The Minimalist Challenge

The Minimalist Challenge

I learned about the minimalist game on Twitter, and was soon redirected to the site of the The Minimalists (the guys who made the documentary, Minimalism, which is currently on Netflix and a good watch).

The idea of the game is to find someone–a friend or family member or even someone online–to compete with for an entire month. On day one you each get rid of one thing. On day two you each get rid of two things. You go on like this until one of you ducks out, or you guys make it the full month. The person who gets rid of the most junk wins. Or if you both make it the whole month you both win.

As for me, I have no one to compete against. So I’m calling it a minimalist challenge instead of a game.

Today is day one and I have to get rid of one thing. Won’t be hard, considering the fact that my dining room is in shambles right now as I empty two very tall bookshelves. If you’d like to see what I get rid of each day, follow me on Twitter! I’ll be sharing there.

Happy Decluttering!

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

Five Reasons I want to Go Minimalist

When I was twenty-four, I sat across from my husband on Navy Pier and fed bread crumbs to the sparrows hopping between our feet. The morning fog still hadn’t lifted, and I admired the sailboats, mere black triangles on the horizon. We had been going to Chicago every year on Labor Day weekend and every year I fell in love with it even more.

Let’s move here.

I couldn’t believe what I’d just said, but at the time it totally made sense. I was a pretty impulsive person. I liked doing spur of the moment things, which was how we’d wound up in Chicago the first time. So I was dead serious. I wanted to move to Chi-Town, get a studio apartment, even transfer to UIC. I had it all planned out.

We could have breakfast on the pier every weekend. We could bike all over town. I wouldn’t have any transportation issues due to my epilepsy because there were plenty of cabs and buses and trains. And I could totally work at some quaint little bookstore and work on my novels at night to the lit buildings.

It sounded amazing.

We acted on it, emailed college advisors, and I began tossing everything in our condo. Everything we didn’t use within the last thirty days was either getting donated or thrown out. Because studio apartments are small and there was no room for our end tables stuffed to the brim with old receipts and textbooks from my first semester of college. We planned on getting rid of all of our furniture and buying a futon and a small table. We gave away a flatscreen we weren’t using. We threw out our big Christmas tree and opted for one of those cute little three-footers.

This was my first taste of the minimalist life.

We didn’t wind up moving to Chicago. Once I began to de-clutter, I began to feel less and less like running away. Instead I fell in love with our condo all over again and gazed longingly into the empty room across the hall from ours. Something was missing. Someone was missing. We decided not to move to Chi-town and had a baby instead.

Fast-forward five years and my house is cluttered with toys and rock collections and cicada shells and dog fur and empty film canisters and movies we don’t watch and art projects gone wrong. Each day is spent cleaning and straightening for the next day. I clean and clean and do laundry and clean and it always seems like something has to be done.

It’s time. Time again to make those “toss” and “donate” piles and find myself at home in my own home again. It took several years to get to this point, so it might actually take a year or two to get to a point where I can sigh with relief.

So why would I want to embark on such a long and tedious journey? Why can’t I just buy a storage shed and dump it all in there? Outta sight, outta mind, right? Right….like that would solve the problem.

I actually wrote ten reasons today why I want to go minimalist, but these are the top five:

1. Less Laundry!

I hate laundry. With every fiber of my being I hate laundry. Sure, having less clothes will mean doing laundry more often, but I’d rather do it more often than fold a mountainous pile of clothes at the end of every streak of procrastination.

2. Cooking will be simpler

My tired brain might deny it sometimes, but I actually love to cook. It’s soothing to chop veggies in front of the window as I listen to Lia Ices and Agnes Obel on Pandora. I love smelling the seasonings and putting new meals together.

But right now my kitchen is stuffed with pots and pans I no longer use–we went green when we got our canary, Apple–and coffee mugs we haven’t touched in years and appliances we may have used only once or twice. I can’t count how many times I’ve been hit with an avalanche every time I was trying to find the strainer.

A minimalist kitchen would mean knowing where absolutely everything is, and having only what I really need.

3. I will appreciate my items more

Why don’t I use those white mugs in the cabinet? Because I like my mug with the pretty birds, and the other mug that looks like a beehive. They are like small artifacts that add flair to my day. Same goes for my cameras and my art easel, which is hiding somewhere in the art closet. Once I’ve de-cluttered, only what I love will remain. Which means everything I own will matter to me in some way, and will actually add something to my day. Even if it’s just a smile.

De-cluttering will also mean Goo will appreciate her toys more: a valuable lesson I think is super important for her to learn.

4. Clean-up will be super easy for Goo

I will knock on wood repeatedly after I write this: Goo is actually very good at cleaning up when told. But right now she has so many toys that one afternoon in her room results in some kind of post-apocalyptic explosion all over her floor. It takes her forever to get everything back to where it belongs.

Less toys will mean more organization, and less time to clean up. It will also mean less clutter all over the floor during the daytime hours.

5. More time for creating!

Clutter drains my creativity. It makes me tired just to look at it. Less junk would mean less time cleaning and more time to do the things I like doing. It might even clear out the room in the basement, currently our “storage area,” and give us a room dedicated solely to our hobbies. I would love to be able to one day sit at my table with my watercolor easel with a fresh breeze blowing in through the window, or develop film in a spider-free and roomy room. Perhaps I could even start to do my own printing. After all, having less means having more money, space, and time for things like film enlargers.

While I’m going through this process–and begging my husband and kid to go through their things–I know it will be important to remember that minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, it’s a way of life. So I will also have to pay close attention to how I see material objects, and work on not adding more to the mix as I try to remove. I will work on trying to find the positive in moments and with my family as opposed to things. After all it’s memories, not objects, that we hold dear to our heart when we’re lying on our death beds.

Though I might want to be buried with my Rolleiflex.

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

I Went Vegetarian for a Meal….and Hated It

Going plant-based in the summer is tougher than I thought it would be!

Yesterday made one month vegan wooot!

It was also the first time I knowingly hopped off the plant-based wagon.

You see, the past week has been the most difficult for me. I’m not sure why, but I started to crave things like pepperoni pizza, cookie dough ice cream, cheese. My mouth watered when I made Goo a turkey hot dog for lunch one day. What was wrong with me? I’d never been a *huge* fan of meat, so I figured going vegan was going to be as simple as cutting out the things I didn’t care for. So why was I craving it? Ravenous for things like pepperoni when I barely gave it a second glance when it was “allowed?”

Was that it? Was it because I was telling myself “no”?

It got worse. I started to make mental lists of all the foods I would never eat again: ice cream on a cone at the fair, root beer floats, baked potato soup, marshmallows roasted over dying charcoals.

It doesn’t help that it’s summer, that fairs are in full-bloom, that a BBQ happens once a week, that every amusement park I go to–even just the pool–has nothing but cheese and fried meats on their snack menu.

But I also thought back to when I was pregnant. I was told that when you crave something, it’s your body telling you that you need something. That you’re deficient.

I thought about all of the foods I wanted, and I began to see a pattern. They were loaded with fat, grease, calories.

While craving these things, I had also begun to notice a constant “woozy” feeling. Plant-based food had begun to nauseate me. All food had begun to nauseate me. Which made me eat even fewer calories. It was a vicious cycle.

That had to be it. I simply needed more fat in my diet.

I listened to my body. I ate gobs of peanut butter on crackers and added oil and butter to foods to get more fat. But it just didn’t seem like enough. Was this diet really better for me? After all, the evidence on both sides of the argument is contradicting. Is there anyone I can trust to tell me the truth?

Yesterday, I wrote in my journal:

It’s a tough diet, full of foods I don’t know how to cook, and it takes a lot of work to make sure you’re getting enough of everything…I could just go vegetarian, but the whole reason I gave up milk and cheese was because I don’t agree with the practices to obtain those things. My morality, can I handle it? Can I push aside that feeling and go back to using eggs and cheese, even when I know I’m harming others to do so?

After a short talk with my husband, and a discussion on Twitter, and after reading this blog article, I began to see that vegan is only a title. A label. A word. Removing the title would free me to listen to my body, to say “I could, but I don’t want to.”

And then I did it. I pouted and said “I want baked potato soup.” So that’s what I had. Baked potato soup with a bit of cheese, and a salad, also with cheese, and ranch dressing.

I thought I would feel better afterward physically. I thought I would be able to handle it mentally. After all, I was taking care of me and that’s what’s really important, right?

But I didn’t feel like I was taking care of me. In fact, after I ate it, I just felt gross. The food wasn’t as great as I remember it tasting. Certainly not as fresh as the foods we’ve been eating. There was nothing “rewarding” about it.

And because of it, I doubled my sodium intake for the day. I just felt bleh.

I went vegetarian for a meal, and I hated it.

While I am annoyed at myself for letting the weakness get to me, I am glad I did it. I know now that plant-based is exactly where I want to be right now. I don’t really want cheese or pepperoni, I just want the freedom of knowing I could if I wanted to, but that I don’t want it. I also need to get a little more salt and fat content into my diet. Time to buy some trail mix and chow down!

And seriously, Lina, they do make vegan marshmallows. I could totally roast some on our if-it-ever-happens camping trip.

So I made it one month vegan and gave myself the ultimate test. I won’t beat myself up over it. All I can do is accept what I’ve learned and move on.

And I’ve got to remember my initial goal. It wasn’t to be a “perfect” vegan, but to be a better me than I was yesterday.

What are YOU Eating on National Junkfood Day?

What are YOU Eating on National Junkfood Day?

Apparently today is National Junk Food Day! And I’m giving myself a free pass to eat whatever I want, so long as it’s vegan.

I’m sure a lot of non-vegans are wondering if this means I’m going to fry up some tofu.

On the contrary! Here are five of my favorite junk foods that are totally vegan.

1. Chips and Salsa

I go with the standard Tostito’s restaurant style chips w/ Full Circle organic corn and black bean salsa. This salsa has a ton of cilantro, and something else (maybe lemon? lime?). Combine that with the sweetness of the corn…it’s amaaaaazing! I could devour an entire bag of chips if I have this salsa on hand.

2. Ice Cream

Yesterday, I TOTALLY FOUND ICE CREAM! I bought the chocolate chip cookie dough kind by So Delicious. Made with coconut milk, it is certified vegan. Om nom nom…

3. Popsicles

What can I say? It’s a thousand degrees outside. Outshine popsicles are great for when I’m craving something sugary and/or am melting from a few minutes out in the yard. I read through the ingredients about as thousand times, and it’s mostly fruit/vegetable juice so I’m almost certain they’re vegan.

4. French Fries

French fries are totally vegan! As long as they’re not cooked in animal fat, something I’m pretty sure most restaurants did away with. Dip ’em in some ketchup or vegan ranch. Om nom nom…

5. Pizza

I looooove Papa Johns vegan pizza. Both their crust and sauce are vegan, so I just order no cheese and load it up with veggies. Get a bunch of garlic dip (also vegan) and go to town. If you’re lucky like me, nobody else in your family will eat this pizza, so you will have leftovers!

Check out this list from Peta’s website of accidentally vegan foods.

So what are you eating for National Junk Food Day? Tell me in the comments below!

A Trip to the ER

A Trip to the ER

Yesterday morning, at around 10:30am, I had an aura seizure. The best way I can explain what these feel like, for me, is kind of like a tunnel vision-y thing that only lasts a second. Though I’ve had weirder auras, like strong deja vu and moments when the world is bright and colorful and I’m momentarily euphoric.

Anyway, these things are only about a second long and most of the time I just move on with my life. I figured I was staring at my phone too long, or that I was hungry or something.

About five minutes later I had another one.

Then the dizziness started, and I was lightheaded throughout much of my morning/afternoon. I decided to turn on the TV for Goo and take a short nap. I woke an hour later not feeling much better. In fact, I wound up on my bedroom floor because I was certain I was going to faint.

Was this a postictal state? Possible. Did it have something to do with cutting my Lexapro in half? Maybe.

Oh no…Did it have something to do with this new vegan diet? Had I messed up somewhere? Read more

Keeping My Husband Healthy

Keeping My Husband Healthy

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, sunglasses, closeup and outdoor

He messaged me yesterday from work on Monday:

“I feel weird.”

His stomach hurt, he was nauseous and weak. He couldn’t quite explain how it felt. But I knew that feeling. It happens when I don’t get enough calories.

I didn’t make him go vegan, did not demand he give up meat because of my new lifestyle choices (it’s the same with Goo, but she was born a vegetarian. Seriously, I can’t even get that kid to eat chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs). However, Chris made the mistake of watching Earthlings, and has gradually decreased his meat intake ever since. In fact, according to him, he hasn’t had any meat since Friday of last week. So he’s been eating vegetarian for four days!

But while Goo will promptly grab a snack from the pantry or ask for a second sandwich at lunch, my husband is the kind of person who will forget to take care of himself. So I know he hasn’t been eating enough to make up for that lack of calories, and according to MyFitnessPal he needs to be eating over 3300 calories per day!

As soon as he came home I handed him a banana and a B12 supplement. Then I made two huge stacks of Vegan pancakes, complete with walnuts, blueberries, banana slices, and maple syrup. Chris and Goo stuffed their faces, drank soy chocolate milk, giggled about the silly dreams they had last night, and when the plates were clean my husband felt much better.

I’m all for him going vegetarian, vegan, or even continuing to eat meat, but I want him to beĀ healthy about it. And with the poor guy working ten hours a day and returning to college in a few weeks, it’s sort of my responsibility as the stay-at-home mom to make sure he has a full stomach at the end of the day.

So, if I’m going to be making all-vegan for dinner, I’m going to have to make it calorie-packed, and I’m going to have to make enough for an army. I thought it would be hard for me to reach 1600 calories. But getting him 3300????

Needless to say, I have a stack of pancakes in the freezer!

Making Sure I Get Enough B12

Making Sure I Get Enough B12

I hit three weeks vegan on Monday! Wooo! Unfortunately, last week I didn’t feel as amazing as one expects when switching over to a plant-based diet. In fact, I felt pretty bleh most of the time.

Reason number one was my Lexapro. Even just going from 20mg to 10mg made me feel awful, with the brain *shocks* and the headaches and the nausea.

Reason number two was B12, which is a vitamin not many think about when worrying over my lack of meat intake. Most talk about the protein. How you getting protein? Protein protein protein. But there are more important vitamins. Like B12.

So…what happened?

I lost my appetite. Entirely. I was no longer excited to eat fruits and veggies and quinoa. Nothing looked good. In fact, the whole idea of food kind of grossed me out. Read more