Meow Moment: Happy Birthday, Shep!

I know I have a slight, or #letsbehonest not so slight, tendency to obsess over my furbaby. But, this month it's all about him. It's his birthday - he's officially a whopping FOUR years old! (What, you don't celebrate your pet's birthday? Shame on you.)

When I think about it, it's hard to believe I've hosted this fuzzy little monster in my home for that long. Truthfully, though, I can't imagine my home being complete without him anymore. He's a bit of a terror at times, but aren't we all? Pets have a magical way of changing our lives - and Shep came into my life right when I needed him. He's taught me patience and the importance of stability, but above all, he's taught me that sometimes you just need a good nap and some unconditional love to make all your problems melt away.

Here's to the cat who jumps in all of my pictures, who likes to whine until I pick him up, who puts up with all of my overbearing snuggles and kisses, and who is - hands down - the best heating pad on the planet (which is just #purrfect now that the weather is getting cold again).



Day Trippin': Apple Picking at Wilkens Fruit & Fir Farm

As soon as there was even so much as a hint of chill in the air this season, I knew it was time - time to go apple picking. *Cue happy dance.*

Call it basic (sidebar: I kind of hate that everything that is actually fun is now gleefully given this negative term), call it tradition (three years is enough to call it a tradition, I think?), or call it whatever you want (I can't stop you). There's really nothing like being able to go out into a real-life orchard, picking your own fresh apples straight from the tree, and eating them in a field of green grass, wandering around with some good company. Last year, we took a trip out to Outhouse Orchards, a place I had been to once before - but this year, I needed a change.

There are so many orchards in the New York area that it's pretty darn easy to find another; and with the guidance of a fellow apple-lovin' friend, we trekked upstate to Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm, camera in hand to document the brilliance of a full orchard at the beginning of the season. There were apples all over the trees - some branches were so heavy with them that they grazed the ground with the weight of the fruit, ripe and ready to be plucked. So pluck them is exactly what we did. Our bags stuffed and our tummies full of goodness, we headed over to the next stop: the pumpkin patch.

If you follow me on Instagram at all, you know that I like to name my pumpkins. I believe that every thing you bring home with you that's going to occupy your life for a matter of time deserves a good name, don't you? (Or am I the only one that named my toaster?) This year, my miniature pumpkin was nice and round - with a gorgeous, symmetrical grooved pattern if I do say so myself - and a curved, but not wonky, stem. I saw him and knew we were meant to be; and I named him Gregory because he looked like a Gregory. 

And what is a trip to the orchard without apple cider donuts, I ask you? It's nothing. Not ones to miss out, we waited in line to grab a half dozen warm apple cider donuts (each, not to share, mind you), paired with fresh hot apple cider (natch), then snatched a picnic table outside to nosh. I ate two donuts sitting there, and tried my best to save the rest for the next day - but, properly failed after I got home and ate the other four. Le sigh. Apple cider donuts just aren't the same the next day, right? I was doing myself a favor. Finally, I grabbed some fresh farm corn from the market as my friend looked for some canned goodies, and we were off.

And what of the other apples? Well, y'all know me too well, I think... They're going into a pie. Recipe to come! Also, sorry, but I just *have* to throw this in here because I think it shows my true enthusiasm for fresh apples:

Have you ever been apple picking? I'd love to hear what you do with leftover apples, and if you have the willpower to control yourself around apple cider donuts (unlike me). Leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail: hippieteaparty@gmail.com. Enjoy fall, y'all! Them apples need to be picked; they won't pick themselves.


My Recipe Book: The Best Avocado Toast (Vegan)

When it gets chilly out, I have a tendency (like many humans) to turn to things that comfort me. And, being a carb-lover, one of my favorite things on the planet is fresh, warm, toast. As a kid, my mother would occasionally make us cinnamon sugar toast as a special treat - and to this day, I still keep a small container of cinnamon sugar in my spice rack (here's how to make some for yourself). Now that I'm older - and admittedly looking for a less sugary snack - I've been searching for other ways to kick bread up a notch, with different spreads and toppings as well as experimenting with making it in the toaster, the oven, or on the stove-top.

Listen, I'm not re-inventing the wheel here by any means, but when it comes to toast, you've got a fresh palate to work with each slice.

I know that I'm not the only one who has a passion for toast; last year, the "artisanal toast" trend really took off, with restaurants charging upwards of $4 to $5 for a slice. I'm not sure who the first person was to ever put avocado on top of their toast in the morning - but let me tell you, that person is a genius. I mean, I love avocados in every form, y'all: guacamole, sliced in a wrap or sandwich, on their own with a little salad dressing on top (yum). But the first time that I put avocado toast in my mouth, I knew it was going to be a new go-to for me.

Avocados are a magical super food. Each one is packed with nutrients and vitamins, on top of those ever-important antioxidants - lowering your risk of certain diseases, making your skin more vibrant and healthy, and protecting your vital organs. On top of that, with pink Himalayan sea salt (similarly packed with a ton of minerals and vitamins) and cacao nibs (which have a ton of fiber and more antioxidants than you can dream of), this version of avocado toast is a health kick, disguised with a sweet and creamy taste. The texture of the avocado complemented by the hint of chocolate in the cacao nibs? It takes me to a downright heavenly place every single time.

The Best Avocado Toast (Vegan)
Recipe by yours truly. Easily adaptable! 

- Your Favorite Bread (I usually pick up the latest multi-grain from the local bakery - be sure to ask and make sure it's vegan!)
- Half of a Fresh Avocado
- A Splash of Lemon or Lemon Juice (optional)
- A Pinch of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
- 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon of Cacao Nibs

1. Take one slice of bread and toast it in a toaster until *just* golden crisp.
2. Take half of the avocado and smash it with a fork - until it's a good creamy consistency, but there are still small hunks of it left whole.
3. Sprinkle the masked avocado with fresh or organic lemon juice, and garnish with a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.
4. Spread the mashed avocado onto toast, and top with cacao nibs. Enjoy with fresh blackberries and a hot cup of your favorite tea. 

Do you like avocado toast - or any toast, really - as much as I do? Share a picture with me on social media or by e-mailing me at hippieteaparty@gmail.com. Happy eating, y'all!

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