January 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Surznick Reads: January 2015

New Year, New Reads! That's the saying, right? We're super excited to start another year of our Surznick Reads series. You can see all of our 2014 books here!

After a few months of transitioning into a new job, a busier schedule, and less reading time, I think I'm finally back on track with my book goals. I'm also feeling super inspired to read right now since putting together my reading list for the upcoming year. (In case you're wondering what's on it, I shared it on Instagram.) I just think it's especially exciting to make a reading goal, pick out the books that I'm really interested in this year, and go to town! I'm off to a pretty good start this month, but before we share our reads, here are our reading goals for 2015.

Sarah: 24 books (12 my choice + 12 book club selections)

Last year was my first year being in a book club. I LOVED IT. Not only was it a great way to meet new people and simply get out of my house on a weeknight once a month, but it also gave me the opportunity to read a bunch of books that I likely would never have read otherwise. If you're in the Pittsburgh area and looking to join a book club, you can find out more about mine here. (We also go out for sushi regularly, if that's something you're into.)

Nick: 15 books

If you'd like to follow along on our reading journeys this year, feel free to add us on Goodreads! This is the site Nick and I both use to create our reading goals, share what we're currently reading, what we've already read, and what we want to read! (My want-to-read list is pretty extensive and I would be lost without Goodreads!) You can find our accounts here: Sarah & Nick.

Okay, here we go - our first books of 2015!

Sarah's Reads!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
From Amazon.com: "Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world."

This book has been on my want-to-read list for a long time, so I was pretty excited when it was chosen as my January book club selection. This was a super quick and easy read. It's lighthearted, funny, and definitely enjoyable. At times it felt more young adult than I would typically read, but that didn't make me like the story any less. Because this book is comprised of narrative, letters, emails, official documents, etc., you get to view the story from a variety of different perspectives and try to piece it all together to answer the question, "Where DID you go, Bernadette?" I'd recommend it!

My Rating: 4 Stars

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler
From Amazon.com: "Life doesn't get more hilarious than when Chelsea Handler takes aim with her irreverent wit. Who else would send all-staff emails to smoke out the dumbest people on her show? Now, in this new collection of original essays, the #1 bestselling author of Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea delivers one laugh-out-loud moment after another as she sets her sights on the ridiculous side of childhood, adulthood, and daughterhood. Family moments are fair game, whether it's writing a report on Reaganomics to earn a Cabbage Patch doll, or teaching her father social graces by ordering him to stay indoors. It's open season on her love life, from playing a prank on her boyfriend (using a ravioli, a fake autopsy, and the Santa Monica pier) to adopting a dog so she can snuggle with someone who doesn't talk. And everyone better duck for cover when her beach vacation turns into matchmaking gone wild. Outrageously funny and deliciously wicked, CHELSEA CHELSEA BANG BANG is good good good good!"

I've read several of Chelsea's other books, but this one just didn't make me laugh quite as much as the others. I thought that chapters were pretty hit or miss; some I thought were great, others I could have lived without. The one thing I did enjoy was that there were a few photos to go along with some of the chapters. There were a couple times where I thought "Come on, this is ridiculous, it can't be true," but then there'd be a photo on the next page so you're like, "Hey, it IS true!" If you're familiar with Chelsea through her stand-up or her show on E!, I'm sure you'd know what to expect in one of her books. Nothing life-changing or thought-provoking, but is it worth a read? Sure, why not.

My Rating: 3 Stars

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
From Amazon.com: "Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love."

Whew. Where do I begin here? I knew very little about The Fault in our Stars before I picked up this book. I knew that both the book and the movie were hugely popular last year in the teen world, pretty much to the point where I couldn't get on Pinterest or Wanelo without seeing 5 different types of pillowcases that said "Okay? Okay." Anyway, once I started reading, it was hard to stop. I became so deeply invested in these characters and their stories and I just needed to know what was going to happen. Maybe it's embarrassing to be 25 years old and love this book as much as I did, but what can I say, I just did. I pretty much never cry when I read, but I literally sobbed through the last hundred pages of this story, to the point where Nick walked in the room and thought there was a death in my family because I was crying so. much. Even though you may have a negative perception of this book due to it's insane popularly, I would say to just read it anyway. It's a tragically beautiful story that if nothing else, will make you realize how lovely it is to have love in our lives.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin
From Amazon.com: "...In the mid-seventies, Steve Martin exploded onto the comedy scene. By 1978 he was the biggest concert draw in the history of stand-up. In 1981 he quit forever. This book is, in his own words, the story of 'why I did stand-up and why I walked away.' Emmy and Grammy Award–winner, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Martin has always been a writer. His memoir of his years in stand-up is candid, spectacularly amusing, and beautifully written..."

Steve Martin has long been a favorite comedian of mine, and I knew I had to read this book. It did not disappoint. I was amazed to read about the incredible, unbelievable work ethic this amazing man had (and still has). Yes, much of it was indeed funny, but even more of it was an incredible story of resiliency and hard work, of ups and downs, and of exciting brushes with some of todays most iconic performers. This is a truly fantastic book that I had an absolute blast reading.

My Rating: 5 Stars

White Fang by Jack London
From Amazon.com: "When White Fang was first published in 1906, Jack London was well on his way to becoming one of the most famous, popular, and highly paid writers in the world. White Fang stands out as one of his finest achievements, a spellbinding novel of life in the northern wilds. In gripping detail, London bares the savage realities of the battle for survival among all species in a harsh, unyielding environment. White Fang is part wolf, part dog, a ferocious and magnificent creature through whose experiences we see and feel essential rhythms and patterns of life in the animal kingdom and among mankind as well. It is, above all, a novel that keenly observes the extraordinary working of one of nature's greatest gifts to its creatures: the power to adapt. Focusing on this wondrous process, London created in White Fang a classic adventure story as fresh and appealing for today's audiences as for those who made him among the bestselling novelists of his day."

When I saw this in Goodwill, I bought it immediately. I only bought it because, in my mind, I see it as one of those books 'you have to read.' Being written in 1906, I thought it would be difficult for me to read, but it wasn't at all! The way London writes is extremely descriptive, vivid, and very easy to follow. I crushed this book in about a week, because I found it so captivating, which is a fantastic achievement for me. I've never been a dog owner, but the emotions you feel for White Fang, and the pain you share with him throughout the book are extremely moving. Though it is a story that follows just the life of a wolf--a true "animal story," it is somehow incredibly human and relatable. I loved this book, and I would recommend it to anyone.

My Rating: 5 Stars

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you, and you should have a beer! Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vegan Super Bowl Sunday Snacks

I distinctly remember my first time having buffalo chicken dip. It was at a Super Bowl party in 2009, and also the night that Pittsburgh became SIXburgh! (Oh, and the dip was pretty awesome too.) Since that day, my love for all things buffalo flavored has continued to grow (as evidenced here, here, and here.) The one thing that has changed, however, is that you won't find the word "chicken" in my snack vocabulary any longer.

Regardless, I'm still a sucker for the not-so-healthy dips and bites and breads that are in abundance every year on Super Bowl Sunday, and this year I couldn't wait to try and create some delicious vegan versions of my favorite treats. Even though our team won't be the champions this year, at least we felt like the champions of our kitchen with these awesome recipes. Okay, let's get this party started!

All of these recipes are meat and dairy-free, however, they can easily be adapted to a non-vegan diet and I'm sure they're great that way too!

Soft Pretzel Bites (Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

Nick and I have never made soft pretzels before and I never could have imagined that they would turn out as well as they did. They were so. yummy. Make these babies - you won't regret it!

Here's what you need!
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 packet Red Star instant yeast
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. melted butter (we use Earth Balance)
- 3 3/4-4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 9 cups water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- Almond milk (for light egg wash substitute)
- Kosher salt for sprinkling on top

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Dissolve your yeast in your warm water, mixing with a spoon.
- Add brown sugar, salt, and melted butter to your yeast mixture, stirring until combined.
- Pour this mixture into a medium sized bowl and begin to slowly add 3 cups of your flour, one cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon.
- Add an additional 3/4-1 1/2 cups flour to your dough ball until it is no longer sticky and able to be kneaded.
- Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes.
- Place your dough into a greased (or non-stick sprayed) bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place for 10 minutes.
- While dough is rising, mix 9 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda in a large pot on the stove and bring to a boil.
- Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove your dough from the bowl and divide into roughly 6 sections.
- Roll/stretch these sections in thin "ropes," and cut into 1-2 inch bites.
- Drop 10 or so of these bites into your boiling water/baking soda mixture for 20 seconds, remove, and place on the parchment lined baking sheets. Make sure your pretzels are not touching each other. Repeat with the rest of your dough.
- Brush your pretzel bites very lightly with almond milk and sprinkle with Kosher salt.
- Place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Does this dip sound familiar? If so, it's probably because we already shared the non-vegan version on here last year. We just love it so much that we thought it was definitely worth it to see how it would turn out with non-dairy substitutes. Well fear not my friends! Because it's still totally bangin'.

Here's what you need!
For Dip:
- 16 oz. dairy-free cream cheese, softened (we use Tofutti)
- 1 cup vegan mayo (we use Veganaise)
- 1 cup shredded dairy-free mozzarella cheese (we use Daiya)
- 4 oz. chopped green chilies
- 4-6 oz. sliced jalapeños
For Topping:
- 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp. vegan butter
- 2 tbsp. vegan parmesean cheese (Recipe)

Feel free to adjust the topping amount based on the size of your dish. We decided to use a smaller, deeper dish rather than a 9x13" pan, so we used less topping this time around.

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Slice your jalapeños (we bought a jar of sliced jalapeños, but you can use fresh also)
- Combine all your dip ingredients in a medium bowl and combine with a hand mixer (or just mix with a wooden if you're super strong like Nick is.)
- Melt your butter in a small bowl and stir in the Panko bread crumbs and parmesean cheese until coated.
- Spread your dip into your baking dish and sprinkle with your bread crumb topping.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until dip is bubbly and topping turns golden brown.

Crispy Tofu Bites (Recipe adapted from One Green Planet)

Nick and  I have experimented with breaded tofu bites before, but without overwhelming success. This recipe was the game changer and we will definitely be making these again. While tofu may not be for everyone, we certainly think these flavorful, crispy little bites would make any vegetarian or vegan come back for seconds.

Here's what you need!
- 1 14 oz. block extra firm tofu
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. raw cane or coconut sugar
- 1 tsp. Kosher salt
- 2-3 tsp. seasoned salt
- 3 cups unsweetened corn flakes, crushed
- Oil for frying (about 2-3 cups)
- 6-9 tbsp. water

Here's what you do!
- Drain and press your tofu. Cut tofu in small cubes, patting dry once more with a paper towel or tea towel. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a deep saucepan or pot on your stove. (Your oil is ready when you stick a wooden spoon handle in your oil and bubbles form around it.)
- In a small bowl, crush your corn flakes into very small pieces.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, Kosher salt, and seasoned salt.
- Add water to your flour mixture until a thin batter is formed. Start with 6 tablespoons. Add more water if your batter seems too thick, until you reach your desired thickness.
- Coat your tofu cubes in the batter, then coat in your crushed corn flakes.
- Drop 6-8 "nuggets" in your oil and cook for 3 minutes.
- Remove from oil, and drain on a paper towel covered plate or rack.

YESSS. Which snack looks like it would be your favorite?! It's kind of a toss up for me. Both the pretzels and the dip are amazing, but it's even better when you dip the pretzels IN the dip. Boom.

What are your plans for Super Bowl Sunday? We hope that you add some of these treats to your snack table (they'll definitely be on ours!) Have a fun weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Homemade Dryer Sheets

Growing up, my family was a fabric softener family, and Sarah's was a dryer sheet family. Moving into our first apartment with in-unit washer and dryer, we gravitated to the easier dryer sheet method. However, after wanting to cut back on wasteful practices in our day to day lives (like we did here and here), we sought to find an alternative method. The largest and most distinct advantage of dryer sheets over fabric softener is that you don't need to add softener to your washer at a certain point of the cycle; they are simply easier.

These homemade dryer sheets give us both the softness of fabric softener, and the ease of dryer sheets, while eliminating unnecessary waste! 

And on top of that, they are essentially the easiest project we've ever done.

Here's what you need:
- Fabric softener of your choice
- Washcloths or rags
- A bucket or large container

Here's what you do:
- In a large container or bucket, soak your washcloths in fabric softener until they are completely saturated.
- Wring each washcloth out really well, getting rid of as much excess fabric softener as you can.
- Hang up washcloths to dry. We hung ours from hangers in our bathtub in case there were any drips.
- Pour additional fabric softener back into the bottle to use next time.
- Once washcloths are completely dry, just toss them in the dryer with your clothes and use them!

I can't honestly say just how many cycles these sheets will last just yet, but I have done 2 so far with the same cloth, and my clothes are still coming out of the dryer soft! I've seen some people online say that they use them as many as 5-8 times, and other people say they lasted for FORTY cycles! For now, I'm just going to keep using them until they're all used up! I'll have to let you know how many cycles one cloth gives me! Once you get through your initial batch, you can reuse the same washcloths to make more!

Do you have any other waste-eliminating tips that you use in your apartment or home? Share with us in the comments below!

Sarah & Nick

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Knitted Infinity Scarf

You'd think that as someone who knits almost constantly in my free time that I'd have an abundance of handmade scarves and hats and socks at my disposal, right? Well truth be told, I don't. But not for any particular reason - I've just never kept any of the scarves I've ever knitted. This winter, however, I really wanted to make it my mission to knit myself a scarf.

This scarf is easy to make, pretty, and as all scarves should be, suuuuper soft and cozy! I started and finished this scarf on my day off last Monday and have been wearing it every day since. Want to knit your own?

Here's what you need!
- 2 skeins bulky yarn of your choice (I used Lion Brand Hometown USA in Houston Cream)
- Size 17 circular needles
- Scissors

Here's what you do!
- Cast on 112 stitches (or any amount divisible by 4. 112 stitches was the best length for me.)
- Knit in the round with the following pattern: Knit 2, Knit in back 1, Purl 1. (Helpful tip! Make sure that your yarn is not twisted when you start knitting in the round!)
- Repeat pattern until desired width. You should have a tail of yarn where you started, so you can keep track of how many complete circles you've done. Once you've completed a full circle and you're back at your starting point, cast off.
- Knot your ends and sew any tails into your scarf. I did this by hand, but it could be done by needle if you prefer.
- Wear it! The pattern looks a little different on each side, so you can show whichever side you prefer!

I. Love. This. Scarf. I've really been wanting a large cream-colored infinity scarf for some time now, and this scarf definitely fits the bill. As I said, I made it in one day off work, but you could easily complete it in an evening or two. This was actually my very first experience knitting in the round, and it made the whole process go so quickly! When you're knitting a standard scarf, it's so easy to stop and pick back up over and over again because each row is a stopping point, but with circular knitting it always feels like you're stopping mid-row, which is all the more reason to keep going!

What are some of your favorite knitting projects? You can see more of ours here, here, or here! Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Celebrating Six

On January 6th, Nick and I celebrated 6 years together! We usually keep special occasions pretty low key, but we thought it would be fun to get kind of dressed up and have a nice date night. We decided to have dinner at a restaurant we've never tried before: Eden in Shadyside. We'll be sharing more about our Eden experience soon, but for now, here's a little more about our looks!

This Charlotte Russe dress has been in my closet for years and it's not leaving anytime soon. The color, the pattern at the top, and the way I feel in it have brought me back time after time. I actually wore this exact same outfit on New Year's Eve and felt so great in it that I wanted to bring it back again for our anniversary.

I love this dress because it's one of those that works great with heels, booties, flats, etc. (can't say that about 'em all!) I paired it with faux leather black wedge booties to match my faux leather jacket. I decided to forgo my normal rings and instead wear this tear-shaped costume ring that I picked up in an H&M clearance pack for about 50 cents! My clutch was a Christmas gift from my best friend Juli and I LOVE it! Lastly, I added a pop of color to my look with a red lip. This has been my go-to color 4-5 days a week and I love how well it stays on throughout the work day and dinner!

Dress\Charlotte Russe (exact old, similar, similar),  Wedge Booties\Forever 21 (exact old, similar, similar),  Jacket\Rue 21 (exact old, similar, similar),  Tights\Target (exact, similar, similar),  Clutch\Francesca's (gifted to me) (exact - cannot find online, similar, similar),  Ring\H&M (exact - cannot find online, similar, similar),  Lipstick\H&M (exact in Red, similar, similar)

Now I'll let Nick take it away...

For the past year or so, I've been trying to move away from my day-in, day-out standard outfit: jeans and a t-shirt. Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with jeans and a t-shirt, but every now and again, I feel the need to step up my game. My search for non-jeans pants that are skinny (but not too skinny!) has been quite extensive, and I've finally found the right pair. I now own these H&M pants in 3 different colors, and they are my new go-to pants.

I wanted to go with a button up shirt for our night out, but it was REALLY cold on our anniversary, so I decided to throw this plain black weekend tee over top, and I really liked the look.

Unless I'm wearing a suit and tie, I'm not much of a dress shoes person. However, I figured my regular Adidas Sambas weren't quite up to par for a nice date, so I went with some solid black canvas sneakers for a clean look.

Button Down shirt\H&M (exact old, similar, similar),  Sweater\Kohls (exact, similar, similar),  Pants\H&M (exact, similar, similar),  Black Sneakers\H&M (exact, similar, similar),  Watch\Breda via Amazon (exact, similar, similar)

Sarah & Nick

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pretzel Crust Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

As Sarah and I continue to dive deeper and deeper into the world of tofu, we keep falling deeper and deeper in love. In the past, we have used it to satisfy all of our savory food needs, but this time, tofu helped us achieve an oh-so-sweet and delicious favorite dessert: Peanut Butter Pie. This recipe is adapted from Scribbler in the Scullery and it definitely does not disappoint.

Here's what you need:
For the crust:
- 3 cups of pretzels
- 4 tbsp. oil
- 4 tbsp. non-dairy milk (we used almond)
- 2 tbsp. agave nectar (or real maple syrup)
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

For the filling:
- 12 oz. of silken firm tofu
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp. non-dairy milk
- Salt to taste

Here's what you do:
To prepare crust:
- Add all the crust ingredients to a food processor and blend until mixture sticks together (isn't too dry or too wet).
- Empty the mixture into a pie dish, and press to form a crust. Be sure to press up the sides of the pie plate to hold in all of your filling!
To prepare filling:
- Using the same food processor, (you don't need to clean it really, just wipe it out) add all of your filling ingredients and blend until silky smooth.
- When blending our ingredients, I often tasted to see if I wanted to add more peanut butter, sugar, or salt. Feel free to adjust your taste preferences accordingly! 
- Spread your peanut butter filling into your crust and smooth it out.
- Place in the refrigerator to set.

And that's it, folks! Top with vegan chocolate chips, pretzel pieces, or leftover crust (if you have any!) and most importantly - enjoy! We're so happy to have found this recipe. A good peanut butter pie has always been a staple in Sarah's house growing up, and this one is a fantastic and delicious substitute.

Do you have any great dessert recipes that use tofu? We'd love to hear about them!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Upcycled Sweater Beanie

A couple months ago when I started my new job, I started taking the bus to work instead of driving. This means, "Yay! No more winter driving on the terrible Pittsburgh roads!" but also "Brrrr! I've been standing at this bus stop FOR.EVER."

Walking to and from the bus stop plus waiting for the bus to arrive means I spend a lot more time out in the elements than I used to. I was never much of a winter hat person, but lately a hat has been a necessity (as I'm writing this post it's literally 8 degrees out!) A few months ago I saw this DIY A Beautiful Mess shared for making a pom pom hat out of an old sweater. Nick got me a sewing machine for my birthday, so this project seemed like an easy way for me to test out those sewing skills I learned way back in 10th grade. Think you'd like to give this a try?

Here's what you need!
- Old/thrifted sweater
- Beanie (to use as template)
- Straight pins
- Scissors
- Sewing machine & thread
- Yarn for pom pom
- Needle and thread

Here's what you do!
- Lay your sweater out flat on a table. Make sure the bottom lines up in the front and back.
- Place your beanie on top of the sweater, lining up the bottoms. Insert straight pins in your sweater along the outside of the beanie, essentially tracing the shape.

- Leaving about 1/2" seam allowance, cut out your beanie shape from your sweater.
- Sew your two sweater pieces together along the pins, removing as you go.
- Trim down the excess seam allowance and flip inside out. Try it on!
- Lastly, make a pom pom (tutorial here), and hand sew it on to the top of your hat.

That's it! Pretty easy, huh? This is a great way to utilize an old sweater that you're not quite ready to part with. And it's awesome because you can completely customize this to your style (i.e. color, fabric, pom pom, no pom pom, you get the idea...)

Now my head will stay nice and warm for all of those extra cold Pittsburgh mornings. Think you'll give this DIY a try? Have any other super easy sewing projects? I'd love to hear them!

Sarah & Nick

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Travel Organization Tips

You may or may not know that Nick and I are not originally from Pittsburgh. The place I call home (still) is Lancaster, PA and Nick hails from a teensy town in Elk County, PA. Neither of us has any family close by so we've kind of become pros at taking weekend trips home to visit family and friends.

Through these many treks back and forth across the state, we've come up with a few packing and travel tips that help make our weekend excursions a bit easier. You ready for 'em? Here we go!

Store earrings and rings in empty EOS containers

You know those round EOS chapstick containers? Once they're cleaned out, they work super great for storing small jewelry like earrings and rings! On a daily basis, rings and earrings are the only jewelry that you will typically find me wearing, so I always travel with them. It's really nice to have a safe place to keep them instead of just tossing them in my backpack.

Store vitamins and medications in contact lens cases

The Surznick house has an abundance of spare contact lens cases because for whatever reason, each box of contact solution comes with a new one. Eventually I realized, "I'm going to be out of town for two days and this container has two sections - this is perfect for pills!" So now when Nick and I head out for the weekend, instead of taking like 5 different pill bottles, we each take one contact case with our Saturday and Sunday vitamins and medications. I spruced mine up with some stickers from my A Beautiful Mess Happy Mail kit! Perfect!

String necklaces through a straw to keep them untangled

I use this tip less than the others because I often don't take necklaces if I'm only traveling for a weekend, but this trick works wonders if you're toting a lot of necklaces with you. I'm sure many of you have experienced the inevitable necklace tangle debacle. It's never fun. Just string your necklace through a straw before clasping the end, and ta da! No more tangles!

Roll clothes to save space

Rolling your clothes is a great way to save space in your bag! This is another tip that I use more for long-distance travel because when you need to fit everything into one suitcase for an entire week, saving space is definitely a must. If you're concerned about wrinkles, rolling can be a disadvantage at times, but it's great for items that don't wrinkle easily, or items that you aren't worried about wrinkling, like pajamas. It's also a great one to keep in mind if you're moving. You can fit SO many clothes in one box or bag if you do the rolling method!

Pack a plastic bag for your dirty clothes

I'm a notorious over-packer, so at the end of a trip I'm always left with both clean and dirty clothes. I'm also someone that tries on various shirts before I choose the one I feel best in, so by the time I get home after the weekend, it's hard to remember what's clean and what's dirty since it's all put back into the same bag. To remedy this issue, I started packing an empty plastic bag with me for the weekend. After I wear something and deem it dirty, it goes into the plastic bag. After I get home from our travels, everything that was in the plastic bag gets dumped right into my hamper for washing!

We hope that these tips help you on your next excursion! Personally, it's giving me a bit of a travel bug... where to next?! Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Mac & Not Cheese

I know that I've definitely started blog posts like this in the past, but here it goes again: After Sarah and I took the plunge and decided to cut dairy out of our diet in addition to meat, one of the most sorely missed dishes still remains Mac & Cheese. And, by the way, I'm not talking about gourmet, oven-baked, fancy cheese, bread crumb, specialty mac 'n cheese. I mean Kraft. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The Blue Box. The Cheesiest. That stuff was the best.

Fortunately, we've found a replacement on One Green Planet that is super delicious! This Mac & Not Cheese has an absolutely fantastic flavor, is nice and creamy, and oh so satisfying.

Here's what you need:
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup butter (we use vegan Earth Balance)
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 3 cups non-dairy milk (we recommend almond milk!)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. agave nectar

Here's what you do:
- Cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and return to pot.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a medium sauce pan, melt your butter. Once it is melted, whisk in your flour to form a roux.
- Then, add in remaining ingredients except for the agave and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes to thicken. You want it to reach the consistency of a cheese sauce (and it will!) 
- After it thickens, stir in agave nectar and lemon juice.
- Pour it over your macaroni and mix to coat!

I'm so glad that we found a great substitute for one of our most-craved childhood comfort foods (and college comfort food... and post-college comfort food). This recipe makes a LOT, so feel free to cut in half unless you want leftovers!

Do you have any great mac 'n cheese substitutes? Share with us below!

Sarah & Nick