Thursday, January 27, 2011

Three random things I'm digging right now

1. My new Massage Star:

In general, I'm not a huge fan of using anything other than my hands (or maybe hot stones) during massage, but during my recent CEU class I got to try out a few different "toys" and this one I actually like. It fits in my hand well and is good for adding force without straining my fingers. Also easy to wash (some of the stuff I've seen looked like it would be difficult to clean...which really creeps out my inner germ-phobe).

2. PlayLab at Southern Rep Theatre. I hadn't gone to this in a while, and forgot how awesome it is. It's a venue for playwrights to hear short excerpts (or short complete works) read aloud by actors. After the reading, the playwright gets feedback from a generally thoughtful and enthusiastic audience of theater-lovers. And it's free! I've participated in the past as both an actor and a playwright, but this time I just went as an audience member. I got inspired, and wrote a new short play yesterday!

3. The Hey! Cafe on Magazine (at Napoleon). I don't know why I never went in here until recently. They have vegan stuff! Lots of it! Eclairs and cupcakes and vegan quiche and more! And you can get almond milk in your coffee drinks! Also the baristas are friendly and I've never had a hard time finding a place to sit. It's about a 20 minute walk from my house, which is good for getting some sunshine and exercise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vegan pregnancy and the protein thing

Anyone who's vegetarian or vegan is familiar with the annoyance of being constantly questioned about their protein intake. I mean, it's not like we go around asking non-vegetarians if they're sure they're not eating too much protein, even though a lot of them are.

Most of the pregnancy books I mentioned in my last post recommend 60-70g of protein a day for pregnant women. That's more than I'm accustomed to eating, so I've been paying more attention to it than I did before getting pregnant. Then a good friend of mine gave me a book about The Bradley Method for natural childbirth, which she took classes in with her husband and found very helpful. Well, the Bradley dude recommends a whopping 80-100g of protein a day! My friend suggested I keep a log of my protein intake to see how much I was getting. On the first day I logged, I did manage to get around 80g, but that was with a LOT of effort.

I also noticed I was eating a ton of soy products to get my protein intake up. Soy milk, soy yogurt, vegan hot dogs, etc. Because I'm anxiety prone, obsessed with health, and enjoy torturing myself, I then had to Google "soy and pregnancy" to see if there were any issues there. Hmm. There might be. Or maybe not. Regardless, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to diversify and not rely so heavily on soy for protein.

So, off to the grocery store I went, where I bought a plethora of dried beans, almond milk, a colossal jar of peanut butter, and some Vega powder (which contains a blend of plant proteins, not including soy) for breakfast smoothies.

I'm not sure if I'll stick to the 80-100g Bradley recommendation. It just seems like an awful lot to me. The volume of food I have to eat to hit that goal is often more than I feel like eating. Also, I can't seem to find any studies or anything to back that recommendation up, just lots of Bradley advocates repeating it. If anyone has further info on this, I'm all ears! I'm a nutrition nerd.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Reviews of pregnancy books

I missed yoga yesterday, but it was for a good reason...I got a glimpse of my future child! I'm 12 weeks pregnant, and I decided to wait till to see the ultrasound before spreading the news far and wide. Well, I'm happy to report that all appears to be well with the kidlet.

I found out that I was pregnant in late November, and it was a bit of a shock. I've always wanted kids, but wasn't planning on it right now because I was applying to grad programs and my relationship with my boyfriend is relatively new. But we both found ourselves to be quite happy with the news, after all, and are making the necessary adjustments to our lives to accommodate this new little person.

One of the first things we did was head to the bookstore, because I wanted as much information as possible, and my obsessive Googling wasn't quite cutting it.

My boyfriend and I sat in the bookstore for quite a while, flipping though various books. I joked that I was looking for one called Your Vegan, Feminist, Unplanned Pregnancy, but, sadly, that one doesn't seem to have been written yet.

On that first visit, I bought two weekly pregnancy guides, so I could compare their advice (yeah, I'm weird like that):

Pregnancy: Your Ultimate Week-By-Week Pregnancy Guide by Dr. Laura Riley, OB/GYN
This one has some neat extras, like a due date determining wheel and beautiful photographs of fetuses. The information is laid out well and fairly comprehensive. I also like that the author uses the word "partner" instead of husband and routinely acknowledges the existence of single moms as well.

Your Pregnancy: Week By Week by Glade B. Curtis, MD, MPH and Judith Schuler, MS
This one has similar information to Riley's book, but seems to focus more on the medical side of things than emotional issues. One thing I like about it are detailed drawings of the fetus for each week, including one that is actual size.

When I visited my midwife for the first time, her office gave me a big stack of parenting magazines and this book for free:

What To Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

This book has a ton of info and I can see why it is the top go-to guide for that reason, BUT I have a couple of issues with it. First, they have a note in the beginning saying that they in no way intend to exclude single or unmarried moms, but they're going to use the word "spouse" throughout the book anyway, and you should fill in whatever applies to you if that particular word does not (I'm paraphrasing, but that is the gist of it). It may seem like a small issue, but I don't see why they couldn't use the word "partner." I believe almost half of the babies born in the U.S. are born to unmarried moms. Also, the information is organized in a manner I find somewhat hard to follow at times, but I guess that's what the index is for.

I found all three of the above books to be helpful info-wise, but they also sometimes freak me out with their detailed descriptions of everything that could possibly go wrong, even some things that, upon further research, I found out are VERY rare. Now, I know they want to be thorough, but I often feel anxious reading about all that stuff. They also focus a LOT on how important it is to gain the exact perfect amount of weight, which I personally feel like I have little control over right now. I mean, I eat really healthy food for the most part, but there are times when I feel voraciously hungry, and other times (thankfully, this phase seems to be passing) when I feel so nauseated that I really don't want to eat anything.

Then I remembered hearing about this other book, which I didn't find at the bookstore but easily acquired from Amazon:

From The Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

Finally, a book that really seems to get it! The layout of this book is really cool, with neat drawings of pregnant women of various shapes, sizes and ethnicities (the three aforementioned books had white women on the covers and no other pictures of women in the text). They mention gay people! And single moms! And the best part is, they have lots of quotes from anonymous parents, that show the true diversity of the pregnancy experience. It's not all sunshine and joy and flowers - they address fears about losing your freedom, worries about your body and your relationship...all kinds of stuff. This book is not as thorough as the others when it comes to medical info, but it covers the basics, and for emotional info, it is BY FAR the best. It also addresses a lot of parenting issues for after the baby is born.

I can't seem to stop reading pregnancy books (though I'm also hooked on the new Jonathan Franzen novel, I must admit), so I'm sure I'll have more book reviews in the future!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I made two New Year's resolutions this year. The first was to do more yoga, which, technically, I have already achieved. I've taken 4 yoga classes so far in 2011, and I only took 1 in 2010! Seriously, though, on the awesome New Year's retreat I attended, I enjoyed the yoga classes and decided it needs to be a bigger part of my life. I've done yoga occasionally over the years, but it was never really my thing. After discussing it with a good friend who's also a yoga instructor, I realized that I just needed to find the right classes for me. And I'm happy to say I think I've done that!

My main goals are to gain flexibility and strength, and also to ground myself and decrease anxiety. I've been to yoga classes in the past that seemed sort of competitive and show-offy. To be honest, that probably only turned me off because I'm not super-advanced at yoga. I, too, can be competitive and show-offy when it comes to stuff I'm good at ;) I've found that I prefer the type of yoga where you spend a long time in one pose, gradually letting it deepen, as opposed to doing fancy combinations of several poses in a row. Therefore, I've started attending the "Restorative Yoga" and "Essential Yoga" classes at my gym. And, yeah, I'm usually the youngest person in the room, but I don't mind.

My other resolution was to continually strive to be kind and loving toward others. Sounds simple enough, but it can be a real challenge. I remember a line from a book I had as a kid, that said, "Be nice to the mean kids. They need it the most." I don't remember what book it was from, but it has stuck with me.

There's a vulnerability that comes with treating everyone kindly. They may not return your kindness. They may try to take advantage of you. Still, I've found the rewards to be much larger than the risks. When I think about the various things people have "taken" from me, or got away with because I was too trusting, they are very small in comparison to all the things others have given me, or shared with me. The generosity I've experienced from others is pretty amazing, when I think about it. Problem is, I don't always think about it. Sometimes I dwell on the negative treatment I've received from others.

Being vegan has opened my heart in ways I didn't anticipate. I started on my journey towards a vegan lifestyle two years ago, for health reasons. The health benefits have indeed been great, but there have been surprising effects on my soul. I feel that I don't place as many limits on my compassion now that, for example, I don't have to block out the plight of dairy cows to enjoy ice cream. Now, I know plenty of kind and compassionate people who are not vegetarians or vegans, and I realize that many of the choices I make, like filling up my gas tank, effect others negatively. But I think this particular lifestyle change has had a big influence on how I relate to both animals and people, and has helped me empathize and realize we're all in this together.

Here's to increasing the love, health and happiness in 2011!

P.S. The Russian approved of, and devoured, his birthday cake :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vegan Russian Napoleon Cake

So...don't ask your Russian boyfriend what kind of cake he wants for his birthday. Just make him a chocolate cake or something and be done with it. Otherwise, he might tell you he really wants a "Napoleon Cake" like he used to have as a kid...which can be challenging if you've never eaten such a thing and it sounds pretty tough to veganize.

But, love makes us do crazy things, so today I made a vegan Napoleon cake.

Internet research informed me that the Napoleon cake basically consists of layers of puff pastry and cream filling. Further internet research informed me that Pepperidge Farm's frozen puff pastry is one of those accidentally vegan (but nowhere near accidentally healthy) junk foods. Like Oreos! So I ventured away from my safe and familiar Whole Foods, and went to a Normal Grocery Store (eek!) to purchase the puff pastry.

The cream filling was more of a challenge. The boyfriend described it as being similar to the filling in an eclair. I ended up making this recipe for coconut milk whipped cream, and also a package of vegan vanilla pudding (made with soy milk), and mixed the two together in my stand mixer. I thought it could be a bit sweeter, so I added some powdered sugar. The resulting cream was OMGyum.

Then all I needed to do was assemble it. The top has crumbs of puff pastry on it. This crappy cell phone pic (sorry, real camera's battery died) actually depicts an additional mini cake I made, because I had extra pastry and cream. I suppose I could have trimmed the edges to make them neater, but I'd rather have more cake than prettier cake.

I will report on the Russian's reaction later :)