What does the Hippie Gypsy get for Christmas? What do you give a vegan for a gift?

Shopping 101 for Vegan Recipients

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I am probably the easiest person to shop for in my mind and the hardest person to shop for according to my husband. My parents are awesome and generally get me the same few items but in a fresh way each year with a few surprises seasoned in. My brother asks my mom what to get me so that always works. I am super close with my aunt so she knows me and gets me something practical in most cases (however this year she got me something fun instead and my kids something practical (started their college funds)). My husband though, every year he is baffled. I think this is most husbands. They over think the holiday. Do I get her jewelry? Is that to obvious and if it isn’t what does cruelty free mean? What if I get her something practical like a cooking dish or pot or appliance instead? Will she be offended ? Maybe just soap? And then you can start to hear the crackle and fizzle of brain cells as their insides meltdown. When my husband and all husbands stop thinking you end up with no gifts, guilty looks, and a small dog in charge of the holidays. Then all that happens is the dog sniffs all items under the tree and chooses one to eat the ribbon off of… not a good Christmas. So let’s talk about what you should do next year through this year’s experience at my house.

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My aunt nailed it this year so I will start with her gift. I LOVE surfing. However, I haven’t been able to surf in the past few years because of surgery and a messed up ankle injury. When my grandmother died I listened to “Santa Monica” by Everclear over and over because all I wanted to do was paddle out to the quiet of the ocean on my board and sit there while the sun rose. I needed the noise in my brain to stop. There is no better calm in the world than that moment. My aunt knows this. She has been mourning my grandmother’s passing at the same rate I have. Slowly and in complete devastation. We will randomly melt down and then be totally calm later that hour or afternoon. So for a gift, she gave me a gift certificate to the surf shop at the end of my street that just opened up this spring. She lives a few blocks from there as well. She gave me the gift of peace and healing. How wonderful is that?

Ocean House Surf Shop and Cafe: http://www.paddleboardnewengland.com/

(my first board is currently mounted on the wall in our home)

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My parents were similar in nailing it this year. They gave us money to help pay bills, cookware for my blogging, gift cards to high end cookware stores, and a trip back to Ananda Ashram on them. Another gift of calm and peace and healing. What else could a vegan hippie girl ask for?

Ananda Ashram: http://anandaashram.org/

My brother piggybacked on my parents and got me a dutch oven which I have wanted but just couldn’t stomach affording the beautiful La Creuset enameled pieces. So I have survived without it … until now! So now I can make more Christmas Dinners like this one I had this year at my parents!

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Last my husband, he gave me the gift of yoga. I love yoga. Hot yoga at lunch at work and morning yoga at the Ashram are my favorites. I hear the surf shop down the street does paddleboard yoga too! He got me a gift card to Athleta which is the Gap’s newest addition to its clothing brand. The prices are more reasonable than Lululemon but the quality seems identical. So I will be heading over there for some cold weather yoga pants, yoga grip socks, grip gloves, and maybe a yoga bag. Again, calm, peace, and healing.

 

So when you are thinking about us vegans remember what we stand for. All we want is happiness and compassion in the world. Find out ways to show that in your gift. Give your fellow hippie vegans something that will bring them joy and calm and peacefulness in this crazy season. Whether it is organic bamboo sheets for a more restful sleep or teas from a high end brand to calm their souls or gift cards to their favorite peace-finding activities. It is really about finding zen. We are easy to shop for. Just omit animal products and think holiday peace and compassion. Merry Christmas to One and All (animals included)!

 

P.S. Don’t forget the stocking stuffers (my husband is notorious for this last minute panic and I end up with nuts and random things from around the house). Go to your local Whole Foods and ask where the vegan candy is, vegan lip balm, vegan face cream, etc. They will most likely direct you to Go Max Go Foods items for candy. The Jokerz bar is just like a Snickers. The lip balm is all labeled and so are most other beauty products. Glass water bottles are also a no brainer and some organic cotton gloves, scarves, or socks. Enjoy!

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Food is Love. 

The Hippie Gypsy

Ananda Ashram: The Food, The Experience, The Yoga, The Cooking

This past long weekend I booked a trip to Ananda Ashram in Monroe, NY. I was going to do karma yoga (volunteering), as well as for the meditation/yoga retreat portion of the visit. After falling down the stairs last November, I have not done yoga so I was a little worried about this part. My ankle was not where I thought it should be to start bending, twisting, and leaning all my body weight on it but hey why not give it a whirl, I could always adjust the moves down to something simpler. The meditation however was a big focus for me and I knew it would help that I was volunteering and eating well the whole time, as the Ashram is strict on a vegetarian/vegan diet with mostly gluten free options and no caffeine or other “poisons” to the system. I was happy because I pretty much live this way anyway so it took out some distractions.

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The Food: I need to incorporate more gluten free options in my diet and combine my whole grains with a balance of veggies and fruits. Every meal was so well balanced that I found myself jealous of the chef. He was amazing. He knew so much about food and flavors and was so calm in the kitchen. getting to work cleanup in the Dining Hall was more meditative than work. But because Ananda is truly a magical place the trip had more in store than my volunteering with cleanup. I eventually got to help cook with the chef when someone called out.

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The Experience: An Ashram is like a Monastery that they allow other people to come visit and try out. Lots of different types of people live there, live nearby, work there, do immersion projects there, and study there. I met at least one of each. I found that people go to Ashrams for a million reasons. Some just to detox from the city (since this one is run by Yoga Society of New York this is common), some go to figure something out personally, some go to discover if they want to become yoga teachers, some go to write/create in a quiet space, and others go to meditate and clear out the system. Because of this there are all kinds of people. Teachers, architects, artists, yogis, mystics, entrepreneurs, etc. Everyone however seems to have a commonality of being very open and honest and okay with others quirks. I met one woman who was very clear with me that I was not to touch her when I went to serve her some soup and another person who I became fast friends with I hugged goodbye and text with daily since. Either way it was very open and honest and refreshing. I would go every weekend if I could. I know I am probably not selling it but it needs to be experienced. The air, the dorms, the meditation, the Kirtan (singing prayers at the end of the night), the chanting, the music, the smell of incense, the lake, the walk, the feeling after early morning gentle flow yoga. It is all an amazing package. Everyone just falls into sync. We were cautious to not keep each other up at night, clean up after ourselves, do things together or apart without any clingyness or judgement, talk openly about our lives, tell others when those stories were upsetting or made us happy or curious, it was truly a magical time. Everyone always said thank you. This sounds underrated but everytime you did anything. The volunteer work you were slated to do or simply holding a door open or sliding to the side to fit in more people at Kirtan… someone said thank you. We said a prayer at every meal which I honestly haven’t done since I was a child. It felt nice to thank the world for giving us the food and god for creating it and allowing it to nourish us and each other for putting in the hard work to make it delicious. You forget what goes into a single meal and you forget to be thankful for well… everything.

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The Yoga: First off, I didn’t fall or hurt myself so I am proud of that. Second, they have amazing yoga teachers. They even have a yoga teacher program so people can become yoga teachers. My first class was gentle flow yoga with my dorm roommate who was originally from Slovenia but now lives in NYC. She was literally the most amazing teacher. She just knew how to make a 1 hour class perfectly balanced and peaceful at 7am. I felt wonderful when I left. The next class I took was an intermediate level and I had to make some modest adjustments but I did rather well and was happy with myself. I did fall off my yoga blocks at one point while trying to sit on them but I survived. And I laughed.

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The Cooking: I got to cook at the Ashram. I got to cook with an amazing chef at the Ashram. It was almost serendipitous. We all know I love to cook and I hope that I am pretty decent at it but being able to cook for 75 people at an Ashram is another deal all together. The chef (Jeremy) is someone that you feel like you knew growing up. He is the guy next door, your first crush, your best friend, your college roommate, and just happens to be a great young chef as well. He is from Long Island used to surf and loves to combine different cultural foods together to make strangely perfect combinations. I got to contribute to a quinoa dish he was preparing and infuse my Mexican cooking skills and knowledge with the Indian style he was infusing. It ended up lightly Mediterranean as if you were on holiday in Barcelona. I felt very inspired by him. It made me also want to not only cook more but start using different combinations. He swore that mint and cilantro combined well but I wasn’t sold on that. However it made me wonder what other combinations I may have let slide by that others find amazing. Perhaps I should take some cooking classes? See what the world is putting out.

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Overall, I am in love with Ananda Ashram. I want to live there. The whole losing my pension thing may be an issue though and I would probably lose my house due to no income but I would be relaxed and refreshed and calm. I found my calm there. Sitting on a porch swing that was fashioned between two large trees overlooking the lake. That is where I felt my calm for the first time. I felt my brain finally go silent while trying to meditate. It was a wonderful feeling. I worked for it the rest of my meditations and found it if only for a few moments. Coming home has been hard though. I have been trying each day to fit in my mediation and balance my food so that I make better choices and kinda of take out the garbage. I have found that a breakfast of hazelnut milk (which FYI drinks like cows milk but with a hint of nutty flavor) and gluten free cereal of any kind is perfect with some fruit and a cup of tea. No more granola bars and water for this girl. I think starting your day out with a true meal that will benefit your body is the only way to start. I know I will forget some days and fall off the wagon but as a core item I think I will need to make this a priority. Meditating 2 times a day as well will need to be a priority. It helps me stay calm during my otherwise stressful work week. It isn’t easy but it is easier than having a rush of adrenaline causing you headaches throughout your work week. The yoga is also a positive change. There is a yoga study across the street from my office and they had a Groupon for $6.90 a class for ten classes so I joined. It just feels like the world came together after this weekend. So now I am off to tackle the universe and find out who “I am” (OM).

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Food is Love.

The Hippie Gypsy

Rant: Why Vegans and Really Anyone Should Go on a Retreat

Going to Ananda Ashram

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This weekend I will be going away to Ananda Ashram in Monroe, NY instead of to New York City with my husband who is working at a conference there. This was not intentional as I am in love with NYC entirely but it is already teaching me why I decided to add this item to my proverbial “Bucket List”. Going to a retreat, a real retreat not a spa weekend, is about going into yourself and pulling out the poisons. Selfishness is one of those poisons. However, I like to think I am replacing the selfishness that is bad with a different kind of selfishness. One that is more focused on taking care of myself and taking that time to care for myself when I otherwise may do something to appease others and support others and allow myself to fall apart. I truly think we all do this at least some of the time. if you are a parent, I am sure you do it more than anyone knows.

So I am looking forward to this because for the first time in my life I will be entirely alone on purpose with no hope to meet a friend or converse heavily or party around the town. I will be volunteering and eating a clean vegan diet as the Ashram is Vegan and Vegetarian, no caffeine, no alcohol, no junk. I love this. I love that I will be somewhere where my already developing “self” is not strange but instead the rule and not the exception. I think this will be a good change of pace. I will also be working 3 hours a day to volunteer. The duties will be at the mercy of the Ashram although I am sure they won’t have me roofing or anything! I just think the reminder of selfless and focus on self is an interesting dynamic. It seems like they are opposites but in truth they are like a yin and yang that are totally in harmony with one’s body & minds & needs.

I think this will be worth the $35 a day it costs with all food included and I hope to find it worth even more in what I take away. There are meditation clinics, chanting, sanskrit classes, and yoga. Although I am not good at any I hope to be. I need a way to wipe out the noise in my head and get back to basics the way I am sure everybody does sometimes. The work – eat – sleep regimen gets old and tiresome. The anxiety overwhelming. If I learned anything from the other night it is that even things that we think we brush up will sneak into our heads at night and if we do not know how to clear them out we will be a mess in the morning.

So I encourage everyone to do this. Take a day or a weekend and go to a retreat. Clean out your body, the noise in your mind, and the stress on your soul. I will report back how it goes on my end. I am sure I will be struggling but it will be worth it.

 

buddah

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Food is Love.

The Hippie Gypsy