an endorsement for yoga

when i started this blog, i intended for it to be about three of the things that are most important to me right now: dogs (and finding ways to make them more a part of my life), healthy eating/becoming a vegan (or something as close to vegan as possible for me), and yoga. the yoga portion has fallen to the wayside, and i’ve been trying to figure out why that is. the conclusion i’ve come to is that my relationship with yoga is a very personal one, and i’m therefore wary of discussing it in detail. while many may practice yoga for the physical benefits (of which there are quite a few! have you ever seen a “yoga butt”?) i primarily took up the practice for the promise of the mental and spiritual benefits. i don’t know that i could ever find words to fully express how i feel while i’m on the yoga mat- the feelings are almost other-wordly.

without sharing too much of my personal experience with yoga, i will simply say that it has done wonders for my body, mind, and spirit. my muscles are leaner (some, anyway. others are a bit more stubborn. here’s looking at you, pesky abdominals). i find it easier to concentrate. when i’m at work and in the groove, very little can distract me (this probably has more to do with the meditative component of yoga, something i wish i got more of). also, much like the illusive “runner’s high” i’ve heard of but definitely never experienced, there is a feeling i can only describe as euphoria when i finish a class and step back out into the world. the crowded new york city streets that irked me a mere hour before somehow become a thing of beauty (crazy, i know. but i’ll be honest- the euphoric feeling doesn’t always last very long. but i suppose one continues doing yoga with the hopes that the sense of peace and happiness will remain long after class is over.) which segues directly into the spiritual component. yoga leaves me feeling like all is well with the world; that no matter what happens, my unflappable spirit can handle it. now don’t get me wrong: i’m human and have major freak-outs like everyone else. but these days, i’m better able to talk myself off the ledge. the lows aren’t quite so low, but the highs are most certainly higher.

so if that isn’t a ringing endorsement for yoga, i don’t know what is.

struggles with veganism

much to my dismay, i’ve found that when i’m not in the office (i’m a freelancer and sometimes work from home) i have a much harder time sticking to any sort of dietary resolutions. it’s a bit counterintuitive: i would think that eating well at work would actually be more difficult. some days are so busy that i barely have time to run out and grab lunch; others are slow, and i might find myself mindlessly snacking, especially during the dreaded daily 4pm slump. but i actually do really well at the vegan thing while i’m at work, probably because of the healthy deli (shoutout to green symphony!) only a few blocks from my office. plus having a regimen that includes work and exercise to adhere to makes it easy to tack on a dietary regimen also.

but i was off all of last week, and from last monday to last night, i probably had more dairy than i’d had in the past 3 months. there was the buttery apple pie ala mode at a leisurely lunch with my mom; the inevitable cotija cheese on my fish tacos (cheese AND fish. two strikes there) at girls’ night; and the mindblowingly good tempura green tea ice cream on date night with my boyfriend. i’ll be honest- each experience was totally worth it at the time, mostly because it meant sharing a meal with a friend or loved one. but i inevitably felt a little twinge of guilt after each indulgence. and not because “oh my god- this ice cream will go straight to my thighs!” rather, because poor cows had been milked practically to death to provide the milk that went into making the food i just enjoyed so much.

on the bright side, i suppose it’s good that i’m at least aware of where the food i’m eating is coming from, and that i appreciate its provenance. on the other, i really want to make a more concerted effort to stick to veganism. i’ve given myself license to cheat here and there on a special occasion, but i don’t want these slip-ups to become a regular occurrence. it’s so easy to see every outing as an “occasion”, especially in the summer when spirits are high and there’s an event or dinner to attend practically every night.

over (more) mexican food last night, my boyfriend suggested that i might want to blog about my struggles with keeping to a plant-based diet. at first i wasn’t really sure if there was a point to such a post, but the more i think about it, the more i realize my bf was on to something. i’ve felt that when i’ve read interviews about celebrities or even average janes like myself who have adopted a vegan diet, they make it sound as if they woke up one day and magically no longer craved a pat of butter on their toast, slice of steak, or forkful of cheesecake. if this was the case, more power to them. but like most things in life, this experience isn’t an easy one. like everything worth doing, it requires a certain level of commitment.

so alas, i suppose my point is this: transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is not an easy journey. but it’s one that i certainly feel is worth taking. i know that i’ll have slip-ups, but what’s important is that i acknowledge them, not dwell on them, and jump right back on the proverbial horse.

this “human walking program” was genius

this is brilliant and heartwarming. the concept strikes such a chord because in a recent post, i talked about how oftentimes people don’t realize that they need a dog (or pet) just as much as that pet needs them. and the best part of this story is that each and every dog was adopted! stories like this one make my heart swell with happiness.

daily dose of cuteness! (and then some real talk)

this video made my day. much as babies have a tricky time learning to walk, so do newborn elephants, apparently. this little guy’s struggle is inspiring and (undeniably) adorable. all i can say is, i hope and pray that this precious and extremely intelligent animal doesn’t end up in a circus one day.

because, while i’m on the topic of elephants, i’d be remiss to not mention this message i received from peta over the weekend. i’m no stranger to the those who criticize the circus: i live near the barclays center in brooklyn, which hosted the ringling bros. and barnum & bailey circus not too long ago. on my way to and from work every day, i saw protestors with posters bearing images of animals mistreated in the name of the circus. i looked at those posters with mixed feelings: on the one hand, obvious sadness for the animals; on the other, a feeling of unease that unsuspecting and innocent children would see those images on what was supposed to be a fun and happy outing and inevitably ask their parents for some sort of explanation.

but at the end of the day, i have to condemn any circus (or organization. i’m looking at you, sea world) that mistreats an animal for the sake of ticket sales. it is a despicable thing to do. as members of a consumer-driven society, it seems that we are all used to (and tolerant of) this mindset. before you visit a circus, aquarium or zoo of any kind, consider how the organization you’re giving your hard-earned money to is treating the animals it purports to protect/save/rehabilitate/. i realize that there are two sides to every story, but i beg you to do some homework and armed with that information, make a conscientious decision in line with your values and beliefs.

my vegan pumpkin bread!

i did it! i’m not used to baking (or cooking, for that matter) in my small brooklyn apartment, but a few days ago i hunkered down and tested the recipe i shared with you in this blog post. i’ll start by conceding that regular baked goods taste better, hands down. the real difference is in the texture: a slice of pumpkin bread made with eggs and butter is inevitably more moist. but all things considered, my attempt didn’t turn out so bad! i made a few substitutions, so maybe my results would have been even better had i followed the original recipe to a tee. but hey, we live and learn. one vegan pumpkin bread-making experience under the belt. my next attempt will only get better.

vegan pumpkin bread

below are the ingredients/amounts i used, the main different was that i used store-bought brown rice flour rather than homemade oat flour. (i mean i like to bake, but i’m no martha stewart!) i also used chia seeds instead of flax seeds. i think the flax seeds would have been preferable. but baking is always a fun experiment, so use a little creativity and you just might end up with something truly delicious (and better for you).

2 cups brown rice flour
1 heaping Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon

1 cup almond milk (room temperature, or slightly warm)
1 tbsp chia seeds (i should have ground them!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (organic)
3/4 tsp orange juice
1/4 cup maple syrup (i used less since the pumpkin pie mix was sweetened)