Immersed in Mother Nature

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I went out on a day trip with my best friend for Labor Day. We went to a wondrous little spot called Raven Rocks less than an hour away from us here in Ohio. Despite it being so nearby, neither of us had been there before. We had no idea what to expect as we hadn’t heard much about it until recently either.

The entire way there was on old back roads that weaved through the forest and countryside. Even the drive there was beautiful. When we finally arrived, we pulled into the tiny parking area on the side of the one-lane gravel road that lead us there and stepped out to just a few signs and a path shrouded in the woods behind them.

According the the signs, Raven Rocks is actually private property protected by a small group of people that wanted to keep the area from being stripped for coal mining. Now they share this beautiful piece of land with anyone who cares to explore it. I was deeply moved to discover that there were still such caring people in this world looking out for our planet.

Even more surprising was what we encountered as we started out on the path. Almost immediately we were swallowed up in an immense rocky cavern hidden in the trees. My friend and I were both speechless. There is something indescribable about witnessing natural structures like that. It makes you feel so small, but in a safe way.

On that hot Monday afternoon, the cool air emanating from the smooth rock surfaces was enchanting. There were hardly any other people enjoying the park that day, so were we even lucky enough to explore for a while in utter silence.

Days like yesterday remind me why I am so grateful to be alive and a part of this beautiful earth. Time with mother nature truly is the best therapy out there. I feel so refreshed even now as I sit here typing. My mind has been clearer and my heart has been lighter since then.

Thank you sweet Goddess, my green Mother, for always being there for me.

Atheist Easter & Vegan Deviled Eggs

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Even though I’ve been an atheist for over a decade now, I still love, love, LOVE “Christian” holidays. (They are actually kinda Pagan holidays, but I digress.) I view them as an excellent time to enjoy delicious fattening foods without guilt and spread lots of love to my friends and family. In addition to the unorthodox way I already celebrate, my past six years of veganism have made my holidays even more controversial and strange. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This year my grandmother that usually makes deviled eggs for my family’s Easter dinner was no longer with us. She passed away a few weeks after the new year began. In loving memory of her and her delicious addition, I decided to make my own version of these delights. I used to absolutely adore deviled eggs and eggs in general. Until now, I was under the assumption that a lot of egg dishes were simply impossible to recreate realistically in a vegan way. However, I recently went to a vegan restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA called The Onion Maiden where they serve vegan deviled eggs! I was overjoyed when I ordered them and discovered they were almost identical to the real deal.

After a quick Google search, I found that the secret ingredients to make a firm egg-like substance were Agar Powder and Black Salt. I was easily able to order both of these on Amazon for less than $10. Once I received these ingredients I was eager to taste the black salt because I had never heard of it before and I was very skeptical that these few ingredients that were called for would be able to produce something as egg-y as what I had sampled at The Onion Maiden. To my surprise, black salt is basically egg as a seasoning. Even by itself, it tastes exactly like a salted boiled egg!!! I am so blown away by this and the fact that I hadn’t known this as a vegan for all these years that I may make a separate post just about this incredible find. All vegans need to be aware of this!

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I used the recipe from BakedIn.com that was simple and took less than an hour. I have included the link to the recipe and a photo of everything I used above. (I didn’t want to buy more almond milk, so I just used what I had even though it was vanilla instead of plain. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference, but I’ll definitely use plain in my next batch.) I was quite pleased with the result. Even my non-vegan family members and friends were surprised at how similar my vegan version was to actual deviled eggs. These are definitely going to be a staple holiday food for me from now on. Let me know if you try them yourselves and what you think. Also THANK THE VEGAN GODS FOR BLACK SALT.

Hope you all had a lovely, cruelty-free holiday. ♥

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Promoting Loving-Kindness & Mindfulness Instead of Veganism

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When I first became vegan I was extremely motivated to push others to become vegan as well. I did this by sharing the unbelievable information that I had been exposing myself to. I shared videos, scholarly articles, statistics, quotes, and powerful personal statements about my transformation and new perspectives regarding animal agriculture and carnism. It is even the reason I began this blog. I was certain that if others only knew about the things I had learned that they would have no choice but to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets in order to alleviate their cognitive dissonance between being a good person and participating in the ending of innocent lives.

I quickly became disheartened and emotionally exhausted in this fight. I couldn’t believe the backlash I received. So many people felt attacked and angered by what I thought were straight forward facts. I got into argument after argument with people online desperately trying to change their minds or at least the minds of those reading the exchange. Yet, I never really felt as though I was getting anywhere even though some of my more open minded friends did contact me and tell me that they were inspired to transition to veganism because of me. I was continuously being eaten up inside by my own resentments and disgust with humanity for all the atrocities it refused to acknowledge.

As this strenuous and emotional effort began to overwhelm me, I had to reevaluate my actions in order to preserve my sanity and emotional wellbeing. I felt immense guilt about not putting enough energy into fighting for the animals of this earth that I dearly loved. I just didn’t know how I could make a difference on their behalf. I turned to working on myself through mindfulness and meditation. These practices have recently led me to a powerful realization.

Instead of directly encouraging others to accept that their current lifestyle includes cruelty and that they need to change, I’ve decided to take a different approach. I remember watching a video by Gary Yourofsky where he explained that it didn’t matter how aggressive or gentle you were with your activism. People would listen to you when they were ready. So how can we get others ready to listen?

I think that by promoting the practice of loving-kindness and meditation that inevitably veganism will follow. This approach now seems much more logical to me. No one wants to be told that the way they are currently living and have been living for their whole lives is wrong. It is a natural reaction to become defensive and try to justify ourselves in some way. I can still remember not long ago being on this side of the argument myself. If someone is ready to change they may listen. Otherwise you are only creating a wider division and more tension between these opposing perspectives.

I used to believe that the facts were all that were needed. But after so many conflicts I realized that you can find studies to backup whatever you wish to believe. It can be incredibly difficult to decipher which studies are funded by those with vested interests and which have flawed methodology, etc. So rather than trying to force change, I want to try something different.

I want to give people the tools they need to be strong enough and loving enough to make changes on their own. Unlike directly promoting veganism, encouraging others to practice loving kindness and mindfulness does not create the same violent reaction and need for defensive tactics. People can easily become interested in these practices for their innate ability to improve all of our lives. More and more people are discovering the benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and loving-kindness meditation. I believe that veganism is the natural response to the shift in consciousness these practices cultivate. It, at the very least, creates the right awareness to allow others to become ready to receive the message of veganism.

By promoting these ancient and beautiful heart opening exercises, I am able to contribute to the movement without destroying myself in the process. I hope that more vegans will begin to adopt this peaceful approach and accept that most people cannot be swayed by hard facts and aggression. Rather they are swayed by the example we all can set by living lives of tranquility and compassion. The energy you emit is the energy that you will receive back from the world around you. Let’s let go of our anger and anguish at the injustices others are perpetrating and instead embrace all that is with an attitude of acceptance and loving awareness. Let’s show others what our world can be if we all just open our hearts to the possibilities.

It is still hard for me at times when I begin to dwell on the immense amount of suffering our fellow earthlings are experiencing every day. But I don’t want to add more anger, despair, and aggression into our world. I want to fill the space around me with love and light, encouraging others to do the same.

The task before us to save our earth is daunting. But we cannot allow ourselves to dwell on the negative. We must continue to fill ourselves with hope, contentment, and gratitude. Others will reach this realization when they are ready. Let us help them prepare. Let us teach the world through example. We can only truly try to improve ourselves. And in this way we can change the world.

Sending you all my abundant love and encouragement. ♥

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Bullet Journal Spread: December

I have definitely lost a bit of motivation regarding my bujo this month since it’s about to be a brand new year. I am more eager to begin my bujo for 2018 and make the first pen marks in my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. This is the brand I most often seen being used for bullet journaling. They are a bit pricey so I wanted to make sure I was going to follow through with the habit before investing my money in a fancy journal. After a very productive year of journaling (in a notebook that was not necessarily sturdy enough to handle it), I am confident it is worth the money.

Even though it’s basically half-way through the month already, I wanted to go ahead and show you guys my bujo spread for December. I hope you like it!

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The photos in the last week of my November spread do not belong to me. I found them on Tumblr as I often do to jazz up a weekly spread if I’m feeling anxious rather than excited about coming up with something to doodle.

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I particularly like how my goals and tracker page turned out this month. Sadly I have yet to fill anything in because I wanted to get a photo first in the natural light, forgetting that when I get home from work it is always pitch black now. Oh, the delightful fun of the winter months. I can’t wait for the sun to return to me.

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I tried to make the theme cozy winter bunnies, but all the red ended up giving this first weekly spread a more Valentine’s Day vibe. (Oops!)

This month I experimented with adding a positive affirmation to each week’s spread so I could practice replacing the negative thoughts I have throughout the day with something more loving. Whenever I catch myself in a loop of toxic thinking, I try to change this automatic dialogue into a more beneficial one. Repeating uplifting mantras in moments of stress and self-doubt really does do a lot to alter your mental state and view of the situation.

I hope that you are all having a splendid December so far! Also, to any of you that may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder like I am, don’t be too hard on yourself. It can seem hopeless when, after making steady progress, you find yourself sliding backwards into bad habits. Just know that you are doing your best, and progress is always sprinkled with periods of plateaus and slight regressions. Just keep moving forward, and I promise that your energy, your creativity, and your enthusiasm will return with the warm air, green scenery, and sunshine. Hang in there a bit longer and don’t forget to acknowledge yourself for still trying when things get hard. ♥

My Vegan Thanksgiving

Hello everyone! Sorry it has taken me so long to post this. I realize that at this point it is almost Christmas, but the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder have really started to kick in the past couple of weeks and I just haven’t gotten the motivation to post anything lately. But I figured with another hectic holiday meal looming on the horizon I might give everyone (including myself) a little inspiration to make a few delicious cruelty-free dishes to share with the ones you love.

Here is what my plate looked like on Thanksgiving this year:

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You may note that there is a big ol’ glass of plum wine. Sometimes you gotta self-medicate to have a pleasant evening with the family.

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I made a pumpkin roll that kind of turned into a pumpkin pile. But it was still super yummy!

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I ended up making waaay too many of these dark chocolate truffles because after I made the first batch I decided they were so delicious that there weren’t enough…

There were honestly too many sweets in general though. I got a little carried away by baking pumpkin cupcakes and blueberry muffins as well. My sister even made a vegan apple pie, which was absolutely perfect. Overall, the holiday was extremely pleasant, and I look forward to preparing another massive batch of goodies for Christmas! I hope that the end of the year is treating you all well. I plan on making a few other posts I’ve been thinking about before the new year gets here. ♥

 

Bullet Journaling: October

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I am happy to say that 2017 has been a very productive and transformative year for me. I finally feel like I am steering my life towards the things I’ve always wanted. I attribute this change in character and consistency to a new phenomenon I stumbled upon called bullet journaling.

This is a type of journaling that allows you to have freedom of form, flexibility, and creativity while still maintaining a semblance of structure. Bullet journals (bujos) most importantly allow you to keep a sense of cohesion in your life. No more rewriting the same goals and ideas over and over again intermittently in different notebooks only to close the cover and blindly step back into the same routines that have been failing you thus far.

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I began my bujo last April, and at this point, I can honestly say that I plan to keep it up for as long as I am able. Keeping a journal in this form has allowed me to keep track of and keep up with my long-term goals. As I mentioned, I used to write down the same few abstract goals dozens of times only to come back to them months later not knowing if I had made any progress at all or even what that progress would look like. It has been incredibly fulfilling and self-affirming for me to be able to quantify my small successes each day. If you suffer from low self-esteem like I do, a bujo can definitely help you notice how much you actually are accomplishing. This, in turn, can give you the confidence to break out of a cycle of self-doubt and achieve more of your goals.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably already fretting about the possibility that you may see that you are not making progress on a particular goal and how that will affect your frame of mind. However, I have found that even in this instance a bujo can be helpful. Instead of seeing this lack of progression as a failure, it can stimulate you to make some changes. Is this goal really important to you? Should you drop this goal in order to focus more energy on more meaningful projects? And if this goal really is something you want to work towards, can you break it into smaller, more easily attainable goals? Don’t let this type of realization discourage you. Let it inspire you to try something new.

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In addition to tracking goals, bujos can include a myriad of other aspects such as: scheduling, habit tracking, studying, grocery lists, doodling, and anything else you want to keep track of all in one convenient location. As you can see from the photos I took of my October spread, I generally use mine to track daily habits and mood, set monthly goals, record my finances, plan my weekly meals, and record what I eat and do each day. But one of the best parts about bullet journaling is that you can change the layout and setup any time you want. Each weekly spread can look different depending on how busy you are or how your feeling that week. After evaluating how your spread worked for one month you can easily revamp it to better suit your needs for the next.

Bullet journaling can also have the added bonus of allowing you to begin to notice patterns in your moods and behaviors. If you see that you were feeling particularly down a few days or one particular week in the month you can look at what else was happening and be better prepared in the future to avoid situations or habits that produce negative emotions. You may, however, start to notice yourself becoming more happier in general. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, planning and making goals for the future actually increases feelings of happiness and contributes to a positive sense of well-being.

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There are endless amounts of videos online demonstrating how to set up your very own bujo along with inspiration and ideas to add your own special flare that keeps you coming back each day. I hope that this format of journaling benefits your life as much as it has benefited mine.

Happy Journaling ♥

“God Bless the Daylight, the Sugary Smell of Springtime”

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I am truly grateful for days like this. My puppies and I went on a refreshing springtime adventure in the forest behind my house and found this beautiful oasis. Nature has so many breathtaking sights for us to behold. ❤