adventures in iowa part 1

So, we headed out at about 11pm last night…

…and drove….

…and drove some more…

and finally arrived in Iowa at about 9 am this morning!

I’m not going to lie, it was a rough night.  It was actually kind of fun considering we hadn’t seen our sweet friends, Jason and Emily, in months – we had puh-lenty of time to catch up!  But the time when I was actually trying to sleep was not pretty.  No big surprise there, though.

The most eventful part of the trip was on the Kansas turnpike about 3 hours in.  We suddenly realized we were quite low on gas, but if you’ve ever been on the Kansas turnpike, you know that there is a large portion of nothingness for miles. Our gauge was telling us that we had 0 miles of gas left, and we still had 14 miles to go.

Our gas gauge lies apparently…because somehow we made it all the way.  A gas station has never looked so beautiful, especially at 3 am.

Upon arriving in Iowa, we first hit up the little town, Fort Madison, where the guys’ tuxes were waiting.  Before picking them up, however, we found this cute little cafe in the middle of town.  It was so quaint…and it literally put a smile on face for many reasons.

cute atmosphere and sweet friends (and husband:)

Japanese Sencha Green Tea

whole wheat toast with Barney Butter from my HLS swag bag

a big bowl of fruit

I was feeling really pretty terrible by the time we got to Fort Madison – my eyes were bloodshot and burning, my body was stiff and cramped everywhere…and I needed a serious shower.  But this little cafe, Wild Whisk, made me so very happy!  It was the breath of fresh air I needed with a healthy breakfast and some delicious tea.

Then we walked to the tux place.  And I snapped photos of all the quaintness.

handsome husband:)

We finally made it all the way to Burlington at about 11am, and after some puppy dog eyes and coercing with the front desk clerk were able to snag an early check in.

I showered and then hopped into bed, feeling so blessed to have my husband on one side of me and our wonderful friends in the next bed over (not awkward at all:).  We are sharing a room this afternoon, and then tonight the guys will stay together for the bachelor party, and Em and I will stay here.  I spent the rest of the afternoon just like this.

Tonight we enjoyed the evening celebrating with our friends at their rehearsal dinner.  And it was lovely.  More of our Iowa adventure to come tomorrow!

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and we’re off!

Today has been quite the whirlwind!

I got up this morning and went for a quick and chilly 4 mile run.  When I got back I rewarded myself with a delicious green smoothie.

Aside from three tutoring appointments and a yoga class, I spent the rest of the day preparing for our trip!

the goods

Let’s see, we’ve got bananas, rice cakes, almond butter, Pirate’s Booty, larabars out the wazoo, honeycrisp apples!, and a few random samples leftover from my HLS swag bag.  I also tossed in my Vega Shake n Go smoothie mix.  This girl is definitely not going to go hungry!  My motto is you can never be too prepared for a road trip.  Besides, I’m thinking Burlington, Iowa probably doesn’t have tons in the way of healthy restaurants.

Yes, that’s right – I said Burlington, IOWA!

You guys had a lot of good/legitimate guesses earlier, but I only had two people specifically guess Iowa – Amanda from Vegacious and Amber from Stay at Home Mom’s Musings.  So, with two correct guesses, I had to draw a name.

Congratulations Amanda!  Email me your address, and as soon as I get back from our trip I’ll bake you some cookies:)

Kind of ironic too, considering Amanda lives in Iowa!

Anyway, I gotta run…err, drive that is.  We’re leaving right now (10:45 pm) and driving thought the night.  Talk about miserable!! ;)   JK.  Hopefully it won’t be too bad.

Our hotel has wifi, though, so I’ll talk to ya’ll tomorrow!


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want some cookies?

And the celebration of fall continues…

Breakfast this morning.

Overnight oats prepared with 1/3 cup soy vanilla yogurt, 1/3 cup almond milk, 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 canned pumpkin, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp molasses, and a sprinkle of unsweetened dried cranberries. I also made a trip to Panera with the husband before work – a bagel for him and a half decaf black coffee for me.

Today has been ultra busy because I’ve been preparing for a trip!  We are leaving tomorrow night with some friends to roadtrip somewhere across the U.S.  I’ll leave you with a hint as to where it might be.

I’ll choose one comment out of all of you who guess correctly by tomorrow night at 8pm, and I’ll mail you a batch of my very favorite homemade vegan cookies.

Let’s face it – I’m really just looking for an excuse to bake cookies for one of my fabulous readers.  I love you guys:)


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back in town

Wow – thank you all so much for the sweet comments on my Project Food Blog entry #2!  You guys sure know how to make a girl feel good.  If it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t even be participating in the second round, so thank you, thank you!

Voting for Challenge #2 started this morning.  You can go here to read my entry (and others!) and vote.  Your support means so much to me:)

This morning started out as a celebration of the arrival of the fall season to Oklahoma.  I woke up with a serious craving for pumpkin – so serious in fact that I made a special trip to the grocery store to see if Libby was back in town yet…

Sheeee’s baaaaaaack!

We had a joyous reunion, which involved 1 cup almond milk, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp molasses and ice (recipe stolen from Angela).  I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time I was drinking it.  Made me feel all warm inside:)

I spent the morning working on some projects, and then wrapped up just in time for lunch.  Lunch was a bit hurried as I was rushing to meet for my 1st tutoring appointment of the afternoon.  I threw together an easy peanut butter and banana sandwich on that amazing bread I raved about last week.  It’s actually a little stale now, but still good for toasting!

Probably would have been best to get some veggies in at lunch, but sometimes ya just gotta go with it:)

We spent a majority of this evening doing something that is overdue, and not fun in any way.

We put our little Mini Cooper up for sale.

I spent some one-on-one time with her at the car wash, getting her all gussied up and ready for a photo shoot.  Then the husband and I took her out and snapped some pics – and she is now officially up on Craigslist.

It’s a sad day at the McCoy house.  But not as sad as the day we actually sell her will be.  We absolutely love our little car.  We got her last year on my very first day of teaching.  I needed a reliable car with good gas mileage in which to commute, and considering we’d both been eyeing Minis for quite some time it was the perfect solution.

not sure what’s going on with my hair here – all it took was one day with those teenagers I guess;)

Anyway, I know that it’s just a car – and I know that material possessions are not the most important thing.  In fact, I’ve been thinking lately that I don’t want to feel so attached to an object.  My goal is to live my life with my hands open to God, recognizing that nothing I have is really mine…it’s all His. So, I’m really praying that I’ll be able to view this as an opportunity to glorify Him by giving up this thing that I feel is so important, but really only holds worldly value.


Now we just have to work on Olive being able to let go.

“Olive, get on your perch!” (iPhone pic taken last winter)

So, if you live in Oklahoma and are looking for the cutest little, fuel efficient car around you can check out the listing here, or shoot me an email.

Well, I’m off to make some pumpkin overnight oats for tomorrow morning – I have a feeling Libby and I will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming weeks:)  Hope ya’ll had a great Monday!

Do you get attached to the car that you drive?  Have you ever had to sell a car that you really loved?  Would it be hard for you to sell the one you drive now?  Please tell me I’m not crazy….

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Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic

It was July of 2008.  The husband and I had just finished up a year-long stint in Thailand and were spending our final days in southeast Asia.  Vietnam to be exact.

During our time there, we walked the streets of Hanoi, taking in the smells of motorbike exhaust and meats from the street vendors.  We sailed Halong Bay, relishing the beauty and feeling the hot sun soak into our faces.  We watched the people as they went about their lives, and even though the setting was quite different than our country, there was a particular charm that simply couldn’t be captured in a photo.

We left feeling enamored with the Vietnamese culture – the food, the landscape, the somber, yet smiling people – and yet also sad to be leaving after only three short days.  I’ve reminisced about our time there many times since, but it wasn’t until today that I felt I was transplanted back to those days.  As my kitchen was infiltrated with the aroma of ginger, basil, chili peppers and mushrooms I was suddenly once again meandering down the streets of Hanoi, sidestepping tiny children and stray dogs, and taking it all in.  And that first bite of Vegetarian Pho – oh that first bite!  My mouth was filled with noodles and warm broth.  My eyes began to water as I felt the heat begin to spread.  I tasted Vietnam.

Vegetarian Pho – a classic Vietnamese dish
recipe adapted from here

Ingredients for broth

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 12 sliced rounds of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp low-sodium tamari
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 fresh basil stems – set aside leaves
  • 5 cilantro stems – set aside leaves

Ingredients for Pho

  • 8 ounces Thai rice noodles
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tamari
  • 2 cups soybean sprouts
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2 inch sections
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup spicy basil leaves
  • 1 chili pepper, sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup arugula


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tofu slices into a shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine olive oil, 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar, molasses and tamari and mix well.  Pour marinade over tofu, and turn tofu to coat both sides.  Bake for 25 minutes (I like mine well-done!).
  3. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Add vegetable broth, shallots, onion, mushrooms, anise star, garlic ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, pepper, cinnamon sticks, 3 tbsp tamari, basil stems and cilantro stems.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare to be engulfed with the smells of Vietnam.
  5. With about 5 minutes simmering time remaining, bring a small pot of water to boil.  Add rice noodles and allow to boil for about 3 minutes.  When soft, drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Strain broth and return to pot.  Discard solid ingredients.
  7. Divide noodles among 6 bowls.  Pour broth over noodles and top with arugula, green onions, chili pepper slices, tofu, and bean sprouts.  Serve cilantro, basil and lime wedges on the side to be stirred into soup as desired.

The husband and I enjoyed this dish with a side of vegetarian summer rolls and a spicy peanut sauce.  A perfect pairing.

Thank you all so much for putting in a vote for my entry in the Project Food Blog Challenge #1! I was so honored, happy and admittedly a bit surprised to advance to the next challenge.  When I first began to plot my take on challenge #2, a classic dish from another country, I knew without a doubt what I wanted to do.  That was the easy part.

The hard part was finding all the right ingredients!  I first stopped by my farmer’s market for the fresh herbs, cilantro, peppers and onion.  Next, I headed to our local ethnic foods store where I picked up many of the rest of the ingredients.  I had a little trouble finding watercress, so I opted for arugula plus a dash of black pepper instead.

I loved making this dish – it’s something I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to make had it not been for this challenge, but recreating an experience that was so impactful completely made my day.

And I have a feeling I’ll be reliving it for days to come considering the large amount of Pho in my fridge and the smell that has reached to the far depths of my house.

I would love to have your vote for this challenge if you deem my entry worthy.  You can vote here starting tomorrow!!

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