Living Eco-Friendly

Six weeks ago our faithful family minivan blew up coming home from an end-of-summer getaway. After the initial shock, I thought this might be an opportunity for us to live simpler. I suggested we aim for six months of two cars between three drivers. We would coordinate schedules, walk/bike more, and limit expenses on gas and insurance. It also meant we would need to upgrade the older car so that we had two solidly reliable vehicles; the hunt began.

We made it one month. The stress of a busy family going every which way at all hours became too much; one particular day I thought Guy might blow a fuse. We did find an upgrade for the older car; and almost at the same moment another vehicle appeared as a gift from God via a friend—both used cars, together costing one-third the price of a similar new car. We had planned to sell the older car, until we realized that the only potential buyer would be a high school student; we have a high school student a few months from driving age.

So now we have more cars than drivers, and three SUVs. It feels indecent, and necessary.

Then I saw the infographic in an email from the energy company comparing our usage with other households our size. I thought we were pretty good about managing our energy—turning lights off, running appliances at off-peak hours, etc—except for all the heat lamps in the kiddo’s reptile cages. Because of his abundant love for creepy-crawlies, our energy usage crawls off the charts.

Also, recycling is getting harder with foreign countries no longer accepting recyclables from the US. I’m using water to wash items that before I’d just throw in the recycling bin, and I’m tossing items too difficult to clean.

None of this sits easily with a family that likes to consider ourselves environmentalists.

So I’m looking to the little things, the micro changes I can make to take some of the pressure off my footprint. The following suggestions are things I already do, so I’m hoping you’ll offer your suggestions.

  1. Batch errands. Drop by the library, grocery store, and gas station when you pick your kid up from school, for example.
  2. Only wash full loads of dishes (if you have a new-ish appliance, no need to pre-rinse) and laundry. Wash on cold at off-peak hours.
  3. As possible, wear clothing more than once before washing. Wash towels once a week.
  4. Line dry laundry, especially quick drying clothes like workout gear.
  5. Eat mostly plants and unprocessed foods; limit or eliminate meat/animal products from your diet. Also, shop at a farmers’ market.
  6. At the grocery store, buy in bulk and/or choose products with minimal packaging.
  7. Cook at home rather than eating out. Double recipes and freeze. Also, no need to preheat the oven if you set the timer for a few extra minutes.
  8. Use refillable water bottles.
  9. Keep reusable shopping bags in your vehicles so you’re never without one when you need it.
  10. Buy less stuff.
  11. Carry reusable straws. Also flatware if you’re likely to eat out.*
  12. Opt for cloth napkins instead of paper towels or napkins.
  13. Use microfiber makeup removing cloths rather than wipes or remover + cotton pads/tissues. Wet with warm water, wipe, hang to dry: simple. I use one cloth per week, and a different section of the cloth each day.*
  14. Take short, just-warm-enough showers.
  15. Check out your plastic footprint here: https://repurpose.global/ You can see my results below, better than many Americans but still not great. You’ll have an option at the end to make a financial gift to help fund environmental efforts, or you can donate to the charity of your choice, of course.

What do you do to limit your impact on the planet? We’re in this together, for better or for worse. As the situation currently looks dire, let’s work together towards a better future.

 

 
Cover image:Image by stokpic from Pixabay
* As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products I personally endorse.

Up Late with My Babies

Up late has never been my problem. Up early is always a problem.

A night owl by nature, I could easily do midnight feedings since I was still awake at midnight. Middle of the night wake-ups were hard, but the 6 am feedings were brutal; I sleep best in the early morning hours.

Obviously we’re all older now and my kids rarely, if ever, wake me in the night. And I have learned to go to bed earlier since I have to be awake and alert with the sun.

Last weekend, though. I was in pj’s, in bed, watching a few minutes of a late night TV show monologue before lights out. I’d worked two long days in a row and had another even longer day coming up. I was ready for rest.

So of course my kids decided we needed to watch a movie. “Mom, won’t you please come watch Aladdin with us? Come on, Mom, spend some time with your children…”

What mama says no to that? So what if they started the movie at almost 11 pm? How many more chances will I get to snuggle on the couch and watch movies with my kids, considering they are now 15 and 20 years old?

I paid for it the next day. So tired, I still chuckled when the younger one asked which movie we watched; he fell asleep on the couch. And yet: I spent time with my kids and, though they may not remember the movie, they will remember that I spent time with them. That’s worth a little fatigue around the edges.

 

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Life Well Lived

How do I measure my life?

I saw a documentary a few weeks ago at the California Independent Film Festival called Lives Well Lived. The filmmaker, Sky Bergman, was inspired by her 99-year-old grandmother lifting weights at the gym. As she shot some video footage, she spontaneously asked Grandma to share words of wisdom; later, editing her short video to share with family, she realized she had a project. Bergman set off on a five-year quest to collect the wisdom of 40 people between ages 75 and 100. This film is the result.

I felt awed by their lived history: the Japanese internment camps, Krystal Nacht, the KinderPassage train, extreme poverty, losing parents and spouses. They worked hard, kept their spirits up, followed their passions, made their lives successful.

What struck me most was how positive, happy, they were despite the unbelievable hardships they had faced. They didn’t let circumstances level them; they showed no symptoms of trauma; they had grit and kept going.

They talked about staying in the present, living fully, expecting something wonderful to happen every day—holding on in faith that, though sometimes the wonderful is delayed, it will happen. A few mentioned 50 as a turning point, and never growing too old to try something new. That age is an irrelevant number. They encouraged younger people to stop worrying: the past is over and the future is coming no matter what, so enjoy right now. One said, “Work a little less, spend a little less. Enjoy life a little more!”

Recently I came across this article by Darius Foroux about how to measure success. So many people measure success by their bank accounts and investments, their houses and cars, their exotic vacations. From his extensive reading by foremost experts in business, management, personal development, and health, Foroux found something surprising: the most successful people measure success by their energy, work, and relationships.

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so surprising. If you have sufficient energy, you work harder and have more to invest in relationships. Yes, and that’s not all.

Energy: how do I feel? If I want to feel better, the equation is pretty simple: eat healthy and exercise. Do this most days, if not every day.

Work: what else can I learn? It’s not about a paycheck as much as engagement and curiosity. Since I am in a work transition period, this one particularly resonates with me.

Relationships: how am I giving to the most important people in my life? I can’t control how others do or don’t regard me, but I can control how much I invest in my people.

Control is a key word. For the most part, I control how I feel in my body, mind and soul; what I will do about those things that pique my curiosity; and how I choose to offer myself in relationship. Hopefully some of that will also pay off in a paycheck, but there’s more to life than money.

And still, gentleness, grace, and gratitude in all things. As SARK reminds us, healing and growth often happen not in forward motion but in spirals, in layers. Sometimes we loop back a time or three before we develop the strength to conquer the next hurdle.

And that’s just fine. I’d like to imagine I’ll still be hitting the gym when I’m 99, but for now I’ll remember: the past is over, the future is coming, so I’ll enjoy this moment.

 

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

Meatless Monday: Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup (vegan!)

It cooled off just enough last week to eat soup again. Notice I didn’t say “to cook soup,” because IP cooking means I don’t have to stand and stir a hot pot. It’s one of my favorite things about the IP: I can quickly make yummy veggies and soups that would require more time on the stove top and heat up the house. For this very reason, my husband makes globe artichokes in the IP almost every week; it’s fast and fail-proof!

When we first bought the IP, I left it in the box in the garage for a solid nine months. I’d read enough to expect it to sound like R2D2, and anything with too many buttons makes me nervous. When I finally decided an appliance would not best me, I made my husband watch a YouTube video with me and then together we did the water test to make sure it sealed correctly.

That was so long ago I don’t remember what we actually cooked. It may have been a red lentil curry. Whatever it was, it was easy enough to try again. And again and again…

For this soup, like a lot of my recipes, I started with online inspiration, combing recipes for similarities and differences. I consulted my IP go-to guide, Vegan Under Pressure*, for cooking times (the authority for cooking beans, both dried and canned). And then I experimented. As the weather continues to cool and I will continue to make soups both in the IP and on the stove top, this recipe will be in my regular rotation.

If you don’t have an IP, of course you can make this on the stove top. Everything should be about the same with two exceptions: you’ll need to adjust cooking times; and you can cook the pasta right in the pot.

This soup can also be really flexible. Don’t have cannellini beans? Add another can of kidney beans or more/different diced veggies. Kids not fans of zucchini? Add chopped greens at the end of cooking. (Personally, I peel the zucchini and the kids don’t know it’s there). You can use veggie crumbles instead of sausage, or leave the “meat” products out altogether. I’m all for playing with recipes!

Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large yellow or white onion, diced
3 Field Roast sausage links, diced (I used 2 Italian & 1 chipotle)
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
6 c low sodium veggie broth (Better Than Bouillon)
3 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or 1 tsp each dried basil, thyme, and oregano)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional if using chipotle sausage)
1 15 oz undrained can diced tomatoes (if you use fresh tomatoes, add 1/3-1/2 c additional water/broth)
1 15 oz can tomato sauce (or prepared marinara sauce)
Diced veggies – celery (3 ribs), carrots (3-4 peeled), and zucchini (2 small)
1 14.5 oz can each garbanzo, kidney and cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1.5 cup ditalini pasta or elbow macaroni cooked separately, 8-10 minutes

On “saute” setting, stir onions and sausage for 5 minutes; add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Add broth, seasonings, tomatoes and sauce, veggies and beans, and stir to combine.

Lock the lid in place. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow the pot to sit for 3-4 minutes and then turn the release valve for a “quick release.”

If pressed for time, dump everything in and cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Allow the pot to sit for 3-4 minutes and then turn the release valve for a “quick release.”

Stir in pasta and adjust seasonings. Mangia!

 

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. But seriously, if you have an IP and you like to cook veggies, this book is so worth the purchase.

33 Ways to De-Funk Your Day

If you’re anything like me, occasionally you find yourself in a funk. Not a physical, I-need-a-shower kinda funk; and not a Play that Funky Music, White Boy getcha movin’ kinda funk. Just an I’m in a funk kind of way. Here are some ideas for dealing with it:

  1. Practice gratitude: make a list of 3-10 things right now for which you can be grateful.
  2. Go for a walk; invite some humans &/or dogs along.
  3. Feed yourself. Honestly, sometimes your mood has everything to do with hunger.
  4. Drink a large glass of water. Repeat.
  5. Take deep breaths.
  6. Stretch.
  7. Pray.
  8. Phone a friend; bonus points if it’s a) your bestie or b) someone you haven’t talked with recently.
  9. Take a nap.
  10. Get alone somewhere.
  11. Write out all the feels; don’t think, just let the ink flow.
  12. Pet an animal.
  13. Work out hard: sweat the bad feels out to let the good feels in.
  14. Play your sport. If you don’t have a regular sport, gather some friends for a quick game of whatever suits you. Dodgeball is fun.
  15. Laugh! Watch YouTubes of laughing babies or silly animals, or late night TV, or just laugh at your own silliness.
  16. Try a new perspective. Sit upside down on the couch. Or rearrange the furniture.
  17. Smell a rose, preferably homegrown. Inhale down to your toes.
  18. Read a good book or flip through a magazine.
  19. Listen to music. Or make music if that’s your thing.
  20. Cook your favorite food. Share it with someone.
  21. Serve someone. Take cookies to a neighbor you don’t know well and have a quick chat. Or find out what a shelter organization (homeless, immigrant, old age or hospice) needs and do something for them.
  22. Put on some music and dance. Lose yourself in the music and the movement.
  23. Go for a swing on an actual swing.
  24. Enter another world: if your world isn’t working, find one that does in a book or a movie or a TV show or in your imagination…write your own new world!
  25. Take yourself on a field trip to a zoo or a museum.
  26. Learn something. Indulge your curiosity.
  27. Play a game with others. My favorites: Chinese checkers, UNO, Spot It, HuggerMugger, Taboo. Others like: Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Mexican Train (Dominoes), Hand and Foot, Cards Against Humanity (caution: lewd humor). If you can’t decide on a game, do a puzzle.
  28. Do something daring. Try a new-to-you adventure activity; register for a class; turn the shower on COLD and dare yourself to jump in.
  29. Travel: there’s nothing like it, even if your travels only take you to the next town. Imagine yourself a tourist and see your own locality with new eyes.
  30. Make something. Anything. Take something old and make it new. Take things apart and put them together differently. Play with the art supplies of your childhood: crayons, colored pencils, markers, any paint supplies, play-doh or clay. Don’t worry about what things look like, just enjoy the creative process.
  31. Knock some things off your to-do list. Start with the most annoying task and get it done already.
  32. Discern the reason behind your funk and do something about it.
  33. Find your happy place! For me, that’s the beach. The ebb and flow, the salty smell, the sand between my toes and the occasional unexpected brisk wave catching my ankles, gulls’ crying, the crisp air on my face as I hug my sweater closer… all of it has a cumulative effect that dissolves my funk into a bad memory.

Better yet, employ a combination of ideas, something like: pack a snack and invite a friend and dogs on a hike. Or take yourself on a field trip, find a quiet outdoor spot, and spend a few minutes writing in a journal. I’d love to hear your de-funk-ing ideas!

Ginger for Breakfast: 3 Recipes Fueling My Mornings

I ❤ ginger! Fan-fave cinnamon is great, but ginger is my jam. It’s peppery-delicious, versatile all day long, and so good for you. Here are three breakfast-inspired ginger-infused recipes I’ve been making on repeat.

Ginger-Lemon Shots
Yes, you can buy ginger shots at Jamba Juice, Whole Foods, even at farmer’s markets (which is where I first discovered them, and I don’t mind supporting a female entrepreneur). But making them at home is easy and much less expensive. I bought a clam shell of organic ginger at Costco and picked lemons from my tree. If you use organic ginger and lemons you don’t even need to peel them. I use a juicer (so old they don’t make it anymore, so I can’t endorse a brand) and start with ginger cut into pieces, then finish with halved lemons. Grating ginger by hand is a pain, so either a juicer or a blender is the way to go; if you use a blender, though, you’ll want to peel the lemons and perhaps also the ginger. I added a little water and the teensiest drizzle of maple syrup, put the concoction in clean spice jars, and stored three days worth in the fridge. Shake it up before sipping.

Chia Pudding
I use almond milk, vanilla, and a slight drizzle of maple syrup, and add a few dashes of ground ginger and turmeric (sub cinnamon, cardamom and cloves for a chai flavor). I put it in a glass jar and shake it up hard, then give it a stir about five minutes later to break up any clumps. So easy I can prep it just before bed while I’m setting the coffee maker, and I won’t even have to think about breakfast in the morning. Sometimes I add fruit, other times I just dig in. BTW, 1/4 c of chia + 1 c of non-dairy milk makes two breakfast servings, so put it in two individual jars or one larger container. Or make a big batch and eat throughout the week.

Granola
The ginger shots and chia pudding are mine all mine, but the whole fam chows down on this recipe for breakfast, lunch, and snack. The kids can hardly wait until it’s cooled. I make it a little different each time, changing up the nuts, adding or not adding dried fruit. The always-adds are equal amounts of ground ginger and cinnamon and unsweetened coconut flakes. The family likes to eat it by the handful (it’s great for lunch boxes, too); I like it with some fresh fruit and a little almond milk.

Bon Apetit!

 

Cover image by Ajale from Pixabay

Summer Reading 2019

Hey, Friends, I just signed up as an Amazon Associate and I will earn from qualifying purchases. So go ahead, click the titles linked to Amazon, and purchase, please! All reviews continue to be my own.

Notes on the recent round-up…

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives RevealedMaybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book reads like a novel and cut me to the quick. So much insight! Since I read carefully and took notes, I don’t need to see a therapist anymore (hah! We ALL need to see a therapist…).

“…change and loss travel together.” (6)

“You’re going to have to feel pain–everyone feels pain at times–but you don’t have to suffer so much. You’re not choosing the pain, but you’re choosing the suffering” (62)
“…if I’m clinging to the suffering so tightly, I must be getting something out of it. It must be serving some purpose for me.” (63)

“Don’t judge your feelings; notice them. Use them as your map. Don’t be afraid of the truth.” (65)

“When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists. But if we spend the present trying to fix the past or control the future, we remain stuck in place, in perpetual regret…. But if I live in the present, I’ll have to accept the loss of my future.” (66-67)

“…we talk to ourselves more than we’ll talk to any other person over the course of our lives but that our words aren’t always kind or true or helpful–or even respectful. Most of what we say to ourselves we’d never say to people we love or care about, like our friends or children….pay close attention to those voices in our heads so that we can learn a better way to communicate with ourselves.” (404-405)

“Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and experience something before its meaning becomes apparent.” (407)

Every Last WordEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book paints
a loving portrait
of an adolescent
struggling with, dealing
with, living with
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

It contains everything
I enjoy about
Young Adult Lit:
well-developed characters,
an important issue
handled with gentleness,
surprises and creativity.

Little Do We KnowLittle Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book tackles a lot of big issues–friendship, teen romance, child-parent relationships, life transitions, dis/loyalty, faith and abuse–and mostly does it well. It cut a little too close to home for me in certain regards which made it somewhat uncomfortable reading.

KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
FREE Kindle edition for Amazon Prime members!

How is it I’d never heard of this book? It’s SO beautiful! To sum it up in a word, this book is about *embodiment.* Characters grieve for their loved ones who have passed from physical life, and find their way back to life and each other through the physical comforts of preparing and eating delicious food. The writing is at once spare and exquisite. She says so much in so few pages. My copy also included her prize-winning novella, Moonlight Shadow. I cried at the end of both.

Some of these quotes I included because of their imagery, others for their characterization or philosophy:

“Suspended in the dim light before the window overlooking the magnificent tenth-floor view, the plants breathed softly, resting.” (16)

“The conversation we just had was like a glimpse of stars through a chink in a cloudy sky–perhaps, over time, talks like this would lead to love.” (30)

“To the extent that I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities?” (56)

“Why do I love everything that has to do with kitchens so much? It’s strange. Perhaps because to me a kitchen represents some distant longing engraved on my soul. As I stood there, I seemed to be making a new start; something was coming back.” (56)

“…although I couldn’t have put it into words, I came to understand something. If I try to say what it is now, it’s very simple: I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant and unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn’t up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness.” (81)

“I knew it: the glittering crystal of all the good times we’d had, which had been sleeping in the depths of memory, was awakening and would keep us going. Like a blast of fresh wind, the richly perfumed breath of those days returned to my soul.” (100)

Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday PlacesGlory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places by Kaitlin B. Curtice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Curtice takes life’s simple moments and reveals their glory for those who have eyes to see. Sometimes the pace feels oh-so-slow, but I stuck with it, reading slowly over weeks as a way of remembering that my life, too, has glory written all over it. My favorite story came right at the end, #49: Hijab. Its beauty of connection had me in tears.

Speak.
Speak of the world to us.
You are the wildest and holiest experience.
You are the greatest adventure.
You are the best miracle-maker.
You are the trust lover.
Your voice echoes inside of us,
digs its way into our bones and veins,
our senses and brains,
into the most hollow corners,
into the darkest spaces.
Oh, you fill us.
Fill us again and again,
in every experience, glory abounding.
Amen. (32)

“…when we can’t see what’s ahead, a path is cleared, and we are no longer afraid, for glory lines the path at our feet, benedictions abounding.” (118)

O God of Mystery,
If I have tried to place you into a box,
break it.
No mold can hold you. (167)

“What matters and what is dust in the wind? Do our little moments of joy or pleasure, our pings of grief and stress, mean anything…?
Absolutely. Our moments matter because our humanity matters, and if we can’t find it in the chocolate aisle or by the assorted rice in the middle of our local marketplace, we will have a hard time finding it anywhere.” (180)

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Austen meets Bridget Jones set in contemporary Los Angeles… Love! I plowed through this smart, chock-full of book and pop culture references, laugh out loud funny book.

“She refueled during the day by grabbing moments of solitude and sometimes felt her life was a long-distance swim between islands of silence. She liked people–she really did–she just needed to take them in homeopathic doses; a little of the poison was the cure.” (17)

“Oh my God, she thought, it’s hard to be human sometimes, with the pressure to be civilized lying only very thinly over the brain of a nervous little mammal. Maybe other people’s layer of civilization was thicker than hers; hers was like a peel-off face mask after it had been peeled.” (29)

“Moms of a certain age know dozens and dozens of people through various channels, so they have to perform this human equivalent of canine butt sniffing all the goddamned time.” (37)

“Reading isn’t the only thing in the world, Nina.”
“It’s one of only five perfect things in the world.”
“And the other four are?”
“Cats, dogs, Honeycrisp apples, and coffee.”
“Nothing else?”
“Sure, there are other things, even good things, but those five are perfect.”
“In your opinion.”
“Yes, of course in my opinion. Everyone has a different five perfect things.” (180)

Silence: In the Age of NoiseSilence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“We live in the age of noise. Silence is almost extinct.” (37)

This short tome, simply and beautifully written, accessibly addresses an important and oft-overlooked topic: silence. The author is a fascinating subject in his own right, and his pursuit of silence is inspiring. He weaves in wilderness exploration, ancient and modern philosophers, innovators and entrepreneurs, poets and writers, musicians and performance artists to help us grasp the necessity of silence in our noisy age.

“Wonder is the very engine of life.” (2)

“Nature spoke to me in the guise of silence. The quieter I became, the more I heard.” (14)

“The silence around us may contain a lot, but the most interesting kind of silence is the one that lies within. A silence which each of us must create. I no longer try to create absolute silence around me. The silence that I am after is the silence within.” (25)

“…[silence is] about getting inside what you are doing. Experiencing rather than ovethinking. Allowing each moment to be big enough.” (51)

“To listen is to search for new opportunities, to seek fresh challenges. The most important book you can read is the one about yourself. It is open.” (125)

Women in SunlightWomen in Sunlight by Frances Mayes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Slow, dreamlike descriptions of beautiful Italy. Too many characters (all the town folk), and sometimes the narrator changes without notice- I read paragraphs several times to understand who was speaking. Good book, but it won’t send me searching for other books by Mayes.

“I’ll puzzle out my own story, mapping constellations. Wish I may, wish I might.” (17)

“That’s travel: time expands and compresses in unexpected ways.” (201)