Happy Monday!

It’s been a little while so I figured I should try and pick this up again. I ended up quitting the job at the moving company. When I signed up for the job I thought I would be doing strictly in-bound customer service work, which turned out not to be the case at all. I was able to get some tutoring hours at the local community college and have some private tutees as well, so I should be fine financially for a little while at least. Leaving that job forced me to evaluate my professional future, however, and it came to me so easily..I want to be a librarian. I have considered working as a librarian in the past, but I always quashed the idea because my two former best friends both had aspirations of being a librarian; I guess I felt like I didn’t want to copy them or step on their toes or something. In retrospect those are pretty weird reasons to avoid going after something, but since they are no longer in my life (or even pursuing a career as a librarian for that matter) there is no reason why I shouldn’t try. I think my B.S. in Mathematics will work well as a background for a Master of Library Science degree and a good school in my state offers an online program that would work perfectly for me. I have been applying for every library-related job I can find, rounded up my references and have until July 15th to apply for the fall so we’ll see! I would like to try and get a job in a library before I apply, but if not I will just apply with the credentials I have and hope for the best. I have worked in a library before but it was a while ago. I think I will use this forum to pick an arbitrary deadline for myself..apply May 1st if I haven’t managed to secure a library job by that point in time? Sounds good to me. 🙂

I was originally going to use this post to talk about peer pressure, because I had a pretty rough weekend recently where I allowed myself to be pressured into drinking much more than I normally would. I hadn’t really drank much in the past few months and it was terrible. I used to be the queen of peer pressuring and I think that was probably karma giving me what’s coming to me. I had feelings of regret and shame, along with the headache and fatigue, of giving in to something that was so bad for me. I missed my yoga class the next day and it took me a full two days to recover. I haven’t smoked in 44 days now and although the pressure was on to do that as well I am so glad, and proud, that I didn’t give in. I have disposed of any remnants from my stoner past and am ready to embark on the future.

I think that’s enough for now, I was up until 5am last night deep cleaning the house and am still a little worn out. Hopefully the Spring cleaning will help Spring know to hurry up and get here fast! I’m over the cold. Thanks for reading! ❤ 😀

Bucket List

One of my favorite new shows is “An Idiot Abroad,” about a British man, Karl, who is sent to various famous locations around the world to learn more about the local people and culture. It is wonderful because at the beginning of the series he is very resistant to many things but by the end you can tell that his world view has developed and changed. It is produced by Ricky Gervais, adding a bit of additional humor. Most of the locations they chose were top locations on bucket lists and it has inspired me to create my own. I have never made one before, so here goes, in somewhat random order:

1) Have a baby-I would love to experience being pregnant and give birth. I am not ready to start working on this just yet but it is definitely top of my list!

2) Be a mother-To go along with #1, if for whatever reason I am unable to give birth to my child I would love to adopt.

3) Swim a 10k-I have done a 5k before but never a 10k. I have heard there is an amazing one that goes around the Florida Keys; something like that would be incredible!

4) Visit Yosemite National Park-There is something about this place that holds great appeal to me. The hot springs, wildlife, etc. just sound like wonders worth seeing.

5) Bike 100 miles in a day-I have done a little over 50 miles in a day before, but a century would be better. 🙂

6) Kiss under the Eiffel Tower-I was fortunate enough in high school to be able to go on two school trips to Paris but never with the company of a kissable man. I have one currently (my wonderful boyfriend Grant) but if for some reason that doesn’t pan out I will grab the cutest Frenchman I see and plant one on him! 😉

7) Go to a nude beach-I am normally pretty shy about nudity but the idea of being naked on a beach with a bunch of other naked people is intriguing to me.

8) Swim in the Dead Sea-This is one I saw on “An Idiot Abroad” and I want to experience it for myself!

9) Visit (nearly) every continent-I know that Antarctica may be a little impractical but I would really love to visit at least one place on every continent. I’m two down (North America and Europe). If I can somehow make it to Antarctica, however, that would be incredible. My grandfather was actually a member of the second expedition to Antarctica so it would be pretty awesome to follow in his footsteps.

10) See an active volcano-Lava, fire, earth-shattering excitement!

11) See a tornado-I have been a little obsessed with severe weather my whole life. Seeing a tornado firsthand would be incredible.

12) Swim with dolphins-Dolphins are magical, cute and smart.

13) See elephants in the wild-Elephants amaze me. They seem like they genuinely care about each other and considering many humans seem to have a hard time with that makes it even more awesome to me.

14) Visit Petra, Jordan-An ancient city carved into rock and caves, beautiful and mysterious.

15) Visit Italy-Anywhere in Italy really. Just seems like a place you should visit.

16) Visit Spain-Again, just like Italy, a must-visit.

17) Visit Greece

18) Rent a cottage on a mountain lake-Beautiful clean, crisp water.

19) Go scuba diving-It it sounds exciting and somewhat frightening at the same time.

20) Stay in an ice hotel in Canada-I can double-win by getting to say I’ve visited Canada and stayed in an ice hotel. An entire hotel made of ice! You wrap up in fur coats and pelts…wait that might not work with my veganism…maybe they have faux fur??

For the sake of getting this posted, I will leave it for now and add as more come to mind! I would also love to hear about anyone’s bucket list items! Thank you for reading. ❤ 🙂

Tea for Two, or Just for You!

I would like to use this post to further discuss the magic of making your own loose-leaf tea blends. Tea has many health benefits, and virtually no calories, so it’s a win-win! I make a blend a couple times a day and put them into my heart-shaped tea ball with a slice of lemon (lemon has been found to increase the antioxidant power of the tea-video) It keeps me hydrated and relaxed (for the most part) all day!

I purchase my tea online at amazon.com. I am an Amazon Prime member so I get 2-day free shipping. It is currently only $79 a year and has other benefits as well. Additionally if you are a student (or at least have an active school email address) you get a 6 month free trial and half price on the prime subscription. I use their services a lot so it is worth it to me, but they also offer free standard shipping on many items.

Organic Imperial Green Tea-Green tea (or any tea from the tea plant) is one of the few natural sources of Theanine, an amino acid that helps you produce relaxing alpha brain waves. The little caffeine boost is nice too! I use about half a teaspoon in my blend. My boyfriend likes to cold-brew his tea. We use an extra-large tea ball and fill it about halfway with tea leaves. Just put in a container full of water in the fridge for a few hours. A few lemon slices are nice as well.  See the following videos from my favorite nutritionist, Dr. Gregor, at nutritionfacts.org:

Dietary Brain Wave Alteration

Cold Steeping Green Tea

Organic Chamomile-Chamomile tea has many amazing health benefits. It has been shown to help in the prevention of breast cancer and aids in digestion, relaxation and sleep. One caution would be that it has been shown, due to blood-thinning properties, to be potentially unsafe during pregnancy. I usually use about one and one-half teaspoons twice a day. Some relevant videos:

The Healthiest Herbal Tea

Chamomile and Cancer

Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy

Organic Lavender-I have suffered from anxiety for a while and apparently nothing is better to ease your stress then lavender! A study found that lavender was as effective as Valium for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, without the side effects. I use about half a teaspoon twice a day and have definitely noticed positive changes.

Organic Peppermint Leaf-Rich in antioxidants, peppermint is a wonderful way to add a refreshing flavor to your tea blend. See the following video for more information about antioxidants in a pinch!

Antioxidants in a Pinch

Organic Hibiscus Flowers-I saved the best for last! Not only does hibiscus have a bright, citrusy flavor that is delicious on its own, it also was found to have the highest antioxidant level of any herbal/tea beverage. I use about half a teaspoon twice a day. It is also possible to cold brew the tea, a potentially healthier way to brew. Relevant video:

Herbal Tea Update: Hibiscus

There are many wonderful teas, leaves and flowers to try. Do some research and find a blend that works for you! Thanks for reading! ❤ 🙂

My Journey to a Smaller, Firmer Cindy

I would like to use this second post to explain a bit about my weight-loss journey. My weight has always been a struggle for me. I was very active with the swim team in high school. I did particularly well in long distance, the 500 yard freestyle. I made it my goal to beat the school record and managed to achieve it my junior year. I also broke the 100 yard backstroke my senior year. My school didn’t have the most intensive swim program but I woke up every morning before school to practice in addition to our regularly scheduled practices. I was also involved with the show choir. My lowest weight was around 150 lbs but climbed to over 220 by graduation.

I fell into a bad relationship and that combined with some family issues led to a lot of emotional eating. My weight continued to go up through college to a peak 315 lbs. Over doubling my weight in just a few years was the wake up call I needed to start making some changes. I slowly started increasing my physical activity and decreasing my portions. I started swimming again and began to train for a 5k open water swim. I accomplished that goal and swam a 2.5k in Lake Michigan that same year. I was starting to feel really good. I tried a few “diets” but mostly just worked on decreasing sugar, fast food and the amount I ate. I tried using the OTC pill “Alli” for about half a year. It did increase my weight loss but the side effect (weird greasy poo) if I ever over-indulged was a bit much to deal with.

Eventually just increasing activity and cutting back was enough to get me into the mid 200s. I met my boyfriend a little over a year ago, he’s been a vegetarian for over 7 years. After reading about the benefits of a plant-based diet on nutritionfacts.org (an amazing site by nutritionist Dr. Michael Greger M.D.) and other sites I decided to start transitioning to vegetarianism and eventually veganism. My mom has been gluten-free for a few years and after hearing the benefits from her decided to try that as well. Being gluten-free not only prevents me from eating many things, vegan or otherwise, that really aren’t good for me, but I have noticed changes in my digestion. I’ve had digestive issues for a while, probably the result of my past horrendous eating habits (foot-long Penn Station Philly cheese-steak subs with extra mayo and a Taco Bell chaser…insanity). My only source of processed sugar anymore is dark chocolate, which I indulge in daily. I allow myself some Ruffles Simply Natural Sea Salted Reduced Fat Potato Chips (my absolute favorite, and somewhat less bad for you) as a snack, but otherwise really try to avoid processed foods, especially sugars. I buy a bag of organic Granny Smith apples each week, Cara Cara oranges and organic lemons to put in my water and tea (I make a blend of loose-leaf peppermint, lavender, hibiscus, green tea and chamomile a couple times a day, many health benefits!). I buy fruit that’s on sale and try and get organic if possible, especially if it is one of the more pesticide-ridden foods (see http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php). I hula hoop with my weighted hoop nearly every day, do a few arm exercises with my 3 pound weights and take a yoga class at my local YMCA each week. During the summer I bike, walk and swim. Following this has allowed me to lose an additional 20 pounds from the weight I was stuck at for a while before moving towards a plant-based diet. The best advice I can give anyone on how to lose weight is to create a diet and exercise program that will work for you long term and stick to it. I find it’s much easier to exercise if you do something you enjoy. I was so out of shape I had to start slowly, 30 minute walks daily and some light lap swimming, and sometimes even that felt like too much. Trust me, if you stick with it you will not only see improvement in your physicality but your weight as well. Persistence is key!

To end this post I’d like to share a life-changing pizza crust recipe:

http://almondsandavocados.com/gluten-free-quinoa-pizza-crust-and-vegan-pizza/

This pizza crust recipe is both vegan, gluten-free and extremely healthy AND delicious! I make it almost every day. I modify it slightly because I have a larger cast-iron skillet but otherwise pretty much follow the recipe exactly. My favorite pizzas to make include vegan buffalo, cheeseburger or BBQ. I use Bob’s Red Mill TVP for the “meat” topping. After taking out the pizza crust I top it with homemade vegan cheeze sauce (similar to recipe: http://detoxinista.com/2011/01/move-over-kraft/) and whatever additional toppings I’d like, then bake until the toppings are hot. I use about a cup of TVP and mix it with various things to get the taste I’m looking for. For buffalo I use Frank’s Red Hot sauce with a little extra onion and garlic powder and top with homemade vegan ranch (recipe: http://vegetarian.about.com/od/saladdressings/r/veganranch.htm). For cheeseburger I mix it with extra cheeze sauce, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder and top with ketchup, mustard and pickles. For BBQ I just mix the TVP with whatever BBQ sauce I have on hand and top with pineapple and pickles. Sometimes you may need to add a little bit of water to re-hydrate the TVP.

Also, it is National Reading Month! If you are interested in Buddhism at all, or even just how to be more at peace with yourself and others, I recommend the book, “Being Peace,” a compilation of talks and lectures from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I have read other books of his but enjoyed this one most. It is a very easy read with many practical lessons for everyday life. On amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/188837540X/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=9FXB5BOPU3LT&coliid=IWB1MV1BI8UUS

Thanks for reading! Thank you to anyone whose recipe I shared! If anyone would like more information about any of the items or recipes I posted about let me know! ❤ 🙂

A New Day

I titled my first post “A New Day” because, firstly, I am a dork and love Celine Dion. Secondly it is an appropriate title for what I am starting here. 2014 is the year I have been working towards my whole life. I have met and overcome many challenges in the past 28 years and I feel like this is the first time in my life I know enough about myself and what I want to do to feel somewhat secure, even happy. I have an amazing boyfriend, Grant, who treats me like a goddess and tells me as much every day. I have two wonderful pets; Cubby, my adorable little monster puppy, is a 5 year old schnoodle and Minnie is the most amazing 6 year old kitty that has every existed. I am the oldest with seven pretty fantastic siblings. They range in ages from 4 to 25 and thinking about them makes my heart feel warm. My parents divorced when I was about 13 but my dad is remarried to my stepmother of 13+ years. My mom is single and always looking to mingle 😉 but spends a lot of time with her hoard of cats and dogs and with her best friend Mary, who is like a second mother to me. I also spend a lot of time with my amazing grandmother who is a constant inspiration to me. I love my family and wouldn’t want it any other way.

I started a new job recently at a call center for a moving company. I enjoy the job very much and especially love that it allows for some free-time to browse the internet, read, etc. I’ve been using my StumbleUpon quite a bit and after subscribing to the writing interest found a post that encouraged you to write every day. I looked up the best blogging sites for beginners and remembered I had an old wordpress blog. I only had three posts so considering my “new start” attitude decided to delete those and start fresh.

I would like to use this blog to improve my writing and have an outlet for the multitude of thoughts and ideas I have during the day. I also think that one of the best ways to improve is to celebrate the accomplishment of goals. I can proudly say that as of today I have lost over 100 pounds from my highest weight. I started transitioning to gluten-free veganism last year and have been almost 100% vegan since the start of the new year. I am an advocate for veganism because I have personally seen so many positive results.

I also used to be a pretty heavy user of marijuana. It has been 28 days since I last smoked and although I never thought I would say it before I am very happy with the results. I feel like I have my energy and intellect back. I just started learning to play the guitar (another goal!) and cannot believe how quickly I am picking it up. I took a class in college in 2009 but haven’t played really since. I already feel I am back to and even a bit beyond my previous level. I don’t think I would be doing so well if I hadn’t committed to stop smoking. I quit smoking cigarettes a few months ago as well and am happy to be able to breathe easy.

I think that is probably enough for the first post! I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this. Even if no one does, it feels good to have a place to cheer myself on in the quest towards being the best Cindy I can be! ❤ 🙂