Honoring Ancestors in a Modern World

The average person is most likely to honor, or at least consider honoring, their ancestors near Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos, but this can be done anytime throughout the year. In fact, many indigenous cultures have daily rituals to do just that. These practices are based on love and respect for the dearly departed and, in some instances, related to the idea that spirits have a continued existence beyond the earthly plane. Throughout many global cultures, including Asian, Native American and European, the purpose of ancestor veneration is to maintain a kinship with family and community.

3 Modern Ways to Honor Ancestors

  1. Fulfill your potential. Whether you’re a regular goal-setter or shared a lifelong dream with one family member, don’t lose sight of these desires after a loss. The road may be long and hard and require a lot of legwork to get to the best version of yourself possible, but achieving your desired outcome will please your ancestors more than anything.
  2. Do good in the world. Donate your time or money to a cause that holds value for you or a deceased loved one. These acts of generosity will not only allow you to feel connected to your ancestors, but they’ll also elevate your well-being.
  3. Create space for your ancestors. This can be a physical altar in your home, or simply your own being. Creating a physical space can help reflect who they were to you and serve as a reminder of your continued relationship. Personally, I’ve created space by placing photos in my home, carrying mementos, and wearing clothing that once belonged to my loved ones.

You don’t have to be a pagan, shaman, or clairvoyant to maintain a connection with your ancestors. The only requirement is a desire to cultivate these relationships further and to establish some regular practices that will help you along the way.

Featured image by John-Pa via Flickr.
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Notes from a Self-Imposed 30-Day Vegan Challenge

I like to experiment with my diet from time to time. A couple years ago, I decided I’d try going vegan — just to see what it would do for me. I’d been having some issues with my face/neck breaking out, which was unusual, and I wanted to see if it’d give me the same energy-boost going vegetarian had years ago. At the time, I was realistically more of a pescatarian or flexitarian. To this day my diet remains predominantly vegetarian, sometimes even borderline vegan, but occasionally I do eat fish, poultry or wild game.

Start Date: November 17, 2014 (knowing full well I wouldn’t adhere at Thanksgiving)
Current Phase: Day 17/30

So far, I’ve been a terrible vegan!

The weekend before my foray into veganism, I went home to visit my family during deer season. My step-brother, sister-in-law and two nieces were also visiting. The oldest had arrived with what was claimed to be an earache from their flight, but by Saturday morning it was obvious she was sick. By Monday evening, it was clear that I was too. My mom sent home leftover homemade chicken noodle soup on Sunday for Boyfriend. I gladly ate its healing deliciousness while I was home sick on the sofa with every necessity within arm’s reach.

Within that first week, I also discovered that smoothies or oatmeal, even with brown sugar and cinnamon, don’t cut it for breakfast. At least not for my body, and honestly the oatmeal was just gross. I tried both options a couple of times before giving in to the urge to just eat my usual breakfast, which includes eggs of some kind — over-easy with toast or scrambled for a delicious breakfast burrito.

Oatmeal
This is approximately what my oatmeal looked like. Hopefully, this tastes better than mine did!

Lunches have consisted of leftovers from dinner, or the trusty PB&J sandwich. More than likely a sandwich because I’ve also been terrible at cooking lately, which isn’t helping anyone succeed at this self-imposed challenge. During the first week, we made several meals, all of which were yummy and served me well at lunch, as well. Luckily my boss and her parents are vegan, and she was kind enough to share their tried-and-true recipes along with some pointers (for me that meant how to successfully cook tofu)! It’s been a lifesaver and definitely made my attempt easier.

The past two weeks, however, haven’t gone so well. At all! It’s getting cold and, apparently, that means I’m getting lazy. It’s dark by the time I leave work and then I have no desire to cook good, hearty, warm food when I get home. Boyfriend isn’t any more interested in hanging out in the kitchen than I am. We’ve eaten like crap and our bodies are definitely paying the price.

We’re both relentlessly tired, bordering on exhausted (I skipped my trapeze class, went to sleep at 8:30 PM, and slept solid all night); we have no motivation to do much of anything at all, and we’re kind of grumpy.  My break-out issue is returning, with the bloat not far behind — thanks gluten-based carby food coma.

Vegan Challenge: The Upside

I’ve managed to not consume dairy-milk at all, and I’ve only eaten cheese twice. (It was my birthday and I wanted Mexican food, so sue me.) I knew that cheese and eggs were going to be my weak points, but surprisingly I don’t really miss or crave cheese. I’ve found that avocados make a great cheese replacement for sandwiches and the like, and I love avocado so it’s a win-win. Eggs returned for breakfast; it’s my favorite meal and a bowl of cereal or oatmeal just isn’t very satisfying.

In eliminating animal by-products from my diet, I’m forced to snack healthier. Typically, I eat fruit for snacks, but no more yogurt at lunch means branching out to try new fruits I wouldn’t typically choose. I’ve also taken a look at the amount heavy, hard-to-digest foods I eat regularly. Most of these are gluten-based — pastas and breads — and cutting back on them more consistently than I have in the past reaffirms the suspicion that I may have a slight intolerance (hence the breakouts and bloating).

We’ve passed the halfway point, but I’m not sure that I’ll make it the full 30 days. Even if I don’t, this short time has definitely given me a chance to look at my diet and learn more about eating healthy, whole foods. The usual flexitarian diet suits me better, but there are clear ways I can do it better than I have been! Alas, on to more experimenting and tweaking.

Have you tried or are you following a vegan diet? What has your experience been like? What are some of your favorite vegan recipes or blogs? What foods do you miss or could you not live without?

Originally written for the WordPress blog Taste for Two.

Minimizing: Clothing

The current Mission to Minimize started shortly before Christmas, and I purposely put off closets/clothing until the post-holiday season because we, inevitably, get some new clothes as gifts. Typically, I come home with what could pass for an entirely new wardrobe, but this year, I did not!

I did, however, get a pair of loafers, a dress, a couple tops, some tank tops to wear under sheer blouses, and some leggings. And my man got a couple long-sleeve tees and a new flannel.

As much as I love fashion, I’m super-thankful that I didn’t fill my wishlist with clothing and that my family has been cutting back on the amount of stuff they buy for my birthday and Christmas. It makes unpacking much easier, helps me keep things on the minimal-ish side, and allows me to hold onto the items I truly love.

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No matter how many times I declutter throughout the year, clothing is always an issue.

After the KonMari experience, my clothes only needed about half the closet space they previously had. It was also the first time I’d ever purged clothing and seen a real, noticeable difference once the task was complete.

In the past year, I’ve also managed to pare down my “dresser clothing” — socks, underwear, bras, tights, pajamas, etc. — into a roll-away tote that fits under the bed. My man has most of his clothing, aside from dress clothes, flannels and long-sleeve tees, in one, as well. But my clothes still take up a majority of the closet.

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Right before the holidays, I donated 2 trash bags full of clothing, shoes, and jewelry.

Right after Christmas, I went through my closet once again. In part to make room for the few new items I’d received, but also to switch out all of the bulky, plastic hangers with new, low-profile, felt ones. Once again, I walked away with 1-2 bags that were filled with clothes, a bit more jewelry, and a few pairs of shoes.

My closet doesn’t look much different. But I am, admittedly, addicted to jackets. I’m notoriously cold and wear one with most outfits, regardless of season or temperature, which means that options are nice. Sure, this section of my wardrobe could probably be whittled down more, but I just can’t bear to get rid of more!

Since my wardrobe isn’t quite as sparse as I think I’d like it to be, I’ve made a plan:

For the next few months, I will work with all the items currently in my wardrobe. Then, I will revisit my closet to see what I did or did not wear. This will, hopefully, help me decide which items stay and which should go.

Feature image by Rubbermaid Products/Flickr.

Blue Apron: Week 2 Review

In all honesty, I meant to cancel our second week before it shipped, but didn’t make the cut-off. I wasn’t too bummed about my forgetfulness because I had seen the upcoming menu and really wanted to try the Korean dish it promised. Then, once it arrived, learned that my man was equally stoked about the stromboli recipe. Guess it was meant to be!

Week 2 Meals

  • Mushroom & Spinach Stromboli with Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Sauce
  • Sweet Potato & Green Chile Quesadillas with Arugula & Avocado Salad
  • Spicy Korean Rice Cakes with Yu Choy & Soft-Boiled Eggs

Cost for Week #2: $59.94

Delivery was not right on time, but Blue Apron did send me an email to let me know that it would be a day late due to an issue with FedEx. However, a delivery attempt was made on Friday, Jan. 13th but required a signature, which had not been the case on our first order, so the package wasn’t left.

We didn’t receive our Blue Apron box until the following Monday or Tuesday. All of the ingredients were, luckily, still cold, but both ice packs had fully melted leaving some of the ingredients or their packaging a bit damp. All of the greens still looked bright and fresh, so my hopes were high that nothing had spoiled. Fingers crossed!

We started off the stromboli since that’s what my man was most excited about. He did all the prep work and cooking, and we both enjoyed this one. It seemed more involved than most of the meals I made or helped make, but we’ll keep it in the recipe file for special occasions.

The quesadillas were super simple and so yummy! Prep time was short, but I did ask for assistance when it came to chopping onions (my least favorite). I enjoyed this whole meal, but the boyfriend was not into the salad, at all, which I was pretty prepared for — he doesn’t like arugula. Definitely a keeper, we just won’t make the salad again.

And last, but definitely not least, the spicy Korean dish. This was by far the best meal of all (including the previous three)! For once, spicy did actually come with some heat behind it, but too much if spicy isn’t your thing. It was another meal I didn’t participate in cooking, but by the looks of the kitchen it was a bit messy and had a bit more prep work than other meals.

Our second of week of meals was much better than the first, considering that both liked all three recipes. Although some recipes were a little bland, in my opinion, I think they could easily be tweaked to add more flavor or spice.

Pros & Cons

  • Again meal planning and grocery shopping were shortened.
  • Every meal we recieved took an hour or less to make (a must, for me!).
  • Delivery was a bit more of a hassle this time around.
  • It’s expensive for just two people!

The Final Verdict

I love love love the convenience of Blue Apron! Not having to plan meals, ingredients are delivered to my door and spending less time in the grocery store. But Blue Apron just doesn’t make sense for us, for several reasons.

While I appreciate that there’s a vegetarian option, my man isn’t veg. He primarily eats vegetarian at home because I usually meal plan and cook. However, he does, on occasion, make himself some sort of meat to addto whatever veggie meal we’re making. Blue Apron would limit his opportunities to do that, and he would probably get burnt out on “all veg, all the time” pretty fast.

The recipes were kind of hit or miss, which is to be expected when trying anything new. But for the price, I was hoping they would all be amazing!

Ultimately, the deciding blow is cost. We would spend more, every week, than if we did all of our own shopping and meal planning since we still have to purchase staple items. Our average grocery budget is about $60-70 per week, maximum of $100 if we’re out of, literally, everything — that budget includes food, toiletries, pet care items, and anything else we need.

So who could benefit from Blue Apron?

Lots of people!

Blue Apron seems like a reasonable idea for larger families. The cost per meal is less on the family plan (feeds four). And you can customize how many meals you get each week, which may help keep grocery costs within your budget.

Aside from that, there are plenty of people who are trying to eat healthier but don’t know where or how to start, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. Others may not be familiar with cooking for themselves and are looking for a way to ease into it. Blue Apron makes both of these adventures available, easy, and stress-free!

Featured image by Pixabay/Pexels.

Growing an Interest in Minimal Living

I grew up in rural Missouri, in two slightly separate worlds. My parents, like many, divorced before I can remember.

“In town,” we lived in a brick house. Me, my mom, her younger sister and, usually, some kind of pet. We ate dinner at the table, as a family, and only went out to eat once a week. Most Fridays, we ate dinner in the living room, in front of the TV. But only on Friday. We had everything we needed, and probably a little extra. My mom never let on that we were “poor,” so I didn’t know until I was old enough to realize that we weren’t “rich.”

Then, after my mom remarried, we lived in a bigger house with my step-dad. Not much changed: We still ate dinner, every night, as a family and breakfast every morning. One difference was that they started their own garden and started canning salsa, spaghetti sauce, green beans and pickles. And then my mom’s parents jumped on the bandwagon.

“In the country,” with my dad, we lived in an old, white, not-quite-farmhouse. Without central heat or air, and with sulfur water. In the summer, we’d sleep with all the windows open, fans running, on top of sheets so our bodies could breathe. Winter mornings were freezing, but I’d go take my bath and sit, directly, in front of the wood stove while getting dressed. Here, richness or poorness was never discussed either.

My dad and I spent much of our time at my grandma’s actual farmhouse, surrounded by miles of pasture, two barns, and the biggest garden I’ve seen to date. Throughout the gardening season, all the grandkids helped her plant, weed and harvest fresh crops from the garden or fields — blackberries and gooseberries, peas and green beans, onions and potatoes. (I’m not sure how much help we actually were considering my cousin and I once weeded the onions by pulling most of them.)

My parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins and most everyone I’ve come in contact with through my family has always worked, and worked hard. Some harder than others. Most, have probably worked and continue to work harder than I.

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I am one of few in my family who has a college degree. With that comes a somewhat ease in the difficulty of work I do. But I still work, and have since I was 15. The few times I have found myself unemployed weren’t fun after the initial feeling of being on vacation. Yet, I still wouldn’t describe myself as a “hard worker.”

Do I do my job? Yes. Do I do it well? Yeah, I think so.

But “hard” work, to me, is building houses, digging ditches, laying bricks or any other kind of physically engaging, manual labor. No job I’ve ever had has been that. Yet, I’ve been interested in self-sufficient living, or homesteading, for the last decade.

The first time I seriously mentioned my aspirations to my mom was around 2003-ish. She — rightfully — laughed in my face. I was a junior or senior in high school who spent a good majority of her time: in her bedroom, on the phone, watching TV or listening to music. Outdoor activities had been a thing of the past for quite some time, unless you count sunbathing. The conversation progressed to her explaining how much work homesteading would be, and pointing out that I was/am kind of lazy.

A few years later, after a bit more research, I breached the topic with my dad — a skilled outdoorsman and, as far as I could tell, the closest thing to a homesteader I knew. Instantly supportive of my idea, he told me about how he had similar dreams (and so did my mom!). Turns out, they had planted a huge garden and subscribed to Mother Earth News (whom I would eventually work with),  and we’d all lived in the house without central heat/air until I was 2 years old. On his own, he hoped to build a cabin, off the road where he already lived, and was considering goats.

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The thing is, no matter how supportive my dad may have been, my mom wasn’t wrong. I am kind of lazy. I love watching Netflix and taking naps and just not doing much of anything in general. I’ve also learned, through trial, that I don’t care for gardening anything except herbs, succulents and some flowers. Yet, my desire to homestead is still fully intact.

How, you may ask, is that even possible? Here’s how.

My partner likes to garden, while I enjoy  turning the harvest into yummy things via cooking, canning or baking. I’m interested in making (and have tried my hand at making) natural beauty and household products, as well as utilizing natural remedies for common ailments like upset stomach, burns/blisters and headaches. I’d love to start fermenting (if we had the space). Harvesting rainwater? Count me in. Backyard chickens? Yes, please. Goats? Bring them, too!

I still love the idea of providing, as much as possible, for ourselves. And, by doing so, reducing or eliminating debt, the need for money and full-time jobs. Maybe it’s not in the rural landscape I had once imagined, although that would be ideal because a smaller town and fewer people would be nice, But that’s okay. A simple CSA or house on a decent-sized lot would do, for now.

Feature image via Pixabay.com/Romi.