2017: My Year So Far

It’s been awhile, and I am certainly not maintaining this blog very well. Many apologies!

As many of you are well aware, 2017 has been an interesting and trying time for the US (and the world, tbh). I have been trying my best to keep my head up and be a positive member of my community. But, that’s really exhausting some days.

Waking up to news of hate, violence, and someone who isn’t fit for their job? This is not a world I want to be a part of. And, any of you with a head and a heart probably feel the same.

With that said, I want to share some of the positives that have happened in my world this year.

  1. My cousin had a baby, and he is absolutely adorable. I haven’t met him, as they live across the pond.
  2. People I know and love are expecting babies this year. I’m proud of all of them, especially as I know that they are bringing humans into the world who are going to be compassionate, kind, smart, and strong.
  3. My beloved 1999 Subaru is out of steam. She’s done. Because neighbors can be wonderful, in an effort to make life easy for everyone, I purchased my neighbor’s 2006 lightly driven PT Cruiser. This saved me money, took a car off our neighbor’s hands, and taken some stress out of my life.
  4. I took myself on vacation to Maui in April. I needed a week to be by myself and far away from work. I needed to swim in an ocean for hours at a time. I needed to relax and decompress. I loved being there and didn’t want to leave.
  5. I have been walking regularly. Again, I thrive when I have time by myself. These walks are great for listening to the hundreds of podcast episodes I have saved. I’m using my legs and taking care of my body.
  6. Finally, I took back control of my body and have been eating well. Along with the regular walking, my body has let go of the extra weight it was carrying around. I am feeling healthier and we’ll. I feel empowered and ready to take on the world, even if I am taking baby steps.
  7. After not reading, I am back into it. I plan on making a huge dent in my bookshelf by the end of the year. With all the reading, A Life In Paperback will start to be updated regularly.

Very soon, I am going to do some updated favorites posts (podcasts, skincare, makeup, movies, TV shows, music).

In the meantime, I am going to be working at my 9-5 while looking for new, more fulfilling work.

Ciao readers! Be well!

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She Stands Alone

Here’s a few facts about me: I’m approaching 35, I’m single, I don’t have any children, I identify as a cisgendered woman, I love cats (and appreciate dogs that are genetically coded to herd or rescue), and I am not ashamed of any of these.

Many single, childfree women of a certain age, particularly those who love cats, have such a bad reputation. Trust me. I am reminded of this constantly. In fact, something that always makes me laugh is when I politely turn down men I feel are not good matches for me, I often get such hate filled responses. These usually manage to include “no wonder why you’re still single; I bet you have ten cats and knit in your spare time.” These responses always clue me in even further to the fact that these men have not read a word of my dating profiles (that mention the most feminine thing I’ll do in my spare time take a long bath after an even longer run). Let me clarify, I love people who have ten cats and knit. You are giving ten adorable souls a home, and you are able to make your own clothes. I admire anyone who does both.

So, here I am, celebrating all you single women, cis or trans, especially those of you who are in your 30s (or older and wiser). I salute each and every one of you. Keep doing you, and whenever someone asks “when are you having kids?” or “you have 10 cats, right,” go ahead and tell them “Imma do me and don’t you fret about my choices, kthxbai.”

Let is rise up and celebrate each other. Let’s care for and support each other. If you witness a woman’s choices being judged and torn apart, be a voice of reason and love.

Vegan 101: Favorite Skincare

Often times, we forget that our skin is our largest organ and needs just as much love as our internal organs. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a specific daily routine when it comes to my skincare, especially as my days are never the same. For the most part, I take great care of my skin and am sure to slap some SPF on if I know I’m going to be outside longer than 20 minutes. No one is perfect, nor do I expect anyone to be.

Grandmothers, aunts, and mothers were all very correct in saying “you are what you eat.” The care you give your body often is very visible on your skin, in your eyes, and in your hair. Sure, a small group of people are lucky enough to eat horribly processed food and still look great, but most of us aren’t so lucky.

Being mindful of what we put in our bodies is a great way of ensuring our skin, eyes, nails, and hair will be happy. I’m not saying that eating vegan will solve your acne or dry skin or brittle nails. [Trust me, I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or doctor. Please consult a licensed professional if you plan on completely revamp your diet.] If you cannot forgo eating animals & their byproducts, the best thing you can do is limit your red meat, poultry, & pork, and focus more on omega rich seafood and eggs (including the yolk). Not only will your skin, hair, & nails appreciate you, your eyes & heart will as well.

As I choose not to eat any animal byproducts, I have to find other ways of getting great nutrition. I’m a fan of whole grains other than wheat, a variety of nuts (I make my own trail mix with raw nuts, dairy free dark chocolate, & salt), lentils & legumes, dense vegetables & dark, leafy greens, and lots of water. And, I pop a vegan Vitamin D, a vegan prenatal multivitamin (no, I’m not trying to get pregnant), and a vegan B-complex pill every day to ensure all my bases are covered. The nice thing about B vitamins is that any excess is secreted out through urine, so it is almost impossible to overdose on B vitamins. And, I do have days where I forget to take my supplements, so I’m never concerned about excess vitamins flowing through my body. Some people ask why I never take an iron supplement if I don’t eat meat. Simply put: I was only borderline anemic once in my life, and that was when I was about 12 or 13. Puberty & my menstrual cycle hit me really hard & at this time, I had started cutting out meat. My body was just adjusting. Since then, my iron levels have been very impressive (and frankly, often shocking) to everyone who has ever drawn my blood & done labs on my blood & any doctor who has evaluated my blood. I attribute my iron rich blood to the fact I love lentils & spinach.

Anyway, aside from eating for great skin, what one puts on their skin is important. I’m not about bashing skincare/cosmetics companies that aren’t considered vegan. I just like knowing that what I’m putting on my skin doesn’t have any animal byproducts in it. [I’m going to admit right now that, as I’m not perfect, I’m still using up a lot of stuff that I have which isn’t vegan solely based on the fact they have beeswax or honey in them.] When a company puts vegan on their label, that usually means that, by default, they are cruelty free. That’s what I hope, at least.

Here are some of my favorite skincare brands that are primarily or 100% Vegan (all are 100% cruelty free):

  1. Andalou Naturals [Please consult their FAQ page for their nonvegan products.]
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Schmidt’s Deodorant
  4. Tata Harper
  5. Acure Organics
  6. Herbivore Botanicals
  7. Yes To
  8. Juice Beauty

Currently, I am using products from Andalou, Yes To, Herbivore Botanicals, and, of course, trusty ol’ Schmidt’s Deodorant (it really is the best natural deodorant out there). I do mix up my routine sometimes, but right now, I’ve got a good thing going. [I’ll do an updated skincare routine very soon.]

Please not that this list is far from complete, and reflects brands I choose to use for my own skincare. Let google be your proverbial oyster (can we use pea, instead?). Some of the brands listed are budget friendly, others are expensive.

Here are some awesome resources for more comprehensive lists of cruelty free/vegan beauty brands:

  1. Cruelty Free Kitty
  2. PETA’s List
  3. The Organic Bunny
  4. Beauty By Britanie

 Nobody’s Perfect.

The thing about depression is that, while everyone experiences sadness and grief, those of us who are actually depressed get frustrated when people tell us it will pass. It often doesn’t. We’re lucky if we have one day in a long string of months in which we feel normal and can actually contribute to society in an acceptable manner. It’s also very frustrating when people are shocked when we actually seem genuinely happy. That diminishes our identities and is a huge hurdle we have to deal with.

I’ve known I’m not wired to be happy for two decades. Twenty years is a long time.

Here’s the thing: one can say that they don’t understand how anyone can be depressed. Well, those of us who struggle every single day to force a smile when we’re screaming on the inside can’t understand how people can be happy all the time. And, us depressed folk, we are highly functioning people. I’ve managed to stick around for twenty years. It’s been difficult, but I’ve made it work.

Describing depression isn’t an easy task. We all experience it in very unique ways. The general idea of it is the same, but we all cope with it in our own ways.

“Depression doesn’t define me.” and “I’m a real person with real value.” These two stand out. While depression is one of many parts of us, it isn’t who we are. We have plenty of things to offer this world. We are well aware of this. While it can often be challenging for some of us to be motivated to shine, we have the ability to. Instead of being stigmatized, we need to be loved equally.

There are great resources out there for those of us struggling with some sort of mental health spark. [I use the word spark, because issue, disease, and disorder each hold such negative connotation. Spark, for me, is a happy word. It is a motivating word in my life.]

If you live in a town or city with a public library, I highly suggest utilizing it. Depending on the town or city, there is usually a good selection of self-help books and books about mental health. Remember that not all self-help books are created equal. They often have a bad rap, but there are some great books out there, I promise! I suggest books on mindfulness, creativity, and other task based guides.

I know that it’s often difficult to find the strength or motivation to get up and move. But, movement really does help. If you live near a park, walk there with a book & some tea or coffee. Sit & read, breathe in some fresh air. Attempt to smile at three people. Then walk home. This helps me find some momentary peace.

If you are a college student, use the health services your school fees pay for. Many higher education have mental health services. They are staffed by a few licensed therapists (who are often professors at the school) and graduate students who are training to become therapists. It is an affordable way to get some counseling. If they don’t offer counseling, they are well connected to resources outside the school, and are able to assist you finding affordable therapy.

Also, research graduate schools in your area. Often graduate psychology programs will offer affordable group therapy or other affordable forms of care.

If you are religious, connecting with religious leaders are a great resource. They are usually trained to counsel individuals as well as lead a congregation. They are also able to direct you to proper venues for help.

My last suggestion is to search online for “affordable online therapy.” You’ll find a decent list of (legally operated) websites that offer counseling done online, usually through private chat or video.

I hope this helps everyone! This only scratches the surface, but it’s a start. If you know someone with a mental health spark, please educate yourself. If you experience a mental health spark yourself, I hope this motivates you to reach out for help.

Please remember that I am not a licensed therapist or doctor, nor do I have a Ph.D in psychology. I am speaking purely from my own experience. Always seek out the help of a licensed professional.

Get Motivated

As someone who has struggled with procrastination and motivation most of my life, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way(s) to get excited about each day. I work well under pressure, as do, I feel, many people. But, daily productivity makes life just a little easier.

The first thing is to create a clean & functional living environment. When your living space is clean and clutter free, it is easier to relax and enjoy downtime. Also, it allows one to designate different areas for different activities.

I’m currently in the middle of decluttering & deep cleaning my bedroom. I admit that is totally chaotic. And, the older I get, the less I can tolerate controlled chaos. So, I am sorting through clothes, cosmetics, books, etc., and compartmentalizing everything. Hopefully, by the end of the week my bedroom will be a million times better.

[Let’s be real for a moment, this blog post is a distraction from the decluttering process.]

Decluttering my room is a daunting task, as I am known for letting things pile up/collect. I’m not a hoarder; never have been, never will be. The thing is, when it comes to my stuff/my bedroom, I don’t clean as I go. It’s a bad habit, one that I am trying to break.

In order to get me pumped to reorganize, I’ll choose a Genius Mix on my iPod, and let the music guide me. If I am able to hear things that make me happy, I find myself feeling much more productive and willing to work. Some people need silence to be productive. I’m the opposite. While I am very sensitive to loud sounds (slamming doors, screaming babies, trains, etc. all stress me out), if I am in control of my auditory environment, I am a happy & motivated person. If you are like me, I suggest you make a few different playlists to cater to any mood, setting, or goal. I’ve got countless hours of music in my iTunes library, so it’s not very difficult to create a plethora of playlists.

Next, I make sure I am well fed and hydrated. I don’t focus well if I’m not hydrated. And, I hate feeling hungry. If it means having a bowl of berries and/or cashews within reach, that’s perfect. If the project is longer than a few hours, I take into consideration meal breaks. It’s always good to step away from something if you’ve been at it for a few hours.

Lastly, I set a goal time and/or date. I’ll post it on my mirror, my calendar, next to my bed – whatever reminds me to get stuff done. Within that scope, I make sure to factor in all other aspects of life: work, school, rest, exercise, and socializing. And, I definitely make sure I do take breaks. I’ll go at it for a few hours, take a break, then get back to the grind if there is more to do.

With that said, the most important thing to remember is to remind yourself that even if the task at hand is extremely daunting, there is a purpose to it, and the end result will be worth it. So, do what makes you most motivated. Music, the chance to see a movie you’ve always wanted, a yummy snack or dessert, a friend you’ve been dying to catch up with. Give yourself an attainable reward to look forward to and be reasonable with your expectations and timeframe.

Vegan Living 101: Building Your Kitchen

Lately, I’ve been considering what a vegan pantry should look like. There are things I have kept in stock at all times, even before I fully claimed veg*n status. All kitchens should share the same basic skeleton, vegan or not.

Being a student, working retail only part time, I don’t get to splurge on fancy meals every day. Creativity is essential, and dry goods are my friend.

Every vegan kitchen should have a well stocked pantry. The most important things are salt, pepper, olive and/or coconut oil, and a variety of herbs & spices. In my opinion, these are non-negotiable.

What spices & herbs (aside from salt & pepper) do I always have on hand?

  1. Sage
  2. Oregano
  3. Thyme
  4. Curry Powder
  5. Rosemary
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Cayenne
  8. Marjoram
  9. Bay Leaves
  10. Chili Powder
  11. Onion Powder
  12. Diced Dehydrated Garlic (or Shallots, or both!)
  13. Cumin
  14. Turmeric
  15. Red Pepper Flakes
  16. Chervil
  17. Vanilla, Almond, and Peppermint extracts
  18. Cacao Nibs or Powder

It’s nice to have this selection, especially when it comes time to making soup or cooking up a big batch of lentils or beans. The bay leaves help if someone is transitioning into a lentil/legume rich diet, as they apparently help break down the starch that causes stomach distress/gas. Plus, bay just makes any soup, stew, or pasta dish taste great! Just remember that bay leaves are designed to enhance flavor and to never be eaten.

Other essentials are dried beans & lentils. Beans & lentils are often considered the backbone of veg*n protein. A 1-lb bag of beans or lentils usually costs $1 or $2. A pound of legumes can feed a person for at least a week, if not longer. I say a week, because I love legumes.

Sure, they are carbohydrate rich, so one shouldn’t eat a huge mound of them. The carbohydrates in beans & lentils are comprised mainly of fibre, and let’s be real here, fibre is very essential to one’s overall health. I feel that fibre is just as important as protein & fat.

I consistently have a airtight container full of lentils. I love how versatile lentils are. You can make soup, stews, burgers, “meat”balls, chili, “meat” sauce for pasta, taco/burrito/fajita filling, or loafs out of them. In fact, sometime soon, I am going to actually try making burgers out of lentils.

If soaking & cooking beans isn’t your thing, I totally understand. You certainly can opt for the canned variety. However, canned beans always have a higher sodium content, even the low/reduced sodium kinds. Also, canned beans end up always being more expensive than the dried variety. I will always soak a large batch of beans the night before I have a day off, then cook them in the morning. Or, I’ll let them soak while I’m at work or school and cook them when I get home.

In my pantry, I also keep a variety of grains. Oatmeal is always there. I love oatmeal for breakfast. It also can be used for other dishes as a binder, and, of course, cookies. Quinoa is a grain that is great for veg*ns, as it has a decent amount of protein in it. And, apart from potatoes, I was raised with barley as a cheap, nutritious, and filling starch. I love barley. Sometimes, I’ll have a barley & oatmeal mixture for breakfast. And, I find myself wanting barely more than I want rice. Rice is a great staple to have, but I always opt for brown or wild rice. However, I find myself eating barley & quinoa more often.

I’m also a fan of nuts and nut butters. I know that some people are allergic to one or all nuts, so if this is you, ignore this little section. My favorites are almonds and cashews. There is always a bag of either or both hanging out. I also consistently have almond butter on the ready. I’ve found that a handful almonds is the closest thing veg*ns have to an egg… With the added benefit of fibre. Sure, there might be less iron, but that’s what spinach & kale are for.

When people ask me for advice on transitioning into a veg*n diet, the main question is “what do I do about protein?” Well, beans, lentils, nuts, and dense vegetables have sufficient protein for the average human being. But, if you are of the mindset that protein is king, I always suggest investing in a well-balanced vegan protein powder. I’m a huge fan of Vega powder and PlantFusion powder. PlantFusion is wonderful, because the have a variety of flavors, as well as unflavored. Many vegan athletes will often use the unflavored version to enhance mashed potatoes, oatmeal, or other savory dishes. I like the unflavored in a strawberry & almond-coconut milk smoothie. On a daily basis, I use PlantFusion chocolate powder, because I’m a chocoholic. I mix it with Almond Dream Unsweetened Chocolate (almond, duh) milk. So, the protein factor is easy for us veg*ns to deal with.

Last, a veg*n truly invested in their health should, of course, have a fridge constantly stocked with vegetables. But, remember, never buy more than you know you’ll eat. No one should be wasting any food!!

My dream fridge would be full of almond & coconut milk, colourful vegetables, and enough lentils/legumes to last the week. My dream freezer would be full of vegan sorbet & SoDelicious Simply Strawberry Coconut Milk ice cream. (No, SoDelicious is not sponsoring this post. I just love that specific ice cream so much.)

These are my staples, and I fell that every new & seasoned veg*n should invest in the same. Buying in bulk & having airtight containers are very helpful. Remember, our health is a constant journey. We need to treat ourselves & our planet well. And, we all choose our diets for different reasons. I have chosen this for myself, because it feels right to me. If you don’t agree with the veg*n lifestyle/diet, that is absolutely fine & [most of us] veg*ns respect that.

[This is just a little preemptive disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or nutritionist. Please just take what is written here at face value. This is what works for me and has worked for me for almost two decades. And, through discussions, this is what works for many veg*ns. If you are deciding to transition into a veg*n diet, please do further research, including talking to a licensed nutritionist and your primary care physician.]