lifestyle blog

Going Green 🌱

I started something new once I’d moved into my apartment, about three months ago. I’ve always recycled, but now I have to drive my huge bag of recyclables to my mother’s house for it to be picked up. The effort is more than worth it, as recycling even a plastic water bottle is 1) a chance for it to be reused in the construction of a new product and 2) might actually save one animal’s life. If you haven’t seen footage of the pilot whale  (whose body was filled with plastic waste) or the unfortunate sea turtle with a 4-inch straw stuck in its nasal canal, follow the respective links.

Seeing Earth’s beloved creatures in peril through first-hand accounts really illuminates the horrors of plastic waste. So many days do we think of our hectic schedules with work, school, extracurriculars, volunteer efforts, and household duties, that we forget that life is so much grander than ourselves. We live in such a minute speck on Earth, and the way we live as individuals does affect our fellow living creatures. We even affect  our future selves in return. Animals, such as fish, eat plastic by mistake. But…think about what happens after we catch and eat them… Scary, huh?

hermit crab litter - NG going green
Image by National Geographic

Recycling should be made easily available to everyone in any area. If the department of waste in one area isn’t close by, do you think that many people would make the trip? “Just to throw garbage away in a different place?” It is hard with our incredibly busy lives (that we mold for ourselves) to make time for “trivial” matters. But when you think of how much you, special reader, can recycle from your every day garbage, you will see how quickly all of that waste can add up. All of those recyclable items won’t end up in our oceans. Crabs will be able to find only shells to make their home in. Whales and turtles won’t eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish. Animals can survive and thrive without manmade garbage in their habitat. How selfish of us to use Walmart plastic bags when we all have a green bag or two in our house, holding laundry supplies or kids’ toys. They’re only $1 in most places today, unless you prefer a more expensive canvas tote to do your shopping.

Replacing our plastic straws from fast food places with hard plastic or metal reusable straws will prevent so many animals from choking, suffocating, and ending up with a torn up nostril.

All of these steps make our lives a little bit more difficult, but when you think of that little squirrel who won’t get its head stuck in a plastic six-pack ring or a tummy so full of trash a whale can no longer eat, a readjusted lifestyle can become a little easier to swallow.


What I’m Doing
  1. Deconstructing K-Cups to Recycle – I put a basket next to our Keurig coffeemaker at the office in which everyone can toss their single-use K-Cup. I found this tool that allows me to cut open a K-Cup to pour out the coffee grounds and separate the 3 recyclable materials it consists of: aluminum top, plastic cup, and paper filter. All of these are recyclable and can be thrown separately from each other. The sorters at the recycling facilities will NOT deconstruct these themselves. Can you imagine how much waste they have to sift through?
  2. Replacing Single-Use Plastic Straws with Reusable Straws – I know…this one is tough for me, too. I received these hard, plastic straws as a gift, and I love them. I don’t mind washing these at all. It’s difficult not to grab one when handed a drink at a fast food restaurant, and Starbucks always hands me that iconic green straw with my iced tea or frappuccino. Reusable straws are not hard to come across. You can also use paper straws, which are biodegradable. Check your local superstore, or order some online from Walmart or Amazon. If you frequent Starbucks, they also sell that famous green straw in a reusable form. Look out for those by the mug wall. (P.S. I’m currently saving up plastic straws to reuse them in some fashion…I’ll keep you posted.)
  3. Avoiding Plastic Coffee Stirrers – At work, our bosses provide us with miniature plastic straws with which to stir our coffee. In my effort to reduce my straw usage, I developed a new method to my coffee brewing when I’m away from home. I first pour in my creamer and then let the coffee brew over it. At a local coffee and gelato shop, they have provided customers with pieces of dried pasta with which to mix their honey or cream into their beverage. It was so innovative, and I’m thinking about buying cheap pasta and doing the same at work…but one can only spend so much extra money!
  4. Struggling with Plastic Bags – As well as with the straw dilemma (just the sheer number of them), I’m struggling with this lifestyle change. I just discovered this wonderful thing called Walmart Pick-Up. I buy my whole shopping list online; someone shops for me; then I drive there so someone else can load it into my car. I don’t even have to get out of my vehicle. Unfortunately, each item in my cart gets its own bag. If I get one pack of butter, one bag of tortillas, and one yogurt, I’ll have three plastic bags for which I now have to find a use. Usually I reuse them as trashcan liners, but I collect so many that I’ll never be able to use them. There is a plastic bag recycling box at the entrance of most Walmarts, so I will soon make use of those. If there is a Target nearby, I believe they also do plastic bag recycling. Keep in mind your department of waste will not recycle plastic bags. It’s sad…but true.

    TrashDebrisManagement - vermillionville
    Image via Vermillionville.org

The first thing I want to improve is using reusable bags when I do shop in-store, and I also want to get some reusable produce bags when I buy my fruit or my rabbit’s veggies. There’s no need for single-use bags anymore. We can shop without being wasteful. When I can, I will also recycle my excess bags in the store.


Are you making steps toward a greener life? Are you sharing your inspiration with others? It’s hard to change your whole lifestyle, but isn’t saving our future family’s planet worth the extra effort?

01-harp-seal-pup-nationalgeographic_1936617.adapt.590.1
Photograph by David Doubilet, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE | Read the linked story to find out what plastic did to a little seal pup like this one.

What about saving the innocent animals? How can you turn down this face?

❤ Michelle

 

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When One Learns to Fly

Friday afternoon as I was decompressing from work, I was startled by fussy squawks from the jays outside. I watched one come to my porch to grab a peanut. Assuming the pair were just hungry, I resumed whatever I was doing until I was ready to leave to visit my family. But later, as I walked to my car, I was stalled by a horrific sight–a baby blue jay had fallen nearly twenty feet from the oak tree and flat onto the pavement! I was sure it was gone from such a plummet, but then I saw it breathing.

I threw my bags into the car and grabbed a cardboard Honey Maid Graham Cracker box from the recycling. Tearing it open, I slowly approached the wee feathered babe. I saw its eyes flutter open as I slid its limp body of electric blue feathers from the cement and onto the box. It began to screech at me, as its parents did while they swarmed the tree branches above my head. I thought it must have knocked itself unconscious.

Baby Blue Jay

Careful not to juggle him around too much, I placed him beneath a bush outside of my apartment gate. He sat on the box breathing heavily. I ran inside to refill the birdseed, and I placed a pile next to the baby just in case he’d want a bite while he recovered. Apparently I’d popped his bubble, and he began to cry at me again–beak wide open so I could see his magenta baby bird tongue.

Then I thought, well, other people might like to see this. Maybe I could get a good photo while he sat regaining consciousness. When I returned to capture his beautiful face forever, he regained some strength, stood, and hopped off around my neighbor’s fence! It was a blessing. My heart was beating so quickly during the endeavor because I thought he wouldn’t make it to live another day with us.

I realize, then,  that American culture has made us vain, making us believe that we need to tell all of our social media friends about everything we do. We want to document every moment, meal, trip, and we don’t just appreciate what God gives us; we take these little nuances for granted. I saved a baby bird from being run over. I should have relished in the fact that he was breathing and his parents watched from inside the bush while I fed them. Observing him and making him comfortable with my presence would have been so much more rewarding than attempting to take a picture. I think his retreat was a sign that I need to learn to enjoy life and not always try to snap an Instagram-quality picture. I don’t know how quickly I will change my ways, but being aware of the appropriate time for photos will be my goal.

This baby bird helped me to see just how precious our moment was, just me and him. Petit Bleu.

I am not certain on Petit Bleu’s condition, though I haven’t seen him or any jay feathers lying around. His right wing was fanned out when I found him, so I didn’t know if it had been broken or not. When he hopped away, the wing seemed to fold back into place and he flapped both of his wings enough to allow him to jump up to the sidewalk and around the side of the fence. I believe I might have heard his crying this morning when I saw his parents stopping by for breakfast. It seems he may be alright, after all.

❤ Michelle

Final Photo Challenge: All-Time Favorites

Every moment was a precious thing, having in it the essence of finality.

-Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

It was incredibly sad to read that the Daily Post blog posted their final Weekly Photo Challenge. When I joined WordPress about five years ago, I wrote my first posts with inspiration from these challenges. It encouraged my photography soul to branch out into all different directions. I’ve learned how to take photos from different angles to give them a different feeling or meaning. I always thought it was spectacular to see how people would interpret the same picture in various or contradicting ways.

I’ll always find meaning in my photography now that I’ve exercised my creativity in the field. In honor of this meaningful challenge, I present to you two of my All-Time Favorite photos I shared for this challenge:

image
“Close-Up,” 2015

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“Wall,” 2015

 

London Fog Tea Cake: A Recipe Review

London Fog Teacake

Tea is a newfound love of mine, and I love to drink it iced for any meal or warm to decompress after a long day. My favorite brew is Earl Grey: a black tea flavored with the oil of bergamot oranges. Citrusy and floral–mmm! I’m a bit new to the tea game, so just recently I learned the definition of a London Fog. It is, plainly, an Earl Grey Latte–or Earl Grey tea with milk and a bit of vanilla flavor. I’ve never had one, so it’s now on my bucket list! I wonder if Starbucks has one worth trying…

Whilst browsing Pinterest as usual, I found the recipe for this London Fog tea cake that has Victoria Sponge cakes infused with tea leaves, drizzled in an Earl Grey simple syrup, and topped with a light vanilla cream and a sprinkle of dried (edible) flowers. When I tell you that I can remember every delicious bite of this cake, I’m not lying! This recipe is from the blog Not Quite Nigella. I saw there’s a Chai Spice Tea Cake as well, and that one will be next on the tea cake list!

This recipe requires a moderate skill level to properly bake the sponge. According to Lorraine, it is quite the “temperamental” cake! She recommends not to open the oven door to check on it or even turn the oven light on. I was worried that my sponges weren’t going to come out as fluffy and flat as I wanted. Alas, I ended up with one concave layer (which ended up on the bottom). If you look closely at her cross-section though, it seems like she had extra cream in the middle, too! So maybe I wasn’t the only one with a wimpy layer.


HIGHLIGHTS

One thing I loved about NQN, is that she writes so well and teaches along the way. I don’t know much about the science of baking, so when I can learn something, I take it gratefully! I learned the namesakes of Earl Grey tea and Victoria sponges, and I also learned how that sponge differs from a more common cake (chiffon). I very much enjoyed her slight digression to talk about a book she was currently reading and her thoughts on that. It seemed to be part of her inspiration for this recipe.

Teacake mess
Okay, not everyone’s perfect… #kitchencrimescene

I always appreciate a simple recipe/recipe card at the base of a blog post because it is concise and I can’t miss a step. She makes each ingredient clear and gives ideas for substitutions or ingredients that might work better than others. For example, she explains that using duck eggs for Victoria sponges because the extra protein in them makes stiffer peaks when whipped, allowing for a sturdier sponge. (Probably would have helped with my sunken one…) It is also so simple to decorate. Just spread a ton of that delicious whipped cream between the layers and on top, and sprinkle with whatever edible flowers you have around. I just used some lavender and rose petals. So yum!


LET-DOWNS

I have to be honest. There was nothing about this recipe I didn’t like! The only let-downs I came across was my scarcely-stocked kitchen. I needed a scale for more accurate measuring (which I now have).

Also, I believe you can’t be stingy on the Earl Grey simple syrup. One would think that it’d be potent, but it really isn’t. There is an Earl Grey aroma to the cake already, but to get some real tea flavor, it needs a good amount. Just not so much that it is sitting in a sugary bath! I wish she would have mentioned how much she used, because I don’t believe she used all of it! Or…maybe she did? Because I don’t bake as often as I wish I could, I’m not attuned to the ratios of ingredients to use.


London Fog Teacake 2
My beau and I sat down for a candle-lit dinner and had this lovely tea cake for dessert.

SUMMARY

I would absolutely recommend this recipe to anyone. The cake is spongey (because, you know, it’s a sponge) and moist, and the whipped topping is hardly sweet at all. It was an airy dessert that is easy to eat after a heavy meal. I also had it with coffee or tea in the afternoon as a light snack after work.

Definitely keep this baby in the fridge. The whipped topping needs to be refrigerated to keep solid. It isn’t a let-down for me because it comes in the territory. Any whipped cream should be kept in the refrigerator! Moist cakes, too, most of the time.

Everyone in my family + my beau were enchanted by this delightful tea cake. It whisked them away! (Get it?)

Let me know if you try Not Quite Nigella’s “‘London Fog’ Earl Grey Tea Cake” recipe. I’d love to see pictures, too!

❤ Michelle

A Saturday Tale

It was a chilly, winter Saturday morning, and I wanted nothing more than to follow my New Year’s resolution and chase adventure!

My family decided to take a stroll through our local farmer’s market to visit an old friend (who sells thebest salsain the whole world) and grab a hot breakfast cooked to order. We enjoyed her quail egg breakfast sandwiches, as well as some baked cinnamon donuts by the most exquisite baker in town. Is your mouth watering yet?

We also tried some spicy BBQ sauce made with cane sugar, and warmed our frigid fingers to a blend of freshly ground coffee, made from a local couple. I’m SO grabbing a bag of that Sumatra next time! Pop that into the French press and steam away…

A couple of other goodies we found was a homemade king cake by the talented Mrs. Francis (who’s basically everyone’s grandmother), some chips created by a guy who was in the high school band with me, some divine pastries from yet another baker, and a bottle of herbal root beer kefir soda. I have to admit…I really dig this soda! It’s fermented with yeast, and the lady who makes them in town has so many flavors to choose from! When I visit her tent, it’s like going to a juice bar. She even has little fountains so you can taste a few different flavors to find your favorite. Be warned–these are considered probiotics! (And make you feel GREAT!) [Insert Thumbs-Up Here]

I’ll take this time to mention I also pet the most adorable boxer I’ve ever met. She’s chocolate brown with a satin coat, and the sweetest smile and tail wag! I made her extra excited, so she almost knocked her owner to the ground… She looked like this, just a darker brown.

I apologize for the lack of photographs, I seem to have been too concerned with keeping my hands warm that I neglected my phone! You can see a few of our buys here, though:

A Saturday Tale 1.jpg
Can you spot hard-boiled Mardi Gras quail eggs?

The Farmer’s Market was only the beginning of Saturday adventures, though. After running a few errands and resting for a couple of hours, it was time to get ready for the Polyester Power Hour PartyIt was a night filled with disco music by a local band, Krossfyre, and boogie shoes all around. The band was phenomenal! No one even needed a chair, because everyone wanted to dance. If you want to hear some clips, visit my Instagram post and swipe past the photos.

I’ve never really been “out,” as people call it, because I don’t drink, and I don’t prefer to be around a bunch of people who drink too much. It’s not usually how I have fun, so it was a new experience for me. But…this party was a riot, and my beau and I had a blast!

The main reason I had a blast was due to two people whom I’ve been dying to meet–the hosts of the morning show on our local radio station! I have been listening to them for nearly 15 years now, and it was an honor to meet them. It MADE. MY. YEAR. Thank you, C.J. and Debbie Ray, for being so kind to take a photo with me.

A Saturday Tale 2
-beaming with pure happiness-

What new experiences do you look forward to on the weekend? Once you have the chance to unwind and have time to do what you love?

❤ Michelle

The Super Bloody Blue Moon

Let me begin by admitting that before today, I wasn’t absolutely sure of the definition of a “blood moon” or a “blue moon.” Just in case you are also in the dark (pun intended), here’s some explanation!

Blood moon – a lunar eclipse where the moon appears to be red when shadowed by the Earth.

Blue moon – the second full moon in the same month.

Super moon – when the moon is closest to the Earth


This morning before work, Mum fluttered in like a sparrow before the sunrise to remind me of the all-natural, awe-inspiring, magical phenomenon that was the blue blood moon. I was lucky enough to capture a photo that didn’t blur.

Check it:

The Bloody Blue Moon

This super moon lit up the frosty grass with an azure glow. I find the moon mysterious, inviting. Moonlight is only a reflection of the powerful light that our sun creates, but it seems to breathe into us a different life force. While practicing yoga, I learned that the moon is connected to our feminine spirit. Could this be true?

Ever since I can remember, my mother and grandmother wouldn’t sleep well on nights of a full moon. I’ve had this trouble as well. (I’m sure there’s plenty of folklore to keep that tale afloat.) Could our bodies or spirits be connected to the moon like the oceans’ tides? Are we being tugged at in earnest, as the moon closely rotates our planet? Are we closer to our natural satellite than we understand? Is it electric? Is it emotional? Is it biological? Is it magnetic? Is it…spiritual?

Do you feel connected to the universe? Do you feel unusually connected to nature in some way? I’d love to know. 🌘

❤ Michelle