We Got Engaged!

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I can certainly say that May 2016 was quite eventful for me. All in less than a week I had my birthday, graduated college, and got engaged.

It started that Wednesday with my birthday…. I had the day off, no class and no work, so I stayed home relaxing with the dogs and cleaning. The plan was my boyfriend would pick up Red Robin on his way home for dinner (free birthday burger, heck yea!). He called when he was done with work and asked me to call in our order. I was so excited for my Red Robin that I hadn’t eaten much all day and I was starving! After a while I started to wonder where the heck he was, I knew it was rush hour, but it shouldn’t take this long and dang it I’m hungry! I reached for my phone to call him and ask what was taking so long, but I decided not to be a jerk. He’s a very thoughtful guy and probably stopped to get me flowers or something, he usually does, he’s probably doing something nice. Finally, He walked through the door struggling to carry everything, and not only does he have Red Robin, but he has a vegan ice cream cake!

After about five years of knowing each other and dating four of those years I knew he loved me, but this was the day I knew he really and I mean really loved me. How? This year he came home with food instead of flowers, and not just any food, vegan food, and cake at that, ice cream cake! He knows me well!

The next day got even better with my mom and nephew arriving in town, well after I almost burnt our apartment down, but that’s a whole other story. Friday morning I was off to my last day of school. It was very surreal. This was something I didn’t think I’d be able to finish and yet there I was at the very end. It was such a different experience from when I obtained my LPN degree. This school was very different, every instructor was so kind and helpful and truly wanted everyone to succeed. I went in assuming everyone would be much younger than me and cliquey. I had the mind set that I wasn’t going to talk to anyone, I was there to get a degree and get out. Much to my surprise it was a very diverse group with quite a range of ages and some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. This past year hasn’t been easy, but these instructors, classmates, and this school made the experience so much easier than it could have been and helped me to forget the horrible experience I had the first time around.

After class I was met by my mom and nephew and it was off to lunch, it’s what we do best! We spent the day together eating and shopping and preparing for my graduation party Saturday.

Saturday rolled around and was pretty hectic. I got up early and ran to the store, then the cake arrived, and we were packing the coolers. My friend and her daughter arrived. My friend and I had appointments to get a couple piercings before the party. My boyfriend was so helpful, he could tell I was stressed out, he was cleaning the kitchen and all sorts of stuff. Then out of nowhere my brother, his wife, and two of their other kids show up (4 hours before the party). I wasn’t expecting them to come since they live so far away, so it was a very nice surprise, but a very crowded little apartment! My friend and I went to our appointments and when we got back it was time to head to the party location. We got down their and set up. We kept things simple, a couple coolers, a cake, some plates/napkins, and we ordered pizza.

Then….

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Things were going well, most of our closest friends and family were there and it was very nice. Then it was time to cut the cake, but first everyone wanted a million pictures. Then I was finally going to cut this beautiful cake when my boyfriend starts making a speech. I stopped him telling him no one was really listening, that’s when he yelled “Can I have everyone’s attention?!”. I was shocked, he never raises his voice. Then he proceeded to say how proud he was of me for finishing school and how hard I worked and how happy he has been to call me his girlfriend. At this point, I’m thinking “how sweet, he’s saying nice things about me. Now about that damn cake!”.

Then all of a sudden I hear “and I’d be even happier to call you my wife”, that’s when I about shit myself. I turned and looked at him to see him struggling to pull something from his back pocket. He finally got out this tiny white box and dropped to his knee. I was in total shock, I was 162% sure he’d never propose. I reacted like a bone head due to shock and not knowing if it was actually happening. Of course I said yes, but I was still in shock. He just looked at me, so I snatched the box from his hands, it was sparkly! Later he told me he thought I was suppose to say yes and then he was suppose to put the ring on me, but I snatched it too fast! We are both laughing in that picture, because after he proposed, as soon as he stood up, his mom yelled “Do it again, I missed it!” We thought she wanted a picture of him on this knee. He got back on his knee and we stood really still and after a minute we started laughing, because we didn’t know what was taking so long. Then she said “Well are you going to say yes?”. Here she was videoing and wanted him to do the WHOLE thing again. HAHA.

I definitely will never forget this week of events! Two things I NEVER thought would happen, I went back for my RN (and finished) and I got engaged.

Cruelty Free and Cheap-It’s Possible!

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I have always loved a good bargain, probably because I have always lived paycheck to paycheck. I also won’t give up hygiene or certain little luxuries (like shampoo, laundry soap, ect). On top of all that the items in my home need to be cruelty free (no animal testing), that is a requirement. Some things I prefer in my products would be that they are environmentally friendly and free of a lot of chemicals (not always possible). Buying cruelty free is considered difficult by most people, but it’s actually super simple. Most people assume you have to go to special stores or fancy places to buy cruelty free items…Not true, I sure don’t consider Target, Walgreens, and my local grocery store fancy by any means. The other huge myth that surrounds cruelty free shopping is it’s expensive…It most definitely can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the brands I picture or mention, I just happen to like them*

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Household Products:

I personally love Method products, they are plant derived, cruelty free, natural, and in my opinion moderately priced. They pretty much have it all, laundry products, dish soap, dishwasher tabs, bathroom cleaners, kitchen cleaners, personal products, and more. You can find Method products at most targets and on sites such as Amazon, but I prefer to buy directly from the Method website as it is much cheaper. These products are not dollar store cheap, but they are relatively affordable and especially when in comparison to major household brands.

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As I mentioned you won’t find these at the dollar store, but you can find these products at Target, some grocery stores, and online (which is usually cheaper!). The laundry soap smells incredible, I like to mix the scents, but they also have a free and clear version. I always use scented, because I have three dogs. The dishwasher tabs work great and my dishes are always clean. The hand wash refill saves quite a bit of money. The price is approximately the same as two small hand soap bottles and will fill them more than two times, so great deal.

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When it comes to dish soap I have used Method and Meyers, but the giant bottle of dish soap pictured in the picture on top was a killer deal. This was from Costco though. I don’t shop at Costco, but my boyfriend’s mom is obsessed with it. She wanted to buy us stuff for the house one day while I was at work and came back with this. She knows how picky I am about things being cruelty free. I am so particular with my brands I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it’s great and lasts forever!

With other random household items, I buy Earth Friendly trash bags and toilet paper. The toilet paper I would compare to Angel Soft (what I used years ago) in quality and cheaper in price. I have also used my Walgreens points in the past to purchase Seventh Generation toilet paper, which is nice as well. Earth Friendly products are at my local grocery store. I love their trash bags, they come in a pack of 70 for $4.99.

When it comes to household cleaning products I have tried different brands, again I like Method products, but I have tried Green Works and Meyers. My favorite things to clean with are vinegar and baking soda. They are cheap and work well! Not only do they clean well almost any surface, but they unclog drains! Check out my sink cleaner here.

Personal Products:

 

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Now that the house is covered, what about me? Let’s start with one of the most multipurpose thing in my house….COCONUT OIL! You can wash your face with it, you can shave with it, you can put it in your hair, you can moisturize with it, you can bake with it, you can oil pull, use it as deodorant, and the possibilities are endless. I have a jar in the kitchen, a jar in the bedroom, and a jar in the bathroom. I use it as moisturizer and deodorant mainly. I have tried it as face wash and hair oil, but it was a bit too heavy for those. I love it as deodorant though and love using it after I shave. So get some coconut oil and go nuts!

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Like a lot of girls, I’m picky with my hair. It doesn’t get much cheaper than White Rain, eighty nine cents at my grocery store. It smells great, it’s not fancy, but it works just fine, and it’s super affordable. I also love Dessert Essence hair products, they aren’t as cheap as White Rain, but they certainly are cheaper than salon products, and they are vegan, gluten free, and cruelty free. They also smell incredible.

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Of course you need to wash your body too and I don’t know about others, but I need to smell good. Again when it comes to cheap, White Rain is where it’s at. The body wash smells great and doesn’t dry out my skin and again it’s at the local grocery store (I know Dollar Tree sells it too). I also like Method’s body wash, not dirt cheap, but only $2.99 for the bottle pictured above and it has lasted me quite a while.

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I have used Dessert Essence toothpaste (and like it), then I discovered the Hello brand at Target for about three dollars cheaper. I really like it, I feel fresh and clean using it.

 

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I am a lotion freak, if there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s dry skin! I recently discovered White Rain has lotion too! The lotion smells great, but it’s a bit perfumy for me. I mixed it with some of my unscented lotion and it works great. My favorite lotion is Kiss My Face, but at almost ten dollars a bottle I can’t always get it. I do like my most recent idea of mixing it with my cheaper lotion so it lasts longer.

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In general I am pretty cheap, but not everything I like and use is dirt cheap. I don’t buy expensive products, but I do splurge on moderately priced stuff at times. If you want to stick with pretty darn cheap, I say get some baking soda, some coconut oil, and some White Rain. Recently I was at my local grocery store and noticed lots of other cruelty free products. I have also been noticing more and more at other stores and drug stores. When you have time, take the time to really search shelves and read labels. Don’t forget to search Google too. You really will be surprised at how much you find. Like I said not everything is dirt cheap, but look how much people spend on brands like Tide, Gain, ect. I spend about that or less and get a better product without the cruelty. Again sorry for the sideways pictures. Just remember it is totally possible to be cruelty free and still have a clean home, beautifully scented clean laundry, and smell great yourself. Better for the animals, better for the environment, and better for you.

 

DYI Cruelty Free/Natural Kitchen Sink Cleaner

 

So my kitchen sink was absolutely disgusting one day (well it happens more than that) and I was out of kitchen cleaners. I was like what on earth can I find in my apartment to use. I started searching Pinterest for some DYI cleaner ideas and saw a number of different ideas, but nothing that would work for me. I scoured my kitchen and found a handful of ingredients I thought might help me, I piled them on the counter and began to experiment. After a number of tries on a few different occasions I discovered a concoction that was made from household items, nothing toxic, and it did make my sink look a whole lot better. 

Kitchen Sink Cleaner:

  • 2 Cups Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice (I prefer fresh and generally juice 1/2 to 1 lemon)
  • 1/8 Cup Salt (I use regular sea salt)

Fill your sink about 1/2 full with hot water and then add all the ingredients. Give it a good stir and then let sit for about 10 minutes. Scrub with washcloth or pad if necessary and then drain and rinse. 

It’s definitely not a hardcore abrasive cleaner, but it worked wonders in my regular (stainless steel I assume) sink. The mix tends to eat away grime. I have also used this concoction a few times on a clogged bathtub drain. In that case I used quite a bit more vinegar to really get at whatever was clogging it. I added the 2 cups first and let it sit about ten minutes and then added some more vinegar and again let it sit. After I ran really hot water for a couple minutes and voila. I have also cleaned my stove top with this. 

 

Tuscan Fresca Pasta-Copycat Noodles and Company

Tuscan Fresca Pasta

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Up until this past year it had been many years since I had eaten at Noodles and Company, and I had only eaten there once. After becoming vegan I needed to find a multitude of options, even on the go options. Thanks to my trusty friend Google (and the Noodles allergen menu), I discovered Noodles had a few dishes that were vegan or could easily be made vegan by holding the cheese. I’m not big on peanuty stuff or super spicy weird stuff so the whole grain Tuscan Fresca stuck out. It was yummy simple pasta with tasty vegetables and a zesty olive oil dressing. I ordered it and loved it and have ordered it a number of times since. The last time I got to thinking, this is a very simple pasta dish and it’s so good I should make it at home. I planned to eventually, but last night I did unexpectedly. So here’s the deal we really need to go grocery shopping, but payday is still a week away. Things were getting pretty desperate so the other day we picked up just a few things to get us through (of course the way I eat it got us through two days). So back to hardly any food, but thanks to my tiny shopping trip I happened to have a few fresh veggies and they happened to be what’s in this pasta. The pasta I used wasn’t whole grain, I only had plain linguine, but it was still yummy and I personally love pasta in any form so long as it is vegan. I found one recipe on Pinterest that looked like it was a similar copycat recipe, but the pasta was different and the dressing was for fifteen servings. So, I decided to wing it and try my own thing.

INGREDIENTS

-1/2 Box (8oz) Linguine

– 1 Tomato

-1/2 Red Onion

-1/2 Bag (3oz) Baby Spinach

-1 clove (1 tsp) Minced Garlic

-1/4 Cup Olive Oil (+ 1 tbsp for sauteing)

-1/8 Cup White Balsamic Vinegar

-1/8 Cup Grape Juice or Sweet White Wine

-Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

You can do these in almost any order, I did them all kind of at the same time. I had the pasta cooking as I mixed my dressing and then sauteed my vegetables. I then drained the pasta, poured on the olive oil/fresca dressing so it didn’t stick together, finished up my veggies and mixed it all.

-Begin preparing pasta per instructions

-Heat tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pain on low-medium heat

-Prepare your dressing by mixing 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar, and 1/8 cup either grape juice or sweet white wine. (If you like it sweeter add more grape juice, if you prefer more zest add more vinegar, if you want less oily use less oil)

-Add the tomato and red onion to the heated frying pan and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add garlic and saute for another minute or until fragrant or onions are partially translucent. Don’t saute too long you still want your veggies kind of crunchy.

-When your pasta is cooked drain it and add in about 1/4 to 1/2 of your dressing to keep the noodles from sticking. Do not add it all, you can add more later if you like, but you don’t want too much.

-When the veggies are done and them to the pasta and mix

-Then add in the fresh spinach and mix. The heat from the pasta and veggies will wilt/cook it a bit, but not too much 🙂

-Add salt and pepper to taste and then add more dressing if you like.

This was very good as leftovers, I think because the dressing was able to soak in and marinate. Either way it was simple and although the directions look long it really only took fifteen minutes all together. Let me know what you think. 

Quick Vegan Pancakes

Quick Vegan Pancakes

These are nothing fancy, but they are quick and easy to make and in my opinion taste pretty decent. I have used a number of different recipes found online in the past and this is my version of what I feel works. I’ve taken basics from numerous recipes and altered them into what I feel made a decent pancake in a short amount of time that tasted good topped with some earth balance and syrup!

INGREDIENTS

-1 cup flour

-1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar

-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (use 2 for extra fluffy)

-Pinch of salt

-1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil (you could use coconut)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat a pan to medium heat

Mix dry ingredients together (Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, and Salt)

Add in the “milk” and oil

Mix until smooth, the mix will be thick, if it is too thick or there is still dry ingredients visible add another dash of milk or oil to thin (we want it thick, but not too thick)

If you don’t have non-stick cookware add some oil or vegan butter to your pan and allow it to get hot

Now spoon or poor some batter onto the pan

Once you see bubbles appear on top of the pancake carefully flip it and cook the other side

*Should make about 6-8 pancakes depending on size*

Feel free to add chocolate chips, blueberries, coconut whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, or anything else you can think of to spruce them up! I made them plain for dinner the other night, because I was lazy and hungry!

Let me know what you think.

Avocado Mashed Potatoes

AVOCADO MASHED POTATOES

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I absolutely LOVE potatoes, they have been a staple in my diet ever since I can remember. Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries, hash browns, you name it. I also happen to love avocados. Up until about a year ago the only form of avocado I was familiar with was guacamole, you know the stuff you eat with chips and salsa. I was unaware that there was a whole world of possibilities out there. So I started buying avocados, first I made homemade guacamole, but I eventually branched out. Now I find myself constantly eating avocados. One of my favorite meals is Gardein vegan burger with avocado slices and a baked potato. The avocado and potato go very well together and it was a simple, fast, and tasty meal. I have read numerous times that avocado makes a good butter substitute. This got me thinking that perhaps avocado mashed potatoes would be good. I started searching Pinterest and found a post, but the link was broken, and all the other posts were for avocado cauliflower mash. I decided to just throw something together myself since it isn’t exactly rocket science. I’m no expert, but it turned out pretty tasty. I will definitely play with the measurements more to perfect it to my taste in the future. This recipe is really something that varies based on taste preferences and the size of the potatoes ect that you are using, but mostly taste. This gives you the idea(s) and guidelines, but you really have to individualize it.

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Peel the potatoes. I used golden potatoes, because they have a creamier texture and it’s what I had on hand.

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Cut them up into chunks.

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Place potato chunks in boiling water and boil them until you can easily pierce them with a fork.

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While the potatoes are boiling, bust out the avocado

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Slice it up. You can use half, if you just want to replace the butter with it or the whole thing if you really like avocado like me!

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When potatoes are ready drain the water and then place potatoes back in the pot. Add vegetable broth. Some people are fancy and make their own veggie broth, I just used store bought.

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Add the sliced avocado, salt, lemon juice, pepper, and garlic to the potatoes.

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Blend together. I used an electric mixer, you could use a food processor or high speed blender.

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Taste test your pot of green mush and add salt, pepper, or other things as needed to taste.

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Begin preparing your plate…

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Continue adding food items to your plate…

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When your plate is appealing to both you eye and your stomach it is complete.

AVOCADO MASHED POTATOES

Remember to add ingredients slowly and adjust to taste

Ingredients:

-approximately 9 med/small golden potatoes

-1/2 to 1 medium avocado

-1/2 cup vegetable broth

-3/4 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp pepper

-1/2 tsp finely minced garlic

-1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1.) Start a pot of boiling water on the stove

2.) Peel potatoes and cut into chunks

3.) Add potatoes to boiling water and boil until you can easily pierce with a fork

4.) Drain water and place potatoes back in pan

5.) Add all ingredients to pan with potatoes (avocado, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic)

6.) Blend all ingredients with an electric mixer, food processor, or blender.

7.) Add more salt and pepper, ect to taste.

*Use the entire avocado for more full flavor, use only half to mimic butter substitution. You may substitute almond milk or another plant based milk instead of vegetable broth for an even more creamy texture, however the golden potatoes along with avocado tend to already produce a very creamy texture. I personally use more than one teaspoon of fresh lemon juice ( I squeezed almost half a lemon), I love lemon and love the extra flavor and kick. I recommend starting small and gradually adding. Don’t like garlic? Don’t add it. At the very end you may want to add more salt and pepper to taste. Add other seasonings and ideas to your hearts content. I garnished mine with green onions.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I know avocado and strange things like this aren’t for everyone and these amounts are very much based on taste, but what did you think?

How Veganism Changed My Life

I grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. There wasn’t much diversity up there or much going on at all. We lived rather simply out in the country on twenty acres of land with a huge garden, chickens, and rabbits. My dad was old fashioned and my mom a strong independent woman, hence why they are divorced. I was a shy and quiet child in the beginning and never really spoke up for myself. One evening, when I was six years old, Dateline came on (we didn’t have cable), they were airing a special on slaughterhouses and my mom let me watch. She stood in the kitchen making dinner and doing dishes and finding a small amount of sick humor in how grossed out I was. She never hid the truth about things from my brother and I, and she always encouraged education and free thinking. What she didn’t know was, that evening would change my life and who I was.

Absolutely horrified by what I had seen, I got up the next morning and announced I was not going to eat meat for a week. That week flew by and I was still couldn’t get those images out of my head and announced that it would now be two weeks that I wouldn’t be eating meat. After two weeks passed I was still traumatized and announced I was extending it to a month. Shortly after that we were visiting my grandparents and I overheard someone tell my mom it was just a phase and I’d get over it any time now. As soon as I heard that I proudly walked into the room and announced I was never going to eat meat again.

I spent my childhood as the weird kid who ate weird things. I made strange requests in the lunch line at school and I would often order cheeseburgers without the burger. I learned at a very young age how to read ingredients labels and then how to speed read them three more times just to be safe. I found my voice and was soon no longer the shy and quiet one. I wrote letters to companies about their products or the prices, I started arguments with hunters, I would debate with anyone, and I researched statistics and placed information in mailboxes. I even volunteered at the animal shelter.  I advocated greatly against the consumption of meat and harming animals. As I grew into my teens I continued to advocate, but despite my great compassion, I was naive. I consumed dairy products, I told myself no one dies for cheese so who cares, I wore leather, and even though I spoke out against animal testing I wasn’t buying cruelty free products.

I was vegetarian for twenty-one years. I was often tired and sluggish. I gained nearly one hundred pounds over a six year period due to my degenerative disc disease. Discs in my lumbar spine crumbled into my spinal column and were crushing my sciatic nerve causing constant excruciating pain. My lack of movement due to extreme pain and my diet filled with animal products caused the large amount of weight gain. In 2012 I had a spinal fusion, which removed my crumbled discs relieving the pressure from my sciatic nerve and then fused the lower third of my spine. The spinal fusion was a life saver, it allowed me to function fairly normally again. Being able to move normally again helped me to lose around forty-five pounds, but then the weight loss stopped. I was still almost sixty pounds heavier than before.

In September 2014, I began thinking about my lifestyle choices and it prompted me to do some research. While online I came across a video documenting abuse on a dairy farm and I was absolutely disgusted. I continued my research and what I found was very upsetting. I had been lying to myself all along, there most certainly is death involved with the dairy industry. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was a hypocrite, I eat dairy products, I wear leather, and my shampoo was probably tested on animals. I was horrified, I was an ethical hypocrite. I kept thinking and researching…what about health? I was even more disgusted by what I found. What about the environment?  I knew at that moment that I was a vegan starting that very second.

What was I supposed to eat? I had a hard enough time being meat free as a kid in a small town, I lived off grilled cheese. If I can’t have cheese what now? I assumed being in a larger city now that it wouldn’t be as difficult, but honestly what do I eat? So I turned to trusty old Google, and what did I find? I found that there was a whole world out there that I was unaware of. I found that I was sheltered and living in a bubble. I found that there is an insane amount of vegan food options and so much amazing food out there that I would never run out of ideas. What about personal products and household products? It’s going to be so expensive and hippie deodorant won’t work. WRONG. There are so many brands out there ranging from cheap to expensive, from scented to unscented, from hippie to chic, there is something for everyone.

So how exactly did veganism change my life?

  • I began losing weight again immediately after going vegan. I lost 40+ pounds.
  • My skin cleared up.
  • I have ten times more energy.
  • No stomach issues anymore!
  • Less pain and inflammation.
  • I eat twice as much as I use to and don’t gain weight.
  • All my personal care products are cruelty free and my hair still smells amazing.
  • I sleep better.
  • I’m happier.
  • I feel better and healthier overall.
  • I am more informed and no longer turn a blind.
  • I advocate against all forms of oppression.
  • My mom switched to a vegan lifestyle and has lost 96 pounds and lowered her cholesterol 65 points!

I could go on and on about the positive impact this has had on my life. It has been a journey of self discovery and it has been a learning experience. It has changed my life and I will never look back. How has it changed yours? Share in the comments.