Basil Cashew Cream Spread

Basil Cashew Cream Spread

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.

Ingredients
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
water

Directions

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.

Thanks for reading!

Be the light,
Mary

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Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

So You Want to Stop Wasting Resources and Money…

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.

Over the years, in addition to reading books and articles on these topics, I found some documentary films that really ignited my passion for living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Some of these included:
Dirt the Movie
Last Call at the Oasis
No Impact Man
More Than Honey
Tapped
And the trailer to the upcoming film Island Earth
For a full list of documentaries I recommend, please visit my Wellness Resources page.

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.

Mary Signature

Kitchen food scraps to compost
Kitchen food scraps to compost

Homemade Maple Coconut Bacon

Homemade Maple Coconut Bacon

No piggies were harmed in the making of this bacon. Holy wow! I’m so proud of myself for this one (but honestly, it’s quite simple to make). I really got a solid coconut bacon recipe down. It took only 20 min total including prep and bake time. It’s low-effort and ummm… tastes better than bacon made from a pig, in my honest opinion. REALLY good! You don’t have to miss bacon at all when you have this delicious treat! Salty, savory, sweet, and crunchy – plus it’s a healthy fat made with organic shaved coconut (a real, whole food, my friends).

You can eat this by itself for a treat, in a breakfast scramble, in an avocado sandwich, in wraps, on top of salads – you get the idea.

Ingredients:
2 cups of organic shaved coconut (Note: not shredded; and the only ingredient should be coconut)
1.5 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp maple syrup
Option 1: 1 tbsp (or to taste) tamari or liquid aminos – this option will taste saltier and more like bacon
Option 2: sea salt generously sprinkled (or to taste) – this option is less salty and more mild in flavor

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place nonstick baking paper on a cookie sheet.

3. Spread out shaved coconut evenly across the pan.

4. Coat with all of the remaining ingredients. Mix with your hands until everything is coated well and spread out on the pan evenly.

5. Bake for 12 min for soft bacon or 14-15 minutes for crisp, well-done bacon. Please keep an eye on it from the 10-minute mark on, as oven settings will vary.

6. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Use it that day or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for the week. This also keeps well in the freezer, so you can batch cook this in advance for the month so that you always have some on hand.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Raw Tahini

Homemade Raw Tahini

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. 🌻

Recipe:
🌾2 cups raw sesame seeds
🌾water
🌾juice of 1/2 a lemon
🌾touch of seal salt (opt.)

Directions:
Blend up in a Vitamix or food processor, adding water gradually 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!

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Organic Gluten-Free Vegan Food On a Budget: An Experiment

Organic Gluten-Free Vegan Food On a Budget: An Experiment

When we stop eating crap, we stop feeling like crap. A while back, I wrote a blog article called “Eating Healthy on a Budget: Cut Your Grocery Costs and Feel Amazing.” I priced out healthy food for a family of three for a week for $95.

Well today, I kicked it up a notch and this time I purchased a week’s worth of all certified ORGANIC food for two people from a health food store (in a state where the cost of living is quite high), which is not the most cost effective way to go. I approached it this way on purpose to experiment.

You see, I’m trying to settle the score that “healthy food (and vegan food) is too expensive,” when in fact it can be less expensive than standard American diet food or a meat and dairy based diet. So I purchased these items in the most expensive way possible, and also accounted for vegan Shakeology for two people (two superfood smoothies per day) as well as some convenience foods like organic Amy’s frozen veggie burgers. I also added in $5 to factor in other kitchen staples such as seasonings and condiments used for the week. With that said, my total came out to about $160 (or $80 per person).

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Now, a better way to do this to make this more affordable and practical, is you could easily grow many of your own organic fruits and veggies, pick your own from local organic farms, can and freeze foods, join a CSA or co-op, purchase dry goods in bulk, batch cook, purchase seasonal foods, go to farmer’s markets, shop sales, and do this for MUCH CHEAPER! There are blogs about eating plant-based on as little as $4 a day. And remember, this experiment was done in a pricey manner purchasing organic foods.

You can instead purchase organic when possible or personally necessary; because unfortunately, conventionally grown produce is cheaper. One method is to follow the guidelines of “The Clean Fifteen” and “The Dirty Dozen.” This will help save money as well, if you are flexible.

Trust me. I’m of modest means, and I’m not out of touch with reality. I understand that some families can only afford $50-$75 a week for food and sometimes that’s to feed more people. All we can do is our best. This is not about self-judgement or judgement of others. This is about making health a priority as much as we can within our means.

According to a USA Today report, “The latest numbers for a four-member family: a thrifty food plan, $146 a week; a low-cost food plan, $191 a week; a moderate-cost plan, $239; a liberal plan, $289 a week. Some food waste is built into these costs.”

Expensive foods are usually convenience foods. And with a little time and meal planning, you can reap the health and financial benefits of eating real food you prepare yourself where you know exactly what is going into it.

I would love for you to join my upcoming 30-day health and fitness challenge, “The Glow So Healthy Pre-Summer Challenge” where we will be using PiYo workouts and a plant-based meal plan to reach our health goals (starts May 3, 2015). The kit is $140, and I will be your coach and offer my holistic health coaching services for free. To learn more, please comment or email me for details. I will work with you to help improve your lifestyle habits so you can become the healthiest version of yourself. I hope to hear from you.
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Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

When I began my journey to simplify my life, I had no idea that there was a small movement of people out there who were doing the same. In fact, later on, I discovered one of my now favorite YouTubers (and new friends) – Carrie LeighAnna. I found Carrie to be a genuine, honest, and kind woman; I can understand why so many people love her YouTube videos. What I like most about Carrie is that she is willing to be truthful with herself and with her viewers; in fact, she is open with the public about her goals, her challenges, and her victories. This is what makes Carrie so relatable; she doesn’t preach perfection or create a facade of perfection; she is just herself, and that’s part of what makes her so beautiful. The ideas and tips she shares are both encouraging and doable, yet they are super inspiring. If you are not familiar with her work and her message, you are in for a real treat with this interview.

1. Carrie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. You live a simple life, and it seems that you work to prioritize your faith, your health, and your family above other areas of your life. This is very inspiring. For those who are not familiar with you and your YouTube channel, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, who you are, your interests, etc.?

I’m a 25-year-old wife, mother, YouTuber and recovering addict. I was born and raised in Kentucky, but moved 1,000 miles away to attend school in Florida where I met my husband of five years. However, just this month we’ve moved back to Kentucky to be closer to family.

I’m an old soul, I tend to go against the grain in just about every way, and I’ve never felt like I’ve really ever “fit in.” But as I’m getting older, I’m really coming to value my uniqueness, rather than feeling insecure about it.

Lastly, I’m obsessed with tiny things. Tiny houses, tiny nurseries, tiny pumpkins, tiny wardrobes, tiny flowers – they all just make my heart so happy!

2. Can you describe and list your simple wardrobe for us including your clothing, pjs, shoes, scarves, coats, etc.? Lots of people have asked me about how many undergarments to keep, so if you are willing to share that information also, if it’s not too personal, that would be great.

Just last month when I lived in Florida, my entire wardrobe consisted of a handful of little black dresses, a pair of flats, a pair of booties, a statement necklace, a set of diamond jewelry and several sweaters. I also had a pair of leggings and a maternity jacket I would wear on cooler days. That was it – less than twenty items – and it was all I ever needed. 

Since moving to Kentucky, however, I’ve had to alter things quite a bit, and I’m still working on it. So far, I’ve got three dresses, some leggings, skinnies, several nice tees, a pair of shorts, flats and I’m on the look out for a pair of sturdy boots for winter. I also have a lightweight coat, a heavy wool jacket and my original maternity jacket from my Florida wardrobe.

But here’s the catch- everything I wear is black. I’m a mommy, so stains are just a part of life – but not on black clothes! Also, Audrey Hepburn… Need I say more?

I have a small handful of workout/ painting clothes that I purchased at second hand stores for less than $10 total. And as far as undergarments go, I have just enough to wear for a week before everything needs to be washed. I purchase really nice panties and bras because it’s such a simple way for me to feel beautiful.

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3. You are a mother. How has motherhood changed you? Do you have any insight for people who are on the fence about parenthood?

Nothing in the world has made me realize how incredibly valuable and fragile life is like motherhood. The moment I locked eyes with that tiny little stranger, the world became so much bigger, so much scarier, and so much more dangerous. But right along with that, it became so much more joyful, playful, beautiful and wonderful all at the same time. When you give birth, you are literally born into a new type of human and you enter an entirely new world. It’s the craziest thing!

Though it was tempting to become “just” a mommy after she was born, I’ve realized in the last year how important it is that I take care of Carrie, and nurture and grow Carrie before I play mommy. The nice thing is, they are mutually compatible. My daughter was born into my world, and the best thing I can do for her is be a mature, growing and happy version of myself first, then welcome her into the world I’ve been living in, rather than make my life revolve exclusively around her.

4. When people say that “children are expensive” or “kids require a lot of stuff” do you agree with that? For anyone who would like to raise a child and still live a very simple lifestyle, what are your tips and suggestions?

I absolutely disagree! Babies need food, clothing, a carseat (at least in America) a quiet place to sleep and lots of love. None of that has to cost a great deal. In fact, for the average mother, all of this can be completely free. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, babies simply do not need a lot.

Even as the child grows, the costs don’t have to be exorbitant. Living within a budget, buying gently-used items, and “doing it yourself” can all keep costs low.

5. For new Moms-to-be who want to only purchase (or ask for) necessities, what do you think the absolute essentials are to have? How many clothes, towels, cloth diapers, travel items, kits, other items are needed? Is there a way you would recommend tactfully asking for only the items listed on a registry (no extras) or cash in lieu of gifts for a celebratory shower?

My essentials were my electric breast pump, car seat, cloth diapers, and baby jammies. Everything else can be nice to have, but isn’t necessary. Our baby did sleep in a crib, but we were given a hand-me-down. And we received so many clothes and gifts at showers that we didn’t need to purchase anything more.

If you are going the cloth diaper route, I’d suggest 12 covers and inserts, minimum. This will hold you over for two days when they’re newborns and a little longer once they’re older.

Baby towels, toys and utensils are entirely unnecessary. By all means, get them if you like them, but don’t think they are a necessity. Use your adult towels on your baby. Let your infant play with a purse, a rock, and a spatula… heck, they like the boxes the toys come in more than they like the toys anyway! And teach your child to use adult utensils from the start. As the old saying goes, “Start as you would go.”

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6. Regarding mementos and sentimental items, how many do you have? This seems to be the most difficult thing for people to pare down. Have you ever regretted an item you got rid of?

From my childhood, I have nothing left. Several years into simplifying my life I set aside special items from my childhood that I wasn’t ready to release. At first, I thought I’d keep them forever. But eventually I let them all go.

There’s no rule here- hold on to what you want, but realize that it’s okay to let things go when you’re ready… just don’t watch Toy Story 3 right before doing it.

As far as motherhood is concerned, the day I found out I was pregnant, I purchased a sweet, whimsical journal and started writing to my unborn baby. Ever since then, I write a letter to her every two or three months. A few ultrasound pictures are also tucked away in the pages. This is the most precious and sentimental baby item I have, and I’ll give it to her once she becomes a mother. I don’t keep a baby journal because I’m just not a journaler. I tried, but it was always a source of guilt when I would forget to fill in all the appropriate pages. Eventually I realized I simply didn’t need that stress in my life, so I invested all my memory-making energy into the letter journal and stuck with that.

I also have a journal of notes and letters I started writing my husband shortly after we began dating. That’s my favorite sentimental item of ours, with the exception of the simple diamond jewelry my husband has given me as gifts over the years.

7. You just moved. What was that experience like for you? What is your new home environment like?

I moved to Kentucky just about a month ago and it was a lot of work, but so worth it! We sold every piece of furniture we owned rather than shipping it across the country, plus we purged all the unnecessary items from our home. At times it was a little scary realizing I didn’t own anything for a home anymore, with the exception of the carload I kept, but I knew in time I’d be filling my home again soon. And since we sold almost everything for more than we purchased it for, we had change to spare!

We are currently living in one bedroom in my parents house as we transition. We could rent if we wanted to, but my parents have generously offered to let us live with them while we save up for a hefty down payment on a house. Our hope is to move into our own place in the next year!

I’ve actually decided that since I’ll never get to live out my dream of living in a legitimate “tiny house,” that I’m going to make our current space as close to small-living as possible. The room is just a couple hundred square feet (I’m guessing), and so far I’ve managed to include a bedroom, family room, dining room, kitchen and nursery into the little space. It’s a stretch, but it’s a fun adventure, and I’m enjoying it more than words can say!

8. Are you a stay-at-home Mom? If so, what have been some of your best money-saving successes? Any tips for anyone who already avoids shopping most of the time but would really like to take their savings to the next level?

I am a stay-at-home mom. Actually, I was a stay-at-home wife before ever having kids, which is fairly uncommon these days. We’ve been able to make this work simply by staying out of debt and spending frugally. We are not perfect at sticking to our budget, but the tension and expectation is always there, so it keeps us from getting into trouble!

We read and followed Financial Guru Dave Ramsey’s principles pretty adamantly before getting married and we continue to study his material today. Honestly, that’s my number one money-saving (and money-making!) tip – read and follow all his stuff!

9. Friends and Family: This is one area of the holistic health circle that makes such an important difference in a person’s wellness. How have you managed friendships and personal relationships over the years? Do you keep things simple when it comes to friends (such as only having a couple of close friends)? Are you close with only a select handful of friends and family? Thoughts on social media?

I’ve struggled with social anxiety since elementary school. I was also raised in a highly-sheltered environment. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time making friends in my life. But the ones I have – MAN – they are the absolute best!

Relationships can be so tough to maintain. I realized the first year I went off to school that the majority of friendships from my past were going to fade away. I realized years later that that was both normal and healthy. Forgetting and letting go of good things only allows room in our lives to welcome newer, better things. I may have lost many of my closest friends from high school, but then I gained even closer friends in college, not to mention a boy I fell in love with and a child we created together!

But with that said, I believe with all my heart that every single human alive needs close friends. I have a handful of them, and I try my best to invest in those relationships as frequently as I can. Like many women, I want to do so much better. I could call more. I could visit more. I could do a lot of things more. But for now, I’m doing my best and maintaining where I can.

As far as social media is concerned, I would just caution everyone to be wary of “staying close” online. It’s simply not the same as truly being close. There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with friends, but if you’re doing that at the cost of neglecting your current relationships and others around you, you’re simply setting yourself up for some really serious isolation. 

And when it comes to family, by all means, be friends with them. Forgive them. Love them as hard as you are able. And if you can live close to them and still remain happy, do it! 

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10. Faith: You have described your faith as an important part of who you are. Do you have any words of kindness or encouragement to share with anyone who has lost their faith – faith not just in a specific religion or spiritual beliefs – but faith in anything or even faith in themselves?

My faith isn’t just a part of who I am – it is who I am. I believe in a  God who created me, knows me by name, loves me deeply, and has a plan for my life. In my lowest moments in life, I can have hope because God loves me. In my highest moments in life, I can be grateful because God has given me sweet gifts!  

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering addict. I attend regular twelve-step meetings and there is so much talk of God you’d think you were at church. But really, in those rooms there aren’t very many “believers” in the American-sense of the word. But the rooms are filled with people who have decided to give God a chance. And let me tell you- if that’s all you have to give, you have a lot to look forward to!

Regardless of your faith, or lack-there-of, you can know that you are loved. God loves you. And if you don’t think that’s real, then know that I love you (and I’m real!). Life is hard, messy, sticky and beautiful. There is nothing that love cannot fix. Don’t just wait for love to come save you, but actually seek it out. Keep yourself out of isolation. Serve someone lower than you. Eat with a homeless man. Dance in the rain on a summer day… Life is full of beauty, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am not a fortune cookie, regardless of how my last answer just sounded. I’m actually a realist. Most things in life really don’t matter. People do. But most everything else simply does not.

Thank you, Carrie! You can learn more great tips and suggestions for living simply from Carrie’s YouTube channel. She also shares valuable information for saving money, living frugally, taking care of yourself, and raising a child.

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.”

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