Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Waste

I found an interesting chart on The Everyday Minimalist.  Go here to see a larger version of it.  I tried and tried to get it to upload to fit my blog but each time it ended up as either too large or too small.  

The chart talks about all the waste associated with the holiday season - waste in that we spend a lot of resources wrapping gifts that people often do not want that end up being given away or put into landfill.  One interesting fact is that half of the paper that Americans use goes into wrapping and decorating!  

A lot to think about...and to reconsider.

Wellness Wednesday

make up
Do you know what's in your cosmetics?  Most likely some very toxic ingredients.  The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database contains over 69,000 products that are analyzed based on health concerns such as cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and other potential hazards.  With the new year approaching, now might be a good time to rethink products you purchase and look for healthy alternatives.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Future

I hope all of my readers are enjoying happy holidays.  We had a very quiet but enjoyable Christmas at our house.  A number of years ago, my hubby and I decided to forgo exchanging gifts as we have everything we need and tend to have few wants.  We both find the Christmas season to be painful to watch as people spend more than they should on items that they feel obligated to give items to people who don't really want them.  It all seems such a waste.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, people go into a shopping frenzy, spending money they don't have and running up credit card bills they will be paying over the course of several months, sometimes not even finishing paying off one Christmas before the next Christmas comes around.  On Christmas day, the consumerist orgy commences and is over in the blink of an eye.  Then, on December 26, everyone runs to the stores to return the gifts they received.  (And I'm not even going to talk about what the holidays do to the environment.)  Over the years, Bill and I have asked family to not purchase gifts for us and most have ultimately honored our request.  It makes us happier when we do not receive gifts.

This year my family decided to do something more meaningful.  My hubby, daughter, and I helped out at our annual community Christmas dinner that serves low income individuals in our area.  Guests received a hot Christmas dinner, a bag of used clothing they selected from donations, a blanket, a bag of toiletries, and a gift.  For many of the guests, that was the only gift they received for Christmas.  Driving home after helping to clean up, the disparity between rich and poor was really driven home as we passed the local trash dumpsters which were overflowing with cardboard boxes, plastic wrap,  and gift wrap:
Photo courtesy of my husband

It became even more personal as we passed a house where they actually had their own personal trailer filled with their discards from the Christmas gift frenzy.  

I often hear people lament that they want to "take back Christmas" and "go back to the way it used to be."  Well, that's up to us.  We need to tell family and friends that we're opting out of the meaningless gift exchanges.  We once participated in a family gift exchange among the cousins in Bill's family.  Often, these were people we only briefly saw two or three times a year and didn't know them well.  The year someone suggested I buy long underwear as a gift for one of the male cousins was the year I said no more.  Almost everything I ever received in those exchanges ended up in the donation pile the very next week.  I wasn't ungrateful as I know much thought and time went into selected the gifts.  It's just that I didn't need the items and I didn't want the clutter in my home.  A friend commented that her family gift exchange has turned into everyone exchanging gift cards:  "Merry Christmas!  Here's a $25 Outback card; thanks for the $25 Olive Garden card."  How is this showing love to one another?  I'm not a Grinch and I like to receive surprises.  But we need to rethink, simplify, and personalize gift giving.  Cookie exchanges, giving to favorite charities, or volunteering together are much more meaningful and definitely less wasteful.  

As I approach the new year, I want to continue focusing on appreciating the simple things and working towards reducing, reusing, and recycling in all areas of my life.  I want to more fully live out my Quaker ideals of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and sustainability.  Over the next week, I'm going to be pondering how I will continue this personal journey and then share a few of my thoughts and goals.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas


Wishing you all a very blessed holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homeless Veterans

Now that some of the troops are coming home from Iraq, let's remember to continue to support them. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Now that the holiday season has arrived, below are a few common sense tips from Jigsaw Health on staying healthy through what can be a very stressful time for many people:

  • Spend time with people you love
  • Stick to your regular exercise program
  • Enjoy the outdoors
  • Watch your sweets intake
  • Moderation is key
  • Take supplements to ward off illness
  • Take a complete multi-vitamin

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fair Trade

A while back, I posted about child slavery and buying fair trade.  Well, I finally was able to get out of town to purchase some fair trade items.  Here's what I got:

I got some organic, fair trade black tea to brew up some iced tea.  And I realized that it is actually probably cheaper for me to brew up this tea rather than the "cold brew" Lipton's that I had been using since I use very little loose tea for a very large pot plus I'm not paying for the convenience of the processed stuff.  

I was a bit overwhelmed by the coffee selection as not all were fair trade, some were ground, some were beans, and some were those detestable "K-cups" that are a huge waste of resources.  My husband drinks Cuban coffee so the closest I found was an espresso bean that needed to be ground (we don't have a grinder at home).  I felt pretty happy with myself as I had to learn how to use the store's grinder and I ground up a pound of beans to take home.  

I also picked up some organic, fair trade chocolate chips for my daughter and me to make chocolate chip cookies over the school break.  The chocolate bar was just because it looked so good! 

Now that I know the truth behind coffee, tea, and chocolate, I can't go back.  I now need to make planned purchases of these luxury items when I'm out of town; otherwise, I'll run out and have to do without.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

In the past, it has been difficult for researchers to make the case for a clear link between the use of indoor tanning beds and deadly skin cancer.  However, the Yale School of Public Health conducted a study of almost 400 individuals who received a basal cell carcinoma diagnosis and who had at some point used a tanning bed and compared that group to a control group.  The results were that those who had used a tanning bed were almost 70% more likely to get skin cancer.  Another study said that the biggest deterrent to using tanning beds is not the threat of cancer but an emphasis on the threat of wrinkling.  Read more about the study here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quote for the Day

Colorado River 1
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
~John Muir

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Better Plan for Gift Giving


A couple of weeks ago I heard a DJ on the radio talking about a blogger who had a somewhat different philosophy on gift giving for her family this time of year.  The blogger told her family she would give them each four gifts:

Something you want;
Something you need;
Something to wear;
Something to read.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


So, I'm in CVS picking up a few items.  I round the corner of an isle and there, on the end cap is a display of these:

They're called "Easy Feet" (as seen on TV) and they're $9.99.  The box said they eliminate the pesky need to bend over to wash your feet.  What?!  Why is it that we as a nation have found that bending over is too much trouble and that we should spend our precious earthy resources to make these gadgets?  That, I might add, will quickly end up in our landfills.  And we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic.  Or maybe it's the obesity epidemic that makes it difficult to wash our feet.  Am I the only one who thinks this is one of the worst ideas?  Evidently, the inventor and CVS don't think so.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wellness Wednesday


When it comes to being sedentary, I'm as guilty as the next person.  Being in school increases the amount of time I spend sitting as I have to do a lot of research and writing on the computer.  So, I was pleased to find these six simple tips to help decrease the amount of time spent sitting:

  1. Pace while talking on the phone
  2. Putter after eating - or take a quick walk
  3. Sit in bar seats at restaurants
  4. Stand at events rather than bringing a chair
  5. Do things in person rather than calling or emailing
  6. Have multiple work stations that force you to move your body from one place to another

Although many of these tips are applicable for people who work in an office, you can adapt these tips to your own lifestyle.  The bottom line is:  don't make life too easy.  Find creative ways to structure your life in a way that makes you get up out of your chair throughout your day.

(Photo source:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quote for the Day

"A bone to the dog is not charity.  Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."
~Jack London
A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

This week I'm in the process of writing a mock grant proposal for a class plus getting ready for a craft show that I'm doing as a fundraiser for our local homeless ministry.  That said, I haven't had a lot of time to do research for *Wellness Wednesday."  Instead, since it is the holiday season when many of us get off the good health track, I'm sharing 6 Healthy Holiday Tips from MindBodyGreen:

6 Healthy Holiday Tips

The holidays are always a wonderful time to see family, friends and be with loved ones. They are also the busiest time of the year and sometimes we get so caught up in what we need to do, that we might forget about taking care of ourselves. 

Here are six of my favorite healthy holiday tips that I like to share with my clients to help them maintain balance in their lives.  

1. Tis the Season to Plan

A secret of mine is to plan ahead by writing lists. Write down everything you need to do and give yourself deadlines. It is amazing how much you can get done if you actually know what you want to accomplish. 

2. A Spoonful of Love

Don’t forget about you. It is the season for giving but if you are overworked, stressed and running around you won’t be able to enjoy the holidays. Keep your energy levels up! Maintain your sleep schedule and aim for at least 8 hours of sleep. Stay focused on your exercise regimen. Working out will help your energy levels remain high and keep your brain clear and focused. It also keeps us from binging on all of the cookies and treats in your office or home. 

3. Have Yourself A Very Merry Plate

At your holiday gatherings, eat whatever you want just take smaller than usual portions. Keep enough room on your plate so you can see spaces in between the different foods. If you know you will still indulge just a little too much use a smaller plate so even if it is full, your stomach won’t be. 

4. Joy to Making Memories

You usually only eat Pecan Pie once a year so how about actually tasting and enjoying the Pecan Pie. By taking small bites and chewing all of your food slowly you actually taste all of the deliciousness you or a loved one has made. 

5. Sleigh Bells Ring, Is It Time For Seconds?

A great trick is to drink an entire glass of water after you eat. Then wait 15-20 minutes. Take this time to jump into conversations with your loved ones or start a fun chat. It also allows you to really listen to your body. Are you really hungry and need seconds? The time in between your last bite and your spoon in the mash potatoes will make this clear for you.  

6. Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy

The holidays are special because they only happen once a year. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy them because they go by so fast. Sometimes it is the only time of year you might see someone you love. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quote for the Day

"The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today."

~Margaret Mead

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thinking of Others

Sale Sign

I meant to put up something about Buy Nothing Day here on the blog yesterday.  Well, time got away from me and I ended up just putting a quick comment about it up on facebook.  Over the last few years, I've tried to spread the word about Buy Nothing Day as I am so opposed to the rampant consumerism that we gorge on in the US.  My husband also pointed out that we spend one day counting all of our blessings, and then the very next day we run out in search of more *stuff* because we don't have enough.

I'm embarrassed to admit that there's another element of the day known as "Black Friday" that I haven't given much thought to:  the store employees.  This morning, as I was going through the blogs that I read on my Google Reader (I'm way behind with over 800 to read!), I ran across this commentary on the day.  As someone in retail, Vivienne points out that stores opened early, early on Black Friday - as early as 10:00 p.m. on Thursday.  Not only that, employees had to arrive before the store opened to get ready for the sale.  Add time for commuting, time getting ready for work, and to get enough sleep in order to be able to function on the job.  In order to accomplish all of this, she points out that bedtime needed to be at 2:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day!  As bad as that is, other stores opened as early as 9:00 p.m. this year so those employees really didn't have a Thanksgiving holiday.  

I read another blogger defending Black Friday as an opportunity for less fortunate individuals to purchase much needed items like socks and jeans at a more affordable price.  However, nothing prevents the stores from offering special sales at another time, allowing a more sane holiday weekend.  And we can have a say in this madness.  What if they threw a sale and nobody came?  

I'm especially addressing people of faith who should be the most vocal on this subject.  I hear people lament how terrible it is that employees are forced to work on holidays, Sundays, etc., yet have no problem frequenting the very places that are open on those days.  It's simply a case of supply and demand:   If we stopped shopping on those days, the stores and restaurants would not be open.  So maybe we should extend the Buy Nothing Day spirit into the rest of the year and refrain from shopping and eating out on days when everyone, by our own admission, should be home with their families.

(Photo source:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Am Thankful

fall vegitables

As I celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I am reminded of all the things I have to be thankful for.  Here are ten things:

I am thankful for my husband who is also my best friend.
I am thankful for my two beautiful children who have grown into loving, caring, amazing adults.
I am thankful to have been born into a culture where I am free to worship in my own way.
I am thankful to have all of my material needs supplied:  water, food, clothing, shelter.
I am thankful to have all of my luxuries supplied.
I am thankful to be a small part of Danita's Children, working to help orphans in Haiti.
I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to receive an education.
I am thankful for good health.
I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel which has expanded my worldview.
I am thankful for all the animals that have been a part of my life and show me unconditional love.

These represent just a fraction of the many blessings that have been bestowed on me.

Wishing all my American readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!

(Photo source:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wellness Wednesday


Being grateful is good for you.  It not only makes you feel better, it serves as a stress reducer.  And we all know what stress does to our health.  Go here to read more about what mental health experts have to say about gratitude.  Then, despite what difficulties you may be going through, take a few minutes every day to remember what you have to be grateful for.

(Photo source:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

That Time of Year

Red deer

This is one time of year that I really dread.  No, it's not the rampant consumerism of the season (although that does bother me, a lot).  It's hunting season.  That means men and boys (and sometimes women) in camouflage clothing, vehicles - everything - invading the quiet corners of the country.  Regular readers will remember that I wrote about the whole phenomena here.

Many of these people have no respect for private property.  They feel that when they see wide open spaces, they're entitled to hunt there (despite there being laws to the contrary).  We who live in the country are forced to wear a color called "blaze orange" on our own farms in order to not get shot at.  

Last year, my husband was in the woods behind our house, minding his own business, when a hunter took a shot in his direction.  As he ran out of the woods, yelling at the careless hunter, the man jumped in his truck and took off.  I hope that this hunter was so shaken up by the possibility that he could have killed someone that he no longer hunts like that.  Not long ago, my husband talked to a fellow goat farmer who told him that he and his wife have actually been shot SEVERAL times during past hunting seasons!  So this poor man wears blaze orange, even when he's inside during this time of year.  

And don't even get me started on the hunters who use dogs to hunt.  Jack, my little beagle/basset hound mix who passed away almost two years ago, was a former hunting dog.  He was abandoned to fend for himself because he didn't live up to hunting expectations. (We're glad he became a part of our family, though.)  Even many of the dogs who do perform well are ill-treated.  They're not fed enough food so they're "hungry" when they hunt.  Recently, two local hunting dogs attacked our chickens, killing several and maiming others that were so bad off that my husband had to euthanize them. All for sport.  Most of these dogs are beagles who do not naturally attack chickens or other livestock.  It's just that they were so hungry that they were desperate.  Just so their owners can use them to hunt deer.  And most of these hunters don't even want the meat; they want the antlers as trophies.

I suppose I'll just grin and bear it - and try to avoid getting shot.  On several occasions I have told my husband that I'd like to follow one of these hunters home to the city one day and then sit in front of his house with a loaded rifle in my lap.  I wonder how he'd feel about that.

(Photo source:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Waste-basket... 3

I feel a pang of guilt every time I use my trash can at home (or anywhere, for that matter).  As I drop something into the container, I think about how wasteful our culture is.  Each item I discard represents something that was once of value but is now worthless and will join the millions and billions of other useless items that have been used up.  Each item often represents finite resources that are being used up for our convenience, not always out of necessity. 

I recently had a conversation with someone who had briefly done some missionary work in Russia a few years ago.  She told me how shocking (to her and the rest of her group) it was that the Russian women they came in contact with had never seen nor heard of paper plates.  Her group supplied them with some disposable goods and they discovered the women were washing them!  The American reaction to this was to tell them to stop doing it and to just throw everything away.  

At this point, I tried to keep my jaw from dropping to the ground as I thought, what is wrong with washing reusable plates and why are we (Americans) introducing such an unsustainable practice to this culture?  People in poverty do not need to get into the habit of disposables.  While it may be good for the companies that manufacture such goods, it is certainly bad for the Russian (and other) people.  When it is a struggle to feed the children (this was in an orphanage), how on earth are they to find the resources to pay for disposable goods?  And once the plates, cups, and utensils are used, where will they go?  Who will pay for the expanded infrastructure to handle the extra garbage that will be generated?

As I close the cabinet door where I keep my kitchen trash can, so many more questions and feelings come to the surface.  Why has our world come to this?  Why has it become the norm to have so much trash?  Why don't we think about where it all goes?  Why aren't more of us thinking about alternatives?  Call me crazy, but it seems there has got to be a better way to do life.

(Photo source:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quote for the Day

15 August 1917 – 24 March 1980
"Peace is not the product of terror or fear.  Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.  Peace is not the silent result of repression.  Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.  Peace is dynamism.  Peace is generosity.  It is right and it is duty."

~Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador
Martyred in 1980

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slavery and a Phone App

In follow up to yesterday's post about modern day slavery, I want to share with you a phone app for smart phones that allows users to be conscious consumers.  The app is Free2Work.  Users scan bar codes and are then provided with information on that particular product.  Companies receive grades from A to F based on their efforts to prevent and address child slavery.  If you have a smart phone, I highly recommend you download and begin using this app.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Modern Day Slavery Part II

Coffee - Expresso 1

A few weeks ago my husband and I attended a viewing of a film called Sex+Money.  It is a documentary about the sexual exploitation of children in the United States.  The group that made the film had also traveled the world and put together a book about human trafficking in general.  The church that hosted this event has a ministry called Abolition! Ministry which works to bring awareness to the fact that there are over 27 million modern-day slaves in the world and 80% of them are women and children.

In addition to working in the sex trade, many of these individuals work in sweatshops and plantations, unwillingly giving their health and their lives to produce products that make our lives easier.  Things like coffee, tea, and chocolate are products that are often produced by these slaves, many of them children.  Much of the clothing we wear in the United States also comes out of these conditions.  

If we heard that a neighboring community was enslaving children to produce our consumer goods, we would be outraged.  We would refuse to buy those products and would fight to put an end to the cruelty.  Yet every day, in far away places, that exact situation exists and we aren't doing anything about it.  I used to hear about "fair trade" products and thought that it would be nice if I could buy it but they don't carry those items in the stores where I live, blah, blah, blah.  However, now that the proverbial curtain has been pulled back, I must do something about it.  Many of those items that are produced are luxuries - we don't need tea, coffee, chocolate, the latest name it.  By refusing to purchase those items unless they are fair trade means helping to free those slaves.  

To get you started, go to Sweatshop Hall of Shame to find out about companies that employ slaves.  Learn about coffee and chocolate (and vanilla and sugar) here and here.  Then go to the Fair Trade Federation's web site to learn about fair trade.

And I'll leave you with the following facts on annual salaries for the coffee industry in 2000:  
Child slave:  $0 
CEO of Philip Morris (owner of Maxwell House):  $45,000,000 plus $71,000,000 in unexercised stock options

(Photo source:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

There might be help for migraine sufferers who dislike taking medication.  A recent study compared three treatments for migraines:  medication, physical exercise, and relaxation exercises.  Comparable improvement was seen in all three groups, meaning regular physical exercise could be a viable treatment for individuals who get migraines.  Read more here.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Editing

Percha 5
It's that time of year when I get the urge to go through my things and edit out what is no longer necessary and in the way.  I think what motivates me is bringing out my fall/winter clothes from storage in the attic and putting away my spring/summer ones.  Although I don't own a lot of clothes (one full season fits in a small portable wardrobe), I still notice clothing I haven't worn or an overabundance of similar items.  

Over the next month or so, I'm going to take stock of my possessions - both personal and household - and decide which items are just taking up space and donate or discard them.  This past spring, I used a great trick with my clothing to see what I don't wear.  I turned all of the hangers backwards and, as I wore items, turned the hanger around.  That way, last week when I went to move my clothes, I saw what I hadn't worn this year.  Upon spotting backwards hangers, I immediately pulled those items out of the closet and placed them in a "to donate" bag that I will be taking to our local thrift shop.

Right now I'm focusing on editing my clothes and am trying to make decisions on each category of clothing.  For example, with jeans I need to determine how many pair I truly need and stick to that number.  Having more than you need leads to both physical and mental clutter.  A packed closet reminds me of the saying that you can't see the forest for the trees.  Having a closet full of clothing that is mostly not worn makes it easy to overlook the items that are actually worn.   Removing all but the items you wear cuts down on frustration and makes it easier to get dressed in the morning.  It also makes you keep up with doing the laundry, something else that can cause mental clutter when it starts to pile up. 

As Thoreau said, "Simplify, simplify, simplify."

(Photo source:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Quote for the Day

Sun Rise
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
~John Muir

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Modern Day Slavery

Lock ?

Yes, it does exist.  Around the world, thousands upon thousands of individuals labor in actual slavery in order to give the western world its modern conveniences.  More on that later.  In the meantime, go to to find out your involvement in this issue.  Take the quiz. It may shock you to find out how many modern day slaves it takes to make the things we enjoy in our everyday lives.

(Photo source:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

Cup of tea with lemon

High cholesterol is a hot topic nowadays.  So many people are on prescription drugs to counter this health problem.  However, according to an an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers have discovered that drinking green tea (or taking an extract) can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.  With fall upon us in the northern hemisphere, it is a perfect time to curl up with a steaming cup of green tea.

Source:  Taste for Life Magazine (2011, October).  Lifestyles Ink:  Keene, NH.
(Photo credit:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quote for the Day

“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” 
~ Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to Be a Barbie

Below is a photo from O Magazine.  It's a picture of Katie Halchishick, a founder of the blog Healthy Is The New Skinny.  The dotted lines on her represent areas of her face and body that would need to be removed in order to look like Barbie.  
Barbie vs reality: via Healthy Is The New Skinny:
“This is Katie Halchishick, one of the founders of the blog Healthy Is The New Skinny. She was photographed for the November issue of O magazine covered in the dotted lines that would be made by a plastic surgeon prior to cosmetic surgery. She’s clutching a Barbie doll and the lines on her nude flesh — the first time O has featured a nude model — indicate what she would have to have cut away in order to have Barbie’s figure.”

(Photo source:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

From the October 2011 issue of Taste for Life magazine:

Overall Healthy May Determine Dementia Risk
Improving and maintaining aspects of health not usually associated with dementia may lower a person's risk for developing the condition.  A 10-year study evaluated more than 7,000 adults ages 65 or older who were free of dementia at the start of the program.  Participants were asked about health problems including trouble hearing or seeing, chest or skin problems, stomach or bladder troubles, and feet or ankle conditions.  Older adults with none of these problems at the start of the study had an 18 percent chance of developing dementia within 10 years.  The risk for dementia increased to 30 percent for those who had 8 of the health problems, and to 40 percent for those who had 12.  Researchers determined that 19 seemingly unrelated factors such as arthritis, denture fit, sinus issues, and broken bones appeared to increase the likelihood of developing dementia.

"Our study suggests that rather than just paying attention to already known risk factors for dementia, such as diabetes or heart disease, keeping up with your general health may help reduce the risk," said study author Kenneth Rockwood, MD.