Biking is Selfish

Biking-LA-River

I figure I’ll be speaking at length about my experience as a bike commuter on this blog.

But today I want to talk about BIKING as THE ULTIMATE (SELFISH) ALTERNATIVE FORM OF TRANSPORT.

 

Biking-Safety Selfish-Biking-Instagram Biker-Girl

Biking cannot be a reality for every single person. I am lucky to be able-bodied and live in relatively flat city with incredible weather. I wish we had more systems in place to make biking more convenient and less terrifying for everyone, everywhere. We know that biking is great for our community, economy, and planet, but let’s be real here, it’s hard to stick with anything unless it benefits yours truly. For those of you who have been toying around with the idea of becoming more than just a weekend biker, I present to you my list of some amazing self-serving benefits of biking.

 

Biking-Downtown-LA

The Awesome Selfish Side of Biking

  • No ifs, ands, or butts – I have to get places and I have to get there at a certain time. I used to set my alarm early to work out in the morning but usually would snooze til I needed to rush out the door. Now I have no choice but to wake up and get a great workout before I’ve even really started my day. I don’t have to fight myself to get the motivation to do this form of butt-whittling…and, what a coincidence, I HAVE to get another great workout later on my ride home.

 

  • Alertness and Energy – Basically there are dangers everywhere – cars, car doors, pedestrians, other bikers, street debris, the occasional bloodhound. Biking makes you incredibly aware of the roads. A sideeffect of having to be insanely alert is additional energy. Instead of zoning out like I used to in a car, I have to have my head on a swivel with my brain in hyperdrive and my reaction time at its peak. I feel AWAKE and ALIVE after a trek on my bike.

 

  • No more headaches – I’m never stuck in traffic! It’s no secret, the traffic in LA is awful. No more just hanging out on everyone’s favorite parking lot- the 405. Even better, if I’m running late I can DO SOMETHING about it. I can pedal faster! How empowering!

 

  • Fun – Biking is fun! It’s like when we were kids, we would just ride our bikes around the neighborhood for FUN! I don’t know what it is about making a machine move with your body, but it feels fantastic and playful! I swear I’m infinitely happier just from my daily ride endorphins.

 

Biking-Is-Fun Biking-Bridge

And when I say selfish, I mean it’s just about the best thing you can do for yourself, your community, and your world. Ride on!

 

Winter Detox Smoothie and Soup – VIDEO!

 Enjoy this video for a Ginger-Mint Pear Smoothie while I get real LA on you and talk about detoxes.
Detox-Smoothie

I’m sorta split down the middle when it comes to dietary detoxes and cleanses. On the one hand, I think they are unnecessary as our bodies are likely doing all the detoxing work they are meant to do, whether we drink green juices or not. Also, I definitely don’t condone anything that is too strict or extreme when it comes to health and nutrition. For me, tight parameters almost always means failure and self-loathing.

That said, the modern human person is eating insane foods in wildly large portions, things maybe our bodies weren’t expecting to consume. Had the caveman invented fire and then Fiery Hot Cheetos, we’d probably have developed an additional snackfood detox organ.

 

Winter-Cleanse-Soup-Ingredients Winter-Cleanse-Soup-Spices

I am grateful to be in a situation where I have access to fresh and healthy food and the ability to prepare meals in a safe and sanitary way. One thing I like about detoxes is the mental and emotional aspect. I become more grateful for and appreciative of the food I consume. Because I’ll usually have a plan I’m sticking to, I tend to stop overthinking my daily eating and start savoring each bite or sip. I become keenly aware of how much advertising for unhealthful food exists EVERYWHERE but especially in places where fresh and healthy food is in short supply. And, as much as I hate to be a detox-bandwagoner, after a detox I usually feel like a popstar princess warrior angel, that is to say, I feel amazing.

Here’s the video for the Cilantro Spinach Sweet Potato Soup!
Winter-Detox-Soup-Blender

All that and now I have to admit that I made the recipes from Sarah B.’s Winter Weekend Cleanse not as part of an official detox but in addition to my normal eating. Both the smoothie and the soup were delicious, super easy to make, with a limited amount of ingredients to procure. I chose to eat and drink other things instead of these two recipes exclusively, but do as you please!

Whether you want to officially “detox” or just spin some greens around in a blender, enjoy the videos, the smoothie, and the soup! I mean truly enjoy them! Let’s all take a cleansing breath and pretend we have an extra detox organ that filters out all the bad stuff, like Cheetos and self-loathing.

Remember, you are a popstar princess warrior angel.

 

Alternatives Exist

Paper-Towel-Alternatives-Exist

Once when my sister was little, she ran smack dab into a cabinet and bonked her head. My mom opened the silverware drawer and pulled out a butter knife. She turned to my sister, who in turn took off screaming, convinced my mom was trying to kill her…or so the story goes. Of course, my mom was just doing exactly what her mom had done for her as a child when she bumped her head, and probably her mother’s mother had done for my Grandma– houses weren’t as well insulated, drawers and cabinets were cool, silverware was cold, a perfect remedy to a fresh bruise! It makes sense!

Household tradition was sorta the original lifehack, right? For the most part, our daily habits are likely still based in the household traditions and learned conveniences passed down from generations, some of which are time-honored and lovely, and some of which are hilarious and involve lunging at your injured child with a knife.

But part of adulthood is figuring out your own way of doing things and creating new traditions. I never really questioned my own daily habits until an embarrassingly late epiphany a few years ago. I think the instigator was paper towels. Someone mentioned they were cutting back on their paper towel usage and my brain blew up.

WHAAAAaaaaa?

So, let me get this straight, you are actively attempting to stop using a product I’ve used multiple times a day, everyday, all my life — AND you are going to find something that WORKS JUST AS WELL IF NOT BETTER!

You can guess what happened next! I bought some sponges and my mom crocheted me a bunch of dishrags and I switched to a squeegee for mirrors and windows.

 

Oh, and my life was changed forever.

Because now I KNEW. And I could never forget that great fact.

THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO EVERYTHING.

That was it. That was the big epiphany. It seems simple, but for me, it changed my whole way of life!

I began to question more and more of my rituals, habits, and daily decisions. It wasn’t about rebelling against the world I had once known, in fact, I have the utmost respect for the traditions and habits from my childhood. However, it was important to me to question my habits and educate myself on options that made me feel most comfortable, fulfilled, and authentic. For me, that means a continuous process of finding the most sustainable, least environmentally-destructive alternative to my daily habits — but balancing that quest with self-care rituals, so I don’t completely lose myself in the overwhelming task of saving the planet.

 

ALTERNATIVES EXIST TIP #1

  • Try reusable towels, rags, and sponges instead of paper towels!

or

  • Keep a knife in the freezer as an alternative to ice packs to really freak out your child or loved one next time they bump their head!

 

Almond Pulp Hummus – One Weird Thing VIDEO!

Almond-Pulp-Hummus

If you know me but at all, you know I despise waste. I CANNOT handle it. Most notable in my obsession is wasted food. Oh, it makes me so sad when I have to throw out a once perfectly good, edible thing because it is now far from edible or good or perfect. Don’t go with me to a restaurant and expect to leave even a french fry on your plate. I lay awake at night thinking of all the things in my fridge that are soon to be turning and which of those things I can salvage by freezing or consuming or transforming.

It may come as no surprise that I love recipes meant specifically for using up an ingredient oft in surplus. If you are a nut milk drinker and producer, as I am, you’ll understand the struggle over what to do with the remaining pulp once the milky goodness is extracted. Oh, sure, there’s always cashew milk, the miracle of the nut milks for its no-strain, no-bag, no-pulp abilities. But for the most common of the nutty drinks, almond milk, the pulp is real.

There are a couple things I’ve tried in order to use up my almond pulp– dump it into a protein shake or smoothie, dehydrate it to make almond meal for baking, or repurpose it raw into other foods, like hummus or fudge!

In my quest for raw almond pulp recipes, I came across the Eating Vibrantly blog, with a treasure trove of nut-related goodness! I love this recipe for Raw Almond Pulp Hummus! It fits all my criteria– it reuses the pulp, it tastes amazing, it’s easy to make, and it freezes nicely to save batches for later use.

Enjoy today’s One Weird Thing Video! This week, salvage something while it’s still perfect and good or transform it to make something a little nutty!

 

Learning Garden

Erica-Smile-Garden

I’m back in Los Angeles!

On a recent sunny day, I visited the White House Place Learning Garden in Koreatown. I’ve been to the Garden a number of times, profiling the story of its’ chief steward, Lara Morrison, as part of the first episode of Mindful American (yet to be released.)

The White House Place Garden was nearly turned into additional parking lot space by the LA Unified School District, however members of the nearby Los Angeles Eco Village (including Lara) and residents of the surrounding neighborhood helped convince the school district to instead use the space as a garden for local school students.

 

Lara-Morrison Erica-Circle-of-Children-Garden

This wasn’t my first trip to the Learning Garden, but it was certainly the most energetic! On this particular Friday, four separate classes of students from the nearby Frank Del Olmo elementary school came to White House Place for their weekly garden class, led by the lovely garden teacher, Jillian Shagrin. You can check out Jillian’s health and wellness blog at Lean Green Revolution.

 

Jillian-Shagrin-Garden Jillian-Leads-The-Way Jillian-Sunfloweres

I started the morning in the garden with forty-some 4th grade students, harvesting radishes, weeding the paths, tasting fennel seeds, and picking lemons.

 

Erica-Loves-Radishes Erica-Blurry-Laughing-Radish

Granted, I don’t see these kids in the classroom so maybe they are as hungry about learning social studies and fractions as they are about the garden, but these were some seriously excited 4th graders! And it wasn’t a “we’re outside, we’re not stuck at our desks, let’s just run HOG WILD” type of energy. The students were FOCUSED and EAGER about the tasks at hand, pumped to learn about the plants, asking follow-up questions after each activity. One young girl told me the Learning Garden is her “favorite place, ever.”

 

Erica-Friend-Radish

Admittedly, there aren’t tons of vast, green spaces in LA. We are in quite a drought after all. Most folks don’t have a yard, sometimes not even a balcony or patio. Of course, there’s a lot of cool wilderness to explore around the city, but as a child, your daily radius of places is often limited to home and school and in between. For a lot of the kids in Koreatown, that means a lot of concrete.

The Learning Garden seemed to ignite that good ol’ fashioned back-to-the-land spirit in the students. The satisfied feeling of getting dirty with a purpose. The incredibly empowering moment when you finally taste the food you grew, knowing it started as a little seed and was planted by you! That’s a seriously good feeling!

 

Focused-Children Radishes-Are-Fun Dicing-Radishes

Today, just get totally 4th-grade-style PUMPED about something, anything! Cuz that little thing might just be a seed that grows!

 

Learning-Garden-Children

Right Here, Now

Right-Here

Sometimes I’m in the perfect place, with the perfect people — the sun is shining, the coffee is hot, there are breakfast foods involved — but my mind is somewhere else. I’m thinking about what I’m going to do next and how this experience could be improved if I first changed about fifty fundamental things about myself.

Sometimes I’m in a place I hate — I don’t want to be where I am, I’m overworked, annoyed, bored, hungry, exhausted, and I want out. But for one reason or another, I feel I need to stay where I am — other people are counting on me, I am responsible for certain tasks, I am physically trapped (rush hour traffic, luckily no longer a reality for me since I’m now car-free!) So I mentally leave. I check my phone, I turn up the radio, I do whatever I can to distract myself from where I am. And it makes the experience 100 times worse.

But sometimes, rarer occurrences than I would wish for them to be, I commit to the present moment. I’m fully in it. I sip up every bit of sunshine from the good, perfect moments. And I exhale through the harder times. But I experience it all without trying to check out, mentally or physically, without focusing on what could have been done or what I need to do or where I wish I was or how it could all be better.

As we head into the relaxing, quieter moments of the weekend, straight on through to the hustle and boogie of the work week, I’m grounding down with this mantra:

It just is. So be right here. 

If that works for you, please borrow the mantra!

Have a wonderful weekend filled with interesting breakfast foods!

 

Vanilla Cinnamon Almond Milk – One Weird Thing VIDEO!

 

Almond-Milk

I grew up drinking tons of milk — normal, everyday milk from a big plastic jug with a pink or blue cap, by way of a sweet cow somewhere. I think all the milk I drank growing up is the reason my hair and fingernails grow at a lightning fast rate and after a long day I like to chew the cud to let off steam.

At some point I sorta got weirded out by all that dairy. I still consume dairy — I drink cow’s milk, I’m an insane ice cream lover, and I love to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a block of cheese and really go to town. But I just started feeling weird about it all. It wasn’t just the studies of antibiotics and hormones and whatever else I was consuming in my milk, but just a general unease of drinking another animal’s juices intended for its young.

So I let off the milk a little. I’ve tried some of the store-bought dairy alternatives — coconut milk, rice milk, almond milk. Most of them don’t taste amazing and often have a lot of weird, scary additives, including a thickening ingredient called Carageenan. I don’t want to freak you out, so just Google Carageenan sometime in the company of a safe-person. It’s not pretty.

But I have FANTASTIC NEWS! Making nut milks at home are so super easy! And a thousand times more delicious than the store-bought kind! And added-ingredient-free! And packaging-free! And cheap to produce! And hilarious because you get to use a “nut sack”!

This almond milk recipe is one of my favs because it’s the perfect amount of sweet and creamy and nutty. It’s from a fabulous Vegan food blogger, Angela of Oh She Glows, and the recipe is aptly titled My Favourite Homemade Almond Milk.

I like to make a big batch of almond milk and freeze some. They freeze well! And don’t worry, you can make nut milks even if you don’t have a Vitamix. That blender you got as a wedding present twenty years ago will work! I have a cheapo blender from Target and it works great!

Also, I LOVE my No Sew Nut Milk Bags, which my darling and dear sister “made” me for my birthday, courtesy of the fantastically nut-milky blog Eating Vibrantly. (I say “made” in quotes because there’s no sewing involved, it’s SUPER EASY, but still a million thanks to my sister!) Oh and don’t forget to save your almond pulp! You can freeze it or dehydrate it but next week I’ll be making Almond Pulp Hummus!

So go ahead, watch the vid, plop some nuts in a jar and start soakin’! And whatever you do today, do at least one weird thing!

Eco-Conscious Travel Confusion

Erica_Grand_CanyonFor the eco-conscious amongst us, travel can often be filled with confusion and guilt. I want to explore new places but I know the environmental impact associated with traveling is quite great. How do I justify a greenhouse gas-ridden flight or car-trip when my everyday, non-vacation self is obsessed with reducing my contribution to emissions.
I don’t yet have the answers on the most eco-conscious travel.
For the longest time, I thought car-travel was always better than air-travel, as far as Mother Earth is concerned, so I was excited for my recent road trip from Nebraska back to California. However, I’ve been reading many studies which suggest that flying has become so efficient that per person, it often contributes less greenhouse gases than the same trip by auto. But there are so many factors in play here, whether the flight was full, whether the car gets good gas mileage, whether you have to pull over every hour in Arizona to decide whether or not to rescue that adorable stray dog, etc.
Confusing, and kinda stressful, right?
This article from Slate.com is a good synthesis of the car vs plane debate: Has Flying Become More Eco Friendly Than Driving?
Clouds_Grand_CanyonTravel is a reality. I’m this crazy, modern, human person and I can climb into a giant metal bird with a bunch of other human people and fly IN THE SKY and end up in a DIFFERENT PLACE. And that’s insane. And also mundane, by today’s standards.
My nephew was born just days before the holidays. I was going to go to Nebraska to meet him. However much I would have liked to travel by bike or wild stallion, it was not feasible (maybe someday!)
But look at this little dude! I had to go see him, and fast!

 

Sometimes we just have to be gentle with ourselves. Once we get to our destination, we can still be the same eco-obsessed person we are back home. It’s important to keep learning and questioning and exploring alternatives, and as I travel more I will work to discover ways to reduce or offset the impact.

But if I was fretting over every gallon of gas while I was holding my nephew in my arms or while I drove through miraculous Colorado, beautiful Utah, and awe-inspiring Arizona with my best friend, I would have really ruined the peaceful, joyful trip.

 

John_Erica_Grand_Canyon

Snowman_Grand_CanyonPlus if you have similar goals as I do, to slow down and live in the present, I highly recommend driving through Arizona and Utah. You have to literally STOP every 60 miles or so for some form of wild animal.

And it’s magical!

The world is beautiful, the Grand Canyon is miraculous, wild horses, new nephews, best friends and little snowman friends are sweet gifts of joy.
And if you are still stressed about greenhouse gases, just remember, this picture exists:
Freezing_At_Grand_Canyon

Life-Changing Bread – One Weird Thing VIDEO!

 

LifeChanging_Bread

I love to cook. I have no training but I love to try new recipes and I love to eat.

It’s a joke amongst my roommates that my cooking always includes “One Weird Thing,” be it an alternative sweetener, a flour substitute, a superfood, or simply more vegetables than have ever been together in one dish!

I am lucky to have no food allergies or sensitivities, I don’t subscribe to any particular food methodologies, I eat animals and gluten and sugar and everything! But I do believe too much of one thing is boring and bad. So I like to experiment.

Thus, I present to you the One Weird Thing video series! I will be making little videos of the recipes I’m currently trying out, and linking to the original source of the recipes.

First on the docket is the well-loved Life-Changing Bread from one of my favorite blogs, My New Roots. I love following Sarah Britton and all her recipes on My New Roots. She is always experimenting with alternatives and going in-depth on the health benefits of each dish.  Can’t wait for the My New Roots cookbook to come out!

Enjoy the video, enjoy the bread, try one weird thing today, even if it’s not a food. I hope it’s all life-changing!