March: Gentle Cleaning Rules for the Month

I know, I know, I need to conclude my February Vegan month still! If you follow me on social media, you will have seen my husband and I recently announced we are expecting a little Halfrican™ bundle in August. I wanted to wait on talking about being Vegan because I REALLY wanted to address what it’s been like being Vegan for the month AND being pregnant (spoiler alert: it’s been a real treat). It made it hard to talk about vegan pregnancy before actually announcing that I’m pregnant. So look forward to that coming soon. IMG_9122

Meanwhile, it’s March which means new month, new project! 

This month I am going to venture into Gentle Cleaning. I am going to overhaul our house and see what I can do to get as many cleaning chemicals out as possible. I am also going to clean like I’ve never cleaned before… which I am beyond excited about. I can highly identify with Monica on “Friends”… except the episode where she has a secret closet where she keeps all her mess, I can not handle that business. And before you say “Oh, you must be nesting,” I am not. My love for cleaning and organizing is just me on a normal day. Same thing with my love for naps and snacking… completely unrelated to pregnancy, it’s just how I roll. 

All throughout my high school days, I worked at a wonderful fish market to which I credit for teaching me how to clean. There I learned how to sweep effectively, how to clean sharpie off of a counter top, how to wash dishes by hand and, most importantly, bleach everything! I became accustomed to associating the sensation of something being “clean” with the smell of bleach, and have carried this into adulthood. However, my house is not a fish market, and does not require the same amount of disinfecting. So this month, I shall teach myself new ways! 

Here are my Gentle Cleaning goals for the month: 

  1. Replace household cleaning chemicals with natural solutions
  2. Experiment with different DIY cleaners
  3. Clean, Organize, Purge! 
  4. Continue to reduce household waste
  5. Continue to explore new Vegan recipes

As I have for the past two months, I’d love any tips and resources from those who are wiser than I. Let me have it; what do I need to know about chemical free cleaning? 

Gentle Eating: Mid-Month Update

My Vegan month has been eventful thus far. 

I must confess, I’ve slipped up a few times. 

I went to A&W for a Beyond Meat burger and was very conscientious about stating boldly “NO CHEESE” at the drive-thru window. Then, about half way through eating the burger, I realized it was riddled with mayo. Oops. 

Last week, in a famished blur, I saw one of my students with a giant bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. Before I could even think about Vegan anything I found myself making intense eye contact with said student and muttering, “What’s good?” as I reached out my cupped hands for Cheetos.  

In the same way I discovered mindfulness during my January of “Gentle Waste,” I’ve been realizing how much more mindful I need to be to find success living a Vegan lifestyle. No hazy brained adventures to the drive-thru in the morning, every restaurant visit requires very diligent reading of menus beforehand, and cooking at home requires a great deal more creativity and thought. 49864750_340699400105138_4016678476353372160_n

But with that said, when I put thought into my meals, I don’t feel that I am making huge sacrifices with my eating. One of the first things people said to me when they found out I was going to eat Vegan for the month was, “Sooo, you’re going to eat lettuce?” At that time I would ignorantly respond, “Yeah, I guess so,” however now I know that’s not always the case. Vegans are a creative lot and whether it be “burgers” or “cream” sauces, or “cheese,” I have been able to find delicious replacements for most things. I would choke a salmon with my bare hands for some sushi right now though. I do not have the patience or the time to be rolling my own sushi rolls. That’s another kind of extra that I’m just not. 

Stay tuned to my Instagram account as later this month I will have special Instagram live interviews with some talented Vegans.

For those interested, here are some great recipes and references I have discovered so far.

I found this TED Talk from Erin Ireland fascinating. Vegan or dedicated carnivore will find this a useful watch.

Plant Based News has been an interesting resource:

https://www.plantbasednews.org/?fbclid=IwAR0aP4eRC2fRx1cfDqh3dVqbiRir2GUt93ODlhju49zXFPQAXvDGZ8FEe8k

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https://olivesfordinner.com/2015/03/carrot-lox.html

http://itstodiefor.ca/the-best-soft-and-gooey-cinnamon-buns-by-indian-rock-vegans/

Erin Ireland’s version of the Virtuous Pie “Stranger Wings” Pizza (This is one of my absolute favourites): http://itstodiefor.ca/buffalo-cauliflower-wing-pizza/

One of my favourite websites for Vegan recipes is: https://ohsheglows.com

Here’s a link to my “VEGAN” board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/theashleyrhapsody/vegan/

 

 

January: Rules for the Month

Eco Footprint: I am currently using 20.3 Hectares of land (Average Canadian: 9 Hectares), 2.3 Earths, and my “Overshoot day” is June 10th 

All I Want for Christmas is EVERYTHING

The Christmas season is always a great reminder for me of all the crap I think I need. I am all of a sudden acutely aware of every kitchen gadget that will elevate my cooking, every item of clothing that will make me feel like a Pinterest feature, and of course the new watch that will track my steps, heart rate, and emotions guaranteeing I will be a more balanced, and aware human. 

The truth is I do not really need anything. I can cook just fine with what I have, I have enough clothes to be fully dressed for work each day, and that watch that counts my steps is only going to turn me into a neurotic basket case, marching in my living room at 10:36pm because I haven’t hit my 10,000 step goal for the day. 

Waste Not, Want Not

I have created a bit of a tradition for myself every time I come home from a trip to Uganda. I arrive home with my luggage covered in fresh red dirt, and my head whirling with thoughts about how us “Westerners” live. Before my shoes are even off I am scanning my house looking to give away anything I haven’t used in the past 6 months. 

“Why do I have so many shoes? No human needs this many throw pillows. Am I planning on conducting a seance? Why do I need all these candles?” I mumble to myself as I ferociously toss all the things I don’t need. 

And here in lies the strange tension I hold between Christmas and my most recent trips to Uganda. How do strike a balance? How do I become a conscious consumer in every season of my life? How do I de-clutter but also not waste that which I already have? 

Rules for the Month of “Gentle Waste” January

In the past being “waste free” looked like a giant purge of my home inventory. I was living “simply” if my counters were clean, and my Tupper-ware cupboard wasn’t overflowing. However once I took the Eco footprint quizzes (Eco Foot Print Quiz 1 and Quiz 2 ) a whole new world of (rather simple) changes opened up to me. I was forced to think about the way I consume and waste not just at home, but also when I’m out and about. 

Here are my goals for January: 

  1. Shopping: Reusable bags for groceries and produce, cut down food that has packaging (by at least half). Look into reusable snack bags, and wraps. This is really just a matter of REMEMBERING my bags. I have all the reusable bags I could ever need, but I am constantly forgetting them in my house or in the car. I suppose it’s also a matter of laziness… walk ALL THE WAY back to the car for a bag? Meh, just once will be okay. 
  2. Cook the correct amount & eat leftovers. We are usually pretty good at this, but we could surely get better. Our biggest problem is when we intentionally make big batches of something and then not freezing it in time. 
  3. Coffee Talk: Make coffee at home. If I am stuck, I am only allowed to purchase a coffee if I have my own reusable cup. Same goes for water. My S’well Bottle has definitely helped with my water consumption and cutting down my use of plastic water bottles, but I have yet to hit my stride with coffee. Having the rule that I cannot have coffee without the cup should definitely keep me thinking about it. 
  4. Recycle with more accuracy and Compost ALL food waste. This feels really shameful to admit, but I have been guilty of throwing out entire containers of food if the food is too moldy or gross to deal with. Especially if it’s just those cheap zip-loc containers. I also get really lazy about composting and recycling. I have no idea what all the different recycle numbers mean, and I am sure I recycle the wrong things to the wrong places. 
  5. Water Usage: 3 minute showers- use a timer/ Reduce flushes/ Cut down dishwasher use. This one kind of devastates me. Not only do I love long, hot showers, I also love putting on full blown concerts whilst in the shower. I’m going to need to find somewhere else to perform the entire score of “Wicked.” 
  6. Watch “A Plastic Ocean,”  and “Before the Flood.” I want to educate myself. I hope the more I know, the more I will care. 
  7. Visit the Surrey Bio-Fuel Plant. Surrey’s Bio-Fuel Plant is one of only a few of its’ kind in all of Canada. An understanding of where my compost goes, and how it’s used will hopefully help my buy in. 

There it is, month one! Any great resources you think I need to be aware of? Any giant blind spots in my plan? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below, and follow along on social media @theashleyrhapsody

The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

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2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 1.43.07 PM

After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

Monday Moments of Joy: Money Saving Apps

My husband finds my love for points programs comical. He knows that almost everywhere we go I have a punch card, a phone number to give, or an app to make use of. Though my enthusiasm for contests and rewards programs may seem a little “intense” (Me? Intense? Never!), our household does end up saving a lot of money, and earning lots of free treats. 

I believe in using my enthusiasm to help those around me, so in the name of being helpful, here are some of my favourite rewards apps that have great pay-offs. 

PC Optimum (Click & Collect)

I love the PC Optimum card and Click & Collect. I know what you’re thinking: “You are a young-ish, married woman with no kids. Why on earth would you use Superstore’s Click & Collect?” Well, Judge Judy, let me tell you why. 

Why am I so in love with this app + feature?

  • I save a butt-ton of money
  • I earn free groceries
  • Makes life easier

What’s the deal?

Recently, Superstore and Shopper’s Drug Mart merged their points systems from PC Points and Shoppers Optimum to the PC Optimum card, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s just a typical points card, but if you keep close track of your deals on the app, you can earn points quickly. I also love Click & Collect, and I believe it’s helped me earn more points and save money. When I order my groceries online with Superstore, I am home! This means I am not impulse buying, I can check my pantry as I shop, and I can sit with the PC Optimum app open next to me and check what deals I should be jumping on. It also really helps my grocery-shopping rage because few things can require me to renew my salvation than shopping inside Superstore on a Sunday afternoon. 

Check it out

Ebates

I am constantly preaching the gospel of Ebates. 

Why am I so in love with this app?

  • It’s easy
  • There is NO “catch”
  • I make money on items I would purchase anyway
  • Free money

What’s the deal? 

Basically, you start on the Ebates website to access stores you’d already be doing your online shopping on. Then you access your desired store, and shop as you’d normally do. Once you have made a purchase, Ebates will give you a percentage of the amount you spent back to you (every store has a different percentage). They literally just send you a cheque in the mail. It’s flipping amazing! I use Ebates regularly for Amazon, Sephora and Groupon purchases, but my absolute favourite was when I was booking Giddy and my trip to Uganda on Expedia. It made dropping thousands of dollars on a flight feel a bit better knowing I’d be getting an Ebates cheque at the end of it all. 

Check it out 

Groupon

Thanks to Tiffany Haddish, most people know what Groupon is. I love Groupon but probably don’t use it enough. 

Why I am so in love with this app? 

  • It’s simple to use
  • It saves me money 
  • It helps me discover new local restaurants and activities

What’s the deal?

Simply download the app, view coupons for everything from food, spas, travel, stuff… you name it! But don’t forget: Ebates is a supporter of Groupon! Make sure you use Ebates to access Groupon and then you can save even more money! 

Check it out 

Carrot Rewards

This card requires little work, and zero money to earn points. 

Why I am so in love with this app?

  • I can earn points on cards of my choosing (I use my Scene Card)
  • I can earn points both consciously and unconsciously 

What’s the deal? 

Download the app, and decide which card you want to earn points for. You can earn Scene points, Save-On More points, Aeroplan, Drop rewards and Petro-Points. Once you’ve decided, there are two ways you can earn points: Carrot Rewards will track your daily step count and give you points accordingly, or complete short health questionnaire’s to earn points. The questionnaire’s take typically about 5-10 minutes; I’ll do one when I’m in line somewhere and it’s a quick way to earn some points. I have had the app for about a year, and I’ve earned 4 free movies. Totally worth a few minutes here and there! 

Check it out Use my personal bonus code when you sign up for Carrot and earn 50% more points on me! ashleym5321 http://www.carrotrewards.ca

And there you have it! Now it’s your turn: do you have a favourite money saving, points earning app? Tell me more *Ashley said as she drums her fingers together in a Jafar-like manner.* 

 

Dear Amy Schumer,

I am writing this letter to inform you that I was not offended by your movie, “I Feel Pretty.” 

In fact, I’ll take it one step further: I left your film and I felt pretty. 

I read an article the other day written by a fellow female movie goer who seemed morally and ethically offended by your film for several reasons:

  1. It was too mystical; women shouldn’t have to be magically knocked unconscious to find themselves beautiful 
  2. The movie portrayed your character, Renee, as a chubby bunny, when in reality you’re just a moderately curvy bunny
  3. The movie did not show Renee’s acceptance of herself at the end of the movie without these magical powers

I don’t think at any point your movie implied that the only way to reach self-acceptance is through a traumatic head injury. I merely think it’s hard to unpack how beauty is a construct that has been formed over hundreds of years and impacts girls from the moment they are born, in an hour and fifty minute rom-com. And let’s be honest, I don’t want to sit through a movie that demonstrates, in real time, the journey women take towards self acceptance. That would be one sad, long-ass movie.

Further more, I was not offended when a bicycle seat accidentally collapsed beneath your character. I did not interpret that as, “She must be so fat that the bicycle seat cannot support her weight.” I thought, “Yes, bicycle seats are famously unreliable.” 

I will admit; I giggled at the scene where you walked into a clothing store and the woman who worked there condescendingly told you that they wouldn’t have your size in store. I thought, “Oh poor size 6 Amy Schumer, life must be so hard for her.” But as a woman of a shapely form, I could relate to going into a store and seeing size XS as far as the eye can see, and not being able to find my size. No matter what size you are, it is hurtful going into a space and not feeling represented or welcomed. 

Perhaps that is why so many people were offended by your film; everyone wanted to feel represented. That, however, is a tall task to ask of any movie. 

Amy, I think those who were offended by your film may have missed the point.

Correct me if I’m wrong Ams, but I think this film was trying to initiate the question: what if attitude really was everything? How would I live my life different if my outward appearance wasn’t of any concern?

If you’re wondering what I would do, I would: 

  • Wear a two piece bathing suit confidently; regardless of how curvy or pale I am.
  • Show off my legs more (I know it’s not possible, but if I could sustain a head injury and then mystically be able to remain curvy while also wearing shorts and dresses without my thighs rubbing together, I’d be super into that.)
  • Participate. Participate in sports, participate in swimming with friends, participate in new exercise classes at the gym. I have definitely improved in this area, but for years I quite literally took myself out of the game in fear of looking foolish or not being able to keep up.

Your movie reminded me, in a very simple way, I don’t want the way I perceive my looks to hold me back from opportunities for fun, growth, or wellness.

The other potential reason I think some were offended by your film is that people are just really dang hard to please. There has been an outcry for more positive body-image messages in the media, however panties wad if the messenger is too fat, too thin, too blonde, or too popular.

I don’t know about everybody else, but I left the theatre feeling pretty good about myself. I walked out with a little more swagger, and a couple extra hair flips. And at no point since watching your film have I sought out a blow to the head in the pursuit of higher self-esteem. 

You started a conversation which is typically a hard and painful one to start, in a funny, light-hearted way, and I appreciate it. 

Kind regards, 

Ashley

Monday Moment of Joy: Surviving the Outdoors

I am not a camper. 

Yes, yes, I know. I live in BC! I should be adorned in head to toe North Face, traveling in a canoe towards a secluded island for camping adventures every weekend. 

But I’m not. 

Because I don’t like camping. 

You’re not going to change me. 

Stop trying to make me something I’m not. 

With that said, I do LOVE being outside. I merely have boundaries with the outdoors. I feel like boundaries are healthy and show how mature I am. 

Criteria for an “Ashley Outdoors Excursion”:

  • No “packing” required. I do not have kids yet, therefore I do not want to be schlepping bags full of other peoples snacks and living supplies around. 
  • No encounters with wild animals larger than maybe a raccoon. I want my interactions with animals in the outdoors to look like Snow White is going on a casual stroll, not like Leo in The Revenant 
  • All potty incidents happen in an actual potty. 

I don’t feel like I’m asking for the world. 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Now that’s the kinda gal I can get on board with,” then this is the list for you. 

Here are three of my favourite local excursions that are unlikely to kill me: 

Quarry Rock

When I first visited Quarry Rock I was very mad. Why you ask? Because it was listed as an “easy hike” in an article entitled, “5 Easy Hikes for Lazy People in Vancouver.” I read that and thought, “Sweet. I’ll develop a lovely glint of sweat but not so much sweat that I smell bad.” So I went. I think I said, “Easy hike for lazy people my foot!” at least 5 times on the way up. It was a lot more “hike-y” than I thought it would be. However, with that said, after the initial surprise that I was hiking , I did really enjoy Quarry Rock. The view at the top is beautiful, you’ll sweat, you’ll get a great laugh at the girls who clearly read the same article as me and showed up in high heels, and you can reward all your hard work at the end with the best donuts you’ll ever have in your life. If that isn’t enough reason to hike, I don’t know what is.

 

Light House Park

I went to Light House Park a week or so after I went to Quarry Rock. It felt almost too easy after that. I just can’t be pleased. Located in West Vancouver, Light House Park has several scenic, easy trails, with lovely views. No donuts though.

IMG_2261

Lower Falls

A beautiful (easy) trail tucked in Golden Ears Provincial Park. The whole trail is a little under 3km and follows along Gold Creek all the way to the falls. There are beautiful views of the mountains, a rocky beach about half way through that’s perfect for a refreshing sit-down, and at the end you’re rewarded with the beauty of the falls. Giddy and I like to climb around the side of the trail and sit on the rocks near the falls. For me it’s a climb. For the average person it’s probably just an elevated walk. 

 

So there it is, a simple guide on how I survive the wilderness. Happy Monday. And you’re welcome.