• Mysticism

    Realigning with My True Self – An Oracle Card Reading

    September has been emotionally difficult because every day feels like a futile fight to stay positive and to cultivate a future. It seems like a futile fight because most days I wake up already in a bad mood, and on the few days when I actually wake up excited and I work toward my goals, I end up feeling defeated and depressed by the end of the night.

    I try not to casually throw around the word, “depressed,” because I don’t want to misuse it…but I feel like after weeks of crying daily, instigating tons unnecessary fights with my mom and with my girlfriend, emotionally beating myself up, reducing myself to nothing, and wishing I could escape from reality warrants the use of the term, “depressed.”

    I have only wished I could disappear when I am struggling to cope with change, struggling to stay afloat, and struggling to thrive. Right now I’m struggling with all three, so it’s overwhelming.

    I’m not sharing this to worry anyone…I don’t want to hurt myself, I just don’t always want to deal with my life. Not because my life is bad or anything, because my life isn’t bad at all. I have food, a home, a caring family, health insurance, and I’m finally working part-time. My life is good and comfortable, which I’m grateful for and I try to remind myself of this all of the time.

    Despite acknowledging my blessings, I get caught up in my stagnancy. When I focus my energy on taking steps toward my goals so I can move forward, I doubt myself and I doubt my ability to move forward at all. It’s a toxic cycle that unfortunately has poisoned my emotional well-being as well as my relationships. I don’t want to be around anyone because I feel like poison. Isolation exacerbates my depression too.

    So…I pulled my Ganesha cards on Monday to get some insight and guidance that I can reflect upon. I’m not going to share a picture of my cards this time because most of them I have already shared on my blog.

    My Reading

    1. The first card, which represents where I am now, I pulled Positive Outlook. I was bewildered when I saw this card because as noted previously, I wouldn’t consider myself having a positive outlook at the moment. Well, the card is about how all circumstances are neutral, and it is one’s mental attitude that influences how it is perceived. It reminds me of what I have read in The Untethered Soul as well as something I had painted on a flowerpot after my grief group concluded two years ago: Your perception is your reality. I suppose I need to take a step back from judging my experiences as negative and to at least view things as neutral.
    2. Sustenance is the card that represents my next steps. The painting on the card is of Ganesha enjoying a buffet, but the card isn’t about food. It’s about how I need to acknowledge my blessings as well as acknowledge the abundance of ways to support my desires. I need to understand my needs and satiate them, even if it’s scary or unconventional.
    3. My obstacle is Cultivation, which is strongly linked to music. Music creates communities and it soothes the soul, causing music to be a method for connecting to spirits. I haven’t been listening to music too much…I either listen to podcasts or watch something on Netflix. When I’m not listening to these things, I spend my time in silence…but I suppose it’s a little too isolating right now. Perhaps replacing the silence with my yoga playlists would facilitate some more positive thinking, creativity, and a sense of belonging.
    4. My resource for overcoming my inability to cultivate is Reflection. When I saw this card, I was like “duh, I’m great at reflecting! I reflect and write weekly!” When I read the description of this card though, I was speechless. I’ll just share what it all says.

    “You have reached the point in your life’s journey where self-judgment and criticism no longer serve you. It is imperative that you understand and appreciate the distinctive persona that you bring into all situations. Each of us has our own unique path….Through reflection and visualization, get in touch with the wise person within you.” – Whispers of Lord Ganesha Oracle Cards by Angela Hartfield

    While this card is titled “Reflection,” I feel like it is about more than that…and it really resonated with me.

    5. My new outcome is “Acceptance,” which I’ve pulled multiple times because I’m always fighting with my true self. This relates back to alignment as well. Life will become easier when I accept my true self and when I accept that I don’t have to know everything. The reality that I don’t know anything about my future has been weighing on me because it’s an uncomfortable feeling. I haven’t been enjoying living in the unknown and not having all of the answers right now. My life will improve though when I look at my experiences and the world from a more spiritual perspective as well as by not placing so much value on my thoughts.

    All of these cards address connecting with who I really am…thus, that may be the key to transforming my perspective and my life. It will take some time and patience to realign with my true self via these suggestions from my Ganesha cards. My meditation practice, although not daily (yet), will help me get there too.

    Also…while I feel like I have been stagnant, that isn’t necessarily true. As I’ve mentioned previously, I am now working a part-time job. I am also almost done with the hiring process to teach a regular yoga class in my town. I doubted I was going to be able to teach yoga this year and if I hadn’t nailed the audition, I was going to postpone my teaching dreams…but the universe surprised me. Lastly, after avoiding and debating with myself for several months, I finally booked a GRE test date!

    So…things are moving. I’m progressing, contrary to what I believe.

    If you would like an oracle card reading, please comment below or email me at hello@unziptheselips.com.

    xx Vic

  • Yoga

    Swings and Meditation

    Hello, everyone!

    I made another video, and this time I edited it! This is the first time I have edited a video in about eight years and I think it came out pretty good. I’ve really been enjoying playing with visual media a bit, and I’d like to continue to practice with it so I can improve.

    I hope you enjoy the video and comment your thoughts below!

    xx Vic

  • beauty and fashion,  Speaking My Mind

    My Bath and Body Works Collection (Plus What I’m Wearing this Autumn)

    The weather around here has gone from humid heat to cool and gloomy, like the weather in The Goonies. It’s the perfect autumn weather, despite it being a little bit early. I’m okay with autumn arriving early though because it’s my favorite season!

    My birthday is in the fall and so is my favorite holiday: Halloween! I decorated my room for Halloween in August and I’ve been wearing an autumn color palette for several weeks as well. I’m excited to be home this year for the season because I get to actually see the leaves change colors too.

    Another great thing about autumn is that Bath and Body Works releases an autumn/Halloween beauty line! This season is my favorite time to shop at B&BW, but I shop there every season with my sister and my mom. We always get the seasonal soaps, lotions, body sprays, and oil diffusers. It’s a fun seasonal tradition because the aromas really get you into the spirit of whatever season it is.

    Since I go every season, I don’t always finish the products I buy. Sometimes I don’t finish them because the scent I got was limited edition (most of their stuff these days seem to be) and I’m reluctant to finish them. Thus, I thought it’d be fun to share my collection of Bath and Body Works items I have accumulated over the last two years or so, in addition to the latest scents that I will be wearing this season!

    Not all of the scents are available in stores anymore, but I found some shops on Amazon that sell them. They may or may not be reasonably priced though.

    If you only want to see this year’s autumn scents, please scroll down to the bottom 🙂

    Nearly Empty Lotions:

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    Aquamarine came out this past spring I believe and they don’t sell it anymore. I got it in conjunction with a sparkly body spray of the same scent. The scent is described as a blend of ocean water, mint, and wet stone. It’s super refreshing and feminine in a unique way. It’s definitely one of my favorites even though it doesn’t fall under my preferable aromas which are vanilla, marshmallow, and almond.

    Sandalwood Rose came out either two or three winter holidays ago. It emerged around the beginning of their aromatherapy line, and I’m devasted that they discontinued it because sandalwood rose is my favorite aroma next to vanilla, marshmallow, and almond. I even remember the first time I smelled this combination: I was in elementary school and taking yoga at the recreation center in my town. The instructor had given me the remains of a sandalwood rose oil and I held onto it for as many years as I could until I eventually had to throw it away.

    This combination is so good because it has a “warm” smell that I tend to gravitate towards, but it’s also feminine without being fruity. It’s fantastic, I highly recommend it.

    Happiness is part of Bath and Body Works current aromatherapy line, and this product definitely incites joy. This lotion is a combination of bergamot and mandarin essential oils, so it’s very bright and almost spicy. I use it all over my body on days when I’m feeling a little solemn.

    Nearly Empty/Partially Used Body Sprays:

    I have a lot of body sprays in this picture, I know. I tend to use body lotion very quickly, but the body sprays don’t go as fast, so I end up with a ton leftover. I should probably refrain from buying more body sprays for awhile…anyway, let’s commence!

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    From left to right…

    Wild Madagascar Vanilla (far left) is basically the more sophisticated, older sister to Warm Vanilla Sugar (far right). The former is vanilla with African pear, wild jasmine, and white sandalwood. This scent was available about three years ago now, but they discontinued it, unfortunately. They still offer Warm Vanilla Sugar, which is part of their signature collection, but I’m honestly waiting for them to get rid of their signature collection. As a long-time shopper of Bath and Body Works, it seems like they are moving more toward expanding their aromatherapy line.

    I purchased Island White Sand this summer, and while it’s a lovely smell with undertones of sparkling tangelo (what is that??), sand, white orchids, driftwood, and coconut water, it just isn’t me. I don’t know what possessed me to buy this scent honestly. It isn’t a “warm” scent and it also isn’t particularly feminine in my opinion, so I barely used it. Pretty much the whole bottle is left. I used the lotion I had paired with it at least, but I may have to find someone who would want this.

    Japanese Cherry Blossom is an iconic scent seeing as its part of the signature collection. It makes an excellent perfume because it’s strong and lasts for several hours. (Or maybe this one is so strong because I’ve had it for at least 4 years??) If you like feminine, floral scents, I recommend it. I feel romantic when I wear it and I have it both in the sparkly spray, pictured here, as well as in a non-sparkly spray.

    Almond and Vanilla is the evilest aroma Bath and Body Works has created because not only does it smell fantastic because it’s my two favorite scents ever, combined, but they also discontinued it in their stores. Thankfully I bought a lotion in this scent before they completely got rid of it.

    Beach Nights Summer Marshmallow is more my jam in regards to summery scents because it smells cozy and delicious! It’s a blend of toasted marshmallows, salt breezes, and S’mores. This spray is from two summers ago and whenever I use it I can’t help but reminisce about that time in my life.

    I already talked about the Aquamarine scent, so I’ll skip over it and talk about the Spiced Pumpkin Cider one! It’s a blend of pumpkin, cinnamon, and apple cider, and it’s the ultimate fall aroma! This is from last autumn but they brought it back this year too.

    Cashmere Snowflakes is a scent my sister and mom got me into, and it’s the perfect post-holidays, dead-of-winter aroma because it adds some brightness and warmth to your life! I’ve barely used it, so I’m hoping to get more use of it this winter. They offered it during the last two winters, so they will possibly offer it this winter as well.

    Bright Autumn Blooms is probably the most floral fragrance I own, but it’s not too much for me. I honestly don’t what flower this is supposed to replicate and there’s no description of it, but it’s quite refreshing. It was part of their autumn collection last fall but it’s no longer available in stores.

    Favorite Summer Scent This Season:

    I got this travel-sized fragrance for my Disney trip at the beginning of the summer because I was not checking my suitcase. I wish I had gotten a larger size though with a larger lotion (I had a travel-sized lotion but I finished it) because this scent is just…sexy. It’s not a “warm” scent, but it’s super perfume-y in the fact that it’s strong and it smells super good. I hope they offer this one next summer too.

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    What I’m Wearing This Autumn:

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    The three items from the left are from the new collection. I’m really excited about the Rose lotion because while it’s not Sandalwood Rose, it’s sufficient enough. It has a lovely floral scent without being too overpowering.

    Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte was available either two autumns ago, so I suppose it’s a staple seasonal item. I used it two years ago and then opted to use Spiced Pumpkin Cider last fall. I love the Marshmallow scent more though because it has the warm undertones that I adore.

    The Almond and Vanilla is no longer sold in stores but it’s a great autumn scent for when I run out of the MPL lotion, which will definitely happen too soon.

    That’s pretty much it for my collection!

    Do you love to shop at Bath and Body Works? What are some of your favorite products?

    What scents for lotion/body spray do you use in the fall?

    xx Vic

  • Yoga

    Kundalini Meditation

    Today I tried something a little different by making a video to update you all on my meditation experience! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed a video format or if you prefer blog posts.

    Here are some of the links I promised to include in the video:

    My previous meditation post

    My vulnerable blog post

    The Journey Junkie’s Kundalini meditation tutorial

    Do you meditate? What style do you do?

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Pumpkin Spice, Everything (Will Be) Nice

    These last few days have been emotionally tumultuous for me, so I’ve been recharging in Starbucks sipping on iced pumpkin spiced lattes. They’re a delicious treat and I feel a bit better after consuming them. It’s also nice to be out of my house considering I did not leave my house at all in the last two days…which is probably not healthy but I don’t really have anywhere to go these days. Not leaving my house is definitely one of the many reasons I feel emotionally out of balance as a Vata person.

    In Ayuverda, which is the sister science to Yoga, I am predominantly a Vata person. I can explain this more in a different post, or you can look it up…but to explain briefly: Ayuverda is a method of characterizing everything in the universe, and there are three Doshas that can be used to describe it all in a very detailed manner. Everything has all three Doshas, but sometimes one is more prominent. Vata is only one of the Doshas, and in regards to how this Dosha appears in people, it includes being tall and slim, physically cold, creative, and idealistic. Some of the things that imbalance a Vata person are a lack of schedule, stress, and instability. I have been experiencing all three.

    While I have stability in the sense that I have a roof over my head, clean water, and food, everything else in my life feels unstable. It’s the dance that all twenty-somethings that graduate from college have to do, and I feel like if someone were to rate my performance thus far, it’d be a lackluster rating.

    The lack of a schedule, while everyone else is busy with school and/or work, is really getting to me now that my sister went back to school. For the first time since I was born, I’m living at home with only my parents around. It’s kind of weird honestly…so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room.

    There have been perks with that though because I’ve finally been making progress with my room. My mom bought me some new furniture to store items in and my room feels so much more peaceful. I have to tidy up my floor now and then do some more minor organizing, but I plan to get the biggest stuff finished this week. I will share pictures soon.

    Aside from cleaning my room, I’ve also been reading daily before I go to sleep instead of wasting time on social media. I have finished three books I had half-read: The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I plan to finish Don Quixote next, although it may take more time considering how large the book is.

    The only tasks on my schedule lately are job interviews, which is super stressful. All of my interviews have been phone interviews so I don’t have to go anywhere and I also haven’t been getting dressed for the day because I spend so much of my time at home. My interviews seem to be going well for the most part. I did have a terrible interview experience though…perhaps I’ll talk more about that in a different post.

    I know I have said this before, but maybe it really is time to look for part-time work? At this point, based off of my interviews, I won’t be working until October 1st at the earliest, but that’s assuming I get second-interviews and then a job offer before then. If that doesn’t happen, I may end up not working until December, January, or even later. Ideally, I’d like my part-time work to be yoga related…but considering how volatile my self-esteem is these days, it’s so hard to put myself out there face-to-face with someone. My girlfriend recommended I put teaching yoga on the back-burner for now because when the time is right for me to teach, I will be able to teach. I do have a yoga audition today though…but yeah maybe I’ll hold off on it for a while.

    It feels like I’m just “holding off” on everything. I’m postponing taking the GRE, applying to grad schools, and thus, attending grad school. I am also postponing getting a yoga job and it seems like the universe has decided for me that I am postponing working full-time for at least another month.

    People don’t talk truthfully enough about the frustration, depression, and self-doubt that comes with graduating from college and then trying to get a job. I feel like people only talk about those feelings in hindsight once they get a job, so their perspective on the situation is different at that point. They see their challenges through rose-colored glasses because they had overcome the job-hunting challenge.

    Well let me be honest: post-grad life is grueling.

    College is super stressful, but this is a whole different type of stress because you will be on your own and you will be trying to be an “adult.” Plus you will get asked by everyone you interact with the dreaded “so what are you doing now that you graduated?” and as the months go by and if you still don’t have an answer, you will seem and you will feel more pathetic. All you will do is worry because you won’t want to dread that question, you will want to answer it and you will want to be excited about your answer, but you will have no idea what/when/how you will have the answer.

    Every job application you send out will feel desperate and you will just hope that the employers can’t tell. You will feign enthusiasm in every interview you manage to get, but the second you leave you will be overcome with negativity and self-doubt. Every rejection you get will feel personal, because it kind of is, and you will doubt every decision you’ve ever made in college ie maybe you should have studied something else, maybe you’re not an ideal candidate for any job because of XYZ.

    It will feel like everyone is judging you, especially your parents/guardians, especially if you live with them because everyone is judging you. “Judging” is essentially what employers do. No one will judge you as much as you judge yourself though.

    Right now, on the mental and emotional spectrum of Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar (clinically depressed) to Don Quixote from Don Quixote (unaware of his senselessness but unwaveringly believes in himself, disregarding the ridicule from anyone else), I feel closer to Esther Greenwood. I would love to be more like Don Quixote.

    Hence why I got dressed for once to be seen in public, went to Starbucks, and got an iced pumpkin spice latte.

    Pumpkin spice, everything will hopefully be nice eventually.

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Remembering

    Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my cousin.

    It had actually slipped my mind that this anniversary was approaching because my sister was preparing to move back to school so I was spending a majority of my time with her and my mom. What caused me to remember the anniversary was that I started thinking about my cousin more than I usually do.

    I always think about her…but this was different. She was at the forefront of my mind when I woke up and thoughts of her were affecting my mood more strongly than usual. It wasn’t until a couple days of this that I remembered the anniversary of her death was approaching.

    I’ve been practicing strengthening my intuition by simply using it more, so intuitively, I felt that she was reaching out to me. Perhaps she wanted some attention or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to actively remember her, or both. So, I decided to start talking to her.

    It may seem a little unusual, it’s a little unusual to talk about it honestly….but it feels right to me.

    I talk to her when I’m driving, which is usually to my girlfriend’s house because I don’t really drive anywhere else. The drive is about an hour, thus it’s a decent amount of time to talk to my cousin about what I’ve been up to, thoughts/feelings that I have, and I also ask her some questions. Sometimes she asks me questions.

    My cousin was like an older sister to me, so allowing myself to communicate with her is…comforting and familiar. I used to call her frequently and she was always there to provide the insight that only an older sister can offer. I don’t have an older sister, in fact, I am the older sister to my sister, so the relationship I had with my cousin was and still is really special.

    Another way that I’ve been remembering and honoring my cousin is by rewatching Freaks and Geeks, which is a show she had told me to watch during my sophomore year of college, and we had talked frequently about it. It’s a perfect show to watch as autumn approaches too.

    At the end of the day, the little things I’ve been doing to remember my cousin are more focused on who she was to me when she was alive on Earth rather than focusing on how devastating it is that she is gone and feeling solemn that she isn’t growing with our family anymore.

    To me, it’s more important to remember the life one had as well as acknowledging their spirit. It reminds me of some of the African spiritual practices I’ve read about in Jambalaya, which I haven’t finished yet but I highly recommend it. So many cultures have traditions for their ancestors…I want to make my own for my cousin as well as my other ancestors. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but I will let y’all know what I decide to do!

    Please provide me with inspiration! How do you remember and honor your ancestors?

    xx Vic

     

  • Yummy Recipes

    Summer is for Soup! – 2 Recipes Reviewed

    Perhaps it’s unusual to be cooking up soup in the summer, but I was tired of making just chicken or salmon and pairing it with other food groups. Soup, on the other hand, is a great way to get all of your nutrients in one pot!

    I’m a little tired of soup now that I’ve eaten it for two or three weeks straight though…but I thought I’d share what I made because it was so delicious!

    Today I am reviewing for you two soups: a vegan lentil and veggie soup from The Minimalist Baker and a Portuguese soup from Rachael Ray’s old show, 30-Minute Meals.

    Let’s get started!

    1. The Minimalist Baker’s 1-Pot Everyday Lentil Soup

    The reason I decided to make this recipe was due to the whole bag of lentils I had from the last dish I made! Plus, the recipe was simple enough because it used spices I had and it also called for common soup ingredients such as celery, carrots, and potatoes. I actually had leftover celery from buying it to eat as a snack, and it was going to go bad. My grandma is a big fan of using leftovers and whatever is going to go bad in a delicious soup. It’s much better to repurpose it and eat it than to throw it away!

    The lentils were the main ingredient, so here’s a picture of the green lentils I had so you can see what they look like. Apparently, you don’t need to soak them, you just need to rinse them. Without soaking, they take a while to cook. It’s not like an hour or anything, but it takes a little longer than pasta to cook. Lentils have way more nutritional value than pasta though, so I think it’s worth it!

    The How:

    All you need to do is sautee the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery for a little bit with some salt and pepper. Then you add the potatoes, veggie broth, and season it all a little more. Once the broth is boiling, you add the lentils and simmer until the lentils soften. Once the lentils soften, you can add greens. I added kale because that was what the recipe called for and I don’t ever cook with kale. One time I tried making kale chips, but I overseasoned them and burned them…it was a sad time.

    Below is a picture of what it looks like when it’s finished! It smelled so good and my parents were fans. My mom had gotten a sinus infection from sleeping in her dusty room from the construction, so she really appreciated the comforting and soothing properties of a healthy soup.

    The Review:

    This recipe was definitely a favorite! I can easily see myself making this a staple in my diet, especially when it gets chillier outside. It has protein, veggies, and healthy starch!

    I think what really made me love this recipe was the suggestion to add rosemary and thyme to the broth. I’ve never cooked with fresh rosemary or thyme before, but I learned that the aromas and flavors are divine. I didn’t use all of the fresh herbs that I had bought so I have been using them in tea to alleviate menstrual cramps. I’ll add that recipe another time!

    The only somewhat negative thing I have to say about this recipe isn’t really negative but I feel like it took longer to cook than the recipe stated. Granted, I may not have been following the boiling directions properly.

    The issue was that I feel like the lentils took longer than 20 minutes to become tender. As I mentioned in my previous lentil recipe post, I had undercooked the lentils before, so when I cooked them this time, I waited until they were very soft. This took more than 20 minutes for me, but perhaps with soaking them, it would take less time. I haven’t tried soaking lentils yet.

    Since I cooked the soup for longer than the recipe called for, a lot of the broth evaporated, as you can see in the picture above. I only had one box of broth though (I used Rachael Ray’s veggie broth), so the soup was more like a…stew. Which was perfectly fine to me, but next time I’ll be buying two boxes of broth to make this soup.

    2. Rachael Ray’s Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

    I had a ton of leftover kale (pretty much 1lb of kale), so I found this soup recipe which called for kale! I also had leftover potatoes, which were needed for this recipe. The only ingredient I had to buy was chourico and chicken broth.

    This recipe required less preparation than The Minimalist Baker one because I only had to chop up the potatoes and chorizo, whereas the other one I had to peel and cut the carrots, cut the celery, cut the potatoes, etc. In the video of this recipe, Rachael Ray literally throws everything into the pot, which I felt was very accurate. I recommend watching the video by the way because it’s such an old video of her, it’s great!

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    The How:

    Doesn’t the picture above look fantastic?! It smelled and tasted as good as it looks too. Anyway, this recipe was simple. You saute the onions and potatoes, then once those ingredients are cooked a little, you add the garlic, bay leaves, and all the kale. I left about two handfuls of kale in the bag to use for omelets.

    Once the kale wilts, which took longer than 2 minutes for me probably because the stove was too low, but once that did happen, I added the canned garbanzo beans, which I rinsed unlike what she does in the video, tomatoes, and broth. I didn’t have canned tomatoes so I just chopped up two fresh tomatoes. Once again, I used Rachael Ray’s broth, but I used her chicken one this time.

    Once the potatoes are cooked, you are done!

    The Review:

    I was the only one that ate this soup, so I can’t speak on how anyone else felt about it, but I loved it! I’ve never had soup with chorizo before but I loved it because it added heat that most soups I’ve eaten lack. It was also more filling than the previous soup because the protein wasn’t just lentils. This soup had chickpeas, which are super filling, and chorizo, thus it was a more well-rounded meal for me!

    I will just say that the original recipe called for waxy potatoes, which I did not use so that may have allowed the cooking time to be about 30 minutes for me. Instead, I used the regular baking potatoes that I had bought for the vegan soup recipe, which were soft even when raw. I also did not peel the potatoes for this recipe because who has time for that??

    I made the same mistake I made previously with the insufficient amount of broth in this recipe too, despite making it several days later and realizing my initial mistake! The reason I made this one wrong too was that the recipe specifically called for one quart of broth, so that’s what I bought. Again, always get another container of broth, unless you don’t mind stew-ish soups.

    The last thing I have to say about this recipe is that it required you remove the casing from the chorizo. I didn’t do this and I don’t think Rachael did it in the video, but if casing bothers you, feel free to do it.

    So, that’s it for me on soups! I am definitely taking a break from the soup world for a bit, but when I do want more soup, I can reheat the leftover Portuguese soup I stored in the freezer.

    Do you enjoy soup in the summer? What is your favorite soup recipe? Tell me in the comments below!

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Who Am I?

    My sister and my girlfriend are going back to school this week, and for the first time in about seventeen years, I am not doing the same.

    Since I am no longer a formal student at an American institution, I’ve been reflecting a lot on who I am.

    Who am I without school?

    I’m still determining how to answer this question, but I started by creating a more detailed “about me” page. It was fun to do and while it’s not comprehensive by any means, I think it was a good place to start.

    Additionally, in the last week or so, I’ve been doing some things that I’ve put off because I was busy in school. For example, I’ve finished two books recently. I’m working on finishing two more before reading or buying a new one.

    The biggest way I’ve attempted to answer my question is by deciding not to rush grad school. It was a little scary to come to this decision because I find school comforting in the sense that I know what goal I have to achieve: to graduate. The means are provided as well such as you have to take classes and study. Without school, my goal is more focused on becoming self-sufficient… I need a job to do that but the types of jobs I can have are innumerable! To me, this goal is quite a bit more overwhelming.

    I want to tackle this goal, thus, I won’t be applying for grad school until next fall at the earliest.

    Delaying grad school would also allow my work experiences and whatever else I experience to influence which grad program I will eventually pursue. I still plan to take the GREs this year but instead of taking them in November, I will take them in December or January.

    In regards to jobs…I’ve had a ton of first interviews but it’s been slow to hear back about second interviews. I’m going to follow up with some places this week to see where I am at as a prospective employee. I will also begin to apply for part-time jobs so I don’t deplete my savings waiting for a full-time job.

    Some part-time job opportunities include teaching yoga. I’ve been postponing looking for yoga jobs in person lately but I’ll have to resume it. I just created a class about creativity because it’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, and I’m super excited to teach it! I have to fine-tune some things still, but it feels good on my body and I think it’d feel good to others too.

    I’ve been struggling with my creativity because I haven’t been using it to its full-extent these days. This is definitely partially attributed to school, which is one reason not being a student will be good for me because unless you allot time for creativity, school really hinders it. I was fortunate to have time to take two creative writing courses last year, but it has been difficult to maintain the drive to be creative because I was thrust from the cocoon of being a student to suddenly being a graduate who needs a job and wants to go to grad school and needs to study and…I was putting way too much on my plate.

    Once I decided to postpone grad school another year, I allowed myself the time to breathe and to allow my creative mind to flow. In fact, I’ve been dreaming a lot at night these days, which I think is a good sign. One thing I need to work on though is disconnecting from the internet before and after bed, because that definitely stifles creativity. Instead I want to reintegrate meditation for at least 10 minutes everyday. My goal is to then create something every three days.

    There are some other things I want to talk about and share, but perhaps that’ll be for a different time.

    xx Vic

  • Yoga

    How to Find the Right Yoga Studio for You

    I had never been a member of a yoga studio until I finished my yoga teacher training, thus, my impression of all yoga studios, up until a month ago, was that they were all like the teacher training I attended: inclusive, positive environments that value the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga practice off of the mat.

    While this may be true of many or even most places, I don’t believe that it was true of the first yoga studio I went to to try to get a yoga job. (Which they did not offer me because they never even gave me a chance to audition, but they were doing me a favor. I just didn’t realize it was a favor initially).

    I bought a new membership pass at a local yoga studio, and the first class I took was taught by the owner of the studio. As a new teacher trying to get a teaching job, I understood that you have to take a class with the owner before asking about a sub-list.

    Well, I felt like the owner didn’t take interest in me as a new student. I believe it was the front-desk woman who asked me if I’ve done yoga before and asked me a little bit about myself. During the class, the instructor did not make any corrections, verbal or otherwise, to any of the students. I feel like there wasn’t an excuse to not do this, especially considering that the class was small, with about four people aside from myself, so there was an opportunity for the class to be personable.

    Another aspect of the class that I did not like was how she incorporated “yogic” things. She used the harmonium, chanting, and a gong, which I love, but if I was a new student who was not very familiar with Yoga, it may have been very uncomfortable. The only reason I was familiar with the harmonium and the chant was because I had undergone 200 hours of training, but the gong was off-putting to listen to for the first time (although now I love it), especially because there was no introduction to it.

    Despite my ill-feelings about the class, I had the pass so I took advantage of by attending different styles of yoga with different teachers. Unfortunately, I found all of the instructors to be similar in their teaching style (probably because most of them were trained by the owner) in that they don’t make any effort to get to know new yoga students in their classes and they didn’t make any corrections during the physical practice. Due to the lack of student-engagement, I feel like the instructors were more focused on themselves than on the students, which does not align with how I interpret the “capital-Y Yoga.”

    From my yoga teacher training experience as well as my own pedagogy, I believe the purpose of teaching Yoga is to helpguide, and support students. In other words, it is about the students. It is about inspiring them, encouaging them, and helping them find their confidence. It’s about challenging their bodies, mind, and spirit. It’s about sharing with them how Yoga is more than just the physical practice, and it’s about introducing them to the spiritual and philosophical side. It is about creating a community and it’s about creating leaders.

    There are more definitions of what a Yoga teacher’s purpose is, but these are the ones that stand out to me in this moment. Regardless, as you can note, all of these definitions are about the students. None of the definitions have anything to do with the teacher. 

    Unfortunately, I do not feel like the yoga teachers at the studio I was attending were creating leaders, though. I feel like they were keeping their distance from students by not engaging with them, which then reinforced their position on the hierarchy as a teacher.

    After a month of attending yoga classes at the studio, I had the opportunity to pay a reduced rate for a regular monthly membership. I considered it for a while, but then, when I talked to my girlfriend, real shit came up. After my surprisingly explosive rant to her, I realized this yoga studio was not for me. Their pedagogy does not align with mine, and I would be better off finding a different studio.

    So, how do you find the right studio for you?

    Tip 1. Look at the styles of yoga that a studio offers.

    If you want to take vinyasa classes, you probably don’t want to go to a studio that only offers Kundalini yoga, which is awesome but entirely different.

    Tip 2. Check Out the Studio’s New Membership Packages.

    Yoga studios draw you into becoming a member with new membership deals. The prices of these deals vary, so they may or may not be pretty comparable to paying for one class.

    For example, one class at the yoga studio I attended cost $20, and the new membership cost $39. The new membership was unlimited for the month too, thus, it was worth paying an extra $19 for unlimited classes. I attended classes nearly every day, and it served a greater purpose in my life by exposing me to my local yoga community as well as providing structure in my otherwise structureless summer.

    Some new membership packages, however, are a five or ten class pack, or the unlimited month is pricier. Regardless of what the packages are though, I feel like they are a great way to become acquainted with a studio to see if you want to stick with it. If I had attended only one class, I may not have realized that the studio wasn’t for me. If I wanted to continue to attend that studio after paying for once class, I would’ve had to pay the regular membership price instead, which is a lot more expensive. Thus, I recommend doing new membership deals if it feels right to you.

    If, after a month, you don’t feel connected to the studio, try another studio and take advantage of their new membership deal! On the other hand, if you do feel connected to the studio, become a regular member if that makes sense to you.

    Bonus tip: Most studios seem to use the company MINDBODY for scheduling, prices, class descriptions, and more. You can download the app and do your research there if you like!

    Tip 3. When you attend a class at a new studio, ask these questions:

    When you arrive:

    1. First, how do the front-desk people treat you? Are they pleasant, welcoming, and helpful?
    2. If you meet the owner, do they introduce themselves to you? Do they welcome you?

    The yoga class:

    1. Does the yoga teacher introduce themself to you before class starts, or at the beginning of the class?
    2. Does the yoga teacher take an interest in you?
    3. Do they offer modifications based on your physical abilities?
    4. Do they make verbal corrections and/or hands-on corrections? (The hands-on corrections should be made with your consent and they should be combined with verbal cues. They should also be necessary for either your safety or to come into the true form of the pose. Basically, they should not be touching you just to touch you).
    5. Do they care about the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga beyond the physical practice, and do they incorporate it into their classes?

    The studio overall:

    1. Is the studio clean?
    2. Is there water?
    3. Is there a bathroom?

    These questions are the most important to me as a new yoga teacher who wants to find a welcoming environment to share and learn more about my passion for Yoga.

    If you’re a member of a yoga studio, please share any other tips you have in the comments below!

    If you’re not a member of a yoga studio, what are your thoughts on yoga studios? Do you practice yoga, and if so, where?

    I used to practice yoga by myself in my living room, which I still do, especially when I’m practicing the classes I make. I really love the energy from doing yoga with others though.

    xx Vic

  • Speaking My Mind

    Why I’ve Broken Up with My Birth Control

    I’ve waited a couple of months to write about this, and I’ll probably write more about it as time goes on. But yeah…I stopped taking birth control.

    Before I explain why I stopped, I’ll briefly talk about my experience with birth control.

    I began taking a birth control pill at age 16 after experiencing a traumatic menstrual cycle. I remember my period as always being horrendous, which is typical of young cycles that are still regulating, but one day it was truly, without a doubt, a bad period.

    I was in high school and had bled through a tampon and a pad and onto my pants. Fortunately, I was wearing dark jean shorts so it wasn’t terribly noticeable, nevertheless, I went home early and went to the doctor to figure out what was happening. At that point, I was bleeding through super plus tampons and pads (worn at the same time) and through my pants in about an hour because I was having clots way larger than the size of a quarter.

    After bleeding all over the seat at the doctor’s office while getting blood work, my doctor recommended I take birth control. She also informed me that I have PCOS, but my OBGYN did not get those same results.

    Then I took birth control regularly until I was 19. My skin had cleared up a bit and I was pleased with having a regulated cycle. But one day, in a Gender Studies class, we were talking about birth control and I realized nearly everyone was on one form or another. This upset me because I thought it was fucked up (because it is but I didn’t realize why at the time), so I abruptly stopped.

    On my 20th birthday, my menstrual clots returned, although not as severely, but I decided I needed to get back on the pill.

    I did not bleed at all until the last few months before I finally quit. During the last few months, I was spotting for months because I couldn’t take my birth control at the same time every day. I felt oral birth control was such a hassle because of this, and I was suffering from breakouts which in my opinion, had gotten worse, too.

    Then, in early 2018, I broke up with my birth control again, but this time it’s for good. Unlike the last time though, I have been reading quite a bit about menstruation and doing my best to have a happy period. So far, I’ve been successful.

    How have I been successful?

    My Yoga journey introduced me to a book by Lara Biden called Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. This book has been the ultimate guide for me toward having a healthy period, in addition to other articles I’ve read online.

    I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m more than halfway through. What I’ve learned thus far is that your digestive system and your menstrual cycle are related. If you eat poorly, your period, which is a reflection of your diet from about three months prior, will be affected. Thus, diet is essential for having a healthy period!

    There are five inflammatory foods that will hurt your menstrual cycle, and they are: sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy, and vegetable oil. 

    Even if you don’t have sensitivities to these ingredients, they are still inflammatory to your body. So, I decided to play around with reducing or avoiding some of these food groups entirely.

    I started by limiting, and then completely cutting out dairy. I thought it was going to be difficult to avoid dairy, but for me, it hasn’t been a challenge. The only time I’ve struggled is when people around me want to get pizza or if I’m at an Italian restaurant that has a limited menu of mostly cheesy items.

    Otherwise, I’ve easily swapped out regular milk for almond or rice milk, and I haven’t missed eating cheese because I can still eat cheese! It just can’t be from a cow. For example, I enjoy goat cheese spread on toast for breakfast and I can eat parmesan because it’s such a dry cheese that any dairy in it doesn’t affect my skin.

    My skin seemed to improve when I cut out dairy, and my menstrual cycle was relatively smooth with less PMS every month that passed, and shorter cramps. While I was satisfied with the changes I made in my diet, I had developed acne on my neck, which I never had before. It took me a couple of months to realize it wasn’t my hair or my hair products, but that it must be my diet again.

    Thus, I decided to try limiting my sugar intake. This has been the most difficult obstacle for me because I love sweets! I eat copious amounts of chocolate daily, I love cookies, dairy-free ice cream, sweetened beverages, cocktails (which have lots of sugar), etc. Once I switched from eating desserts to eating mostly fruit and chocolate when I want something sweet, the acne on my neck disappeared, as well as any lingering acne on my face that kept cropping up. I also use honey instead of white sugar because while they’re both considered added sugar, I think my body responds better to honey.

    While my skin and my menstrual cycle isn’t perfect yet, I have noticed how these dietary changes have changed my body. I’m still at the beginning of this journey but I’m pleased with the progress I have made so far.

    xx Vic

    For the record, I’m not recommending that you stop taking birth control and mess with your diet without consulting a doctor first. I am not a doctor and I am not offering medical advice. Please consult a doctor before stopping birth control. 

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