Holiday Gifts for Vegetarians

I recently wrote a post featuring holiday gift ideas for beauty-obsessed travelers (like myself… hint, hint).  However, this morning I got yet another email from a distant family member asking what I wanted for Christmas, as apparently my original list wasn’t enough.  I thought I’d take a different spin this time around and share a vegetarian gift guide with some of the things that I think are most useful in a vegetarian kitchen.

A Magic Bullet Blender

magic bullet

Although I own two blenders and a food processor, when it comes time to grind or blend something I almost always turn to my Magic Bullet.  From grinding flax seeds to making fresh almond butter to preparing a morning smoothie, this device is kept front-and-center in my kitchen.

Glass Food Storage Containers

When I was younger I used to microwave not only in plastic, but even in styrofoam (maybe that’s why I only grew to be 5’4″…).  Now that I’m an adult I know better, and only use glass or ceramic dishes in the microwave.  A few years ago I invested in about a million Ziplock storage containers, so I tend to pack food in these plastic containers and then transfer to a proper plate when I get to a microwave.  If only someone would buy me a beautiful set of glass storage containers with snap-on lids, like these from SnapWare, I would have half the dishes to wash!

Fragrant Spices

spice market istanbul

I don’t miss that (supposedly) delicious meaty taste anymore, because all of my vegetarian dishes are seasoned beautifully.  Just today I made a vegetable tagine with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, cardamon and black pepper (check my Instagram to see what’s happening in my kitchen).  A new vegetarian would love this McCormick Gourmet Spice Rack, which comes fully-loaded with twenty-four different herbs and spices (help mounting the wall rack would be appreciated, too!).  Someone looking to broaden their cooking horizons might prefer this Indian Spice Set or a Mexican Spice Set from the same company.  The advanced chef might prefer a single, hard-to-find flavour like vadouvan, shichimi togarashi or zaatar.

A Vegetarian Cookbook

istanbul 1

  • I’ve already mentioned how much I love Jamie’s Italy.  It’s not fully-vegetarian, but it’s got lots of great vegetarian dishes.
  • The Rebar Modern Food Cookbook is my most-used, most-stained, most-wet-then-dried-then-wetted-again-then-dried-again cookbook.  It’s taken a beating in my kitchen over the past ten years, but every recipe has been worth it.  This cookbook has a very small number of recipes (like, three or four?) that include fish, but at least half are vegan or have modification instructions for vegans.
  • For the vegetarian (or pescatarian) whose New Years resolution is to get healthy, the Eat Clean Vegetarian Cookbook is full of wonderful dishes made from whole, healthy foods.
  • Mark Bittman’s definitive How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a must-have for vegetarians wanting to expand their culinary horizons and learn to cook intuitively.  He starts with a basic ingredient like cauliflower, and then describes a number of different ways to prepare it, from simple to complex.

Stocking Stuffers


Round out your gift-giving with small tokens of vegetarian appreciation.  Try a vegetarian ninja coffee mug, or a vegetarian princess travel mug.  See if you can squeeze a vegetarian t-shirt in there, too!  Hurraw makes raw vegan lip balm for dry, winter lips.  And of course, nobody was ever disappointed to find vegan chocolate truffles under the tree!

What do you want for Christmas?  Share in the comments!

Image Credits: Magic Bullet via Gwen, spices via Frank Kovalchek, stockings via Jim the Photographer.

Top 10 Places I’d Never Heard Of (Part 2)

Once again I thought I’d play with’s geographic coordinate generator to find ten random spots around the world that I’d never heard of before.  The first time I did this I learned about everything from Cochabamba to Dossor, so let’s see what previously-unknown places might pique my interest (or not) this time around.

10.  Louisa, USA

louisa kentucky

Image via OzinOH

My gut is to call this Louisa, Kentucky, but when I identify other cities only by country (as opposed to state) then I feel I should do the same for the ol’ USA.  Louisa is connected to Fort Gay, West Virginia by a quarter-mile bridge.

9.  Boa Visa, Brazil

Boa Vista

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Boa Vista is a city in northern Peru.  It initially grew around the local mining industry; the statue above is in honor of the region’s mining tradition.

8.  Ha’il, Saudi Arabia

hail saudi arabia

Image via Samira

Ha’il has roundabouts with big statues of traditional objects like coffee pots and animal-skin canteens in the centers.

7.  Ile d’Yeu, France

ile dyeu

Image via Steluma

One of France’s greatest haiku writers used to live on this island.

6.  Arba Minch, Ethiopia

arba minch

 Image via Jim

This city’s name translates to “forty springs”.  The town’s residential district is also the gateway to Nechisar National Park, where you can see zebras, crocodiles and hartebeest.

5.  Tahoua, Niger

tahoua niger

Photo via Julian Pierre

Tahoua serves mainly as a market town for the farming communities nearby.

4.  Wenzhou, China

wenzhou china

Image via Bert van Dijk

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure that I haven’t heard of Wenzhou.  Maybe I have?  I mean, it is the hometown of people such as the creator of China’s flag and Sui He (the second Chinese model ever to walk the Victoria’s Secret catwalk!).

3. Salekhard, Russia

Salekhard Russia

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Salekhard is in Siberia.  Some of its suburbs stretch north into the Arctic Circle.

2.  Agios Efstratios, Greece

agios efstratios greece

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Two islands this time around!  Do you think is trying to tell me something?  This island is named after Saint Eustratius, who ran away from home at a young age in order to live off bread and water in a monastery.  Runaways sure have come a long way.

1.  Banswara, India

banswara india

Image via Ankur Dave

The metropolitan region of Banswara is home to 51,941 males and 49,236 females.  In case you were wondering.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Angular

transit in the morning

I didn’t own a car until my mid-twenties.  As a young adult I had lived in Europe where transit was more than sufficient.  When I moved to Canada I thought I could continue relying on transit to meet my needs; I quickly learned that while this was possible, it was not enjoyable.  I would have to leave my house hours before work in order to arrive on time and often the roads were too snowy for the bus to even get up the hill to my house.  As you can see from this photo of the angular bus interior, not a lot of of other people relied on transit as their main source of transportation.  After about ten months of using transit I bought a car, which I have been driving happily to and from work every day since!

Mealtime Monday: Colca Canyon Trekking Food

colca canyon soup

I promised my thousands of Instagram followers* that I would show what kind of food vegetarians could expect to eat during a two-day Colca Canyon trek.  On the first day, our early breakfast was scrambled eggs and fresh white bread with jam.  We then trekked for about four hours before stopping for lunch.  The vegetarian lunch option is shown above.  It was a simple broth-based vegetable soup, also served with fresh bread.  I believe that tea was free, but I opted for a bottle of Coke (best decision ever!).  After hiking for a few more hours we stopped for the night.  Dinner was pasta with a simple tomato sauce, and I think I had a beer or two as well (probably not the best decision ever!).  The following morning we trekked up the canyon on empty stomachs, then had a similar breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee in a village at the top.  Overall, the meals were pretty good as far as trekking food goes, and they did seem to provide the right hit of carbs to keep me energized without feeling weighed down.

* Possibly a slight exaggeration.

WPC: Achieving the Colca Canyon Challenge

colca canyon peru

The theme of this week’s photo challenge is achievement.  At the moment, I feel like my most significant achievement is being within a few months of completing my masters degree, which I have been doing while also working full-time.  However, nobody wants to see a photo of the APA Style Guide, so I went with this photo from Peru’s Colca Canyon.  I took my coursework on the road with me last summer and traveled around Peru for three weeks.  When I was in Arequipa I learned about the two-day treks through the nearby Colca Canyon, and thought it would be nice to get outside of the city.  The trek ended up being more challenging than I, or the other hikers, had expected, and while several girls in my tour group opted to take a donkey back to the top of of the canyon on Day Two, I braved the pitch-black trails at 5:00 am and walked all the way to the top.  I celebrated my achievement with a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies and two months of exercise-induced asthma.

What is your favorite travel achievement?  Share it in the comments!

Holiday Gifts for Beautiful Travelers

The weather outside is frightful (-20 degrees!) and the drive to the mall on icy roads is anything but delightful.  Still, I braved the bad weather and headed to my nearest mega-mall, where I spent zero dollars and even got a free Starbucks coffee (thanks to the man who paid it forward by leaving hundreds of dollars on a gift card for the customers who came after him!).  I just wasn’t in the shopping mood today, and thought that perhaps instead of shopping for myself I could help you guys find the perfect holiday gifts for travelers and holiday gifts for girls who love beauty, so if you’re shopping for someone who loves travel and/or beauty, consider these gift ideas!

An Ipsy Subscription

ipsy april 2014

Ipsy is my current favorite subscription beauty program.  Each month they send me a customized beauty bag filled with four or five sample products (check out what I received in September and August).  These little samples help me identify the products that I love (and hate!), and are absolutely perfect for tossing into my backpack when I go traveling.  Ipsy subscriptions would also make a great gift for a young woman who is just beginning to learn about beauty.  Of course, you can buy a subscription for yourself or gift one to a friend.  For more information, or to sign up, click visit Ipsy.

A Year of Wanderlust

1001 places calendar

The 1001 Places to See Before You Die calendar has been a staple on my wall for years (this month’s destination is Utah, USA!).  The calendar is available in a beautiful wall-hanging format with a photo for every day of the month, or a desktop page-a-day format with even more beautiful images.  This is the perfect gift for anyone who has expressed interest in planning a trip to visit somewhere new, as well as anyone who loves to travel but will probably spend 2015 closer to home for professional, personal or financial reasons.  (This is probably not a good gift for someone in ill health, for obvious reasons…)

A Camera with GPS

tallinn shopping

Where in the world did I take that photo?  If it weren’t for my camera’s built in GPS, I would probably have no idea.  I used to come home from holidays with thousands of photos and no idea where each was from, but now a simple click of a button allows me to plot each and every photo on the map, oftentimes to within a meter or two of the exact place I was standing.  I am a die-hard Canon camera fan and would recommend the PowerShot SX280 for classic camera lovers, or a model like the D30 for those who might want to take their camera underwater.  Remember that when GPS is turned on it can drain the camera’s battery quickly, so it might be nice to toss in spare battery too (and remind the giftee to turn off the GPS before bed each night!).

Hostel Essentials

hostel dorm room

Every beautiful backpacker needs a microfiber towel for those morning when they have little time between the shower and the train (or plane, or boat, or bus…).  It’s also essential to have a cable lock and combination lock; the former will secure your pack to the luggage storage area on a train or in a hostel, while the latter will keep your laptop, wallet and passport securely in the provided lockers.

An Inspiring Travel Book

From linguistics to alcohol abuse, happiness-hunting to following in the footsteps of dictators, there is an inspiring travel story for every reader on your list.  Click through for a list of my favorites.

Travel-Sized Beauty Favorites


While Ipsy is a great way to test out all sort of new products, if you know there is a brand that someone loves, why not gift them an entire travel set from that line, so that they can take their favorites with them wherever they go?  This kit from Nuxe is one of my favorites, but I also love this eco-friendly kit from Burt’s Bees and the Happy Travels set from Philosophy.

A Dream Come True

Via Faisal Photography / Flickr

If you’ve got more money than you know what to do with, send some my way!  After you’ve sent some my way, then you can splurge on an amazing travel experience.  How about a Round the World plane ticket with Star Alliance?  Or a six-month cruise around the world?

Are you a beautiful traveler?  What would you love to receive this holiday season? 

WPC: Minimalist in Parque Salazar, Miraflores

parque salazar lima

A grey day in Lima, Peru.  A few blocks from El Parque del Amor, with its gigantic sculpture of embracing lovers.  This minimalist statue is most unexpected, but most appreciated.  Who needs kisses when you’ve got concrete?

Empties – October 2014


And that’s what happens when you forget that you set your camera’s ISO set to 3200 a few nights earlier, then take a photo in the bright afternoon sun!  Fortunately it’s just an empties post and not a once in a lifetime photo opportunity…

With no further ado, here’s what went into the trash in October.

  • Olay Regenerist Microsculpting Cream.  I got this on sale for $9.99.  At that price point it’s a great moisturizer for day and night use.
  • Maybelline Baby Lips in Quenched.  One of my many Baby Lips.
  • L’Oreal EverCreme Intense Nourishing Conditioner.  I always use up conditioner before its partner shampoo.  I literally have four almost-empty shampoo bottles in my shower.
  • Clinique foundation.  I don’t know the line; they don’t make it anymore.  It takes me years to use up a bottle of foundation.
  • Etude House Vitamin Complex sheet mask.  This one wasn’t my favorite; I used it after a night of heavy drinking and didn’t find that gave my skin the glow that some other masks offer.
  • Facelle “Intimate” Wash.  I bought this in Poland, I think, because the heavily-scented body wash I’d packed on a backpacking trip was causing irritation to my “sensitive” skin.  Now, I tend to carry a little bottle of ultra-gentle, unscented body wash when I travel.
  • Jason Purifying Tea Tree body wash.  It fights post-workout breakouts.
  • A decant of Signorina Eleganza perfume.
  • A sample of Makeup Artists’ Choice Gly-Luronic serum.  A great serum that I will definitely repurchase as a full-sized product.
  • Neutrogena Face Wash.  So glad to be done with this one.
  • A travel-sized Dove antiperspirant.  Not my fave scent.
  • A sample of Reem Acra perfume.  Liked this one a lot.
  • A sample of H2O Plus shampoo.  Nothing special.
  • Live Clean Fresh Face Clay Mask.  I didn’t use this one up in time, causing the consistency to change and the clay to stop absorbing anything.
  • Body Shop Tea Tree Oil.  I grab this when it’s on sale, either in store or through the website.

WPC: Descent at the Soldek Muzeum

soldek muzeum gdansk

Just looking at this makes my knees shake a little (which is saying a lot, considering I’m currently reclining on my sofa in my PJs).  In the spirit of this week’s photo challenge, looking at descent, I thought I’d share this photo taken on board the Soldek, a “ship-museum” docked in the harbour in Gdansk, Poland.  Does anyone else think the Soldek Muzeum could be a safety hazard?

Mealtime Monday: One of Everything, Please

chimera krakow

“I’ll have one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those and one of those please,” I said.  “Okay, and one of those.  And maybe one of those, too.  Fine, and one of those.”

That’s how it goes at the Chimera salad bar in Krakow.  While there is a proper, vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the lower level of this historic building, the real gem is the upstairs salad bar.  You pay by the number of dishes you want to try (I think there are six or seven on the plate above?) and then point to the different items along the thirty-metre long encased salad bar so that the staff can dish them up onto your plate.  There was also a selection of drinks; kvass is on the menu, as are celery milkshakes.  To top it all off you get to enjoy your meal in a beautiful, enclosed garden patio with lush greenery all around.