Travel Recap: Colorado

Wednesday:

Wednesday night I landed around 5:00pm Denver time and my sister kindly offered to pick me up from the airport since she got off work early that day, which I was super thankful for because Millie was NOT having a good travel day (usually she does fine, but she, like everyone, has her days she is not feelin’ it).

After waiting 5ever for my luggage, we headed to my sister and her husbands place, stopping for tofu and kombucha at Natural Grocer’s along the way.

Disclaimer: Millie does not engage in recreational marijuana lol; this was a joke!

Back at her place, her husband whipped up a Super yummy cauliflower rice stir fry with crumbled tofu and a spicy peanut sauce. I didn’t take a photo cause #hanger but it was YUMMY in my tummy.

After that we just kinda chilled and hung out until bedtime. I was pooped.

Thursday:

I didn’t sleep well AT ALL on Wednesday night, and neither did Millie. I think it was the altitude. And then Millie woke me up for the zillionth time at 4:00am and I decided to put her out and feed her. And after that, I was just up, and couldn’t fall back asleep no matter how hard I tried.

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Jenn and Tyler both worked Thursday, so I went to a free birthday Yoga class at CorePower, half napped, and worked in the guest bed the whole day with Millie. Anyone else get super pooped while adjusting to altitude? I feel WIPED the entire first day.

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Then, at night, the three of us met up with my friend Vic to celebrate my birthday early with dinner at True Food Kitchen Denver. I started off with this really yummy house-made ginger tea with lemon thing. Because, you know, turn up.

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We ordered a bunch of stuff to share including a butternut squash pizza with almond milk ricotta, a charred cauliflower with a yummy vinaigrette glaze and dates, tofu mushroom lettuce cups, a seasonal salad with a bunch of burnt veggies and squash and white beans and pomegranate, a veggie bowl with teriyaki glazed sweet potatoes, quinoa + hemp seeds, avocado and some other veggies, and a winter squash toast appetizer.

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Noms.

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The charred cauliflower was my favorite. I also was SO looking forward to redeeming my birthday dessert and they were out. Boo. Looks like no bday desserts for me once again this year.

After dinner, we went back to their place, put the pups out, and went to bed.

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Friday:

Friday my sister had off work so we took the pups hiking at Three sisters wilderness area. Millie had SO MUCH FUN it was insane.

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There were many sniffs involved!

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Afterwords we headed back to her place to shower. In the afternoon, the three of us ventured out to Whole Foods in search of vegan cheese, fruit, veggies, guac, crackers, and other goodies to make a charcuterie plate for dinner. Whole Foods ended up being out of many of the cheeses we wanted (womp womp) but we still picked up some yummy ones and nice spread. I reviewed the ones we tried here.

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We also got Hail Mery’s pies which I reviewed here.

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After that we played some board games and chilled and went to bed early.

Saturday:

Saturday we left in the morning for Rocky Mountain National Park. We did a nice walk around a frozen lake and played on the ice a bit.

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I had fun with portrait mode.

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After, we stopped in Boulder, CO for the Celestial Seasonings tea factory tour!

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It was pretty legit considering it was a completely free tour. While we were waiting for the tour to start, we got LOTS of tea samples and were offered the ability to have any flavor brewed for us to try. The tea tour was about an hour, and included a video about the company, as well as a walk-through of the facilities. The mint room smelled so minty it hurt my eyes!

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Next, we hit up Whole Foods Boulder to check out the Beyond Meat Sausage since we were close by they have the Beyond Burger Bar there.

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The Beyond Burger bar is where the whole Beyond Burger got it’s start, and it’s currently the only place in the country you can get it. I’m writing a whole review for Spoon, which I will link here once it’s live, but long story short, it was good!

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It came with these weird quinoa tots. And Jenn and I also ate salads.

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After we got back, I showered and did some homework while Jenn napped and Tyler gamed.

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Eventually I got hangry and woke Jenn up and we ate leftovers from the previous night for dinner with zero pants or fancy arrangement, all standing around the kitchen island inhaling food like savages.

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We finished off the evening at C-Squared, a local cider brewery, where we met up with our friend Vic and some of her friends / boyfriend. GTs.

Sunday:

Sunday I slept until 6:40am (late for me). Millie was also so pooped she didn’t want to get out of bed!

I tried to bake something but messed it up (I’m going to blame never before baking at altitude lol). Didn’t matter much, though, since we ventured out to Thump (not Trump) for coffee. 

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At Thump, I spotted a vegan coconut almond scone that was out.of.this.world.

I’m not a huge scone person but if all scones tasted like this one I would be. The inside was super fluffy and the outside was crispy and had crunchy caramelized coconut flakes and the whole thing just tasted like fluffy almond extract which is one of my favorite flavors EVER.

Tyler and I noshed on this while we walked the dogs at Chessman’s park.

Millie rode co-pilot home. We quickly dropped off the pups and headed to brunch at Vital Root.

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Per this post, Vital Root USED TO have the best avocado toast on earth. They changed it significantly and now it is MEH! They took away the crispy chickpeas, balsamic glaze, and spicy chili sauce…aka everything magical about it.

Also, maybe it was just the one I got, but it was like SOPPING with oil and super greasy and gave me gnarly acid reflex. I was super bummed. My sister’s tofu scramble was pretty tho lol.

I was in a poopy mood after that because I was bummed about the toast and sad about going back to the city. I just love hanging with Jenn and Tyler so much and really miss them. Plus, the city is just a hard place to go back to when you’ve been away.

I left for the airport around 3:00pm and off Millie and I went on our 5:50 flight to Newark. We landed around 11:00pm local time and Millie was a TOTAL rockstar traveler (#proudmamma).

And now it’s back to the grind! My bday is tomorrow and I plan to post a reflection post, as well as a review of my trip to Orchard Grocer soon. Stay tuned!

Reviewing Some Kitehill Vegan Cheeses

Hello from the east coast again! I just got back from my holiday break which involved a fun trip to Denver, CO to visit my sister and her husband. During the trip, we ate so many yummy things!

I thought I’d share some reviews of certain products, including a few vegan cheeses I tried recently. While in Denver, we decided to be fancy people and make a cheese board for a Friday night in. My sister’s husband is plant-based, and my sister is down to try anything, so we decided to splurge on a a bunch of vegan cheeses.

Sadly, the Whole Foods we went to was out of many of them (BOO!) but we still got a couple, along with some guacamole and hummus.

Anyways, I thought I’d do a quick mini review of what we tried in case anyone is curious!

1. Kitehill Herb & Chive Cheese

Price: $6.99 at Whole Foods

Review: This ‘cream cheese’ is darn delicious. The texture is a little softer than that of dairy cream cheese, but, in my opinion, even better for spreading and dipping.

I really liked this stuff. The plain variety Kitehill makes is great too. This Herb & Chive version packs a solid amount of flavor without being overpowering, making it a good addition to a cheeseboard and perfect for crackers, bread, or dipping pretzels and other goodies in.

I especially like it on roasted veggies and warm grains (like farro) so it gets all melty. It’s also good on toast or bagels or to add flavor to sandwiches and could see it adding something special dolloped on top of pasta.

Buy Again: Yup. No question about it.

2. Kitehill Ricotta

Price: $8.99 at Whole Foods

Review: This ricotta was so good. The texture was so on point you could serve to the biggest vegan cheese skeptic and they would not know the difference. Kitehill ricotta also had a very mild, creamy flavor that paired epically on bread with some sweet apricot jam. I could see this going well on pizzas or pasta. Or used for baking.

Yes, it’s pricy, but in my opinion, it was worth it. Sometimes when people gawk at high prices of vegan cheese (myself included) I try to remind them/myself that a lot of high quality dairy cheeses are quite expensive, too. So yes. Worth it if you need some ricotta.

Buy Again? Yup. No question.

3. Miyokos Kitchen Double Cream Sundried Tomato

Price: can’t remember exactly; I think between $6-9 at Whole Foods

Review: I liked this cheese. I thought it had a good tangy flavor from the sundried tomatoes and a nice, spreadable texture. Truly, this is more like a cheese dip than an actual cheese. It was really good spread on crackers and used as a pretzel dip. I could also see it going nicely on sandwiches to add some extra flavor, and/or dolloped on top of a roasted veggie pizza.

Buy again: Maybe, in the right occasion.

Hope you liked that mini review! Let me know in the comments if you like this kind of post. I find them kind of fun to write!

Review of Hail Merry’s Pies

Hello  from Denver, CO!

Earlier, I reviewed some vegan cheeses, and now I thought I’d review some vegan mini pies by Hail Merry’s that I’ve wanted to try for forever. I had heard they were yummy, but never went for them since they tend to be on the pricer side at my local Whole Foods (like $6 each, which for a tiny pie seems like a lot since I can gobble up desserts in 2 seconds flat).

When I saw that they were only $3.49 each at my sister’s local Natural Grocers, I excitedly decided to give them a try. I couldn’t decide which to get, so I ended up getting 3 so my sister and her husband and I could all try them.

And they were good! So good! Like, shockingly good for a tiny pie purchased from a refrigerator section of a grocery store. Here’s my full review of the 3 flavors I tried:

PS- Pardon the crappy poorly-lit photos; I ended up spontaneously reviewing this after-the-fact.

1. Vanilla Coconut Cream Pie

Review: This pie was different, and delicious! The crust of the pie was crumbly yet dense, and tasted buttery, almost like a graham cracker. I think it was made of nuts.

The filling was a luscious, rich and dense coconut cream layer, laced with hints of real vanilla flavor, and topped with unsweetened shredded coconut which added both a nice crunchy textural contrast and a neutral temperament to offset the sweet filling below.

Buy Again? Yes! This pie was my second favorite of the three we tried. I probably wouldn’t want a whole one to eat by myself, but a couple bites of this pie would be a satisfying addition to any dessert platter.

2. Dark Chocolate Almond Butter

Review: As I’m a HUGE chocolate + nut butter fan, I expected this one to be my favorite and it was the pie I was most excited to try. Sadly, I found this one a bit disappointing. Rather than eating like giant almond butter cup as I had imagined it would be, the pie had a crust and a filling that I didn’t think worked that well together.

I found the chocolate crust a bit dry and crumbly and did not find it to offer much other than a harsh dry cocoa flavor. It left me wanting a big gulp of almond milk. The filling, meanwhile, was also lackluster. The almond butter layer was quite thin and got lost between the crumbly crust and the layer of ganache-like chocolate that sat on top of it, which had the bizarre consistency of a tootsie roll.

Overall, this one just wasn’t the one for my mouth. It wasn’t bad, just not my favorite.

Buy Again? As much as I love dark chocolate and almond butter, this wasn’t my favorite, and I can’t see myself buying it again. I’d rather smear some almond butter on a piece of dark chocolate and call it a day. Oh well! You live and you learn! I’m still happy I tried it.

3. Meyer Lemon

Review: Meyer Lemon was the clear standout. This one was epic.

The tart had a thick, rich, and super lemony filling snuggled gently inside of a hearty yet crumbly crust.

The crust was perfect: nutty, crumbly yet ‘buttery’, and dense but flakey (very similar to the Vanilla Coconut Cream pie crust). It provided a nice contrast to the thick, smooth tangy filling.

Each bite was the perfect combination of smooth and crunchy, tangy and sweet, rich yet light blissful dessert delight that keeps you wanting just one more sliver…until before you know it, the pie is gone!

This pie reminded me a bit of the key lime pie at Peacefood (which is a very high compliment), and I truly believe this dessert could easily be served at a cafe or party and tasters would think it homemade!

Buy Again? YES YES YES! This is a pie I could easily eat by myself in one sitting. It is a treat for the tastebuds!

That’s all for the pies! Read my review of vegan cheeses here, and stay tuned for a full Colorado recap!

Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Bark with Sea Salt

Last night I was cleaning out the fridge/freezer/pantry (party) and started making a bunch of random things to use up odds and ends to help the organization process along.

Easy Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Bark

I whipped up some dark chocolate hazelnut bark with sea salt and was SUPER thrilled with the result. Chocolate + nuts + salt = my favorite. So obviously, I was into this.

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It was a spontaneous creation, but so good, and so simple, I decided to snap some phone pics today to put it on the blog in case anyone needs some #inspo for an easy yet impressive homemade chocolate treat.Easy Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Bark

This is basically a no-recipe recipe. You can use whatever nuts you fancy. Or you can add in some chopped figs/dates if you like. You really can’t mess it up.Easy Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Bark

No matter what you add, you’ll end up with delicious, rich, chocolate bark. It’s impressive to put on a plate at gatherings (so long as you keep it elevated if you have doggos) and/or bring to a party or dinner. It also takes minimal effort and is perfect for using up odds and ends in your baking pantry.

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I hope you make this bark and I hope you love it. Let me know if you do! Tag or DM me on Insta (@katherinebaker4) or leave a comment below.img_0427

Peace, love, and salty nutty chocolate!

Easy Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Barki

Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Bark with Sea Salt

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Freezer Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1-4, depending on how much you like chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped dark chocolate (or one bag dark chocolate chips) – I used Dark Chocolate Lover’s bar from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted or raw (based on your flavor preference, I used raw) whole or chopped hazelnuts, plus additional handful chopped for topping (about 1 3/4 cup total)
  • 1-2 tablespoon flakey sea salt

Method:

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Melt dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl using medium-high heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment until melted. This will take about 90-180 seconds, depending on your microwave.
  3. Stir in 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Chop additional handful for garnish and set aside.
  4. Spread mixture over prepared baking pan.
  5. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and sea salt over the top of the hazelnut bark.
  6. Place bark in freezer for at least 20 minutes or refrigerator for 60 minutes to set.
  7. Break bark into rough pieces with hands.
  8. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

It’s Okay To Not Love Your Body

As you can see from the title, this post is going to be about body image and self-acceptance, something I occasionally like to touch upon between recipes, life updates, and nutrition info.

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I write these posts fairly randomly; taking my virtual pen (fingers) to virtual paper (keyboard) when a streaming thought arises. Today, I had this epiphany, and I thought I’d share it with others here on the blog.

With all these New Year/new me posts going on, and pics of people posting progress of their health journeys/weight loss updates, I noticed a pattern: no matter how in-shape someone is, they usually aren’t satisfied. They always post about how much more they have to go until they reach their goals.

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Goals are great. Taking care of yourself is important. But it’s also okay, I decided, while looking at myself in the mirror at a barre class (which is my fav workout btw) that it’s totally okay to not love your body.

If you do, that’s great. I’m overwhelmed with happiness for you (genuinely) for reaching a level of self-acceptance that so few people seem to do. But I also think it’s fine if you don’t completely love your body.

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Personally, I don’t love every element of my body. There are plenty of things I don’t like about my image. I have monkey arms and legs, a flat pancake butt that looks awkward in many pants, and I’m an A-cup on a good day. My lowest rips stick out a little bit right over my Buddha belly, and I have an ever-increasing amount of wrinkles on my face, along with bags under my eyes so large you could use them to carry groceries.

So yeah. I don’t totally love my body or my appearance. But I’ve gotten to a place where I’m okay with it. Like, it’s fine. It’s just my body. I can tolerate it, appreciate it, and focus on other things in life, like school and work and being a dog mom. I think for body image, indifference is a perfectly acceptable and healthy place to be. And it’s a huge leap from being self-conscious about my body and image for years, especially during my many years of being teased.

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I’m also at a place in life where I have enough perspective to actually appreciate certain things my body can do. I am very thankful for my health, and after watching my disable mother suffer for so long, I’m damn thankful to be mobile and be able to walk, do errands, and exercise without pain. My legs work. My arms work. My brain works. I have enough food and water available to me that I can function and not stress over obtaining these basic needs. That’s pretty darn luxurious and I can appreciate it wholeheartedly.

So I guess the point of this post is that if you think there’s something wrong with you for not loving your body, there’s not. That said, if you absolutely hate your body, that’s something you should definitely work on. But you don’t have to totally and fully love every inch of your skin to be at ‘peace’ with your body. That’s hard, especially in a visually-driven society that is constantly pointing out ways we could look better. Working towards accepting, tolerating, and appreciating our bodies can be good enough. At least, in my opinion.

 

Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

Once upon a time I made these chocolate banana penguin things for my Vegan Bites bit on Spoon University’s Insta stories. They were fun. Putsy, but fun.

Loaf Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread

In an ideal world, the feet and noses were to be made with orange candies. But I didn’t have any and wasn’t motivated to spend money on a bag of them only to use a few (Spoon doesn’t pay me for VB for the record, and I buy all the materials for cooking with my own money…and as a grad student I have about $40 a week to feed, water and caffeinate myself…so I gotta be selective with where my money goes) so I improvised and used cut carrots.

While eating them and being like wow bananas and carrots frozen together is rather awkward, I had an epiphany that perhaps baked together they’d be delightful. And so, the incident inspired this Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

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So a few weeks later, I made some. And now I’m going to share it with you. I ended up enjoying the loaf. I think I like carrot cake as dessert with lots of icing and banana bread the regular way the best, but this was a really fun way to mix it up. Truly, if you like carrot cake and/or banana bread, you will probably enjoy this recipe. If you want, you can add a vegan cream cheese icing on top.

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Personally, I wanted it as a not-too-sweet snacking/breakfast loaf, so this is the frosting-less route I went. But you do you. Live your best life.

I made this recipe with shredded coconut, too, and eventually decided it distracted too much from the rest of it and have concluded it is better without it. If you want dem coconut shreds tho, add in about 1/4 cup unsweetened.

Vegan Carrot Cake Banana Bread.

Cheers to 2018, baking new things, and of course, BANANAS!

For regular banana bread, click here.

For dog banana bread, click here.

Vegan Carrot Cake Bread

Prep Time:  1 hour

Bake Time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 large very-ripe mashed bananas (or 2.5 small)
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, softened (or sub neutral oil like canola or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup brown or coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (can sub regular whole-wheat, all-purpose or additional oat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (made by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor or blender until a flour forms)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax (can sub chia seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup raisins or golden raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a banana loaf pan with softened non-dairy butter or oil.
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Shred carrots, or pulse into small pieces in a food processor. Set carrots aside
  3. Add melted butter or oil, sugar, non-dairy milk, and vanilla to bananas. Whisk together.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine whole wheat flour, almond meal, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, rolled oats and flax in a bowl. Whisk together until combined.
  5. Add half of dry mixture to wet. Fold together. Add remaining dry ingredients, and fold again.
  6. Add walnuts, pecans, and raisins to the mixture. Fold until combined.
  7. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes until fragrant, lightly golden, and a toothpick or fork inserted in the center comes out clean upon insertion and removal.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice and enjoy.

My Actual 2018 Intentions

I wrote a little while ago about some New Year’s resolutions that I believe are more fulfilling and life-giving than those related to weight-loss. But I thought I’d share my actual personal 2018 intentions that I’ve set over the past few days while reflecting on my previous year and what’s ahead.Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 3.08.34 PM

If you care, feel free to continue reading. If not, don’t worry, I’m sure there will be a food post to inspire your tastebuds soon. Personally I like reading these kinds of posts and try to write a blog I would want to read so here we go: my actual 2018 resolutions.

1. Spend less time doing things I dislike, and more time doing things I enjoyimg_9795

At some point in the last 6-ish months, I decided I want to stop spending time subjecting myself to self-induced misery.

Obviously, in life, there are times we must do things we don’t enjoy out of necessity. But I’m done self-selecting to engaging in optional activities that make me angry or irritated or feeling down. I’m done hanging out with people who drain me of my happiness or try to bring me down or try to belittle me. I’m finished with workouts I don’t actually like (goodbye running, hello barre classes!).

This also means focusing the time I must spend on things I don’t love (like certain errands, chores, or school/work assignments) so I have more time to do things that make me happy and bring up my vibes, like hanging with my pup and baking, and not feeling guilty about it. Fun, joy, and happiness are important. Life is too short to grind yourself to miserable bits.

2. Socialize a wee bit more

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I’m a hermit. I can cozy up and introvert myself into an abyss. All I need is my dog, my sittin’ pants, a cup of cocoa, and the internet. But I want to try to spend time with people I genuinely enjoy being around a bit more this year. Nothing crazy, just making more of an effort to be around people who bring me joy.

3. Stress less about things that really don’t matter

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Meaning I don’t waste my time or energy obsessing over things that are insignificant in the grand scheme of life. Like someone cutting me off in the parking lot, missing the A train and having to wait 20 minutes for the next one, disliking my expensive meal at a restaurant, or someone trolling me or my work online.

Just gotta take a deep breath, realize how insignificant I am and how the event is so minor in the grand scheme of the universe. I’m slowly getting better at this. And honestly, it’s so relieving.

4. Focus less on the past and more about how I can make my future better

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I used to obsess a ton over mistakes I made and spent a significant amount of time and energy being angry or angsty at people or events. Now I do this less. Because at some point I realized it literally does not serve me in any way. So I’m not doing it anymore. Gurl, bye.

5. Spend less time resenting New York, and more time enjoying it.

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We all know I had a bumpy start with moving back to the city. So bumpy, in fact, I ended up moving to Jersey. I don’t regret this, and I do believe that the space has been good for us.

But I really truly should start to appreciate the city more again, and maximize my time and opportunity there. This means eating more of NYC’s amazing food, taking in shows and events and opportunities while I’m there.

I’m certainly ready for something different after I finish my current degree, but I don’t wanna look back on my time in the city and regret not taking advantage of all the amazing things New York City does has to offer.

6. Spend more time doing things that allow my brain to slip into a semi-meditative state

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I’ve tried the meditation thing many times. It doesn’t work for me. I know it’s a practiced skill, but since it frustrates me currently I decided I’m not going to force trying (at least now).

So that means finding things that allow my brain to be in the chillest state possible. Activities where I don’t watch the clock and have no concept of time or space and my brain feels as chill and can wonder freely about without interruption or judgement. For me, this is baking, long walks with Mil-dawg, barre classes, and watching garbage TV while making lists.

7. Chill

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Yup.

8. Do things I’ve wanted to do for a long time and haven’t yet

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No more excuses. I’m gettin’ old. If not now, when. Hold me to this!

9. Eat more yummy foods

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Always a fulfilling goal to have.

10. Appreciate what I have and be less wasteful

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Less attitude, more gratitude kinda thing. And less food waste and more efforts to compost and recycle!

11. Continue to support growing creative talent

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This is something I’m super passionate about: I love supporting talented people trying to get their work out there.

The truth is, every photo, video, recipe, or blog post you see takes effort, and putting yourself out there is scary. You get backlash and hate and critique pretty much no matter what you do.

That’s why, when I see talent and effort, I love to support it. Over my years with Spoon, I’ve met and interacted with SO many people. I am constantly inspired by their creative talents, work ethic, and intellect.

I’ve also met and interacted with many other independent creators on various platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, the blog world, and more.

Here’s to people supporting each other and watching each other grow rather than competing with them or tearing them down!

That’s it for me! These aren’t really resolutions as much as aspirations to better myself/reach my goals. Hope you have a wonderful 2018 and if you have any #inspo for me please comment or message me on Insta!