Maximizing Your Tiny Kitchen

Hello blogging world! So sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I promise it’s a good excuse….

My boyfriend and I recently moved across the country, leaving our quaint and cozy hometown of St. Charles, Illinois to live life on the west coast in Seattle, Washington! It’s a BIG change, and we’ve been busy with the move and adjusting to our new lives. We’ve managed to find a charming studio apartment that we both fell in love with: historic building with old-world character, new and modern appliances, lofty ceilings, and lots of natural light. There is just a teeny downside….it’s 325 square feet of space.

I suppose living in a small studio apartment isn’t really a downside, it just creates challenges when it comes to storing all the stuff we’ve brought along for the move, especially when it comes to the kitchen storage. Tom and I both like to cook, so we have plenty of appliances, pots/pans, etc. Fitting it into a small kitchen space has made us come up with creative storing methods which just sets us up for our eventually tiny home!

If you’re living in a tiny apartment, which I feel many millennial living in urban areas are, here are a few ways to maximize your space in your kitchen.

Purge your Kitchen

A lot of maximizing a tiny kitchen is deciding what items you need and what items you can make do without. Do you really need three cutting boards? How about that electric can opener? Sure, it’s nice to have a avocado slicer, but is that really necessary? Go through each of your kitchen items to see what is valuable and essential to your cooking lifestyle.

Open Shelving

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Image via Bloglovin’

Opening shelving in leu of cabinets can open up a space and make it feel larger than it actually is. Just remember to keep things neat and tidy or else it defeats the purpose. Display your pretty plates or fancy serving bowls on open shelves to create visual interest while still being practical.

Hanging Storage

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Instead of shoving your pots and pans into drawers, display them by hanging them on the wall. You can arrange them eclectically or create a more efficient and organized look with wall units such as this one from IKEA.

Kitchen Cart

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Need more workspace? If you have the room, repurposing a small chest into a tiny kitchen island provides not only more storage in the drawers, but valuable countertop space as well. Here is the link to DIY.

Side Shelving

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Image via diyandmag.com

Aside from wall shelves, you can add shelving to the sides of your end cabinets to maximize on space.

Get Creative with your Food Storage

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Image via mimiscraftyworld.blogspot.co.uk

Root vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, and garlic, do not need refrigerating and instead can be stored in a cool, dark space. If you have extra cabinet space, you can use file storage to organize your vegetables while still having additional room for cutting boards.

 

 

7 Ways to Celebrate Mabon (Autumn Equinox)

It’s that time of year again when the leaves start transitioning from green to warm tones of red and gold. There’s a nip in the wind, as the temperature begins it’s slow decline. Around the 21st to the 23rd of September marks the Autumn Equinox, otherwise known as Fall. This is the midpoint between the Summer and Winter Solstices. For pagan, the Autumn Equinox was celebrated with the festival of Mabon. It was known as the second harvest, as the remaining crops were being stored for the upcoming winter. This was a time of giving thanks for the blessings and abundances, such as a successful yield.

Today, modern pagans still celebrate the festival of Mabon, either collectively or solely. If you are looking to partake in this ancient festival of blessings and thanks, here are 7 ways you can celebrate for yourself.

Do some Charity Work/Volunteer

As Mabon is a festival of giving thanks, it only seems appropriate that one take this opportunity to do acts of kindness and gratitude, helping those less fortunate then themselves. There are many ways you can donate your time/service to those in need, from Food Drives to cleaning up the parks.

Go Apple Picking

For pagans, apples are a perfect symbol of fall. They connect to magic and wisdom, and symbolize the guidance for the winter months ahead. They are associated with the Pomona, goddess of the fruit trees.  Honor Pomona or give thanks for the season by making a tasty apple pie, hot cider, or using them for divination purposes.

Drink some Wine

Autumn was a time associated with the harvest of grapes and wine. Many cultures had their version of ‘god of the vine’, and would honor them during the fall celebrations. Go to a vineyard, wine tasting, or just enjoy a glass in the comfort of your home. Incorporate wine into an altar ritual, as wine symbolizes fertility and the glass represents the chalice (or cup) used in pagan ceremonies.

Create an Altar

Change up your altar to incorporate the fall energies. Place acorns, grape leaves, apples, or other autumn crops on your altar. Colors associated with the season are warm reds, oranges, and golds. Use scents such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Add crystals such as smoky quartz, amber, or black tourmaline.

Go for a Walk in Nature

Pagan festivals often are connect to nature, either through a deity or simply based on the time of year and season. Talk a walk through a forest or prairie and admire the changing scenery and to reconnect with the earth.

Meditate/Reflect

Fall is a season of change and transition. It symbolizes the wisdom we have gained from the growth of the previous seasons. Take this time to reflect on yourself. Notice how far you have come, and all the changes you have encountered.

Honor the ‘Dark Mother’

A strong symbol of paganism is the triple moon goddess. This icon represents the three stages of womanhood: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. The crone is the stage that is honored during the fall equinox and is connected to the goddess Demeter and Persephone. It is the symbol of the ending stages, as fall is the transition from summer to winter, and it is important to remember that the end is an essential stage of life.

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“Wheel of the Year” Watercolor and Ink, 8×10

 

 

 

Virgo – The Virgin

From August 23rd to September 23rd, the sun falls under the 6th zodiac sign, Virgo.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 8.26.34 AM.pngThe sign of Virgo is the Virgin. It is a symbol that shouldn’t be taken literally, but instead, the symbol represents the purity and modesty of this sign. Known to be a bit prudish to some, Virgos are a responsible and respectable bunch, who are neat, organized, and clean. Their gentle and caring nature is what makes this sign so pure. Often possessing big hearts, they rarely show this side, as their analytical minds protect their sweet and sensitive beings. They are known as the “service” sign of the zodiac, and you can usually find them helping others.

Mercury is the ruling planet of this sign. Known as the Roman god of communication and the mind, Virgos posses the qualities of an overactive mind and a busy bee mentality. They are constantly running around, being productive, and checking tasks off their lists. Their minds are always analyzing, focusing in on details. Being over thinkers though, Virgos are great problem-solvers, finding solutions in either practical or creative ways. Having their brains constantly working, the downside of their constant thinking is that it can lead them to become anxious and their own toughest critics, striving for perfection.

Ruled by the element of the earth, this sign is very grounded to reality. Having the characteristics of being reliable, practical, and responsible, they posses great work ethics. Their earthy nature also shows up in the fact that Virgos are very easy-going and humble. Like clay, they can mold into most situations, being the most adaptable of the earth signs.

To connect with this sign, these crystals offer the Virgo qualities:

Carnelian – Carnelian is a stone of motivation, bringing vitality and will power into one’s life. It balances the analytical mind with creativity. It helps in becoming more organized, and assists in keeping one’s mind in the present.

Peridot – Known as the stone of the healers, Peridot protects one’s aura field. It helps in breaking old patterns to rapidly bring forth new growth and change. It heals the heart and brings clarity to one’s mind.

Amazonite – This is a great stone for providing courage and assisting in communicating one’s thoughts and true feelings without being over emotional. It calms the over-active mind, bringing peace and relaxation.

 

 

 

The Sturgeon Moon – Full Moon of August

August 18th marks the full moon for the month. Known as the “Sturgeon Moon”, it gets its name from the Native American tribes who lived around the Great Lakes and would catch these fish at this time. As a spirit animal, the sturgeon represents inner wisdom, intuition, and truth. A symbol of ancestry, it shows longevity and slow continual growth. This month, you may have a new endeavor that will gradually expand in the future months to come. It may be a pursuit of learning, as the sturgeon connects to wisdom and truth.

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“Triple Goddess Moon – Lammas” Watercolor and Ink, 5×7

This month, the full moon falls into the sign of Aquarius. Aquarians are truth seekers. An air sign, their interests are in gaining knowledge and sharing what they have learned. They are a sign controlled by the mind, and are communicative, social, and analytical. While they have an easy time in social settings, they enjoy originality and freedom.

The sun is currently still in the sign of Leo. Leos are a warm-hearted and joyful bunch. Ruled by the sun and the element of fire, they have captivating personalities, are engaging and energetic. Natural born leaders, they shine in social settings, and have a tendency to enjoy being the center of attention.

Balancing the signs of the moon and sun, this month revolves around socialization. Both Aquarius and Leo are social signs. Aquarians tend to be more group oriented and act as team members, while Leos are more the ones taking charge and leading. It is a good month to be engaging in group-oriented activities, such as projects at work. You will have the logical mindset of Aquarius, with the dynamic power and motivation of Leo to make you shine in any situation! Original ideas may come flowing in, which will be helpful in these group projects. As the Sturgeon moon shows growth and longevity, these projects may last for an extended amount of time, but with these zodiac energies at play, these endeavors will start off on a great foot!

Feng Shui Your Kitchen

If you’ve been to any social gathering, then you know that it often will encompass food. From major events to Thanksgiving, to smaller occasions such as barbecues, we cook up and prepare meals in our kitchens to share with our friends and family.

Our kitchens are a great source of vital life energy for our spaces. Connecting to the lower chakras, they relate to our physical survival through food. They are also a source of connection and socialization, as food is such a major part of these events.

Having a healthy kitchen from a Feng Shui perspective is focused on strengthening a specific energy of that space through direction and the use of certain elements. This creates a good flow of energy throughout the space and can unify us more with our home.

Direction of Your Kitchen 

A good direction for a kitchen is in the South area of your home. The south direction is associated with the element of fire, and has the attributes of passion, creativity, and expression. The kitchen is where the main source of our creativity and expression takes place.  As we are creating recipes and making delicious meals, we are bringing people together through food, as many of our social gatherings often do.

If your home is not in the South direction of your home, here are some tricks to bring the energy of fire into your kitchen.

Use the Color Red

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Psychologically, the color red connects to feelings of passion and excitement. It physically increases our blood pressure, making us more energized. Since red is such an ‘in-your-face’ color, use it as an accent, such as a focal wall, or in pieces like appliances, furniture, or backsplash.

Have a Zig-Zag BackSplash

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Shapes and patterns associated with the fire element are shapes with a lot of movement, such as zig-zags, arrows, stars, triangles, and points. Bring this pattern into your kitchen with fabric on barstools or a fun backsplash. The chevron pattern is a popular trend that is perfect for the kitchen!

 

Have a Glazed Tile BackSplash

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Materials such as glazed tile invoke the fire element. They increase the flow of chi in a space, leading to an active and exciting kitchen, full of life and moving energy. Incorporate this material either in a backsplash or your floor.

Use Pendant Lights

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While lamps associate with the fire element (perfect for kitchens), specific lighting types correlate to certain energies. To strengthen the fire element in the kitchen, pendent lights are the desired light fixture.

Have Tall Upper Cabinets

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In Feng Shui, the element of Wood strengthens the element of Fire. Ways to bring in this element are through vertical lines that lead energy upward. Tall cabinets are a good way to do this. Another option is for open shelving, which still brings the energy up but creates an open feel for your kitchen.

Have a Butcher’s Block Counter

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Another way to bring in the wood element is through the use of material. A nice way to make wood a strengthening energy to your space is through a butcher’s block counter. It keeps the energy moving throughout your kitchen. It’s not too difficult to bring the material of wood into a kitchen, with flooring, cabinetry, and accessories.

Eco Your Closet- Four Ways to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

I love watching documentaries. Growing up in the age of technology and videos, documentaries are a fun way for me to learn and become more aware of the issues in our world. A few nights ago, I watched a documentary called “The True Cost”. It is a film that explores the fashion industry and the concept of ‘fast fashion’, which has turned this industry into a three trillion dollars business. While the fashion industry is booming, this film reveals the hidden side of fashion. What happens to our clothes after we wear them and discard them? How are our clothes produced? Who makes these garments? It looks at the bigger picture, showing the true cost of fashion.

I was deeply moved by this film. The documentary is eye-opening and raw. It shows the human injustice involved in making these garments, revealing that many of these items we buy so cheap are made in sweat shops by workers who may only make $10 a month. Their towns are ridden with disease caused by the chemicals used in either growing the cotton needed for these clothes, or from the off-pollution from these factories they work in. These are horrible working conditions people have to endure, and often times, they are putting their lives at risk for the sake of making $5 tees for the first world. Currently, Bangladesh is the number one country where our clothing is produced, and in 2013, due to neglected warnings, a textile factory collapsed. It killed over 1,000 people and injured over 2,000.To me, the life of another human being is far greater than the cost of a cheap pair of jeans. These people put their sweat, tears, and blood into making these clothes for us, only to have us throw them out with a matter of months due to trends, or the quality of the garment.

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Image via dailymail.co.uk

Items today are made fast and cheap due to the increased demand of the fashion industry. Instead of having only four seasons of styles and trends, we have 52, with new clothing coming out weekly in major stores such as H&M and Forever 21. Then the “out-dated” clothing gets thrown into landfills in third world countries, decomposing at incredibly slow rates and producing off-gases, such as methane, in the process. These gasses affect our atmosphere, helping contribute to ‘The Green House Effect’. This is not the only environmental issue of fast fashion. Polluted water, degradation of soil, and deforestation are all issues that are increased by this industry.

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Image via weardonaterecycle.org

So what can we do as consumers? Here are four ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable:

Become an Activist First, and a Consumer Second

We live in a Capitalist Society. It revolves around buying and spending. It is our money though, and we can be smart about how we spend it. We need to look at the bigger picture when we purchase our clothes. Where is this coming from? Who makes it? What is the damage done to the environment through making this item?

Just like food, clothing has labels. We can see what our clothing is made of and where it comes from. 97% of our garments are made outside the United States in low-wage countries such as Cambodia and Bangladesh. As I had stated, these countries provide horrible conditions for these workers, and big name brands will source these places due to the low costs they have to pay to get these items produced.

There are companies though that are Fair Trade and are environmentally responsible. You may be paying $20 for a tee shirt instead of $5, but this is because it is providing garment workers with fair wages for their work. Here are 35 clothing brands that you can feel good about shopping at.

Shop at Thift Stores and Resale Shops

I rarely purchase clothing, but when I do, it is always at a resale shop. Getting past the stigma of ‘only poor people shop at Goodwill’, you can discover a wonder of treasures at resale shops. I have walked away with multiple designer and name brands and spent less than $20 on my outing.

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Sporting my fun shirt that only cost $1 at a rummage sale.

Shopping at resale shops elongates the life of these clothes so they don’t end up in a landfill. You never know what you will find at these stores, which is half of the fun in my book! I’ve discovered articles of clothing that I wear on a constant basis and get tons of compliments on. No one will even know it is from a resale shop, unless you’re me and love bragging about the good deals I come across!

Buy Less

Whoa, someone born into the Capitalist society is suggesting that we buy less?! Excuse my sarcasm, but yes. We are a society that is so fixated on buying stuff we don’t need with money that we don’t have. It is no wonder we are in debt. We are caught in this illusion that we can afford items, such as a $10 dress, so we buy it. And then we go out the next day and buy again. These costs add up when we are trapped in this cycle of buying.

I am proud to say that I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve boughten clothing within the last few years, and to be honest, I can’t even do that because I don’t remember the last time I bought something! My wardrobe has been virtually untouched, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not creative in my outfits. I look at my closet as a fun challenge, mixing and matching garments to create a totally new look.

Build Your Wardrobe with Basics

Trends go in and out so quickly, that you’ll buy something at the start of summer only to have it go out of fashion at the end of the season. Patterns and interesting adornments, such as poofy shoulders and crop tops are super cute, but you don’t tend to get a lot of wear out of these items and they aren’t the best investment as far as clothing goes.

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One of the reasons I believe I am able to change up my wardrobe without buying new items is in the items I have bought in the past. I tend to avoid trending styles, such as wild patterns, knowing that they will go quickly out of style. Instead, I buy basic garments, such as solid tanks, cardigans, skirts, and jeans, which all have the ability to be paired with one another. If I do decide to hop on the trend wagon, I’ll get an item that isn’t such a huge investment, such as statement jewelry or a patterned scarf. Another great reason for going basic? These items tend to come back in style more frequently than crazy prints. Gaucho pants are super popular right now, and thankfully, I’ve held onto my pairs from middle school. They still fit and it save my wallet and the environment the burden of buying a new pair!

 

To learn more about the true cost of fashion, check out these websites and join the movement for a better planet!

Fashion Revolution

The True Cost

Eco-Age

And don’t forget to watch the documentary, available on Netflix.

Leo – The Lion

Leo is the fifth sign of the zodiac. From July 22nd to August 22nd, the sun is ruled by the sign of the lion.

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The symbol of Leo is the lion. Like the animal, Leo tends to rule the scene. They exude strength, dignity, and power. They are natural born leaders to like to be in charge. Other lion traits are their pride, loyalty and fearlessness. Get on their bad side and watch them roar, as they are very opinionated and do not like their power questioned.

Fire is the element of Leo. Fire elementals are typically warm, energetic, and passionate people, and Leos are no exception. Leos are bright and engaging, bringing their happy personalities wherever they go. They enjoy having fun, and partake in lots of recreational activities, usually ones that involve a team or group of people, since they are social creatures.

Leo is ruled by the Sun. As everything revolves around the sun, Leos often believe this about themselves. They like to be the center of attention and are very swept away in status. Their egos can get the better of them at times, which can come across as bossiness or vanity. Like the sun, Leos generate lots of warmth and energy. They are charming, outgoing, dynamic, and overall fun people to be around.

To connect with Leo energies, here are stones that resonate with this zodiac:

Citrine – A stone connecting to the sun’s warm energies, it brings joy, optimism, and abundance into one’s life. It enhances the creativity of Leo, and raises the self-esteem and confidence this zodiac sign possesses as well. It is a “happy” stone, removing negativity and replacing it with positive energies.

Tiger’s Eye – This sun stone connects to our Solar Plexus and lower chakras, providing motivation and willpower. It is useful for recognizing the needs of others and shows how to correctly use the power given to them.

Garnet – This stone energizes one’s aura. It brings success, providing the passion and motivation to achieve one’s dreams. It also instills love and protects from negative energies, enhancing the loving energies of Leo. A survival stone, it activates during times of trouble, allowing you to find the solution to your problems.

 

 

Crystal Pairing – Stones of the Inner Gladiator

Throughout human history, there has been a quest for power. Often, this power is in the form of kingdom and fame. Yet this is no real power. Power is the mastery of the self, finding your own personal strength, not through ruling and controlling others. It is the ego taking over, instead of letting our inner light guide us.

Finding our own personal power is sometimes a challenging quest. Who are we? What motivates and guides us? How can we find stability in the midst of chaos? Personal power connects to our lower chakras, especially the Solar Plexus. We can gain this power through knowing ourselves, mastering our own wills, and accepting ourselves entirely, perfection and flaws. It comes from ruling within.

Crystals have long been used by ancient warriors to bring them courage and power. Discover your personal power and inner gladiator with these crystals:

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Tiger’s Eye – brings integrity and the correct use of power. Increases motivation, vital energy, and self-worth. Stone of the Solar Plexus Chakra.

Bronzite – a protective stone that restores composure and promotes decisive action.

Magnetite – restores balance to self. Aligns chakras and connects to the earth and life force energy. Brings inner stability.

Shungite – heals the self, shielding from EMFs, pollution, and negative energies of all kind. Energetically recharges you.

Creating an Eco Kitchen

From a natural perspective, our food is our medicine. It is gives us energy and keeps us healthy, providing our bodies with essential nutrients we need to survive. For one who is seeking a healthy lifestyle, a kitchen should reflect just that. It is where we store, prepare, and cook our food.  Our kitchens should be a place of health, for ourselves and for our environment.

The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home. A healthy heart pumps blood to the rest of the body. Similarly, a healthy kitchen can provide a healthy attitude for the rest of your home. One form of a healthy kitchen is having one that is environmentally friendly. The connection between our health, and the health of the environment is a strong correlation. There have been numerous studies showing the benefits of how a more natural environment can reduce stress, blood pressure, and improve happiness and the overall quality of life.

A kitchen has so many functions, most of which revolve around food. Our food choices are one way we can create a more environmentally friendly kitchen, and it all has to do about how you eat!

Tips for Eco-Eating

  • Buy food with minimal plastic packaging – sometimes I wonder if it is food we are buying or hazardous material. With all the plastic packaging on some food products, it is hard to tell. Simple switches you can make are buying individual lemons rather than the plastic netted bundles, and purchasing mushrooms in cardboard packaging rather than the ones in styrofoam.
  • Buy food in bulk – getting a tub of mixed nuts instead of those portable snack packs saves on the overall plastic use and waste.
  • Buy food from local sources  – not all of our food is locally grown, often being shipped in from other countries. This creates a lot of pollution due to the transportation emissions. Buy food that is in season and local. Farmer’s Markets are a great way to cut down on these emissions and support your community.
  • Buy organic -Eating organic is all around better for the environment for multiple reasons. They do not use harmful pesticides and chemicals, which can ruin the soil and runoff into streams and waterways, dangerously impacting the natural habitats of wildlife. They connect us more to the natural land and encourage the natural cycle of life. For example, the decaying matter of vegetables, used coffee grounds, and other organic matter is used for composting and giving nutrients to new crop growth.
  • Buy more fruits and vegetables – here is my quick vegan shpeal, animal agriculture is the number one source of environmental damage, from water waste, greenhouse gases, and deforestation. If you are interested in learning about these facts, check out Conspiracy’s page. In the meantime, buy more fruits and vegetables. They’re better for you and the environment.

Now that we have a brief overview of the foundation of the Eco-kitchen down (i.e., the food), it is time to get into building your Eco-kitchen. Here are some ways you can improve your kitchen to be more environmental and eco-friendly!

Non-toxic Cookware

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Nonstick pans are great and all, I know I burn my fare share of food, but the Teflon that keeps the food from sticking has been debated whether it is harmful for humans. I suppose I am skeptical, and when an item needs questioning for it’s overall health safety, I usually take that as a sign it isn’t too great for us. Avoid the whole topic, and go for cookware that is non-toxic. GreenpanEarth Pan, and Ecolution are all great companies that offer non-toxic pots and pans.

Glass Storage

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I used to be a big plastic storage person until I learned about all the negative aspects on plastic. Not only is it non-biodegradable, but a lot of plastic isn’t safe to store our food in. NPR reported a study that showed most plastics releasing a chemical similar to estrogen. Now while there is still debate on whether these chemicals are harmful for us, why take the chance? Glass storage is safe to heat up and it doesn’t alter the flavor of your food, like most plastics often do. Mason jars are a wonderfully cheap and stylish way to display your food, inside your fridge and out!

Bamboo Utensils

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Bamboo utensils are an eco staple to your cooking. They are made from a rapidly renewable source, are dishwasher safe, and don’t damage your pots and pans the way stainless steel often does. These suckers are built to last. My family has had their set since before I was born, and their timeless wood appearance makes them a stylish choice too!

Grow Your Own Food

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Growing your own vegetables is great for the environment and your wallet. Having a vegetable garden helps cut back on the emission pollution caused by the transportation of products to the grocery stores as well as your own travel to said grocery store. It is one of the healthiest options of eating, since it’s organic, local, and the freshest/most nutrient dense, due to being picked and prepared the day you’re eating it.

Having a garden saves you money too. Produce can be expensive, especially the specialty vegetables and herbs, and growing your own will cut down your grocery bill. If you don’t have a yard, and live in an apartment, there are still ways to grow your own produce, such as herbs, or potted vegetables.

Compost

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If you own a home, or live by a community garden, there is no reason you shouldn’t compost your leftovers. It is a great nutrient dense source for your future plants, and continues the natural cycle of plant growth. My family has three compost facilities in our backyard, and this summer, we have been having great success in our garden thanks to all the nutrients from our compost! For your kitchen, keep a stylish compost bin there, and just make trips to your garden’s compost whenever the bin gets full.

Recycle 

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You would think this is a no-brainer for anyone who is going the green route, but I feel like I still have to include this into the list. It is easy to get a recycling can to fit into your kitchen decor style, just get a regular garbage can and use it for only recycling purposes. There are even some that stylishly separate your recycling, from paper to cans and plastic bottles.

Hand Wash Your Dishes

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To hand wash or to not hand wash, that is the question. This has been a debated topic on which method, hand washing vs using a dishwasher, is more environmental. There are three major factors to consider, water-use, energy-use, and carbon footprint. While hand washing your dishes saves on energy, the water-usage and carbon footprint of hand washing vs dish washing is very similar. If you are going to hand wash your dishes, get a eco-friendly drying rack, made out of bamboo.

Energy-Saving Appliances

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If you are wishing to update your appliances, choose energy-star appliances. These products use less energy, up to 50% less energy than standard appliances, and can cut down your electric bill significantly each month, which saves you money. Depending on the appliance, such as a dishwasher, they use less water, saving on water waste. Most major appliance stores, such as Lowes and Home Depot, carry energy-star appliances, so finding a stylish fridge or dishwasher for your space, that is also eco-friendly, can be a one-stop visit.

My First Year of Being a Vegan

Last July, I made one of the most radical (to some), wonderful, impactful choices I could make and became Vegan. Becoming Vegan was something that totally transformed my life for the better, and much of my blog focuses on vegan living, from food to DIY beauty. It has been a year since I have made the switch to a vegan lifestyle, and I wanted to share this moment to reflect on this year. I hope that my experience can open others up to this way of living and all the benefits it entails.

Why I did it

I can only speak for myself, but I found my transition to eating vegan to be rather easy. That being said, I think my circumstances that lead me to veganism are a bit unusual. When I was in college, I fought a battle with anorexia. I cut back on practically every food, especially those loaded in fat. This included most dairy products and processed foods. I gave up red meat in college as well, partly because of my eating disorder, but partly because I discovered that the methane gases released by cows have a detrimental impact on our ozone layer. Being an environmentalist even back then, this fact alone was enough to end my long term love affair with hamburgers.

When I started recovering from anorexia, I focused on clean eating in order to get healthy. This meant lean white meats, seafood, greek yogurts, nuts, whole grains, and tons of fruits and veggies. I did this for about a year until I met my boyfriend who told me about veganism. He had been a vegan for three years, and opened me up to a lot of new information regarding the environment and healthy eating. These were my main two reasons for becoming vegan. I learned that animal agriculture is the number one cause of environmental damage, on so many levels, from deforestation to green house gases to ocean dead zones. Being passionate about healthy eating now, I discovered that plant-based eating is the healthiest ‘diet’ around. Eating a whole food plant-based diet can reverse a number of diseases, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes. Even though many people make the switch to veganism for the animals, I had not made that connection yet to the meat on my plate being a once living, breathing soul.

My Meals

 It is that timeless question for plant-based eaters, “What do you eat?” Being a free spirit, my food choices are hardly routine. Each day is a little different in terms of my meals. I am a big fruits and veggies person, so I tend to include lots of those into my meals. I love trying new recipes, and PinScreen Shot 2016-07-21 at 8.20.57 PM.pngterest is a great resource for me. On my Pinterest, I have different boards that I pin different recipes to, from Vegan Burgers to Asian dishes. Another source of some of my meals are from one of my many vegan cookbooks.
I also like to make my own meals, because more often than not, I do not have all the ingredients or time for the recipes on my board or in my cookbooks. My creativity in the kitchen ranges from stirfrys to vegan tacos and more. An important tip I have learned about vegan meals is that you want to have a base. If you eat just salads all day, every day, you are probably going to feel fatigued and perhaps bored. Having another energy source, be it whole grains, beans, or nuts will keep you fuller longer, and help you feel more energized.

Challenges

 I found that my friends and family experienced more challenges than I did with the switch to veganism. My friends, with puzzled looks, asked the age-old vegan questions, “What do you eat?” “Where do you get your protein?” Wondering how one could give up cheese and meat, the thought alone being challenging enough.

My family had a minor transition with my newfound lifestyle. Even though we all have culinary skills, my mom is the head Chef in the house. Every night, she made dinner for my dad and I. While she still makes dinner for her and my dad, I am responsible for handling my own meals, which is fine for me, but I think was an adjustment for my mom who was used to cooking for her whole family. This proved to be the same case for my father, who bonded with me every Thursday for our pizza night. To keep this tradition alive, we made some alternations, and my pizza is just cheeseless and contains enough vegetables to make any bunny drool.

The holidays with relatives were another small hurdle to tackle. Every family birthday party is usually celebrated with pizza for dinner and cake for dessert. Needless to say my extended family isn’t the healthiest of eaters. Instead of eating these things, I bring my own meal and dessert. I feel like with any personal food diet, your host shouldn’t have to accommodate just for you. I never felt like I was ‘missing out’ during the holidays. In fact, for Thanksgiving (whose central meal is a giant dead bird) we had family over for a Vegan Thanksgiving. I made Shepherd’s Pie, Cranberry Kale Salad, Steamed Carrots, and Sweet Potato Casserole. For dessert, Pumpkin Custard. With all that tasty plant-based food, I don’t think people missed out on not having turkey.

Another minor challenge I faced was the idea of eating-out. Since I like to cook (which is something I believe not only every Vegan, but every person should know how to do) I don’t eat out much. For the typical America restaurant, whose basic food groups are meat, cheese, and deep-fried anything, finding something that is vegan proves quite challenging. Sometimes the only thing they have is a salad, and often times I’ve needed to ask to ‘hold the cheese’, ‘no chicken’, and ‘dressing on the side’. I found that most ethnic restaurants have better vegan options. My favorite eateries are Thai and Indian. Both styles of cooking have tofu options and typically have more than one option for us vegans. If you’re lucky, there may even be a vegan restaurant in your area. I recently discovered The Chicago Diner, after my friend had taken me there. Let me just say, “Best Vegan Milkshakes Ever.”

Benefits I Experienced

Becoming vegan has made my life immensely better in every aspect. I have this healthy relationship with my food, where as before, it was a nightmare of an abusive love-hate situation. I’d love eating ice cream, but I’d hate the guilt and feeling it gave me afterwards, both mentally and physically. Now, my relationship with food is like a happy marriage, I feel great, full of energy and positivity when I have my meals. I’ve noticed improvement both physically and mentally within myself. My skin has cleared up, I’ve become more lean, and I am generally in a happier mood. I’ve become more empathetic, to not only animals, but humans as well. Veganism has opened up this way of living from the heart.

Reflecting on this year, making the switch to veganism has impacted me in far more ways than just my eating habits. It’s been an overall life transformation. Becoming vegan, as I have previously mentioned, I didn’t fully make the connection between animals and meat. My mind knew this to be true; cow = beef, pig = bacon, but my heart was detatched from the situation. I didn’t feel empathy at first because my mind just glazed over these facts like they would any textbook reading. It wasn’t until a month after becoming vegan that I started to realize and make that connection to my heart. Wow, pigs are more intelligent than dogs yet we eat them. Dairy cows are impregnated and then separated from their babies. I was no longer seeing animals as just animals. I saw that they have souls, feelings, and lives too, and it was unjust to murder them for that piece of meat on our plates. Now, I cannot go to a grocery store and pass the deli without making that connection. All those steak cuts, pork chops, and chicken wings belonged to living animals.

Veganism is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. I don’t believe there is any other form of eating out there in where you know that the choices you put on your plate are helping save animal lives as well as the planet. It is an empowering feeling knowing that something as simple as what you eat can have powerful changes and lasting impacts. Being such an environmentalist, I know that my choice to go vegan is one of the ultimate ways I am helping reduce the damage done to our world, and it provides such a rewarding feeling each time I eat.

My experience has been nothing but wonderful, and I encourage others to try veganism for themselves to experience the benefits for themselves!