Got the Meat Sweats? Super Summer Salad will save you!

Top Chef, and more importantly, as I haven’t watched them yet, Top Chef Masters, is now on Hulu. This means I have been more inspired to cook actual food and recipes as opposed to the standard three meals that have been my summer fare due to laziness and boyfriend’s strict diet and night-shift schedule. Coupled with my recent watching of Earthlings, I’ve also been on a stricter vegan kick than before, which is definitely a good (and healthy) thing.

So for this #MeatlessMonday (do we hashtag it even though it’s a blog? I feel so old when it comes to social media, which is ironic since my generation was the first to actually get Facebook… weird) I’m going to give you a super simple yet super delicious salad I found on Pinterest. I may be an avid watcher of Top Chef, but a chef I am not. I’m simply here to taste test recipes and share my findings with my legions of readers. Or, the 30 (on a good day) or so of you who check me out, to whom I am grateful and want to say THANK YOU for reading.

MeatlessMonday_posterSo, here we go… first #MeatlessMonday post (did I establish that was a thing yet? Probably not… Since posting my “I’m a Vegan Now!” post, I decided Mondays will be dedicated to the alternative food lifestyle I find myself in. So even if you can’t go full veggie, here are some options for your days sans meat… also, I stole this from a real thing: Meatless Monday).

Let’s try this again… I got this recipe from Kathy on LunchBoxBrunch, so no credit to me. Again, I can follow a recipe, but food creativity? Not my forte.

Arugula Salad: Mango, Macadamia, Avocado

This one was super duper easy to make, and easy to alter. I substituted arugula for baby spinach, though either would work, and I added Beyond Meat’s Grilled Strips for protein and to fill out the meal a bit. Let me tell you, as a veggie kid, I get super sick of salads. Most restaurants who say they have a “vegetarian option” mean they have a salad (or a super boring pasta dish). Great boyfriend that I have makes sure that I actually want the salad rather than being forced upon it by lack of selection before letting us order, and therein, stay.

So you’re thinking… you just said you easily get sick of salads, yet here you are, giving me a recipe for a salad…? Yes. Because this one was That Awesome. Maybe I’m just missing out on some great salads (it’s hard to buy and use all the ingredients before they go bad since boyfriend won’t eat salads and after three days, I don’t want the same salad again either), but this one rocked my world. I actually looked forward to the leftovers and bought the ingredients again this week.

Don’t skip the dressing.


Arugula Salad: Mango, Macadamia, Avocado
inspired by Dole’s Salad Summit – makes one giant bowl

1 large mango, cubed
1 avocado, diced
3/4 cup macadamia nuts, roasted/salted
5 cups fresh arugula

optional add-in’s: sweet onions, diced apple, diced pineapple … more

dressing (or use your own recipe):
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp agave syrup
dash garlic powder


Everyone chases happiness, not noticing it’s right at their heels

Happiness-quotes-31097737-500-441Happiness, and finding that happiness even when times are rough, can be one of the most difficult pursuits of life, but the absolute most important. Happiness means you’re doing something right, and keeps you going. It’s what most people strive for in life; more than love or friendship or family, because these things are just a means to the end of happiness.

My freshman year of college I suffered from a mild case of depression. I’d left all my friends behind in Virginia, where almost all of them stayed, and decided to go on a solo adventure to seek happiness. I went to North Carolina (UNCW) for the film program, but I had a tough time making friends. I wasn’t the typical college freshman, especially not the beach blonde southern belle that went to the Dub, and it was hard meeting other nerdy weirdos like me. Additionally, my father moved to Russia that same year, so I was going through a lot.

In LA depression found me again, as I hated the city, hated the “industry,” and wasn’t having any substantial luck with boys. When my freelancing work for Fox ended, that depression is part of what spurred me to move home.

Good thing I did, because home is where happiness finally found me.

A few years ago, I posted a list of 100 things that make me happy, which was a much needed list at the time, reminding me of the little things in life where I can find joy. While I’ve been steadily happy for the most part since, we all have our good days and our bad. In the beginning of January this year, I discovered the 100happydays project and decided once again to appreciate the finer things and turn those bad days into good ones.

For those who don’t know, the 100happydays project is simple: take a photo a day of something that makes you happy, and post it to instagram, twitter, facebook, etc. It’s not a challenge amongst friends, but one with yourself. The social media aspect is just a good way to keep track and keep you accountable. Then, once you’ve completed the 100 days, you can donate to the foundation, upload your photos, and receive a book of your happy photos.

Even though some days were extremely difficult, and some days I was scrounging around trying to figure out what to take a photo of, I completed the challenge (with day 40 represented two days in a row… 101happydays is more like it!).

You can find my photos HERE, and I encourage everyone to take part in the challenge. Only you can make yourself happy, and here’s a great way to start figuring out how.


Losing Weight Without Speed, Eating Sunflower Seeds…

Weight has always been a big issue for me. I had a somewhat active childhood, in between pretending I was on Guts and Legends of the Hidden Temple and playing soccer, but I never had the super skinny frame that so many girls long to have. In high school, I wasn’t “big,” but I sure as heck wasn’t small either. I was average. Also, I had a poor sense of style, my hair was huge, and I didn’t get braces until my sophomore year, which meant most of my high school career I had metal prongs in my mouth. While I worked out some over the years, it was usually only for a month or so at a time, and depression turned the Freshman 15 into something more like the Freshman 30.

me in high school... yikes!
me in high school… yikes!

I didn’t like to talk about it. My weight makes me insecure, and while I’m much skinnier now, I still don’t like to talk about it. (This can be hard with a health-obsessed boyfriend who had his own dietary struggles but sincerely wants to help everyone he can.)

Most of the weight I gained I lost senior year of college, when I got more confident and started to watch what I ate. The rest (and then some) I lost when I went Mostly Vegan. It’s also when I started working out again.

It started like most women: on the treadmill (I HATE the elliptical. I don’t get it. It’s like fake running). Falling-off-a-TreadmillI downloaded a 5k running app that told me when to walk and when to run, and worked me up to running 30 minutes straight within 6 weeks or so. Then I downloaded Zombies, Run!, a paid app (totally worth it) that immerses you into a zombie story, where you are Runner 5, sent on missions during the zombie apocalypse. It intersperses story clips within your playlist, so the run doesn’t get boring, and the 30 or 60 minute time frame (you decide) helps prevent you from hitting “Stop” on the treadmill and giving up. It’s also a game, so the supplies you pick up on your run help you build up your base, making you want to run more to get more supplies.

Thanks to Zombies, I got pretty decent with my runs, about 4 miles in 45 minutes, but when I joined a Runner’s Club and barely made it the 2.5 miles outside (though, to be fair, I was battling a cold as well…), I realized a few things: running on treadmills is easy compared to outside; my lungs won’t let me run outside; I’m not in as much shape as I’d like to be. The trainer who set up the Running Club decided to help me and set me on a strength training regimen (something my boyfriend had been trying to do for ages but I wouldn’t listen). Soon that’s all I did (despite being told to continue cardio) and I gained muscle for sure, but because I gained muscle, I also gained weight – and not all of it muscle.

I’m still not happy with my body (are we ever?) and so decided to pick up running again, interspersing it around my strength training days. Since this resolution, I’ve run 4 times (woohoo) and was pleased to find that despite spending months away from the treadmill, I didn’t lose too much of my stamina or speed (ha! speed… I average a 10:30 – 11 minute mile, a far cry from my glory days of an 8:30 mile in high school. Oh, getting older… Also, I realize this is because I’m going for distance rather than speed. If I were only running one, I could probably go a bit faster… or so I tell myself).

        Gym Schedule:

  • Monday: rest
  • Tuesday: run (or other cardio)
  • Wednesday: back and biceps
  • Thursday: rest
  • Friday: run (or other cardio)
  • Saturday: shoulders, chest, and triceps
  • Sunday: legs/run (alternate weeks)

So I’m still working. I’m not perfect, and I don’t claim to be. Weight struggles run in my family, as does the love of food, and despite wanting to do well, I still find myself succumbing to treats far too often. The hard part is saying no and teaching your mind that you don’t want that half-baked cookie or chocolate glazed donut… mmm…

me in April
me as of April, 2014

A Summer That Isn’t Busy Doesn’t Exist

It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s all play and no work for this girl (sadly). I took the summer off from the Best Job Ever, so for the first time in over a decade probably, I have the summer off. It’s the biggest perk of being a teacher, and after this past year, I definitely needed the break. Despite all my ranting about how teachers shouldn’t complain about the 6 of 8 classes, it was hard work. You could feel the shift in morale among the faculty, and everyone was perpetually exhausted. Add on to that fact that I shouldered the yearbook and newspaper for the first time… when the final bell rang I wanted nothing more than to lay outside with a good book all summer.

Alas, while that has been part of my summer, it’s not been all of it, and frankly, I would’ve been bored rather quickly had it been. Instead, I’ve barely had a few days in a row without something interrupting. 

New House!

The first week of June, Boyfriend and I moved into our new (rental) house, complete with backyard for Waffles the Dog, which she immediately cased and practiced her Houdini act until we could fill the gaps with chicken wire. Immediately following that, his father passed away, which was a somber time of reflection and grief. Then came the beach for two days with my Mom and sister, home a few days, then back to the beach with Boyfriend. Two days later I left for Yearbook camp (woohoo! you know you’re jealous) in Pennsylvania with four of my students where we started planning next year’s (this year’s?) yearbook. The theme is pretty freaking sweet, but it was hard to get back into the yearbook mindset smack dab in the middle of summer, only to go back to “vacation” once more. Maybe that’s why this week has been so productive… yearbook camp stressed me out!

YBK camp! (only four of these are my students, plus me).
YBK camp! (only four of these are my students, plus me). Yes, I know I look like a student.

Now I’m back and dealing with humdrum errands… taking my car in to get fixed after being hit a week and a half ago (that story later), finally putting said car in my name, meeting with the new principal about some summer tasks he wants me to work on, cleaning… and of course, starting to think about planning for school. 

There’s a month left, and so many things I said I wanted to get accomplished this summer haven’t yet happened. There’s a stack of books on my desk I want/need to read to prepare for school. My two novels I’m writing are awaiting my attention. HTML is begging to be learned. Books want to be read.

At least I’ve started blogging again.

Baby steps.

No, I don’t eat bacon

For those who don’t know me, or haven’t spoken with me in quite some time, four years ago I joined the weirdos that don’t eat meat. Two years ago I cut out dairy and eggs from my diet (about 80% of the time) and called myself a Mostly Vegan, at least in my diet. These choices were actually some of the easiest for me to make, but seem to be my defining characteristic to many. 

“You don’t eat meat?! But what about bacon? I couldn’t survive without bacon.” 

“I think I could give up meat, but I could never give up cheese. I love cheese.”

“What do you eat? Rabbit food?”

“That’s why you’re so skinny.”

“You mean you can’t eat BUTTER?”

My unspoken responses: Bacon is part of what’s making you fat and killing you. Cheese is also a major component in your blub (as it was mine). If by rabbit food you mean vegetables, yes. I’m “skinny” (yes, but not that skinny. I could still lose 10lbs or so) because I watch what I eat (however badly) and exercise 3-5 times a week. No, I can’t eat butter, but there is a vegan butter which tastes just as good but I rarely use it anyway.

This happens every time someone finds out I don’t eat animal products, and sometimes many times afterwards. It took my mom years before she could remember I couldn’t eat chicken, and she’s just coming around now on the butter thing. Part of the 80% is because of that. If I told my grandmother she couldn’t cook with butter, I think she may just have a stroke. So I suck it up when I’m with family or out at a restaurant. The struggle is too difficult and I’m not (yet) willing to commit to that level (I’m getting close though. When I first started, I never thought I’d be able to give up cheese, but look at me now).

The biggest question I’m asked, however, is why. Why did I go vegetarian, and then Mostly Vegan?


Four years ago I moved back home from LA. I gave up on a dream and completely changed my career path and so figured since I was already making some monumental life changes on the path to happiness, why not give vegetarianism a go? I’d watched Food, Inc. and saw Jared Leto and Natalie Portman were vegans, decided I didn’t eat that much meat anyway, and went for it. My family thought it was a phase (do they KNOW me? I still love Hanson, for gosh sakes!).

I immediately started feeling better about who I was as a person, as well as health-wise. The first month of passing by Chick Fil A and Bill’s Barbeque, two fast food chains I’d missed on the west coast, was the hardest part, but once I got past it, I didn’t want to go back. The thought of meat started to disgust me, and the one time shrimp was accidentally put in my food at a restaurant, I was sick the next day. Meat wasn’t worth it.

Two years later I started dating my current boyfriend, who is health-conscious, a bodybuilder, and on a very strict diet. Tired of feeling fat, I cut my portions in half and became a Mostly Vegan. Within a month I lost 15 lbs. and felt great. My clothes were all too big and my “I can never be smaller than an 8” mentality was stunned when I started wearing a 4-6. I was the smallest I’d EVER been as an adult.

I understand being vegetarian, much less vegan, isn’t for everyone. People are so used to meat, and it can be hard to transition, especially if you’re constantly around meat. When we lived together, my mom tried numerous times to eat vegetarian but always found herself feeling weak or ill, a problem she cured with a hamburger.

The stigma alone can be hard. Someone told me I’d have more friends if I ate meat and should only eat vegan while at home. Umm, no. My friends have come to terms with my dietary restrictions and know to either prepare something I can eat or let me know to bring my own food (which I’m more than happy to do, because I understand not everyone eats like me).

By far, however, the most difficult part of being a vegetarian/vegan is eating out. Or having work cater. There aren’t a lot of options outside of salads, and if work is getting lunch catered, a bag of chips and an apple it is. Or the hotdog roll and some fruit.

Now, I’m not one of those nasty vegans who tries to push her opinion on everyone surrounding her. My boyfriend is a meat eater. A constant meat eater. So when we cook, we either make separate things, or he just adds meat to his. The only person I’m trying to change is me, but if I can open your eyes up to differently lifestyle choices and diversity, then more power to me.

If you’re curious about my decision or are contemplating making the change, feel free to ask questions. You can either comment below or shoot me an email: I’m more than happy to help.

The next step is going 100% vegan, and not just at my house, where I do try to cook vegan. My biggest struggle? Cookies.


Some good films to watch if you’re curious:

Food, Inc.

Forks Over Knives