We’re Going to Japan!

I’ve been so busy getting ready for our trip to Japan that I’ve forgotten to post about it! We’re leaving TOMORROW and I’ve been having a hard time sleeping lately because I’m so excited. It’s going to be a pretty epic trip.

First, we fly into Tokyo and do the city sights: Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi Park, Akihabara, the Ghibli Museum, cat cafes, Sengakuji, Sensoji, the Imperial Palace and palace gardens, Ueno Park, etc. We’re also taking a day trip up to the Fuji 5 Lakes area and going to Fuji-Q Highland, and amusement park, at the base of Mt Fuji. We should get some great views of Mt Fuji if it’s clear enough.

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Pink cherry blossom Yoyogi Park, Japan

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Then we head down to Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. Kiyomizudera, Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, Ryoanji, Fushimi Inari, and Nijo-jo Castle are all on our must-see list. We will take a day trip to Arashiyama and see the bamboo forest as well as some cool temples.

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Next, it’s off to Mt Koya. Mt Koya is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. It’s a small, secluded temple town has developed around the sect’s headquarters. We are staying at Ekoin, a 1,000 year old Buddhist temple built by one of Kobo Daishi’s disciples. They will serve us shōjin ryōri, traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine and we will participate in their morning services and Goma fire ritual. We’ll also see the Okunoin Cemetery, Kongobuji Temple, and walk the pilgrimage trails.

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On our way back to Kyoto we will stop in Nara to see the deer and the Kasuga-taisha Shrine.

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After a few more days in Kyoto we will finally go up to Hakone. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. It is famous for its hot springs and natural beauty. We are staying at the luxurious Gora Kadan and enjoying all of the comforts that a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) provides. Meals in your room (shōjin ryōri, of course), public and private baths, and a serene atmosphere. We’ll probably do some hot spring hopping as well as see the local temples. Hakone used to be an important checkpoint along the Tokaido highway and linked Tokyo and Kyoto during the feudal Edo Period. Now there is a reconstruction of a Tokaido checkpoint that I am pretty excited to see.

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We will spend our last day back in Tokyo. We have a reservation at Daigo for dinner, a two Michelin star restaurant in Tokyo that serves pretty fancy shōjin ryōri, and then we will spend the night at the Park Hyatt which is the hotel from Lost in Translation.

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Anyway, I need to pack! Enjoy these photos for now and like us on Facebook to get updates throughout the trip. I’ll be posting photos of what we’re doing and where we’re eating the whole time. See you when we get back!!!

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes

Ben made these cupcakes for us on Friday and they were AMAZING. I love every recipe I’ve tried from chef Chloe’s cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen, and this one from her blog was no different! I love the light, melt-in-your-mouth coconut frosting. Photo 1

Cupcakes
1 3/4 C White flour
1 C Sugar
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
½ tsp Salt
1 C Coconut milk
½ C Canola oil
2 Tbs Vanilla
1 Tbs White or apple cider vinegar

Frosting
1 C Coconut oil (solid at room temperature)
3 C Powdered sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
2-5 Tbs Coconut milk (or other nondairy milk)

Garnish
1/2 C Shredded coconut

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 (12-cup) cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners (recipe makes 14 cupcakes).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut milk, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, using a handheld or stand mixer beat the coconut oil until smooth. With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbs coconut milk at a time, as needed, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. You may not need to use all of the coconut milk. Beat on high for 2 more minutes until light and fluffy.

Frost cupcakes and then sprinkle with shredded coconut.

Recipe thanks to:
Chef Chloe

Sugar Cookies for Valentine’s Day

I know it’s a few Photo 2weeks after Valentine’s Day, but I really wanted to post this sugar cookie recipe. The day before Valentine’s day I decided I wanted to make some vegan sugar cookies for my coworkers so I called my mom and asked for her old recipe. Turns out her old recipe is actually a recipe she got from my kindergarten teacher, Mrs Dunn. It makes more of the flat-type sugar cookies, not the fluffy ones–but it’s what I grew up eating and I love them! The recipe was pretty easy to veganize and with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and some pink frosting they were perfect for Valentine’s day!

3/4 C Earth Balance
1 C Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
2 eggs’ worth of Ener-G Egg Replacer
2 1/2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Beat Earth Balance, sugar, vanilla, and Ener-G Egg Replacer until combined.

Beat in remaining ingredients. Roll dough out to about 1/3″-1/2″ thick and use cookie cutters to cut out the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just starting to get golden (not brown) around the edges. I even take mine out right before they start to become golden so they are softer. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack before attempting to move them. Frost once cool.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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It’s Been Way too Long

Wow, it’s been a long time since we posted. Eight months in fact! Now that things have calmed down just a tiny bit I really want to start posting again. SO I decided I should do a quick run-down of the last eight months to get everyone up to speed. Make sure you read (or at least scroll) all the way to the end! There is a surprise!

Let’s see… we went to Iceland! It was AMAZING. I’m really sad I never posted about it because I’ve already forgotten so much… but it was really fantastic. I have a ton more photos on our Facebook, but here’s a small taste. Iceland is an amazing place. The food was good and though we mostly fended for ourselves since we were driving around the island and to some pretty rural areas the restaurants we did eat in were great. It was a lot easier to be vegan in Iceland than I thought and the health food stores in Reykjavik were well-stocked. So much hiking, sightseeing, and waterfalls! I’ll never forget it.

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Ben with some Icelandic ponies (they’re so tiny compared to him!)

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Me in front of Gullfoss

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Us in front of Svartifoss

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Drinks in The Blue Lagoon

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Us in front of Jökulsárlón (glacier lagoon)

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Out puffin watching

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Núpsstaður chapel

We put a down payment on a lot in Herriman… and then changed our minds.

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That would have been our house

We bought a Subaru.

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Ben graduated with his Bachelor Degree.

Ben and I have the same degree from the same university :)

Ben and I have the same degree from the same university :)

I moved to a different department at my same company and started a whole new career as a project manager. Which means I work a lot of long hours…

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My car… alone… in the work parking lot

I cut and dyed my hair

I cut my hair!

Ooo la la

We went camping multiple times.

We took all my sisters to Goblin Valley

We took all of my sisters to Goblin Valley

Cuties!

Cuties!

Molly!

Molly!

Love them

Love them

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

I seriously love this picture... this is up Provo canyon

I seriously love this picture… this is up Provo canyon

Ben got a job here as a technical writer pretty much right after graduating. He got hired as an intern and then was brought on full-time. We are now DINKs (double income, no kids) and it’s SO WOW.

It's a R&D factory and it's pretty interesting stuff

It’s a R&D factory and it’s pretty interesting stuff

My sister left on an LDS mission… I miss her :(

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Rachel!

My brother got married in California. I was the first child to get married in my family so this second wedding was a pretty big deal. We love our new sister-in-law! We combined the wedding trip to California with some amazing food in San Diego.

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My cute family

Silliness ensues

Silliness ensued

Ben looked handsome the whole time

Ben looked handsome the whole time

We went to PAX in Seattle and did lots of nerdy things and ate lots of amazing food.

Friends!

Friends!

Drinks!

Drinks!

I met Jessica Nigri!

I met Jessica Nigri!

We went to the first ever Salt Lake City Comic Con!

Us with John De Lancie!!! (He is Q in Star Trek TNG)

Us with John De Lancie!!! (He is Q in Star Trek TNG)

We met up with some nerdy cosplay friends :)

We met up with some nerdy cosplay friends
(Ben is dressed as Naked Snake from MGS)

We moved to a beautiful 2-bdr flat in Lehi less than 5 minutes from my office (we’re renting). It was brand new and has granite counter tops, wood flooring, vaulted ceilings, and a garage. We love it!

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Molly settled in nicely

My brother left on an LDS mission.

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Such suave.

Ben decided it was funny to try on my clothes.

The man's got some legs

The man’s got some legs

Ben started taking piano lessons from my mom.

He's doing great!

He’s doing great!

I got myself possibly the best present I’ve ever gotten… this beautiful ragdoll kitten. I named her Winry (from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) and she is the love of my life.

My little precious!

My little precious!

We bought and set up a tree for the first time in our lives together (4 years now).

The pets helped

The pets helped

So cute

So cute

We hosted Thanksgiving

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Our beautiful table and tree

It was as delicious as it looks

It was as delicious as it looks

I fell in love

Winry is just a delight

We went to Disneyland.

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Lights in California Adventure

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Iron Man exhibit

Ben discovered SnapChat and I discovered Ben’s ability draw amazing penises. It’s been an interesting couple of months.

I will not say who that poor man is

I will not say who that poor man is

We played WAY too much League of Legends…

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Game face

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Winry thinks it’s interesting… but it’s not really her thing

And now we’re both level 30 and playing ranked games.

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Should I be proud? Or embarrassed?

Ben’s poem was published in Touchstones Journal and he won first place poetry.

It's really good

It’s really good

We hosted Christmas.

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Winry playing in the presents

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Winry is so tolerant… she didn’t even struggle

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We made Christmas brunch… mmm

We saw John Rhys Davies recite A Christmas Carol.

We saw John Rhys Davies recite A Christmas Carol

He was great!

We hosted a million board game/Pathfinder/LAN parties.

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Winry attended most of them

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The Game… of Thrones

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PATHFINDER

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League

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CS Go

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PATHFINDER

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Moar League

We went on an adorable winter/Valentine’s Day trip to Midway/Heber/Park City. Ben planned the whole thing to help me get away from work stress and it was the week before Valentine’s so it worked out great! It was SO amazing! and SO relaxing! Ben over-nighted the Dr Cow’s tasting set of cheeses and some chocolates to our hotel so I had no idea!

The Midway Ice Castles

The Midway Ice Castles

Swimming in the Homestead Crater

Swimming in the Homestead Crater

Skiing in Deer Valley

Skiing in Deer Valley

Dr Cow's cheese! Wine! Allison's Gourmet Chocolates! Fireplace!

Dr Cow’s cheese! Wine! Allison’s Gourmet chocolates! Fireplace!

I started actually guiding trails in Heber on the weekends. I was a guide down in Zion National Park for a few years back in the day and hated how they treated the horses and just their whole philosophy. I finally found an amazing woman up in Heber that takes such amazing care of her horses and really understands horse psychology. I started riding up there in August and now am actually guiding trails for her. I love bringing horses to people and helping people understand horses! Plus I love to ride :D

I started actually guiding trails in Heber

Picking our way up a sagebrush hill

Winry is now 8 months old and is the same weight as our other cat, Idunn. They are both 7.5 lbs. Winry will probably be about 16 lbs when full grown. Idunn is 3 so she won’t be growing any more. Crazy!

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I took this the other day while I was working from home… in bed

And last… but currently the most exciting to me… we’re going to Japan in 36 days!!!! WHAT?? Yes! It’s true! We’ve been planning this trip since December and I’m so FREAKING excited. I think Ben is more excited though. He’s always wanted to go back since he lived there about 6 years ago and we’re finally are going. We’re going to Tokyo, Fuji 5 Lakes, Takayama, Hakone, Kyoto, and Mt Koya. I will do a whole post about it soon! With pictures!

Torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Aaaand I’m amazed you made it this far. This post was way longer than I thought it would be… I didn’t realize we had done so much in only 8 months! Hopefully I will post again very soon now that I’m all caught up.

We’re Going to Iceland!

I can’t believe we’re going to Iceland in FOUR DAYS. I’m so amazingly excited. We’re going to hang out in Reykjavik for a bit then drive all the way around the island for a fantastic road-trip-adventure with hiking, camping, and lots of picture-taking.

Wondering what we’re going to eat? Well, there are actually quite a few veggie-friendly restaurants in the main city, Reykjavik, including Á næstu grösum, Graenn Kostur (the green choice), Gardurinn (ecstasy’s heart garden), Nudluskalin (a noodle bar), The Laundrymat Cafe, and C is for Cookie. Before we leave Reykjavik we alslo plan to stop off at a few health food and grocery stores to stock up on non-perishable vegan items. We’re bringing all of our backpacking kitchen gear so we will be pretty set up to fend for ourselves. We’re packing a few freeze-dried meals too… just in case.

Anyway, I need to get back to packing and last-minute planning, so enjoy some photos I found on the internet! And get ready for our amazing photos when we return! Oh, and like us on Facebook for real-time pictures and updates during our trip.

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Backpacking Trip to Capitol Reef

This semester Ben is taking a nature writing class. As part of the class, they all go on a few backpacking/camping trips to get inspiration. And, since the professor is a friend of mine, he invited me along. The trip was 4 days and was in Capitol Reef National Park. We had originally planned to backpack for the first three days before arriving at the UVU Capitol Reef Field Station and staying there for the last night. However, the weather had quite a different plan for us.

Wondering what we ate? See this post.
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When we drove down on Friday it was rainy and foggy the whole drive down. It started snowing as soon as we got into the park; and not a dry snow either. A really wet, nasty snow and the clay mud was super wet and sticky. We decided not to set out that night on our backpacking adventure and camped in the Capitol Reef campground. When we woke up, we were covered with a blanket of snow and there were puddles and mud everywhere. We decided to head for the field station to warm up and dry out. The drive to the field stations is a long dirt road and it was pretty nuts in the mud.

We hung out at the field station for a day and made veggie fajitas for everyone (we brought the ingredients with us, the kitchen at the field station is really nice). The next day when we woke up there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it had warmed up a ton. So we set off for a one-nighter down Pleasant Creek and had a fantastic time. The sun was so warm I hung out in a tank top for a while—it made me want summer to come so bad!

All in all it was a great adventure. Not what I expected, but still super fun! I’m excited to get down to southern Utah a bit more this summer.

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Vegan Backpacking Food 5: Campfire Dinner and Lunch On-the-Go

To read about this trip and see photos of it, go here.
Check out all of the posts in our Vegan Backpacking Food series here.

Cooking Tofurkey Italian sausages over the fire. As long as you will be in a place with trees/shrubs you don't need to bring a stick, just cut a green branch and sharpen the end.

Cooking Tofurkey Italian sausages over the fire. As long as you will be in a place with trees/shrubs you don’t need to bring a stick, just cut a green branch and sharpen the end.

Tofurkey Italian sausages with chili in a piece of bread. It was just canned chili that we vacuum saved to save on weight.

Tofurkey Italian sausages with chili in a piece of bread. We bought canned chili then vacuum saved it to make it light and packable.

Cooking oatmeal for breakfast

Cooking oatmeal for breakfast

Instant oatmeal with powdered peanut butter and powdered soy milk

Instant oatmeal with powdered peanut butter and powdered soy milk

A new coffee alternative Ben was trying out... it was just ok

A new coffee alternative Ben was trying out… it was just ok, but if you’re a person who needs your coffee it’s definitely an option!

LOVE Luna bars. Almost every flavor is vegan!

LOVE Luna bars. Almost every flavor is vegan!

Breakfast on the second day... only had to carry the weight for a little bit :)

Breakfast on the second day… only had to carry the weight for a little bit :)

Snacks on the trail

Snacks on the trail… pistachios and my favorite kind of fruit leather.

Lunch on the trail: peanut butter packets and a baggie of jam on a whole wheat tortilla.

Lunch on the trail: Peanut butter packets and a baggie of jam on a whole wheat tortilla.

Just dump it on then spread it around

Just dump it on then spread it around

And fold it up! Easy to make, easy to eat.

And fold it up! Easy to make, easy to eat.