Life Circumstances and the Call to Live Sustainably

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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto
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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto

After six long months of wedding planning, my husband and I are finally married. We said “I do,” danced as a married couple, and cut the cake. And just like that it was over. The whole experience was beautiful and redeeming. In hindsight, I would have much rather eloped in the english countryside and had an intimate and woodsy reception afterwards. Yet afternoon tea, bunting flags and whimsical calligraphy table numbers tied the rustic/vintage theme together nicely; certainly nothing to scoff at. The only thing we kept telling ourselves was, “We’ll be married and that’s all that matters.” In the end, we got some pretty pictures and I enjoyed walking around in that adored Jenny Yoo dress.

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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto

Planning a wedding yourself and without the help of a wedding coordinator means having very little time to engage in the activities you are passionate about. And for me that includes writing. So that is my excuse for my 6 month hiatus and I must say it is a pretty good one. If you think of something better, let me know.

I actually thought a lot about food in the months leading up to our wedding. Mostly because that period of time was the worst I think I had ever eaten in my life. I was in limbo, stuck between two lives. I lived with my parents but I also spent a lot of time with my husband. I found it very difficult buying groceries for one so I was at the mercy of whatever my parents had to eat or whatever my husband had to eat (which consequently wasn’t very much). I often found myself going through Starbucks in the morning, drinking copious amounts of coffee and by the afternoon if I didn’t pack a lunch, I was forced to buy fast food. For dinner, it was a last minute scramble to the grocery store. Do I pick up something pre made or fix up something quick and easy? As someone who aspires live the agrarian lifestyle to its fullest, this was a very difficult time for me. But it was my reality.

Things are much smoother now that we’re married. We actually have food in the house and we eat out far less often. It sustained me knowing there would be an end to the sporadic eating patterns I found myself in. If there wasn’t an end in sight I know I would have to change things – and fast. But now that we’re settling in, I’m finding what it means to be content. We don’t have a garden yet, but we will get to it next year. We’ve all gone vegan or vegetarian only to come right back to normalcy months later. We all know what it’s like to fail to live up to the call to live in harmony with the planet. Things happen. Life happens.

From now on, I’m not going to be led by the influence of others. I’m going to do what feels right for me and for our family. I’m going to work up to that agrarian lifestyle, instead of jumping headfirst into something that could collapse later. I’m going to live expectantly but realistically at the same time.

The key to living sustainably is a gradual change in lifestyle, just like anything else. I’m not saying total sustainability is unattainable for the average american household, but it must be approached slowly and steadily, with trial and error, and with much sacrifice in order to make this way of life stick.

Recognize where you’re at in your walk of life, but never let it limit you from reaching your potential.

– Adele

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Total Wellness | Feel Good Food For Your Body and the Planet

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I’m currently sitting at my desk with pen and paper. No screen in front of my face with pop up adds or tabs to switch through. No distractions; the way writing should be. I could tell you that I had some sort of enlightenment but that would be lying. My MacBook power cord has been sparking every time I plug it into the socket. So due to the apparent fire hazard and the fact that my computer is dead, I must take to this more backward method.

I haven’t done much blogging work lately I guess you could say. I’ve been off instagram, pretty much all forms of social media – it’s nice. I’ve been spending time with friends and family and doing a lot of planning for the wedding! Most of all, I’ve been focusing on exercising more, doing yoga, and transitioning to a more plant-based diet. The reason, although very compelling, is not to get in better shape for the wedding. I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person, so this would just be taking it to the next level – for my body and for the wellbeing of the planet.

I love to watch documentaries on Netflix; particularly those that have to do with the food we eat. And since I’ve seen Food Inc. about 10 times, I thought it was time to find something different. I found a couple that were good and you can find these on Netflix! Vegucation and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Vegucation follows three New Yorkers that decide to go Vegan and why going vegan is so important for our bodies and the planet. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead follows a man named Joe Cross who nursed himself back to health from obesity and a debilitating autoimmune disease by juicing using only fruits and vegetables. Both are compelling and both have two common themes. They advocate for a plant based diet and they both show a lifestyle that goes totally against the grain (no pun intended) of where our food system is currently taking us.

I am absolutely floored when I hear of juicing or a plant based diet come under such scrutiny. Yet too often crazy diet fads and weight loss pills take center stage. No one is complaining about those. Okay maybe some people are, but these unnatural methods touting health benefits often comes up wanting.

Enough is enough. We’ve tried everything else, it’s time to get back to the basics. Fruits and vegetables is where it’s at – and that’s just the beginning to being on a healthy path for the rest of your life! Is meat, cheese, and dairy good for you? Sure! In moderation. The problem with that is for most people it’s the opposite. We eat more meat, cheese, and dairy and we eat fruits and vegetables in moderation. Fruits and vegetables are the real deal! Nutrition straight from the earth. You can’t get more wholistic than that!

A plant based diet isn’t what we typically think of as a diet. It’s a change of lifestyle. You are reorienting your tastebuds, expanding your palette, and changing your habits. Whether you decide to go all plant based (vegan) or mostly plant based, your body will thank you for it either way. For example, the purpose of a juice cleanse is not so you have to drink only liquids the rest of your life, it’s to give the body a boost and the motivation it really needs to get healthy and start craving the right kinds of foods.

I used to think going vegan was kind of unnecessary. Meat holds an essential building block to our health – protein. And as long as you eat locally sourced meat and not fast food it’s okay. There are a whole host of repercussions, some seen and some not seen, when we pick up that ground beef from the store. I don’t think I’m ready to go completely vegan, but I would like to gravitate toward a predominately plant based diet. It’s silly to think meat is my only source of protein when there are so many other alternatives out there.

I’m starting on a path to total wellness and I encourage you to do the same! If nothing else so you feel better and live a happy life! Have any of you tried going vegan or have done a juice cleanse? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Adele

Embracing Seasonality & The Flavors of Winter

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Growing up, I was unaware of the complex workings of our food system. I had no idea that oranges were an unnatural thing to see in the supermarket in the dead of winter. And that tomatoes were prematurely ripened so they could look like a tomato and trucked thousands of miles to end up on our shelves. I grew up eating strawberries in the middle of winter, unaware of the consequences. How could I have known any better? After all, no one told me this. It wasn’t until my college education that I began to question the “normalcies” of our food system.

If you strive like I do to eat seasonally, then I know you can relate to the feeling of pure torture as you walk through the produce section of the store. It’s all laid out, as in a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I crave the flavors of spring and wonder when we’re going to get out of this winter. It’s one hard pill to swallow when you realize you can easily reach for that $5 container of blueberries (ouch!) but your conscience wouldn’t allow it.

But as I delve more into the food culture, I find myself craving winter root vegetables. Maybe it’s my body trying find peace with the natural earth… or maybe because roasted acorn squash is incredibly delicious (I’m thinking it’s the latter ;)! The truth is there is a delightful array of options available to us during our winter hibernation. Of course nothing grows in the winter, but we can eat vegetables and fruits from the fall all thanks to modern storage methods. Even limiting your grocery trip to seasonal produce can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. (<< this is a wonderful article on carbon footprints on the Economist. It even talks about carbon footprint labeling. It’s worth a read!) Even better, subscribe to a CSA and you can reap the benefits of a local farmer’s fall harvest (more on CSAs later)!

Acorn squash is my favorite root vegetable by far! With a tough skin, it’s harder to cut but the work is well worth it! All you have to do is roast it and it is perfection! Butternut is the sister squash and it’s perfect to use as a soup. Any other vegetable like carrots, leaks, onions, and potatoes will do. Winter and fall fruits would include apples, grapes, and even certain varieties of raspberries and strawberries! If you’re looking to create a delicious winter salad, try kale, collard greens, or spinach. Kale is my personal favorite. And, if you’re looking for a different take on kale you can try kale chips – delicious and nutritious.

Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take some willpower. It becomes easier after a while and you might even find yourself starting to crave these foods! When we eat in balance with the seasons, we lessen our environmental impact. And yes in kind of a hokey way, we’re more in balance with the earth’s natural patterns. It makes us healthier, happier individuals.

Roasted Acorn Squash

– preheat oven to 350

– cut the squash into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet

– drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper

– bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft

Kale Chips

– preheat oven to 300

– arrange chip-size pieces of kale on a baking sheet (removing any stems)

– drizzle with olive oil and salt

– bake for 30 minutes or until crispy

A Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

For the past couple of years we have had what seems like an endless store of deer meat. My Fiancé got a deer a few years back and although I’ve tried to use it up any way I can, we still have a lot left over. This is a wonderful predicament to be in because it means I don’t have to buy meat from the grocery store. There is a veil between us and how our food is prepared and once that veil was lifted from my eyes, I was disgusted. Meat is by far one of the worst of the food industry – wreaking havoc on human health and the environment. If I can find a way around the system, I’m all for it.

Hunting for meat is wholesome and natural. It’s what people had to do in order to survive the winter. Now we don’t have to work for our food anymore. It is practically handed to us in the form of fast food and factory farms that make food production a science. I wish I could say I live a truly minimal lifestyle, only living off the land. But deer meat is one item I can say is nice to have loads of in the freezer at my disposal. If the apocalypse happened, we would be set (with meat anyway).

Deer meat is kind of a mixed bag for most people. Some like it, some don’t, and some are afraid to try it. I’m sure deer meat is the least of our worries with all the other exotic meats out there. Nevertheless, I want to ease your fears and show you a great way to use it – in chili. If you cook deer meat in something like chili or in a sauce it loses its gaminess and tastes (in my opinion) just like ground beef. You won’t be able to tell the difference. I created a basic crockpot chili recipe that is hearty and flavorful. It’s a good base to start with so if you like a little kick (which I don’t) you can certainly add more spices and even some hot sauce!

It’s nice if you have a handsome fiancé like I do to go out and catch you a deer! But what if you don’t have that? What are your options? Find a local farm or store where they carry local meat. If you live in Lancaster Ohio, Bay Food Market is a family owned business that processes meat themselves that they get from local farms in the area (be on the lookout for a story on them in the near future). To find a farm in your area, check out Eat Wild. As a last resort if you must buy meat from the grocery store, buy organic and free range meat. But since these organic companies are so big, you can’t be one hundred percent sure they are following all the guidelines. Loop holes, unfortunately, are common in the organic food system. The best situation is when you can visit the farm to see how your food is being prepared. You develop a relationship with the farmer. There’s nothing better for our health and for the environment than true pastoralism.

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Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

Ingredients:

2 pounds of ground deer meat (or meat of your choice)

1 medium sweet onion

2 cups diced green peppers

2 cans organic diced tomatoes

1 can organic black beans

1 can organic kidney beans

1 can organic tomato paste

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add the meat, onion, green pepper, and salt and pepper to a large skillet and begin to brown the meat. Meanwhile, put the remaining ingredients in the crockpot. Add to that the browned ground meat and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Enjoy!

Farm Fresh Eggs | Why Local is Better

If you know anything about me, you know that I love to cook. It wasn’t always that way though. My priorities have shifted over the years. I am newly engaged and soon I will have a family of mouths to feed. In all my recipe developing and food photography that I do so meticulously, I realized I had left out a critical component – one that was part and parcel to earning my degree. I became consciously aware that I was using ingredients in my cooking that were not local or seasonal. If there’s any environmental issue I am most passionate about, it’s the local food movement and sustainable agriculture. Somehow we’ve become so disconnected with our food, and we don’t know how to get back. The reality is wholesome and sustainable food is out there, you just need to know where to look. I want to show the average american how they can live off the land – whether they do it themselves through gardening or raising chickens, or whether they are supporting local farmers by subscribing to a CSA (community supported agriculture) or going to a farmers market.

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The first and easiest change I made was buying local eggs. It took me a while to find a steady provider, but once I did, I have never gone back to store bought eggs. The owners of the flower shop I work at raise chickens and they sell them at 2.50 a dozen. The eggs are brown and they vary in size. In contrast, the eggs you buy from the store are white and they are uniform in size. We are given this notion that these are farm fresh eggs, that white and uniform is a sign of purity, and with packaging that reminds us of the agrarian days. The reality is chickens that are so confined during their short lives that their bones and muscles deteriorate, effectively disabling them.

In contrast, I can visit these free roaming chickens who are providing me with eggs. I can walk out and feed them, give them water, etc. And then I can have my omelet or scrambled eggs and feel good about it. The yolk is much more yellow and rich in color – and it tastes better too! In the documentary Farmageddon, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms talks about how this connection to our food should be romantic. And there is a certain romance to it when we can go to the farm, talk to the farmer, and see the animals that are to be consumed. It’s beautiful.

The choice is yours whether you want to go farm fresh or not. For me, even though 2.50 a dozen is more than what I would pay at the grocery store, I like that my dollars are going towards a local farmer or someone who simply raises chickens. And, I like that my dollars aren’t going towards factory farms and multinational companies. Local Harvest is a great website where you can find farms near you or subscribe to a CSA. I would also try asking around in your community to see who sells eggs in your area.

What are your experiences buying local? Do you have a local favorite? Comment below!

A Life Update | 2015

Christmas is over and the lights are being taken down, the tree disassembled, and all my hanging wreaths get the greens pulled out and the frames put in storage, waiting patiently for next year. As I wait for the Christmas sugar rush to subside and emerge out of my food coma, I am amazed at how quickly time passes. You have to buy presents, decorate, bake cookies, and in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s all over. Even so, I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love and that you gathered with the ones closest to you.

I struggled as I thought about how I was going to begin the new year with blogging. I had all this inspiration from fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas that there seemed nothing comparable. I don’t even do new years resolutions (why do we set goals only once a year? We should be doing that all the time). And then something much more pressing came up. I got ENGAGED!!! My fiancé, who said he would never propose on Christmas day, did it on the impulse of the moment. It was perfect and unexpected (notice my nail polish chipping, but I don’t care)!

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So now I have this large and looming WEDDING in front of me that I need to plan. I’m so excited and nervous! For those of you who know my style, I’m going for outdoors and simple. I want it to be perfectly “us,” but like most other things in life, perfect is hard to come by. So it is what it is. We’ll be married and that’s all that matters! I would like to share the journey of planning with you, as much as I can.

As I look ahead to 2015, I’ve decided to take my blog in a little bit different direction. I have a desire to use my degree in Environmental Studies. Not because I feel I have to, but because I want this blog to help people. You will still see an overall theme of slow living and simplicity but with a new twist.

I am particularly passionate about food sustainability and knowing where our food is coming from. Healthy eating emerges from this, but it’s more about our rights to clean and safe food. If you would like to read more of my thoughts on this matter, you can go to one of my previous posts.

Slow living still plays a part in this because we want to slow down enough that we can say with assurance where this food came from. We need to make an effort to be more connected to our environment and the delicate balance of the food chain. Whether I am in the kitchen, tending to the garden, or at the supermarket, I want to show you how you can make sustainable choices in your everyday life. It’s easy and hard all at the same time; but it can be done. I also want to arm you with knowledge, being that knowledge is power. Then, you can come to your own conclusion based on the facts.

I am so excited for what 2015 has in store! I’m not a fan of resolutions but change is enough to liven things up! What about you? What things are you looking forward to in this new year?

A Thanksgiving Gathering: Eat Local, Eat Sustainable, Eat Mindful

For those of you who are following along with my blog, you will know that I do a lot of cooking. I find it’s relaxing and connects me to the root of our hunger. Last night my boyfriend Andrew and I were flipping through Netflix. After what seemed like a lifetime of searching for the perfect movie, we settled on a documentary: GMO OMG. A concerned father, Jeremy Seifert, goes on the search for answers to Genetically Modified Organisms. He tells his two boys to put on their “GMO goggles” so they can spot perpetrators. Teaching his kids to be aware, Seifert finds out the problem is much more pervasive than people think. In short, Genetically Modified Organisms are seeds that have been genetically altered to allow plants to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides so weeds and bugs are killed but not the plant itself. Seems great right? Not so fast! Check out this link to learn more about GMOs.

This is not the first documentary done on this issue. Food Inc. is a popular documentary and one of my favorites. And there are many others to delve into the subject. As I watched, the spark of environmentalism was lit in me once again. I have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geography and have since pursued my real passion which is writing. But I was compelled and I was angry. I was ready to march on Washington!

Of all the environmental issues out there, food safety is what I’m most passionate about. I realized I had left a critical component out in all my cooking and baking. (Or maybe it’s because I was running so far away from my degree that I wanted to forget it) But I can’t remain blind to the obvious pitfalls of our modern food system. Food and water are most critical to human life. Shouldn’t we care about what we’re putting in our bodies? If anything else, isn’t it a violation of our rights to be genetically altering seeds without our knowledge and with no labeling?

The problem doesn’t just end with the chicken or the cow. Just because you buy local meat or eggs doesn’t mean that animal wasn’t fed GMO corn. And if they are fed GMO corn are they really “all natural??” And that’s where it gets complicated. So it seems you have to go back to the seed. And even that seems excessive. But why?! Why are we remaining silent on our most critical need? I believe we need to push for answers and find out what’s really in our food instead of following the food system blindly. It’s our right and we have to start exercising it.

Okay, I’m off my pulpit now. All this to say, I want to make truly sustainable food a component to my cooking. (And I want to start utilizing this degree somewhat ;)) This Thanksgiving I implore you to dig a little deeper into where your food is coming from. If you’re buying locally sourced meat, ask them, “Are your animals fed with GMO corn?” We have a right to know. If for the sheer novelty of it. People might look at you weird and they might think you’re crazy. You can just say, “I’m doing this for my health, and my sanity.”

I don’t know how to tackle the GMO issue in my shopping just yet. Just like I said earlier, it’s a very pervasive issue that permeates almost the entire food system. It seems I will have to dig a little deeper and get back to you. But GMO aside, I can give you some tips for a more sustainable turkey day!

Buy Local

Where are you getting your bird from? The supermarket (where who knows how they were treated – just watch Food Inc.), or the local farm that raises and slaughters the free range turkeys right there? If you’re in doubt of where to look, check out Eat Wild. Just click on your state, and they have a list of grass fed farms. Find one near you and go talk to the butcher – it’s our most basic right to know where our food is coming from.

Buy In Season

This one is simple but hard all at the same time. We live in a world where we can go to the supermarket and get an orange or some berries right in the middle of winter! But those fruits had to be transported to your area from somewhere where they will actually grow. Do yourself and the planet a service and eat seasonally. Just because they provide you with oranges doesn’t mean you have to eat them (and trust me, you can survive without oranges over the winter). Expand your palette and eat winter and fall fruits and vegetables! You’ll be a connoisseur in no time!

Buy Organic

This one is really up to you because I think the innocence of organic has been polluted. When you go to the store and you see something labeled “organic” or “all-natural,” can you really be sure it is organic? You would have to go back to the source to find out. So to me it’s really about the label – and money. So if it eases your conscience to buy organic, go ahead! If it eases your wallet not to buy organic, I’m not going to get mad at you. The jury is still out on this one in my book.

I sincerely hope that we all dig a little deeper and find out where our food is coming from. Not just for Thanksgiving, but any time of the year. As I keep saying over and over, we have a right to healthy, safe, and sustainable food.

If you want to know more about the documentary, you can view their website here.

If you have any thoughts or comments on these issues I’d love to hear from you! What are you doing for a sustainable turkey day?