Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Quest for a Healthy, Green & Frugal Easter

Easter is here, and again I am facing that persistent old dilemma - how do I remain healthy, green and frugal without depriving my children of simple holiday pleasures?  Here are a few ideas I've gathered over the past few years. I'd love to hear your ideas - please share!

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I rarely buy any holiday materials. Rather than buy new baskets each year, I just pull from my mother's extensive basket collection. I use the same paper grass and plastic eggs year after year. If I don't have it already, I probably don't need it anyway.
  • Candy: Quality versus Quantity. Rather than getting loads of "value" candy, I take the same amount of money and buy just a few pieces of high quality candy. When shopping for candy and treats, I avoid high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Organic is always a plus. When shopping for chocolate, I look for high cocoa content (or at least make sure sugar is not the first ingredient). Some of my favorite brands are Yummy Earth organic candy, Green & Black Organic Chocolate, Lindt chocolate, Newman's, Own chocolate, and Annie's bunny cookies and crackers (these are great for putting inside the plastic eggs). 
  • Fresh Food Treats. Why not? There are plenty of healthy delicacies that might be just as exciting to receive as candy and sweets, if presented the right way.  
    • Carrots. I have a vision of a beautiful Easter basket full of fresh carrots with the green cascading from the tops, as if they had just been picked from the garden by the Easter bunny.
    • Fruit. My children love raspberries and mangoes, but we don't get them too often because they are expensive. What a lovely (and nutritious) treat for them!
    • Hard-Boiled Eggs. Rather than candy eggs or plastic eggs filled with candy, why not the real thing!
  • A Basket Full of Junky Toys? Although it's tempting to fill the Easter basket with all those cute little trinkets from the dollar isle, it might be more economical (and green) in the end to actually buy a select few higher-quality toys. When I'm feeling especially tempted by shiny trinkets, I just imagine the flimsy piece of plastic in a landfill a month after Easter is over. That usually does the trick.
Here are some of my favorite Easter basket toys:
  • Seed Packets. Planting flowers or vegetables with your children - what a fun spring project!
  • Matchbox Cars. You can get pastel colors to keep with the Easter theme.
  • Sidewalk Chalk. Get the best value by shopping in the non-holiday isle.
  • Books. There are tons of great Easter-themed kid's books.
  • Audubon Plush Birds. They offer a full line of stuffed animals modeled after specific species of birds. The birds even make the correct call when you squeeze them! We got the Pileated Woodpecker for our son's first Easter because we have them in our backyard. It's a great way to engage children in birdwatching. It's certainly more educational than the run-of-the mill stuffed bunny. 
  • Schleich Animals. We have quite a collection of these toy animals, and our children love them. It's a great non-electronic, durable toy that inspires imagination. The animals are very realistic, which makes them great learning tools for students of all ages.
 Of course, the best gift we can give our children is time. If you are looking for ideas for Easter-related crafts, activities, songs, and literature, visit Earth's Kids. One of the more interesting projects on the site is the live grass Easter Basket shown above.

Have a Happy Easter!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I just watched a sneak preview of the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution online for FREE on HULU.  The show debuts on Friday March 26 at 9PM EST on ABC.

Only one episode, and I'm already hooked.

Jamie Oliver became a hero of mine when I heard what he did for school lunches in England. To see him taking on American schools brought him up a few additional notches in my book.

Plus, it's just good TV. I can't wait to see what he does to get the "lunch ladies" on board with his new scheme.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweetwater: Return & Investment

Today's Sweetwater pickup was robust, a welcome change after a few weeks of harvests made scant by the unusually cold weather. Today's share included: carrot bunches, joi choi, kohlrabi, broccoli, magenta lettuce, green romaine, ermosa butterhead, cilantro, radish, scallions, and arugula.

I have enjoyed many weeks of bountiful returns. Today, for the first time, I put in a little investment of time. All CSA members are required to volunteer at least four hours of time per season. Today I spend about an hour in the greenhouse thinning seedlings.

I was a pleasure to get my hands into the soil and spend time with the friendly and capable Sweetwater interns. Most of all, I enjoyed the feeling of being invested in the process of producing my own food. This just doesn't happen when you shop at the grocery store. Maybe next time the weather will be better and I can get out into the fields, and maybe even bring my four-year-old son with me. What a learning experience that will be!

Registration for Sweetwater's 2010-11 season (November to May) is currently underway for current members. New members can register starting April 1. Click HERE for more information.

If you don't live near Tampa/St. Petersburg, click HERE to find a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program near you.
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Bob's Red Mill High Fiber Cereal $2.58 on Amazon

You can get Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Cereal for only $2.58 per bag if you buy it as a 4-pack on Amazon, using the Subscribe & Save program (see my blog post, Amazon's Subscribe & Save = Cheaper Groceries).

Compare that to $3.19 at Nutrition S'Mart and $3.35 on the Bob's Red Mill website. Since I rarely see sales or coupons for this brand, I'll take the discounts where I can get them!

This is the cereal I mentioned in The Perfect Breakfast. I have been enjoying it so much, I decided I would be willing to buy this in bulk. The bag says to store in the freezer, so I'm hoping I can use it all before it expires.

Don't forget to use your Swagbucks for even deeper discounts at Amazon. See my blog post, Are You Using Swagbucks?
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grass Root: Organic, Vegan & Raw Cuisine in Central Tampa

Grass Root is an oasis for healthy eaters right in the heart of Central Tampa. The menu is full of delicious organic, vegetarian, vegan and raw creations. We enjoyed a dinner there last night with our two boys and had a wonderful meal.

I had a sprout wrap with a delicious dipping sauce. My husband enjoyed his vegetable wrap with a different, but equally good basil dipping sauce. The boys shared the most fabulous PB&J I've ever tasted on some kind of sprouted raisin bread.

The ice teas are exceptionally great (sweetened with organic cane juice). I've also heard the smoothies there are good. The one made from cocoa looked intriguing, for sure.

My only disappointment was the "cheesecake" made from cashews, especially since it was a splurge at $8. It didn't quite live up to the raw sweet potato pie we had there several years ago. Oh, well. Not every dish can be tip top, I guess.

Overall, it's an outstanding restaurant with ideals and practices I'm happy to support. The prices are reasonable, but keep in mind that you are getting quality, not quantity. While the furniture, building, and surrounding neighborhood are quite modest, it has a vibrant and inviting ambiance. The staff are very friendly and welcoming.

Grass Root has a restaurant in Lakeland, as well. They also offer catering and all kinds of classes and workshops related to health and nutrition.
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Amazon's Subscribe & Save = Cheaper Groceries

I recently got turned on to Amazon's Subscribe and Save program as a way to get great prices on certain grocery items without having to chase down sales and coupons. Even better, the products are delivered to your door with no shipping costs as often as you need them!

Here's how it works.
  1. Some products on Amazon (mostly the type of products you'd buy at the grocery store) have a box on the right-hand column that says "Save 15% with Subscribe and Save".
  2. In that box, you choose how often you'd like to receive this product (every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months). You can easily cancel or edit this later.
  3. Then hit "Subscribe Now".
  4. You will then go on to confirm your shipping address, payment method, etc.
  5. At the end, you will see your order total (notice the no shipping and 15% discount) and you will then select "Subscribe Now" to complete the order.
  6. Once your order has been processed, you can go back and edit your subscription, or even cancel it with no problem. However, you still get the benefit of the free shipping and 15% discount! Awesome!
  7. However, if you find a good price on a product that you use regularly, it might pay to use the subscription service because you've locked in that 15% discounted price and free shipping for all future deliveries under that subscription. Plus, it could be convenient to get certain staples in the mail on a regular basis without having to think about it.
I've been dipping my toe in the water with Subscribe & Save the past several months, and I'm now starting to really get into it. There are some money saving opportunities, especially if you buy discounted items or multi-packs. You have to be careful to compare prices to make sure you really are getting the best deal.

One example of when it pays to use Amazon's Subscribe & Save is Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Cereal. This is the cereal I use in The Perfect Breakfast.

If you buy it as a 4-pack on Amazon, using the Subscribe & Save program, it comes out to $2.58 per bag. Compare that to $3.19 at Nutrition S'Mart and $3.35 on the Bob's Red Mill website. Since I rarely see sales or coupons for this brand, I'll take the discounts where I can get them!

For even more discounts, be sure to use your Swagbucks. I always buy $5 Amazon gift cards with my Swagbucks, which helps me save even more on groceries when I shop on Amazon. If you aren't familiar with Swagbucks, check out my blog post, Do You Use Swagbucks?
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Do You Use Swagbucks?

Search & Win

Are you using Swagbucks? If not, it's really worth checking into it. It's FREE and doesn't take much time to register and install the toolbar.

In a nutshell, you use the search engine on the Swagbucks toolbar (instead of other search engines like Google) to earn points called Swagbucks. You can redeem the Swagbucks for wide variety of prizes and gift cards. For me, the $5 Amazon gift card is the most practical prize they offer.

Since I joined in September, I've racked up enough points to buy 6 or 7 Amazon $5 gift cards through my normal internet searching activity. Yes, there are lots of other games and activities that will earn more Swagbucks, but I don't participate in any of that and I still earn lots of points.

Occasionally, Swagbucks will put a code worth points in your inbox on your toolbar. I try to notify my readers when this happens via Facebook so they can catch it before it expires. Click HERE to become a fan of Healthy, Green and Frugal on Facebook.

I will admit that every now and then the internet searches aren't the best, and I have to use Google to find what I need. However, on balance, I have found it to be a completely hassle-free way to earn some extra cash. It's also kind of fun to watch your point count go up. You can see how many Swagbucks I have by looking at the bottom of my page. It stays pretty low because I'm always cashing in my points.

I'd love to hear about your experience with Swagbucks. The Thrifty Mama earned enough Swagbucks in just a few months to buy a Wii Fit. What a great score!
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Cheap Groceries on Amazon

For even more discounts, be sure to use your Swagbucks. I always buy $5 Amazon gift cards with my Swagbucks, which helps me save even more on groceries when I shop on Amazon. If you aren't familiar with Swagbucks, check out my blog post, Do You Use Swagbucks?
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Earthbox: Spring Planting

It is with a hopeful heart and an attitude of sheer determination that I replanted my Earthbox. Back in the fall, I crammed in 6 plants (see my blog post, Earthbox: Idiot-Proof Gardening). I had very modest success - a few eggplants and a couple small heads of broccoli, but no tomatoes. Perhaps its not entirely idiot proof after all.

I was disappointed, but I will not give up. This time I called for reinforcements. I spoke with Patti, the owner of a lovely nursery near my house called Annie's Garden Shed. She was very generous with her time and expertise. Here are some tips she gave me that I hope will result in a more abundant spring season. If you have any additional advice, please bring it on!
  • Don't overcrowd. I only planted 3 (instead of 6) tomato plants. Also, putting plants too close together tends to give pests more opportunities to move from plant to plant.
  • Plant deep. Pick off any stray leaves toward the bottom of the stem and get it far down into the soil. This give the roots more places to grow.
  • Water every 2 to 3 days. Since it's impossible to over-water an Earthbox, don't hold back. If it's not an Earthbox, get the soil nice and most without over saturating.
  • Green pepper plants are easy. I planted my pepper plant alone in a very large pot to give the roots plenty of room to grow (per Patti's advice). I also learned that green peppers will eventually turn red if you leave them on the vine long enough. Before they turn red, they will look black for a while.
  • Use gardening resources that are specific to your geographic area. Apparently, even the state of Florida has regions that are varied enough to require different techniques. Patti recommended these books for central Florida:

    Herbs and Spices for Florida Gardens: How to Grow and Enjoy Florida Plants with Special Uses
    by Monica Moran Brandies

    The Edible Landscape
    by Tom MacCubbin

Patti also gave me these simple words of encouragement
that helped a lot...
You can do this!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Proper Irish Meal

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tonight we are having a hearty Irish-inspired soup, homemade whole-grain beer bread, and a Guinness, of course.

The soup is made from the following ingredients. I just simmered it all day, and it turned out great!
  • cabbage (on sale for 20 cents a pound at Publix through today)
  • 3 lbs of red potatoes (on sale for $1.99 at Publix through today)
  • chick peas
  • vegetable stock
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
The bread (which is so soft and delicious) was made in a bread maker. All you have to do is put all these ingredients in the bread maker and select the cycle for whole wheat bread. Even though our bread maker will bake the bread, I like to take the dough out just before it starts baking (after 3 hours and 20 minutes) and put it in a larger loaf pan to bake in the oven. I find that the bread turns out less dense, and more fluffy and soft.
  • 1 bottle of beer
  • 1.5 tsp of salt
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp of molasses
  • 3.5 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tsp of active dry yeast

Have a great day!
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Healthy, Green & Frugal Wins Sunshine Award

A little ray of sunshine came into my world today. A fellow green blogger, Honest Green recognized Healthy, Green & Frugal as one of three blogs worth reading.

Yes, husband, mother, sister, and a few other close friends and family members read my blog because they love me and want to be nice. However, it's quite an honor to discover that someone who doesn't even know me finds some value in the information I have to share. I am truly touched, Honest Green - thank you! I am inspired by you and all the other bloggers out there who are working so hard to make their lives better and help others do the same.
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Frugal Family Event at Nature's Classroom

If you're looking for something fun, frugal and green to do with the kids, Nature's Classroom is hosting an Open House Event that only costs $5 per car. The event features animal experiences, children's activities, nature art display, live music, and food vendors.

Nature's classroom has been around since 1969 teaching kids all about the eco-system around the Hillsborough River and how their actions impact the environment. Nature's Classroom has a nice website worth checking out.

  • Saturday, April 24 - 10AM to 5PM
  • Sunday, April 25 - 10AM to 5PM
  • 13100 Verges Road, Thonotosassa, FL
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good Deal on Non-Dairy Ice Cream at Publix

So Delicious non-dairy ice cream bars are on Advantage Buy at Publix right now for $3.50. Plus, click HERE and HERE for $1-off coupons.

I tried a coconut almond bar for the first time tonight. It's been about three weeks since I started My Vegan Experiment, and about two weeks since I stopped eating desserts of any kind. I've been carrying around two big hang-ups that I put to the test tonight:
  1. Does non-dairy chocolate and ice cream taste good? The answer is yes, yes, yes! The chocolate was great - no different than regular dairy chocolate. The ice cream is actually fantastic! It's very rich and creamy, and has a subtle coconut flavor that works well in ice cream.
  2. Can I handle occasional desserts without falling back into sugar addiction? That's yet to be seen. I ate it about 30 minutes ago, and so no sugar cravings just yet. I will say that this product does adhere to my "no empty calories" rule. It actually adds a few good things into the mix:

    • 3 grams of fiber
    • 2 grams of protein
    • 6% of the daily value of iron
    • only 10 grams of sugar (agave and beet sugar)
    • although there is 7 grams of saturated fat, coconut milk is rich in medium chain fatty acids, and potentially has a number of health benefits (another controversial topic)
So, if I can handle having a dessert once in a while without letting it spin out of control, I will definitely buy this product again. It really is So Delicious.
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My Experience at the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market

It was such a lovely spring day, I decided to check out the new Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market. I'm so glad I did! This sizable market in the progressive community of Seminole Heights in Tampa, Florida was packed full of healthy, organic, and green wares. Here are my impressions of the event:

  • Beautiful Setting. The Seminole Heights neighborhood has such charm and is full of warm, diverse, community-minded individuals. The market is set up on the lawn of Hillsborough High School, a rare architectural gem in the concrete jungle that is Tampa. I wonder if the students appreciate how beautiful their school is?
  • Kid Friendly (Dog Friendly). There was a little area full of hula hoops for the kids to play with. There were lots of well-behaved children in strollers and well-behaved dogs on leashes. It was a nice way to spend time with your little creatures.
  • Nice Music. Not too loud or overpowering. The band played covers of Sheryl Crow and The Beatles. It set the tone perfectly...♫ I want to soak up the sun ♪....
  • Healthy Food to Eat Now. I'd say there were at least 10 food vendors serving up all sorts of appetizing food, much of which was organic, vegetarian and even vegan. There was a neat little stand that sold vegan patties made from quinoa and oats. There was a juice stand, a smoothie stand and a coffee stand. There were lots of hearty and healthy options, including wood-fired pizzas and breakfast foods.
  • Healthy Food to Eat Later. I was a little disappointed to find only three produce stands. Only one was organic, and there really wasn't too much local produce to be found. The prices were pretty good, though. Much of the produce was gorgeous!
  • Eating Organic on the Cheap. I enjoyed chatting with the man running the organic produce tent (see picture above). He runs an organic food co-op with his wife. They buy organic produce at bulk prices and divide it among the members. It sounds like a great way to get organic fruits and vegetables for the same price as conventional. I plan to look into this further! Click HERE to find out more about their co-op.
To see more pictures of my outing this morning, click HERE. While you're there, be sure to become a fan of Healthy, Green & Frugal on Facebook.

The next installments of the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market will be April 11 and May 9. If you don't live around Tampa, click HERE to find a farmer's market near you.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Perfect Breakfast - New & Improved

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for The Perfect Breakfast, my little colloquialism for a breakfast concoction I made. It has so many healthy qualities, and it is very delicious. I challenged all of you to find a way to make it even better.

I'm so pleased to report that a fellow health blogger (and fellow Rebecca) found some ways to make it even yummier and healthier. Why didn't I think of cinnamon in the first place? Such a great idea. Check out her blog post, Extreme Health 4 Life to get the new and improved recipe.

Sharing ideas so that we can all achieve our personal goals....that is what blogging is all about! Thanks Rebecca!
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Make New Healthy Friends

If you are a interested in eating healthy, it helps to surround yourself with like-minded individuals. The website, Meetup can help you find all kinds of groups in your neighborhood that share common interests, including healthy eating.

Several years ago, my husband and I found a vegetarian/vegan group that meets in Tampa once a month at a vegan-friendly restaurant called Trang Viet Cuisine. We had a nice time, but we never managed to make our way back. However, since My Vegan Experiment, I thought it might be nice to spend some time with some other vegans.

Here are some of the meetups happening soon in the Tampa Bay Area:

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Free Children's Festival at USF on Saturday

There's a FREE children's festival Saturday, March 6 from 11AM to 3PM hosted by the University of South Florida College of Education. Free parking is available in the unreserved spaces surrounding the College of Education (Lot 1). Click HERE for more information.

This annual festival offers lots of fun learning experiences for children ages 3 to 13:
  • fun and educational computer games
  • interactive gaming technology
  • Lowry Park Zoo and Nature's Classroom will bring animals for the kids to interact with.
  • College of Education students will organize educational games and activities.
  • Family play services will be available. Click HERE for an article about this.
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Speak for the Trees

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! In honor of this special day, I am posting about my favorite Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. My children love this book, and I love reading it to them. It's one of those wonderfully special books that engages a child with rhythm and imagery while at the same time engages the adult with depth and meaning. The best part is that the child comes to understand and appreciate the meaning too.

And what a great message it is! The gist of the story is that a greedy business man cuts down all the truffula trees to make Thneeds. A Thneed is a fine something that all people need (it might actually be a Snuggie). Not to give away too much, but the Lorax tries to speak for the trees and no one listens. In the end, we learn that UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not.

I'd say The Lorax is healthy, green and frugal! Obviously, there is a strong environmental message. I also love the concept of a Thneed, which pokes fun at the need-creation/need-fulfillment cycle we have going in our society. It's also a great way to get your children to eat truffula fruits (aka mangoes, or whatever fruit you choose).

Click HERE to visit The Lorax website, which has fun games and information for kids.

You can get the book for around $10 right now on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel, with free shipping on orders that are $25 or more. There's also a cute animated version on DVD. It's got a funky 70's flair to it. I've seen in at Target for only $5.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Lessons Learned

I completed My Vegan Experiment a couple days ago. In case you missed it, here's a quick recap. After 6 years as a vegetarian, I decided to try going vegan for a week to see how it went. The outcome was good, and I plan to continue adhering to this new diet. Much to my surprise, I hardly missed the eggs and dairy. Overall, I noticed a number of positive physical changes - decreased congestion, weight loss, improved digestion. I had some highs and lows with my energy level. However, the most unexpected outcome was the flood of epiphanies I had about food in general, irrespective of the vegan issue. Here are some of the lessons I learned:

Health drives frugality. Not the other way around. I admit that frugality was not at the top of my mind during my experiment. There were just too many other things to consider. I'm confident that once the dust has settled, I'll be able to refocus and start saving more money. Now more than ever, I will not let my desire to be frugal be the driving force behind my food decisions. Instead, I will be finding ways to save within the framework of the choices I've made based on health and the environment. An interesting side note.... I found that the extra money I spent on certain things was offset nicely by all the junk I was not buying.

The power of accountability. Keeping a food log each day and posting it on my blog had an enormous impact on my ability to stick with it through the hard times. Plus, the encouragement and support I received was priceless. It's scary putting myself out there, but it was worth it!

Eating consciously. Living consciously. The food log also increased my awareness of what I was eating and why I was eating it. I realized just how much I was eating when I wasn't even hungry. I feel like I've brought a new awareness and purpose to the way I eat and the way I live.

Food is meant to sustain. Not entertain. I'm an emotional eater. I've known that for a while. I eat when I'm board, stressed, sad, celebratory - you name it. However, this is the first time I've been ready to tackle this issue on a serious level. The act of keeping a food log naturally led me to follow this guiding principle: food is meant to sustain my physical body, not address my emotions. That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed my food. On the contrary! I have savored every bite of the flavorful, nutritious food that I ate, and felt immense gratitude for the sustenance it provided my body.

Sugar, sugar. Honey, honey. You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you. I had a gigantic wake-up call that sugar has been like a drug for me. The more I eat it, the more I want it. Once I stop eating it, I stop wanting it. I feel kind of like a junkie in rehab. I'm happy to be clean, and I plan to take one day at a time. By the way, a nice side benefit to avoiding sugar is that it makes it easier to avoid the eggs and dairy that are usually in baked goods. They seem to all go hand and hand.

Treat redefined. I realized that sugary deserts weren't as much of a "treat" as I once thought. I'm trying to redefine what it means to reward myself and love myself (I mean love, the action verb). Instead of chocolates, cookies and ice cream, I'm treating myself with raspberries (even if they cost $5 for a tiny carton) or the most delicious organic salads I've ever eaten from Sweetwater Farm. There are also plenty of ways to reward yourself without food: a trip to the spa, a relaxing bath, music, new clothes, a chat with a good friend, a movie, book or TV show, and a million other things.

Moderation, shmoderation. One might ask, what harm are all these things in moderation? That's a good thought, but unfortunately it doesn't work well for me. Just this once turns into all the time way too easily. I'm better off just saying no. Plus, it helps to have the decision already made before a sticky situation presents itself. I don't plan on being super rigid about eggs, dairy and sugar. For example, I might eat something at a party if it contains a little butter or has an egg baked in it. However, I don't think I'll be eating an omelet or an ice-cream cone anytime soon.

It is about ethics and animal rights for me. When making decisions about my diet, I try to look at the big picture - health, the environment, frugality, and ethics. Animal rights issues have always been a piece of the puzzle for me, but not the single driving force. As much as wish that I could never hurt another living thing ever, it just doesn't seem realistic. Up to now, I felt like eggs and dairy were not a problem because the animal wasn't being killed. After thinking about it more, and reading about what cage-free and free-range really mean, I no longer feel okay about being a dairy and egg consumer. I know this is a sensitive topic, and I am not judging anyone if they don't agree with me. We all have to make these decisions on our own. Implementing them can be even more tricky - we all just have to do the best we can!

Vegan goes beyond food. It's all about small steps for me. Now that I've cut eggs and dairy, I'm thinking a bit more about what it really means to be a vegan. There are so many many ways that humans exploit animals (and people, and the environment) to suit their own purpose. I don't think I'll be getting rid of my leather jacket or my leather chair. However, I do intend to try to increase my awareness of these things and make more conscious decisions in the future.

What's good for the goose is good for the geasling. Or is it? In the midst of all these revelations about myself, I'm seeing how I'm creating the exact same patterns for my children. I reward them with food all the time! I'm not sure if that's something I can stop overnight, but it's something I must tackle. Plus, if I don't feel comfortable eating eggs and dairy, why should it be okay for my children? I don't think it's wise to experiment with their diet like I have with my own, but I do need to think about this.

The power of intention. Call it prayer. Call it meditation. Call it goal setting. Whatever you call it, I think that setting an intention and having a clear vision for what you want for yourself is an incredibly powerful thing. Especially when you take the time to write it down and communicate it to others. I've seen it work in my own life a number of times. My intention related to this experiment was to have a healthier lifestyle so that I will have more energy and be mentally and emotionally stronger. Once I set that intention and contemplated what that means, the path became increasingly clear. As I intended, this week has brought many of the changes I so passionately desired. And I'm ready for more!

If I can do this, I can do anything. The confidence and inspiration that comes from setting a goal and achieving it is priceless! The goals that seemed out of reach a week ago suddenly look more realistic, and I'm ready to continue moving forward.

You are who you want to be. This phrase was on a poster in the video production room at my high school. I saw it many times, and it has stayed with me all these years. What it means to me is this - the person that you want to be, the best version of yourself, the person you envision that you could be if you tried hard enough - that is who you really are. Not the person that you may be at this moment - flawed with lots of qualities that irritate you to no end. I have a vision of myself as I could be, as I want to be. I just need to work towards realizing that vision. That is who I believe I really am, and I love that person. I've always struggled with the concept of "loving yourself", but thinking of it in those terms, it only makes sense that you would love this ideal version of yourself because that person is pretty awesome!

If you have actually read this long post, I thank you with all my heart for indulging me. It was very cathartic for me to write this and send it out into cyberspace. I wish you all the best of luck on your journey to good health. ♥
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