New Years Resolutions…the realistic kind.

2014 was an absolutely kick ass follow-up to the incredible year before it.

2013 was a year of bliss, where I was living out the final years of my adolescence, finishing up college, and met my boyfriend. I truly found myself in 2013.

I found myself when I turned my back on constant peer pressure and just decided to go with the flow of my own intuitions, I found myself while running mile after mile along pebbly goose-shit laden canal trails growing stronger with every step, and I found myself within the people I love. I began to see myself as they see me, as perfect in all of my angst, rage, passion, excitement, and giddy pleasure.

I fell in love in 2013. I would never have found true love within another if I didn’t work so damn hard to fall head over heels for ME.

2014, however, was quite the opposite. While it was not as much a year of transformation within, it was a year that brought monumental changes to my life. I graduated college, moved in with my boyfriend, got a full time writing gig, and experimented along the way.

I woke up at 4 a.m. every day and learned how to navigate open waters during my two month stint as a charter boat first mate. I learned how to knit, cross stitch, embroider, and garden.

But, the biggest, most life-altering decision I made did not involve my job, location, or financial situation. It was my decision to become a vegan. The decision that has truly impacted my life more positively than any other I’ve ever made next to regaining my health four years ago.

I now live a life of true compassion, health, and knowledge, which is a life greater than I ever could have imagined.

Now that I’m settled into a healthy routine full of hard work, creativity, and companionship, I’m ready to unfurl my little sails towards the new horizon that is 2015. I want this year to be one of excitement, challenge, and new experiences.

Here are my four realistic (since being realistic about my own limitations isn’t really one of my strengths…) New Years Resolutions:

  1. Dedicate myself to my yoga practice.

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Maybe this will mean going to one more class per week, or starting each day with some sun salutations, either way, I’ve fallen in love with yoga and how it makes me feel, and want to keep improving my postures and looking within.

2. Spend more time appreciating nature.

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Even a tree hugging, flower sniffing, grass napping wannabe nymph like me gets caught up in my own life working, lounging, etc. I want to not only spend as much time as possible outside, but also really stop and listen to the world around me. The future of our beautiful mother earth ain’t lookin’ so pretty, so I wanna soak up as much of her as I can.

3. Eat more macrobiotically, 

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I’ve recently started reading about the benefits of a macrobiotic lifestyle and find myself really connecting with the concept of pure, whole grains, veggies, and legumes being the staple of my diet. I’m already a huge veg and rice head, but I like the concept of including greens and grains at every meal and the principles behind the lifestyle. It’s super intense in its purest form, but including some of the concepts and principles within my life and diet is something I’d like to explore.

4.  Travel More392304_10151048932438644_844055631_n

Since I’ve been a little girl, I’ve always wanted to see the world. I’m curious, restless, and I crave to leave all baggage behind and use my precious life exploring. I’m going to stop using my lack of money as an excuse and travel as much as I can this year, even if it’s just a day trip to a local hiking trail. I don’t care, I just love to move.

Well, 2014, you done me good, but now it’s time to move on, look to the future, and make 2015 even greater.

Enjoy the last day of the year tomorrow, beautiful bloggers and Happy New Year!

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What I learned this Christmas

This year was my first Christmas after college, AKA my first Christmas as a true adult.

I now live in my own apartment with my boyfriend, we have our own ($40) Christmas tree, are trying to cultivate our own Christmas traditions, and have pretty much spent the past month running around with our heads cut off trying to see our families, buy/make gifts and cookies, and devote some time to simple Christmas pleasures like watching Rudolph and freezing our asses off at outdoor Christmas festivals.

Needless to say, I haven’t properly relaxed or had a minute to myself since before Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHRISTMAS, as I’ve mentioned several times. But, this year I truly learned how hectic Christmas as an adult is. Between driving home 4.5 hours each way every weekend in December for family traditions to buying presents after a long day at work, to having to make my own meals to bring home, AND making both Christmas Eve and Christmas days meals, as is my custom, I just wore myself beyond thin.

Christmas as not only an adult living quite far from my home town and as a vegan proved tougher than I expected and really just kicked my ass.

While I had a merry Christmas full of all the things I love: tradition, good food, family, and friends, I did learn a few lessons that I will (hopefully) remember next year.

  1. No matter how hard I try, I cannot please everyone. I know you all feel me here. Between parents, in-laws (kind of), and friends, I was pulled in all sorts of directions and bent over backwards trying to fulfill every commitment and spend an adequate amount of time with each person I love. But, no matter how hard I tried, there was always someone I was letting down, or some experience I felt I was missing. Next year, I’m going to just concentrate on being where I am and not letting pressure or guilt or that “left out” feeling plague my thoughts. You can never, EVER, no matter how hard you may try, please everybody you’d like to, so please yourself first.
  2. Make gifts in advance. I had plans to knit gifts for my best friends and family, but started the process right after Thanksgiving…yeah right, Taylor, like that was ever gonna happen. I got one project done by the time December 19th rolled around and just threw in the towel on my homemade madness. Next year, if I really want to flex my creative muscle for gifts, I’ll be a big girl and plan ahead…maybe.
  3. DON’T plan as much. I know this sounds contradictory to what I’ve been saying, but I found that I just planned out my time too much! Next year, instead of scheduling a night to watch every single Xmas movie, go Xmas shopping, and drive all the way home, I’m going to keep my weekends freed up to indulge when I WANT to, not because I have planned it, and therefore HAVE to. I lost a bit of that magical joy and giddy feeling I get when I’m popping in an Xmas movie or deciding on a whim to make the trek back home for some holiday coziness because I had to go and plan it all out like a square. Relax, girl, and bring the magic back into Christmas.

These are just a few things I’ve learned this Christmas. It looks as if the underlying theme here is to take a step back and enjoy the magic of Christmas that you know and love more than forcing it. Rather than expending every energy to fulfill every obligation, just sink into where you are and take breath of that inner evergreen scent that’s inside us all at Christmas time.

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Less Gluten Experiment Progress: Week 1

So after about a week of limiting my gluten/wheat intake, I’ve seen some noticeable changes!

My face is again slowly but surely beginning to clear up and feels like its maintained a balance in its oil production.

SIDE NOTE: To go along with my gluten free (ish) experiment, I have also stopped using rose hip oil because it’s just too oily of an oil (hahah) for my face, and only wash with my coconut water cleanser in the morning. At night time, I’ve changed my routine to just rinsing with water and then diluting my apple cider vinegar way more than I was, with 1 tbsp. ACV to 1 cup water.

Not only does my face look and feel quite a bit better already, my body does too!

On a typical day, I probably was consuming the most wheat/gluten in the afternoon for my lunch break via sandwiches, leftover cous cous, and oatmeal. After lunch, I would almost instantly feel a bit sleepy, crampy, and uncomfortable even though I ate an appropriate amount of food and didn’t stuff myself.

Since I began limiting my wheat/gluten intake, I’ve taken a closer look at how I’ve been feeling after eating wheat/gluten occasionally versus how I feel when i refrain from eating it.

When I refrain from eating gluten/wheat, I feel more comfortable after meals, my stomach doesn’t make as many angry noises, and best of all, I feel more energized and LESS BLOATED!

Although I would not classify myself as “gluten free” or claim that I have Celiac’s or anything, I am saying that for me, I’ve discovered that limiting my gluten/wheat intake has been very beneficial so far and I’m going to try and keep it up for both my skin’s sake and my belly’s sake.

One week ago: angry, red pimples and oily complexion

One week ago: angry, red pimples and oily complexion

Gettin' there! Some pimples disappeared and the redness decreased, plus my complexion overall looks improved.

Gettin’ there! Some pimples disappeared and the redness decreased, plus my complexion overall looks improved.

I know it may not look like a drastic difference, but for one week’s time, I’d say the results seem pretty damn good so far.

I’m not damning gluten, trust me. I’m a complete oatmeal lover/cous cous fiend/pasta enthusiast/soy sauce admirer. I’m just saying that considering how much the gluten molecule (or whatever it is…atom? I don’t know, bear with me) has enlarged with our current farming practices, it’s a valid experiment to try and find your body’s happy place when it comes to gluten and wheat.

I know personally, I’ve gotten to know my body really well over the years through my recovery/healing process, and I’ve learned to work with it, not against it. My gluten free (ish) experiment is just another way I’m listening to my body and giving her what she wants and what makes her thrive.

Peace, Love, & Friday to you all

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Vegan Butterhorns!

The first negative thing that came to mind when I transitioned into veganism was “oh my god what the eff am I going to do during the holidays?!”

My family is one of tradition and parties with lots and lots of indulgent food, so I knew the holidays were going to be a challenge. But, so far I’ve been able to either find time to make my own food to bring to celebrations, or just eaten before/after if I was too busy to prepare beforehand.

When it comes to Christmas cookies, there is no compromising. I had to have my two favorite traditional Taylor’s family cookies: Butterhorns and Tiny Fudge Tarts.

One day every year before Christmas, my mom and I both take a day off and spend the entire 24 hours baking Christmas cookies (we’re obviously both annoying overachievers/Christmas addicts, please don’t judge too harshly). Last Friday was this year’s Cookie day, and I came home prepared! There was NO WAY I wasn’t going to attempt to enjoy my favorite cookies that I only get once a year!

So, I had my mom send me the recipes, and I veganized the shit outta them! Here is the vegan version of my Grandma’s Butterhorn Recipe!

Not my pic, but google will have to suffice

                                                   Not my pic, but google will have to suffice

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup earth balance or any vegan butter
  • 3/4 cup vegan sour cream (recipe from my Oh She Glows cookbook below)
  • 1 flax egg “yolk”
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and/or pecans

FOR THE SOUR CREAM: Put 3/4 cup of raw cashews in a bowl of water and soak overnight or for at least 3 hours. Once they’re soaked, drain them, and place in a blender with 1/2-3/4 cup water, depending on how thick you want it. Blend on high with 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, and salt to taste until everything is creamy.

FOR THE COOKIES:  In a small bowl, mix 1/2 tbsp. ground flax seed with 1 1/2 tbsp. water. let sit for 5 minutes until gelled to make a flax egg “yolk.” In a large bowl, mix the flour, softened vegan butter, vegan sour cream, and flax egg yolk with a hand mixer or with a kitchen aide if you’re fancy. Once the dough is incorporated and no bumps remain, shape into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Take out of the fridge and separate into 3 smaller balls. In a small bowl, mix together finely chopped nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Roll out one of the dough balls into a circle, and spread cinnamon sugar mixture around so it coats the dough evenly. Slice the dough with a sharp knife to create little pizza shaped slices. Roll into a crescent shape starting from the top of each little slice and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the other two balls of dough and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

These cookies represent so much to me…Christmas (of course), my childhood, the warmth of tradition, happy memories spent in the kitchen with my mama singing Baby it’s Cold Outside. Just happiness in general.

Plus, they’re damn good and are basically little morsels of cinnamon sugary heaven! And I swear, this veganized version tastes even better than the original!

Tis the season of cruelty free baking, I always say…

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Going Wheat Free? Maybe? Yay? Nay? Plus Xmas Spirit & Vegan Cookies!

As I have lamented before, I have weird skin.

It’s sensitive, prone to breakouts around my mouth, and has quite erratic behavior. On good days it’s smooth, clear, and glowing, and on bad days it’s red, irritated, and dry.

While I’ve never had “acne,” I’ve always had breakouts randomly around my mouth, which flared up quite a bit in college. I tried dermatologist recommended creams. While they cleared my skin eventually, they basically burned my flesh off.

After going vegan, my skin improved drastically and everything seemed fine….until Halloween.

I broke out the morning after Halloween randomly this year and it still hasn’t subsided!

While some days everything clears, I’ll wake up the next day with a fresh one that will take weeks to disappear! I’ve switch to a gentle coconut water based cleaner, use rose hip oil as a moisturizer, and use raw sugar as an exfoliator. While my face is no longer dry and feels smooth, my mouth just won’t stop breaking out.

I don’t consume dairy, rarely drink alcohol, don’t eat processed foods, and eat a healthy amount of good fats, but the freaking things still stay.

So, after researching a bit, I’ve read about how gluten and wheat products can cause skin issues, and I thought I’d give going wheat free a chance, and watching my gluten intake for a while.

I do notice that I feel sluggish after ingesting gluten sometimes and when I eat too much grain my stomach aches. So, maybe going wheat free, or at least lowering my intake will help clear my face once and for all.

Between this and being careful about my alcohol intake, it seems like I’m cutting a lot out, but really I’m just experimenting and finding out what works for me. I love challenges, so I’m determined to discover the cause and naturally treat my breakouts!

On another note, I went home this past weekend and went to a xmas party thrown by some high school friends in NYC and saw the Grinch with my family after baking endless amounts of cookies! The veganized versions of my favorite cookies will be up in the next day or so! They’re delicious, so beware.

Is anyone else newly gluten free? Did it help with any skin issues? Please enlighten me, dear bloggers!

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Classic Tabouleh Recipe

Nothing screams “fresh” to me more than Tabouleh…well, besides a perfectly ripe watermelon eaten straight from the rind with a spoon.

This was my first go at making homemade Tabouleh, and I’m thrilled with the result! Besides being totally refreshing, delicious, and surprisingly filling, this recipe is so easy to put together, requires extremely affordable ingredients, and is one of those recipes that I recommend making a huge batch of to have around all week long.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup uncooked Bulgur Wheat
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 cup organic cherry/grape tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 a large, organic cucumber, diced
  • 1 bunch italian, flat leaf parsley, minced
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a pot, bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in the 1 cup bulgur wheat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is cooked through. Set aside to let cool.

In a large bowl, add onion, tomato, cucumber, and parsley. Stir to incorporate everything. In a smaller bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil, creating a dressing. 

After your bulgur has cooled, add it to the large bowl of veggies and stir. Add the lemon/olive oil dressing and stir once again to cover the mixture in the dressing. Lastly, add a liberal amount of salt and pepper, mix, and taste to make sure the dish is seasoned enough for your liking. 

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better.

Little Tip: When I was buying ingredients for this recipe, I got a box of bulgur wheat I found on the shelves that was up around $6. I was basically in pain as I put this in my cart, since I’m not very good at spending money. But, I sucked it up, and was almost at the checkout line with my purchases in tow when I remembered…THE BULK SECTION! 

I scurried my cart to the bulk section (wonderland) and filled a bag with bulgur wheat that costed literally half the price at $3 for even more than was in the box I was going to buy! This reminded me of what a great resource the bulk sections of grocery stores are and to always buy as many grains and pantry staples as possible there. I highly recommend buying the bulgur wheat for this recipe in your own bulk section!

Enjoy, Earthlings!

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Monday Happy List: Milestone Edition

Happy Monday, betches!

Today is the first Monday in a long time where I woke up without dread, haven’t experienced any feelings of pre-work/general work related anxiety, and am completely calm, hopeful, and in the zone.

This past week/weekend was full of milestones. Some were just simple, heartwarming experiences and some were exciting, satisfying feats.

Since it’s the Christmas season, and I am basically an elf, I’m going to try and continue this hopeful streak well into the holiday season and beyond, and try to appreciate every milestone, no matter how small it may seem.

  1. Recreated my favorite meal at my favorite Greek restaurant, Aladdins!
Tabouleh & Tourlou, with a side of Trader Joe's Hummus and Pita Chips!

Tabouleh & Tourlou, with a side of Trader Joe’s Hummus and Pita Chips!

If you read my article, you know about my everlasting love affair with Greek food. So, as usual, I was craving the vegetarian combo at Aladdin’s, my favorite Greek restaurant in Rochester. Since we literally just went there a few days ago, I decided to load up on the ingredients to recreate two of my favorite options for the vegetarian combo while grocery shopping. I made a classic Tabouleh and Tourlou (which I have made before and gotten pretty close to Aladdin’s). I spooned some hummus on the side to dip some pita chips in and made Collin and I a pretty badass Sunday dinner! The recipes for these will be up in the next few days, so beware because you’ll be as addicted as I am.

2. Collin and I got our very first Christmas tree!

Shitty quality, but it was difficult setting a self-timer in our aloe plant...

Shitty quality, but it was difficult setting a self-timer in our aloe plant…

After an eventful afternoon of scrounging up ornaments from Collin’s parent’s rejected collection, cutting down our tree just to have them tell us they don’t take cards and having to run to the ATM and then back just to pay $40 for our tree, and getting a tree stand, we were finally able to have some Chipotle for lunch and set up our cute lil’ guy without trouble. We lit up our tiny shack of an apartment with candles and our strings of lights and watched Home Alone while sipping peppermint tea. The chaos of getting our tree was totally worth it.

3. I held a headstand!

Don't mind my wacky yoga clothes...it was laundry week.

Don’t mind my wacky yoga clothes…it was laundry week.

Holding my headstand really reaffirmed the whole “practice makes perfect” thing. I’m the kind of chick who hates being bad at stuff…like can’t stand it. If I’m bad at something, I either don’t do it, or I work my ass off until I’m a master at it. Inversions and arm balances are two of those things I’m working my ass off trying to become a master at. I do at least some yoga, whether it’s 20 minutes before bed or a 90 minute class at least 4-5 days per week. Since rediscovering my love for yoga, I’ve been dedicating myself to learning inversions and arm balances and not giving up. So, after finally holding a crow, I’ve been practicing my headstands every day and what do ya know, I finally got it! This was a pretty exhilarating and sweet moment for me, and also encouraged my to keep excelling and blossoming as a yogi.

4. I knitted myself this beauty!

I now finally have a hat that's warm AND fits!

I now finally have a hat that’s warm AND fits!

I finally found time to knit myself a hate from really cool, good quality yarn that’s actually warm and fits me! Usually when I make hats, the patterns run too small even when I increase the size, but this little guy fits perfectly! This hat is an accomplishment not just because of the fact that I made it, because I’ve been knitting for a while now, but also that I let myself take the time and make something that I really need.

I think everyone should take time and give yourself the things you really need, you really crave, or you just want every once in a while. It’s satisfying in the best way.

I hope everyone has a Monday free of stress, anxiety, and fear.

Peace out girlscoutz

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