The book I finished last week was "Hello Summer" by Mary Kay Andrews. As the title suggests it is a beach novel. I read it in the few days leading up to and our weekend on the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore.
What piqued my interest originally was the fact that the main character is a journalist from Atlanta, returning to her hometown to keep her family's small-town newspaper afloat. There is some romance and suspense around the town's characters as she follows an investigation of an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman. Share your current favorites below.
My food theme for this month is all about strawberries. To me, they mean the beginning of summer along with beach towels, sunblock, watermelons, and my favorite, strawberries and whipped cream. I get my berries from all over. Roadside farm stands or local grocery isles. When I purchase from the grocery store, however, I always get organic because to me it simply tastes better. I am not above picking my own from a local farm particularly on days when there is less humidity and heat.
What I love is that I generally do not have to worry about them going bad. As the berries get ripe, I just pop them in a blender along with other berries, fruit, or juice, serve them as a smoothie with honey or pour them into a popsicle mold. For the weekend, I picked Danielle Walker's strawberry lemonade popsicle recipes from her "Against all grain" blog.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”
Share your summer favorites to inspire and raise summer Mojo. Leave your comments and stories of the things that help you welcome and celebrate the summer season.
One of the biggest obstacles to living a fulfilling and creative life is the continuous self-doubt and fear of making mistakes. Today I wanted to share with you something that has helped me on the path of leaving fear and self-doubt behind. Art. I absolutely love Skillshare.com for its selection of classes and the breadth of topics they offer. I have been experimenting with a number of other creative art and learning platforms. I have recently come across an online class, I wanted to share offered by an illustrator and artist named Laura McKendra, on Domestika.org called "Illustrating Nature: A Creative Exploration.
Laura is a creative based in London, UK, who went to school for illustration but much like the rest of us, was feeling the pressure to get a "proper job" and ended up abandoning her creative path for a period in her life, working in a number of fields. She came to realize that a part of her was missing. She was riddled with self-doubt for a time as she persisted to rekindle and perfect her craft. She was richly rewarded as gradually she reconnected with that essential part of herself that was missing for so long.
Based on her life experiences, Laura shows you different ways to turn drawing into a habit for creative exploration by combining watercolors, ink, colored pencils, and other mixed media, working outdoor, using nature as an inspiration to create and abandon your fears.
I lost track of time as my family and I participated in the experiments and exercises in this class. I would recommend it to beginners and seasoned artists working to overcome their fear of the blank page and finding that inner flow of creativity through improvisation. You can find more information on her class on Domerstika. Purchase the classes individually or get a pro account for a yearly fee that will give you a select number of classes. I'm not affiliated with Domestika.org but I really enjoyed the class and feel it benefited me in becoming more comfortable with ambiguity and the exploration within the creative process. Enjoy!
I'm looking for more online resources for creative inspiration and learning. Share your favorite sources? What was the last class you took that you absolutely would recommend?
Who isn't looking forward to having a few days off with family? The sight and scents of a beautifully prepared meal shared among loved ones and friends.
Perhaps you are like me, uncertain as to how this event will play out in the middle of a pandemic.
I was doing my regular shopping yesterday and noticed the seasonal music playing faintly in the background. I held back the "Bah humbug". Another thing I was not ready for.
Navigating the path of arrows between the isles, I followed my cart to the checkout line. I stood perfectly on the dot that said "Stand Here". Catching the eye of a lady before me and noticing her cart, I was envious. She seemed to have an entire "Thanksgiving meal" figured out, while I was still eating the left-over candy from Halloween.
By the time I got home, my gloominess and feelings of inadequacy were gone. I unpacked my bags and went out to enjoy the clear sky and the rustling of leaves.
I found a better mindset, but it was not going to come during a shopping trip. Somewhere between the still, calm landscape, at a dog park, interrupted by a few mischievous barks and kids laughter, I saw a good frame of reference. Simply felt happy to be alive.
Then I got in the car. Watched as the scenery passed by, remembering conversations and faces reflected from the corners of my mind. What is Thanksgiving if not this? It's a time to reflect and hope for the best.
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”~ Samuel Smiles
Historians believe that the First Thanksgiving in America had a different menu. One mostly prepared in traditional Native American style.
The ancient origins of Thanksgiving stem from the tradition of harvest festivals, stretching back long before the first American event, in 1621.
The holiday would not exist, if it wasn't for Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of "Mary had a little lamb. She petitioned Lincoln, for a day when all Americans could give thanks. It was at a time when the country was divided by civil war.
Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving holiday, in 1863. It was in 1939, that President Roosevelt moved up the holiday a week. Extending the shopping season to boost the economy.
Not all Americans decided to follow celebrations on the new date, however. In 1941, it was congress who settled the dispute. They declared the official date to be the 4th Thursday of November. Check out the history channel video here. "Thanks giving" can happen on any day but this particular Holiday is about us all, being thankful together.
I glanced at the headlines in the media. The ones with those numbers reflected as it has been the norm for a while now. My mind went to the park and echoes of laughter, my heart, light as air, but the sun was now obstructed by some of those grey clouds. For so many of us, perhaps Thanksgiving will never feel the same.
It's not as important as how we celebrate, as much as it is to reflect on the things to remain thankful for.
Here is a quote to reflect on before we head out for those "Black Friday" deals:
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”—Anonymous
Every time something negative happens, I can feel the clouds gather in my mind's eye. I then know, it's time to focus on the ray of sun, however faint it may seem. I strive to get ahead of the impending darkness that is about to cast its shadows on my feeble mindset.
The thunderstorm mindset is there to warn me (see positive-negative asymmetry) and I am also grateful for its presence.
I'm struggling at times, but the stubborn parts of my personality help to keep to a habit. This habit is one of continual reflection. An understanding, that I am not my mind. I choose to hear the stories in my mind. Feel thankful that it works, yet I will not yield to it consuming me.
Then, I remind myself of the positive, in order to counter what is perceived as unpleasant or unwelcome.
“Bad things are actually good things for awakening! But the best thing is to be awakened before the bad things happen!”― Mehmet Murat ildan
“I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”-Anonymous
The antidote against being consumed by things not going your way is embracing all the things you feel joyous about.
We may not write it in a daily journal entry. I do, however, feel my heart leap as I hear the door open when someone comes home.
You remember the little victory dance you do when things go so right? It is your way of giving thanks. I may not have said anything, but I feel the tingling joy in my chest, jiving to my favorite song.
I can hardly hide the grin on my face, receiving a hug from a long time friend.
My taste buds rejoice as expected when enticed by the pistachio ice cream, lasagna, double-decker, bacon, and avocado burger. (insert whatever your favorites are over here).
My body functions on cue and to date, my complaints are few. Although I don't always treat it as the temple it deserves.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”—JFK
When you are seeing the thunder clouds gather, remind yourself to center on your body. It will not lead you astray. Reflect on those times when you could not contain your smile. Embrace the flutter of your heart as you observe someone you love. Become aware of the slight tingling in your chest. No, not the one as a result of heartburn after the double-decker bacon burger. Although, give thanks for that as well. I'm talking about the one due to the energy freed from pure joy.
“I feel a very unusual sensation—if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.”—Benjamin Disraeli
Being present in those moments and repetitively recalling them, should help you see the ray of sun amongst the clouds. It is called gratitude.
“I will forever remain humble because I know I could have less. I will always be grateful because I know I’ve had less.”—Anonymous
Download and fill out the questionnaire to help you become more mindful of your shopping and food waste patterns. You can use this list throughout the 30 days to reflect on what has worked or not worked in the past for improvement. Tip: Reflect on this before every shopping trip.
Because it is a known fact that, we (and our children) accept rules better when we are given the opportunity to voice opinions and our values. When we are allowed to take part in the process of designating rules we become more mindful and open to collaboration. If you happen to be a single member household, then obviously this is easier. You only have to consult with yourself.
I would still recommend writing down a vision of how you plan to eat and prepare meals. If your significant other prefers a Paleo diet but you love bread, you need to discuss this and come up with solutions and shopping habits/menus that everyone can work with and get joy out of. I brought up this example because this is the very issue we had to work out in my family.
I'm interested in hearing from you as to what some of your challenges are and also how you worked through them.
2. Create your weekly, bi-weekly menu calendar.
This can be totally simple, a sheet or printout, preferably divided by days and each day with breakfast, mid-morning snack (if you or anyone in the household does mid-morning snacking), lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, etc.
Because you will only purchase foods for the meals and snacks listed for the days listed. A suggestion I have here is to allow for the day/meal you plan to eat out and fill in the choice or choices of places you might plan to visit. Some people substitute a meal plan service such as Green Chef for weeknights (for example) just make notes.
If you choose to digitally fill out a menu, you can create reusable meal plans to be alternated throughout the year. You could also download your recipes from a service such as Pepper Plate to save time. I have used several other services to make all this more automated. If you need suggestions, just reach out to me.
These will be based on the cuisine of preference (Italian, Asian, etc., although sometimes you might deviate from the norm) such as oils, grains if you are not gluten sensitive, spices(see suggestion #7 below for garden), ketchup, vinegar and many more. Research these items and make sure they are organic.
If you need suggestions on pantry items, eco-friendly, organic vendors, please drop me a line or sign up and I can email you some that have worked for us.
If you would like ideas on sustainable food storage and packaging, sign up for our newsletter.
Check on our tips on how I repurposed tomato, pickle, and other jars we purchased during regular grocery shopping. (we also use them for artwork and office supply stores). I'm a fan of regular mason jars. Use them for spices, preserves, and pickling.
This does need some planning but we have some ideas to make this more fun and meaningful as opposed to it feeling like a chore.
This can be a simple herb garden on your porch a kitchen window, perhaps a balcony if you are a city dweller. It can be a small patch of land in the back yard, all the way to the homestead you have always wanted.
I have worked in my small garden for a weekend or two to get it started. Then I dedicated a few hours a month to weeding. This might prove to be quite pleasant if you like being out in nature. My husband loves the fresh jalapeno peppers, children often enjoy getting hands-on with their food. The squirrels and birds will love you for the sunflower seeds. I would like to invite you to share your experiences and tips in your garden to help us get inspired!
Local farmstands, CSAs are a good source.
10. If you have not already done so, stop using grocery store bags, purchase reusable, or at least aim to reuse/upcycle the bags you get.
11. Upcycle those recipes.
Use leftovers from main dishes with various side dish pairings or use preserved sources. Use bulk-cook and store. My suggested staples to cook or create in double quantities (airtight jars or freezer-friendly) with time-saving crockpot methods.
Refer to our composting post on what you can and should not compost if you are a beginner.
13. Zero waist for your skin and body.
You probably think it's important to be choosy as to the quality of the foods we put in our bodies. It is just as important to be choosy about what we put on our bodies. The skin is the largest organ and taking care of it can be a lot of effort. You can create a number of beauty remedies for your skin from items leftover or right out of your grocery bag. We have a few suggestions on our site for you to check out.
Food loss and waste amount to the significant squandering of resources. It has harmful economic, environmental, and ethical consequences. Its effects include the loss of opportunity to provide nutrition to those in need, contributes to global greenhouse emissions, and an economic loss estimated at 240 billion with approximately $1,866 per household.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40% of food in the US gets tossed every year, while there are millions of American's going hungry.
If you get a kick out of facts and figures refer to the USDA site for food waste.
Although most of the waste happens on the consumer level, the issues are not exclusively related to individual households. They are also acerbated by restaurant waste, the overproduction of produce discarded from backyard gardeners and farmers. Your local supermarket, due to litigation fears, might also be adding to some of these issues as they discard meats and produce reaching/nearing their sell-by date.
Many of these foods are perfectly good to eat and high in nutrition content but are transferred to a landfill where it proceeds to pollute the environment. When we think about the fact that about 15 percent of the US population, many of them seniors and children, live in poverty and experience hunger, this amount of wasteful behavior seems illogical. Disparities in food distribution also mean that there are some communities that are left with limited access to fresh and affordable food.
“Imagine walking out of a grocery store with four bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and just not bothering to pick it up. That’s essentially what we’re doing.”– Dan Gunders (american writer and food scientist)
Simple reasons include the holiday season(s) and the marketing strategies we are enticed by. Including sales gimmicks such as, "stock up", "buy two get one free" and do not forget the "supersize" or "bulk sale" and food warehouse mentality. Another contributing factor is the confusion around the various ways foods are labeled, such as the "sell-by date", "expiration date" etc. If you are looking to fall asleep go to the USDA food safety education site, where they talk about labeling.
Most of us understand exactly when our Milk is spoiled and how long we can store butter. Surprisingly, or not, the biggest food wasters are consumers in developed countries such as the EU and the US.
Food waste also happens because of better living standards. Research points to higher-income households wasting more than lower-income households, due to healthier lifestyles. These lifestyles result in buying more fresh perishable items. This doesn't mean you should stop eating healthy. None of us really likes to waste food, yet we all seem to do it.
We do our weekly shopping, nicely stocking our produce and fresh foods into various compartments in the fridge. We go about our business throughout the week. Then one day, we reach in there, grabbing what we think would be a bag of nice crisp organic spinach, only to realize it is beginning to compost.
What happens next, depends on the individual and how they value food. You might pick out what can still be salvaged, another person, however, might choose the trash bin and search for the next package. A third person might feel a bit guilty, while the other might not even give it a second thought.
"The key to changing our ways depends on rekindling our relationship with food, family, community, and nature."
Do you have a memory of your grandmother's canning preserves, or as an Italian family, your grandfather's tomato sauce?
Many of our ancestors or elders had this necessity associated with resource scarcity.
During wartime, kids were encouraged to "Lick the plate clean" or "Share the food". I remember my grandmother, carving a cross on every loaf with the bread knife before she cut the first slice. I thought it was significant because it meant that we were blessed to have the bread. Come to think of it, perhaps it's the reason I love bread so much.
More than that, we value food as an experience that can bring all of us together in celebration. Each guest contributing to a particular dish to share. One becomes intrinsically mindful of a season, a tradition in the preparation as well as the enjoyment of the company around a table.
Food is not a main event. Food is part of a ceremony.
It's not hard to see that in every culture, food has long played a dual physical and spiritual role. Connecting with food means a connection with the source. Read about harvest celebrations and how you can connect again...
When we take care of selecting our food, process, and preserve it, we tend to understand its' value. It's in the work to prepare it and the experience of sharing the time spent together.
I cannot tell you how many potatoes I've peeled when I was growing up, but I can recall the laughter drowned into tears as my mother and I chatted and amused each other as we prepared a Sunday lunch. These are memories and traditions to cherish and pass on for generations to come.
You might say that those times have come and gone, but I would argue that those times are worth remembering now more than ever. It's time for us to be the bridge between generations that passed and serve as responsible torch bearers to those that come after.
In our society, there is an ever accelerated change, due to low cost, freshness premiums, consumer confusion, cheap disposal options, and lack of connectivity. We have quickly moved from a culture of responsibility regarding our food to a culture of abundance. This is no time to check out, now is the time to pay attention.
“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”― Noam Chomsky
The next time you find another wilted lettuce in the fridge, I hope it makes you pause for just a second. Remember those moments you have shared over a good meal. Think of nature and the abundance it has given you, your family, friends. Picture a landfill that is filled with 250 pounds of food. That is the number that is estimated that an average household wastes a year. Choose to make a change before you go shopping again.
You ready? Click to get tips on a 30 day challenge to become a no food waste household.
Gaze past what is, to see what once was,
at the dried-up leaves from the springtime buds.
See the sunflower stalks from earthy seeds,
and memories reflected in the fire a Soul feeds.
Purplish, grey sky with smoky aged air,
where rain clouds linger above landscapes so fare.
Whispers of stories told by the wind,
of shimmering Stars, that have long since dimmed.
Throughout the course of history, Earth's harvest has been celebrated with ceremonies of giving thanks. In ancient civilizations many believed that their crops either contained spirits or they were blessings of gods. Greeks participated in Thesmophoria, an autumn sowing festival of 3 days, in the honor or Demeter, the goddess of growth and life, who according to mythology gave the gift of agriculture to mankind and every year after reunion with her daughter, Persephone, blessed their crops.
The Romans celebrated similarly in honor of Ceres (Demeter) around October with music, games and sports. The Hebrews have been celebrating Sukkoth, a harvest celebration commemorating the Israelite's 40 years wandering in the desert. This festival is over 3000 years old in tradition and last for a week.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is also known as the Moon festival or "Moon cake" festival where family members share mooncakes with one another, symbolizing their family unity and offerings are made to various lunar deities.
The ancient Egyptians celebrated their harvest festival in spring, in honor of Min, God of Vegetation and Fertility. Mehregan originated in ancient Persia. The word “Mehr” meaning kindness, is a celebration of friendship and togetherness as well as harvest.
The rhythm of the harvest
Over the years, some festivals lost popularity, and in the age of round-the-clock and round-the-year food availability, many of us have lost touch with the rhythm of the harvest. Thanksgiving, in our culture is often overshadowed by Black Friday deals, consumption and shopping.
Harvest festivals today can be found at various seasons in different parts of the world, largely dependent on geography, climate with foods that are drawn from crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival.
It's not hard to see that in every culture, food has long played a dual physical and spiritual role. Connecting with food means a connection with source. The source being earth, being spirit and sharing of gratitude and abundance.
When we gather around our tables during special events, holidays and with guests, it is in the spirit we gather. We gather in the spirit of thanksgiving, spirit of love or friendship.
Even when you sit down to have a meal by yourself or grab a snack for yourself, is an opportunity to reconnect with your body. Yet, how many of us simply consume our food while skimming through twitter or Facebook? When a couple sits across the table in a restaurant and barely make eye contact while eating, they are generally unaware that they are both loosing out on the most basic form of ancient connection.
So may of us fall into this trap of becoming consumers as opposed to living up the the full potential of who we really are. We should never give into complacency and convenience when it comes to food. Remind yourself at every opportunity when you lift the food to your mouth, this is a blessing, to gather in the spirit of abundance and kindness around breakfast, lunch or dinner tables.
Every occasion should give a chance to connect and share because there will come a day when we do not get to share any more.
In order to make good decisions in your life and move towards goals you will need a reference point to start from.
All journey's begin and end with you. All you need is yourself.
But do not confuse your essential self with the thoughts that go on in your mind. You need to look past the flat thoughts as the primary indicator of your existence and allow yourself to identify with your multi-dimensional self holistically.
The fundamental truth is to think in reverse. "I am, therefore I think. "
The power of Being , once accessed, fuels the transformative process.
Your mind tries to find peace and fulfillment externally, because that is where you have been conditioned and taught to look. The mind will drive you crazy trying to find answers, planning, worrying, being angry, feeling lost. All the while you believe that these thoughts are "you". All that defines you.
But you are not your thoughts, you are the observer of the thoughts. Your feelings are states or instances, sort of posibilities of you but they are not you because when a thought or feeling is gone, you are still there, except you now have another thought or feeling. They do not control you and you are not defined by them. Nor are you defined by any other state of transition. By identifying with your created self and body, you are allowing yourself to go through rollercoaster ride and lack a strong foundation.
Creating change solely through mental techniques is impossible. Its only after you address the underlying energy holding thoughts that you start a transformation process. A Shift in energy is always followed by change in reality.