Names, Personal Evolution, Changing My Name, Uncategorized

A Rose By Any Other Name

Our names are often the first thing we share with others.  We all have various images that come to mind at the mention of  certain names. These images may be of a person we know with that name, or a picture our mind generates seemingly at random.

I have always been interested in the naming process.  I’d  even tried to name my little sister, but my parents weren’t having it. As a child, I asked my mom why so many people we knew named their male  children after people in the same house; “It’s tradition.” she’d say. Until my mom assured me I could name any future children as I pleased, I assumed I’d have to marry a man with a name I liked in the event we decided to have children and one was a boy.  What a relief!

It was during sixth grade when finally, I was given a naming opportunity.  My sole positive memory of my time in Catholic School was the privilege of choosing my very own  confirmation  name. In an effort to pick the perfect name, I spent months   with my nose buried in the baby naming book my mom had purchased for me. The process wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped, and I was disheartened to find my options were  limited to choosing either a saint’s name, or a name derived from that of a saint.

I didn’t know many saints, and kept picking fancy french names. My pious sixth grade teacher was not amused. She wanted me to pick something basic. There was no way that was happening. I eventually settled on something saint derived but, at the time, unique.

As is the case with most people, I was generally accepting of my birth name. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but it was by no means awful either. It was overly  common though, and each time I met someone who shared my birth name they were very much a tomboy. The name fit them better than I.  This  bothered me. Worst of all, many people called me an awful sounding  shortened version of my birth name,which I hated!   I did have my  childhood nickname, which I preferred over the ugly built- in nickname that had come with my birth name; however, only a few people called me by this.

In my early twenties, I began to feel the persistent urge to change my name.  At that time, a legal name change was a highly tedious and expensive process, so I held off.  Nearly a decade later, I finally I decided to take the leap.  I had no idea what name I’d choose, but the options were plentiful.  To me, the possibilities alone were a source of excitement.

I knew  I wanted something feminine and nature derived. Choosing my middle name was quite simple. In contrast to the simplicity of choosing a middle name, settling on my new first name took several months.  I had it narrowed down to about five choices when I surprised myself by choosing an exotic version of my birth name. It would be an easy transition for everyone, and it just felt fitting and comfortable.

In the state where we live, I wasn’t required to go before a judge. The process basically consisted of filling out paperwork, sending it to the courthouse, waiting several weeks for the paperwork to return to me with court stamped approval, and going to the DMV for my new license. The entire process cost $380, and a fair amount of patience. It was tedious, but absolutely worth it.

You may be wondering  what happened aferward; I’ll start with the negatives: my parents were mildly upset with me for a while, my sister made fun of the odd spelling of my new name, and a few people still  occasionally call me the dreadful shortened version of my old name ( I suppose I need to ask them to stop doing that).  That about sums up the negatives!

Almost everyone in my life made a seamless transition into calling me by my new name, even my 85 year-old grandmother. Alot of people who know me have told me the new name suits me better; I  have felt that as well. The unexpected perks of my name change have been the frequent  compliments I receive, and the always comedic question, “Are your parents hippies?”.  More important than any of the aforementioned, was the sense of relief I felt when my new name was approved. I remember saying,” I finally got my pretty name!” (and then awkwardly remembering I was home alone, realizing that I’d never be cool, and embracing this fact as I twirled around the dining room, documents in hand).

I’m sure there are people who find my decision to change my name dramatic and self-indulgent, and that’s alright; they’re free to keep the name their parents gave them. For me, when my name is called it feels natural and reflective of my personal  evolution. It’s who I’ve always been except a bit better, like the rosebud that finally began to blossom into it’s full glory after a long winter.

Have you changed your name? Has anyone you know done so? Would you consider changing your name? If so, which name would you choose?

Advertisements
Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Uncategorized

Nuts About Milk

Remember the days when the nightly phrase at dinner was, “Drink your milk!”? Oh, how I dreaded those words. Luckily for me, my mom gave up her attempts to get me to drink milk upon realizing the only way I could swallow cow’s milk was if my glass was filled half way with chocolate syrup. I hated the taste of it, and as it turned out my body was rejecting cow’s milk as well, in the form of exzema and digestive issues.

When I first ditched dairy, non-dairy milk choices were slim. Our local market had a specialty aisle; nestled into the corner of said aisle, were  a few dusty cartons of EdenSoy and rice milk from which to choose. Times sure have changed. These days, I am blown away by the array of non-dairy milks available at every store I visit. How convenient!

There are several  uncomfortable truths  about the store bought nut milks, though; they’re mostly water and thickener, and are  often high in added sugar. Homemade nut milk only takes a few minutes; it’s  higher in protein, minerals, and flavor.

Nuts are a great source of protein. Protein  is the building block of our tissues, and is reparative as well.  Nuts are high in minerals such as: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Selenium, and Zinc. Minerals are important for nerve and muscle function and  immunity.  Some are cautious regarding nuts because they’re  fairly high in fat. While excess  is unhealthy, fat is a necessary macronutrient essential for the good health of our skin and other cells. Fat also helps in the transport of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K). Homemade nut milk is creamier  than store bought, and making nut milk at home helps you to avoid excess sugar by allowing you to control the sweetness.

There’s a commonly agreed upon ratio of one cup  unsalted nuts to three cups of water, but you may make a lower fat milk by adding an additional cup of water. The recipe below creates a basic neutral milk for use in sauces, mashed potatoes, baking, cereal, and smoothies. Although, you’ll likely want to skip the vanilla for certain uses! The most commonly used nuts are almonds or cashews. Almonds create a lighter milk that’s lower in fat, but MUST be pre soaked overnight even if using a Vitamix. Cashews result in a richer result and don’t require soaking.

Cashew Milk

1 cup of unsalted (preferably raw) Cashews

3 cups water

3-5  Dates

1 tsp Vanilla extract  (optional)

Place in high speed blender, and blend on high for about two minutes. Chill for 30 minutes before drinking (unless you’re adding it to a hot recipe).

This cashew milk keeps in the fridge for up to five days. Shake before using.

Screenshot_20170424-195657-01

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Uncategorized

Vanilla Date Bread

While I  make just about everything else from scratch, my lack of baking expertise has found me buying pre-made baked goods for my husband, and as a result feeling like a partial failure as a wife.  I’m sure I’d have long  been capable of baking a cake if I went the classic “eggs and sugar route”, but you know us plant-based folks,  we’re commited to finding  healthier alternatives, and it’s not  always simple when it comes to baking.

I’ve certainly  tried my share of online recipes with  alternate ingredients, but I haven’t  enjoy many of them.   As much as I love chickpeas and  brownies, it’s been my experience those two shouldn’t be together under any circumstances.

Not long ago, I finally created a baked good I was proud of. My husband , a self-proclaimed sweets connoisseur, raved over it, and asked me to make it for his birthday. I was nervous about baking it for guests, two of which had professional baking experience. As it turned out, the bread was a hit. This recipe is sweetened entirely with fruit, meaning there’s no white sugar.

One  challenge of baking sweets without unhealthy ingredients has always been the frosting .  Most homemade  frosting is made with large amounts of butter and powdered sugar. That’s usually the best case scenario, as frosting from a can contains synthetic colors, and flavors, as well as hydrogenated oil.  If you’d rather not put  any of the above into your body, but still love frosting, there’s a healthier option here. This frosting was adapted from a recipe found in the book, “Nourishing Meals”. Although  I’ve made some changes to their recipe, I must credit the authors of this book with teaching me an entirely new way to make frosting!  

This recipe yields about sixteen servings. This is a special occasion treat for us.  Each frosted slice contains approximately 15 grams of fat. I usually eat two slices per sitting, hence the special occasion designation! The fiber and protein conten, paired with the abscence of refined sugar ensures this sweet treat will not cause cravings or the dreaded sugar crash. It’s the only dessert I’m willing to eat for breakfast. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as we have.

 

Vanilla Date Bread

Dry Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 c.  Date Paste (2c dates to cup of water)

1 1/2 c. Milk of your choice

1/2 c. Butter (dairy or non-dairy)

1 tbs. Vanilla

Directions:
*Preheat the oven to 350
*Whisk the dry ingredients together.
*Place all wet ingredients into your high speed blender and blend until smooth.
* Using a fork mix the wet and dry blends until they just come together; the batter will be dense and sticky.
* Scoop the  batter into two greased loaf pans or one 9×13 baking pan.
*Bake for 22 to 24 minutes.
*While the cake is in the oven, wash out the blender,  you’ll need it to prepare the frosting.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting

1c. Cashews

1/4c. Water

1/2c. Dates

1/2 c. Coconut cream (Thai Kitchen is my preferred brand)
1 tbs. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Directions:

*Place all frosting ingredients into your high speed blender. Blend on high for three minutes until everything forms a cream consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula once or twice.

*Transfer the frosting into a container and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

*  Once the cake has cooled, frost it using a silicone spatula.

*Source: Segersten, Alissa, and Tom Malterre. Nourishing Meals: 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time. New York: Harmony, 2016. Print.

Performing Arts, Dance, Uncategorized

Only a Dancer

20170408_203527

“Is your father upset that he’s so educated and you’re only a dancer?” I froze for a few seconds before responding, “I don’t think so. I  was actually awarded several talent scholarships.”  Growing up in an elitist area, I was no stranger to digs regarding my artistic path, as well as inquiries regarding matters such as who had designed my purse.  This question, however, cut like a knife. My father  had given me  specific  directives: Cultivate your talents. Whatever you do with these talents do it well, and continually find ways to grow and improve. He and my mother had always encouraged my dancing, but were they  secretly disappointed?

Never before had anyone questioned my parent’s view of my worth. I could roll my eyes at  other people’s limited view of who I should be, but not that of my parents. I’d disappointed my parents with things I’d done, but  dancing was who I was.  I couldn’t bear to think who I was could be disappointing to them.  Later that night, I burst into tears at the dinner table and asked if what my neighbor implied was true. It wasn’t true in any way.  They assured me my neighbor was foolish and definitely incorrect in her assumption.

Since then, I’ve proudly taught hundreds of students and even stepped out of my shell for a while performing both as a dancer and more recently, a singer. Over the years I’ve noticed common threads or traits  that run through my most passionate and dedicated  students. In my experience, these traits exist most intensely in those who’ve  gone on to continue their dance studies after high school, perform, and teach.  If  ever you’ve known and loved a dancer, the coming words will surely ring true.

Dancers are tenacious; they  understand the value of trying something many different ways with many different corrections and adjustments before accomplishing said goal. Dancers are perfectionists; once they  “get it”, they’ll  work tirelessly to turn acceptable into exquisite.  Dancers posses discipline, self-respect, and often a maturity beyond their years. Self-worth and improvement  are repeatedly pressed in the studio; as a result, dancers  are less likely to engage in damaging or  risky behaviors.  Dancers know themselves on a deeper level. They’ve  discovered their strengths and weaknesses and are empowered to work with both.

Dancers  understand that the love is in the details. It’s not only their movement, but the precise way in which they execute it.  Dancers’  passion  outweighs their desire for status. Even the most successful are never well off, but to an artist it’s worth the sacrifice. Dancers work hard, not solely for money but also for the love of their art form, the opportunity to reach others with their gifts, and the chance to feel  alive in a way only available to those who take the dance floor as their home. Dancers create. Isn’t that why we’re here, to create relationships, families, beauty, and memories?

Dancers have the grit to face a world in which they may be wanted, but not needed, a world in which they may be passed over for work due to their height or hairstyle. They must demonstrate their commitment and value repeatedly. Dancers stand comfortably in their own vulnerability, taking their bodies, hearts, and spirits bravely onto the stage. They do this never knowing when they’re to be replaced by a younger,stronger dancer, or set back by an overuse injury, or the natural aging process. Dancers express feelings and stories bringing  us into their emotional space, helping us to better accept and experience our own feelings. Therein lies the fragile beauty of the performing arts.

As a dancer and teacher, I’ve  experienced joy and disappointment, felt energized and exhausted, been inspired and burned out. Still, there’s never been a day in my life I wasn’t thankful for the opportunity to share the arts.

As for my old neighbor who wondered if my family felt disappointment due to my being a dancer, I’d love for her to take a few of  my classes. It would  be entertaining  to watch her discover the biggest truth regarding dancers: Making difficult movements look effortlessly beautiful, using a blend of talent and training to take our bodies to unique extremes, and creating a kind of silent poetry that moves observers emotionally, are things  “only a dancer” can do.

Performing Arts, Dance, Uncategorized

Only a Dancer

“Is your father upset that he’s so educated and you’re only a dancer?” I froze for a few seconds before responding, “I don’t think so. I  was actually awarded several talent scholarships.”  Growing up in an elitist area, I was no stranger to digs regarding my artistic path, as well as inquiries regarding matters such as who had designed my purse.  This question, however, cut like a knife. My father  had given me  specific  directives: Cultivate your talents. Whatever you do with these talents do it well, and continually find ways to grow and improve. He and my mother had always encouraged my dancing, but were they  secretly disappointed?

Never before had anyone questioned my parent’s view of my worth. I could roll my eyes at  other people’s limited view of who I should be, but not that of my parents. I’d disappointed my parents with things I’d done, but  dancing was who I was.  I couldn’t bear to think who I was could be disappointing to them.  Later that night, I burst into tears at the dinner table and asked if what my neighbor implied was true. It wasn’t true in any way.  They assured me my neighbor was foolish and definitely incorrect in her assumption.

Since then, I’ve proudly taught hundreds of students and even stepped out of my shell for a while performing both as a dancer and more recently, a singer. Over the years I’ve noticed common threads or traits  that run through my most passionate and dedicated  students. In my experience, these traits exist most intensely in those who’ve  gone on to continue their dance studies after high school, perform, and teach.  If  ever you’ve known and loved a dancer, the coming words will surely ring true.

Dancers are tenacious; they  understand the value of trying something many different ways with many different corrections and adjustments before accomplishing said goal. Dancers are perfectionists; once they  “get it”, they’ll  work tirelessly to turn acceptable into exquisite.  Dancers posses discipline, self-respect, and often a maturity beyond their years. Self-worth and improvement  are repeatedly pressed in the studio; as a result, dancers  are less likely to engage in damaging or  risky behaviors.  Dancers know themselves on a deeper level. They’ve  discovered their strengths and weaknesses and are empowered to work with both.

Dancers  understand that the love is in the details. It’s not only their movement, but the precise way in which they execute it.  Dancers’  passion  outweighs their desire for status. Even the most successful are never well off, but to an artist it’s worth the sacrifice. Dancers work hard, not solely for money but also for the love of their art form, the opportunity to reach others with their gifts, and the chance to feel  alive in a way only available to those who take the dance floor as their home. Dancers create. Isn’t that why we’re here, to create relationships, families, beauty, and memories?

Dancers have the grit to face a world in which they may be wanted, but not needed, a world in which they may be passed over for work due to their height or hairstyle. They must demonstrate their commitment and value repeatedly. Dancers stand comfortably in their own vulnerability, taking their bodies, hearts, and spirits bravely onto the stage. They do this never knowing when they’re to be replaced by a younger,stronger dancer, or set back by an overuse injury, or the natural aging process. Dancers express feelings and stories bringing  us into their emotional space, helping us to better accept and experience our own feelings. Therein lies the fragile beauty of the performing arts.

As a dancer and teacher, I’ve  experienced joy and disappointment, felt energized and exhausted, been inspired and burned out. Still, there’s never been a day in my life I wasn’t thankful for the opportunity to share the arts.

 

As for my old neighbor who wondered if my family felt disappointment due to my being a dancer, I’d love for her to take a few of  my classes. It would  be entertaining  to watch her discover the biggest truth regarding dancers: Making difficult movements look effortlessly beautiful, using a blend of talent and training to take our bodies to unique extremes, and creating a kind of silent poetry that moves observers emotionally, are things  “only a dancer” can do.

Plant-based, vegetarian, meatless, vegetarian advice, vegan., Semi-vegetarian, Flexitarian, heart health

Eating for Health and Happiness

It’s no secret that the United States ranks 37th in health outcomes. The high sugar low nutrient  Standard American Diet (ironically abbreviated as SAD) is a major contributing factor to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Eating should be enjoyable. The foods we consume should appeal to our senses, and make us feel energized and ready to face the day. Our diets should nurture our immune system, and overall well being. Eating well is a form of self-respect. 

   Many remain under the impression that eating  well means sitting down to a plate of boiled carrots, plain rice, and an unseasoned block of tofu; they believe they’ll have to force down sandwiches on bread that tastes like cardboard, cut out entire groups of macronutrients, and be deprived of flavor at every turn. This is untrue. There are many options that are nutritious without sacrificing flavor, or asking you to avoid fat, carbs, or proteins. 

Today I’m featuring overviews of healthier ways of eating. Changes  can be made without sacrificing flavor or richness. Better  ways of eating can be worked into your diet recipe by recipe, day by day.

Semi-Vegetarian

Semi-vegetarian, sometimes referred to as flexitarian, is a way of eating that involves lessening ones intake of animals to the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables. Meatless Mondays took off a while back. Through this movement many have adopted the semi-vegetarian diet, lessening their consumption of animal products and increasing the number of heart healthy meals they serve.

Is it healthy?

It’s common knowledge eating  more fruits and vegetables while decreasing animal intake is a healthier choice. A large scale study has shown a semi- vegetarian diet to decrease the chance of death by stroke or heart disease.*

Vegetarian

The title “Vegetarian” denotes a person who doesn’t  consume  chickens, cows,  fish or any other animal. Vegetarians may however, consume dairy products and cheese. Such vegetarians are known as ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Is it healthy?

Vegetarians tend to consume more fruits and vegetables therefore increasing their intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  That said, one can be vegetarian but eat ice cream for breakfast on a daily basis which obviously  wouldn’t be a heart healthy choice.  According to the American Heart Association, many studies have shown the vegetarian diet to be helpful in the avoidance of obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.

Vegan

Vegans are another breed entirely. In addition to not eating animals, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, and all animal by-products including honey. Vegans  don’t wear leather or fur. Their commitment to animal rights extends to their personal care items. Vegans only use products that are free of animal by products, and  never tested on animals (look for the leaping bunny).

Is it healthy?
The nutritional aspect of veganism is entirely dependent on the individual. Oreos are vegan, but still chemical laden and filled with hydrogenated fats. There are vegans who eat well, and those who’s compassion and care for animals doesn’t  carry over to their concern for their own well-being. A few concerns about veganism are lack of  protein and vitamin B12. Both are easily corrected. We need around .35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Vegans may accomplish this with tofu, seeds, beans, legumes, nuts,  nut butters, and whole grain items. Vitamin B12 may be supplemented or made available to vegans through fortified cereals or plant milks.

Plant-Based

Plant-based eating means eating only plants or minimally processed plant foods. Those who are plant-based keep processed foods to a minimum or omit them completely. The diet of a plant-based person is filled with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters,  and plant milks.

Is it healthy?

A plant- based diet is essentially vegetarianism in its optimal form, a natural whole foods diet. The fact that plant-based means eating mostly whole foods and keeping processed foods to a minimum makes this way of eating inherently higher in fiber, nutrients, and lower in preservatives, chemicals, and inflammatory ingredients like sugar and soybean oil. Many plant based folks avoid oils. The fats in their desserts and dressings exist in the form of nuts,seeds, or avocados either whole or blended into a cream consistency. The sweetness in their baked goods and pies comes from pureed dates. The plant-based diet contains less empty calories because each ingredient has nutritional value beyond caloric intake.

Plant foods can be prepared and seasoned in a variety of ways. If you’re looking for better health in the form of weight loss,  lower cholesterol or blood pressure, and increased vitality, fruits and vegetables seem to hold the key.

Which of the aforementioned appeals to you? Will you make changes to your diet? For which reasons?

Sources:

http://m.newsroom.heart.org/news/semi-veggie-diet-effectively-lowers-heart-disease-stroke-risk

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#mainContent