This week, I rewatched the documentary film Living on One Dollar, which illustrates the lives of people who live in extreme poverty. The film also documents the day-to-day experiences of farmers, day laborers, and artisans in Guatemala. It is the type of film that really puts things into perspective for those of us who have plenty.
As we enter the holiday season, I want to share the importance of considering our purchases in every way, shape, and form – and moreover, spread awareness about ethically made and fair trade gifts. There may be fair trade stores such as 10,000 Villages in your local area that you can look into, but those are unfortunately rare. For me, one of my most favorite ethical companies is a customized, handcrafted jewelry subscription box called Worldly Box. I have talked about them once in the past on my YouTube channel; they offer a beautiful gift option that your loved ones will get so much out of, and the best part is, the items support talented global artisans who are paid a fair wage. These are not items that can be found at any mall or by making impulse purchases at big box retailers.
Below, I have shared photos of what was in my box this month. What is neat about this is, the box is curated based on your style specifications, and the items make beautiful gifts individually, or you can purchase a gift subscription for your friends and family members so they will receive a surprise in the mail! And each piece is really special, because they will have the opportunity to learn about the person who made it.
I spoke with the founder, Veronica, and she shared a 20% off coupon code with me that is good thru Dec 25th, but orders have to be placed by Dec 4th, 2016, if you want your gifts to be received by Christmas. The discount makes it even more affordable than it already is.
Holiday Discount Code:
“SANTASCOMING” 20% off all gifts – You can order your gifts here
How beautiful are these pieces of art? I cannot wait to wear the pink earrings for New Year’s and the gorgeous blue pouch will be a change purse for me. I just adore it. I have very little by way of jewelry, accessories, and clothes, because I like to live simply, so I truly appreciate every piece I have and wear it with joy in my heart, knowing that they are made by hand.
No matter what gifts you decide on making or gifting this holiday season, I hope you choose options that are special and where the people who made them are paid fairly for their talents, so that they can also enjoy time with their families and experience a better quality of life. We all deserve that.
And if you watch the film Living on One Dollar, please comment and let me know your thoughts on the film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
There is nothing inherently wrong with social media websites, but for those of us who mindlessly allow our lives and minds to be sucked into a vortex of time-wasting, it might be beneficial to revisit our online behaviors and make positive changes. For me, that was Facebook.
I am currently on day 7 of a 30-day deactivation process of my personal account. If you are reading this article through my Sprout & Blossom Facebook page, my blog posts automatically post there when published. Trust me, I realize the irony of potentially reading a blog post about giving up Facebook that you saw posted on Facebook. Haha. I am still considering whether or not I will keep my Sprout & Blossom FB page. For now, it is fine.
There are many reasons why I chose to deactivate my personal Facebook account for 30 days, but here are a few of the things I have noticed about myself:
1. I felt overwhelmed by an ongoing stream of content/opinions/messages after using it.
2. Overall, I did not enjoy it, yet felt it difficult to just stay logged off.
3. It was a time-suck for me. I would end up passively reading the news feed during precious downtime when I could have been reading something to educate myself or participating in something more productive.
4. I have an abundance of watered down relationships with acquaintances. It is important to me to cultivate more meaningful relationships with my close family and friends. This means phone calls where I actually hear the person’s voice and learn more about them (not just passively see updates through a screen), taking walks, meeting for tea, and writing handwritten letters and cards (yes, snail mail. I miss the joy in that simple act of sending mail to others, and now I have more time for it).
In fact, I was so excited about getting back to handwritten cards and letters again, that I finally got myself a p.o. box. I can receive mail now in this beautiful antique p.o. box. Quite the little historical treasure.
Sidenote: Please feel free to send me snail mail. I will be starting a new *read mail with me* segment on my sprout & blossom youtube channel where I will read letters and cards and open packages while I talk about life. I would love to hear from you!
mary harris, p.o. box 635, ocean gate, nj 08740
The first few days were a little challenging, and the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) makes a sneak appearance every now and then. But so far, I am much happier without my personal Facebook account. I have more time for reading, writing, and photography, and realize those are things I really enjoy. I’m ready to take on week #2.
How You Can Give It a Try:
If you face similar struggles with any type of social or digital media (it does not have to be Facebook; we all have our triggers), then here are my top suggestions for letting go or at least improving your quality of life:
1. Consider a reasonable time frame for staying offline. You can always go back.
2. Make a game out of the challenge. You can even document your experience.
3. Most people are afraid of missing out on something. The truth is, in life we always miss out on something. We cannot be everywhere all at once. We will never know everything that is going on everywhere with everyone (nor should we want to). We will miss things. But along with that, we can make more time for the more important things. This replaces the fear and anxiety.
4. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, Facebook is fairly new. It is just a website, but one with a lot of power; it has changed the ways we think, feel, and behave. It has changed our way of communicating in such a short period of time, for better and for worse. Remember back to your pre-social media days. How did you stay in touch with the ones you love? Now, more of that.
In closing, if this is something you have been contemplating, just go for it. You might be surpised what you learn about yourself.
Please comment and share: Have you ever struggled with using social media?
My basil cashew cream spread is quick and simple to make and perfect for collard wraps, zucchini noodles, raw lasagna, or as a dip for veggies and crackers. I hope you enjoy the creamy texture and fresh basil flavor.
1 cup raw cashews
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 handful fresh basil
1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste
1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with filtered water. Let them soak in the fridge for 5 hours.
2. Next, drain and rinse cashews
3. In a high speed blender or food processor, put in the cashews, 1/4 cup water, and remaining ingredients.
4. Blend well until a creamy texture is achieved. You may need to add more water to achieve the desired consistency you are looking for.
This is a versatile recipe; you can make the spread thick or thin it out with more water for noodle dishes. I made collard wraps, using beautiful collard leaves that were growing in my garden.
We’ve all heard it many times before: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, when it comes to the average modern-day person, I am not sure how much these guidelines are put into consistent action. I have always been fascinated with environmental studies and living in alignment with nature, so the topic of reducing waste and living a greener lifestyle really appeals to me. I get excited when I read about upcycling projects, composting, and reducing or eliminating plastics.
I recently learned about a young woman named Lauren Singer who lives a zero waste lifestyle in NYC. The contents of her 3-years worth of trash fit into a mason jar. After watching some of Lauren’s videos and reading her blog Trash is for Tossers, I was both inspired and impressed. Some might argue that this is possible for Lauren simply because she is a single person who lives in a city with easy access to bulk bins and outdoor markets. Perhaps. However, she still offers feasible ideas for many. And through Lauren’s writings, I discovered her inspiration was Bea Johnson, a wife and mother of two, who lives a zero waste lifestyle in California, and is the creator of Zero Waste Home.
Although I find these people very inspiring, and I light up with excitement whenever I read a low impact or zero waste article, I do not think it has to be an all-or-nothing venture, at least not for me (at least, not right now). There are many obstacles to living 100% of anything for me. I don’t like the extremism of living any which way; I tend to stick with things when I do my absolute best, and my best is never perfect. I have to be realistic with myself. One obstacle I have personally discovered is that I do not live near any stores that offer bulk bin shopping, but luckily I have a couple of options near where I work. Another obstacle is that I can see how avoiding all packaging would be quite the challenge for most consumers, me included. However, there are many other small steps I am doing to transition to a greener lifestyle, and perhaps some of these suggestions will help you too.
What I’m Doing to Live A More Earth-Conscious Lifestyle + Ideas for You:
1. Make Your Own Products I currently make some of my own bath and body products as well as household cleaners. For the cleaners, I use ingredients such as fresh lemons, white vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Other items you can make yourself include toothpaste, mouthwash, body butters, facial toner, natural deodorant, and the list goes on.
2. Stop Buying Excess and Bringing Waste into the Home This goes hand-in-hand with living a simple life and minimalism. It starts with reducing the future waste we bring into our homes in the first place. I try to avoid impulse buys as much as possible. Before I buy something new that I think I need, I will ask myself if I can make it, find it second-hand, or borrow it. Sometimes new is the best option, and sometimes it’s not.
3. Eliminate paper products and disposables. This is a tough one, but there are some great options to try.
The Kitchen: I do buy an eco-friendly brand of recycled paper towels, but I try to use them sparingly. I keep them under my sink for cleanup emergencies. Since they are not on the countertop, we go through one roll of paper towels every 2-4 weeks. It would be great to reduce that even more. I now keep a basket of tea towels on top of my kitchen table for quick grab and go cleaning and use at meal time. I use glass storage containers and mason jars for the majority of my food storage. I avoid plastics, styrofoam, and disposable items with packaging when possible. Paper dishes and plastic utensils are totally out. Use ceramic and rewash your items. This saves money too. You can use a bamboo dish brush instead of sponges to clean your dishes, and opt for eco-friendly dish soap.
The Bathroom:I currently use organic cotton disposable feminine hygiene products, but I plan on trying a non-disposable option soon. Some options worth looking into are menstrual cups and organic cotton panty liners and pads like GladRags or Moon Pads. Instead of throwaway cotton rounds for facial toner, you can buy reusable organic cotton rounds. I also recommend fabric shower curtain liners, because the plastic varieties are horrible for human health and the environment. Another better option in the bathroom is natural, toilet paper made from recycled paper. Regarding razors, you can try a safety razor or the Preserve brand. Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable and also pretty fantastic. You can also buy a wooden and bamboo toilet brush, instead of a plastic variety. I like to make or buy natural, handcrafted bar soaps in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging and help the waterways.
4. Cancel mail subscriptions, and register for a do not mail registry. I have done this, and it helps minimize paper mail waste quite a bit. However, I sill find this to be a challenge, as we receive mail I never wanted. I wonder if I can return to sender with a note to not mail in the future.
5. Skip the disposable plastic bottles and filter your own water. We use a Berkey countertop stainless steel water filtration system with added fluoride filters. I suggest reading up on the company as I highly recommend it, as well as other filter options to find something that is best for you. I then pack water in an Eco-Canteen or glass bottle with a lid. I save so much money this way. Even when I travel, I bring my Berkey to-go travel bottle and an eco canteen.
6. Bring your drinks, lunch and utensils to work and outings. Use a reusable lunch bag and stainless steel, glass, cotton, or hemp storage options to pack your lunchtime goodies. Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Make your own at home and bring it in a reusable to-go mug or thermos. Not only does bringing your own lunch (and snacks) everyday save lots of money, but it’s better for your health because then you know the exact ingredients you are consuming, and reduces waste by way of plastic throwaway containers. Bamboo utensils, a stainless steel, or glass straw, and reusable water bottle are all good to keep on hand in your lunch kit and car.
7. Compost plant-based food scraps and other items. I keep a large bowl in the refrigerator to prevent flies and any smell. I fill the bowl throughout the day with food scraps and dump it into my garden compost pile at the end of the day or early in the morning. This is a great way to bring nutrients back to the soil, helping the earth, the garden, and our environment by reducing waste that ends up in landfills. Some things you can compost include: fruit and veg scraps, dryer lint and dust bunnies, cooked grains, coffee grounds, paper or wood matches, flowers, tea bags and tea grounds, and much more.
8. Reuse cooled cooking water to water plants. There’s no use wasting perfectly good plant water by dumping it down the sink.
9. Eat Seasonally, and Support Organic and Local Farmers.
The locovore (eating local food, usually within a 150 mile radius from where you live) movement is quite interesting and can be earth-friendly. It is a good idea to start paying attention to where your food is being shipped or imported from and when produce is in season. Organic local options are best. Get to know your small, local farmers and ask them about their growing practices. You can also consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).
10. Conserve Water Only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable, and if you watch any of the water films I mentioned above, you will be quite alarmed by the future of our access to clean drinking water. When it comes to going green, this is one of the most important areas to learn about. We use rain barrels to recycle water and water our plants. We use a low flow shower head and I try to take short showers most of the time. For more ideas, here are 110 Ways to Save Water.
11. Be Mindful of Energy Consumption During the daytime, all lights stay off in my house. We use the natural sunlight and mostly energy efficient appliances. I only turn on the air conditioner when I absolutely need it. I only wash clothes in cold water. At nighttime, we leave a light on only in the room we are currently using, and we also like natural candles which create a warm and inviting ambiance to the home.
12. Plant a garden and plant bee and butterfly friendly flowers. You don’t have to have a big back yard to enjoy the beauty of gardening. You can create a window garden, a patio garden, or a potted garden on a deck. There are thousands of gardening resources online and at your local library. Growing culinary herbs is a great place to start.
13. Use reusable fabric produce bags and grocery totes. You can make your reusable produce bags, or purchase these from Amazon or Etsy. You can even buy reusable sandwich and snack baggies, which are great to have. I like to buy smaller bags for bulk food items like dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. I transfer them to mason jars or recycled glass jars with lids when I get home from the grocery store.
14. Raise children the eco-friendly way. This could be an entire blog post on its own, but I will keep it short since this article is already quite long. Some things I am planning on doing to be a more conscious parent include: cloth diapering, using cold water to wash laundry and hanging items outside in the sun to dry, using cloth wipes, breastfeeding, using glass bottles, using a bamboo spoon and bowl for baby food, making my own baby food and storing it in glass, avoiding plastics, buying clothing secondhand, and supporting eco-friendly. nontoxic wooden toy companies.
15. Eat a plant-based or vegan diet. Realistically, this is one of the most important steps we can take to help the planet, people, and animals. Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger. “We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.” -Dr. Richard Oppenlander
Things I Would Eventually Like to Do: 1. Eliminate plastic garbage pale liners.
2. Set up a solar system.
3. Bring my own container for leftovers when dining out.
4. Ask more stores to offer bulk bin natural food options and put prepared foods in my own containers.
This post is not coming from a place of elitism or impracticality, in fact, quite the contrary. I can vouch that living a simple life and investing in reusable options does save heaps of money over time. The Earth is our only home, and in a very humble way I want to do my part to help, even if just a little bit. I’m not perfect, and I am not always able to follow all of these guidelines myself, but I do my best when I can, and I am fully aware.
Homemade raw tahini is a winner! Making your own is such a money saver compared to buying a jar at the store (and in my opinion, it tastes better). You can use this as a spread in wraps, as a base for dressings and dips, or simply treat yourself to a spoonful for healthy, whole fats. It’s so good! 🌻
Sesame seeds are magical – they are an excellent source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and fiber. 🌻
They help with bone health, colon health, support vascular and respiratory health, and are cholesterol lowering. 🌻
🌾2 cups raw sesame seeds
🌾juice of 1/2 a lemon
🌾touch of seal salt (opt.)
Blend up in a Vitamix or food processor, adding water gradually 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!
Good day, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American readers and a joyous holiday season to everyone from around the globe. I just arrived to Texas to visit family. It has been a long day of travel. After we reached our final destination, we needed to travel a bit more to find a store to get some fresh groceries.
It being a major holiday and all, our only option was a Walmart located approximately a half an hour away. It was my idea of a nightmare (Walmart + Black Friday sales = violence over flat screen TVs), but we needed sustenance. And since the store is located in a very rural area, we figured it might be moderately busy with pre-Black Friday sales, but nothing too intense. WRONG!
When we arrived, we had no trouble entering the store at 5:15 pm. However, at second glance we realized that there were blockades set up, extra staff and security at every corner, and swarms of people standing with empty carts waiting. Lines and lines of people wrapped around the interior of the store. People with their hands on boxes of items that were still wrapped in cellophane on pallets. One lady had her arms and legs outstretched like a starfish, claiming four boxes on two different pallets. Some people said they had been there for hours waiting. Learning that made me sad. When did they spend time with their families? Did they even enjoy a Thanksgiving meal? It was only 5:30 pm for crying out loud.
The tension in the store could be cut with a knife. People were on their phones complaining and people waiting on the seemingly never-ending lines were beyond grumpy. One woman looked in our shopping cart and said, “You picked a hell of a time to buy food.” I wish I had the energy to reply, “Thank you, Captain Obvious. We hope you enjoy saving $10 on Isotoners in exchange for three hours of your life.”
We had to practically beg to be allowed to check out. They weren’t allowing anyone to put the sales items in their carts until 6:00 pm and therefore the registers were not open yet, so we were racing against the clock to get out of there. As we checked out, I heard several Walmart employees huddled in a team formation going over scenarios and security concerns. One employee feared being threatened or physically harmed by customers. I felt badly for the employees; the evening that would soon be unfolding would surely not be pleasant.
As we exited the store, we realized that there were people now waiting outside and there was not a single open parking spot in that entire gigantic parking lot. Thank God we made it out of there at 5:50 with 10 minutes left to spare. I lived to tell the tale.
This is the text message I sent to a friend: “The people at the local Walmart here are about to murder each other over a Homedics footbath courtesy of the factory workers in China. I never saw anything like it (other than on the news). I got out with my carrots and hummus just in the nick of time.”
The entire experience got me thinking about a hilarious yet surprisingly poignant video I had seen recently of a man in NYC, named Matthew Silver, who makes a statement (in his underwear) to people shopping: “Stop buying stuff. Love is the answer!”
According to Matthew (aka the great performer):“My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms. My inspiration comes from my heart. I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.”
I’m not anti-consumerism; we all need things sometimes. However, there is a difference between a need and a want. And some wants are okay, but then most of the time we just transition into excess and waste and even stupidity. How many people can actually afford all of these holiday purchases? Afford as in, not racking up consumer credit card debt.
Since I have been on a path of simplicity and genuine happiness (and even prior to now), I have noticed that I do not enjoy shopping for stuff. Even in my teens and twenties, I never enjoyed shopping. In fact, buying things stressed me out. I didn’t need any of it, especially the hole in my wallet afterwards.
This season is a time for gratitude, love, and joy – not unnecessary stress, materialism, and obscene expenses. I will not be shopping on Black Friday. To me, I would rather snuggle up with a warm blanket and a good book, watch movies, and spend time with loved ones.
There is nothing I need that I don’t already have. I will also enjoy getting crafty this year and baking yummy treats for thoughtful gifts. I have told my family that I really don’t want anything this year. If they insist, an Amazon gift card for an ebook is perfect or an experience like a family day at the movies – even better! I’ve just realized that the further I move away from stuff, the more liberated and whole I feel.
We don’t need to spend loads of money on things in an effort to show people we love them. Our time is much more valuable. In my next blog post, I will share wholesome and thoughtful ideas of crafts and homemade gifts for loved ones. For now, embrace this joyous season – the weather change, hot cocoa, holiday music, time with friends and family. If you can, consider volunteering at a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. And perhaps instead of buying more stuff this year, you can shop your house for items you can donate to those who are less fortunate. There is no need to subject yourself to unnecessary stress or go into debt this season. This is a time to share in the spirit of love, gratitude, and kindness.
So what’s the takeaway message? “Love is the answer. Stop buying stuff.”
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” -John Lubbock
Recently, I have added 15 minutes outside in the early morning hours as part of my morning routine. In just a short time, this has already helped my state of mind and well-being immensely. I cannot recommend this act of intentional living enough.
I first walk outside barefoot and stand outside in the grass underneath one of my favorite trees. I enjoy the sensations and sounds of the crickets, the birds, the gentle wind, the cool morning air, the grass between my toes, the dirt beneath my feet – everything.
After a couple of minutes, I do a couple of sun salutations and yoga stretches, then I do 100 crunches, and 10 push-ups. I then lay down in the grass and just relax and enjoy the peacefulness. I never bring my cell phone with me during this relaxing practice. So for the sake of this blog post, I took this picture later in the afternoon to share the view from the grass. I will lay in the grass for a couple of minutes or to my heart’s content.
For the final part of my time outside in the morning, I stand up and ground my feet to the Earth again, and I express gratitude for the day and for the natural world. I cannot express enough how much this has shifted my perspective, and I highly recommend this to anyone. Just go outside for even two-five minutes every morning and be thankful and express gratitude. Enjoy all that nature has to offer. You will feel more alive and more connected.
Why It Is Important for Us to Be in Nature
1. We are meant to be outside. That’s right. We have really botched things up with our 9-5 desk jobs, artificial fluorescent lighting, stressful commutes, and addictive technology. Humans are meant to walk and be active and be outdoors. That is our natural state. We are not robots and we are not zombies. It is up to us to make the shift.
2. Going outside can help our health. Sunlight provides Vitamin D and can elevate our moods. Going outside has also been shown to help concentration and encourages people to be more active and boosts energy levels. People who go outside daily tend to be happier. Being in nature has also shown to help with depression and mood disorders. (Sources: Harvard and Everyday Health)
3. Trees are wise and have the power to heal. Hug a tree and give thanks to all that trees do for us. “Trees provide breathable air, timber, fuel, food, shelter, medicine and beauty. Without trees, we could not live. They can help us think better — Plato and Aristotle did their best thinking in the olive groves around Athens, Buddha found enlightenment beneath a bo tree, and Isaac Newton realised his theory of gravity when an apple fell from the tree under which he was sitting — and they can help us feel better.” (Source: Psychologies)
4. Exercising outside is optimal. “A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who walked on an outdoor track moved at a faster pace, perceived less exertion, and experienced more positive emotions than those who walked on an indoor treadmill. In another recent study done in Scotland, subjects who walked through a rural area viewed their to-do list as more manageable than those who walked on city streets.” (Source)
5. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is 2-5 times more toxic than air outside. Shocking? It’s true. One of the best ways to help the air in our living and working environments is to add plants. But another important thing to do for your own health is to go outside. (Source: Dr. Axe)
6. There is an actual disorder called nature deficit disorder. Don’t believe me? Read here. Let’s get away from the boob tube and the iPizzle, and the cell phone madness and go outside. Another benefit: being in nature can help increase our attention spans.
7. Now let’s apply this to children and teens. Young people need to go outside. If a person grows up with no connection to nature, they will most likely have no appreciation for it. Even more, with obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses on the rise that affect young people, I think it is time we get back to the basics. Go outside with your family.
8. Gardening and putting our hands in the dirt can be one of the most healing and enriching acts we participate in. To connect with new life and to watch a seed grow into a plant is a miracle that so many people take for granted. To connect with our food on the most basic level, helps us to eat healthier and to feel at one with the Earth.
If you don’t have land to cultivate, consider a window garden, a container garden on a deck or patio, or rent space at a community garden. There are options. This is a photo of what we harvested yesterday plus saving arugula seeds.
What are you doing right now? Can you spare two minutes of your day to go outside and get some fresh air? I hope so. Nature is a beautiful gift. Let’s get back to it. Let’s be thankful for it.