to your aloe vera plant. Find the thickest, healthiest looking leaf, and slice it away from the plant. (Don't worry, the plant will heal the cut closed very quickly). I use the paper towel to wipe the leaf clean of any dust that might be on it.
  • Come back to your kitchen table. Cut off the cut end once more where you see the yellow or amber colour bleed from it. That is a very healing ingredient, but it has a bitter taste. Personally I avoid that, but if I were sick enough, I'd take that too!
  • Take a plate and lay down the aloe leaf on it's side. With the knift still in hand, I slice up the side for the full length of the leaf, but I try to leave the other side in-tact at the skin. Now I can lay the leaf open with the bottom and the top halves both facing up. They are hinged together by the skin I did not cut through.
  • Next I put down the knife and pick up a teaspoon. With the spoon, I scrape gently but firmly down the full length of the leaf from the pointed end to the cut end. Try to avoid catching the green gel of the skin, as it will taste bitter too. We just want the clear aloe gel as it is tasteless. 
  • With the knife and spoon I cut up the long slippery pieces of aloe gel so they are like small bit-sizes. (Some of us have vivid imaginations and can get crazy ideas if a long slippery thing goes down our throats). Since they are hard to get ahold of, I scrap the gel pieces into a small medicine cup.
  • Lift up the cup and throw it back into your mouth and down the throat. If your imagination is doing a number on you, drink some water or juice right after it. OR you can toss it into a blender with some other fresh juice. One short buzz and you have no idea that you're eating your aloe vera, for it has no real taste but what other foods contribute when combined.
  • Never one to waste...  I take one extra step or benefit from this stem of aloe vera. I take the freshly scraped green stem skin and do a quick face wash with the aloe gel still on it. If left lying around that scraped skin will soon dry out and be paper-thin and dry. But before I thow it away for compost, I quickly take this one more advantage of it. By wiping it all over my face, my complexion get's a rejuvenating lift - an energy drink!

I dare you... try it for a week and see how you feel!

~ Christina

Abita Cafe

Unfortunately I didn't snap any pics of this adorable little cafe... but it was definitely snap worthy.  One a recent bike ride through the town of Abita, a friend of mine and I decided to duck in from the rain sprinkles and grab a bite to eat.  Truth be told, my heart was set on the Abita Brew Pub but fortunately they were closed, thus allowing me to "try something new."  This quaint little place had a delightful menu (though most was not veg-friendly) with names and food combos that made you literally laugh out loud.  I had a salad with fresh fruit on top (chicken on the side since trying to explain that you are a vegan seemed to solicit a neon question mark over our server's head).  Overall... adorable place! I could see myself returning in the future.  ~ Christina

Restaurant IPO

Mardi Gras is all about drinking your calories... until your head is so light you've gotta bring your feet back to the ground.  Then ya gotta put some actual food in your tummy.  

We snuck into Restaurant IPO after the Spanish Town parade Saturday for a little boiled crawfish and hot french fries (the latter being for me of course).  Chelsey got to sample this local delicacy for the first time (and check it off her NOLA bucket list)... and then decide it really just wasn't for her. At least she tried it!

While the veg-friendly options were limited to a side salad and french fries (who's complaining though?!) we all found something tasty.  The bonus was we didn't have to wait in line for an hour like most surrounding eateries. ~ Christina

Spanish Town Parade

In any other state, we'd have stuck out like a sore thumb.  Tulle, glitter, sequins and rhinestones accented the over-the-top makeup and bright colored attire.  But we were in Louisiana... and anything goes here.  Especially during Carnival season.

Changing things up a bit, we spent the entire day in Baton Rouge immersed in a whimsical crowd at the Spanish Town parade.  What a beauty of a day it was... clean, crisp and cool air helped to keep the spirit of the day alive and fresh.  

The theme this year was "A Spanish Town Twinkie Ate My Ding Dong" which provided some hilarious moments.   It was a fun day of fishbowl drinking, friend making, booty shaking goodness.  Check out a few of our pics. :)  ` Christina
No idea... just wanted a pic with me. :)
Mallory and Chelsey - Mardi Gras virgins NO MO
Matt, Aunt Marie and I
Three Musketeers
Good friends... better times

Monday, February 11, 2013

Abita Mystery Museum

Also known as the UCM Museum, the Abita Mystery Museum is a roadside attraction in Abita Springs, Louisiana.   It is a folk art environment with 1000s of found objects, and home made inventions. You can see a miniature Southern town with push-buttons that activate animated “displays.” On exhibit are odd collections, memorabilia, pure junk, and old arcade machines that are fun to play. There is literally THOUSANDS of things to see... and I'm fairly certain you'll find something new on each trip.  A friend and I made a stop on the way back from our 26+ mile bike ride along the St. Tammany Trace.  I definitely recommend stoping by and checking it out.  Tell Jon I sent you!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Chimes (Covington)

Me, Mallory and Chelsey
I've been hearing about this place for the past year... since it opened really.  Friends have worked there (and quit).  Friends hang out there.  Friends "check in" there on Facebook all the time.  You get the point.

So while in Covington this past weekend, we girls decided to check it out.  

First assessment - this is not the place to be if you don't feel like running into that random guy you went to high school with back in the early 90's.

Second assessment - you might as well start drinking because that random guys (and girls) just keep on coming in.

In all honestly, I loved the place.  Loved the layout... the atmosphere... even the staff.  But when we were there it was filled with people from my past (not a bad thing at all). So begin from out of town, it was fun catching up with everyone.  Being new to town (like Chelsey and Mallory), that grew old.  I'd suggest a dance floor somewhere in the place... I can see where that would add value, especially at the night grows later.  The view is fabulous and I'll definitely return for lunch

Loved seeing this smiling face! Old friend Wade.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Columbia Street Rock-N-Blues Cafe

15 years later and my little hometown is in a constant forward motion of change and renovation.  I love it. This little gem is one of the newest spots to open along Columbia Street (where Etoile used to be).  While my two experiences thus far have proven to be lacking... I can see potential here.  Hopefully my next trip in will warrant better reviews. ~  Christina

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wine Loft Mandeville

We headed over to the Wine Loft in Mandeville after the Krewe of Eve parade... and fell in love with the night.  Great music (courtesy of Rock It Productions) with lots of booty shaking moments in this elegant and comfy bar.  Definitely on my list of "girl's night out" places. ~ Christina