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 Oat Pancakes Topped with Hot Strawberries

Homemade Oat Pancakes Topped with Hot Strawberries

Pancakes! Most conventional pancake mixes have additives, preservatives, and processed soy and whey in them. If you are looking for a quick, healthy, and delicious alternative to this weekend breakfast favorite, look no further.

Ingredients
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 of one large ripe speckled banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A tiny pinch of sea salt
1 16-oz bag of organic frozen strawberries
Pure maple syrup (optional)

Instructions
1. In a high speed blender, blend all of the ingredients (except berries) to form a light-medium consistency pancake batter.

2. In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the berries on low, stirring often. They will become a compote-like consistency. Turn heat off and keep covered.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet on low-medium. You can use coconut oil spray to coat the pan too (optional).

4. Pour the batter onto the pan to desired pancake size. Cook on one side until bubbling on the top and the edges are golden brown, then flip, as you would cook any pancakes.

5. Plate finished pancakes and top with the strawberries and a drizzle of maple syrup (optional).

This recipe yields 3 large pancakes or 6 small – good for one very hungry individual or two people. This can easily be doubled for a family of 3-4 people. Enjoy!

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My Natural Fall/Winter Skincare Routine

My Natural Fall/Winter Skincare Routine

As the months begin getting colder in certain parts of the world, the way most of us care for our skin could benefit from a bit of tweaking (not to be confused with twerking). Since having my son three months ago, I have noticed a change in my skin, experiencing more facial dryness than ever before. So I decided to change things up, and I’ve never been happier with my skincare routine. For any of you looking to keep your skincare routine simple, somewhat minimalistic, natural, organic, vegan, and cruelty-free, this blog post is for you. Hopefully, it will give you some new ideas that will get you inspired to take care of your skin.

Before we get into the items I am currently using, the most important components for healthy skin come from lifestyle: appropriate water intake, a whole foods diet abundant in organic, fresh fruits and vegetables, living a low stress lifestyle and learning how to manage stress well, and (in my humble opinion) being a kind person and surrounding yourself with good people.

Now onto the skincare routine for face and body… 6 easy steps that take me less than ten minutes total. I purchased all of the products listed with the exception of two items, as notated below.

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Step 1: Lather It Up
I wash my face and body with an organic, vegan handcrafted bar of soap. My Mom and I have made soap in the past so I’m pretty picky about my soaps. I have purchased from other artisans in VT, OR, and CA. You can find lots of options on Etsy. I really like Unearth Malee soap and shampoo bars because their artisan soaps are organic, vegan, and palm-oil free.

Step 2: Shave
As pictured above, I’ve “greened” and upgraded my shaving experience with a safety razor; no more plastic disposables. I have been using the stainless steel safety razor for about five months now and I highly recommend them. I purchased mine and the replacement blades from Amazon; there are a variety to choose from. This method of shaving is much more economical and eco-friendly.

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Step 3: Cleanse & Exfoliate
I’ve talked about facial cleansing/exfoliating brushes before, and I love them so much here I am discussing them again. I just started using one for the first time in my life this past year. Both of my facial brushes are from Vanity Planet, and I received both of them as gifts. The brushes completely transformed my skin, reducing acne scars, improving clarity, evening out my skin tone, deep cleansing and removing dirt and makeup, and gently exfoliating. I loved the spin brushes so much that I became an affiliate with the company. They were nice enough to give me two coupons for my subscribers and friends.

Ultimate Skin Spa (pictured above)
http://vpwow.com/spin4mh2
Coupon Code: Spin4MH2
70% discount off $125.
Final cost – $37.50

Spin for Perfect Skin
http://vanityplanet.com/spin-for-perfect-skin-462
Coupon Code: MH4Spin2
70% discount off $99.99.

I love both brushes, but the Ultimate Skin Spa (pictured above) is next level in terms of luxury, quality, and results. I have used these brushes for dry/wet body brushing, everyday cleansing, makeup removal, and deep exfoliation.

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Step 4: Exfoliate Full-Body + Moisturize
I do not like using watered down, water-based lotions on my skin and oiling skin after a shower is usually a recipe for it transferring to bedding and clothing. So I’ve been using moisturizing body scrubs. I sort of forgot how awesome and detoxifying sea salt scrubs are, until recently when I tried an organic vegan coffee cacao (chocolate) moisturizing seal salt body scrub. It exfoliates and moisturizes at the same time and has detoxifying properties. I like products that have a two-in-one purpose.

This is hands down the best and most amazing sea salt scrub I have ever used (and coming from someone who used to make and sell organic scrubs, this is saying a lot). This has been a nourishing treat for my skin and I plan on stocking up and keeping it in a pretty recycled container in my bathroom. My skin feels and looks so perfect, moisturized and glowing after I use it. I think it is smart that it comes in a pouch, which is perfect for the shower as opposed to glass which can easily break.

For those looking to buy thoughtful yet simple gifts for the holidays, this would make a great, affordable, and useable holiday gift for friends, family, coworkers, teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, or even yourself! No chemicals or synthetics – healthy, simple, and it smells delicious. Here is a 50% off coupon code:

Bru Essential Body Scrub
http://vpwow.com/scrub4mh2
Coupon Code: Scrub4MH2
50% discount off $30
Final Cost- $15

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Step 5: Tone with Rose Water
I spritz my face and neck a couple of times with rose water, which is known to have many benefits including reducing redness and inflammation and toning the skin. It can also be used as a finisher to set makeup. I use a pure, organic, drinkable rose water from Royal Sense. They offer different sizes in glass bottles. I then transfer some into a cobalt blue glass spray bottle I found on Amazon.

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Step 6: Face Moisturizer
I have used the coffee + chocolate sea salt scrub on my face as well as my body. It’s a fine enough consistency to do so and it feels so good – like a day at the spa. Additionally, for extra moisture, especially during the dry winter months, my go-to brand is 100% Pure. They offer organic, vegan, and cruelty free skincare, anti-aging regimens, and makeup that are all beautiful and smell incredible because they are made with fruit! My current favorite facial moisturizer, which has more of a consistency of a balm than a cream, is the Skin Brightening Nighttime Balm. It smells like citrus and is very rich and thick. For most people this should solely be used as a nighttime cream because it is heavy. I have been using this day and night lately because it’s perfect for dry skin. I also use this as my hand cream. Again, I love multiple purpose items. I also use 100% Pure’s coffee bean eye cream.

As far as the rest of my body goes, it feels perfectly smooth and soft from the detoxifying sea salt scrub. My skin has a gorgeous, healthy glow to it. That product is worth its weight in gold.

Thanks for reading, and to all my American subscribers, have a Happy Thanksgiving! This will be my seventh vegan Thanksgiving aka ThanksLiving, and I am looking forward to celebrating my son’s first. Have a beautiful weekend, everyone!

Mary

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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