Each January, I do a list of favorite things (here are my favorites for 2009, 2010, and 2011). For 2012, it's a long one:
Let's start with the big--er, the small: minimalism. For me, it began as a quest to donate or sell one thousand things (you can read about that here), and ended with my family becoming digital nomads and taking our lives on the road. It has been an awesome adventure, and I highly recommend paring down your life.
Interested? See: Leo Babauta, Zero Waste Home, or the One Hundred Things Challenge. Or try losing one thousand things and see where it takes you.
Kale is really hot right now (it's the new beef!), and it makes my list too. It's tasty, high in vitamins and minerals, and so versatile. Here's my favorite version of classic Kale Salad. It uses nutrient-rich avocado instead of the usual oil to give the kale a silky texture. My kids love it; my son actually crams handfuls into his mouth:
Avocado Lime Kale Salad
2 dinner or 4 appetizer portions
Coconut vinegar is made from the fermented sap of coconut trees. Similar in flavor to apple cider vinegar, although slightly tangier, it can be found at most health food stores. I use a delicious raw vinegar from Coconut Secret, which contains naturally-occuring amino acids and probiotics.
2 large bunches kale, thoroughly washed, trimmed, and cut into 1" pieces
Juice of two limes
1 1/2 tablespoons raw coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1-1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 avocado, roughly cut up
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Place kale in the largest bowl you have. Add lime juice, coconut vinegar, and sea salt, and massage well with clean hands. Add avocado and nutritional yeast, and massage again. The salad will take on a slightly creamy cast; keep massaging until it feels satiny in your hands.
The salad can be eaten right away, but for best results, allow to sit, at room temperature, for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Vibrams. Yes, they look ridiculous. They really do. But if you want natural alignment and a barefoot feel in your running, they're a perfect fit. Try them on lawns, and every jog feels like a trail run. I especially like these for practicing yoga when I don't have a mat. And they're great for climbing trees.
Fruit plates. I love to eat fruit first, and a big plateful is the best way to do it. Who can resist a gorgeous plate of fruit? Wherever we are, I try to make one every day; they're a great addition to breakfast or tea.
In Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace, with a creepy pegasus emerging from a fountain. "Uh, mom, I think it's about to trample us..." says Z.
Vegan travel. Or really, travel as a vegan. I spent Christmas in Las Vegas, New Year's in Los Angeles, and arrived in San Diego this afternoon. In all of the traveling, vegan options have been abundant. By this I mean that even in the absence of good vegan restaurant options (because they're often sadly and sorely lacking), there's always something to eat.
Our family loads up on greens, oranges, grapes, bananas, avocados, and coconut water, and we're set. Simple. Later this month, a trip up the West Coast, with plenty of stops along the way, followed by a trip through the midwestern US. Then, Southeast Asia. I can't wait to explore the vegan eateries. And, in their absence, to eat massive quantities of fresh fruits and veg.
Last year, I mentioned how I quit using shampoo. This year, it' DIY toiletries and beauty products. Using simple, vegan ingredients like baking soda, shea butter, and candelilla wax, I create everything from lip balm to facial scrubs to moisturizers. The only thing I don't make is soap (which I just use sparingly, for "pits and bits," as we say). In the meantime, I'm happy to use some Dr. Bronner's.
Try this simple salt scrub for smooth, glowing skin. It's easy to mix up, and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. Substitute another essential oil for the grapefruit, if you like.
Grapefruit Olive Salt Scrub
about 1 cup
1 cup fine sea salt or table salt (don't use coarse sea salt or kosher salt; it's too harsh for skin)
2-4 drops grapefruit essential oil
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest (optional)
Place salt in a medium bowl. Starting with a few tablespoons, drizzle in oil, stirring, until the mixture is the consistency of wet sand. The amount of oil you need will vary according to the consistency of your salt. Add the essential oil and zest, if using, and stir again until well combined. Store in a cool, dry place.
To use, smooth a handful of the scrub over damp skin in the shower or bath. Rinse as usual.
When I don't have the goods to whip something up, I use products from great companies. The Vanilla and Sweet Orange Lip Balm from Hugo Naturals is rich and substantial, protecting your pout in the driest climates.
Lush massage bars are a staple in my makeup bag, since they're travel safe (no leaking all over your luggage, and no TSA intervention for gels and liquids). I love these for smoothing flyaway hair and cleansing skin too.
For makeup, I like Everyday Minerals. Their mineral foundations give great coverage with a bit of glow, and are very reasonably priced. All of the company's products are vegan, including some excellent makeup brushes. Except for mascara (which they don't make), I use everyday minerals products exclusively; I can't say enough good about them.
Juice. Right now I'm living in a place that offers fresh, local, organic unpasteurized orange juice. It's delicious. Some days I drink a whole gallon. I say this as a bona fide smoothie enthusiast: juice is winning me over.
You can make your own fresh juice even if you don't have a juicer. Place vegetables and fruits in a blender--layer them, starting with the most water-rich produce: cucumber, citrus, melon, tomatoes--and blend smooth. Add a bit of water if necessary to combine. Strain through a nut milk bag (or paint straining bag; they're essentially the same thing). Voila! Fresh juice! Try the Watermelon Cooler below to practice this technique.
several cups of juice
half a watermelon, peeled and roughly chopped (include some of the white rind, but omit the green skin)
juice of one lime
handful fresh mint leaves
Combine all ingredients in the blender and strain as directed above. Drink immediately, over ice if you like.
As always, I haven't received products or compensation from any of the companies listed. Not even the ultra-powerful kale lobbyists. If I do, I'll always state it straightaway.