Friday, July 31, 2009

Renewal

Photo via Before I Sleep

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote always brings me a sense of renewal after a challenging day. The rain is joining in tonight, rinsing the wounds of
a hurtful comment, clearing the dust of an office bought, and washing away the gentle film that settles in when stagnation replaces change. I am feeling ready for some change myself. Disenchanted with the status quo, it is time to shake things up and find some new inspiration. What isn't working for you lately? Today brings the chance to make a change for the better. Seize it with everything you've got.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Monotasking

Image via Owlnet

Like many people I know, I have a tendency to try and accomplish eight things at any one given time. Frequently I will be packing my lunch, brushing my teeth, and trying to compose a grocery list simultaneously - only to later wonder where my soup spoon ran off to (left on top of the fridge), why there is something stuck between my molars (oops, forgot to floss), and how come the pantry is empty (mental grocery lists never seem to materialize in full in my shopping bags). Perhaps it is having to eat soup with a fork, my fear of cavities, or the unsatisfying nature of roasted vegetables paired with a granola bar and edamame, but I have hit my breaking point. Every Monday and Wednesday morning I am reminded by my yoga teacher, Natasha, in her soothing accent of unknown origin, to move my arms "mindfully", to "let the excess go", and to "focus my whole being" on a pose. I'm starting to think she has a point.

See, after a few days of monitoring my own multitasking habits it became evident that I was not really saving time at all - I was just displacing it. Sure, I may have saved a minute or two when I sent an email in class, but the time I spent getting caught up on the course material I missed and composing the subsequent email I had to send when I realized my first message did not really make sense... well... it ended up taking longer than had I done both tasks "mindfully" to begin with.

In addition to saving time, I also thought that my multitasking was helping me get the most out of each minute in the day - a neat trait that ensured I experienced life to the fullest and would not miss out on anything. Well. it turns out that is not the case either. You see, inherent in multi-tasking is that nothing is experienced fully. Certainly I was not experiencing the book I read fully while I simultaneously listened to music and intermittently sent text messages, nor was I getting the most out of my workout as I slowed my jogging pace on the treadmill to read a magazine. In either scenario I would have gotten a much fuller and satisfactory experience if I has "let the excess activities go".

The most profound realization for me, however, was recognizing that a multitasking person is not a fun person. In fact - a multitasking person is generally an annoying person. Think about the last time you had lunch with someone who was constantly sending messages from their Blackberry or texting someone else while you tried to carry a conversation. Majorly annoying, right? What about the lady driving to work while eating a McMuffin, applying mascara, and talking on the phone? Also majorly annoying and dangerously oblivious. And then there's the coworker that is always so preoccupied you end up having the same conversation day after day because they are never really listening to you. Annoying to the nth degree.

Photo via MSNBC

Well I am embarrassed to admit I have recently become that person. I have been called out on my annoying behavior by my boyfriend while talking to him on speakerphone and washing my face, brushing my teeth, checking my email... the list goes on. It has finally hit home that if I am not giving someone else my whole attention I am wasting their time and missing out on developing a deeper relationship. Plus, I am majorly annoying - not a description I strive for. You see, if we are not "focusing our whole being" on the person or people we are with, we risk missing out on truly connecting with others - one of life's greatest gifts. We also risk being an annoying person no one wants to hang out with.

Photo via Ron Martin

Given my recent multitasking myth-busting, I decided to turn over a new leaf and embrace monotasking. Maybe it seems a little boring and lackluster amid a world of bluetooth technology in an endless sea of gadgets that encourage us to do more in any one moment in time, but it feels surprisingly refreshing to focus on just one thing at a time. There are many benefits to monotasking I have noticed, most notable of which is an increased satisfaction with each thing I do. Consciously completing a task effectively and knowing it has been done with care is oddly fulfilling - sort of like when you are young and tying your shoes was a triumph worthy of acknowledgment. Plus, I know I won't be annoying my boyfriend, or any friend for that matter, with my lack of participation in our conversations.

Looking to add a little monotasking to your life? Start with these mono-tips and you'll be on your way to more focused, mindful living in no time:
  • When it's time to eat, just eat. Don't watch television or work at your computer while you munch. Not only is eating mindlessly bad for your waistline, but you are depriving yourself of fully experiencing the joy of your food when distracted by the TV. Remember, multitasking doesn't save you time in the long run - you can take 30 minutes to enjoy your meal and be a more productive worker when you return to your desk.
  • When you're talking to someone, listen. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how often are we truly listening to someone when they speak to us? Even if we are not actively doing something else physically, we are often predicting what the speaker will say next, pondering our own personal issues, or trying to find a place to interject our own thoughts. Spend a day trying to fully engage in conversations with others, with an emphasis on listening - you might be surprised by what you hear!
  • Talk yourself through it, one task at a time. Lately, when I start doing one task and then find my mind or my body trying to do something else too, I will say (either in my head or aloud), "It's not time for X right now, I'm doing Y". This may seem silly, but it is a very effective way to stay on task and strengthen your resolve to complete one task before starting the next. A quick reminder is often all it takes to finish what you started with full attention.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Design Inspiration: Warm Spaces

Photo by David Allee via NYMag

You may have noticed from some of my other interior design posts that I gravitate towards clean, simple spaces - but I also love rooms that combine natural elements to create warmth. This living room and kitchen, found on the New York Magazine website, may just be my favorite room set yet. Open and airy yet inviting and cozy, architect Diane Kellog and her husband, writer Neil Burger, have created an exceptionally beautiful and livable space. To see more of Diane's work, check out her website here.

Photo by David Allee via NYMag

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birthday Wishes



Someone I'm rather fond of will be one-quarter of a century old today. His facial hair rivals that of Abe Lincoln, he makes me laugh more than Bret and Jemaine, and he can debate tax law with... well other international tax accountants. I have many wishes for him this year: continued health, an even fuller beard, the perfect bicycle. Most of all, I wish that the next 25 years will make the first 25 look like a mere warmup. Happy Birthday, Tim.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Artist Spotlight: Ashley Collins

Mend by Ashley Collins via Diehl Gallery

The stunning artwork of Ashley Collins is truly unique from the layering technique (mixed media like aged paper and resin create depth and texture) to the sheer size (many works are 7' x 8' and 8' x 10') to the subjects (simple, neutral color combinations, words and print, and powerful animals). I love the stark yet full nature of the plain backgrounds coupled with striking images that are not overly complicated. To me, her style captures the energy of her subjects in an organic and unrefined way. Not only are Ashley’s final products inspiring, but to see her working in her studio is a treat in and of itself. Check out the photos below to see what I mean. To see more of Ashley’s work and learn more about the artist herself, check out her website here. 


Ashley Collins in her studio via Boise Weekly

Ashley Collins in her studio via Diehl Gallery

Caballo by Ashley Collins via Karin Sanders 

Life by Ashley Collins via Karin Sanders

Ashley Collins Work via Artmajeur

Dune By Ashley Collins via ArtMo

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lazy Sunday: Morning Reading

Sunday Reading


There's something so appealing about sitting down with a stack of books this morning, sipping iced tea on the porch, and watching the world wake up. Since I am at a lack of porch, or patio for that matter, and my stack of reading is of the academic variety, I am off to the library to watch my computer screen instead. With any luck I'll finish in time to watch the world fall asleep as I skim the pages of something entirely business-less. What are you reading today?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Design Inspiration: Bright Kitchens


There's something about a bright, white kitchen that sets the tone for a beautiful home. I especially love kitchens with lots of natural light, so large south-facing windows would be ideal for creating a bright, open, and airy space. To me, the more space a kitchen affords, the easier it is to spread out and prep food comfortably and enjoyably. Since space is at a premium for those of us in apartments, the illusion of space and light can be achieved with the use of light and bright colors and framed mirrors to reflect light and expand the perceived size of the area. 

Photo via Room Envy

Photo via Country Living

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bicycle Affair

Photo via Trek

Alright fellow bicycle enthusiasts, I have a confession to make. As my beloved Specialized sits just one room away, I've been drooling over photos of the latest additions to the Trek urban cycle line. Now I am not usually one to be caught lusting after the latest gear - I am a monogamous rider, after all, and the allure of a freshly painted frame or the scent of carbon fiber in the air does not tempt me... generally. But lately my curiosity around belt driven cycles has gotten the best of me and I can't seem to get them off of my mind. 

Belt driven? You say. If you have not seen the latest technology, you are in for a treat. Take a look at the photo below and you will quickly see what sets the newest Trek models apart from the pack - the traditional chain which connects the pedal crank to the back wheel has been replaced with a carbon fiber composite belt. The reported benefits? A super quiet, zero maintenance piece of equipment that will not stretch or wear. 


Photo via Trek

I had seen the belt-driven bikes online and while they seemed cool I was not instantly sold. Sure, it they were novel, but (like most things on the internet) I viewed the new cycles with a guarded heart; knowing things are not usually as shiny and fun as they seem when viewed on on the web. But a few weeks ago I was at my local bike shop waiting for my trusty silver steed to undergo some maintenance when I had the chance to meet the Trek belt-drivens in person. As I gave the commuter-worthy Soho and the pared-down District a once-over, the prospects of a no maintenance system (no lube, no grease, no more dirty right pant legs) made my heart flutter. The simplicity of the design is beautiful, but would the belt really be so different? 

As if he'd heard my inner debate, one of the shop wrench-wielders stopped to ask me what I thought of the new products. He'd ridden the bikes and had great things to say about the performance. In addition to touting the silent and clean properties of the belt-driven system, he cited the efficient energy transfer (due to zero slack in the belt versus the extra room and stretch inherent in your typical chain) as the most noticeable difference in the ride. 

Now there are some drawbacks to the belt, namely when it comes to gear options. The belt-driven cycles use an internal rear gear system which limits the number of gears available and makes repair more difficult and costly. Also, there are not too many bikes using the belt system yet - though that number is expected to grow. A Golden, Colorado company, Spot Brand Bikes, also sells belt-driven beauties of both the road and mountain variety. 

Want to learn more about the specifics behind this technology? Check out this website which includes details on how to upgrade your current ride to utilize the belt drive system as well as discover other makes with the CDS (carbon drive system) already installed. While I haven't made a belt-driven purchase yet, you can bet that a new CDS cycle is on the top of my wish list. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vegan FAQ


Photo via On Our Sleeve

Hi everyone! Today I'm posting some of the questions I am most frequently asked about being vegan. I wanted to have a place to direct people who want more information and a chance to get some of my thoughts about the issue in type. What is most important to me is that I feel better than ever having transitioned to a vegan lifestyle more than a year ago. The process has been really profound for me, and I am able to live a life of abundance every day through plant-based nutrition. I have discovered so many new kinds of food since making the change, and am enjoying my food so much more than I did before. 

While I am passionate about veganism myself, I recognize that each person's eating choices are very personal. This post is intended to provide information about my own choice, and to inspire open discussion about the issues I present. 


What do you mean you're vegan?

The simplest way to put it is that I am an herbivore. I eat delicious fruits, vegitables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and all of the amazing foods that can be made with them. I do not eat meat (of any kind - if it was living, it's not going on my plate, this means fish too), dairy products, or eggs. 

Photo via VegNews

Why did you stop eating meat?

I went vegetarian two years ago for environmental reasons after taking a year-long ecology course. If you are concerned about the environment and resource consumption, it is important to recognize that eating meat is an unsustainable consumption model. The most logical way to understand this is that when you eat a plant based diet you are consuming simply the plants you eat, but when you eat meat you are consuming not only the animal itself but all of the plants that animal ate and water it needed to drink and more. From this simple standpoint, it is obvious why eating meat takes a toll on the environment. 

However, there's more to the story. In 2006 the UN (United Nations) issued a report stating that the “livestock sector” generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined. The livestock sector alone is the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions and one of the top sources of carbon dioxide missions. In addition, the livestock sector uses an incredibly disproportionate amount of land. The report notes that 30% of the entire land surface is used for livestock, mainly for pastures but also including 33% of the globe's arable land to produce livestock feed. You can read more from the report here

So by going veg or by eating less meat, you can have a great impact on global resource use and decrease your emissions footprint significantly. Chris Weber is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and has calculated that not eating red meat and dairy products alone is the equivalent of not driving 8,100 miles in a car that gets 25 miles to the gallon. Since transportation-related emissions are only 5% of the total emissions output, eating local meat and dairy will not make up the difference. You can find the NPR story featuring Chris here

There are so many other reasons for going veg (many of which were catalysts for my own transition), which span from health reasons to biological reasons to religious and philosophical reasons. In fact, here's 101 more reasons

But why give up dairy and eggs too?

My reasons for choosing not to eat dairy and eggs are three-fold. For one, I have always had difficulty digesting milk products, what is commonly referred to as lactose intolerance. For years I took medicines and supplements like Lactaid to try and cover the unpleasant sensations I experienced after consuming dairy products (stomach ache, bloating, cramps, etc.). But once I started listening to my body and cut out dairy entirely I felt so much better. It makes me wonder if other people are experiencing similar symptoms due to dairy consumption and never realizing that is the cause.

Secondly, I started to examine the issue of eating dairy products from a logical standpoint. Do any species drink milk from from the mother of another species... besides humans? No, because that milk is designed by nature to help the mother's unique babies grow into big adults at a rapid pace. Cow's milk has a purpose and that is to help grow a newborn calf into a 1,000+ pound adult. Do we still feed off of our mother's breast? Well, no. So why a cow's? There are many other issues around dairy consumption, such as growth hormones, which you can learn more about here

I also decided to stop eating dairy products and eggs entirely because I am against factory farming. The conditions that a vast majority of dairy cows and hens are forced to live in is completely atrocious and something I refuse to support. Compassion for all creatures is very important to me. You can find more information about factory farming here.

Photo via Lunch Box Bunch

Where do you get your protein?

Protein is an important building block of any diet, which is why I choose to get mine naturally from lots of fresh, whole plant foods. Some of my favorite protein sources include raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds (such as raw almond butter and hemp seeds), whole and sprouted grains, and yummy complete proteins like quinoa. I also toss in mock meat products every now and then (perhaps once or twice a week) including tofu, seitan, and tempeh to spice things up. Many of us in the US are more than a little obsessed with protein, and associate the word protein with meat; but this does not need to be the case. For more scientific information about vegans and protein, check out this link. There are also plenty of vegan sources of calcium, including lots of leafy greens, which you can find more information on here

I would go vegetarian, but...

I hear from lots of people that they tried to give up meat but "couldn't" or that they just could not give up cheese because they are "addicted". I liked the taste of meat and cheese very much at one point in time, but after learning about how my choices impact the world around me and really taking the time to consider that, meat and cheese were no longer appealing. In fact, when I see meat and cheese now I no longer see food, just dead flesh and chunks of byproduct. As for those addicted to cheese (and oddly enough, I hear this a lot), I recognize that giving up certain foods is a very emotional process - just don't let the cheese control you! ;) 

Whether you have been vegan or vegetarian for many years or you choose to change from SAD (the ironic acronym for the Standard American Diet) to a more plant based diet or not, I encourage everyone to think more about their dietary choices. It is healthy to experiment with different foods and find what works for you. If you would like any more information or have any other questions about going veg, just shoot me a comment or message.

Photo of Jason Mraz via Synthesis
You're a Freak!

Well, that may be the case, but I'm in great company. A few vegans you may know of include:

Leonardo di Vinci - Vegetarian Know it All
Jason Mraz - Singer (pictured above)
Davey Havok - Lead Singer of AFI
Tim McIlrath - Lead Singer of Rise Against
Natalie Portman - Actress Extraordinaire
Brandan Brazier - Professional Ironman Triathlete 
Ginnerfer Goodwin - Film Actress
Alice Walker - Pulitzer Prize Winning Author
Donald Watson - Founder of the term vegan
Jillian Anderson - Actress
Ellen Degeneres - TV Personality
Gretchen Wyler - Broadway Actress
Tom Commerford - Bassist of Rage Against the Machine
David Pearce - Philosopher
Andre 3000 - Rapper of Outkast
KD Lang - Singer
Thom Yorke - Singer of Radiohead 
Robert Cheeke - Body Builder
Salim Stoudamire - NBA Player

Additional Resources

VegNews Magazine - Vegan news and lifestyle glossy
Experience Life Magazine - Living your best life
The Discerning Brute - For the ethically handsome man
Herbivore Clothing Co - Super cute vegan duds
Happy Cow - Finding veg-friendly restaurants 
Veganomicon - The holy grail of vegan recipes
VeganYumYum - A gorgeous vegan cooking blog
Hugo Naturals - My favorite vegan beauty products



Monday, July 20, 2009

Raw Cookie Dough Dessert Recipe


If you ever make cookies only to munch through half the dough before the oven has preheated, this recipe is for you! It's a delicious cookie-dough-like treat made from 100% natural and raw food ingredients that you don't have to feel guilty (or worried about) consuming. The best part? You can make this dough in about ten seconds flat. This flexible recipe can be used as a base for endless cookie dough or energy bar combinations. Feel free to make a big batch for some friends or just a little bit for when you need an afternoon spoonful of sweetness.

Ingredients
  • Raw Almonds, diced
  • Fresh Medjool Dates, pitted
  • Raw Cacao Nibs
Simply toss a hefty handful of the almonds into a small blender (I use my Magic Bullet) or food processor and blend into a fine "flour". It will look something like the photo below. If you blend it too long, an almond butter will start to form, but don't worry - you can still make a great cookie dough with it. 


Next, blend in your dates slowly to develop a good doughy consistency. I added 2 and a half to my mix and it formed into a dough ball on it's own after just a few seconds of blending:


Finally, to make a yummy version of chocolate chip cookie dough, I mixed in a small scoop of raw cacao nibs by hand. This preserves the crunchiness of the nibs for a more authentic texture. Never heard of cacao? It's basically chocolate straight from the tree. For a more complete explanation, check out this raw cacao website. 


And that is it! You can enjoy your dough with a spoon straight from the mixing bowl, you can form it into little cookies as I did above, you can make little dessert balls by rolling the dough in the diced almonds or dried coconut and tossing them in the freezer to chill, you could throw them in a dehydrator to warm em up, whatever feels right. Do note that this is not a dough meant to be cooked - just enjoyed in all of its gooey glory. Chocolate chip not your thing? Mix in raisins, chopped macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, some tahini, honey, or leave it plain. 

If you are wondering why none of my recipes use milk or eggs, stay tuned to find out!


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lazy Sunday: In The Kitchen

Kitchen 2


Today has been a very lazy Sunday for me, so while my homework waits neglected on the coffee table I'm in the kitchen trying out some new recipe ideas. I have to say, it would be a little easier if the counter space exceeded 2 feet and my 1970's fridge didn't cryogenically freeze any produce that dare enter it's avocado-toned "crisper" drawers - crispy indeed. Despite the cramped kitchen space, I managed to concoct a super easy and so yummy sweet treat... stay tuned, I'll be posting the recipe soon! What are you up to this Sunday?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food for Thought, and Your Stomach


After finishing some reading at the park the other day, I noticed an inscription on the plaque below the bench I'd been sitting on. There could not have been a more timely question for my thoughts that evening, and I enjoyed the words so much I had to go snap a photo today to share with you. In case you have trouble seeing it, the plaque reads: What are you most passionate about in your life? How would people know it? 


I made some delicious Spicy Sunflower Seed Dip as a filling afternoon treat today. The dip (pictured in the red bell pepper) is a combination of raw sprouted sunflower seeds, lemon juice, fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, and a little soy sauce for some added punch. It turned out so well - a really healthy alternative to prepackaged dip and super easy to make. All you have to do is soak the sunflower seeds for about 12 hours, then drain the water and allow them to sprout for another 2-4 hours*, and finally blend them with whatever seasonings you like. Next time I might try making a cool version with fresh dill - the perfect compliment for some sliced cucumbers on a hot day.

I served my dip with cucumber slices and purple bell pepper. Yes, PURPLE! Have you tried this before? I'm a big fan of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers but when I saw purple I had to give it a try. It was yummy, nothing crazy different though and unless it was on sale I probably wouldn't go for it again. However, the purple color did make for a gorgeous addition to the spread. Once I'd finished dipping all my veggies I ate the whole red pepper with the remaining dip. Yum! It was the best part.


*In case you're wondering what this soaking and sprouting business is about, it is a great way to get major nutrition out of seeds that are brimming with enzymes and easy to digest. It also makes the seeds easy to blend for a creamier texture. I realize the process may seem a little daunting, but it is worth the wait. Plus, think of all the extra love that went into your meal!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Simple Aesthetics


Photo via Stock Vault

I enjoyed my all-time favorite simple pleasure today - a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice; or as I like to call it, liquid sunshine. All it took was 2 organic valencia oranges and a little elbow grease. There's no pasteurized juice out there that can even compete on taste (or nutrition), so I've stopped buying bottled juices all together (apple cider is a definite exception, however). 

What simple moments of joy did you experience this week? In such a chaotic world, it's good to step back and recognize that sometimes the simplest of things can bring us incredible happiness.  If you still need some inspiration, here are some simple aesthetics to get your simplicity juices flowing.

Photo via Holobara

Photo via Library News

Photo via Photomural

Photo via Simple+Pretty

Simple Chic

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Simple Poetry: The Haiku

Photo via The Painted Eye

Living more simply enables us to get to the point of things. When we free ourselves from excess (in its many forms), we have the opportunity to see the world around us more clearly and avoid confusion and distraction. When we free ourselves from excess communication, we are are challenged to share our perspectives carefully and accurately. 

Enter the haiku. This form of Japanese poetry is concise and follows a 5,7,5 morea (what we in the West would interpret as a syllable) structure. The rules of traditional haiku poetry are rather strict, such as requiring that certain seasonal words be used to reference the natural environment and the incorporation of a kirej (also called a "cutting word", there is no english equivalent for a kirej but Wikipedia tries to explain it here). But despite these traditional rules the lyrically challenged can rejoice, because haiku need not rhyme. 

I really enjoy haiku poetry for its brevity and clarity. It's amazing to me the emotions and visuals some haiku writers are able to convey in a mere 17 morea. Check out some of the poems below and see what you think. Note that many of these are translations and thus the english syllable count may not correlate directly to the 5,7,5 structure. 

The winds that blow-
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go. - Kyoshi Takahama

After killing 
a spider, how lonely I feel
in the cold of night. - Masaoka Shiki

First autumn morning:
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face. - Kijo Murakami

In all this cool
is the moon also sleeping?
There in the pool? - Ryusui

Covered with flowers,
instantly I'd like to die
in this dream of ours! - Etsujin

Regardless of how you feel about the poetry, I think there is a lot to be learned from the great haiku masters. What could you be communicating more clearly? Why aren't you? How simply can you express your feelings? Now go ahead and do it! The more clear and simple you can be, the more effective your communication will become (and the less frustrating misunderstandings will occur).

No Impact Man Trailer

It is so fitting that as I blog about simplicity this week the first No Impact Man movie trailer releases!  If you don't know about Colin Beavan's no impact project, check out his website here. I don't know if I am more excited to see the movie or read the book, both of which come out the first week of September. Check out the movie trailer below. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Simple Interior Design

Photo via Freshome

I am a firm believer that you become what you surround yourself with. Craving more clarity and simplicity? Clean the clutter from your quarters and you're well on your way! So, in keeping with this weeks theme of simplicity, it seems only right to highlight some beautiful, simple, and serene interior spaces. After all, simple does not need to mean boring, cold, or overly minimal (sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it?). Check out the photos below to see what I mean. I especially love the Helsinki Bakery design as it's a perfect example of how neutral, minimal design can be warm and inviting. 

Photo via Adelto

Photo via Adelto

Photo via Momoy

Photo via Momoy

Photo via G Living

Photo via G Living

Photos of Helsinki Bakery via Momoy