Ethical Gift Giving

Ethical Gift Giving

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.

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Thank you for reading and sharing!

Mary Signature

 

Sweet Potato Toast That Can Be Made in a Toaster

Sweet Potato Toast That Can Be Made in a Toaster

​I cannot take credit for the brilliant idea of cooking sliced sweet potato in a regular toaster. I have to wonder if these potentially accidental or perhaps purposeful strokes of genius take place when people are stoned, drunk and hungry. “Dude, what if sweet potatoes could be toasts?”

Nonetheless, I am thankful to whoever came up with the sweet potato toast idea (because it is delicious). Here is my take on the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 Japanese sweet potato*, sliced lengthwise
1 small avocado sliced (or guacamole)
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup black beans
3 tbsp chopped green onions
3 tbsp roasted corn (not pictured)
sea salt and pepper, to taste

*Japanese sweet potato is incredibly delicious in this recipe, but if you cannot find those, regular orange sweet potatoes are great too.

Directions:

1. Slice raw sweet potato lengthwise in 1/4-1/2 an inch thick slices, depending on your preference.

2. Place two slices of the sweet potato in a regular toaster, as you would two slices of toast, and toast on high 2-3 times, depending on your toaster. The outside will be lightly toasted and crispy and the inside should be fully cooked. Perfection. You can also make these in a toaster oven instead.

3. Top with your desired toppings. This time, I used avocado, tomato, black beans, green onions, sea salt and pepper. Roasted corn would be outrageous too.

Sweet potatoes are satiating, healthy, and a nutrient-dense replacement to toast, so you really cannot go wrong here.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Chocolate Date Cookies

No-Bake Chocolate Date Cookies

Minimalist cookies, folks. These are chewy like a date truffle but shaped like a cookie. And… They are healthy, plus so simple to create in as little as 5 minutes. I like to enjoy a couple of these treats with an evening cup of tea.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats
12 pitted medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract or powder
3 tbsp cacao (or cocoa) powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix until well-combined into a dry, but sticky dough-like consistency. If too dry, add more dates. If too sticky, add more oats.

2. Roll the dough into 8 balls.

3. On a flat nonstick surface, press each ball down into a flat cookie of your desired thickness.

4. Pop these in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill and then serve. Store in the fridge.

Recipe yields 8 small cookies. Recipe can easily be doubled. Enjoy!

Why I Deactivated Facebook and How You Can Too (if you want to)

Why I Deactivated Facebook and How You Can Too (if you want to)

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!

Mailing Address:

mary harris, p.o. box 635, ocean gate, nj 08740

7-Day Progress

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?

Godspeed. Enjoy this precious life.

Homemade Vegan Sour Cream

Homemade Vegan Sour Cream

When I went vegan, one of the foods I missed most was chilled sour cream, especially on top of soups, chilis, and baked potatoes. But over the years, I have found two worthy replacements: chilled/whipped avocado and this homemade cashew sour cream that I am about to share with you now. There are many variations of this recipe circulating the internet, but this is what I use.

Ingredients:
2 cups raw soaked/drained cashews*
1/2 – 1 cup water**
1.5 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
A pinch of sea salt

*You should soak the cashews in water for at least four hours prior to making this recipe, but I was pressed for time. I actually just put everything in the blender without pre-soaking the cashews, and it still came out great. I have a high-speed blender, so if you do not have a great blender, pre-soaking the cashews is non-negotiable.

**The amount of water you will need will depend on whether or not you soaked the nuts as well as the desired consistency you are trying to achieve. Start with 1/2 cup and work your way up from there.

Directions

1. Place the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until creamy.

2. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least a week.

You can use this as a topping on just about any savory dish. You can also mix this into pasta and potato salads. It’s incredibly delicious. Enjoy!

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My Guest Appearance on the Emmy Award-Winning TV Show The Chew

My Guest Appearance on the Emmy Award-Winning TV Show The Chew

Today, June 3, 2016, at 1:00 pm EST I will appear as a guest on the Emmy Award-winning television show, The Chew on ABC. My segment is on natural household cleaners using vinegar. Below are some photos highlighting my day with my sweetheart in New York City. What an honor and a fun opportunity!

The cast and crew were a riot to be around. My sincerest thanks to everyone involved.

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New York, New York
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We are here at ABC Studio
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The Green Room
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Getting my hair touched up in the hair and makeup room
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Behind the scenes before the recording in front of a live studio audience
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{Photo credit: Paula Lobo/ABC}
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Central Park
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All done with the filming. Now time for a walk in Central Park and lunch with my sweetheart.
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Finishing the day off with a delicious vegan meal at the one and only Cinnamon Snail at their NYC location at The Pennsy.

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Thank you all for your love and support. If you like the segment, please send some love to The Chew and let them know. If you miss it, it should be available on Hulu as well.

Where in the World is ̶C̶a̶r̶m̶e̶n̶ ̶S̶a̶n̶d̶i̶e̶g̶o̶ Mary Harris?
YouTube: search Sprout & Blossom
Facebook: Sprout and Blossom
Instagram: @ sproutnblossom

**UPDATE** ABC Network and The Chew posted the video to my segment. You can watch it on YouTube here: Best Ways to Use Vinegar to Clean.

Stuffed Baked Potatoes: A Satisfying Meal

Stuffed Baked Potatoes: A Satisfying Meal

For all of you busy people out there, preparing healthy, filling, and cost-effective meals can seem daunting. But I have found one of the most satiating and versatile foods to be a solution to weekly meal preparation woes: the potato. Potatoes are not only delicious, they are filling, and can be baked in advance. Cooked baked potatoes store well in an open bowl in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to eat, you can grab a pre-cooked potato, reheat it, and top it with whatever you like: mustard, ketchup, relish, avocado, sauteed onions and peppers, vegetables. If you are in a real pinch, you can simply go with mustard and a side of vegetables. Use what you have on hand. The possibilities are endless.

Here are three ideas for ways you can top your baked potatoes.

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Fiesta Stuffed Potato: Topped with salsa, lime juice, cilantro, kidney beans, and fresh mango
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Buffalo Ranch Stuffed Potato: Topped with sauteed veggies in hot sauce and maple syrup glaze, cashew ranch dressing, veggie queso made from nutritional yeast, almond milk, corn starch, and garlic powder, and green onion (recipe inspired by The Happy Herbivore)
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Epic Veggie Stuffed Potato: Topped with pico de gallo, cherry tomatoes, chopped spinach, green pepper, basil, and chickpeas