Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 4 Vegan Celebs of 2012

This was a big year of changes for me. As I made my transition into veganism, I found I was in good company! There are many vegan celebs as I soon discovered. Here are some of the celebs who took the vegan plunge this year (even if for just a little while). I know first hand that it's tough to go all out quickly, so I'm cheering on all the following people and applaud their changes! Here's to a healthy 2013.

Rosie O'Donnell | After suffering a heart attack, Rosie came home from the hospital and declared that she was changing her diet. I immediately began following her on Twitter and she soon became a huge fan of plant-based foods. Although she has clarified her diet as pescatarian, there's many benefits to cutting out as many animal products as she did! She was on Dr. Oz to discuss her heart attack and talk about how it impacted her.

Fran Drescher | As Rosie's pal, I think she may have converted after Rosie's heart attack, but nonetheless she's looking fabulous and lost 15 lbs. thanks to a vegan diet. Recently, she revealed that by giving up gluten, animal products and alcohol, her skin has improved. Check out her interview below on The Wendy Williams Show (0:50-2:32)!

Arian Foster | In November he announced he ate chicken, but he stood up for his plant-based diet when many questioned it. I'm happy he tried the lifestyle and that he challenged Texans fans and all of his followers with his new diet. I'll be the first to admit it's not easy being vegan, but we can all appreciate anyone's efforts in trying it out. Way to go Arian for giving it a shot! I have the utmost respect for him and his decisions. I enjoyed the tweets during all of it!

Michelle Pfeiffer | After seeing The Last Heart Attack, a documentary on CNN about Bill Clinton and reading Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Michelle turned to a vegan diet.

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below! 
Where to Begin
Kitchen Overhaul
5 Tips for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Pinterest Plant-Strong Board
Top 5 Reactions to "I'm Vegan"
Protein in a Vegan Diet
5 Tips for Eating a Plant-Based Diet (Anywhere)
Veganism in a Nutshell (video)
5 Things I've Learned Through Veganism
Foods That Kill

2012 in Review: Life Lessons Learned

This past year has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I discovered a new strength within myself, added another tattoo to celebrate my veganniversary and decluttered my life of unnecessary objects. After gaining a sense of who I really was, I recommitted myself to The Little Red Journal whole-heartedly and found my voice.

This has been my sanctuary where I document all of my little accomplishments, defeats, thoughts and dreams. The year has come to an end, and with it, a great chance to reflect on what happened, why it mattered and what I planned for 2013. The top five lessons I've learned are listed below followed by some of my my highlights for 2012! I'm looking forward to the new challenges and adventures in 2013. Who's with me?

~ Don't underestimate your passion or strength to accomplish a goal.
~ Tune out the negativity and surround yourself with those who support you.
~ Discover your passions and skills to bring more happiness to your life.
Simplify your life, home, social networks and relationships.
~ After reaching your goal, move on to another and conquer it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cutting the Clutter: The 5 C's to More Happiness

I've been cutting all sorts of things out of my life lately: excessive weight and animal products in the form of veganism, as well as clothing and unnecessary duplicates in my attempt at a more minimalist lifestyle. I've already discussed a few of the benefits that I found and some of the lessons I've learned, but here's a few more things to consider if you're feeling a little crazy lately.

Carefully consider who is part of your life. Early on in my journey to better health, there were some critics of my choices. Some of the people that were the closest in my life supported me while others flat out didn't. I feel like I've conquered all of my goals already, but there's one thing I did learn from this experience: No matter what the challenge is that you are facing, if someone does not support you, too bad. They are out, even if it's just a temporary thing. I hate to be blunt, but the last thing you need while facing a health crisis or making a lifestyle change is negativity.

Committing to every event you're invited to is overrated. Make sure you are spending your time the way you want to. I have a problem saying no to anyone, so that can quickly catch up to me if I'm not careful. Although I would love to do anything and everything that I have been asked to do, sometimes you just have to know when you need down time. Most people will understand because they are probably just as busy as you.

Cleanse your closet and kitchen of any nonessential items. I know this sounds silly, but chores suck! My husband and I despise doing dishes, so I decided to pare down to the essentials. The result? A cleaner kitchen since almost everything that gets dirty can quickly be tossed into the dishwasher. Less clothing in your closet also means you can't allow laundry to sit around. When you're out of jeans, you really have no choice but to toss them into the washer. It's forced me to stay on top of our chores and I don't have to stress as much about keeping the house clean.

Cut out the white noise in your social life. I'm sure there are people on Facebook who really don't care if I make another #vegan dish. (My husband even says OMG#VEGAN all the time just to make fun of all my posts!) I keep in touch with nearly all of our family on social networking sites and I try to keep my friends list trimmed to those who matter most to me. In college, you were the coolest kid in class if you had 400+ friends. Now in simplifying my life, I have reconsidered all of my personal connections. Better yet, permanently delete your Facebook profile and scale back on social media.

Consume less and free up more of your money for goals. No matter if you are ready to save up for a vacation or just trying to get a hold of your credit card debt, one of the best ways to accomplish these goals is to consume less. And by "consume less", I mean buy less stuff, use less stuff and live with what you have. I started to use small washcloths that I toss in with the laundry instead of using a paper towel every time I wiped my kitchen counters. I can't even remember the last time I bought a large package of paper towels!

January 2015 Update: We accomplished two of our goals by paying off $17,000 in student debt in less than 18 months and saved $16,000 in less than 7 months to purchase our first home.

In short, find ways to live simply and happily. These are a few that have worked well for my life, but I'd love to hear how you've simplified yours!

Looking to embrace a minimalist lifestyle? Check out my posts below!
Cutting the Clutter: The 5 C's to More Happiness
5 Lessons I've Learned by Decluttering
Top 5 Reasons for Cutting the Clutter
Cutting the Clutter: Kitchen Revamp
Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love.
Embracing a Minimalist Lifestyle

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chocolate Ganache Spread & Icing

After ten months of being vegan, I finally decided to make some homemade chocolate cupcakes and icing. I used Happy Herbivore's Chocolate Cupcake recipe, but searched for nearly half an hour for a chocolate icing that I could make. I'm not super picky, but I didn't want vegan butter or oil in my recipe, and I couldn't find anything that didn't have one or the other.

Finally I gave up and chose a recipe that was close, but omitted the oil and replaced almond milk for the water. The results: the most amazing chocolate ganache spread I've ever tasted in my life. And I LOVE chocolate, so I would know! Enjoy this recipe and spread it on cupcakes, cakes or anything else you can think of!

Chocolate Ganache Spread & Icing
yields 1.5 cups

1 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. almond milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, salt and milk in a small saucepan on med-high heat until boiling, stirring constantly.
2. Once the icing has thickens to your desired consistency, remove from heat and add vanilla.
3. Allow to cool before icing cupcakes.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reality Check: The Evolution of Your Goals

If you asked me over four years ago at my college graduation what my goals were, I would probably have said the following:

1. Work at a magazine.
2. Make $30,000 during my first year in the workforce.
3. Marry my boyfriend of four years.
4. Settle into a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house.
5. Have a kid by my 25th birthday. (Hint: I'm nearing my 26th birthday and still childless!)

Who did I think I was?! Considering I had just earned a degree in journalism, had only four months of experience with my college student newspaper, no clear understanding of the job market and that we were about to experience the worst economic downturn since I was old enough to pay attention to the news, all of my "dreams" were unattainable and unrealistic to say the least! Since then, I have checked off goals one and three and severely rearranged and added some to the list since then. So where am I now?

1. Tag team my husband's student loans and pay them off in the next three years.
2. Live simply and with {much} less stuff. Bonus: this goal saves time and money!
3. Write and write until I no longer have anything else of value to say. (Ha, believe me, I have plenty!)
4. After crossing off dream numero uno, begin to entertain the idea of having a child.
5. Harness my passions and creativity to be utilized for a stimulating and rewarding career path.

Not only are my newest set of dreams much more defined, but they seem more in reach and realistic. Most people don't agree with my approach to parenthood and I've heard plenty of pieces of advice along the lines of "If you wait until you have money, you'll never have kids!" Oh, having money is not the problem! Paying off our student loan debt is. Many disregard debt as a roadblock and charge away whatever they want on their credit cards. We're fortunate that we didn't amass credit card debt over the years and I am proud to say we never carry a balance for more than a few days.

However, the real problem is budgeting to make my top dream come true. I just discovered and my jaw dropped when I realized how much we spent on food last month. Don't get me wrong: eating vegan is NOT expensive. Dining out too much and heading out for lunch everyday is. Once I figured out where the money was spent, we quickly discussed how we can change it. We've been eating at home much more often and cooking meals the night before for lunch the next day.

The point is, dreams are not easy to make a reality. I don't doubt that I will accomplish all of these and I think of myself as a hard working and dedicated human being that can do just about anything if I put my mind to it. Even the whole vegan thing seems like no big deal when you're facing other lifestyle changes. I figure if I can go vegan overnight, why not pay off the student loan debt in a few years? I'd rather not be paying on something twenty years from now.

Here's my advice: make a list of your goals and really evaluate them. It's ok if they change monthly or yearly. I always have goals and challenge myself to reach them before I'd ideally like to. When we push ourselves, amazing things happen. Our health can improve, our careers can get a boost and our attitudes can be shifted. Don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't do. This is your life and you have to live it. Only you can push yourself to make your dreams your reality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Anatomy of a Vegan

This was one of the first infographics that I had seen when first making my lifestyle change. Although this only represents 144 people that were surveyed, it's interesting to me and informative in regards to who we really are. It seems that almost half surveyed are under 20 and that gives me the impression that these young'uns and taking a stand for what they believe in. Regardless of the reasons, check it out and see what strikes a chord within yourself!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Curried Cauliflower & Mushroom Soup

I've been enjoying my new immersion blender that I recently bought by trying out several new soup recipes. Pinterest is a great place for inspiration if you're looking for yummy recipes, and it's also one of my favorite places to find recipes to modify. The Vegetarian Times, one of my favorite new magazine subscriptions, had a soup recipe that I've modified below.

Curried Cauliflower & Mushroom Soup
yields 6 cups soup

1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
1 Granny Smith apple
1 tsp. curry powder
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1-32 oz. box vegetable broth
10 mushrooms, chopped
dash cardamom
1/2 cup almond milk
1 avocado (optional)

1. Sautee onions in large pot with 1/4 cup water for 5-7 minutes.
2. Add garlic, apple, curry powder and 1/4 cup water and cook for two more minutes.
3. Add cauliflower, broth and mushrooms, then bring to a boil.
4. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Add cardamom, almond milk and avocado, then use immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Friday, December 14, 2012

30 Dr. Seuss Quotes that Can Change Your Life

Each week I babysit two little munchkins that I met during my stint at a local daycare as the youngest child's teacher. We've got our routine down really well and when it's time to settle in for the night, I read them each a few books. Dr. Seuss books are always scattered on their bookshelves and I often reach for those when it's time for their stories. The youngest likes to read Green Eggs and Ham, Left Foot, Right Foot, and The Cat in the Hat. The older child enjoys Oh, The Places You'll Go

I often try to read Oh, The Places You'll Go to them, because there are so many amazing pieces of advice in that book. My high school English teacher read this to us at the end of our junior year, and I didn't fully get it until just recently. It's generic enough to apply it to any situation, but there are a few sentences that really stand out to me. While reading this recently, I began to think about how much it really applied to my life, where I've been and where I'm headed. The part that really struck me was the bit about waiting: 
The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.Waiting for the fish to biteor waiting for wind to fly a kiteor waiting around for Friday nightor waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jakeor a pot to boil, or a Better Breakor a string of pearls, or a pair of pantsor a wig with curls, or Another Chance. 
Everyone is just waiting.No! That’s not for you!Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing!With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!Ready for anything under the sky!
Reading this nearly nine years after hearing it in my high school English class really has an impact on me since I know more now than I did then. I was always so naive and thought the world was different. Then I learned it's really what you make of it, and that all depends on how much effort you'd like to put into it. Although I've learned many valuable lessons since entering "adulthood", these books are something we should all read, no matter what our age, from time to time.

One of my personal favorite Dr. Seuss quotes is simply the word "Unless". After switching to a vegan diet for health reasons in February 2012, I found that word to be amazingly inspirational. The actual quote is, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." This will be my next tattoo, and it applies to so many different aspects of my life. I pride myself in being different, and that's why there's a little red bird on The Little Red Journal logo.

See my "Unless" tattoo and why I selected this Dr. Seuss quote for my third piece of art.

Below are 30 great Dr. Seuss quotes [infographic created by Mamiverse] that I'm sure many of you can glean some inspiration from.

Which quote is your favorite? Let me hear it below in the comments!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Q&A with CitySprout Co-Founder Jesse Mayhew

I recently wrote a post about CitySprout, an online platform connecting local farmers and communities to bring fresh, healthy, local food to everyone, regardless of their income level. The idea intrigued me personally, because I often find myself wishing I could commit to a CSA box, but am too afraid to sign up. CitySprout sounded like the perfect middle ground for me and I wanted to learn more. I spoke with Jesse Mayhew, the co-founder of the innovative new company that's rebuilding the relationship between the farmers and their customers.

LRJ: What was the vision behind creating CitySprout?

Jesse: As our social marketplace continues to grow, so does our ability to effect positive change on an economic, environmental, and social level. The vision behind CitySprout is to help mitigate the environmental impacts associated with modern food distribution, make proper dietary nutrition available for any and all communities regardless of income level, and provide a platform to help fight the growing proliferation of food deserts.

LRJ: What do you hope to accomplish by establishing more communities?

Jesse: We strive to rebuild the lost relationship between communities and their local food producers. This change begins by empowering communities with access to healthy, locally grown food, and becomes firmly rooted when small farms and food producers have the tools to succeed. 

LRJ: What makes this different from the farmer's markets that are currently in place in Austin?

Jesse: It's our hope that the same Austin area farmers that frequent Austin's Farmer's Markets will find CitySprout to be an exciting new platform. Many farmers find CitySprout more convenient than a Farmer's market in that we take the speculation out of things; through CitySprout, farmers only need to pack up and transport what they have already sold. 

From the CitySprout member's point of view, CitySprout provides greater convenience by bringing local food directly to your community to a convenient time and location. You no longer have to travel across town, or only do your shopping on Saturday mornings (or whenever your nearest farmer's market might take place.)  

LRJ: I like that this is not so much of a commitment like joining a CSA. I love Johnson's Backyard Garden when we visit the farmer's market, but I just can't commit to a weekly CSA box. Did you envision people like me when formatting the ideas for CitySprout?

Jesse: Definitely. One of the early observations we had when creating CitySprout was that there are many people out there who would love to be supporting local agriculture and eating local food for whom CSA memberships and seasonal prepayments are simply not a financial possibility.

LRJ: How many communities are currently active elsewhere in the US?

Jesse: In addition to our communities in the Northeast, we have a number of growing business communities within the Austin Area.

LRJ: How long do you anticipate it will take before the Austin communities are up and running?

Jesse: This depends entirely on the communities. Once you start or join a community on CitySprout, you have access to a host of tools (including auto-generated email invitations, flyers, social media posts, and much more) to invite more members and help your community to grow. Depending on the enthusiasm and density of a community, this could take as little time as a week or as long a month.

If you'd like to search for your local community or create one in your area, check out their site. Have more questions? See their FAQs for more information.

About Jesse
Before coming onboard as CitySprout’s Communications Director, Jesse was Partner and Co-Founder of Brave One, a Digital Marketing and PR Agency specializing in work for sustainable and socially responsible companies. A veteran sustainability writer, thought leader, and consultant, Jesse has worked with a vast range of mission-driven companies, including Energizer, Capital One, Compass Group North America, Freeworld Media, Repair the World Apparel, Public Address System, and many more. Jesse has served as a guest editor for Sustainable Life Media. His writings on sustainability and corporate responsibility have appeared in The Washington Post, 3BL Media, Cause Marketing Forum and Sustainable Brands.

Monday, December 10, 2012

CitySprout: Connecting People and [Local] Foods

I recently received some exciting information about a great new way to receive local foods close to home. A member of the CitySprout team contacted me and gave me the rundown of their mission and how they hope to rebuild the relationship between communities and the people who produce food within it. They have created an online social marketplace that allows communities to connect directly with their surrounding small farms and local food producers and gain access to fresh, healthy, local food.

Their idea of bringing local food and local people together also helps to cut down on the environmental impact of the current food distribution model. By connecting the farmers with consumers directly, CitySprout has helped cut costs by allowing the farmers to set a minimum order number for each deal. Once the minimum amount of orders has been met, the deal will be delivered at a community pick-up site for all those who purchased the deal.

After a successful trial launch in cities including Boston, MA, Brooklyn, NY and even Manhattan, CitySprout looked to expand their program with the idea of spreading nationally in the coming years. Austin has been selected as the first city due to our ideal location and year-round growing season, as well as our highly involved population with the local food movement.

CitySprout has already spoken to several employers, homeowner associations, places of worship, small farms and local producers. All of them have shown a keen interest in the program and are excited about this idea. I was drawn to this idea since I am a vegan and can't quite commit to a weekly CSA box just yet. The idea that I can find the perfect deal for me and then meet up in a mutal spot with other customers and snag a box of fresh and local veggies was exciting to me.

Looking to get started? Head on over to CitySprout's site and find or create your own community. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Restaurant Review: Sugar Mama's Bakeshop

After you go vegan or plant-based, one of the first cravings that you get is usually for something sweet. I hadn't even entertained the idea that there were baked goods made without animal products, and upon doing a quick search of vegan cupcakes, I found Sugar Mama's Bakeshop. Located on South 1st, their menu boasts vegan and non-vegan baked goods. I've made several visits here already, but during my last, there were several vegan options available to my delight.

This is right across the road from Bouldin Creek Cafe, and we walked to Sugar Mama's after dinner at Bouldin one night. I had never seen so many vegan options and was amazed at the choices. My husband snagged two banana split cupcakes and I bought myself one red velvet and one pumpkin cupcake. We chatted with one of the employees, who informed us that they do lots of custom orders, as well. 

The interior has a retro feel and the cases that hold the baked goods looks vintage, as well. I wish I had snapped a photo of the menu, which was written in chalk on a huge board behind the display cases. The employees have always been super friendly and more than helpful when I have a quick question about a vegan product. 

If you're looking to order a dozen custom vegan cupcakes, a pie for the holidays or have been craving a cupcake, swing by Sugar Mama's today!

Sugar Mama's Bakeshop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Broccoli Cheeze Soup

My grandmother visited me a couple months ago and one of the first things she asked me was if I missed her broccoli and cheese soup. Of course I did... They were feeding it to me at the wee age of six months old! She didn't fully understand my desire or motivation to go plant-based in February 2012, but was almost tempting me by just getting me to think about it. Since then, I've kept my eyes peeled for something similar, and while this one doesn't taste exactly like hers, it definitely satisfied my cravings!

Broccoli Cheeze Soup
yields 6 bowls of soup

2 heads of broccoli, destemmed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
3 cups water
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp. Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. parsley
6 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Steam broccoli and onion in a medium pan with 2 cups water for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in another pot and stir with whisk until smooth over medium heat.
3. Sauce will begin to thicken after a few minutes. If too thick, thin out with almond milk. If too thin, thicken with additional cornstarch.
4. Add steamed broccoli and onion to the cheeze sauce.
5. Serve with pepper to taste.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Food Trailer Review: Capital City Bakery

A couple of coworkers told me about Capital City Bakery after I was a few months in to my vegan journey. It was a little while longer before I was able to check it out, but I attended a Vegan Pizza Party that they hosted in July 2012 and met some really great people. I brought a box of goodies home to my non-vegan friends and family that were visiting, and they devoured them. Since then, I've visited several times and have enjoyed multiple treats, including cupcakes and cookies. All have been super tasty and I am proud to say I have a frequent buyer punch card!

I didn't know what to expect when I discovered there were cupcakes and cookies available that were made without cow's milk and eggs. At Capital City Bakery, they have moist and sweet treats for just about everyone! While I tried my first vegan treat, I just kept thinking how amazing it all tasted. Every time I go, I have to be sure to bring home a treat for my husband, as well.  

Capital City Bakery's food trailer is parked on Rio Grande St. and MLK Blvd. beside Conscious Cravings. The location is great and it's not too far from my office. This means venturing out to snag a treat every once in a while to break up the work day. I've tasted a variety of different options available and have loved them all! So if you've gone vegan and still have a sweet tooth (and you know you do), head on over to Capital City Bakery soon!

Capital City Bakery on Urbanspoon