the elephant in the room, and big changes (again).

Sometimes trying to live my values is so, so hard.

Because the world is set up to be disposable.
Because some people enjoy pointing out my failures, to justify their own lack of action.
Because I can’t control the entire household.
Because sometimes I have to make compromises.
Because no matter how much I am doing, I could always be doing more.
Because when you actually CARE about things, it can seem hopeless and futile.
Because no matter how much I am doing, I’m only one person and it can be a little defeating.
Because sometimes I realize the hypocrisy in some of my actions.

But then there are days when those very things are what motivate or inspire me to do more. It’s a very zen thing to do, and to be honest, I’m not exactly sure how I got here. But where I used to feel discouraged pretty regularly about things, lately I have been just accepting the feeling, learning from it, then resolving to do what I can to do better myself. It’s taken me 33 years to realize that separating what I can and can’t control is the best way to be productive. It gives me a place to start without feeling overwhelmed, because it lowers the scope of the problem to a reasonable level.

But more importantly than that – separating the big impacts from the little ones is more powerful still. And I am finally ready to stop skirting the issue. For me, there’s been one big elephant in the room for three years now. Eating animals.

Six years ago, I pledged to go vegetarian, and I happily kept it up for a few years (mostly vegan), even through pregnancy. Then I had a baby. The vegetarian freezer meals I had prepared for the first couple of weeks after giving birth were supplemented by lovely neighbors bringing things like chicken alfredo and drive-thru meals of..whatever.. picked up by my husband. I wasn’t truly prepared for a newborn who hated to sleep, who was constantly fussy, who wanted to nurse for only 2 minutes every 20 minutes around the clock. I just completely relapsed as every priority I had – my health, the planet, and animals – just got completely eclipsed by a tiny human who consumed my heart, time, and sanity.

Obviously as babies grow, they quickly get easier in some ways, but present new challenges with every milestone. Cooking the entire Veganomican cookbook was a pre-kid goal I had and I just laughed at the thought of even attempting to cook involved vegan meals, knowing I also need to have a plan B on hand for my husband in case the Seitan Pot Pie was just too weird for his liking. And then, well, I just kind of fell into eating meat out of habit. We mostly ate vegetarian, but I was cooking and eating meat once or twice a week or so just for variety, feeling guilty about it all the while. I am not even sure why I did it.

But suddenly my reasons for making a change finally are glaringly bigger than my excuses not to.

I haven’t lost any of my pregnancy weight.
I feel like garbage, physically and mentally, and I know it’s because of my diet.
I have made huge efforts to lower my impact to the planet, while ignoring the single biggest thing I can do.
I truly to love animals, and have willfully ignored their suffering for my own convenience, when I know better.
I try to instill compassion and caring for Earth in my daughter, but have failed her in ignoring this.

But like I said – those are just facts. Not sources of guilt. Dwelling on the guilt and the past will not change anything. All I can do is move forward. I can just change what I do today.

cowspiracy

So, I’m going vegetarian again – transitioning to mostly vegan. I have not completely decided about going vegan. I will still be cooking for non-vegetarians, so adding a little cheese sometimes seems like a good compromise. We have also been considering quite seriously, getting backyard laying chickens. The ethical/environmental concerns over eating backyard chicken eggs are pretty minuscule to me – they would be named, loved, and spoiled (and would put my kitchen scraps to great use). So I am putting some thought into that. But as for dairy, I’ve always had an easy time cutting out about 75% of my consumption of it – so I think I’ll be able to work up to it at home (it’s out of the house I struggle with).

{Image from the documentary Cowspiracy, which is excellent. I highly recommend watching this film to learn about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. It’s now on Netflix. Watching this was honestly the tipping point for me.}

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happy earth day!

IMG_1730Happy Earth Day, everyone! I went to my town’s Earth Day celebration last Saturday with Hannah and my parents and it was really fun. That’s Hannah and her grandpa enjoying the weather at the Ogden Nature Center for the Earth Day celebration!

Today I will be celebrating this lovely planet in a laid-back way; taking Hannah for a nature walk along the river trail, taking some photos, getting the hummingbird feeders ready, and making a yummy vegan feast (sweet potato and chick pea curry).

I may even work in an eco crafty upcycle if I find the time. I was inspired by these posts: 100 Ways to Repurpose Everything and 221 Upcycling Ideas That Will Blow Your Mind (I love a good round-up).

And since I have been thinking earth-y this week I rounded up some of my favorite ways to be eco. 🙂 Hope you think it’s fun, too.

earth day faves1. Reusable shopping bags. These are the best because there’s obviously less waste than plastic bags, but they hold WAY more stuff, so there are less bags to carry in from the car. I have been using the same set of 6 Envirosax for many years and they hold up great and are machine washable.

2. Composting. Between cooking, gardening, and feeding a toddler (who likes to throw things on the floor), I generate a lot of scraps. Hardly anything gets thrown away: it either goes to the dogs, the chicken scrap bucket (they eat all the veggie peels) or the compost bin.

3. The local library. Checking out books, music and movies at the library reduces our consumption as consumers (and saves us money). We go every week or two and Hannah gets a stack of books, I get a couple books and cds, and we rent a movie or two to watch throughout the week after Hannah’s in bed.

4. A nice recycle bin is awesome, because you can keep it conveniently in plain sight so it’s not a chore to separate and hide recyclable items. My brother-in-law built me this one for Christmas a few years back and I love it!

5. Mrs. Meyer’s (Basil) and Dr. Bronners (Almond) are my fave green products. I use them for so many things!

6. Cloth diapers. YES they are more work, but I love saving all the money and landfill space by using (mostly) cloth diapers. BumGenius are the best. We also love our toilet-mounted diaper sprayer. It makes it really easy, so it just fits into the day like it’s no big deal.

7. Gardening. It makes organic food cheap for the family, it provides exercise and therapy and fresh air for me, and it’s good for the planet.

8. Soul-flower.com is my favorite shop. I want everything. I love my Neverland crops and Earth Medallion tank and all the other things I’ve purchased from Soul-flower. It’s all eco and fair trade and great quality.

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?

make your own salad bar!

I love a salad bar as much as the next self-respecting veggie, but a) going out to lunch is expensive, and b) salad bars seem so germy! Shudder. What I love about them, though, is having all those OPTIONS. It is so much more fun to compile a salad with dabs of everything, isn’t it?

So, I decided to create my own, so I could pack a yummy salad every day for lunch at the office, and I might just do this every week! First, I chopped up lots of veggies, salad size, and put them in containers. I dumped a few canned goods like marinated peppers and artichoke hearts into their own containers, too. I whipped up a yummy marinated bean salad. I even threw some sunflower seeds in a small container. Then I put all those small tupperwares into one large plastic tote with a snap lid. Here’s my “salad bar:”

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It fits nicely on the bottom shelf of my fridge so I can just grab the whole thing in the AM, and assemble a salad superquick. I even made some fast side salads with dinner during the week with it. Mix-and-match!

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Notice just above, I pre-washed varieties of greens and mixed them together in a plastic container (the kind you buy bulk spinach in – just wash between uses). With a few paper towels in there the greens stayed fresh all week.

Do you love seeing what’s in people’s fridges? Welp here’s mine just for fun.

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I use a bento box or a large, flat glasslock container (depending on what’s clean) to pack my salad. Then all the juicy stuff stays separate until ready to mix together and eat! I use silicone cupcake cups, small jars, etc in addition to the little plastic bento containers. It’s like food Tetris! IMG_1463Have fun playing with your food!

green grocery shopping + a buy local challenge

The other day I was unloading groceries on the kitchen counter. It’s a bit of an ordeal because I have to take all my mason jars from the pantry to decant my bags of dry goods into them, and take the produce out of their little reusable baggies so I can roll them up with my Envirosax bags.

But, by ordeal I don’t mean that I hate it. I actually realized just then, I’ve come to absolutely love my food-getting routine because I have it pared down to an Eco-friendly science at this point, and I save a lot of money. It’s one of only a few things I have a sense of control over in my life. However, what it isn’t, anymore, is convenient. At least, not when compared to the way grocery stores want you, and lead you, to shop. And that, too, gives me a sense of rebellion I have grown to be addicted to (starting with one itty bitty thing will make you want to examine everything else you do in life, and improve them all.)

So, because it’s awesome to be a tree-hugger, and because I’m getting pretty good at it, I thought I would share some of my greener ways (I promise it’s more worth it than painful). I am starting with my grocery routine. Here are some ideas:

Green your grocery shopping

  1. Ditch all disposable bags. This is the obvious one and most people are using reusable bags these days. I have been using the same set of Envirosax I got on Amazon for several years because they hold a lot, are really cute, roll up small, and are washable. A set of 5 is around $35 and I use them for everything! But you can take it further and reduce the use of the thin, disposable bags for produce and bulk items, by bringing your own reusable bags and containers. I use small muslin bags for bulk items like beans and grains, and thin mesh bags for produce. Extra hippie points if you make your own from old fabric items, but I purchased mine at an Eco shop (locally made by someone way cooler than me).
  2. Reduce other packaging. Bulk bins are the way to go, even if you don’t bring your own containers. The packaging is still less, and it’s far less expensive. I think dry beans are about 1/5 the cost of a can of beans (serving for serving). Most grocery stores will allow you to use your own containers for things like spices, as well. You weigh the container first, then when you are checking out your items you have them subtract the container weight. Easy! And while you will spend something like $4 for a small bottle of most spices in the spice aisle, you will pay cents for bulk equivalents. You will feel like you totally robbed them the first time. I use these containers for spices, and you can see my post here about it (three years later, a different kitchen, and I still love my system).
  3. Figure out a good food storage system. Of course, if you buy in bulk and use your own bags, the stuff you buy won’t come in its own package. Investing in food storage containers is crucial to saving money in the long run. I use canning jars for my dry goods and it’s perfect. You can keep using them forever.
  4. Buy local. In the summer I go to the Farmer’s Market to get lots of things, and there is no down side to it. It’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it supports your local community and farms, and nothing has to be shipped from across the country. Plus it’s wayyy more fun than going to a grocery store. Also, I’ve recently starting participating in a local co-op for produce and bread. Every Saturday I pick up my box, and it’s a real bargain. If you have one in the area, give it a shot!
  5. Have things delivered. We also have our milk, eggs, cheese, and Greek yogurt delivered from a local dairy only 1 mile away. Everything is hormone-free and local. The eggs are cage-free and organic. Between the dairy delivery, and produce/bread pickups, I don’t go to the store very often anymore. It saves money (less impulse buying) and time.. which totally makes up for the excess time I spend container-wrangling.
  6. Eat mostly veggies. Factory farming is bad for the planet. You can’t reuse or recycle much of the gross packaging from meat, either. Eating more plants and less meat will save money and resources.
  7. Buy versatile products. When a recipe I want to make calls for an ingredient I don’t have, I Google substitutes for it before buying it. It’s likely I already have something that will work. Pantry staples are pretty versatile. Also, some products are just worth every penny because you can use them in place of so many expensive alternatives. I’d never used coconut oil until about a year ago (Skinny Bitch in the Kitch recommends it for many recipes). I’ve since discovered it’s great for greasing muffin tins/bread pans when baking, as a facial moisturizer, as a leave-in hair conditioner, as lotion (in a pinch), as a mouth wash (really!), to remove labels from things (like its own jar when you want to reuse it for something else!), as a sun screen.. the list goes on. No jars of random, unused (or once-used) products.
  8. Compost the scraps. All the veggies peels, apple cores, celery ends, etc, can be composted if you have a garden (even a flower garden). This goes above-and-beyond the grocery store trip, but is worth mentioning!

There are probably lots of things I didn’t think of – so let me know if you have other good tips!

Finally.. a challenge! It’s been a long time since I’ve done one, so I thought April 1 I would begin one for the fun of it. Starting April 1 (for one month) I will be doing a buy-local challenge. That means only buying from locally owned/operated establishments, and eating in local restaurants that feature, where possible, locally-made products. That was a mouthful, but I am stoked. Who’s in?

selling my sole.

*AKA, a review of leather shoes. AKA, vegetarian problems. AKA, bad shoe puns.

I have kinda weird self-imposed rules when it comes to buying shoes. A) They need to be of man-made materials whenever possible. And B) If they are over $40 or so, I have to prove to myself that I can make them work in at least three every day situations before I can buy them, to ensure I will actually wear them. Due to these rules, I own probably too many cheap, uncomfortable pairs of shoes that are ruining my feet. It’s taken pretty much all of my 20s to come to terms with the fact that I simply can’t do that to myself anymore if I want to maintain my mobility in my older years. Wisdom and all that. Due to years of coming home and limping around. LIMPING!

Last weekend I boxed up about 10 pairs of shoes I’ve been wearing, and suffering through, for months or years. They are being donated. In their place I ordered five pairs of comfy/cute clogs from Zappos (knowing all but two would be going back after picking my favorites). I settled on two black pairs, one practical goes-with-everything pair by Frye and one these-are-so-ridiculous-I-hafta pair by Alegria. And sadly both surviving pairs are made of leather.

Let the justifying begin.

I wish this were a review of awesome vegan clogs. The other pairs I ordered were man-made, Vegan-friendly options made by Dansko and Doc Martin in a similar price range, and I was really pulling for them to win. Sadly, they didn’t make the cut because they felt far too cheap (especially for the price)/weren’t that comfortable. I hate that I bought leather shoes, but I feel like at the very least the leather items in my life get worn out far past their aesthetically-pleasing lifespan. For a super casual shoe I will always pick a leather-free Sanuk, TOMs or Saucony shoe, and until now have been buying some very cheap, very uncomfortable man made shoes to wear to the office. If anyone knows of a nice-looking, professional non-leather shoe, please let me know!

I sheepishly admit I am in love with my new shoes, and in my guilt at least proved I will appreciate and wear them down. Here are a few of my style boards:

1. Spring Picnic. Cargo pants, a chambray shirt, and cute accessories are a good alternative to jeans and cardigans in the spring. (In my imaginary picnic I pack cute Bento-style meals and we drink Shiraz – it’s highly specific, but it’s my well-styled fake life.)

spring picnic

2. Weekend City Explorer. For a shoe with a heel, these clogs are seriously comfy. I could walk around all day in them on a city vacation without wearing my usual dork tourist hemp Saucony sneakers.

 

weekend city explorer

3. At the Office. Cuz, duh, I spend most of my waking life there (sob). I actually recreated this outfit this week and felt really put together. These look amazing with long, flare leg black pants.

at the office

As for the Alegria’s, they are beyond comfortable and even with a floral pattern are surprisingly versatile. I have been wearing them most evenings around the house and twice this week to work (once with gauchos and tights, and today with wide-leg trouser jeans for casual Friday). I’ve found them to be extremely polarizing at the office, which I sort of liked. Meaning, I got both compliments and strange looks and that entertained me. I’m secure with my weird style, I suppose.

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PS: if you liked this post, I did a similar “ways to wear them” post with my glitter TOMs here.

rockstar juice

I got a juicer a couple weeks back, and there are few things that make me feel more saintly about my healthy habits than drinking a big ol’ glass of fresh fruit and veggies. I love it! If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of juicing, I recommend checking out this post, or do some of your own Googling and reading up. There’s a LOT of information out there on it.

Here’s my gal. Isn’t she pretty, all full of juice pulp?

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My favorite juices so far are this beauty, called “Sunshine in a Glass” which consists of 1 grapefruit, one apple, 3 carrots, and a chunk of ginger {yum!}. This one is great for digestion, and the grapefruit helps liver function and will make your skin glow!

IMG_1333And this beauty, made of 1 beet, 2 apples, & a bit of Maca powder for an energy boost. Isn’t that color amazing? This blend is great for detoxifying the blood.

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I’ve also made a few legitimate green juices.. That is – leafy greens and mild green veggies like celery and cucumber mixed with my fruits. They are REALLY good {and perfect for getting rid of greens that are getting too limp for salads}.

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More recipes will be coming soon as I practice and experiment. I bought a 25lb bag o’ carrots this week, so that’s gonna influence the menu for the next couple weeks!! Do you juice? What are your favorite combos?

diy granola

I made (a slightly adapted version of) Alicia Silverstone’s Kind Diet granola, and it’s so delicious I wanted to share.
Ingredients:
  • 6 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple sugar)
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit (I used chopped dates)
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the oats on a rimmed baking pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl, and add the sugar, wheat germ, coconut, seeds, and nuts or raisins. Stir to mix well, then add the oil, syrup,and vanilla extract. Mix until everything is moistened.
  3. Spread half of the mixture on each of 2 rimmed baking sheets (or bake in 2 batches), and bake for 10 minutes. Stir after 5 minutes to brown evenly.
  4. Let the baked granola cool on the pans, then transfer it to a bowl and stir until crumbly. Store in an airtight container.
  5. Enjoy the crunchy goodness in a bowl with your fav milk {I like almond} or right off the pan.