Friday Five!

Well, the world is still a troubled place, but I’m back with the Friday Five, hoping to accentuate some of the positive. I’m starting off with an image that I first discovered on a patch that I bought at some rally I went to back in college. I DIY-stitched that sucker right onto my school bag, (and my old band even wrote a song using only these words as lyrics! It was a jam, for real, tho). It spoke to me then and it speaks to me now. Times are tough, but the people are resilient. Keep fighting, keep loving. <3

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Kale and Fig Salad 

I love seasonal eating, and so I obviously appreciate a good transition recipe. Lately I’ve wanted to make things that scream, “Late summer/Early fall.” Figs represent this for me. Peak season for figs starts in early summer, then it wanes, then it picks back up again in late summer and early fall. I love the idea of creating a salad with the addition of the sweet figs, and this recipe from In the Kitchen with Amy Jo sounds perfect!

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Food Consumption Does Not Equal Hours of Exercise

This article dispels the really harmful myth that is perpetuated by so many “click bait-y” health sites: the idea that, for example, “one slice of cheesecake equals 4 1/2 hours of aerobics.” L.V. Anderson uses science to explain why this false equation is totally illogical (how hard are you pushing during those 4 1/2 hours? don’t we burn more calories when we’re *not* exercising? doesn’t the calorie burning-potential of exercise vary depending on height, weight, age, etc.?). Additionally, I think breaking this myth is hugely important to helping people who struggle with over-exercise, a common symptom of eating disorders. I have absolutely fallen into this trap. I would “make up” for something I ate by spending more time at the gym. This hurt my body and taught me to view exercise as punishment. I think busting this stupid rhetoric about burning off “bad” food with outrageous amounts of exercise would help a lot of us get past this silly and potentially harmful notion.

Rust Belt Riders Harvest Food from Waste

Rust Belt Riders is a bad-ass organization that aims to “divert food waste sustainably through a bicycle pickup service and use it to grow food directly within the Cleveland community.” Their clients include community and market gardens, residential homes, and businesses, where they go to pick up waste and combat a growing problem. “Compostable materials make up one fourth of all landfills and are the highest producer of pathogens in all landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average U.S. household throws away 474 lbs of food waste each year. That means Cleveland throws away approximately 1.8 billion lbs. of food scraps each year.”

Rust Belt Riders.

Rust Belt Riders.

This organization is obviously super awesome, but it’s especially cool because CLEVELAND! (my hometown!), and because I went to school with Dan Brown, one of the founders! Yay Dan, Yay Cleveland, Yay bikes, Yay environmentalism!

Attaining Goals Through Nurturing Environments

I really love the approach in this Greatist article. Basically, the author, Michael Rizk, discusses how creating a positive, nourishing, nurturing environment for yourself is the key to obtaining goals. He contextualizes it through the example of wanting to lose weight, but notes that this could applied to any goal. He states: “Your environment—all the facets of your life that impact your ability to achieve and sustain your goals and to live the life you deserve and desire—is built around four core areas: movement, nourishment, recovery, and belief.” He then asks the reader to answer a series of questions in each category to determine how well we are creating a foundation for positive results (whatever that may look like for us). It’s kind of obvious stuff, but always good to have a nifty breakdown and explicit reminder that we can’t accomplish goals without taking care of ourselves in holistic ways.

Stuff from the Week that Made Me Happy 

cats (always)

strong communities of women

syllabus planning

back to school anticipation

yoga

farm-fresh cucumbers

local vegan, gf tamales

reading this book

a back to school shopping trip at the outlet malls

 the new t.swift song  (i know, i know)

friend phone calls

making my new Sculpt playlist

 karaoke!

What made you happy this week? 

“Meditate & Destroy”: Tom’s Vegan Path to Recovery

Dear friends, I am so honored to bring you a special guest post from an old friend and kindred spirit. I first met Thomas when we were freshman at DePaul University in Chicago. He was a cute queer punk, so I was instantly drawn to him. Thomas transferred shortly after, but we remained friends on social media. Recently I started noticing him posting things about his recovery from drugs and alcohol by way of his relationship to animals, veganism, and 80/10/10. I was so moved by his inspirational updates and photos on Instagram that I knew it was something I wanted to share with the Rebel Grrrl Living community. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I did! 

(*TW: Drug and alcohol abuse.) 

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Punk rock saved my life. It was the first thing I knew as a kid expressing that I was allowed to be different than what I was always told I had to be. Getting my hands on Green Day, Nirvana, Offspring, and Rage Against the Machine cassette tapes & cds before even leaving elementary school had shaped my still-developing, insubordinate, queer brain in such a way that I now praise. This foundation set up a lifetime of rebellion against normal ways to go about pretty much everything, and embarking on indirect routes to strengthening my personal empowerment by thinking outside of the box. 

Flash forward to high school, and I actually learned that what I had always listened to is called “Punk Rock.” I instantly confirmed my love and bought as many different cds, from as many bands as I could discover that identified within the genre. I started a band with a like-minded friend on my club hockey team, and began going to shows. Our group of friends also began to smoke pot together, and a few dabbled in drinking. We never took it too far, but we had a good time allowing creative juices to flow with the help of marijuana. Further into it, I became a full-blown pothead, however, I abstained from drinking and smoking cigarettes until after finishing my competitive high school hockey career. I should add that a few of my friends chose to go vegetarian in high school, some for a short period, some permanently. This inspired me on so many levels; I had recognized that the meat that I grew up eating was in fact animal flesh at around age 12, but had absolutely no clue how to begin to change my ways. I watched all of my friends do pretty well with their attempts and support each other while I continued to eat the Irish, red meat & potato, dairy ridden diet that I was raised on. There was plenty of fast food, sodas, and processed snacks to accompany mom’s home cooked meals. I mean, c’mon! I am ‘merican after all. 

As I was maturing throughout my teenage years, so was how I was self-identifying: at around age 15, I came to terms with the fact that I was attracted to my best guy friend far more than any girl I had known, had my first real crush, and the icing on the cake was a “strange” fixation on Blink-182’s homoerotic antics & tendency to be nude. I then painfully, and after a long-fought battle with denial, accepted that I was gay. I did not tell a single person about this realization… I was a hockey player, bro, and the locker room was an extremely homophobic space. There was no way I was going to tell anyone, as it was too risky for anyone in my all-boys catholic high school to find out and spread the word to my teammates. I would have been ridiculed in an unsafe space, and that was a true fear back then. Once high school ended, I knew that I was connected more to my punk friends than my hockey teammates, so I decided to come out to them right before my 18th birthday. I felt nothing but support from them. This was such a liberating moment in my life!

Next step was college. I chose to attend DePaul University in Chicago for my first two years. I met so many amazing, intelligent people from all walks of life and was exposed to vegan culture for the first time. I went to a college keg party early on and got drunk for the first time in my life. I was still a pothead, but also became a social drinker to go along with it. As mentioned earlier, cigarettes became a part of my life shortly after finishing my high school, senior-year hockey season, and I quickly became a pack/day smoker. 

I learned a lot from the two years that I had spent in Chicago, but I was not content with the course-work that I was studying and how much tuition cost, so I decided to transfer to an in-state college back home in Maryland. I opted for Salisbury University, simply because it was near the ocean and I wanted to surf. This next move proved detrimental to someone with an addictive personality, seeing as anyone that knows Salisbury, MD will tell you that it is a “party” town, and any drug-of-choice is easily accessible. I quickly became a regular heavy drinker, and by my 21st birthday was a full-blown alcoholic after a short-lived, mentally-abusive relationship with a “straight guy” who was dependent on me financially. To make matters worse, he was an alcoholic. I had never blacked-out before moving there, but then it became something that happened on any-given day of the week, usually multiple times each week. I drank heavily every day, smoked far too many cigarettes, and maintained my pot habit. I dabbled in other drugs, but alcohol became my substance of choice to abuse hard. There was no legitimate punk or queer community for me to relate to there, yet another reason that I numbed myself, feeling that I did not fit in anywhere.

Tom in the "before."

Thomas in the “before.”

I had attempted to go vegetarian a few times while living in Salisbury because of witnessing first-hand the atrocities of the Purdue Chicken headquarters & processing plants in my backyard (almost literally). The smell alone was enough to convince me not to participate in our carnivorous culture, let alone seeing the countless trucks full of chickens that seemed to have the souls sucked out of their eyes. I failed after a few attempts because I did not really know what to eat (doritos, pizza, fries, dunkin donuts, and oreos is not exactly a sustainable diet), but then in my final semester, I fully set my mind to it, did some research, and gave up eating meat! This was the first time that I had actually applied inner will-power to achieving something that I believed in. The band Propagandhi had a huge impact on my decision to “stop consuming animals.

Somehow, I was able to finish college with good grades, but my alcohol abuse followed me home when I moved back in with my parents. A vegan restaurant had opened a five minute drive away from my parents’ house while I was in college, and after moving back in, I figured that it would be a great decision to work there. I spent the next three years at that restaurant (Great Sage in Clarksville,MD), learned a lot about plant-based foods, met some amazing people, but ultimately was still stuck in a lifestyle that was self-abusive. I cut dairy from my diet due to the restaurant’s influence, officially becoming a junk-food vegan. I did, however, begin to learn about healthy plant food options and how to prepare them. I appreciate the Great Sage community, and the impact that everyone had on me.    

My parents knew that I was drinking heavily, but did not exactly know the full extent of abuse, and also did not know what to do to help me other than (in typical parent fashion) to tell me that I needed to change… which I already knew, but still felt stuck. To add, my family is a drinking family, so it was not unheard of for me to partake along with everyone else without a word of disapproval in most cases. I did not know how to rise up effectively, and continued numbing myself to a world that I felt I did not belong in. 

After a few years, I moved out of my parents’ house because I felt that it was actually causing further depression and substance abuse. This, however, led to even more freedom to frequently blackout because I did not have to tiptoe around anyone, which then spiraled to deeper depression. Toward the end, I was waking up with slices on my arms and legs from taking razor blades and scalpels to my skin. In my darkest state, I needed to feel pain, as I was so numb to everything else around me and literally incoherent most of the time when I was not at work. I would cry, curled up in a ball on the shower floor, then pass out… which I am sure scared the shit out of my roommate who would come in and carry me to bed (sorry to put you through that, Darren!). This was my lowest point; my hell. I am so grateful that family and friends were around, because I may not have made it without that connection in the state that I was in. 

Tom wrote this on a day he was hung over from alcohol poisoning.

Thomas wrote this on a day he was hungover from alcohol poisoning.

At that time, I was working in an emergency veterinary clinic with my oldest sister, and a beautiful black lab mix found me through a co-worker, one of my sister’s close friends who volunteers with a rescue in Puerto Rico called Island Dog. That dog was previously adopted out, but returned by her new owners because they did not want to deal with a bloody nose issue that she was having so soon into the adoption (they should never be allowed to adopt a pet ever again in my opinion). At that time, I was thinking of adopting a dog, and was specifically looking for a Labrador retriever. I was allowed to take her for a trial-run weekend to see if it would work out. Needless to say, she stayed with me from that day on. Very quickly into my dog-fatherhood, I learned that I could not be incoherent and take care of her simultaneously… How did I care for myself in that state for 7 years?! I had finally realized that nobody was going to fix me, for me, besides myself. I could not blame anyone else for how fucked up my life had become, and quickly became responsible for myself AND my newly adopted dog-daughter, Brooks. Less than two weeks into having her in my care, I decided to quit drinking, cold-tofurkey! Since I had utilized will-power from within to go vegetarian, then again to go vegan, I instinctually applied the same inner-strength to eradicate alcohol from my life. Thank you Brooks, you taught me a huge lesson in taking responsibility for myself so I could care for us properly. I am eternally grateful for the wakeup call and the unconditional love that you have always given me. 

With my new found sobriety from alcohol, I stayed in a lot instead of frequenting bars, and focused on filling my time more productively: I watched countless documentaries and was constantly reading on subjects that interested me. Through all of the “studying” that I was doing, I learned that I wanted to pursue overall healthier lifestyle choices, starting with incorporating more raw foods into my diet. The only thing that I really knew about nutrition up to that point, was that I had hoped to maintain a high-carbohydrate vegan diet, because I had a childhood hockey coach stress the importance of carbs before games for adequate energy. But how would I eat high-carb with raw plant foods? No bread?! No rice?! Vegetables are too low in calories?! Simple answer…FRUIT! This is when I stumbled upon a raw vegan lifestyle called 80/10/10.   

Tom & Watermelon. : )

Thomas & Watermelon. : )

I could go on-and-on about my experience with maintaining a high-raw, high-carbohydrate diet, but to sum it all up, it literally changed my entire lifestyle: I felt incredible amounts of energy right from the start, which in turn led to exercising again without even thinking about it; I learned what regular bowel movements and proper digestion were like (had to throw that in!); my entire outlook on my life became more fulfilled and much more spiritual (keep in mind, this does not mean religious for me); I felt more connected to the natural world, my own body, and the universe; my inner sexual thoughts are not “raunchy” anymore, seeing more natural beauty, and I desire a deep connection to others rather than just a physical connection for sexual gratification and pleasure;  and ultimately, I learned more than I ever thought I could about nutrition and how simple a healthy, balanced diet can be. 

One of the best parts about it all is the fact that I am no longer a slave to reading labels in grocery stores, as many vegan people are bogged down by. There are no questions with this lifestyle, no reading labels. It is literally as easy as “peel banana, eat banana.” Adopting this lifestyle helped me quit smoking cigarettes a few months into it. It gave me something else to focus on throughout my day, and with this way of eating, you can eat as much as you want. Therefore, instead of smoking cigarettes all day, I replaced it with eating fruit all day; if I felt the urge to smoke while quitting, I would just eat a banana instead (something to do with my hands and mouth!). It also just felt silly to be eating only healthy foods and exercising, just to chase it all with cigarettes. It defeated the purpose of it all. This lifestyle made it even easier to clean up my act all around. Not that long ago, ridding my life of my addictive past came full circle when I kicked my pot habit, sobering up completely for the first time in more than half of my life (15 years!). 

I now continue to eat mainly raw foods (fruit, greens & lettuce, vegetables, seeds, and some nuts), incorporating a few starches and legumes for satiation, balance, and seasonal variety. I have gotten into a great fitness regimen that I absolutely love: lifting heavy weights, body weight & core exercises, sprinting & short distance running, plyometrics, and kettle bell routines. I play on a men’s hockey team. I practice reflective yoga at least once a week, meditate intermittently, and sun gazing & earthing when I need to connect with universal and earthly forces, or if I simply need an extra dose of vitamin D. 

This lifestyle has also helped me discover that I would like to help others, now that I have effectively helped myself. I am currently pursuing a personal training certification and would like to run my own holistic fitness &lifestyle training business. Further down the road, I also hope to help people overcome their addictions with alternative methods to typical 12-step protocol, which I refused to follow for myself, denying that I have an “incurable disease.” Inner reflection and meditation can help anyone conquer and destroy their personal demons, which can reflect into the larger scale destruction of societal injustices once the individual is healed. Success comes with finding light while standing in the shadows of adversity… become a master of success.      

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 Thank you so much, Thomas! <3

Ginger, Kale, & Cantaloupe Smoothie

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If you peruse my smoothie recipes, you’ll know that fresh ginger is my favorite ingredient to any blended breakfast. I have to say that my second favorite smoothie addition–and one that I really only crave in the summer–is fresh melon. It’s even more superb if the melon is frozen. I’ve made some incredible watermelon smoothies before, so when I got the sweetest tasting farm-fresh cantaloupe, I knew I wanted to see what it could do in a smoothie.

I was incredibly pleased with the results!

Ginger, Kale, & Cantaloupe Smoothie 

1 large stalk kale

1 cup frozen cantaloupe cubes

1 small frozen banana

1 scoop protein powder (optional)

1 hunk of fresh ginger (I like at least an inch)

3/4 c almond milk (or coconut water would probably be delicious as well)  

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend. Add more liquid if desired.

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The cantaloupe makes this smoothie soooo creamy. It seriously tastes like a ginger milkshake. Enjoy!

 

Friday Reflections

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the human capacity to function “normally” (whatever that means), sometimes even happily, even in the midst of personal struggle, national tragedies, and/or global nightmares. As I was compiling the Friday Five this week, I thought about what it means to blog as though I wasn’t being deeply effected by events unfolding in our country and the world.

This summer, my heart has been heavy for some personal reasons, but also for reasons that don’t, at first, seem to directly impact me. While Palestinians are always targets of violence, in the past months and a half, we’ve witnessed destruction and violence at unthinkable levels. This past week, the kind of conditions we in the US have become accustom to seeing only from great distances, have developed in our backyard in Ferguson, MO.

Those of us who are not direct targets of concentrated violence and who are invested in justice often feel heavy with the weight of these realities, but also have the luxury to step away from it. We have the ability to leave our homes without panic, to go to school without daily fear that it could be bombed, to walk down the street without being shot by a cop. We have the ability to blog about cute animal videos and delicious vegan food without thinking twice.

I started this blog committed to finding a way to have a “healthy living blog” that didn’t shy away from controversial topics related to race, class, gender (etc.) when it pertained to things like food justice and health disparities. At first, it might not seem like the murder of Michael Brown has much to do with health…But what is “health” if not a world where we are free from destruction and violence and racist murder and oppression? What is health without justice?

I know this is not why people gravitate toward food and healthy living blogs–it’s not why I come to these internet spaces either. I know the importance of escape. It’s not like not posting pictures of vegan food is going to do anything to eradicate racism. But there are some days that it feels impossible to remain silent, even if it means interrupting regularly scheduled blogging.

The Friday Five is where I share things from the internet that have caught my attention over the week. This week, I’ve been immersed almost exclusively in articles about Michael Brown. So that’s what I’m going to offer here. And although I had so much to be grateful for this week, I’m going to skip my gratitude list as well. I’m holding it in my heart and sending it back out again and hoping it can seep into the universe and lift up those who cannot lift themselves.

I’ll be back to blogging with less heavy things next week—because, somehow, we’ll all find a way to go on.

America Is Not for Black People

Black Kids Don’t Have to Be College-Bound for Their Deaths to Be Tragic

Not Just Ferguson: 11 Eye-Opening Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces

2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes

Ferguson, The Commonality of the Police Riot, and the Long Road to Justice

On Systemic Violence, the Black Body and Reproductive Justice

***Update after original post….Things have gotten a lot brighter in Ferguson since I wrote this last night. Here’s something to bring a little positivity to this list: 

With Highway Patrol, hugs and kisses replace tear gas in Ferguson” 

Have a good weekend. Power to the people.

Guest Post for Open Way Yoga: Yoga and Feminism

I was honored to be asked to write a guest post for Open Way Yoga, a lovely yoga studio in Huron, Ohio. I met the owners through my uncle and ended up getting into a great discussion about yoga and feminism, which is what inspired them to ask me to blog. I hope you’ll head over and check it out!

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Tasty Bakery Winner!

Hello! Thank you all for entering the Tasty Bakery giveaway. I wish I could send everyone a box of these delicious treats, but Random Number Generator has chosen:

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Comment #13 belonged to Randi. Congratulations, Randi! I’ll email you for your information and get the box out to you right away.

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And if you didn’t win, I hope you consider popping on over to the Tasty Bakery website and ordering some goodies anyway!

Have a great week!

Tasty Bakery Review & Giveaway!

In lieu of the usual Friday Five, I am very excited to bring you a review of Tasty Bakery, an Ann Arbor-based gluten-free and often vegan bakery. I first discovered the company when I was hit with ravenous hunger during a long workday at a coffee shop. I had forgotten to pack a snack that day, so I reluctantly approached the counter; I wasn’t expecting to find much worth noshing, as most coffee shops are usually stocked with traditional (re: not vegan, full of gluten, and loaded with sugar) baked goods and not much else. To my delight I discovered they had Tasty Bakery’s peanut butter granola bars (which are vegan and sugar free!). I was completely hooked after the first bite. The bar was both delicious and filling, and it led me to see what other goods Tasty Bakery had to offer.

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I have since enjoyed the sweet and comforting berry bars, the tastes-exactly-like-brownies-are-supposed-to-taste vegan brownie, and the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I am majorly impressed with Tasty Bakery’s ability to create vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free products that taste so good.

image from Tasty Bakery

||Berry Bar||image from Tasty Bakery||

The company was founded by Julie Rabinovitz who started baking gluten-free treats after she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. As the website explains, “Julie knew her product would have to taste amazing because that was all she would accept for herself.” And amazing they are!

Tasty Bakery was kind enough to offer a vegan goodie box for one lucky reader! The box includes:

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see product info here.

*Vegan brownie 

*Peanut butter granola bar

*Chocolate tartlets 

*Chocolate chip cookies

*Peanut butter cup cookies

*Flourless peanut butter cookie 

*Berry Bar (un-pictured, hiding under brownie :)) 

You have four chances to be entered in the giveaway:

  • Leave a comment telling me which treat you are most excited to try.
  • Friend Tasty Bakery on Facebook.
  • Friend Rebel Grrrl Living on Facebook and/or Twitter.
  • Tweet or post about this giveaway on a social media site of your choosing.

Leave a comment for each of the above steps. (That means, you will leave four different comments if you decided to participate in all four asks!).

Contest will end Monday at 11pm EST. Winner will be announced on Tuesday.

And if you can’t wait to see if you’re a winner, head over to the Tasty Bakery website. They are running a promotion right now that gets you 15% off orders of $75 or more.

Good luck!