Vegan Living 101: Beginning

For a good portion of my life, I’ve been a quasi- to full-blown vegetarian. Seafood was the first thing to go, and I can’t even remember the last time I ate anything from the sea. Chicken was the last to go. For 11 years, chicken was the only meat I consumed, and, while I only ate it once or twice a year, I felt guilty doing so. For the last seven years, I haven’t touched any kind of animal flesh. However, I do occasionally have a splash of milk in my coffee if I’m at brunch and don’t want to make a fuss. I’ll also have the occasional bit of cheese and I’m trying my hardest to breakup with milk chocolate.

Soon, I’ll be living by myself, like I did just over a decade ago. This will be perfect for me to fine tune my vegan cooking skills. The only person I’ll have to feed every day is myself, so I can have complete control over the food that is kept and the food that I eat.

For those of you who don’t understand what veganism is all about, the simplest way to describe it is: a choice to abstain from any animal product or byproduct in everyday life, including nutrition, clothes, household items, cosmetics, and personal hygiene products. (The link provided is the Vegan wikipedia entry, and I feel like it does a good job explaining concepts.)

This means that the diet a vegan eats is completely void of anything that falls under the animal classification, including their excretions. One thing that drives us crazy is when a veg*n (an umbrella term that is inclusive of all vegetarians & vegans) gets asked “but you still eat fish, right?” This is a question that we get asked constantly and often results in some fierce eye rolling or a gobsmacked laugh. Sometimes, we’ll be blunt and ask “were you asleep when your fifth grade teacher taught you about animal classification?” Other times, we’ll be kind and say, “thanks for asking, however fish are technically animals, so we abstain from eating fish,” while screaming on the inside.

Here is a list of things vegans get asked if they eat, but don’t:
1. Fish/Shellfish/etc.
2. Honey
3. Poultry (this one really baffles me)
4. Milk/Cheese/Eggs
5. Anything with gelatin in it (i.e. most gummy candy, anything that is a mass produced gel)

I live in a part of the States that considers itself progressive and liberal. It was a hotbed of counter-culture activity in the 60s & 70s. Even with the runoff from that, I find that people are really confused by the concept of veganism. When having a discussion about it, I have found it turns out that people are confused by even the concept of vegetarianism.

So, a series of blog posts is born! I’m going to share a few posts that cover a variety of topics regarding veganism. These posts will include (and aren’t limited to) pantry & fridge staples, vegan candy, vegan cookbooks, vegan cosmetics & beauty products, vegan fashion, misconceptions, personal meal plans for 1, 3, and 7 days, and my favorite recipes.

Please contact me with any questions or possible topics you would like me to cover. Also, please know that I am not a nutritionist, chef, or MD. The information I am giving is purely from my own research, discussion with other people who live a vegan lifestyle, conversations with nutritionists & doctors, and my opinion. I’ll will be citing the information that I give you & will clarify if something is an opinion. If you don’t like or agree with my opinion, I do ask that you remain respectful in your approach. Part of veganism is respect for fellow beings, human and non-human.

Happy trails!!

Advertisements

I Can Be Your Hero Baby!

So, ladies who have the luxury of having things, including makeup, we often have a signature of ourselves. It could be just a thing we’re known for, like a niche musical taste or being the [xyz] girl, or it could be a signature part of our physical appearance.

Me? Well, many people have different things they attach to my persona, but one thing does seem to be a constant… My eyelashes. Almost every day I have people asking if they are fake or telling me how lucky I am. Yes, I’m glad I have long lashes, but I’m not lucky. The length of my lashes is set in DNA stone. This is one of the many positive traits that I biochemically got from my parents. [Thanks, you two!]

With that said, pretty much any mascara I swipe on works well for me. However, there are a select few mascaras that I swear by. And, because my lashes are naturally long & curly, these mascaras may not be for you. Let’s face it, people who want their lashes to look like mine have very short, sparse, straight lashes and the best option for them to replicate my lashes is very natural false lashes.

My hero mascaras:
1. Fresh SuperNova mascara. Sephora stopped selling this a really long time ago, which drives me bonkers! The only place I know that has it currently is the Fresh website & I can’t quite reason with myself ordering one $25 mascara every 3-4 months. Sure, I could call the Fresh boutique up in San Francisco, but again, I can’t fathom driving 30 miles into a crowded city for one tube of $25 mascara. But, it is still my ultimate favorite mascara…
2. Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara. I was gifted this mascara over the summer and immediately fell in love that I purchased a tube three months after falling in love with it. The brush is very similar to the SuperNova brush and the formula is almost as soft as SuperNova. Also, the finish was exactly the same as SuperNova, if not slightly better. So glad to find a replacement! I can get my hands on this mascara with a lot more ease, so I have a feeling this will be a staple for awhile. The name gets on my nerves, but I overlook it because it’s worth it.
3. Milani Runway Lashes mascara. Let me be honest here, I’m not a fan of many drugstore mascaras. For me, a lot of them don’t do much or feel to stiff, drying, or clumpy on my lashes. So I took a major leap of faith with this one. I was in a bind and needed a mascara. I don’t like carrying expensive mascara with me, so when I was due to meet someone, I needed something to wake my face up. $4.99 on a mascara was exactly the budget I was hoping for. I was immediately wowed. I love that I got volume, plushness, and a soft finish that I always love. I’m so happy with this mascara! If you are on a makeup budget, please invest in this mascara! Amazing results without hurting your wallet.

This mascara technically isn’t one of my heroes, but it deserves some recognition. Guerlain Cils d’Enfer Maxi Lash mascara. This mascara is pushing it as far as price. I always used to believe that $25 was far too much for mascara (SuperNova). Then I tried this on… It was love at first swipe. As I’m well stocked on mascara right now, I don’t own nor have I ever owned a tube of this $30 mascara. But, I might consider buying this as a gift to myself when my mascara stockpile is down to one lonely tube. I wish I could afford this mascara every three months. Let’s be real though, I’d rather switch between $23 and $4.99 every four months.

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite mascaras are! Please do share! Also, what is your signature?

August Faves!

With summer officially at an end and an autumnal breeze rustling outside my window, it’s time to share my favorites of August. I’m excited to share what I’ve been loving!

[Disclaimer: An asterisk (*) denotes something that was given to me as gratis to try. Everything else was paid for with my own hard earned money. As I’ve mentioned before, I will not review something given to me as gratis if I wasn’t satisfied with the product. I will, however, give any free product an honest & glowing review if I do love it, as I will repurchase the item.]

My absolute number one favorite of August has been the local library. I’ve always been a fan of any library, and have found our local library to been pretty awesome. The past few months, I’ve been making more of an effort to read for pleasure, but don’t want to shell out $15 each time I need a new book to read. I find that checking out a book from the library not only saves money, but gives me a deadline to finish a book. I’ve had to renew some books a couple times when I get a bit caught up with other things, but I’ve managed to get through a few books the last couple months. I highly suggest you get a library card & read!

If I haven’t mentioned, I am a skincare junkie. I love good, effective skincare that is gentle on the skin and full of skin & environment loving ingredients. I will use some “clinical” skincare if the ingredients list isn’t too scary or overwhelming, but I generally keep my skincare to the more natural side. [And, yes, there are many natural skincare lines with great clinical research supporting their products.]

I have such a hard time finding a shampoo that takes care of my scalp as well as keeping my aging Irish curls healthy. It’s been a long battle this past decade trying to find the right one. My scalp is extremely delicate and most shampoos I have tried create small sores in random spots on my scalp. Aveda’s Be Curly usually is fine, however my scalp sometimes will react to it. But, I think I may have found a winner. Aveda’s Rosemary Mint shampoo is currently working wonders for my scalp. I think this is primarily because it doesn’t have any sodium laurel/laureth sulfate or ammonium laurel/laureth sulfate in it (which wreak havoc on my scalp). It does, however, have vinegar in it. Just a few weeks ago, I had to make a baking soda paste mask & raw apple cider vinegar rinse for a horrific reaction I had on my scalp. The only thing that soothed & corrected the reaction was the baking soda & vinegar. So, I think that the small list of ingredients that includes rosemary, peppermint, and vinegar has helped keep my scalp at bay. Any remnants of the past reaction are almost gone & I have had no flare up since using this shampoo. YAY! So, I went out and bought a litre of it. Yes, an entire litre. I know that I’ll use all of it, even if it’ll take me six months. [You may notice that I like Aveda’s Rosemary Mint. The hand & body wash made an appearence in my Summer Empties post.]

This past month, I’ve used up almost of my first bottle of Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner. Back in June sometime, I bought two bottles of this toner at GNC as they were having a gold card sale on it. It’s alcohol free and has a good amount of aloe vera & rose in it, which I need for my dry skin. This toner is great after I’ve taken off my makeup. After using my makeup remover (I rotate between two: Ren Cleansing Balm or a double wash with the Sephora Foaming Cleanser) & drying my face, I’ll swipe a good dose of this all over, then let it dry.

I’ve also been loving with my Josie Maran Rosey Mist which I apply after my Thayer’s toner. Just a few spritzes seems to lock in a light veil of hydration because of the rose oil. This is superb for drier skins, although I am sure it will work really well for normal/combination skin types. I really wish I had bought two in one go, because I have to schlep all the way up to San Francisco to repurchase (I’m not a big online shopper when it comes to anything that’s not electronics). I know, #FirstWorldProblems. Next time I do go to San Francisco, I’ll hit up Sephora and buy at least two bottles.

This month, I have been obsessed with layering two Korres products in the evening. After cleansing, toning, spritzing, and slapping on one of the many serums I have (all geared for hyperpigmentation & aging), I start with the Wild Rose+Vitamin C Sleeping Facial. Oh my gosh, I know, I use a lot of stuff with rose in it. What can I say, I’m an Isles girl. So, I’ll massage that into my skin, including my neck. This “sleeping facial” can work as a night cream for normal to combination skin. For drier skin, another moisturizer can be applied. As my skin is on the drier side, I layer the Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial* on top. Man alive! This gets my skin feeling smooth, soft, and hydrated. The skin on my neck gets really rough if it isn’t hydrated properly, but this keeps my neck in check. This combination is working wonders for my skin. The Wild Rose will (hopefully) help with my discoloration and sun damage and the Greek Yoghurt is already working wonders for my dryness. I’ve noticed that if I don’t use the Greek Yoghurt cream one night, the next day my skin is visibly drier.

Like I said, I’m a skincare junkie, so there isn’t much makeup I’ve been fawning over this month. There is one thing that’s caught my eye, pun definitely intended. I’m always in the market for a new mascara, as Sephora stopped selling my one true mascara love (Fresh Supernova). Out of all of the mascaras that I have either bought or have been given to me to try, it took a long time for me to be blown away. So, when I came across a heavy tube of mascara in my cosmetics goody bag, I was hesitant to try it. The name is a bit off putting, even for a super liberal, outspoken gal like me. But, I’ve learned to ignore names of cosmetics if they get the job done. Okay, enough rambling. This mascara I’ve fallen in love with is Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara*. The name really isn’t an issue until someone asks what mascara I have on. My cheeks flush bright red and I find myself quietly saying the name. What I love about this mascara is that the brush is almost identical to the brush of Fresh Supernova. It is full, soft, and hourglass shape. And, the actual formula of the mascara is very smooth and also soft. When I put it on, almost immediately my lashes appear to look false. I get incredible volume, definition, and length. I will toot my own horn here for a moment and admit I’ve been blessed with long lashes that have a natural curl that holds. I’ve never bought an eyelash curler and I’ve never had to use an eyelash growth serum. I just got awesome eyelash genes. Thanks parental biochemistry!! But for people who don’t have uber-long lashes, you will still get great results. I’ve watched people with completely different lashes use this mascara. Just a quick pump of an eyelash curler and a couple coats of this mascara, and voila, you’ve got va-va-voom lashes! I am so glad I’ve found a replacement mascara that I can buy within a five mile radius of my house (instead of ordering it online & waiting & hoping it’s not dry, like would with a new tube of Supernova).

Lastly, laughter is always a good thing to have in one’s life. To ensure I have had a lot of that this past month, I downloaded a lot of comedy podcasts. Three that I’ve found really amusing are:
Ten Minute Podcast with Will Sasso, Chris D’elia, and Bryan Callen. There is absolutely nothing serious about this podcast. Every “episode” is, you guessed it, ten minutes long. And, every single time I am brought to audible amusement. I listen to a few driving to and from work or school and have found myself laughing really loudly with the windows down, startling people.
Go Bayside! with April Richardson. I just started listening to this podcast this week. The whole premise of this podcast is April Richardson and a friend discussing and analyzing an episode of Saved By The Bell that they’ve just watched. Like me, April loved SBTB when she was a kid, and now understands the complete wackiness of it. The conversation that happens in this podcast is amusing and entertaining and something I totally get.
I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman. Again, I only just started listening to this podcast within the last couple weeks. But, again, I’m completely amused. This is just Jen in bed talking into a microphone. And, I find that I share a lot of sentiments, outlooks, and general feelings about life with Jen Kirkman, so I find myself giggling along with her.

Wow, this went on longer than I thought. Many apologies! I do hope you check some of these places, products, podcasts out! Please do & report back! And, if you have already tried them, please let me know how you feel about them!

Summer 2013 Empties

We’re in the first weeks of August and, by my pagan Irish standards, that means summer is officially over & we are in the beginning of autumn. Please, do not make any comments on the “correct” seasons, as pagans and Celts and agriculture have been around a lot longer than the USA has been as an official country.

Currently, I’m not making videos, although I am well aware that an empties post generally does better on YouTube. However, I do want to cover some of my favorite products I’ve finally emptied! Some products were given to me to try, and those will be marked with an asterisk(*) and I am mentioning them because I actually use them, love them, and will repurchase them.

The first to empty is the Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Foam. This cleanser I use as primarily as a makeup remover after using a cleansing wipe or cleansing water. This, I feel, is able to get off anything residual on my face. Two pumps on dry skin, then rinsed off, my face is completely clean without feeling tight. It took me awhile to get through one $12 bottle. I don’t wear makeup everyday, and sometimes I am too lazy to follow my cleansing water/wipe with a second clean. Yes, such a terrible habit! Also, I sometimes use the Ren #1 Purity Cleansing Balm as my makeup remover instead of the wipe/water+foam routine.

Next is the Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand & Body Wash (8.5oz/250ml). What an amazing scent combination. For 15 years or so, I have been a fan of the Rosemary Mint collection from Aveda. In fact, I keep a mini bottle of the lotion (which I refill from a larger bottle) in whatever bag I’m carrying so I can keep the smell near me at all times. This hand & body wash is a permanent fixture at my bathroom sink. The scent is fresh, crisp, and clean, which means it’s a hit for both men & women, and is always a hit with guests who use my bathroom. I always buy a new bottle when there is approximately a third left in the “currently in use” bottle. One of these days, I am going to splurge on the litre size & just keep it in my cupboard under the sink to refill the smaller bottle. Or, I will just recycle the smaller bottle & people will have to deal with the huge bottle of hand wash at the sink.

Another product I finally finished is the Ren Resurfacing AHA concentrate*. The bottle that I managed to finish was given to me from the brand, as I had mentioned I wanted to try it. After a few uses, I fell in love with it, so I bought another bottle, so I’d be prepared for when I finished my first bottle. Let me give you a little insight about my skin. Many products with glycolic acid are too harsh for my skin. There are products out there that I am glad I sampled instead of purchased. Many glycolic products that claim to be safe for delicate skin do not work for my delicate skin, even when used more sparingly than directed. For many of these products, within about 12 hours of one use, my skin looked as though I got a professional, medical grade chemical peel, you know, the really intense kind you get done by a dermatologist. Imagine the Sex & The City episode in which Samantha Jones gets a peel done before Carrie’s book launch party & she scares the little girl on the street. My skin wasn’t too far off from what her’s looked like. That’s how delicate my skin is when it comes to glycolic acid. So, you can imagine my excitement when I find a glycolic product that doesn’t rip my skin to shreds. I use this concentrate 1-3 nights per week, depending on how dry I feel. I focus primarily on my nose and forehead. My nose, of course, is the most congested. My forehead has the deepest wrinkles. This concentrate smells amazing and absorbs really quickly into the skin. The morning after, my skin always feels comfortable and more hydrated.

Sticking with the glycolic trend, another “empty” are the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads* in original. Again, a product gifted to me. I absolutely adore these pads. This 2-step system is phenomenal. Designed with glycolic sensitive people in mind, these pads have fairly low amounts of five different acids in step 1: Glycolic, Salicylic (hey, “beauty gurus” – notice how there is no D in salicylic?), Citric, Latic, and Malic. There is also witch hazel, chamomile, Copper & Sodium PCA in step 1. The second step, the neutralizing step, helps prevent over exfoliation and acts as a hydration barrier. I have never had a problem with the glycolic in this system. I can even use it every day, although I don’t out of sheer laziness. I know I’ll have better results if I do use them every day. However, when used 3 times a week (even on nights I use the Ren AHA concentrate), I notice my skin feels & looks fresher, the pores on my nose aren’t as noticeable, and my moisture levels are in check. This system is a must have for anyone, especially those with glycolic sensitivity.

I’m so picky about my unruly, independent willed curly hair. It’s difficult to find products that actually work & continue to work over time. Two products I love and managed to go through quickly are Bumble & Bumble’s Tonic Lotion and Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control spray. These two sprays have been permanent fixtures in my haircare routine this last year. The Bumble Tonic is a spray that has tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, and nettle extract in it to stimulate the scalp & keep it clean. I don’t use shampoo everyday, so I need something to keep my scalp on point. After the shower I squeeze excess moisture out of my hair, then spray some Bumble Tonic, focusing primarily on my scalp. After 20-30 sprays on my scalp & through my hair, I follow with Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control. This gets sprayed primarily throughout the rest of my hair, as it it is designed to hydrate & protect the hair. Apparently, this is a great heat protectant, but I rarely use heat on my hair. 99% of the time, my hair gets air dried. It is also a UV protectant, which is great, as I am now coloring my hair more frequently. Both of these sprays can be used on hair wet or dry, which is a lifesaver. As I mentioned, I don’t shampoo my hair everyday. In fact, I don’t even (traditionally) wet my hair everyday. These two products work as curl re-stylers, allowing me to reset some wayward curls if I am on the go. I do use other products in my hair, but I switch between a couple different ones, so it takes awhile to get through them. I’ll talk about them in a later post, possibly one about my haircare routine(s).

And, of course I have to mention some non-beauty items that I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m a candle girl. Always have been. A die-hard hippie at heart, I’d rather light a dark room with the glow from candles than the forced, uncomfortable light of bulbs. I made my way through quite a few candles this summer. My favorites were (and still are) Pacifica votives, TruMelange travel tins, and (surprise hit) a Bath & Body Works 3-wick candle.

The Pacifica candles I used and loved were the Indian Coconut Nectar, Persian Rose, and Island Vanilla. When I burned the Rose with either the Coconut or Vanilla, the house smelled luxurious. I couldn’t afford a tropical vacation, so the combination of the rose+vanilla or rose+coconut allowed me to visualize myself on a remote white sand beach. Tru Melange has a couple scents I used this summer, as well as all year round. Harmony was my introduction to the company and I used the scent in the evenings and/or if I was taking a bath. Harmony is a blend of vanilla & peppermint. The warmth of the vanilla mixed with the crisp liveliness of the peppermint allow me to get focused and relaxed before turning in. The other scent I adore is Refresh. This candle blends bergamot & lime together. A classic combination I often associate with drinking tea, this candle always energizes me. On my days off, I’d light a Refresh votive soon after waking. While relaxing or doing simple household chores, I never felt dull, instead happy. Lastly, I discovered a candle at Bath & Body Works that I could actually stand. This summer, they came out with some candles that were supposed to represent different metropolitan areas (and one tropical setting, perhaps). I remember there being a Parisian one, a Greek one, a Tropical one, and a London one. I’m sure there were a couple more. The one I instantly gravitated to was the candle named “London Calling” as that just happens to be where I was born. (I am still a UK citizen, 31 years later, and have lived in the US for 23 years.) This candle claims it is a blend of tea & lemon. And, sure enough, it smells like freshly (but weakly) brewed iced black tea with the juice of a lemon or two. I noticed that I couldn’t burn it too long as the smell filled the house quickly. That goes for any Bath & Body Works candle, I’ve noticed. Because I love these candles, I stocked up on quite a few of them. Bath & Body Works were selling the destination inspired candles for $12, so I bought a couple. And, the local Pharmaca had a 20% off Tru Melange sale, so I bought their entire stock of the Harmony & Refresh travel tins. Seriously, I did. I bought four of each.

My last empty I want to talk about is Traditional Medicinals Linden Flower Tea. I have a hard time sleeping, and don’t want to rely on pharmaceuticals to aid me. I usually use a combination of GABA & Melatonin to help. Sometimes, it is too late to take melatonin, or I have an overly anxious day, so a couple mugs of this herbal tea allows me to fall asleep without any trouble. It is a blend of linden flower, hawthorn, and lemon balm. I didn’t think it would do much other than calm down blood pressure. I was happy to find that the first mug I ever drank of it managed to make me drowsy within 20 minutes of drinking it. That was without any melatonin! Since that first mug, I have been a fan. I’ve noticed I don’t take melatonin as often, which is great, especially as I have become more busy incorporating school with a full work schedule.

These are my current empties! At the end of August, I have a feeling I’ll have more empties and will update you on them. Enjoy!