Airbnb virgins. Not anymore.

We’ve avoided traveling in recent years because it can be complicated, expensive and tiring. We’ve opted for stay-cations instead. This year, we decided to try something new in the hope it would make traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Living in the Northwest where several locations in Canada are just a short drive away. We only wanted to go somewhere we could drive to to avoid the headaches of planes and rental vehicles. We chose Calgary because it’s less a tourist destination than Vancouver, Victoria, or Banff. Few people go there in summer, that coupled with the exchange rate in our favor made for an affordable choice that would leave us spoiled for choice of accomodation.

Using Airbnb were found  accommodation with free parking for only USD$45 per night in a cool, trendy suburb within easy walking distance of the city. The place was a new and immaculately clean townhouse with our own private bedroom and bathroom with use of the kitchen. The hosts provided us fantastic advice on local cafes and restaurants that were the hot spots for locals. We traveled with a very small duffle bag and one small backpack between us. Everything else we needed as far as toiletries, towels, hairdryer, etc. were provided.

I made a short video of our room (sans la salle de bains) ….. Check it out! Not bad for $45 per night, eh?  Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in the stereotypical Canadian “eh.”

 

This was our first time using Airbnb, and we were so glad we did. We never could have stayed so close to the city in a hotel of similar quality for anywhere near the same price. We were able to walk the beautiful Bow River trail along the edge of the city and take in the sights at our own pace. Having our vehicle with meant we could explore further afield and get around safely after dark. The only preparation needed in advance was to register with Airbnb, to book and pay for the room, then pack our bags and enter the destination in our GPS.

It wasn’t totally without complications. We ran into a bit of a hitch with Airbnb registration process. As they have grown, they’ve increased their security making all users provide sufficient verification of who you are. That’s fair enough. If I’m staying in a strangers home, they have every right to make sure I am who I say I am. It’s they means of proving who you are that posed a bit of a problem for us.

Because we live simply, we avoid using much social media, and a large part of the Airbnb verification process is giving them access to your social media contacts. Without that, we had to jump through a few hoops, but now that we are verified and have received positive feedback from our hosts, all future bookings should a snap.

 

 

Raw Vegan Thai Zucchini Salad

by Bella

When I eat delicious,  fresh,  raw,  nutrient rich vegan food I feel good in mind and body.  It’s light,  energizing, cruelty-free and too good to keep to myself.

Easy to make and delicious with only 324 calories and packed full of nutrition, this is a must have recipe.

raw thai salad

Salad ingredients

Salad dressing

Dressing ingredients

SALAD:   

2 cups raw organic zucchini cut into thin strips
1 small raw carrot peeled and cut into thin strips
2 tbsps diced red bell pepper
1 small tomato diced                                                                                               

DRESSING:

1tsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp​ fresh crushed garlic
1/2 tsp​ ​crushed​red pepper2 tbsps liquid aminos
1 1/2 tsp​ ​apple cedar vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1tsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp​ fresh crushed garlic
1/2 tsp​ ​crushed​red pepper

GARNISH:

1 tbsp raw cashews (I used peanuts which aren’t raw)
1 tsp cilantro


Place all the salad ingredients  in big bowl.  Mix all the dressing ingredients and pour over salad.  Toss.  Garnish with raw cashews and cilantro. 

Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fermenting fears

by Bella

Just the smell of sauerkraut used to make me queezy. In fact, the first time I smelled it, I actually lost my lunch. It has made me feel sick ever since.  That is,  until  now. 

Growing up, the only sauerkraut I’d ever encountered came from a can. I thought that something magical must happen in the factory to make fermented foods safe that couldn’t be achieved at home. Therefore,  I had yet to see smell or taste homemade sauerkraut. 

smelly-old-work-socks

Canned sauerkraut smells like rotten socks. Its consistency  is squishy and the color of a corpse.  It’s no wonder I found it so repulsive. Still I thought  sauerkraut and so many other preserved foods were both difficult and dangerous to make yourself.  Even as an adult,  it wasn’t something I had expected  I’d ever do.  Besides,  why would I try to make something that I’d always found revolting.  I feared fermentation, but I feared sauerkraut even more. 

Purely out of curiosity,  I recently read the book Fermenting Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey.  The book sings the praises of not only the taste,  but also the health benefits of fermented foods while making it so simple, and less frightening than I ever expected. In fact,  the authors provide a mantra that is the key to successful fermentation and demonstrates how easy it is,  “Submerge in brine add find all will be fine.” It truly is that simple.

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I quickly got over feeling inferior to factories in my ability to preserve food. More importantly,  I wondered if homemade sauerkraut  might be better than canned.

So I gave fermentation a go. I started with basic things first making leek and garlic pastes. Both tasted phenomenal, so I decided to get more adventurous.

wp-1453152581825.jpgLeek paste left. Garlic paste right.

The true test was make my own sauerkraut. If I could make it and the smell didn’t make me gag, that in itself would be impressive.  If I could make sauerkraut that I could eat, I would finally be over my fermentation fears and undoubtedly a convert for life.

It took all of about 10 minutes to prepare and one week to ferment. And then came the moment of truth. The taste test.

It smelled fine.  No rotten socks.  The consistency  was crunchy.  The taste was sour and salty. Not only could I tolerate it,  I loved it and promptly devoured it.   I ate it in salads,  as a side dish with eggs, and on a wrap filled with veggies,  sprouts and cheese.  Though I had planned to take a pic of the final product,  it didn’t happen.  Sorry.  That’s just how good it was.

So I can now say I am officially over my fermentation fear. More surprisingly,  I got over my fear of sauerkraut.

 

 

2015 in review

It’s always interesting to see who’s reading my posts. I’m doing this more or less as a periodic journal for the time being. I started a year and a half ago hoping to find like-minded people through blogging. I’ve since discovered that more than that, I want a place to record my thoughts and small achievements. Somehow writing things down is therapeutic. Finding like-minded people is a bonus.

Thanks for reading. ~ Bella

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 610 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 10 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Minimalist crafting with plarn

by Bella
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Minimalism and crafting do not normally go well together, until now.  Plarn turns unwanted items (plastic shopping bags) into useful items. All you need is used plastic shopping bags, a crochet hook, and scissors.

Normally, when you you get into crafting, and specifically, in my case, crocheting, you accumulate loads of supplies. When I have too much stuff, it takes over my life, so I do all that I can to avoid the clutter. This project allows me to make my yarn as I need it, and only as much as I need, so there are no left over scraps.

I was first introduced to crocheting with plarn earlier this year when I came across an old post on one of my favorite crafting blogs, Repeat Crafter Me. Sarah, the blogs creator and my crocheting superhero posted easy to follow directions on how to turn environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into  an environmentally friendly yarn alternative (click here). Then she shared a pattern of her own design for a tasteful, quick-to-make, durable, long lasting plarn tote bag (click here).

When I saw this, I thought, “how cool is it that you can make a bag from bags? ” More importantly, I realized that this tote bag makes a great reusable shopping bag. I can turn something bad for the environment into something that can do some good.

After making the bag from Sarah’s pattern, I want to share the results. It turned out even better than I expected.

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It has an amazing, natural and textured look.

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I was even able to use buttons salvaged from old worn-out clothing for the embellishment and used the plarn to sew them on, so this bag is from 100% re purposed materials.
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With a little bit of effort, it’s easy to find other patterns for everything from pot scrubbers to full size laundry baskets made from plarn. After scavenging enough used plastic shopping bags, I plan to experiment more using this minimalist friendly crafting supply.

Still here: just keeping it simple

by Bella

Sometimes in order to live a simple life, you have to prioritize and let some things go my the wayside. This has been tough for me. I have so many things that I want to do in this life that I have a tendency to try to pack too much in to 24 hours and to complicate my life in the process.

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve been learning to stop myself from taking on too much, and to focus on doing fewer things, but doing them really well.  I’ve always needed a creative outlet. I used to draw, embroider, crochet, knit, weave, sew, and try to make everything I could learning every craft out there. Having so many creative outlets required having totes, boxes, and closets full of supplies and equipment. Not focusing on a single skill meant that I didn’t have the time to dedicate to giving my best to any one of them.

Now I focus on crocheting. I love making gifts for friends and co-workers, and because I have focused on elevating my crochet skills, I now create projects that are good enough to sell (I’m sharing some quick pics of my projects below). I could never have gotten to this point had I kept spreading myself so thin while drowning under totes, boxes and closets full of supplies.

I had to chose a specialization, to prioritize. I chose what was was most inspiring my creative side and didn’t look back. This allowed me to get rid of extra craft stuff, and this in turn cleared my mind allowing me to focus and improve my crochet skills.

Nearly everyday, I fight my nature to try everything and to take on more than I should. In late summer and this fall, I have felt and still feel the need to focus on time with friends and family, cooking, reading, and crocheting. These are my priorities and the things that are inspiring me at the moment, so they are my current focus and all other things have to take a back-seat, including blogging.

I have loads of ideas on things to blog about, and I will be back when my priorities shift. See you then.

 

Sorry the images are not to the highest standard.

Watermelon dress and Mary Janes

 

Ami Minions

 

Ami owls

 

Boot cuffs