Spiritual Musings

On the Mat: Lessons from Hot Yoga

So, one of the very exciting things going on in my life these days is hot yoga. I’ve been to six (90 minute) sessions so far and I’ve already begun to experience profound spiritual insights – insights that I had already glimpsed before but that are now beginning to settle more deeply as embodied realizations. Now, I’m not a yogi by any means — I’ve dabbled in yoga but have been seriously out of practice. The prospects of doing yoga in room heated to 120 degrees seemed so absurd, intimidating and frankly impossible that I put off trying it for a very long time — until now. Anyway, I’ve decided to do a series of vlogs chronicling what it is like for me to climb this hot yoga mountain. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on combining the physical practice of yoga with spirituality.

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Life Musings

Home Improvements: Organization

Organization has never been my strong suit.  That said, I’ve found myself progressively filled with the Spirit-of-Getting-Shit-Together ever since moving into my apartment.  That Spirit, however, has moved rather slowly.  The fact that my closets have been pristine and organized for the last year is a first in the history of my short life and nothing less than a monumental achievement.  Most of my rooms are usually in a state of order.  But there have been certain spaces — drawers and cabinets — that remained in a perpetual state of disarray.

Organizing IV
Looking for anything under the kitchen sink always gave me heartburn.

In any case, over the last week, I’ve set about slowly bringing order to the chaos.  One of my perpetual problems was not having a dedicated space for tools.  I had a hammer under a table, another one in the pantry, screw drivers in the kitchen, nails and screws running wild and free in various containers and drawers.  It was just awful.  It occurred to me that the magical invention of the toolbox would solve all my worries.  Amazingly, I had never, ever, owned a toolbox in my entire adult life.

Organizing III
Under the bathroom sink. That before shot is so incredibly embarrassing. But you need to understand just how far I’ve come…
Organizing II
So sad. So very, very sad.
Organizing I
From junk drawer to “this-is-fucking-awesome” drawer.

Anyway, enjoy these before and after pics of the wondrous transformation taking place within my space.  Oh and go read this fabulous book by Julie Morgenstern – “Organizing from the Inside Out”.  It was recommended to me by my colleague, fellow blogger and new friend Tanya Golash-Boza.  Started reading it yesterday and I’m loving it.  I’ll need all the help I can get when I start working on my next organizational projects: 1) getting my filing system in order and 2) making the attic a functional space.

Yay!  Oh and peep the toolbox.  I'm so excited about that. *pops collar*
Yay! And look at my TOOLBOX! #babystepsintoadulthood
Life Musings

Home Improvements: Laundry Room Rehab

I’ve been living in my apartment for a year and a half. It’s taken that entire length of time to get all of my rooms fully furnished and decorated. Two rooms — my office and my laundry room — were ongoing disaster zones. Last winter, I finally found the energy and ingenuity to get my office situated and beautified.

The laundry room, however, lingered in disarray. It’s hard for me to convey just how awful it was. Imagine a beautiful space — hardwood floors, full length mirror, plenty of natural light, with a washer/dryer stacked in a recessed corner — strewn with clothes, shoes and assorted crap. I had to pinch pennies last year, so furnishing this room was not an option. All I had in there was a lonely ironing board, a makeshift cabinet that I found in the attic and hampers of various shapes, colors and sizes. It was a hot mess.

Every time I entered that space, I felt a micro-moment of tension and stress. My chest tightened, my breath caught in my lungs. A little self loathing caught in my throat. Finally, a few weeks ago, my budget allowed a little room to get my shit together. So I set to work trying to figure out what to do with the space.

The room itself is kind of an odd space to wrap your head around. It’s pretty small – about 9 by 10 feet. On the upside, there’s a closet and the washer and dryer are flush with the wall, making them, in principle, unobtrusive. I knew I didn’t want the room to just be used for folding and ironing clothes. For a long time, I dreamed of turning it into a boudoir, complete with a fainting sofa, a shag rug and, oh I don’t know, something kitsch like a mannequin. But I also wanted a legitimate guest room. Could I possibly do both?

It occurred to me that I needed a guestroom more than a boudoir and a futon would get the job done. But I also needed this room to serve another functional purpose–storing my clothes.  After a year of hardcore thrifting, my wardrobe had quadrupled. Both of my closets were filled to the brim with clothes, which is why I often had things piling up in the laundry room. It became clear to me that I needed a real chest of drawers. So I went to St. Vincent de Paul – my favorite thrift store for finding beautiful furniture. Not only did I find a fabulous futon — complete with wooden frame and a new, sealed mattress — but I also found a new, matching chest of drawers. Both items were being sold at about 50% the cost of retail. I was a little concerned about two things: 1) that the room would feel crowded with the futon open and 2) the fact that I didn’t have space for an end table. But it all worked out rather beautifully. With the futon open, the room feels cozy and the chest itself serves as a nice “side table” to place your belongings.

Guest Room

With the furnishing issue solved, I now turned my attention to the laundry facilities themselves. The washer and dryer were an eyesore. What to do? For a long time I’d envisioned covering them with a curtain, but not being very handy, I was unsure of how to make this happen. I knew I needed a rod that would curve on one end and connect directly into the wall on the other. So I took a trip to Home Dept and described what I had in mind to one of their awesome assistants. She suggested a getting a regular curtain rod and flatting out one of the ends so that it could go straight into the wall. That cost me all of about $1.50.

Yay

Awesome Sauce
This makes me so happy.

For the decor, I got just about everything from Kmart and the thrift shop. Found some cute curtains and pillows to match the futon and got a gorgeous, opaque, floor-to-ceiling curtain to cover the washer and dryer. For the chest, I found a neutral table runner, a little vanity mirror, a fountain and lamp. My absolute favorite addition is the “jewelry” box I contrived from stackable plastic containers I found at Kmart. Storing my (costume) jewelry was a big problem. I had a real jewelry box, but it was so tiny that it could only fit a fraction of my earrings. I also disliked the little jewelry box because you had to open up every compartment to see what was in there – and frankly, I ain’t got time for that. For a year and a half, I’d gotten by with piling up my earrings, necklaces and bracelets on the window sill of my bathroom. That worked for a while, but I started to run out of room and earrings would routinely fall on the floor, behind the sink and into oblivion. I needed a system for organizing the jewelry that would not only keep everything orderly and accessible, but would also allow me to easily see everything I had. The stackable, transparent box I have now perfectly fits my needs and is aesthetically quite pleasing to the eye.

Jewelry box

I’m also obsessed with this pretty macramé plant hanger I found at Home Depot. Another sales assistant gave me this kickass idea when I told him I was looking for a pot. The lush green of the plant suspended by the window adds a touch of natural beauty that really sets the room off.

Plant Hanger

The LED votive makes the room feel so warm and cozy at night.
The LED votive makes the room feel so warm and cozy at night.

So yeah, I could not be more pleased with this space now. I smile every time I do the laundry, pulling back the curtain for the “big reveal”. The chest has solved my clutter problem – now all of my clothes have a home. The futon is comfy, the space is functional. The whole vibe is boho beautiful. And Zora has another room to layer with cat dander. Purrfect.

Futon

*And yes, I know I have to fix the curtain rod behind the futon, which has been warped due to outrageously disorderly conduct by the guilty-looking feline pictured above.

Food, Vegan Recipes

Bok Choy, “Beef” and Rice in Thai Almond Butter Sauce

Finished product

One of my Twitter followers recently humble-bragged about making her own peanut sauce from scratch.  I was mystified, but she made it sound easy.  So, without looking up a recipe, I decided to try my hand at something similar and even more exotic  — almond butter sauce.  

I’ve never been a huge fan of peanut butter, but I fell in love with almond butter when I began my veganish journey three months ago.  Not only is it packed full of protein, but it also has a lovely, mild taste. Anyway, this was the first time I used it in a cooked dish — usually I add it to my lettuce wraps.

Anatomy of a Dish: Almond butter, EVOO, Trader Joe's "Beefless" strips (seitan), cilantro, almond butter, red onion, garlic, lemon, vinaiger and Braggs amino acids
Anatomy of a Dish: Almond butter, EVOO, Trader Joe’s “Beefless” strips (seitan), cilantro, red onion, garlic, lemon, vinegar and Braggs amino acids

This dish – which, if I say so myself, belongs in the pantheon of vegan masterpieces – turned out to be absolutely divine. Right up there with the amazing mushroom risotto in cashew/dijon cream sauce, sprinkled with sweet potatoes and leeks that I had at Blossom yesterday.  I had a lot of fun making it and even more fun eating it.

So, here’s the low down:

Ingredients

*note, these measurements and directions are approximations. I generally do not follow recipies when I cook.. I simply intuit – and taste – as I go along. So use this as a template but do your own thing.

  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s “Beefless” strips (seitan)
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Brown Rice, Red Rice & Black Barley Medley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 handful of cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2-3 table spoons of almond butter
  • 1/4 cup cocnut milk
  • Braggs’ aminos
  • sea salt
  • EVOO

Chop up the garlic and toss it into a large sauce pan primed with 3 tablespoons of EVOO over medium heat. Chop the red onion and cilantro and add both to the garlic.  When that gets going, throw in the seitan and spray the whole lot with copious amounts of Braggs aminos.  Sprinkle in some sea salt.  Stir frequently and add more EVOO as neccessary.

Pretty bok choy

When the seitan is cooked thoroughly, add the almond butter,coconut milk, apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of the water. Stir and reduce to a low heat. While that’s simmering, chop of the baby bok choy and grill it separately in EVOO over medium heat.  Squeeze the lemon over the bok choy and spice with sea salt.  I like my bok choy nicely grilled, so I let it go for about 10 minutes.  Stir frequently.  Add the remaining water to the almond butter sauce and reduce to low heat.

Microwave the rice medley according to the box instructions.  Layer it with the sauce, seitan and bok choy. Savor. And thank me later.

Yum

Vegan Recipes

Coconut Raw Chocolate Truffles

image

First time making truffles. Me likes.

Super easy – and delightful – to make. The kind of thing that could be the end..or the beginning.. of a really great date. Use the same basic Rawtarian raw chocolate recipe as usual. Let the chocolate cool in a dish – you don’t want it liquidy. Pour coconut flakes into a bowl. Add a dash of sea salt to make it extra delish.

Wash your hands. Scoop about a teaspoon of the raw into the flakes. Roll around in your hands until it’s fairly even ball. Pop in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Clean up is sexy, messy and fun. Once you’ve run out of enough chocolate to make truffles, take your finger, dip it in the remaing raw chocolate. Then dip it in the coconut flakes. Lick your finger. And repeat. Well don’t just sit there. Go do it, already. Thank me later..

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Vegan Recipes

Vegetable Lovers’ Vegan Alfredo

20130516-155956.jpg

Whipped this up the other night. The combination of mushrooms, artichokes, spinach & sun dried tomatoes in cheesy, vegan yumminess was so good, I almost shed a tear. Oh, and it’s gluten free, too.

For the alfredo, I brought about a cup of almond milk to boil, then returned to simmer. Added copious amounts of nutritional yeast, sea salt, garlic and a few spoons of marinated sun dried tomatoes. Used a little NO EGG to make the sauce thick and creamy. While this was heating up, I cooked some gluten free (corn) spaghetti in a saucepan.

In a large skillet, I grilled organic mushrooms in coconut oil, then added them to the alfredo. God, it would have been incredible if I had just stopped at this point. But no, I continued..

Next, I grilled the artichoke hearts (frozen, from Trader Joe’s) and spinach, separately. I stirred some of the veggies into the sauce, but set aside the rest.

When the pasta was done, I spiced it up with lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper before unceremoniously dumping it into the mushroom alfredo. Topped with the veggies and served with prosecco..

Divine.