“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So, I’ve been a strict vegan for exactly one month now (thank you, Label Swap Project) and I’m frankly shocked that I lasted this long. If someone had told me in October/November that I would be giving up cheese for an extended period of time, I would’ve laughed. Well, I guess the joke’s on me, because I really enjoyed taking on Emily A’s label. Quite unexpectedly, I ended up resetting my tastebuds to crave more fresh, whole foods. Also, I feel like I’ve learned more about how my body/energy levels respond to different types of food. Looking back, it’s hard to remember what exactly possessed me to take on this rather random vegan challenge, but I’m glad I did. Journeying outside my comfort zone was completely worth it.
To celebrate my ”vegaversary” and Emily D’s awesome new job, the two of us did what any sane, twenty-something female in D.C. would do. We ate some cupcakes.
On Tuesday night Emily and I decided to frolic off on a culinary adventure after work. Our destination? Sticky Fingers – a completely vegan bakery in Columbia Heights that’s famous for its delicious comfort food and award-winning cupcakes! See the blurry, headache-inducing pictures below for proof.
With food like this available in my area, it’s hard for me to justify returning to my carnivorous ways. Emily and I both agreed – the vegan dishes and desserts were crazy good. Emily ordered the chili and I opted for the “Tuna Melt” (BTW, you know you’re a vegan when you start eating menu items that are sandwiched between quotation marks…). We then split one brown sugar rum cupcake and one cookies ‘n cream cupcake. Emily, the blog’s resident cupcake expert, gave her stamp of approval on the bakery’s miraculously egg-free, butter-free creations.
While the food and company were wonderful, it wouldn’t be an Emily/Denise adventure without some amusing, unexpected awkwardness. This brings me to the second part of my post title: “intimidating hipsters.”
As Emily and I sat down to enjoy our delicious dinner/dessert, we soon realized that we were the obvious black sheep of the small, eerily quiet bakery crowd. Obviously, we at Life in Labels don’t like to jump to stereotypes, but I must admit, the youthful hip/indie crowd surrounding us fit the typical vegan image well. Between my plaid skirt and Emily’s doubled-up grandma sweaters, let’s just say…we definitely didn’t. Now all those unusual Google reviews I’d read earlier that afternoon were starting to make sense. Case and point:
[On Sticky Fingers Bakery] Excellent vegan cheesecake and cookies. Sometimes you have to deal with the indie rock snobs that come in…but completely worth it.
So, yeah, Emily and I willingly walked into this thinking it wasn’t a big deal and, for the most part, it wasn’t. Still, when we caught a few awkward stares and realized that no one else was really talking except for us, things got slightly uncomfortable. Emily and I proceeded to exchange looks that plainly asked, “Um, are we cool enough to be here?!” Then, in a similar fashion, we exchanged awkward text messages like, “Will these people think I’m lame if I take pictures of my food?” After some silent eating and coded conversation, Emily and I eventually stopped caring. You know what? I DID take pictures of our food. We DID rant about work. We DID talk about lovely, girly things like knitting. Annnnnd we may or may not have had a rather judgemental conversation completely centered on The Bachelor. I hope that any silent spectators listening in were highly entertained by us (and not annoyed…).
In the end, Sticky Fingers was great – wonderful food, a great menu, and lovely service. See? Look how happy we are!
As Emily perfectly halved our little cupcakes, I was suddenly gripped with déjà vu. It occured to me that this time last year, the two of us were doing the very same thing, but in a different place. You see, last February Emily was kind enough to pay me a visit in Winston-Salem, NC – the home of Krispy Kreme. I took her to sample some donuts at the factory (because there is little else to do there). Emily claimed that Krispy Kreme was tasitier in their hometown. See that picture on the right? Yeah, we’re toasting to the new year with our donut halves.
Then: Krispy Creme Donuts // Now: Classy, sustainable baked goods
Then: Winston, what? // Now: Washington, D.C.
Then: Excitedly buying off brands at sketchy grocery stores // Now: Unwisely splurging at Whole Foods
Then: Denise on her own, Em bunking with her ‘rents // Now: REVERSE!
Then: Unpaid (yet focused) idealistic postgrads // Now: We work for The Man.
Then: Friends // Now: Friends
Hey Emily, we should step it up again next year. Let’s go to Paris and split some pastries. If we keep this pattern up, after a decade we’ll be eating French macarons on the moon.
PS: I’ve decided to extend my veganism – mostly because I see no reason not to. I will, however, stop meticulously blogging about it on a weekly basis. =)
Last week I took a break from chronicling my recent veganism to nerd out over SOPA. Don’t worry, though. I’ll only bore you with tech policy on very special occasions. Today, I’m back to posting about a subject we all love: food.
I bought a small Black & Decker juicer and named it Buster. I thought the gesture was appropriate.
Unlike Buster from Arrested Deveopment, however, I’m not “taking hits of juice boxes” with high fructose corn syrup. Instead, I’m taking all of this…
…and turning it into THIS:
Yes, I’m aware that this looks like something from the [classic] film Troll 2, but there’s just something really satisfying/fun about liquifying huge pieces of fruits and vegetables. Plus, I’ve found that green juice is a really wonderful way to start the day. It’s like a vitamin rich energizer that wakes me up without crashing me later ( Grrr….coffee). Also, speaking as a person who has trouble stomaching food early in the day, the juice works really well for me.
Between my juicing, vegan recipe mini successes, and elevated mood, this Label Swap Project has been pretty great. Still, despite all of these wonderful things I rave about with Emily-style optimism, cutting animal products out my diet hasn’t been all fun and games. It would be remiss of me not to share some of the complications and challenges that have come along with being vegan.
Getting the right nutrients/vitamins. About two weeks into my Label Swap, I realized that I wasn’t taking B-12, a vitamin found in animal products that helps with circulation (right, Joceline?). Apparently this is one of the hardest vitamins to get enough of when one is eating an exclusively plant-based diet. Oops. I bought some supplements at CVS when I realized my mistake and I’m fairly certain that I’m getting enough now. If, however, you witness me become severely depressed/sluggish (an indication of a possible B-12 deficiency – right, Joceline?), please remind me to take my vitamins. On the plus side, this initial lack of research concerning my vegan nutrition served as a much needed wake-up call. Now I feel pretty educated about what I need to put in my body to, you know, keep everything working properly.
Explaining my vegan diet to other people. If I can avoid it, I tend to not tell people about eating vegan. While I’m not hiding the situation, I also don’t gab on and on about my sudden love for green beverages and quinoa during office hours (like I do on this blog, for instance). I’m being purposefully subtle – especially at work – because 1) I honestly don’t know how long this “vegan” thing is going to last and 2) I’ve found that the “But why vegan?” conversation can be slightly awkward. Apparently honest answers like “I was curious…” or “It’s for a blog!” or even “I just felt like it.” make me look like a crazy person.
Fighting Food Isolationism and Vegan Guilt. In her original vegan post, Emily A talked about how easy it was to be a vegan in Portland, OR – you know, where there are many other vegans and a plethora of vegan food options around the city. I don’t think the same can be said for the Virginia/D.C. area. As a result, I definitely opt to cook my own food more (which is great), but, when I do go out or eat with friends, I sometimes feel like such a downer. You see, the hard part isn’t finding food I can eat (afterall, you can get a salad almost anywhere), but rather making sure that my veganism doesn’t inconvience others. For instance, as a former food industry employee, I have an innate sense of empathy for all waiters and therefore feel very guilty when I ask questions or complicate orders. (“Could I get that without the cheese? Is there beef/chicken broth in the veggie soup?”) Also, the fact that my veganism doesn’t stem from an allergy or moral conviction only compounds this guilt further. The result? I naturally gravitate toward food isolationism where I cook everything, avoid resturants, and essentially divorce food from social, shared experiences. Obviously, this sucks and there’s no way it could last.
Luckily, I’m starting to discover ways to combat this hermit like vegan tendency. I’ve cooked for my friends (though, in these situations, they more like guinea pigs), learned to supress or circumvent my “vegan guilt” at resturants, and have tripped over some clever compromises that allow me to remain a vegan in a non-vegan world. Behold, one of the compromises:
Instead of going out to eat one night, my friend Stephanie and I picked up frozen pizza dough and toppings at Whole Foods. The resulting meal was customized and delicious. She made a cheesey pesto mushroom pizza and I made a tomato mushroom one with veggie crumbles. I’ll have to do this again at some point with a larger group of friends. It was really fun and easy.
Speaking of friends, one of mine just accomplished something truly wonderful.
Now, take a nap STAT and then pack for your vacation. That’s an order.
This week I learned lots and lots of things about knitting:
I learned that metal needles move faster. And blue needles are more inspirational.
I learned how to knit while driving!
I learned that you should not knit on the interstate. Only at traffic lights.
I learned how to taper in on the sides of a project.
I learned how to finish a tie!
I learned how to tie a tie.
…And then I learned that knitting useful and trendy things like ties will make you lots of friends.
Finally, I learned that my Grandma Draper was the most baller knitter EVER. That’s why she had her own tags, obviously.
Oops, sorry for no post last night. I took the night off for this:
I tried to write this post in advance for awhile, but there’s only so much I can say about drinking a lot of water every day. I already covered lemons and having to pee copiously, so there’s that. Hopefully inspiration strikes next week!
Well, we’re ten days into 2012, and you know what that means – three quarters of Britain already gave up on their resolutions. But lucky for me, I am in America. Which means I can last a few days longer, based solely on the fact that my ancestors outlasted smallpox and the British in multiple wars.
While Joceline and Denise are already feeling the effects of their lifestyle-upgrades this year, knitting doesn’t exactly have the same result. My fingers don’t feel more nimble, I don’t feel less prone to Alzheimer’s, and I’m kind of sick of looking at yarn. This week, knitting felt like my Sunday Morning Regret of 2012, albeit a very prude and geriatric version of SMR. Initial enthusiasm = gone. Tediousness of completing each stitch = increased. Annoyance of fitting a ball of yarn and needles in my purse each day = unimaginable. WHY DID I DECIDE TO DO THIS TO MYSELF?
My only wool-related updates for this week are:
Now, although I sound like a womp-womp British quitter, I promise that this week actually held other sorts of excitement and fresh starts for me. Remember that little Intern post, wayyyyy back when? Remember when I shared my Ice Queen tendencies and how they helped my job search? Well, both of those labels finally came back to serve me well and I now possess the new label of SMITHSONIAN EMPLOYEE. That’s right, folks, less than two weeks into 2012 I finally finally landed my dream job. And it feels pretty darn good. I kind of can’t stop smiling. Or giggling like a 13-year-old girl in Abercrombie. Or sending emails in all caps and shamelessly bragging online.
In some ways, knitting can be a metaphor for life (bear with me through this
deep cheesy explanation) – summary version: good things come to those who wait. I have been waiting for this job offer for over a year now. Patiently, stitching together a slew of skills and resume-builders, I have worked diligently toward my goal. Sometimes I lost sight of the end product, or became frustrated and tired of waiting. I dropped a life stitch here and there. But in the end, I won a coozie my dream job. So this week I may kind of suck at knitting. But I am not sucking at life, and I assure you that I will somehow become good at knitting as the year progresses.
I know this sounds nuts (and believe me, no one is more surprised by this than I am), but…
It’s been a little over three weeks (I started before the New Year), but I’m already seeing a marked difference in my daily life. I don’t get tired during the day, I get full faster, I’m actually consuming a wider variety of foods (and nutrients) than I normally would, and I’ve stopped craving things. Things like chocolate and coffee.
Yup. That’s right. Coffee.
So, apparently, when Emily A told us all that veganism rocks, she wasn’t lying. And that superwoman picture she posted to represent her energy/physical well being? I totally get that now. I’m totally feeling that right now.
Starting week two into my resolution to stay as hydrated as a mangrove tree–I try to have four glasses of
waterfluid a day, and only one of them can be coffee. This is an increase of 300%! Oh, and I’ve tried to eat at least one vegetable/fruit a day (okay, when your diet is mainly eggs, mint oreos, and cheezits, that’s a massive improvement).
Apparently, the trick to get me to drink water is to make it taste nothing like water. I don’t dislike it, it’s just kind of boring, you know? I use half a lemon each day and refill the cup periodically, letting the lemony goodness of the rind infuse, and then at the end of the day I’ve been driven so mad by endless question banks that I neurotically eat the lemon, peel and all. (I think I have a slight oral fixation, seen here.)
So one week into this new “healthy” lifestyle and what’s the difference? Obviously a week is a short amount of time…but going into it, I sort of thought four big glasses of water was going to be the magical cure-all that Glamour magazine would have you believe. Drink water, and your pores will be nonexistent! You will have heaps of boundless energy! And you’ll never need chapstick again, just like Emily!
And despite my overdramatic and facetious post title, I…haven’t really noticed any changes. Yes, I didn’t exactly overhaul my lifestyle. Maybe I shouldn’t have cheated a few times by chugging a glass of water right before bed (with annoying consequences). Maybe my kidneys are perfectly used to my desert camel ways and they are doing just fine keeping me at normal water balance, thankyouverymuch. But seriously, no changes at all?? I actually have more zits than usual and decidedly still need Chapstick. In fact, the only difference I notice when I drink water is that I feel more smug. As in, that’s right, fulfill that New Year’s resolution, look at me being good to my body.
It reminds me of something we learned in class–patients are more likely to skip out on taking meds if 1) they don’t feel differently after taking meds, or 2) if their disease doesn’t make them feel that bad in the first place. High blood pressure is the perfect example. Most people don’t have symptoms of high blood pressure, and they can’t tell that their medication is making any difference–they just do because they know they should.
Back to the water, now. I don’t feel any physical effects of hydration (aside from having to pee ALL THE DAMN TIME). Just like I don’t really feel different when I eat only processed junk versus eating an actual cooked meal with ingredients. After all, in the short term it’s just about enough calories to keep me going, right? I eat veggies etc. more because I feel righteous and deserving eating them, not because I get a boost of energy from the B12 or whatever. But that righteous and deserving feeling–the act of doing something I know is good for me is–in itself, beneficial. I’m exerting some control over my laziness, and investing the effort so that future me doesn’t die of malnutrition. And then I get to feel good about myself. So end sum is I feel good mentally, if not physically, which is honestly just as worth it.
Oh, PS: I learned why holding your pee gives you UTIs of the kidney-infection-variety! Too much pee in your bladder can push some back into your ureters (the tubes from your kidneys), allowing bacteria to climb up to your kidneys. So, run freely back and forth from the bathroom, secure in the knowledge that you’re actively preventing a UTI! You’re welcome.
It’s 2012 and I can honestly say that I have not consumed any animal products this year. Granted, it’s only been four days, but for me – a born and bred carnivore – this is quite an accomplishment.
Ever since Emily A. first wrote about her own adventures in [sort of] veganism, I became quite curious of the lifestyle. I guess that seed of curiosity must’ve lingered and grown because once we all decided to embrace the “Label Swap Project,” I immediately thought, “You know what? I want to become a vegan!”
Just so you know, this is NOT a natural thought for me.
I’ve never felt particularly sorry for animals before, so this blogging/food experiment isn’t morally driven. Never in my life have I felt compelled to throw red paint on someone wearing fur. I don’t get sad about all the turkeys on Thanksgiving or the cute little lobsters in the display tanks. In fact, the only time I remember my heart strings pull at the site of meat was when, at the age of seven or eight, I saw a whole roasted pig sitting on the counter at my Filipino family reunion. (If you had just read Charlotte’s Web, YOU would’ve ran away in terror too…)
I think my unexpected enthusiasm for this label might come from my new, rather adultish routine in Washington D.C. You see, I wake up after not getting enough sleep, I sit in a car, I sit on the metro, I sit at a desk, and I see little very little sunlight. I used to sneak walks during my lunch break for some much needed fresh air and vitamin D, but it’s frigid now so instead I resort to taking awkward laps around my floor when (I hope) no one notices. After all of that, I get back on the metro, sit in more traffic…you get the idea. As you can imagine, I feel like crap quite a lot and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to unwind, recharge, and relax. I kind of want to do something that will, at the very least, make me feel better. So, since I can’t cut down further on sleep or tack on extra time to my day (Wouldn’t that be nice?), I figure I can try putting better things into my body. If Emily A’s energetic prose and ample optimism is at least partly due to her plant-based diet, then sign me up! I need some of that now, please.
So far, everything is going very well. I started easing in to my vegan diet about mid-December so I could experiment with cooking, properly stock up my fridge, and get a good routine down before the new year hit. In fact, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I’ve been very loyal. It’s definitely been an adjustment, but it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be. I know that sounds nuts, but it’s true. I’ll blog more about that next week….
I will now close my first “Label Swap Project” update on a few inspirational notes – namely, some delicious vegan dishes I hope to cook in the coming weeks. Three cheers for experimentation!
PS – If anyone knows of awesome vegan recipes, entertaining blogs, or other relevant literature I should check out, please let me know! I’m only too happy to take advantage of other people’s wisdom and experience. =)
I’m taking on a new “Emily” as my label for the next month…Emily D., namely in all her crafty glory (perhaps I can channel this to craft an apology for being such a space case for my last two weeks’ posts, KA-ZING. Seriously though, sorry…). Maybe this has something to do with my commitment to being a grown-ass ladygirl, saving money rather than spending it on stuff I really don’t need (apartment doo-dads I could just make, clothes and shoes I am a needle and thread away from owning, glittery anything, these), maybe it has to do with the fact that recently, months behind the rest of the world, I investigated Pinterest (zomg), but I wanna start makin’ shit!
So my plan for January is to say that I can’t buy anything (except, you know, food) that I can’t try to make/alter/re-purpose first.
Scratch that, my plan for January is to buy 40 pounds of glitter. Duh.
So, to usher in 2012 and the lovely & exciting possibilities it holds, Life and Labels has decided to undertake a new spin on New Year Resolutions:
It’s exactly as it sounds. Inspired by ambition and curiosity, each blogger will adopt someone else’s label come January 1st and, for the next month, blog about their undertaking.
In an attempt to stay alive while studying for her med school boards, Joceline will emulate Emily A in staying Hydrated (and all-around healthy, too).
In the spirit of experimentation, Denise will be trying on Emily A’s Vegan label. Obviously, that’s going to be entertaining to read about…
Emily A will get in touch with her Crafty side like Emily D, and try not to buy anything new in January (only vintage/repurposed, etc).
Stay tuned as we borrow some self-improvement from our fellow bloggers!