7 Ways to reduce plastic use at home

About three years ago we consciously started to reduce the use of plastic in our home.   It has been a lengthy process, but in the pursuit to be more environmentally conscious and creating a sense of social consciousness in our kids we have come a long way.  Here are the ways we have reduced the use of plastic in our home.

  1. No more plastic straws:  This was a big one as we used to buy them regularly since we drink a lot of shakes (for the morning, lunch and sometimes dinner).  So we bought a pack of 4 stainless steel straws and we loved them. We got them about three years ago in amazon and I believe they are now available in most places.  Nowadays you can find silicon straws, glass straws, bamboo straws, and stainless steel straws and they come with their own cleaning brush so cleaning them is no problem.
  2. No more Ziploc bags (sandwich, or snack bags):  I do pack a school snack to both of my kids and I would usually put the pretzels or check mix or granola in a Ziploc bag.   Last year, before the school started I bought reusable silicone food storage bags and have been a game-changer. My sons actually prefer silicone food storage bags than the plastic counterpart.  I bought them in amazon and paid 13.99 for six quart-size bags which were actually bigger than expected. For what I have read the bags have an expiration date but so far they are still looking great. 
  3. Purchase food, like rice, pasta, and grains in bulk:   This is truly a double winner as you will actually save money when you buy in bulk.  I have glass containers at home where we store the rice, pasta, and grains. Whole foods have a great selection of grains in bulk where you find a variety of rice and beans, as well as granola and nuts.  
  4. No more plasticware at home:  I would always have plastic plates and plastic silverware at home for “emergency”.  About a year ago I stop buying them and use only the regular glass plates and stainless steel silverware. Yes, it may take longer to clean but I got used to it quite fast.  Additionally, although silverware may be cheap at the market, plastic plates are not and I have saved quite a bit in the last year by taking them out of the shopping list.
  5. Make your own cleaning products:  For the last three years we have made our own cleaning products and this has helped to reduce the plastic container that we would usually buy when buying these products.  We have one with vinegar-water and another one with alcohol-water and with these two we are able to keep the house clean, smelling fresh and disinfected.
  6. No more plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges:  We started using natural cleaning cloths for cleaning around the house and the dishes.  It may take a bit to get used to it but now I love it more than the previous counterpart.  Additionally, this is another change that allows you to save money as well.
  7. Be conscious! Nowadays there is a lot of progress towards reducing the use of plastics and many companies from cosmetics to food to home goods are doing the best to reduce the use of plastic.  When buying products (makeup, detergents, soaps, lotions, etc) chose the one with the plastic alternative, from recyclable packaging to glass, if you have an option chose to be environmentally friendly, chose plastic-free and recyclable packaging. 

Affirmations to start your day the best way

An affirmation can be defined as the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment—fostering a belief that “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything.” For years I kept hearing about affirmation and the powerful transformations that can cause in our emotional state, however, I was very skeptical and did not trust the power that a sentence could have in my life.

One day, following the guidance of a self-help book, I tried and I was taken aback with the impact it made in my day. Since then I have constantly changed my affirmation to match my state of mind or my goals, and I have also divided them doing morning affirmations and bedtime affirmations.

I have been doing the below affirmation for 30 days and the results have been great with the way my day goes on. I am enthusiastic and positive, I am kind and open-hearted, I am fearless and self-assured.

Below I am sharing my affirmations, but there are tons of them in the internet, Pinterest or Instagram. Find the ones that call your name.

Appreciating SOLO Time

Self-discovery is a journey

When I look back I have always being a loner… I like spending time by myself and with myself.  Always had. At times friends and boyfriends would complain about me being reclused and moody, and I always admitted to it, never fought it or felt insulted. It was true, I could recluse myself into solitary to study, to soothe my mind, to nurture my soul. I just need time alone.

I have always been surprised how after 20 years of leaving my home country, my friends (my closest friends) are the ones I have back in Panama.  Those amazing 13 women were, are and will be one of the best gifts life has given me, and thanks to WhatsApp we are constantly chatting, giving advice, reprimanding, complaining, encouraging and congratulating each other.  Of course, I have made friends since coming to the U, but 20 years later there are just about 5 people that have been close enough to call them a friend.

When I turned 35, there was a major shift in me. I started reading self-improvement books, marriage books, communication books, mindfulness books and with this new information I was learning, I became aware that me being a loner was a trait of my personality and most importantly I learned to embrace it.

So what are the things that I enjoy doing all by myself? Here are a few of them:

Watching a movie: I work next to a movie theater and ever so often I try to treat myself for an early afternoon movie on Fridays.  Maybe it happens once every two or three months but when there is a movie (especially a rom-com girly movie) I go in, popcorn in hand, and have a blast all by myself.

Having a meal in restaurants:  I know it’s not easy to see people eating by themselves, but what if that person is choosing to be alone?  In my case, there have been so many times in which I have been eating by myself, in a nice place, watching people walk by or just observing the restaurant.  I remember when I was in college I would go to this cafe for lunch and sit by the window just watching people walk by, I enjoyed the meal, the view, and the loneliness.

Traveling:  Walking into an airport is instant relaxation for me.  I like going to the airport at least 2-hours before my flight and sit in a food court or Starbucks and watching people walk by.  Also been by myself in a long flight (8 or more hours) is therapy to me.  Watching movies, reading, writing, or just plainly thinking, enjoying the constraint of not been able to go anywhere for the next 10 hours. Princeless.

It is my experience, now at 39 years old, that taking the time to get to know yourself better is pivotal in our continuous self-improvement.  We need to decipher ourselves and embrace our own thoughts. We are all different and when I am walking in a mall and I pass by a group of friends, I smile… my lonely trip is their group trip… and we are equally enjoying it.

Question of the week…

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I have been thinking about ways to engage with you, the reader, and have decided to do, every Thursday, a “Question of the Week” segment, in which I will ask a fun, insightful, interesting and hopefully smart question that will challenge you to answer it.  You can answer it out loud on the spot, use it for your journal entry, or just reflect on it for the next couple of hours or days.

The intention is to invite you to reflect and make you aware of your thoughts and feelings while you answer the question… creating a mini mindful moment.

The question of this week is:  If you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend it?

When we ask ourselves this question, we tend to gravitate towards those actions or activities that we “keep putting off” mostly because of the “lack of time”.  Some of the most common answers are:

  • I would exercise
  • I would cook a healthy dinner 
  • I would take time to converse with my husband and children (or parents or friends)
  • I would study to further my education (go back to school or a work-related course)
  • I would practice meditation or work towards mindfulness
  • I would start my own business
  • I would start a hobby (or go back to it)

This question, when we answer it honestly, can reveal things that are sincerely important to us since we are no longer blaming the “lack of time” as the culprit for not doing them.

Think about that extra time and what you would do with it. Maybe you will realize what is truly important to you, and rearranging your schedule to make it happen can be something worth looking into.  All is possible within our reach and our time schedule. Yes, we do need to rearrange and prioritize, but we can do it.

 

 

Mari Park

7 Tips for making a bedtime routine that works for you…

CREATING AN UNIQUE BEDTIME ROUTINE

With years of trying to perfect multitasking (and never really accomplishing), I have come to the conclusion that following a routine makes it easier for me to accomplish all that is needed to be done. I have a morning routine, a working routine, an afternoon routine, and a bedtime routine.  I have already shared with you morning routine tips and now want to share tips for making a bedtime routine that can work for you as it works for me.

My bedtime routine starts right after the kids go to bed and my “mom role” is turned off, here are my tips:

  1. Finish cleaning the kitchen / tidy up the living room:  I take the time to clean the kitchen, do the dishes, clean the stove, wipe and tidy up the kitchen island, swipe the floors and tidy up and declutter the living room.  Since I do this every day, it really takes no more than 15 – 20 minutes to complete this task and there is no better feeling than waking up to a clean and fresh kitchen.
  2. Check the calendars and to-do list: I take 10 – 15 min to answer any pending emails, check my family calendar and update my to-do list for the next day. Also, any bills or home expenses are done or updated at this time. 
  3. Take a shower: There is no better way to put an end to a day than by taking a shower. It’s the best way to wash off a hectic, crazy, and non-stop day.
  4. Beauty routine:  I am turning 40 in June so the closer I get to this date the more I pay attention to my beauty routine.  I keep it simple, by cleansing my face well and using face oil or serum and finishing with a face and eye cream. Twice a week a do a facial, usually a sheet mask.
  5. Read a book: From a self-help book to a mystery thriller to a romantic novel or a magazine.  Reading is a way that I calm down and take the time to relax and let my mind enjoy the wonderful world of books. I personally keep about 5 books in my nightstand and go one after the other.  If you are not a fan of reading, you can take this time to write in your journal or listen to a book, rather than reading it.
  6. Practice Gratitude:  You can use an app or say it out loud or write it in your journal.  Acknowledging what you are grateful for will give you inner peace, love for the people in your life and faith for a better tomorrow.
  7. Meditate:  Take 5 – 10 minutes to meditate right before you go to bed, it can be a breathing exercise or a guided meditation and you can use an app or even a YouTube video as a guide.  Meditation is key in helping you be present in the moment.
  8. Turn off the light… is nighttime!

No matter what your bedtime routine consists of, having one will create a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day.  It will also allow you to make sure that the last part of your day are dedicated, in part, to your self-care.  These tips are meant to inspire you to create your own, from adding a time to watch TV to going for a run or doing yoga, create a routine that works for your interests and passions.  And if for any reason, we have to deviate from our routine, it’s fine… there is always tomorrow’s bedtime.

 

 

Recipe Time: Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast Time!

We have been making Avocado Toast for a while.   We usually make it for Sunday’s Brunch at home.  I like it because it allows me to customize it to everyone’s tastes and likes… For example, my husband likes it with Onion/Jalapeno Relish (pictured above) and a fried egg, my younger son likes it with boiled eggs (also pictured) and my oldest son likes simple with just a touch of cayenne pepper.

Below is the recipe we use to make Avocado Toast:

Avocado Toast

We spread the toast with Hummus before adding the avocado mix, below is the recipe of the Hummus we use:

Avocado Toast (1)

Finally, add the relish on top, below is the recipe I use for the relish:

Avocado Toast (2)

Putting it together:  Toast the bread, spread the hummus and put the avocado mix, at the end add the jalapeno/onion relish.  Enjoy with a 7-minute boiled egg (pictured).  Sunday just got better!

Oh Pupusas!!! The Challenge… accomplished (more or less)

Vintage Tropics Etsy Banner

We have been thinking about making pupusas…  We like having snacks that we can easily make when the kids or my husband are hungry.  For years we have been making burritos. It is a task but in the end we have about 30 to 40 burritos that go in the freezer and if hungry it only takes 2 and a half minutes in the microwave… I will show you how we do this as well (we ground our own chicken and beef).

Pupusas were a good idea because they were smaller and we could do it vegan as the feeling is less and the intention is not so much a mini-meal (like the burritos), but a meatless snack we could eat if hungry.

So I went to YouTube and search and saw tons of videos (some very good) and decided we should give it try.   The intention was to do it healthy so we did organic and vegan.  The corn masa I found was from Bob’s Mill (the only organic one).  We did no use cheese although all the videos I saw had it but wanted to stay as vegan as it was possible.   So I choose the filling based on my experience and my family taste buds.

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I use the entire Bob’s Mill packed and got 26 pupusas (22 went to the freezer and 4 were eaten during the trial and error process.

Tips I learned:

  1. It is true in the YouTube videos when they say the masa needs to be “by texture” not measurements.  I did little by little and divided into two patches to have more control and be able to “fix” in the case I would add to much water.
  2. The “one hand” method I saw in the videos was NOT as easy.  My husband had the brilliant idea to use a hamburger patty maker (first time we use it so at least now it has a function in the kitchen) and with that I did one thin tortilla, put the filling and put another tortilla on top and closed it.  It was a smooth run to the finish line once this method was adopted.
  3. I used a substantial amount of salt for both the masa and the filling.  We like flavored food and the sweet potatoes, carrots, and refried beans do not yield that much of kick so salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper were used. I also used Turmeric because we all love the flavor.
  4. Like I always say… “Patience is a virtue so cultivate it”, you need to be patient.  The whole process was almost two hours, but looking back the next batch will take about 1 hr and a half and the time will be less and less as we get better.  My first batch of burritos was so time-consuming we started “separating” a part of the day to make it and now I can make it all by myself while multitasking around the house. It only takes practice.

I hope you get inspiration to do this or other dishes you think is just not possible for you to make. It is really good when you realized to CAN cook at home what you like.  I bought pupusas (frozen) from the Market it was almost 5 bucks for 4 small pupusas.  I spend around 12 dollars with a turn out of 26.  I cannot say they are authentic pupusas but I can say I will continue to improve it until they are close to the real thing.

Try something challenging… it may just pay off