Spring: the renewal of hope

As you may have guessed I love gardening. But what I REALLY love is the idea of gardening.

I love winter because it is a time I can dream of little plants and seeds and I can think up all the projects that I’ll be able to do as soon as spring arrives. There is no commitment in winter. In winter all is fantasy.

It’s this period of fantasy that allows me to recover from the realities of summer and fall.

Summer is the season when weeding gets out of control, the insects and birds have enjoyed my produce more than I have, it’s when spindly unproductive plants sit there in the garden and openly mock my efforts. Summer is when I fully understand what it means in Genesis that “by the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food”.

Fall is when I fully reap my disappointment. It is a time of reflection when I realize that I spent far more money trying to grow my own produce than I ever would have dreamed of spending at the grocery store. Fall is when I truly do give Thanks, grateful that I don’t rely on my feeble ability to draw sustenance from the soil. It is the season where I harvest the bitter pill of great expectations wilting and shriveling on the vine.

So, I need winter. I need that time to dull the edges of a harsh reality. And I dream.

But spring! Spring is the season of renewed hope! By the time spring has rolled around I’m riding a seed catalog induced high of delusional confidence that this year will finally be my year!

I build on winter’s dreams with spring purchases. I diligently study and research the “how to”s for planting and growing. I’m ready this time. I’ve learned from last year’s mistakes. And, really, so what if I only harvested one tiny watermelon last year? It was after all the best dang watermelon I’ve ever had! I can’t pass up the opportunity to have another one.

So, spring has dawned. And with it the infinite hope for a brighter future. A future without squash beetles or horn worms. A summer with plentiful rains at just the right moment. The hope that benevolent little garden gnomes will pull weeds from the garden while I sleep peacefully – dreaming of blossoms and busy bees and delicious berries that the birds kindly leave for me to enjoy.

Yes, spring is the season of hope and renewal, new beginnings and unbounded optimism.

May spring’s hopes bloom eternal!

Making space for creativity

I think part of making a house a home is having a space that allows for creativity. I made a purchase this past fall that has really brought a lot of joy to my life.

A workbench.

I had recently discovered a newfound hobby, wire wrapping. It’s such a fun and creative way to make jewelry and I really enjoy doing it. One of the great things for me about making jewelry is that I love looking at jewelry, but I almost never wear it…. so, it’s very easy for me to part with it once it’s made!

Anyway, I had a limited amount of supplies: wire, cutters, pliers of several varieties, beads. I kept these materials in a box, and then two boxes, which I would pull out when I felt inspired to do something creative.

Then, I’d have to clear a spot on the kitchen table or the coffee table in the living room. Supplies would be jumbled in the boxes and by the time I got my space and supplies organized enough to work in, the joy had been sucked out of the endeavor and my creative juices would be running dry.

So, I made the plunge and invested in a workbench so that I would have a dedicated space to be creative.

I made my purchase on Amazon, because you can buy anything on Amazon and I found one with great reviews that, to me, is not only functional, but visually appealing as well.

It arrived. And in a few hours, I had it assembled.

Now, I have this magical space that I can pop into at a moment’s notice and create for 5 minutes or 5 hours and I absolutely love it.

I think everyone needs a creative outlet and the space to let it take shape. Do you have a hobby or art form that you love? Do you have a space in your home where you are freed up to be creative when inspiration strikes?

I highly recommend making that space and investing the time and money into carving out an area of your home to nurture your inner artist or builder or wood-worker or writer… we all have the spark to create something… be sure to cultivate the creator in you!

My next endeavor will be to be to build the perfect work space for scrapbooking! That’s another hobby that is currently suffering from lack of proper space and organization to make it enjoyable.

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Root bound: the unintended consequences when roots stay put.

As someone who grew up without deep roots, I’m always fascinated to get a glimpse into how the other half (so to speak) grew up.

I recently got to make a trip “back home” with a friend of mine whose roots run deep in Mississippi. As life would have it, my own roots had tickled Mississippi soil a few times in my younger years and getting to see the mighty and muddy Mississippi River again was a lot like reuniting with an old friend.

One thing about having deep roots that I’ve noticed: it’s hard to change.

I think it’s a lot like those plants that you buy from places that don’t sell a lot of plants (like a hardware store or something) and you bring the plant home and realize it’s been in its small pot for too long. The roots have tried so hard to grow and spread out and push deep, but they ran out of room. So, they just wrap around each other and run in circles and twist themselves into knots. They are root bound.

I think that happens sometimes with people. I see it in small towns. People get painted with a brush. Maybe it’s the brush of a rebellious youth, or the brush of hanging out with the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s the brush of addiction or failure or lackluster achievement. Maybe it isn’t even their brush at all that they were painted with… maybe they got painted with their parents’ brush or even their grandparents’.

Their extended family, the community, the town – everyone has already made up their minds about that individual based on those brush strokes of a past from which they are never allowed to escape.

Much like that potted plant, try as they might to break free from the confines of their environment, they are not allowed to grow, to change, to mature, to move on.

Maybe they work hard to overcome an addiction. But those roots… everyone has seen them, everyone knows how low they fell, everyone knows “it’s only a matter of time”. Everyone puts him back in his pot… everyone paints him with the same ol’ brush yet again.

Some people are able to break open their pots, finding the freedom to grow and mature and change while staying rooted where they are; but I think those people are rare.

Some people find that it’s just best to be transplanted elsewhere. They need fresh soil, open minds, a clean slate to fully move into the life they want to inhabit.

 

What is home?

I was watching some competition show the other day (on Food network no doubt) and when asked how he might spend his winnings, one of the contestants said that he and his wife would use it as a down payment on a house because his son was six years old and wanted a place to call “home”.

During all of my growing up years, my parents did not own the house we lived in – there was even a time when we lived in a travel trailer (which they did own) – and I never once felt like I was deprived of “home”.

“Home” was the place where I played and fought and laughed with my siblings.

“Home” was the place where I brought stray kitties that soon became beloved household pets.

“Home” was where my parents read to me, played with me, sometimes spanked or disciplined me, and tucked me safely into bed at night.

“Home” was where my family gathered every day for meals, daily devotions, board games, card games, and other activities that brought us together.

“Home” was where I learned to do chores (or to get out of them).

“Home” is where I learned to cook by hanging out in the kitchen with mom and watching her turn random ingredients into meals for her family.

“Home” is where I learned to swing a hammer, turn a screw and know the difference between pliers and a wrench by “helping” my dad with minor repairs and fixes around the house.

“Home” is where I learned to share, how to win (or somewhat gracefully lose) an argument. It’s where I learned about negotiation, extortion, and the unconditional love of a sibling!

“Home” is where I learned to read and where I learned to love to read.

“Home” is where I knew that no matter how messy things got, there was always love to be found.

Owning a house is nice, but you don’t have to own a house, or even live in a house, to have a “HOME”. “Home” is where you feel safe, where you find love, where you learn and grow, “home” really is where your heart is.

Signing off for 2016

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I am rather fond of Old Year’s reflections. 2016, by most standards, was not exactly a stellar year. But it did provide some valuable lessons.

I discovered Tai Chi this year. Well, “discovered” may not be the right word for it… but I tried it and liked it and have made it a part of my life (though I don’t do it as often as I should).

If you’re not sure what Tai Chi is (and no, it’s not my dyslexic version Chai Tea – I discovered that one many years ago), it’s often in the background in movies or tv shows… a bunch of elderly people (usually Chinese) doing kung-fu-like moves in slow motion in a park at dawn.

And while it is an excellent form of exercise for the elderly… young people can do it too!!!!  And even those of us who are slightly passed young but not yet elderly. I find that it has done wonders for my stress and anxiety.

The slow deliberate movements paired with deep breathing improves my emotional well being by lowering stress, and improves my physical well being with increased flexibility and balance. The low impact exercise is perfect to do right before going to bed.

I had an important breakthrough this year in my professional life. Know and acknowledge your own strengths and then approach every situation from a position of confidence. This has sort of become my mantra and has really helped me in successfully transitioning from an “employee” to a self-employed entrepreneur.

Working from home has had its challenges, not the least of which is my lack of housekeeping skills. Despite the chaos of my personal life, I have always managed to maintain a semblance of order and organization in my place of work.

When my place of work is my living room, or bedroom or on rare occasions – my actual home office – my personal chaos interferes with my professional accomplishments. So, I have had to develop some better habits and am working toward decluttering my home.

I say working toward because I am far from there at this point. But I have made progress. My ultimate goal is to “have a place for everything”. At the moment, I still have too much STUFF for everything to be put in its place. I am working on throwing away or giving away all the things that take up space in my home but bring no real value to it or to me.

This isn’t an easy process for a clutter bug like myself and I suspect it will take some time for me to get there. But I am hopeful that by the end of the upcoming year, I will have a place for everything in my home and everything will be in its place! In the meantime, I am working on developing the habit of returning items that DO have a place to their respective home whenever they have wandered off. 🙂

Small changes add up and can make a cumulative effect that is truly life changing.

As the new year begins, I hope that this will be the best year yet! I never want the best of my life to be in my past. I really believe that I can continue to better myself, continue to find beauty in this world, continue to discover new depths to existing friendships, continue to meet new people who challenge and uplift me, continue to learn to love more deeply, continue to appreciate more fully, continue to grow and learn and evolve.

 

 

Products I love! (in my effort to move away from chemicals toward more natural alternatives)

I don’t promote products here because I’m paid to, in fact, these companies have no idea that I chose to write about how great I think they are. The reason I’m doing this blog is just because I happened to come across some pretty cool stuff and some of them are also made by really cool companies that align with my some of my own philosophies. As a consumer, I think it is really important to “vote” with your dollars. As the saying goes, money talks!

So the products in this blog all have some things in common. They are products that I have turned to as I have made a conscious effort to turn away from chemicals and synthetic materials as much as possible. A- I have a lot of allergies and want to reduce the amount of chemical fragrances in my home. And B – I would like to use products that have less of a negative impact on the environment.

Some of these products are relatively expensive (compared to their conventional counterparts) and that is why I wanted to offer my honest opinion, because I really do believe they are worth the extra expense.

So, here we go!

Bee’s Wrap

Love this stuff! I would like to say that it has completely replaced plastic wrap in my kitchen, but it hasn’t. But it has reduced my use of plastic wrap significantly!

Bee’s Wrap is basically a cloth that is pliable, washable, reusable and completely natural. It’s made from organic cotton, bee’s wax, tree resin and jojoba oil. It’s sustainable, it’s compostable and it’s made in the US by a company owned, founded and operated by women.

The wraps are beautiful, they have a great natural scent to them, and you will find all kinds of ways to put them to use in the kitchen. They make really great toppers for all those bowls you have without a matching lid to go with them!

I have used them to cover a pitcher of tea, wrap up a chunk of cheese, wrap leftover homemade bread, wrap sandwiches, top storage bows, cover a casserole, and more.

When I first started buying them, they were only available on their website, today they are now available at over 700 stores around the world. I suggest starting out with one of their 3 packs of assorted sizes ($18), so you can figure out which size you will have the most use for.

The scent is pretty strong at first, but it does calm down over time. And they will last for years. Don’t use them to wrap raw meats or greasy items like fried chicken.

Friendsheep Balls

img_6536Yes, you read that right. It says “Friendsheep Balls”. This is a product that I have been using for about a month. Friendsheep Balls… aside from being fun to say… are balls made from sheep’s wool that you can use in your dryer in place of dryer sheets.

Having the six balls in the dryer helps clothes dry faster and actually does keep them soft. If you want to add some fragrance, you can drop some of your favorite essential oils on the Friendsheep Balls every few drying cycles.

Plus, they make doing laundry just a little more fun… look at those cute faces! They have gone through multiple cycles and are still very tight with no pilling of the wool (The fuzzies that you see in the photo is lint and such that they pick up from the clothing.)

I really like this product and see it as an allergy reducer and money-saver over the long run. I also REALLY like this company. Friendsheep makes sustainable wool products from organic New Zealand wool. The balls are handmade for fair trade wages in Nepal, providing a much-needed source of income for primarily women in Nepal. You can watch a short video on how this product is made here.

Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag

Love, love, love this product. Need fresher air in your home? There is nothing simpler than purchasing a Moso bag and plopping it down where you need it the most. Done.

I turned to Moso because I discovered that my beloved Febreeze® in Gain® scent was aggravating my allergies. What to do? I have three dogs in my home… life without air fresheners just did not seem possible.

So, I did some searches on my favorite shopping site (Amazon) and this dumb little bag of img_6676charcoal pops up. And I thought… yeah sure… that’s really going to help freshen the air in my home (please note the sarcasm).

But I read some of the reviews and started to think that maybe there was something to it. So, I decided to risk $19.95 for two 500 gram sized bags. This is the size recommended for up to 250 square feet. (On the product website, you only get one bag that size for that price.)

These bags are awesome!!! I kid you not. They claim to remove toxins, humidity, bacteria, allergens and odors from the air. I can vouch for the odors and possibly the allergens, but most definitely the odors! I had a really, really stinky fridge a couple weeks ago that I knew I wasn’t going to get to for a day or two and I was literally having to hold my breath when I opened the door to get something out of it. (I know, I should be ashamed to admit that.) And then I remembered my bags!

I always keep one on the kitchen counter and one in the bathroom where they do a great job of quickly absorbing unpleasant odors. So, I popped one of them in the fridge and the next time I opened the door (less than an hour later) the smell was completely gone. Even though I knew they worked well, I was still amazed at how quickly and effectively that stupid little bag of charcoal had worked.

They are made from sustainable bamboo charcoal that comes from China. The company is located here in the US  but the product is made in China. The company’s mission is “to provide a safe, sustainable, and effective air purifier that is healthy for people, pets, and the planet.”

If I still had cats in my house, one of those bags would be sitting on the litter box! They also sell them in sizes to fit inside sneakers or keep in the fridge. They’d be great for a locker, gym bag, car, basement… any place that is damp or stinky-prone.

Speaking of places that are damp and stinky-prone….Now, on to items of a much more personal nature.

Primal Pit Paste

Yeah, I know, the name isn’t dainty. It is, however, an effective deodorant. IF you stick with it through the super not-so-fun detox period.

img_6667Ok, so here is where it gets really personal. I switched from my clinical strength antiperspirant to natural deodorant because I was beginning to develop swollen lymph nodes under my arms that were very tender to the touch. Having read a lot of pretty convincing research on the ill-effects of antiperspirants, I decided to take the plunge.

It wasn’t pretty (and it didn’t smell that great either). As they explain in some detail on their website, if you have been using an antiperspirant for years, as I had, you can expect to experience a detox period when you switch to using only a deodorant.

I won’t go into all the specifics, but basically the antiperspirant had been doing a great job, it kept me from perspiring under my arms. Period. I stayed completely dry. But here’s the thing, our bodies need to perspire. It’s a pretty important part of the excretory system and I wasn’t allowing my armpits to excrete anything!

So, let’s just say that once they are freed up to begin excreting, they excrete! The website says this process can last up to a few weeks. I’ll be honest, this process lasted a whole lot longer for me. I would say that it was probably 6 months before my pits calmed down. If I wasn’t working from home, I’m not sure I would have lasted long enough to reach a natural equilibrium.

As you go through the detox process, you can experience excessive sweating (wetness), some pretty powerful odors, redness and itching. I personally never experienced any itching or discomfort, but the rest of it in spades! Now that things have settled down (I have been using Primal Pit Paste for more than a year), I certainly sweat more than I did with an antiperspirant (because now I actually sweat), but not excessively. The odor is now under the control of the deodorant. And the redness has gone away. Happy pits, happy me!

I love that this product is all natural, contains no harmful products or side-effects and does the job it’s made to do. The company is here in the US and was started by a mom who just wanted to make safer products for her family to use. When my jars are empty, I reuse them for all sorts of my own homemade creams and remedies! 🙂 In addition to the pit paste, I also really love the Primal Pucker Paste (lip balm) – Chai is my favorite.

Ok, so now we get really personal! I suggest that males who are squeamish around even the words, “feminine hygiene products” just stop reading right now.

Lola tampons

I’ll keep it short and simple. It’s a new company created by women. The products are madeimg_6674 with organic cotton and no synthetic ingredients (unlike pretty much all other tampons on the market in the US, which I didn’t know until I started looking at the packaging – I mean who looks at an ingredient list for tampons???). They are made in Europe, because women there have had access to natural products for a long time, so they know how to make them!

It’s a subscription service. So the product arrives at your door, discreetly packaged. You set the schedule for delivery and you create your own custom mix of light, regular and super that will come in each box.

The cost is slightly higher than Playtex (my previous brand), but it’s not exorbitant. I pay $18.00 per shipment (they ship 2 boxes at a time), my shipment schedule is once every two months. With 18 tampons per box, they come out to 50 cents each, and are shipped to your door.

This is a new product for me, I have only received one shipment to date. But I have been happy with it. The truth is, when it comes to the product design itself, there are things about Playtex that I preferred. I would compare the Lola brand more closely to Tampax. But for me, the fact that these are without chemical additives far outweighs any slight advantage to product design that I feel Playtex has.

The bottom line is, Lola tampons work and I can feel better about using them. Not just because I’m putting fewer chemicals in my body, but because the organic cotton also puts fewer chemicals in the earth. And I just really like supporting smaller companies, woman-owned companies (especially for female products) and companies that have a conscience and want to produce things that are good in a manner that is good.

Christmas in the South

I have spent most of my Christmases either in the southern states here in the US or in Mexico, so a cold Christmas, let alone a “white Christmas” have been pretty unusual for me. Even so, it just doesn’t feel right when it’s 70 degrees for the holidays.

But that’s just the way things are here in South Georgia. So, one has to rely on other indicators to help get into the holiday spirit!

Small town Georgia begins celebrating the Christmas season as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are put away. Lights, holiday flags and banners are put on display on city streets and public spaces.  The first two weekends of December brings about a plethora of parades, festivals and markets… every town has their own traditions.

Georgia Southern’s “Sweetheart Circle” and TMT Farms in Statesboro, Guido Gardens in Metter and the Botanical Garden in Savannah become favorite nighttime destinations to see the lights.

In the “Fruitcake Capital of the World”, Claxton, the production and shipping of one of the season’s most popular / unpopular treats? kicks into high gear.

Most importantly, friends and families gather together, traditions are continued, communities are strengthened and an overall spirit of merriment and kindness ensues!

One of my new favorite seasonal activities in the area is a production called The Journey that is put on every few years by a church based in Savannah. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors and takes thousands of volunteers to produce.

The Journey takes visitors through an interactive experience which includes a Christmas music concert and a trip to Bethlehem. The trip involves getting hassled by Roman guards, up-close encounters with camels, a walk through Bethlehem’s marketplace and a visit to the manger.

For me, I like to put up my Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving… I enjoy the warm, festive glow of the lights and the tree gets adorned with ornaments that are each unique and many of which bring back special memories.

I like getting together with my sister and making Christmas goodies to share with others. I enjoy giving thoughtful gifts to friends and family.

Since I have no kids of my own, I still enjoy being the kid on Christmas! I love waking up on Christmas morning and waking up my parents (though sometimes they’re the ones who wake me up these days). It’s not about what’s under the tree, but who is around it and I know how blessed I am to be able to share this time with my mom and dad.

My wish for each of you is that you have a Merry Christmas, whether it is white or warm! And for those of you who are struggling this time of year and merriment is simply out of reach, my wish for you is comfort and peace!

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Introverts: We need our shells, thank you very much!

Alone isn’t lonely, necessarily.

I once had someone tell me that when they saw me sitting alone on my porch swing, it made them sad to see me so lonely.

As much as I hate to admit it, the comment got to me a little bit. Like most people, I don’t want to be pitied. I also don’t enjoy being misunderstood. Don’t judge what you see in me based on your perceptions and experiences. Perhaps this person would have been lonely if she was sitting alone, I, however, was anything but.

The world is viewed and portrayed largely through an extroverted lens. If you doubt this at all, Google it! Try googling images for the word “fun” and see what pops up. You will see the concept represented by vivacious smiles, exuberant gestures (picture arms outstretched, hands in the air) and people clustered into groups.

Now try an image search for “alone” and it’s literally like night and day. All the bright colors fade into shades of gray, images portray solitary individuals bowing under the heavy burden of their solitude – heads down, shoulders slumped, faces covered.

One could assume that it would be practically impossible to simultaneously be “alone” and have “fun”.  As an introvert myself, I cannot even begin to count the times that I have been told to “cheer up!”, “have fun!”, “smile!” or to “come out of my shell” (be careful what you wish for on that one).

It may be a hard concept for extroverts to grasp, but I can be quite happy without it being expressed on my face in the form a grin that spreads from ear to ear. I can have fun without flailing my arms about or lifting my hands up into the air… it actually is within the realm of possibility. I can even be highly amused without the sound of laughter escaping my lips. When I am out in a crowd, those outward expressions of my inner self feel awkward and uncomfortable for me.

You see, as odd as it may seem to you, those expressions – for me – are reserved only to be shared with those in my inner circle. My acquaintances may think that I don’t smile much, but my friends are familiar with the upward twitch of the outer corners of my mouth. Someone I just met may think that I’m quiet, but those who know me well  often wonder if I’m going to stop talking and have heard the guffaw of laughter that escapes from me when I’m amused (sometimes taking even me by surprise). And those who know me really well may even elicit a giggle or two.

Why would I want to display those intimate expressions of myself to the world at large?

And let’s talk about fun for a moment. “Fun” is defined as something that provides mirth or amusement; enjoyment or playfulness. Fun, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I often have fun alone. I often have fun with one other person, or a small group of those with whom I am close. I very rarely have fun in a large crowd. I almost never have fun at any event that has the word “party” in it or is described as “fun” by an extrovert.

Anything that involves large groups of people, mingling, small talk, “ice-breakers”, games, “polite conversation”, or pretty much any situation where someone says, “the more, the merrier!” (unless they are referring to chocolate, dogs or kittens) takes a toll on my energy stores. I can do it. I can even enjoy aspects of it, but I have a limit. And once that limit is reached, I want out! And then I’ll need time – alone – to fully recharge.

This is what life is like for those of us who are introverts. We aren’t anti-social, most of us aren’t even socially awkward. Some of us are even down-right friendly! We just need our alone time in order to properly process life… and in order to be pleasant to others!

So, the next time you try to help bring your introverted friend “out of their shell”, ask yourself this: is it in the best interest of the turtle to be removed from it’s shell? No, it’s not. The turtle is happy with its shell, it needs its shell, the shell is a part of him. The turtle does not need to be “fixed”, because it is not broken. The same is true for introverts! Leave our shells alone!

If you are an extrovert with an introverted friend or loved one, the greatest gift you can ever give to them is one-on-one time. Instead of inviting them to come to one of your gatherings where it’s “the more, the merrier”, just invite them over for a cup of coffee and a conversation about something meaningful. Or better yet, a walk or a drive, conversation is always easiest when we don’t feel like we have been put on the spot!

Give the introverts in your life the space to be heard. Most of us are very good listeners and we spend a lot of time listening to others. If an introvert opens up to you, take the time to listen – it’s likely they haven’t been heard in a while.

 

Blue Apron: A mixed box

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Spicy shrimp and cheesy grits.

I had been in one of my funks when I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, didn’t want to cook, didn’t want to think about food, or answer my own question of “what do you want to eat tonight?”.  As a result, I rarely had anything in my kitchen to cook and, more often than not, was eating out or eating junk.

That’s when I decided to give Blue Apron a try. The ads had been popping up on my Facebook news feed for quite some time and then I read a blog about a cynic who became a believer and with the blog was a trial offer of $9.95 for the first week. So, I decided that I had nothing to lose!

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Sloppy Joes and green bean salad.

I was pretty excited when my first box arrived! It was quite a wonderful thing to have everything needed to complete 3 distinct meals without having to leave my house, go to the grocery store, or think for one minute – “what will I have for dinner????”

In case my title didn’t give it away, I do, however, have mixed feelings about the service. I wouldn’t consider myself “won over” and, in fact, I’ll be canceling this week and giving some other options a try. HOWEVER, I do think it’s a good product and that some people would really enjoy it. So, I’m just going to break down what were, for me, the pros and cons of my own personal experience.

I’ll also insert here that I have not been compensated or even contacted in any way by Blue Apron or any other company – this is just my honest experience and opinion. Also, please note that my experience was with the “2-Person Plan”. As a single person, each meal cooked provided me with two meals to eat.

Website, membership and menu options

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Pork chops with sweet potato salad and spicy chow-chow.

The website is pretty user friendly and offers a good bit of information. Before signing up, I had seen a number of introductory offers out there. The one that I went for was $9.95 for the first week which includes 3 meals.

It is, of course, a subscription program. So you will continue to receive one box per week at the regular rate of $59.94 (for the 2-person plan), which includes every ingredient that you need for 3 complete meals.

They don’t really meet a lot of specific dietary needs or preferences, but do offer some options. You can choose to not have red meat, or to not have fish and seafood, or to not have meat, period.

While you can choose to change your menu selections week by week, your options are pretty limited and sometimes you can’t pick and choose quite as much as I would want to.

Things I love about it: You can choose to skip a week or weeks, you can cancel at any time, the website has useful tips on cooking the meal that week (didn’t use it, but it’s great for those who may need the extra help), no additional shipping charges.

The Box: delivery, ingredients and packaging

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I love getting the box.

I’m not a fan of grocery shopping, especially when I’m in one of my I-don’t-want-to-have-to-think-about-food-choices funks!

So having a box full of groceries delivered right to my front door with EVERY ingredient I need to fix 3 meals is a wonderful thing! (Note: you do need to have salt, pepper and olive oil on hand, but those are the only staples that you will ever need for a recipe that aren’t included in the box).

You can choose the day of the week that you would like to have your box delivered. I chose Wednesday because that was the earliest option and I am frequently away on weekends, so I wanted to be able to have my meals before going out of town.

I had three deliveries; all of which were on time and contained all the ingredients listed.

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The contents of the box which includes all the ingredients needed for 3 complete dishes and recipe cards.

The ice packs included in the box did keep the contents cold, but here in the summer, I would not have wanted it left on my front porch until 5 or 6 pm. I’m not sure the cold packs would have held up for that long in this kind of heat.

When I say that they send you everything you need to complete the recipe, I’m not kidding. Other than the olive oil and salt pepper, any oils, spices, condiments, rice, flour, meats or vegetables that you may need to complete the recipes are included in the box.

Everything is individually wrapped and labeled, so there is no confusion when it comes time to cook. For a single person who often finds herself having to buy an entire bunch of green onions or a whole head of cabbage just to fix something for one person, I really appreciated having exactly enough of each of the ingredients that I needed – no more, no less.

img_5807This, however, brings me to one of my biggest complaints. It’s not necessarily directed at Blue Apron specifically, and it comes part and parcel with the concept as a whole – there is a great deal of waste as a result of all the packaging.

Now, it’s true that much of it can be recycled, but living here in a rural area where recycling isn’t exactly convenient, it does add a further complication. It is, of course, just the other side of the coin – the convenience of having perfectly sized portioned ingredients shipped to your door!

 

 

Cooking: food prep, recipes and instructions

Before I get into reviewing the directions and recipes, I’ll just take a moment to explain my own culinary level of expertise… or lack of it… for comparative purposes.

I have been cooking for most of my life and, though I’m no chef, I am comfortable cookingimg_5799 for myself and others. However, I rarely follow a recipe and am not terribly fond of using them. My ADD and dyslexic brain do not do well following recipes and, frankly, it just takes all the fun out cooking. So, I usually just read through a few recipes if I’m fixing something I’ve never cooked before and then follow the concept more than actual directions.

So, I was a little concerned that I would have trouble with the recipes, but I didn’t. In part, because there was little measuring to do as the ingredients were shipped in perfect portions. The directions were also laid out very clearly and took me through each step of the process.

I didn’t encounter any complicated cooking processes, and though I’m pretty comfortable cooking, I think that most anyone who is able to boil water and saute an onion should be able to follow the directions and recipes provided and create an impressive meal.

img_5871If you have a skillet, nonstick pan, some mixing bowls, a few pots of varying sizes, a knife and cutting board; you should pretty much have what you need.

Most of the meals that I ate were tasty… which was good as I had to eat each meal twice! But there were a few of the side dishes that I wasn’t that thrilled with.

Meal prep and cooking seemed to take at least 40 minutes for everything that I cooked. That’s a bit longer than I really care to spend cooking most meals. On the plus side for me, I only had to cook once to have 2 meals. I also messed up more dishes in food prep than I usually do, so clean up also took a bit longer.

Conclusion and overall impressions

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Korean tacos…. insanely delicious!

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my Blue Apron experience. I think the price is quite reasonable and could easily save money if it is used to replace dining out at approximately $10 per meal. I can certainly shop and cook for less than that, but the convenience of having it shipped to my door makes up for a lot of that.

I prefer to buy my meats locally from producers who treat their animals humanely and feed them in a natural manner and without the use of antibiotic and growth hormones. I knew, of course, that I would be making a compromise on that point, so I don’t hold that against Blue Apron. They do seem to make an effort to buy sustainably produced meats and produce. But they do not have an organic option.

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Blackened chicken with zucchini rice and corn and tomatoes.

I’m a pretty adventurous eater and I enjoy trying new things. I was certainly exposed to a number of ingredients that I had never used before in my own cooking including: freekeh, bok choy, and Korean spices (which I now know that I love!). It was a nice change of pace to get some new options added to my repertoire.

All the ingredients were incredibly fresh, the produce tasted like it had been freshly picked. I would caution that if sesame oil is called for in any recipe that you not use the full amount that they call for. It’s been my experience that a very small amount of the oil goes a very long way and the two recipes I had that included it as an ingredient called for about one tablespoon (I’ve never used more than a few drops).

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Basque-style cod on a bed of freekeh.

I plan to give some other options a try. There are quite a few other companies out there providing a similar service and I’d like to see how they stack up against each other. There are also a couple of them that offer organic options, so I’m excited to see what those are like. I’ll be sharing my experience with those companies as well.

If you’ve used Blue Apron or any of the other services, please comment with your experiences below! I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Pan fried chicken over sauteed fennel and onion on a bed of mashed potatoes.

 

 

 

 

In my mind’s eye

I love nature. God’s creation is beautiful, it is restorative, it allows me to connect with my soul in a way that nothing else can.

Every place that I have called home has had some special place where I could go to recharge, breathe deeply, connect with the natural world and quiet the noise in my own mind.

When I lived in Puebla, I often escaped to the rooftop at night to lay on my back and stare up at the galaxy laid out before me. I miss those stars. I guess it was the high altitude combined with few city lights to interfere, but those night skies of my childhood in Mexico were the most beautiful that I have ever seen.

When I lived in Oregon, one of my favorite places to go when I had a rough day at work or life (and those were some trying years), I would often find myself just driving west as far as I could go… literally. I would end up in Yachats, Oregon a tiny town on the Pacific Coast. I would go out on the rocks that jutted out into the ocean and that’s where I could find tranquility.

There are other places that hold a special place in my heart as well, but these are two of the places that I often revisit in my mind’s eye. I was thinking of those rocks out there in the ocean the other night when I wrote the following…

Misted with the scent of ocean spray, hair styled by the wind, skin colored by the sun, I sit perched on the furthest rocks not yet swallowed by the rising tide. Silent. And blissfully alone. This is where my soul finds peace, where restoration begins.

The sound of the waves is all encompassing, embracing me, shielding me from the noise in my own mind. I close my eyes and turn my face into the wind, breathing deeply. A sigh escapes, taking with it the stress of my day.

I open my eyes and I smile. Around me the waves race by like a herd of horses fleeing a predator, waves crest and crash like mane blowing wildly in the wind. A seagull floats by overhead, its wings catching the currents above. Shades of blue and gray and white stretch out before me, I sit on the edge of the world and I see that I am small. And my problems become smaller.

This is not a calm sea, but a roiling ocean. All around me is chaos. Not waves that gently lap the shore, these are waves that froth and pound. No gentle lulling rhythmic swells but violent raging crashing beautiful madness. The raw power of its nature is stunning and humbling. It leaves me feeling vulnerable yet somehow empowered. I sit there calmly in the midst of its rage and remain untouched beyond the salty kiss it sends in the wind.

I leave when I must, not a moment sooner. I leave with regret that the moment must end. I leave knowing I will return. I leave a bit of myself behind, I take a bit of the sea in its place. She becomes a part of me. Her strength is mine, her beauty I hold close to my heart, her majesty lifts my head high. I leave for her my bitterness and rage, it’s for her now to throw against the rocks and beat on the shore. I leave for her my tears of pain and sorrow, she will embrace them as her own. I will leave with her a bit of the chaos from my soul and she will make it a thing of beauty for another to behold.