Little Things

We all have our little comforts in life. You know, those things that make your day just a little more doable and joyful. These can vary throughout a year, and they should, as change is good.

A few weeks ago, my therapist gave me a really simple task to do every day. This is something that a lot of people already do, whether it be in writing or through prayer or in conversation with people they share their lives with.

Write Down Everything You Are Grateful For That Day.

Super simple and easy, right?

I started off with a bang. For a week, I made a note of things that I was grateful for. Of course, the habit didn’t stick. But, I have been taking gratitude mental notes everyday! Not an entirely wasted task to do.

But, this blog post is about little things that make me happy, therefore are worthy of gratitude. Enjoy the ride!

Hourglass Caution Extreme Mascara
Yes, sure, this is a beauty product. Vanity is unbecoming, and all that jazz. But, I don’t see myself as a vain person. I’m not perfect, and I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s the thing: it’s perfectly acceptable to make yourself look nice within your own parameters. And, humans do a lot of non-verbal communication with their faces. My eyes and lashes are nice to look at, so I’ll make them pop if I want to. When I’m having a particularly drab day, I like running this mascara over my lashes. By doing this, my face appears softer and more welcoming, and I don’t mind catching a glimpse of myself when I pass by a mirror. This mascara is the bombdotcom and it’s vegan. Love love love it!

Carefully Curated Playlists
I’ve been told that I’m a music snob, as well as a walking Shazam. I wouldn’t call myself a music snob, just refined and well-versed. My music collection is vast and I don’t totally discriminate (unless it comes to horribly executed, mass marketed bubblegum pop). There are five playlists I have stored in my iTunes. Songs often get added, and some get nixed very rarely. These playlists speak to a multitude of moods and activities. Music plays a huge role in my life, as I grew up playing the violin, piano, and clarinet. In the very near future, I plan on taking up the ukulele and flute, as well as relearn the violin. Also, I would love very much to spend my days getting paid to create playlists for people. Dream job! Fun fact: Prince makes his way onto every playlist that I create.

Stretching
Every morning, I do a full body stretch before getting out of bed. I’ve made this a habit since high school, and, the older I get, the more essential this action is. Throughout the day, I take a minute or two to stretch different parts of my body, while taking deep breaths. Depression is a tough cookie a lot of the time, and taking care of my body can be a difficult task at times. But, the fact that I do this one small act for my body is a step in the right direction. This means that I am aware of my body and know that I should be listening to it.

Water
I am lucky to live in a part of the world that has clean water. Without it, living life would be really difficult. I love the fact that I have functioning plumbing, the ability to clean myself and my clothes whenever I need to, and water to drink and cook with. I keep a large Brita in my bedroom to ensure that I can hydrate myself whenever I need to. I also keep an electric kettle in my room in case I get a hankering for herbal tea at 1:20am. And, the most important why I love water is that if I don’t keep myself hydrated, my whole body goes out of whack, which is a disaster for my mental health. My digestive system and my brain love and need water.

Pillows
Between the ages of about 8 and 15, I hated pillows. I couldn’t sleep well with any kind of pillow under my head. But, now, I can’t get enough pillows. It’s an age thing, I’m sure of it. As I fall asleep, I love being propped up and supported, almost like I’m falling into a pit of pillows. Tuft & Needle have awesome pillows. They are expensive (at least, in my opinion), so I have only two right now. They are worth every penny, though. The most comfortable pillows I’ve ever used! Sleep is a key element to my mental and physical health. If I have awesome pillows, I’m going to sleep well. If I sleep well, I’m going to be happy. Such a simple concept!

So, here are a few of my creature comforts. Nope. Not sponsored by anyone. Hourglass and Tuft & Needle did not pay me to mention their stuff. They don’t even know how much I love their stuff! This love is coming from a very real and honest place.

What are some of your creature comforts?

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New Adventures

Well, hello there!

It’s almost October, and you know what that means! Halloween is approaching. Everyone is gearing up, including getting out their cute autumnal clothes and chugging those dreaded Pumpkin Spice Lattes (can we say white gurl pumpkin spice wasted?).

We’re having a warm September here in the Bay Area, and I’ve been wishing the weather would cool off just a big and let autumn actually be autumnal. Nevertheless, I have a lot of knitting to be done, cute sweaters to buy, and books to curl up with.

I’ve been through a few changes this year, and those will be discussed over at Finding Love In Myself (my blog that deals with mental health, self care, etc.). But, I want to fill you in on the fun things that I plan on filling the rest of my year with!

Plan of Attack:

  • Knit beanies & ear warmers for friends and family, including a West Ham beanie for Dad.
  • Research DIY skincare and learn how to make my own bath bombs, bath salts, and other herbal bath time remedies.
  • Carve out 30-60 minutes a day for reading with a pot of yummy tea.
  • Share my crafty progress on blog, YouTube, and Instagram.

Y’all with me? Who wants to help keep me accountable?

Ciao for now, my lovelies! Enjoy your week.

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!

Things I Love Right Now: Podcasts

I’ve been a fan of podcasts for awhile now. Storytelling, listening to people have conversations (friendly and/or intellectual), and learning something new have always been appealing. When my family moved to the States from London, my parents discovered public radio, and constantly listened to it. I’ve found comfort in public radio in my adult life. Not only is it often interesting, it reminds me of my childhood.

With podcasts, this allows me to listen to a lot of my favorite public radio offerings at my own pace. Of course, there are so many other podcast options out there aside from public radio offerings. I have a huge collection of podcasts in my Overcast library. Variety definitely is the spice of life! I must say, I have a couple hundred episodes to listen to at this point, and I am totally okay with that.

A few of my favorites are somewhat popular and probably don’t need too much of an introduction. Others might be completely new to you.

Dear Sugar
Everyone is gaga over Cheryl Strayed, and rightfully so. She’s insightful, caring, honest, and witty. This podcast was born from the Dear Sugar column in The Rumpus. Basically, both the column and the podcast are akin to Dear Abby. The difference is that Dear Sugar is raw, a bit brutal, honest, and incredibly helpful. I love hearing Cheryl and Steve Almond offer sage advice to people who write in. The letters that they get are exceptional, and the responses are equally amazing.

Ladies Who Lunch
This is a weekly podcast done by two YouTubers, Cat Valdez and Ingrid Nilsen. I stumbled across it, as I occasionally watch Ingrid’s YouTube channel. Sure, I’m a few years older than both ladies, and the content is definitely geared towards Millenials (I stick to my guns when I say I am Gen X). The content is still great, and it’s wonderful to hear two women have an intelligent conversation about a multitude of topics, including the election, our bodies, and dating.

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim
I love this podcast simply because offers such a positive insight on Islam. This is a podcast everyone should listen to, Muslim or not. Taz and Zahra are hilarious, well spoken, and downright awesome. I downloaded the first episode soon after it was published, and did so out of sheer curiosity and with the hope to enrich my own life. We all should expose ourselves to ideas and cultures that are different from our own. This podcast allows me to learn a little about Islam and Muslim culture, and hear from intelligent, thoughtful women.

2 Dope Queens
If you aren’t listening to this podcast already, please do. Seriously, stop reading this post right now, and download as many episodes as you can or want. For those of you who are unaware, this is an awesome comedy podcast lead by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. In this podcast, comedians of all genders, ethnicities, and sexualities are featured. I absolutely love and need this podcast. This is absolutely necessary on bad days, as I know that I’ll get a giggle. I mean, if you want free stand-up, this is right up your alley. And, I think we should be supporting women of color.

Not By Accident
The first episode of this podcast was featured on another podcast, Strangers (which I love, for the most part). I love the format of this podcast. It is a audio documentary of a single woman, who happens to be gay, getting pregnant and having a child. Sophie Harper’s story is very touching and inspiring. With every episode, I am reminded that I can do many things I put my heart and mind to. Also, I am reminded that it never hurts to ask for help. Sure, this podcast caters to a specific audience, but it really is worthwhile.

Stuff Mom Never Told You
There is one huge reason why I listen to this podcast: learning. There is a never ending slew of topics Caroline and Cristen talk about, some of which I know and understand. However, this is a basic jumping off point for getting inspired to research a multitude of topics that are female (cis- or not) related. My one gripe is that the two women hosting this podcast are cis-gendered and Caucasian. With that said, they do their best to be impartial and educated with the information they are talking about. They cite their reputable sources, which is incredibly important.

These are the ones I listen to the most frequently. If I am all caught up, there are a few other podcasts I’ll listen to, which I often reserve for commutes, cooking, or moments I need a giggle.

What are your favorite podcasts? What are you obsessively listening to? I love recommendations!

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.]

Vegan Living 101: Personal Transformation

After deciding to do pieces on vegan living, my mother and I embarked on a weight loss journey. It is The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomory. So far, it has proved to be quite reasonable. I’m on day eight (of 28), and have lost about two or three pounds. Where I see it the most is around my chin and midsection. The most important factor is that I’m not required to forgo my quest for personal veganism. This diet is suitable for most people searching for optimal health. It’s broken into three phases per week and done for a total of four weeks. We are to eat five times a day: 3 meals & 2 snacks.

On Phase 1, we are supposed to load up on healthy, wholesome carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa, brown rice and sprouted grains. Included in that is a lot of fruit. And, throughout the entire process, there is a focus on unlimited vegetables. Protein is included in two of the meals, and as a veg*n, I have to rely on lentils & legumes. These are the easiest two days for me, as I love me some grains and lentils.

Phase 2 is somewhat difficult for me, as it is protein heavy. The author (who has a BA in Animal Science & is a trained nutritionist) wants people to avoid soy for 28 days. She makes an exception for vegans on these two days, because she knows that a lot of natural vegan protein is somewhat fibre/carbohydrate dense. We are allowed edamame, tempeh, and tofu. I hate tofu, so that’s a no go. Frankly, tempeh isn’t my favorite. And edamame? That gets boring very quick. I have a couple vegan protein powders that are similar to the ones the author sells on her website. The ones I’ve found are half the price, so that helps. These two consecutive days are difficult because eating vegetables all day long can get a bit tedious. Also, drinking a protein shake that’s made with water instead of the unsweetened almond milk I usually use is not as delightful.

Phase 3 has a focus on healthy fats, such as olive & coconut oils, raw nuts & seeds, and nut butters. Again, this isn’t difficult for me. I love cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut milk, hummus… The list is endless. There is less of a focus on protein & carbohydrates, however, we start the day with a grain, have a couple pieces of fruit throughout the day, and can have an optional grain in the evening. But, frankly, I am usually pretty satisfied by the end of the day. I’d happily have a huge salad with some lentils or kidney beans topped with olive oil & lemon juice.

But, I have three more weeks, and I am doing this for the good of my body. I hope that this can train me to eat in a much more mindful and wholesome way. The logic makes sense, and a lot of what I am reading is stuff I have heard before from nutritionists and fitness buffs. It’s the practice that is the hardest. And, our bodies usually need at least four weeks to truly start to adjust to changes we make.

I do hope that in 20 days, I’ll be able to have half a cup of the So Delicious Simply Strawberry Coconut Milk ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer & be happy with that half cup. I hope that my body adjusts to this change and I don’t have to be so regimented, while not worrying if I’ll put on all the weight I’ve dropped.

After I complete the 28 days, I might do one more. After that, I plan on eating mindfully for 4-6 weeks, then doing a week of this, just to keep my body in check. She likens this process to cross training. This allows us to get our bodies out of a rut and get our organs working a bit better than they were. [Just a side note, I feel that this diet really should be called an internal reset, or spring cleaning for one’s health.]

Ms. Pomeroy does suggest we continue with the diet until we reach our goal weight (clothing shift, for me). After we attain our goal(s), we then maintain our metabolism & results be treating every day as it is Phase 3, but passing all allowed foods in each meal and snack. So, I could easily start the day with oatmeal & cinnamon, then have an apple & a protein shake made with almond milk as a snack. For lunch, I could have a salad filled with all the veggies & legumes I love, and for another snack I could have cucumber & cashews or some fruit. I could end my day with a wholesome meal, and feel full & happy. On days that I exercise, I’ll allow myself a tasty treat, such as my favorite ice cream. And, if I go out to eat with friends, I’ll do a Phase 2 day the next day. No one is perfect and maintaining health takes work.

I have been a fairly poor eater the last few years, not eating regularly and consistently skipping breakfast. And, I had a major relationship with Coke Zero. I still get cravings for it, but I’m happy without it. My main thing is running. I hate running with food in my stomach. This might force me to run early in the day. I’ll have an apple & almond butter half an hour before I run, then eat some oatmeal after I’m finished. This is definitely something that I feel will get my metabolism on the right track.

Anyway, I do hope I find success. I am just glad that this has pushed me head on into changing my lifestyle to be vegan. My diet has been completely vegan for 8 days. I love the way I feel, and after I get through the next three weeks, I will start putting more focus on lifestyle changes.