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My Organic gardening tips – beginners I got you covered!

IMG_20190504_133539.jpgAs an early retiree, it is oh so expected that I take on gardening.

So I did.

Can’t break tradition.

2 essential caveats before I start:

#1: I am no professional gardener or anything of the sort. on the contrary, novice, totally.

But- in my humble opinion- not only does that not disqualify me from writing this post- on the contrary- this only makes me more aware of what a novice gardener fears .

So get ready- this is the real deal- including the frugal side, naturally, since I am not only an organic produce enthusiast but also care deeply for the value for cost point of view.

Why not start at the beginning?

The beginning: summer 18-things are looking bad, real bad

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Harsh summer, very hot, super dry, neighbors building their house and their workers leaving a large construction machine with its engine too close to the shrubs you see in the picture, my drip irrigation system proved to be a total miss- water was leaking and the garden was slowly but surely dehydrating although we turned the water system 3 times a week.

looking bad, I know.

#2: Determination will get you anywhere! end of summer 18-cleaning the territory

As enthusiastic as I was- couldn’t start working seriously with that pair of broken branch cutters.

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Since the cutters are made by a reputable company, a new cutter costs around 100$, so I contemplated my options, knowing that there is no way I can do all that work without those cutters.

So I started looking online and found out you can order new parts via mail for a fraction of the cost of a new one- you only need to get your engineering (no) skills together and understand exactly what each part is called and numbered.

Got through that part (wasn’t easy I tell you) and 2 weeks later-

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Mind you I only changed the upper left part of the cutters (dark grey) and scrubbed clean everything else.

#3: getting to work:

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Step 4: breaking up with the irrigation system- moving to a full proof yellow hose:

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The summer of 2018 was a harsh summer, and as you can see above, our garden suffered from the heat tremendously.

Since I constantly check our water bill, I saw a 200$ bill for May-June 2018, and I was puzzled.

Something was wrong for sure.

So I started checking our water system- every inch of it, and the conclusion was that something must be wrong with the drip irrigation- since the garden was evidently dehydrated though we watered it constantly- or so we thought.

We dismantled the irrigation system and bought this (advertised as) full proof lifetime guarantee hose. and I started watering every day using only the hose.

I can tell you it is June now and our water bill for May 2019 was 20$…

conclusion:

If you care about your garden + water waste+ your water bill:

Either check your water irrigation system constantly to make sure there are no holes and the system is well maintained

or

If you have the time and energy to invest: use a simple hose and water your garden regularly.   but please remember to water in the very early morning hours, otherwise all your good work and precious water will go to waste , once the sun gets to action.

2 Added bonuses to the second method:

#1: you can check up on your plants, shrubs, trees, and vegetables while you are out there watering-by doing so you get a 100% better chance of detecting disease and other possible problems in your garden.

#2: watering your garden is truly a relaxing job, almost meditative. put on some music and enjoy yourself! If you are brave hearted or can’t see your neighbors then use the time to squat! Try one of the squat challenges !

As it turns out, checking up on your garden every day is a 101  in gardening, and I have no idea how we managed to keep our garden (fairly)alive through all those long years I worked.

This is the problem people-

I simply can’t bring myself to recommend the hose system to full time ,out of the house ,working people. this is simply too much- between work, cleaning, preparing food, exercising, resting, not to mention if you have young kids- you know what-even grown-up kids.

So maybe use the famous middle way- combine both methods- use and maintain an irrigation system 1-2 times a week, and water by hand the other times?

The main thing is don’t forget to keep a close eye on your garden, it is a living thing, and cannot maintain itself.

speaking of which:

#5: keep working!( motivating myself -in a harsh tone- I am the boss of me! )

Since my garden was already covered with trees and shrubs- looking for a proper vegetable section wasn’t an easy mission.

The main thing was finding a place that gets enough sunlight- meaning between 6-8 hours of sun each day.

The only place I found was this plot of land, which we covered a long time ago in volcanic tuff- to prevent weeds.

The thing is there was no way to use the soil since it was contaminated with gasoline the previous owners had spilled years ago. somehow the roses we grew there managed, but no way I was going to take a risk with vegetables…

so-

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#6: The solution:

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planting pots.

What a genius idea.

I am not promoting the genius company that developed this thing- because I have no idea who that is- but still- If you stumble upon a troublesome soil like I did- or have only a porch to grow your desired veggies- those planting pots got you covered.

Bear in mind that tomatoes are what is called “heavy feeders” -meaning a single plant of tomatoes needs at least 15-20 liters pot to grow, cucumbers can manage in 10-15 liters and peppers in 7-10 liters.

#7: the soil

I went and bought a designated gardening soil (a lot of it- the planting pots have calculating tables to make life easier for you) and combined it with compost -in a 50:50 ratio.

#8: seeds!

I ordered good quality seeds -a batch enough for 2 years cost 25$ -all heirloom and derived from organically grown vegetables.

Didn’t buy plants from a nursery since I decided I was going to learn everything concerning growing vegetables- from seeds to plate.

A youtube channel that I found very helpful is “the rusted garden”- by Gary Pilarchik.

Here is a link: the rusted garden

#9: seeds to seedlings…..

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Ok listen people- this was not simple for a novice gardener like me.it was definitely hard work.

All I can say is once you go through your first growing season-the second one will probably look like a child’s game for you…

I bought a heating mat, a special light bulb (used a lamp I had on hand)- the light has to be at least 2000-3000 lumens (lumens measure the brightness of the light) and 5000-6500 Kelvin (a type of light- your seedlings need a light that imitates daylight to grow strong).

You need to give your seedlings 16-18 hours of growing light a day- once they germinated. yes- you can shine the light on them at night if you have a spare room where no one is bothered by the light.

Tomatoes and peppers take 8-12 weeks to get to a young plant stage- and during that time you need to water them regularly -to keep them moist but not soggy- and basically monitor them daily.

Yep.

Then when temperatures get to about 20 degrees Celcius outside- you can consider transplanting them outside to your planting pots.

But!

Be careful if there are cats or other animals walking about in your garden.

They tend to believe you set the planting pots with the gardening soil and compost- as a special toilet designed for them. so they will dig up all the soil and all your hard worlk will go to waste.

I bought a simple cheap building wire and constructed a wired cage- to deter cats and support my tomatoes- cucumbers when they hopefully fruit.

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#10: What about that plate?

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So far- we have great cucumbers, a few tomatoes, (I mean really- a few- maybe 3 till now-the rest are still green- waiting impatiently) ) parsley and coriander.

My personal recommendation-

Start with the easiest – cucumbers and green leaves- parsley and coriander. grow lots of these and enjoy your life. the tomatoes and peppers are hard work!!

Remember the sad picture from the summer of 2018?

This is how the same plot looked like in spring 2019.

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Lots of compost, lots of water, lots of maintenance.lots of Love. The Beatles were right of course.

Can’t say it was easy- nor cheap-but if you are into fresh healthy organic great tasting veggies and are not afraid of the hard work- get to it!

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 days as a dhamma server in a vipassana course: what?? ( no preaching or missionary wisdom included)

Yep.

I spent almost 2 weeks preparing food and cleaning the kitchen&dishes for more than 100 people.

No payment.

sure- it wasn’t easy- but I enjoyed myself immensely, and moreover- I shall share my tips on how to – just in case you decide this is an adventure you would like to experience.

Mind you that only “old students”- no- not mature in age and wisdom- but people that have completed a 10 day vipassana course, can apply to serve in a course, so first- read my previous post on my 10 day course- 10 days I consider a beautiful and meaningful present I gave to myself for my 50th birthday last year.

here is the link:The birthday presents I gave myself-part 1

for those of you who are curious to check if this is one of those cases where the sequel does not fall short of the original- here is part 2- that has absolutely nothing in common with this post- except for both being presents I gave myself for my 50th birthday.

The second birthday present I gave myself. (part 2)

so- why did I voluntarily submit myself to 13 days of hard labor and not the best sleeping conditions?

Told you in advance I am not about to start preaching about the benefits of the vipassana technique.

First, because I dislike being preached to, and every time I read or hear someone rambling about a certain religion/belief I simply shut down.

secondly, I did my first course on September 18 (aka my birthday, I believe I mentioned this before), and since I did a 3 day service in gardening, helped around a few weekends , sat every day for at least 30 minutes every time, and this round of dhamma service for 13 days. meaning I am by no means an expert on vipassana, and I think the best thing is to simply look online or read the book “the art of living” by William Hart ( I get nothing from anyone by writing this so).

last thing: I think the vipassana technique is well known, and frankly does not need my humble non-professional promoting attempts to thrive.

Having said all that- do yourselves a favor and read a little about the technique, and should you decide that you deserve some time off your hectic life, consider treating yourself to this 10-day course.

I am a known skeptic, practical and cynical person, ( I believe it is enough to say that until I retired 2 months ago I was a lawyer for more than 25 years….you get the drift), and I also happen to believe that, well, I know best what my problems are, and I will also be responsible for getting myself, with a lot of hard work, out of these problems, or if I can’t find a way out, then I, and only I, am responsible for learning how to deal with them.

So just in case you feel the same way – I totally respect that. (obviously).

I respect that so much that I need to mention that this, exactly, is what I find myself doing ever since I completed my first course in September’ and this exctly is the reason I find this technique so intriguing.

No guru. no religion. no one telling you what questions need to be asked, and what the right -or wrong- answers are.

Just Working very diligently on finding a way to deal with the problems I have.

I spent many years working hard as a lawyer,  raising 3 children and taking care of almost everything- but never had the time- or the willpower, to confront me. myself. ( and I).

Time to Actually sit down and contemplate certain behaviors of mine that other people seem to have a problem with, other behaviors of mine that I have a problem with, and my general wellbeing.

The only tool vipassana gives you is the technique itself. learning to concentrate on your breathing and physical sensations, as a means to reach a stable and equanimous mind.

Being equanimous through every sensation you feel, every situation that occurs -no matter how pleasant -or unpleasant the sensation is- is the key to eliminating much of the suffering you go through because of the ignorant way we are accustomed to behave -to react- to every situation that occurs.

This is a very simplistic and unjust description of the technique, and if this by any chance interests you and you are willing to put in the hard work -sitting and diving into yourself- while maintaining an equanimous mind- well- try this out. as I mentioned the course is free of any charges.

But- and this is an important but-

Since an operation as big as this cannot live off air, contributions are welcomed, very welcomed, and when I finished the course I felt such gratification- that I immediately contributed some money, and decided that I will donate more- by serving in a course.

Serving, by the way, was even more appreciated by Goenka g-the vipassana teacher that spread the technique worldwide, since he contemplated that giving money is a sign of a momentary gratification whereas while serving you show your gratification all through the serving period.

Serving means you make sure that the meditators that come to the 10-day course enjoy a full-time meditation experience, without the need to prepare their own food or clean after themselves.

The food we prepared was vegan -including all the main dishes- and desserts too. vegetarians that eat dairy products could have cottage cheese, butter and yogurt- that were served separately- and not included as part of the cooking routine. imagine how delighted I was, to find out that the center I was ecological and minimalistic as well. so the laundry and all the cleaning supplies were free of detergents, and a special effort was made to reuse leftover food- for example- soybean stew was served on one of the days- the little that was left (it just turned out so good with the cumin)- was turned into soy hummus the next day.

A chocolate cake that turned a bit dry- became chocolate cookies the next day and so on.

I also got to join- like all servers- the meditations in the hall- 3 times a day at least- most days it turned to 4 times  a day-including hall duty- (the meditation hall is open for meditators from 04:20 every morning’ and the servers had shifts -that included opening the hall and monitoring that everything is ok with the meditators- until 05:30 when our kitchen shift began).

Another cool thing is that servers are so appreciated that their meditation cushion is located in the front of the hall, close to the teacher (*to be exact- all teachers beside Goenka g are called assistant teachers or a.t).

The servers are not obligated to “noble silence”- that is the 10-day silence and no contact vow that all participants take. they are committed to “right speech” instead- meaning no-nonsense talk- only work and meditation conversations and a special effort is made to separate genders- as much as possible- we all worked together in the same kitchen and naturally, knives were passed and dishes were washed -but I still thought it made sense – and I am by no means a puritan- because a person comes to the center to concentrate on dhamma work- as a way of showing appreciation to the gift of vipassana he got ( at least that’s what I did) and trying to fit in some internal work too through the 3-4 hours of meditation with the course,  and many times the mere presence of other people -can be a distraction.

I am an introvert- so the permission to speak was something I would gladly give up- I didn’t mind the noble silence at all during my course, but I can imagine that extroverts find it even more distracting to be able to meet like-minded people- and not to be able to chat with them freely.

And a few more things weren’t easy.

I didn’t mind waking up at 3:50 am- this is my usual wake up time at home, but- I go to bed at around 20:00- read and fall asleep by 20:50-21:00.

The problem was there was an evening discourse every evening until 20:00′ and then the servers could join another meditation session- and then the servers would join in the hall at 21:00 (……) for meditation and end of the day session with the assistant teacher.

The assistant teacher was wonderful, and the access to him- for any questions or trouble- was a gift. but I had some serious trouble functioning after 20:00 every evening, after a long hard day at the kitchen…

Another thing is the accommodations…

Sleeping in a shared room was one thing, but sharing the bathroom and showers with 5 other women- well that was a real bummer for me.

I am 50 and an introvert- I believe these two were quite clear -it was definitely not easy for me to adapt to this no privacy -having to wait for the toilet-using a shared shower- thing.

But- on the last day the meditators were allowed to talk again, and many of them approached me and thanked me so much for serving them with delicious food and making their meditation experience so good, that every difficulty was gone with the wind, and I was filled with such joy that makes it possible for me to consider the next time I will serve in a course.

The thing about giving back- is that it actually gives you back- so much more….

enjoy your day-the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frugal tip- taking care of your stuff+easy homemade pizza recipe!

For years I treated my stuff as replaceable.

I didn’t take very good care of it because I thought- ok- if it breaks -I’ll buy another.

I was under the impression that stuff is there to serve me while it lasts, and since buying new is always a nice thing (or so I thought) and since I work very hard and raise 3 kids and take care of the house- I don’t have the time to spare /waste on stuff maintenance.

After minimising my stuff , and understanding the importance of frugality combined with mindful minimalism in the environmental aspect, I understood that I would have to change my attitude towards my stuff.

The first thing I did was start reading the instruction manuals/labels/tags carefully before operating or using any device.

In the past, I bought something, took a look at it, and started using it instinctively, thinking why waste time and effort on reading useless manuals .

Turns out there are a ton of important things you can learn from reading the tags.

For instance-here is my calphalon pan. below are the using instructions.

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20190122_145145.jpg 1. hand wash only.

2. for better cooking results- preheat the pan without any oil.

3. after cooking allow to cool before washing.

ok- truth is I would never have done instructions 2+3 hadn’t i read the label.

Another tip is to take a photo of the instructions-labels-warranty and mail it to my gmail -to keep under the products name.

I always keep the receipts, the only thing is I can never remember a year or two later, when the receipt is needed, where I put it….

Sure- you can keep a binder -I did that too- but this leads to heaps of papers -and wasted time looking for the specific receipt when needed. not with gmail/

And no- I don’t have any shares in gmail sadly.

here is another example: my pizza pan.

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(Getting nothing from anyone here -so just buy or not- none of my business.)

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I would never have saved this warranty tag before- but this is a lifetime warranty and why not take a quick photo and save it? and why not read the using instructions carefully before making the first pizza?

Another tip is to remember to clean your vacuum cleaner and fully recharge it after every use. can’t count the times I began vacuuming the house only to find out it stopped working and needs a 2 hour charge ..

Same goes with the IRobot– to keep it running smoothly- clean it thoroughly at least once a month and change the necessary parts every 6 months- it will hold for much longer.

Your washing machine? definitely needs a full check up once a month.

I clean the filter let it run empty with only citric acid to keep from suds building up and clogging it.

*Do your own research -I have no idea if my tips are good for your stuff too- I do know that the basic principle of learning how to take better care of your stuff- can save you a lot of money and replacing time.

*These are all examples- I can think of many more as I am writing this- like pouring baking soda and vinegar with hot water down my kitchen sink once a month, not pouring my coffee to my sink  unless I threw the coffee grains residue to the compost before (seriously- this is a sure way to clog your sink!) , washing my my wooden floors only with a damp cloth and never leaving water spots on it, changing my dish scrubs every week and so on. 

Before I wrap up- I need to  mention laundry regulations..

#1:The obvious thing is to seperate whites from colours.

#2: separate towels and bed linens from clothes.why? because linens are big and have a tendency to wrap a loving hug around all the other clothes you put in the laundry, and the hugged clothes don’t get much of the laundry cycle besides that hug, which to you is pretty irrelevant I should think.

#3: get a mesh bag for your socks. this will save you time and effort gathering those socks – especially the ones that decided that laundry time is their chance to escape their sock spouse. this will also prolong your machine’s life since instead of the beach in Thailand the escaped socks usually find their way to the machine insides or pipes.

#4: read those labels before putting your precious shirts to the laundry machine…

I admit I never buy garments that need dry cleaning- This is too much of a hassle for me and I’ve read the fumes from dry cleaning are quite an ecological hazard- I am not 100% sure about that but since it is so easy to find great substitutes that are glad to be washed either by hand or in the laundry machine, why bother?

I believe I made my point.

Check your stuff for use and care instructions, take good care of it and save yourself a lot of time and money- all the while minimizing your carbon footprint . yay on all counts.

Now it’s time to learn how to make this great pizza at home.

The dough is from “food network”- here is the link- just click.  great pizza dough

By the way when he writes “dry yeast 1 envelope” I am using 1 tbsp of dry yeast .turns great indeed.

For the sauce- 1 canned tomatoes, tomato paste -small , 1/4 cup water, salt, pepper, a little sugar to contradict the acidity of the tomatoes, heat and stir for 10 minutes on low, add basil or oregano if you like, don’t (add) if you don’t (like), taste and cool a bit. this can freeze well too.

Since my household prefers thin based pizza, I had to learn how to stretch that dough to the maximum- I started with a rolling pin and that didn’t do the job one bit. so I started using my hands, and managed to get the dough to top the pan then quickly put the sauce on top.

Now here you have to be careful- since in my experience- thin dough+regular amount of rich sauce =disaster.

But: thin dough +thin layer of rich sauce=success.

Plus- don’t let the sauce wait on the pizza for too long before entering the oven-in my experience- the sauce tends to wet the thinly stretched dough- you don’t want to go there believe me.

About the cheese– well honestly I mixed the cheese I had in the freezer, (not cheap yet not mozzarella) but in my experience the trick is  to top all the leftovers with good mozzarella- it looks and tastes great -so my household members say. (about the looks you can judge for yourselves:)

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By the way- the picture above is one of my pizza’s as well

About toppings- go for it and use what you got- sweet potatoes, olives, whatever.

I always double the quantities, and use 1 kilo of flour -2 tbsp dry yeast and double the rest. it makes 6 medium sized pizzas and I slice and freeze them to be eaten in the next two weeks.

why slice?

Because sometimes my partner/son only want a slice (rarely but happens) and this way they can pop a slice out of the freezer and in the oven for a few minutes- and bam- yummy (or so they tell me) pizza at home for a fraction of the cost.

Really- fraction of the cost.

Try for yourselves.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Simplify it: Organizing my online groceries- part 3

Before we begin- In case you wonder where and when happened parts 1+2 – I am more than happy to oblige: here it is: explaining my 3 weekly online grocery shopping, saving time and money .My online grocery shopping: saving money+big time!(and my quick bean stew recipe for no fresh produce situations)

Organizing your online groceries: preparing ahead and simplifying your cooking!(the sequel)

Ok- now that the mystery is solved, we can relax and wonder why parts 1+2 weren’t enough  to get the concept of buying food. what’s the big deal, you might be asking yourselves.

well- the deal is big. it is very big.

Getting the groceries in a frugal and efficient way and making sure you waste almost no food before you get fresh groceries- is great. it is.

but making sure you enjoy the fresh produce that had just arrived, so you waste 0 money, waste 0 time (ordering then throwing away?? what’s the point? surely you can do something better with your time) and most importantly- prompt yourself and your family members- to eat healthier.

#1: I know for a fact, that when fruits are displayed in my house, they don’t need excess prompting to be eaten, as opposed to fruit hiding somewhere.

I am aware this is not a valid option for summer days -but a few fruits can always be displayed in a bowl where everybody can just reach and enjoy.

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tomatoes are considered fruit FYI

#2: what about those vegetables? 

I know many times my groceries included all kinds of pretentious vegetables that ended in the compost bin after 2 weeks of being sadly neglected.

This is not only a money waster but also -in my case- made me develop an aversion to those poor vegetables – I constantly felt that they were staring at me from their exile in the fridge, thinking I am not worth their effort.

so -my tip is don’t make any plans the day your groceries arrive, and start dealing with them aspirational veggies you ordered – right. now.

for instance- I used to read all about the benefits of pickled veggies, and decide I am going to incorporate them pickled whatever in my diet the minute the groceries arrive. buy a big batch of beets, and turnips, and such, and time just went by and so did my aspirations.

If I take the time and prepare the pickled veggies on the same day they arrive- check on the quality of your pickles, check on the no waste, and check on the no guilt feelings towards them turnips.

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carrots- definitely underrated.

grated them in seconds in my Braun hand blender, added grapefruit juice (I have a grapefruit tree- not wasting that great juice) and dried cranberries.

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0nions- why not?

Pretty+ makes you want to cook.

#3: don’t be shy to display your beans. 

jarsyes it does take some time to get them in the jars but besides it being a feast for the eyes- this increases the chance of you making lentil stew by 79%! and the chances of you making bean burgers by 66%!

20181216_192213.jpg#4: buy minimum condiments- and store them in an airtight jar.

I get that people are taught that in order to cook favorable food you need to have a cabinet -even two- of very exotic condiments.

sorry – in my experience, this is totally untrue,

the fewer condiments you have- in my experience- the greater the chance that you will enjoy using them.

I think people are generally creatures of habit. sure you can go wild from time to time and experiment- but there are so many flavors to experiment with freshly ground black pepper and regular salt+adding paprika- or turmeric, or Morrocan mixed herbs- or soy sauce -vinegar, regular or rice vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil? lemon?curry paste? agave syrup? ginger? the possibilities with basic regular condiments are endless.

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Just don’t hide the condiments in a distant drawer out of laziness- or the chances of you making that spicy whatever- will decrease by 98%.present them proudly in tight jars and enjoy them.

speaking of which: ginger- increase the chances of you using it by cleaning -cutting -and freezing it the day it arrives.

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Any more tips?

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

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Preparing for early retirement: last month at work

So,  early retirement is getting closer and closer.

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If nothing changes- my due date is at the end of this (short) month- February 28.

Being a walking irony that I am, the minute I wrote a mail to everyone at work announcing my retirement and inviting them to a modest toast on the 28th, someone at work told me he had heard that in 3-4 months a retirement plan is going to be published.

Now if this is true, this can potentially mean a lot of money I, of course, will not receive since my date is at the end of this month.

At first, I admit I got angry. then I got anxious, then I sat down and thought about it.

This is a lot of money we are talking about.

Should I try to postpone my retirement?

This rumor can be true- and it can be false too.

In the past two years, every 3-4 months a rumor similar to this one starts spreading among workers.

This could very possibly mean I would try to postpone my retirement in hope for a retirement plan to come along- and just sit there waiting for a year and maybe even more.

Of course, there is also the possibility that this rumor is absolutely true- which would definitely qualify me to be the next Alanis Morissette.

I have reached the point at work, where I simply cannot go on anymore.

I mean- if I had no choice, of course, I would go on, but working over 27  years in the same job- well that is a lot of time doing the same thing.

I have reached a point where I am so burned out, that my mind wonders everywhere but to the job I have to do- and this is not good. at all.

I am also very distracted all around, focus only on myself and my situation at work, I am anxious and snappy at home- and of course at work, and to put it mildly- this can’t go on any longer.

I decided that I am not going to change my plans due to this rumor.

Early retirement is a well thought about decision I made a few years ago, knowing fully well that I needed to frugalise my habits since my income will downsize to 60% of my current income.

I learned to be frugal, saved money, and although I have no specific plans for my retirement- I can’t wait for it.

I know that the common understanding is that early retirement should not be used to escape a job you dislike, and you should learn to deal with your situation until you conquer it.

And yet this is exactly what I am doing.

Another mistake I am making according to common knowledge is retiring with no plans. this- according to many people- is bound to drive me nuts.

While I totally respect that, and it might also be true; I simply cannot bring myself to make specific plans right now.

Mind you I am a very planned ahead person, I make lists all the time, I love having structure in my life and I am not scared of chores.

And yet- no plans.

I mean- I know I want to grow vegetables  in my garden; and I am seed growing for a few weeks now:

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And since I cook from scratch and clean all scratches- plus my exercise routine- and tending to the garden – not only the vegetables but all of it (I have a small house but quite a large garden – this will be time-consuming. And let’s not forget my beloved blog!

I am an introvert, and being alone has never bothered me- au contraire, and while I am not forgetting the possible void when leaving a management position after many years, I have been thinking about this ego downsizing a lot, read here:Early retirement Jitters-dealing with my ego.

I am spending a lot of time thinking about not being a big shot at work anymore, not getting a lot of urgent calls that need my immediate attention, not being needed at all,

This is not easy for me, certainly after almost all of my adult life after university, I spent at a job where I was always needed and busy.

But I am tired now, and cannot go on giving the way I used to.

It is definitely the time to retire early.

even without plans.

One thing I spent a lot of time contemplating was my cell phone.

I got my cell phone from work- including a plan, and now I need to return my phone -or buy it for 320$, and find a new plan.

So I started looking online. and found myself another phone.

A cheaper one, that has all I need- and is highly recommended for its price.

The cheaper phone is perfectly fine for my needs- I  don’t play games on the phone, I don’t write my posts or anything else for that matter on my phone, and I only need it for basic communication with a few close people, and to listen to music on Spotify while I run or work in the garden.

I also need to take good photos for this blog- but no selfies. I don’t like taking pictures of myself. at all.

So after a lot of searching, I decided on the xiaomi redmi note 6, and this is no advertisement since I haven’t bought it yet- and I get nothing from any company concerning this phone- or anything else.

This phone is going to cost me 227 $ including a 2-year warranty. I am taking the 32 GB and not the 64 GB since I looked online and the word was that only heavy users and gamers have an actual use for that 64 GB and regular users can do fine with only 32 GB.

I also looked for a cheap cell plan and found one that costs 5.5 $ a month and gives 10 Giga of use and free interstate talking minutes.

Since my use is limited as I told you, and I have no love for talking on the phone, this should be enough.

Just to be safe I looked on my phone to see how many Giga I use currently so I have a benchmark- and found out I only use 3 Gb a month so 10 should be more than enough.

The last issue concerning my phone and the one that I hesitated about the most, was my phone number.

I have had the same phone number for a very long time. and my phone is 95% work related.

I sat down and went over my contact list, and hand-picked the few people I would like to keep in touch with after I retire. and the people I need to stay in touch with- plumbing, bank, doctor, etc. I don’t think the list holds more than 40 numbers. mind you I have hundreds currently on my phone.

So after a lot of thinking- I decided to change my phone number, and only notify the people who were on that hand-picked list.

This seems like a small and insignificant decision- but if you think about it – it’s like starting a new life completely.

I wonder how it will go.

3 weeks till retirement day.

wow.

enjoy- the cooliflower.

p.s thanks again pixels for a mood capturing photo.

 

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Do you ever stop caring what your parents thinks of you? (heavy personal issues here- beware!)

A  week ago I drove almost 2 hours (each way)  in early morning hours, to visit my mother.

My mother and I have an “interesting relationship”..

I think many women have an “interesting relationship” with their mothers. I am not a psychologist but I know this relationship is a naturally complex one, and research proves it.

read here an interesting article from “psychology today”: mother -daughter relationship

So a few minutes after arriving, I suggested we go for a walk towards the nearby park. my mother is 75 and after surgery, and I strongly believe that physical exercise is crucial for her health.

She looked at me and bluntly said: “i am not going anywhere with you until you put on makeup”. 

At first I thought she was joking. (she has a great sense of humor by the way). when she repeated it – still no smile on her face, and added a  demanding tone to her voice, I realized this was no joke.

This was my mother telling me I wasn’t pretty enough for her without the mask and camouflage of make up. 

(I  stopped wearing makeup since my 50th birthday, (read here why –Why (and how) I stopped wearing any makeup-and a frugal tip!)

Up until that moment, I felt gorgeous .I look at the mirror and smile at my reflection, I go to work feeling good about my appearance, and the whole issue -has stopped being an issue for me for-until those remarks.

I  am 50, for crying out loud -(if you are wondering- I did cry out loud later in my car on the way to work) – and I still care so much what my mother thinks of my personal choices. wow. does this ever stop??

When I was 18 I left home- at first came on weekends, then came on holidays -and since I moved up north- almost 14 years ago- I don’t make the trip that often.

For years I had difficulties enjoying family dinners- although my mother puts a lot of effort and money into the fancy side of hosting: she has expensive cookware and makes many gourmet dishes -but I have genuine difficulties enjoying that food , and for years I didn’t understand why.

Looking back, I realize that my difficulties had/have a lot to do with my unresolved issues with her, issues that led her to say something so offensive- in my opinion- to me.

That got me thinking about my relationship with my kids: am I guilty of the same behaviour? am I letting any of my children believe they are anything short of marvelous?

Should we tell our children our honest opinion about how they look -what they wear- their choice of friends- their school skills?

I mean- should we give them our honest opinion if  they never asked for it to begin with?

Is this our “obligation as parents”?

“If we don’t tell them the truth- how will they improve? ”

It’s been over a week since that visit- and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

I can’t ask my children a direct question -obviously- I can only try to reflect on my relationship with them, and hope that the fact that I honestly think they are the most wonderful human beings to walk the face of this earth– is a good sign that I probably didn’t base my relationship with them on criticism instead of reassuring them that they are wonderful and capable- and therefore can do whatever they wish- even if they sometimes fail.

I have no idea if this is the right way to go – and don’t get me wrong- I’ve had my share of arguments with my children- harsh things were said, and I regret saying 99% of them.

I wish I were a perfect parent, I wish I was that laid back mother earth always calm and relaxed waiting at any hour to feed them with their favourite food and listen to their troubles. I most definitely am not that kind of mother- and honestly I never was.

I work full-time at a very demanding job- lame excuse I know and yet- I almost never waited for them when they came back from school, most of the time I was so tired my eyes closed while they were ranting about their teachers, and I can only say to my defense that I did the best I could.

I hope so.

I hope I never offended them in a way that made them question their choices, their appearance, their partners: themselves.

If you are wondering whether I confronted  talked to my mother about the way I felt -well, no. I didn’t.

I know some may think avoiding difficult conversations such as this one is the wrong way to go, and that you cannot build a healthy relationship when one party has unsolved issues that are repressed .

I am a strong believer in this exact attitude as a general rule .

But in this case-I am hesitating.

I understand some people believe it is ok to give their opinion- harsh as it may be- without sugar-coating it in any way.

Truth is something I value highly, and it seems to be very double-standard of me to be a strong advocate of truth when it suits me- and to deny it and call it unfair and cruel criticism when I am being told something I find offensive. 

Plus- I tend to think that trying to change your parent’s behaviour at a certain age- has a less than 5% chance of succeeding, while more than 100% chance of turning into a major argument involving buried issues from both sides.

I am still thinking about it.I would love to hear your take on this.

the cooliflower.

p.s. thank pexels free photos for a good photo that captured my intention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Analyzing my everyday expenses: reflecting on 2018- part 2

Aspiring towards early retirement , for me, meant adjusting to a different life style- and a  different spending regime- but- and this is the important point I am emphasizing- the change needed to be permanent- not “only until I reach early retirement- and then- the sky’s the limit “.

And why is that, pray tell?

Because if there is one important thing I’ve learned , although by not being a financial wizard of any kind- is that  the power of saving money, is sometimes even greater than any stock-real estate- bank investment. 

Give me 5 seconds I’ll convince you:

#1: Learning to save , and implementing it on your everyday household spendings- is entirely up to you. as opposed to investments of any kind- where you many times need to trust the impossible combination between other people (owning the business or establishment you are investing in) and luck (which , for me; has been a very discomforting thing to trust)

2: The state agents– such as taxes of any kind or shape- that are usually a “good friend” when you try to invest your money  and make a few $, cannot interfere with your intentions to cut back on your expenses, actually- learning to cut back on your expenses has many tax deterrent benefits- for one thing- no VAT …

#3: learning to save is a skill  that can improve your whole conduct– not only your bank account. think about polishing  your decision -making process, your self confidence (as a direct result of gaining control over such an important aspect of our lives- the monetary aspect), and as a side effect- improving your math skills- and brushing the dust off some of your brain cells!

#4: well naturally- it’s cheaper – all investments cost money. you pay the investment company- the bank-the lawyer who writes the cotract etc’. besides the money invested-you almmost never avoid paying for the chance to make more money from your investment. and yes, a lot can be done to minimise these charges- compare and double check before making any investments- you worked hard to earn this money!

learning to save money, on the other hand- is free as a bird. 

#5: and this is the most important aspect , I believe- is that rare are the people that their financial situation improves once retiring early. I am aware that some people pursue other careers, go viral on youtube or get a bazillion subscribers on their blog- but many of us ordinary people will need to adjust to 60% -70% of our previous income, and without making major life style changes, you might end up not managing at all.

I automatically think of another major lifestyle change- that needs to be permanent : change of eating habits towards healthier eating.

Many people get blood test results and listen to their doctor advising  “cut back  on fats/sweets/processed food etc- for a while“.

Many other gain weight and decide immediately to lose 5 pounds pronto by restricting something from their diet for a while.

Same goes to “12 week exercise routine” ‘ and other short term ways to deal with life changing situations.

What happens afterwards?

If you understand that your whole life is going to change- whether it is your income- your health or your diet, then please please take a moment to contemplate the moment after.

Why bother ahead? because understanding the change is about to become permanent and not “until I reach a certain point”- be it early retirement or a certain weight or a particular race- is a huge factor in preparing towards that change cognitively- and emotionally.

Ok- now that I laid my humble opinion on lifelong major changes, it is time to revisit my household 2018 expenses -so as to learn a thing or two- or three- about my spending habits, for better or for worse.

*I went through my other expenses (Amazon and EBAY) in my previous post- Reflecting on my 2018 expenses-read here. 

*Last thing- the advantages of reflecting back on the past year of household expenses are obvious in terms of learning about your decision making, but also- we all tend to calculate certain obvious expenses into our monthly expenses sheet: food, gas, electricity, water, phone, cable, internet etc. when looking back at the whole year -you get to revisit other yearly expected expenses we tend to forget about: such as school fees, car shop , presents for the kids -etc. these are considerable expenses that need to be taken into consideration even on our monthly finance sheet- divided into 12, ofcourse. 

*One last thing- my partner and I divide the household expenses equally- we don’t have a joint account because he doesn’t mind spending money (YOLO and all that s***) -read here how this works for us: Why I believe in seperate accounts.  

So what you see here is not a basic household full  expense sheet: I pay the electricity +internet bill  and he pays an equal amount for water and property taxes. we split the food expenses equally. I pay for my pool entrance by myself (it’s my thing) and he pays for his cable tv ( I don’t watch any television- read here why I believe this is a great decision I made :How to get up early).

We each pay for our apparel, books, etc- and split our youngest’s education fees and aikido classes expenses between us.

You will notice a difference throughout the year- my second kid was home for a few months before going off abroad- and he is an avid carnivore so..also add to this my annual birthday +holiday presents for the kids- 1500$ total.

Let’s start:

January 2018: 830$:

internet- 50$

food-350$

health insurance- 75$

fuel- 200$

phone- 35$

pool entrance card (10 entrance )- 120$

(at this point the electricity bill was once every two months this changes soon)

February 2018:1865$

electricity : 200$ (for 2 months)

fuel- 120$

gas- 30$+20$ toll road (this stopped throughout the year)

food- 350$

surgical procedure – 1000$

internet- 50$

health- 75$(in a few months I will learn that I had to stop paying so much and began taking off some of the insurances)

phone- 20$(soon this bill will shrink considerably- wait and see)

March 2018: 963$

fuel -200$

phone- 42$

food-400$

martial arts- for my youngest- 200$

internet- 46$

health- 75$

April 2018: 4935$

pool entrance- 125$(I will be reimbursed 125$ at the end of the year so )

fuel- 200$

electricity- 125$

food- 400$

health- 75$

vaccinations for guatemala- 15$

internet- 45$

*car for my oldest child- my share- 4000$

May 2018: 767$

food- 500$

internet-45$

fuel- 125$

health-80$

phone- 22$

June 2018:1585$

fuel- 200$

the machanic alarmed: I had to change the tire- 350$

car shop- 200$

health- 85$

internet- 45$

pool entrance- 125$

food-450

electricity-130$

July 2018:557$

fuel-125$

food-600$

electricity- 75$

restaurant- my mothers birthday- I treated- 100$

IRobot parts- 60$ (will be good for another 2 years!)

gas- 35$

phone- 32$

health-85$

internet- 45$

August 2018:672$

electricity- 110$

food- 450$

internet- 60$

phone- 22$

*health- managed to let go finally of some of the insurances- 15$

coffee shop- my middle son insisted on eating something- he is not a frugal person to say the least of it! 15$

September 2018:3967$

food-500$

fuel-125$

new baking oven- the previous one lasted for 6 years and collapsed- 300$- my half

sealing the roof before winter- 500$- my half

Guatemala – 2200$(flights +ninos de guatemala)

school books- 30$

pool entrance-240$

internet- 45$

vet- 12$

health- 15$

October 2018:1370$

food-355$

school payments- 300$

internet-35$ (told you- managed to haggle with the company and lowered the price)

vipassana donation- 350$

martial arts for the youngest- 205$

fuel- 125$

November 2018:650$

food-350$

fuel-120$

internet-35$

electricity-130$

health- 15$

December 2018:946$

food-300$

electricity-100$

health insurance for guatemala- 90$

train ticket to the airport- 6$ (instead of paying a bundle for long term parking and waiting for 45 minutes for the shuttle to the parking lot!)

new entrance door- the previous one almost fell apart…- 400$ -my half

health-15$

internet- 35$

Ok- now for some conclusions:

#1: the expenses are definitely not consistent: some months ended with a total of 557 $ and then there was that month with nearly 5000$. We (OK-I ) tend to forget unexpected expenses happen all the time– this year I pitched in financing a part of my oldest kid’s car,  we had to buy a new baking oven, seal the roof and buy a new door. I also payed for a surgical procedure and had to pay for a new car tire.  when you calculate your monthly spendings- remember those unexpected always come at a bad time and put some money aside ahead. reflecting on my expenses helped me realise that throwing a number based on usual everyday expenses is accountable only for half the actual expenses…(to be real with myself I summed the total amount (11,507$) and divided it by 12 (months)- 959$. this is my bench mark for next year. not my expected 600$ -this is the number I had in mind when going over my everyday expenses in my head.

#2: haggle -haggle-haggle! I haggled with both health supplier and internet supplier and lowered my bills.

#3: money is there to serve us- not the other way round.this year I gave 4000$ so as to buy my daughter’s car. sure- she could go on riding 4 buses (from home to work to university and back home)- but I managed to help make her hectic life a bit easier-and I am very glad I could do that.

#4: buying grocery online saves money! 

#5: Driving On early hours allows you to save money on fuel! (read here how- How I reduced 25% of my electricity and gas bills ( 5 tips and another V for enVironmentalism)

Hope I encouraged you to make your own lists and reflect on 2018- in order to make 2019 even better.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 great simple+natural home remedies for winter time!

Winter time.

I am fully aware that some people are not winter fans. but I certainly am.

As a garden owner- the sound of rain makes me happy, as a fireplace owner- temperature drop makes me happy as well.

Winter does have its downsides, that is true, but careful preparation and awareness can minimise those down sides- and we are all about minimalism, right?

A fair warning: the advice about to be distributed here is old, granny-like, non fashionable, and super effective!!! so if you are all about “what are people gonna say when they see me do this or that”- well then- perhaps you are wasting your precious time reading this post. or change your attitude and start doing what is good for you-even if it not considered “cool” by the “right people”. 

#1: Get a hot water bottle!

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ok I am aware that some people might laugh at this- until you try it!

This is my hot water bottle- fancy, I know.

When I get up at 4 am , in winter time, the first 2 things I do are getting myself a hot cup of black coffee, and-since the boiling water are waiting for someone to make use of them- I fill my hot water bottle- and snuggle  quietly , waiting for my senses to fully wake up so I can start my day.

Don’t dismiss this till you’ve tried it.

This thing can warm you up in seconds, it helps with back aches and stomach aches (warming up the place), sore muscles , etc.

Plus- it’s super cheap. and to maximise its utility simply warm up double the amount every time you make yourself a cup of tea, and when it gets cold- use the water for your plants,, cleaning or whatever.

#2: Always leave a window open! 

 

There are tons of people around me that make sure all windows are sealed tightly as soon as temperatures drop a little. whenever I try to explain to them that this is exactly the reason they are all sick-they allow germs to gave close and immediate access to many people at once without even the slightest chance of anyone escaping due to lack of air- they look at me astounded and say : but its cold! if you are cold- you get sick!”

Well I am no doctor, but I believe it is  basic knowledge that “disease is spread by infection-not by temperature drop” . if anything- as far as I know- low temperatures prevent/delay germs from spreading, since basically germs are fond of warm temperatures-and dislike cold ones.

I am certainly not advocating snow baths or anything- just make sure that wherever you are- there is an open window for fresh air ventilation. even a small window.

And if you are cold- than I would frugally advise on a fire place, or if you don’t have one yet- use tip #1!

#3: wear layers!

Besides it being very fashionable , this is a super efficient way to get warm -(something to do with air being caught between the layers )- and -if temperatures change -you can accommodate yourself by taking off or adding layers as you wish.

#4: keep your feet warm!

This is something I used to always hear from my mother- “keep your feet warm and your whole body will be warm!”- and I must say she was right. about this anyway…

Plus there are such cute socks around- why let your feet freeze?

#5: When your throat hurts- gargle salted hot water.

This is something I did as a child’ did with my older kids, and still do!

It might not be the most pleasant thing on earth -and yet it is effective!

*Checked on-line- it was medically approved too! here is the link to webmd: webmd- gargling salted water.

I put 1 tsp of salt in 1 cup of boiling water, make sure all the salt dissolves , and when possible to gargle- gargle the whole thing .

If you are trying to avoid pharmacy bought lozenges for whatever reason -and I can think of a few- than this is your perfect natural replacement!

#6: Drink a lot of tea! tea will cure anything! 

Well personally I believe this is absolutely true.

When ill -drinking lots of fluid will help you feel better, when cold- it will warm you up. when in need of emotional comfort-this is a soothing cup of niceness, and when adding ginger and lemon- it’s also very healthy. 

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#7: When ill- eat “chicken” soup ( I mean vegan “chicken soup, of course).

I am aware that some people believe that a “proper chicken soup” (meaning made of actual chicken) is necessary for you to get better from a cold , but I believe the benefits are not in the chicken, but in the hot -vegetable containing -fluid, so just make a pot of spicy veggie soup, feel free to add some miso/lentils for extra taste . (if we are on the subject- here is a link to a great recipe by the “minimalist baker” great vegan recipes!-miso soup- the minimalistbaker.com.)

stew

#8: If your back aches- don’t lay still all day! 

I used to believe that when your body tells you it is unwell-you need to listen’ and rest-rest-rest. 

I still believe that is true, but recently I experienced a bad back ache, and when searching on -line I discovered that the immediate total rest in bed I imposed on myself- was in fact delaying my recovery. (just reminding that I am no doctor or chiropractor whatever- use your brain as always to decide whether to use my tips or ditch them. or simply search online for yourselves. just in case -here is my disclaimer)

Apparently- according to what I read- when your back aches, you need to keep it in motion, massage the aching spots and gradually -in a few days- it will get better. when in Guatemala, I had a bad back ache, and it didn’t get better until I looked online for back -ache exercises ‘ and massaged my lower back with the only thing I had that resembled the tennis ball they recommended for massaging- a bar of soap , wrapped with a soft wool sock. I used the bed cover at my homestay as a “yoga mat” -for the back exercises, and after a few days of light exercise and massage- I could get on the 3 flong flights back home…

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*Add tip #1 to your exercises and you will feel much better in even shorter time.

These are the 8 great natural tips for today- feel free to share any great tips you have!

Enjoy and happy new year!  the cooliflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hour layover in Amsterdam: how to change your point of view and have a great time!(and happy balanced new year!!)

As I grow (older and )wiser, I realise that there is so much truth in the simple & common phrase:”your perspective shall determine your experience”.

Every incident I bump into – or bumps into me- I breathe, contemplate its consequences, and try to look at it in a positive way.

What I learned over the years is simple- bordering embarrassing to share -and yet I will share nonetheless:

If I get myself worked up about something unpleasant that happened , things will generally deteriorate quickly into “a situation” that needs “handling” , “getting over”, and “stop obsessing about”.

whereas if I breathe, try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective- or simply from another perspective- I can mitigate my disappointment-anger-frustration, to minimum, and sometimes- (has happened)- even end up laughing at the whole thing .

Traveling to Guatemala last month, I decided to book all my flights with KLM, a trust-worthy and reliable company, that had the best mixture of :minimum travel time- best price- yet reliable company .

The flights to Guatemala were set in perfect order and timeline: 3 flights with a 1.5-2 hour wait between each flight -just long enough to make sure a slight delay won’t leave you at the next airport and short enough to let you get to your destination in reasonable time. ( by the way many travel companies advise not to book ongoing flights that are less than 2-3 hours from your previous flight, and some airports are so big and confusing- that you thank yourself for following this advice..)

But- the flights back home- from Guatemala- had a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam.

My first reaction was- “what??are they serious? I will be tired, anxious, homesick, unwashed, wearing the same clothes for over 24 hours and crunched up from the previous flights!”

But then I decided to let go of my fixations and try a different angle:

Why not change scenery and enjoy what Amsterdam has to offer? 10 hours is enough to leave the airport , get to the city and see some interesting things!

So I searched on line, and found out that the well-known Rijksmuseum has an interesting new exhibition featuring a talented photographer called stacii Samidin, who photographed many typical coffee shops -a place of refuge, culture and relaxation.exhibition open until january 20, 2019.(entrance fee 17.5 euros fod adults) .

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(this picture is from the rijksmuseum site-wanted you to get a glimpse )

The rijks itself is a very interesting museum, and I spent about 3 hours wandering around and totally enjoying myself.

Then I went to get myself something to eat.

Amsterdam has many options for vegans, and this lovely place is a 7 min walk from the museums. cosy and inviting vegetarian &vegan soups&salads place. reasonable price I believe (I paid 5.60 € for this bowl of very filling tasty hot soup).

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my sweet potato & peanuts & banana soup at “soup & zo” amsterdam- 81 baerlestraat street

*The easiest ( and frugal, of course) way to get to the museumplein (where the major museums are conveniently located very close to each other):

Step out of Schiphol, turn right, and you will see many bus stops. look for platform B 15-19, (bus 397 to the museums), and apparently right there next to the relevant bus stop (B17) there is a small red van- with a nice ticket vendor- you ask for a round trip to the city( museums), pay 10 euros -(please don’t throw your ticket- you will need it for the trip back) and wait maybe a minute or two- and the very convenient bus arrives…

It is a 30 min ride, and the stop is right on the threshold of the museums. now this is why I think taking this bus is better than taking the train.

While I love the idea of a 30 min walk from the train station to the museums, some days are rainy and cold for a 30 min walk, and sometimes you don’t have the extra time for the walk. (and sometimes you are simply not up for a walk).

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But what about my luggage???

How can you wander around with all your stuff ? well you don’t have to.

I paid 6 € and left my now 10 kilos duffel at the baggage storage at schiphol, and enjoyed my luggage free 6 hours in Amsterdam .

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The baggage storage is located at the bottom floor -go to the Information booth between arrivals 1 and arrivals 2- and in front of you -there is a staircase. go down and see the very organized baggage storage. just don’t lose your ticket- this is how you claim your baggage back- take a photo of it just in case. (as you can see I follow my own advice as a way to promote my advice).

I returned to the airport tired but very pleased with the unexpected gift I gave myself- a totally different culture from the one I just had the pleasure of visiting, which made it super fun to visit especially on this connecting flight!

People- life has many surprises up our allies. it’s up to us to either reject them- and get upset and angry -or embrace the unexpected change of plans- maybe you’ll end up getting a great day!

*Ok -I simply couldn’t let you all leave without sharing my version of that super tasty soup I ate at “soup &zo” in Amsterdam.

I have no idea if my version is the way they prepare this soup at the restaurant- but it turned out great and easy to make- so go ahead and try it:

*4 sweet potatoes-peeled , diced and boiled till tender.

*400 ml coconut cream . or coconut milk. or soy milk.

*curry paste- to taste- I like it spicy- taste and decide -but the curry is a must!

*2 large onions -diced

*3 or more garlic cloves- the more the merrier

*4-6(or more- to taste) cups of vegetable stock /water -you can add some soy milk if you like

*100 gram bag of peanuts: I didn’t have peanuts, so I substituted for plain natural peanut butter (yes I did- and it turned out great!)

*3-4 ripe bananas! yessssss bananas

*coconut oil -a few tsp. or canola oil. or vegan butter.

*salt , pepper, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric- use your favourite condiments- add to taste

Start- like all soups start- with frying the onions +garlic+”opening” the curry in the few tsp of coconut oil .add the peanuts and immerse- then add the liquids( veggie stock and coconut cream). after a few minutes- add the boiled sweet potatoes and the rest of the condiments.

Blend everything together with a hand blender- (I have the brown hand blender and I love it- I blend soup while on the stove!).

let simmer -all the while tasting and correcting and blending with a wooden spoon.

when you are satisfied with the taste- give it that extra thing- with adding your smashed bananas. simmer for a few minutes more- and turn off the gas.

If the soup thickens too much while cooling down – add more liquid- water or soy milk if you wish. or vegetable stock.

This freezes really well- just label it or you will find yourself in front of the freezer wondering what that orange thing is.

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enjoy and happy holidays!

the cooliflower.

Continue reading “10 hour layover in Amsterdam: how to change your point of view and have a great time!(and happy balanced new year!!)”

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Reflecting on my 2018 expenses

The end of the year is in my opinion a great time to look back at your expenses and learn a thing or two (or three?) about your spendings.

*This is a part of a bigger picture– of course- reflecting on everything you accomplished in the past year- for better or for worse. the thing about finances is , apart from it being a super important tool to achieve goals (early retirement anyone?) , and a means to make a living, it is an important tool to achieve personal freedom: wise monetary conduct is key to feeling secure and confident in your decision-making process as a whole. maybe someday this will not be the situation but for the meantime it most definitely is..

#Back to my list: This post does not consist of my “regular every day spendings”- such as food, gas, electricity, phone, internet and health.this will be treated separately.

I must admit I was a bit surprised to see that I wasn’t as frugal as I thought I was, but I was also glad to see the changes I had made along the year, that made a difference. a difference in $$$- but more importantly- in my state of mind.

I do not go to stores, and do not pay in cash, so tracking my expenses wasn’t difficult I checked my 2 on-line shopping places- Ebay and Amazon.

Some home items (such as glass containers, face creams – etc) were bought as part of my online supermarket shopping but I have no way of tracking these specific few items a year back- so they will be a part of my food expenses -and treated separately.

The first thing I did, was write down all of my 2018 expenses.

I looked at each and every purchase and asked myself: looking back -was it a necessary purchase? did you enjoy it? would you have bought it again?

The questions were not asked in an inquisitorial tone ( no tone at all, I asked myself those questions -not a sound was heard) but as a way of learning. sometimes we are sure the facts are known- but when checking-they are actually different-the number can’t lie- (although sometimes we wish they could).

I am glad to say that for the majority of the purchases the answer was “yes” for all 3 questions. 80% of my purchases were things I believe I needed, I believe they are a good purchase and I do not regret making them.

This alone was a good sign for me, since I believe that spending money on valuable things is not a faux pas- but simply a way to use that currency. that is, of course- if you are in a monetary situation that allows you to spend that money. if you are in debts or saving towards a goal -then the situation is different .

*I divided my expenses into categories and summed up the total yearly spending on that category:
Apparel:56$ total
15$ =2 white thai yoga pants I just ordered- planning on joining a yoga course and the white apparel is a requirement i cannot avoid. otherwise I wouldn’t have bought the pants-I have enough sporting apparel and see no need to purchase something new just to get my workouts going.although I admit it is super fun to get new apparel…
20$- new slippers. my old ones wore down.
20$- new swim suit. after exactly a year of weekly use- my previous swim suit was becoming transparent. (here is a bit more about my swimming- and why you should consider getting a water-resistant mp3- How Metallica stepped up my game at the pool this morning ).
1$- shoelace buckles a pack of 10. This small thing helped a family member of mine go back to walking in the park after surgery. my family member claimed that “even tying my shoelaces is a big thing for me now so don’t expect me to go out to the park for a walk!”.surely you understand that I immediately ordered those buckles -and that claim was no longer heard.
Garden supplies: 151$ total
20$ -garden spray– made my own insect repellent and sprayed infected plants.
20$ -seeds:
50$ -planting bags (on Amazon- the photo is from their site- so you can be impressed like I was.)

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heating mat for propagating seeds- 20$
seed propagation cells- 4$
25$- planting soil and soil nutrients
12$ propagating light bulbs

Home supplies+miscellaneous:
sheet- 15$-super comfi- love it!
dish washing gloves- 10$-about 4 pairs throughout the year. buying them on ebay was half the price than buying in my online supermarket so.
razor blades- 10$
Labeling stickers+zip lock bags+binder clips+correcting pen+pens+pepper grinder+metal straws+hydrogen peroxide+50 envelopes and 100 greeting cards for diy presents+car wax: 86 $.

(yes I learned how to wax my car -watching a youtube video). (yes I did watch that horrible youtube clip about the sea turtle getting strangled by the plastic straw- stopped immediately using plastic straws).

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yes I did draw this beauty of a cactus myself. michelangelo- beware!

vanilla beans- 30$
Beauty products:

French green clay– for facial masks-10$

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*Foundation +primer: 168$.

Ok. now- almost 75% of these weren’t even opened– I stopped using makeup (read here why and how- Why (and how) I stopped wearing any makeup-and a frugal tip!). I gave away all of my unopened makeup- so looking back buying in bulk wasn’t such a brilliant idea- but then again- I am glad I reached the level of self-confidence that allowed me to let go of all the make up I was using -so looking back- I am proud of myself and ***k the money!

*Body lotion– 20$- not a good purchase- bought a dominant smelling lotion on-line- not going to do this again!
Travel stuff:
Duffel travel bag: 20$ (great buy! spent a month traveling with it – read here why and how I did it How to “travelight” :a month in Guatemala with only a standard carry-on duffel bag??and this is how it looks after that month!)

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5 travel size jars: 4$- great buy!

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Quick dry towel- 4$- took it to Guatemala and have been using it weekly when going to the pool.

*Full disclosure- I just bought a new pan last week on Amazon because my non-stick pan is scratched and the top layer is revealing the under layer. it wasn’t even shipped yet so I was thinking maybe I will slide this to 2019 expenses? I know this is cheating.. so anyway- I researched on-line and the Calphalon pan received the best reviews for its price. since I pay a big amount for shipping- ( yes I am aware this sounds like an excuse for buying more stuff)- I added 2 things (that have been waiting a long time on my list-here is my answer to the lame excuse accusation ) : a pizza pan (baker’s advantage- if anyone is really interested mind you I get nothing from amazon or anyone else plus I haven’t even received the pan yet so) . and a pack of 3 bamboo cutting boards.

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photo of the pan-from the amazon site

Why was this on my list?simply because my partner and my youngest are avid pizza guys, and order pizza at least twice a month if not more. I am a very competitive person and I have strong faith in my cooking abilities ( yes! self-confidence is so important!) and I have been contemplating making a pizza better than the ordered one- to save money and save on the preservatives and additives.

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I loved the holes -the balance between crust and topping is a never ending challenge in home made pizzas!the photo is again from the amazon site

About that pack of 3 bamboo cutting boards. why 3? 1 for veggies and fruit, 1 for meat-I remind you I am the only vegan in my household…….and the last one -the smallest one- for baby bear. no- for onions and garlic and other spicy food -so I don’t find myself eating a garlic tasting apple or an onion tasting banana…..

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these are the cutting boards I ordered on amazon- the photo is from their site. they are called “utopia kitchen bamboo cutting board”

This morning I remembered I made a big purchase not on either sites, and this is a new soda maker-cold water filter- boiling water boiler thing.

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I did a lot of research before buying this, and the decision took me 2 weeks- but I am very glad I made the purchase.

I am a huge believer in drinking as much water as possible (read here why- and how: How I encourage myself to drink more water -and it has nothing to do with any apps! and I convinced myself that we need to drink mostly filtered clean water. we drink a lot of water- ice-cold water, herbal tea using ginger and herbs from our garden, and soda water. I also use boiling water for cooking. my experience with electric kettles involving the very harsh water we have here- wasn’t a success. we had to throw away a kettle every 4 months- a huge expense -not to talk about the pollution..

And yet- I hesitated.

This thing cost 1200$ , a huge amount of money, and I needed to think this purchase over and over again- before iI decided it was the frugal decision to make under the given circumstances.

The circumstances being:

1. we drink a lot of water-and need a water filter. i will not buy bottled water!!!

2. we drink a lot of tea- and need a new kettle every few months.

3. we drink a lot of soda water- so need a soda maker. again- I shall not buy bottled soda!

4. I will not buy another device like this every year-it is very expensive so this will have to last for a few years.

The one I got, has a 4 years full guarantee, the device itself is recyclable, the co2 refill bottles are recyclable too, and in my tiny kitchen- the possibility of gathering 3 deviced into one- well it was a plus. adding the costs of each separate device – after reading many reviews on the companies that sell these products- I decided that for our specific needs- this was a good and frugal device- overall.

So far we have been enjoying this device -and using it multiple times a day, every day, and this is a good sign I think.

You can spend a small amount on many gadgets you end up using maybe once or twice a year- maybe even less- and if you sum the amount of money you spent all of these devices and divide it by the number of times you used them- then compare the result to a device that cost you a lot of money but you don’t stop using and enjoying -well. I think it’s clear which device will turn out to be more frugal and minimalistic.

Think maybe you will make a full list like this too? I can tell you it has been a very interesting list to make, I learned a lot about my decision making process this year, and as a direct result I have many new-year’s resolutions now.

enjoy- the cooliflower.

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How to “travelight” :a month in Guatemala with only a standard carry-on duffel bag??

Yes! finally! a post on how to minimise and frugalise your next long trip abroad!

After spending a month in Guatemala voluntouring, I feel like a total pro on the subject of light traveling- or travelighting”.

*I am sure many have other- perhaps more exciting tips- I promise to put my ego aside for a moment and I will gladly share for the benefit of the universe-so don’t hold back-comment.

But first- why travelight ?

Surely the airplane can carry my suitcases and the cab will get me anywhere- why skimp on clothes? Why narrow my options as to toiletries? Why do you need to turn a fun vacation into a working process??

Ok –no need to get worked up about this- like everything else in life- feel free to do whatever you want.

Want to carry your whole house with you so as not to leave your comfort zone not even for a moment? Enjoy yourself.

Want to waste precious time waiting for your suitcases +pay extra with many companies+ carry heavy suitcases around crowded airports? Great idea.

But- if you wish to learn some tricks on how to manage a whole month abroad with only a standard carry-on- than continue reading.

#1: Get a good travel bag.

This bag is going to carry all of your assets for a few weeks- and might sometimes happen to become overcrowded…(mm it might have happened that I forgot I had a space limit and purchased one too many gifts…).

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Here is my duffel bag- did a great job

*Now as to the old debate –duffel or rucksack- well I think it depends on the nature of the trip.

If you are planning a hike or camping –during all- or most of the trip- well than there isn’t really a question, right? The dilemma starts when most of your trip is staying in one place- but- you are planning a hike or 2 –something around 2-3 day hike max.

Well this is a dilemma –and I think the hike component will win this time, since there is no way you will be able to carry both bags, and no way you can go camping or hiking with a duffel or a trolley.

*If most of your trips are like this case, I think it is better to consider getting a front load rucksack that complies with standard airline carry on regulations (55*35*25 cm/ 21*15*9 inches).

*I searched on line and I think the bag that meets most of the criterias is the Osprey farpoint 40.I don’t own one yet since neither Osprey nor Amazon ship to where I live but I am not losing hope thet 2019 will be the year for me to meet the osprey.

This picture is from their site.

Again- I get nothing from any company-I simply read several reviews online, and this review made a very good impression on me- but as usual-judge for yourselves.

This guy has great advice on many other issues concerning traveling light so just read and learn.

the link: great article from “the carry-on guy “

2.packing cubes!

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These are my packing cubes- got them on ebay a few years ago- still doing a great job. I get nothing from this company-they met my basic criterias – good reviews – good price- so I bought them. turned out they are heavy duty material too!

Yes these are life savers-and cost only a few $ online. Not only do they save (a lot of ) space, but they also keep the clothes from getting wrinkled–and keeps your duffel in order so you can find anything you need in seconds.

Divide your clothes to sections –according to the cube size, and roll like a pro!

I admit I love those cubes so much I even bothered to roll my dirty laundry into them on the trip back. (Yes of course I washed the cubes afterwards- are you serious? It washes so easily and dries in a few minutes)

The reason I bothered repacking my dirty laundry was simple. I tried throwing it to a laundry bag-it wouldn’t fit into my duffel…the only way I could get every thing- including the gifts I bought- into the duffel- was if I rolled my used clothes neatly back to the pack.

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3. Tsa fluids zipper bag: the 3-1-1 rule.

1: person.

1: bag-1 liter size- use a zip lock back- it gives a few inches more –you will need them.

3: 3.4 ounces (100 ml) size container of fluid

*Fluid, by the way- is not only shampoo or night creams, but also toothpaste and lipstick.

I used 5 small containers, which I divided like so:

1. Night cream

2. Natural toothpaste

3. Natural deodorant

4. Facial soap

5. Body lotion

6. I even added a tiny facial mask container- well it was a month-long trip and I enjoyed pampering my face every few days there…

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I also managed to include my day cream-50 Spf sun screen: this double duty enabled me to close the zipper in my zip lock bag and have everything I needed-now that I stopped wearing makeup.

4.Mix and match + quick dry –easy wash clothes only!

All my clothes were easy hand wash and dry on their own in the room while I am at school with the kids. and all of them were basic mix and match solid colors. this meant that no matter what- I had something to wear.

I took my clothes to a close by laundry twice during my 1 month stay- a week after arriving- couldn’t take off that “sitting 24 hours in an airplane ” kind of smell, and the other time after the 2 day Acatenango hike- to take off the “camp fire at 1 am watching a volcano errupt” smell.

My clothes came back shining and smelling great all for 10$.

Between those 2 times, I simply washed my clothes in the sink, with a simple bar of local soap I bought in “la bodegona”.

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If you are wondering why I didn’t buy or bring proper laundry soap- I don’t like hand washing my clothes with powder laundry detergent- It doesn’t dissolve well in cold water -and the Tsa rules about liquid prevented me from bringing my laundry shampoo. at the supermarket I saw no reason to buty a special soap when I liked the smell of this washing soap + I used the other bars in the pack for washing- once my Dr bronner’s soap bar vanished.

5. Bring a refillable water bottle!

Think environmentalism+saves a lot of money !

Now about this Tsa liquid rule at the airport…..

I cannot board a flight -or go anywhere outside my house for that matter- without my water bottle.

But airport regulations make it very difficult to board a plane with more than 100 ml in your bottle.

So- what I found out is that many airports have water coolers after security checks, and those who don’t- well check out if you can fill your bottle from the water tap in the toilets.yes I just wrote toilets.

I did that in schiphol- Amsterdam (great water! cold and tasty!) in Ben-Gurion air-port in Tel Aviv and in Panama , and I am sure many other airports , once you inquire- have that option.please make sure the water is clean and clear for safe use beforehand.even if you are thirsty.no joke here.

6. Orientation at your destination- includes a must trip to the local supermarket.

First of all- this is an interesting place to see local people and local customs. can’t help it- people all around the globe like to eat.

Second- you can try new and different food- in a safe environment. If you are a bit hesitant of trying out street food food, (I am), than the local supermarket can provide you a glimpse at local food and produce without many of the hazards.

Thirdly-this is your oppurtunity to stack on fruit and snacks for just in case situations- and provide food options for situations you feel like staying in and having a light meal.(Introvert anyone?)

7. Walk -walk-walk!

Instead of using taxis- try to get the real feel of the new place you arrived at- and walk around. try going out without your phone-shocking yet possible!

Antigua- by foot!

8. Make a copy of your VIP (very important papers)

put it in your travel bag. and save it in your Gmail account. a copy of your passport, your travel insurance, your E ticket’ your stay voucher, you get the drift.

Enjoy your holiday! the cooliflower.

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Vegan and frugal in Guatemala-my month in antigua (and a side note on traveling alone).נ

As I already told you, I volunteered for a month with NDG -in antigua, guatemala. here is a link to my previous post – Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth. 

During my stay, I was provided with 3 meals a day at my homestay, except on sundays, so basically I needed to provide for myself only on the 4 sundays I spent in antigua. 

But- being a health enthusiastic vegan, I realized quickly that my homestay-although being super nice and cooperative, were used to serving meat and dairy , and I would have to eat the “sides”. 

Well I am not a “sides” person. I love food. I love to eat.  food is a super important aspect of our lives, and I prepare my meals with a lot of thinking put into the nutritious aspects as well as respecting my tastebuds. 

Where there is a will- there’s a way- I refuse to believe it is difficult to eat healthy vegan food on a budget even when you are out of your comfort home and kitchen, in a foreign and non-vegan enthusiastic country. (non enthusiastic is an understatement- many  dishes consisted of meat or dairy products and the rest were gluten abundant- and I try to avoid gluten if I can. 

MY SAVIOURS WERE THE FRUIT- OH SO WONDERFUL FRUIT OF GUATEMALA. 

Guatemala has great pineapples, bananas, papayas, apples and melons, and this plate was my breakfast every day for a month. 

simply wonderful.

But- at around 10 am- I began to feel hungry again-enter snacks from the antiguan supermarket-la bodegona.

my vegan snacks- 3 bags of almonds, bananas, raisins, prunes, mixed nuts, coffee. total sum- 10$. 

 For lunch – again- la bodegona saved my  a** , I bought 3 packs of red beans, a pack of lentils and a pack of chickpeas, and simply brought it (along with a generous tip) to the lady in charge of cooking in the homestay , and politely asked her to prepare them for me as almuersos (lunch in spanish) from now on.

yay ! lentils! 

On sundays- the first two sundays I was away climbing the pacaya volcano and the acatenango volcano -so I ate my snacks.

on the third and fourth sundays- well…

 I searched on line, and I did find a few places that got good reviews- one called “la bruja”, which is supposed to have great vegan burgers, and the other called “Samsara”, and I swear I started walking towards “Samsara”, but suddenly I realized I walked too far and I am near the lovely “la bodegona” supermarket….

So I got in and decided to have a picnic lunch in my room. 

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tortillas, avocado, bean spread, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic salt, organic apples, grapes.

This is my picnic spread- i spread avocado and bean spread on my tortillas, added tomatoes and sprinkled some garlic salt- and had myself a tasty borrito -like roll. for dessert I ate some grapes. I was left with apples, tomatoes and grapes for the next 3-4 days, and all for 100 Q- about 12 $, the cost of one lunch. 

I realized I didn’t “accidentally find myself near the supermarket”. 

I already told you I am an introvert, and all the while I was searching the web for a good vegan place to eat, I was concerned about sitting in a restaurant on a sunday lunch in a foreign place, and eating .alone

I’m not much of a restaurant person on regular terms, let alone on these terms….

I think I felt so uneasy, I subconsciously led myself to the supermarket, where another option- a great option- was open for me. 

I don’t mind eating alone in my house-office.

I actually prefer it. I love food, I appreciate tastes, textures, colors, visuality, everything that has to do with food. I love eating. I don’t read or watch anything while eating, and prefer to eat alone and fully soak in the complete pleasure to all senses that food brings about. 

What I was concerned about was sitting with no filters- such as a friend or family member-  in a restaurant full of strangers- all sitting with their families or friends. 

I am fully aware this could have been a great experience , but again- since I prefer not to eat out even when I am not abroad, the awkward feeling was intensified. 

This picnic was such a success that I repeated it on my last sunday there.

This is a good opportunity to discuss traveling alone.

I have been traveling alone for a few years now, and I love it. 

I know many people prefer traveling with someone- be it spouse-other family member- friend- group. 

traveling alone is a whole different concept.

When traveling alone- all decision- for better or for worse- are yours- and yours alone. 

You need to take care of everything , deal with every mishap , eat your meals alone- unless you hook up with people along the way- and have only yourself (and Instagram, of course) to share your adventures with.

This means- you have total freedom, and this freedom- can be frightening. 

*I will most definitely not be the first to acknowledge that freedom is a frightening concept. I strongly recommend this book- a classic in my opinion.here is a link- erich fromm escape from freedom ( please try to get this at your local library first- read and then decide if it is one of the “keepers” that need to belong in your home library).

Try traveling alone once- maybe a short trip, maybe not abroad , but try to plan your trip-and execute it- all by yourself. maybe you will make mistakes, maybe not everything will work like a swiss clock- and maybe it doesn’t really matter- because that sense of doing it on your own is intoxicating. 

In my experience- locals are much nicer to you when traveling alone, you are more likely to meet new people, enjoy museums (think about going to a contemporary art museum with a spouse that doesn’t appreciate art. what a  disaster. think about the reverse situation -a disaster nonetheless. when alone- you get to decide if and when you go anywhere, what and when you will eat, sleep, and see. awwww freedommmmmmmm). 

Give it a try. 

So- if you are a vegan -frugal -introvert like me- I hope I gave you some ideas in this post. even if you fall into only one of these categories- or none of them- I hope you enjoyed reading.

It is possible to travel and enjoy healthy nutritious vegan food- in a frugal way! 

the cooliflower. 

Continue reading “Vegan and frugal in Guatemala-my month in antigua (and a side note on traveling alone).נ”

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Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth.

I am a skeptic.

I do not take anything anyone tells me for granted, I always check- and double check every fact.

When I decided to travel to Guatemala and volunteer with NDG -Ninos De Guatemala- I was skeptic too- and after spending almost a month in Antigua-Guatemala- volunteering and touring (AKA voluntouring), I can give you my own private  skeptical point of view on volunteering with NDG  .

THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT IT.

First- why volunteer? why not just fly to central america and hike-sight see- enjoy good hotels and sit in coffee shops ? enjoy a proper vacation- I mean -If you are spending time and money and the flights aren’t short either- you should enjoy yourself, right?

I agree- you should enjoy yourself. 

The question is- are you happy with the usual way you travel , or are you looking for something else. I dare say- more meaningful than the usual way I used to travel abroad: shopping-museums- sightseeing- hotels- restaurants. 

And please don’t get me wrong- there is nothing wrong with relaxing, having a good time, sight-seeing and museum strolling. actually you can add hiking and other self-enriching experiences to this list.

I am definitely not giving up on these kind of  experiences . 

This post has 2 purposes as I see it: the first is to suggest another way of traveling- after you have read all about the lessons I’ve learned from my month in Guatemala, and the second purpose is to give you my full and true opinion about this specific NGO- should you consider voluntouring in Guatemala .

I want to start by stating a few obvious and yet perhaps overlooked notions: 

  1. voluntouring in my opinion is as selfish as every other trip. the fact that I decided to dedicate the money (and time) I would have otherwise spent on fancy hotels-a thrilling hike or other adventure-interesting meals -fancy museums-to an organization focused on helping others-  is definitely very nice of me- but I still believe that if I level with myself   I will  agree that the giver- in this case me- profited from giving just as much as the recipient of the gift, maybe even more. many studies show that volunteering fills you with good energy, a sense of accomplishment, and overall happiness. 

 

this is Victoria. I mean- isn’t it obvious that playing with her is a gift to myself?

2. Be humble . you will not change the world-cure hunger- or cure anything else for that matter- in the few days-few weeks-few months you will volunteer. 

Maybe if you were a millionaire and were to give millions of $ to charity -you would make a significant difference. but most of us aren’t, and I believe it is important to be realistic about your true ability to impact other people’s lives, otherwise you might end up thinking you wasted your time &money, only because the change isn’t visible.

3.The extent of your sense of accomplishment and making a true difference is totally up to you.

I started volunteering not knowing any Spanish. well maybe  basic level acquired on “duolingo”- which is a good app -but when you need to speak to locals -you find out it’s a bit more complicated than writing your answer in an app….

So basically I didn’t understand a word the kids- or the teacher- said. 

This led to very funny situations involving a lot of hands, drawings, running around and misunderstandings.

For a very verbal person like me- this was a revelation. 

I ended up helping the teacher (wonderful vanessa- I hope all teachers were like her- such patience, quiet handling of the class that consisted of 20 very energetic young kids …I was privileged to help her!) cut cards, glue paper, wrap yarn, draw, help the kids with lunch, clean the class, watch over their free play , participate in soccer games , brush their teeth, and basically- just sit down and hug whoever was in a need of a hug at that moment.

And after the first day- when the kids got used to me- they took turns sitting on my laps- all the kids by the way- even the most shy ones- felt at ease with me after a few days- and whenever one of them was feeling a bit down or lonely or sad- he was immediately hugged and comforted, without many words involved.

So I didn’t end up thinking I saved the world from hunger , and I didn’t find a cure for cancer, nor did I save anything else.

Maybe, just maybe- a few kids had a better time in summer school because of me- and maybe- I was the only one that had a great time. 

I don’t know. 

I do know that volunteering for a few weeks and expecting to make a true difference- is something that may prevent the absolute and true joy of simply being there for someone else, maybe comforting one person, maybe helping one stray dog and maybe help a senior citizen clean his house or get a blanket.  maybe just being with someone  and sharing your good vibes with them is enough as a goal. 

*by the way- in the afternoons I learned spanish with a great teacher named Alvaro in the Cambio spanish school. the income from cambio is donated to Ndg too. if you happen to go there do yourself a favour and ask specifically for him. and say hi from me. alvaro and I had some serious conversations about life, family, anger management, money, goal setting and veganism. (mostly) in spanish. 

4. The co-coordinators at the office of NDG are truly wonderful -and I received a full explanation as to where the donation money was going.

I felt secure and safe in Antigua, my personal coordinator carlota was constantly in contact with me, showed me around, explained what needed explaining , took us to the jade museum, a cooking class and a chicken bus factory tour, and even offered me her personal gear when I told her I was going to climb the Acatenango! 

The donation money -and this was definitely a question raised about some other organizations- was definitely not going to anyone besides the kids in the schools- the office is a small place, no one has a car- except for one- and it is an old truck used to drive to the schools and back.on the same note- please do not have any expectations to live in a hotel or anything like that. my homestay room was basic and simple, it was clean and the food was good -but again- basic. nothing fancy. I wasn’t expecting fancy and I liked my home stay . this is the room and the view from it: 

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mi dormitorio
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the jungle outside my room . spent a few days reading in the sun here

Here is a link to the  NDG site- take a lookNinos De Guatemala

I think it is clear that providing proper  education for kids who otherwise might wonder the streets or work in the fields- is the most efficient way to make a true and real impact. 

This NGO has its heart and actions in the right place. 

This was a truly wonderful experience for me. 

It might be for you too- but please remember to be humble and realistic about this. 

the cooliflower. 

Continue reading “Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth.”

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Hiking the acatenango volcano in guatemala- usefull tips for beginners

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A year before I turned 50, I read somewhere that a good way to find out what your true dreams are- is to sit in front of a paper- and instinctively draw the first thing that comes to your mind- when thinking about things you wish to achieve.

so I sat down one day, and drew the first thing that came up when thinking of turning 50.

It was a (lame) drawing of a person with a backpack, standing on a hill top.

Then I remembered I made a list a few years ago, named :”things I want to achieve before turning 50″.

I found that list (yes- it is very helpful to be organized and constantly strive towards minimalism), and on that list, sure enough, was a paragraph stating :”take a trip outside of my comfort zone”.

It also said- “learn spanish”, “learn italian”,”learn how to play the guitar ” and “learn how to professionally cook vegan food”.(still working on those..)

This was the beginning of my journey towards the third and final gift I gave myself for my 50th birthday. (here is a link to the previous posts telling all about the first 2 presents I gave myself-and why I decided that giving myself those birthday presents was such a great idea: The birthday presents I gave myself-part 1, The second birthday present I gave myself. (part 2) ).

So I contacted “Ninos De Guatemala”, a non government organization (NGO) in guatemala , and booked tickets through Klm , started learning spanish with Duolingo , and learned all I could online about travelling light.

But this post is about hiking tips for beginners like me, and I believe that a true and genuine beginner has the best tips- since we know exactly what a fellow beginner feels and what are the obstacles to handle-and how to tackle them .

The picture above- the one that looks like a post card- is a picture I took of the Fuego volcano in guatemala. an active volcano, rising to more than 4000 meters high. (very high).

I can tell you that I was very nervous before the 2 day hike (actually- this is an understatement), and that it didn’t help that on the group meeting the evening before the hike, I found out that 95% of the group were around their 20’s, fit , ambitious, and had lots of prior experience hiking in high altitude…….

But- at the end of the hike I felt as if I conquered the world, and since that point on- I couldn’t care less about other people’s fitness level -or youth.

I found out that all my swimming-running-yoga was a great way to be in shape, not only did I keep up with the rest of the group, but I decided strategically that I have to be as close to the guide in the front as possible- in case I get altitude sickness .

I was third or fourth from the guide the whole time, which turned out to be a great decision- I had much more rest time than the people who were the last in line-think about it- at every stop the guide would wait untill the last person arrived, and a minute or 2 later- we started climbing again. the poor person in the back had almost no rest time, whereas I had plenty of time to drink water, eat a small snack, and enjoy the hike.

Now for the promised “Do’s and don’ts”:

* I may be stating the obvious here- but this is as I said a demanding hike. please make sure you are fit enough and in good health to do it! consult with proffesionals- I am not one- just giving some advice here. use your brain when deciding if this adventure is for you or not.

*I believe a good trial hike for you would be the pacaya volcano hike.a pleasant half day hike that doesn’t involve arranging any gear or carrying a heavy backpack. water and some snacks will be enough. the pacaya is considerably easier than the acatenango (our guide said that the acatenanago is considered 6 times more difficult than the pacaya) so if you find that pacaya is too much for you- don’t even think about acatenango….. still-even if pacaya is easy for you- the acatenango may be a difficult challenge so -use your brain.

Do:

1. hike with a good tour company.

This is quite a difficult hike, in high altitudes (summit almost 4000 meters), it gets very cold at night up there (can reach 0 degrees celsius) and you need good gear and a good guide to handle this.

I needed almost everything- from a sleeping bag-sleeping mat- to backpack-overcoat-gloves- flashlight- hat.

the difference between going with the company I went with -that rent me all the gear for free, and other companies that charge for renting the gear, was at first- double the amount , but after calculating the rent cost- there was almost no difference in price- so take the gear situation into consideration when deciding which company to use.

Under no circumstances should you try to do this hike alone- defenitely if you are a beginner. this is my opinion- and I am not receiving a commission from any guides so please consider it a fair warning.

Last year 6 hikers were found dead after loosing their way up on the mountain in the freezing cold night.

2. Pack lightly.

pack only bare necessities.

this means water– I had 4.5 liters and drank another liter at my homestay in the morning, and another liter once we came back.

snacks– nuts, raisins, bananas, apples, that is what I had and it was great.

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a small-sized facial cream with high spf, the smallest and lightest face towel with a few drops of soap already on it- so you can just put a few drops of water and scrub your face and upper body in the evening .in my experience- this is a necessity: the hike is mostly in volcanic ashes that sticks to your face and clogs your pores. do yourself a favour and scrub your face with a towel and a few drops of water.

3.Hydrate properly the day before:

A tip I got from the tour agency I hiked with- to prevent altitude sickness it is very important to hydrate throughout the hike- but equally important is to hydrate properly on the day prior to the hike! * I know many long distance runners know that fueling and hydrating the days before the race is sometimes even more important than race day itself.

4. dont forget to rent a walking stick from the cute kids at the starting point.

The sticks are only 5Q and you won’t regret taking one…it was helpful both on the slippery way up- and on the even more slippery- way down….

5. clip your toenails.

I am trying to remember where I read this tip- but it’s a good one. going down the second day you happen to spend quite a lot of time on your toes- that’s what the elevation does to you. you won’t regret this one either…

6 .take a flashlight and spare batteries.the climb up the summit is done at 4 in the morning, pitch dark.no kidding. The flash light the company gave me suddenly stopped working and this hike in the dark was one of the scariest Things I have ever done.

just take a flash light.preferably a head lamp like this one above. You can thank me later.

Don’t do:

1.Don’t spend your whole hike taking pictures. I don’t think any of your friends- not even your family would appreciate looking at 50,000 pictures of the same volcano -even if it was taken from slightly different angles…try to enjoy the beautiful jungle you are in- and this unique experience of watching a volcano erupt in front of you every 15 minutes…

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2. don’t schedule anything exhausting for that evening or even the day (or two..) after. I was exhausted for a few days after the hike- but felt exhilarated!

enjoy- this was a hike of a life time for me. the cooliflower.

Can you overeat healthy food???

Well, yes.you can apparently.

I can attest to that.

Personal experience.

While I was convinced that you can only binge on sugary -carb-loaded whatever ( I bet you don’t even need to use your imagination…everybody has a week spot for something food concerned) –

Well- turns out calories are calories, and, much like finances, if you put in more then you take out- you gain. (………..)

If you are one of those lucky bast%&#$ that his or her goal is to gain weight- well then.

I got nothing to say to you. I mean, really. nada.

I also ain’t got nothing to say to you if you have a perfect relationship with your body and with food.

You never overeat, you can eat 2 chips and be “full” (yea right) and the worst – you occasionally skip a meal just because you “forgot to eat”.

Not deliberately and mindfully wrestled with your weak willpower and intermittent fasted-no- you simply forgot.

what can I say. do people like that even exist?

The rest of us are struggling to shake off childhood eating habits, fears, emotional eating, stress binging, you simply love to eat, you appreciate the taste of certain foods, and you feel secure and content when you are full. etc.

and many other issues too.

The point is- apparently, just because you are eating vegan protein-dense nutritional organic healthy foods- does not mean you can eat as much as you want and not gain weight.

Unless of course, you are an elite athlete and train 14 times a week lifting weights , running like the wind or swimming like a dolphin. ( they do swim fast, don’t they?in the case they are known slow swimmers, then think of another underwater fast swimmer).

Come to think of it- maybe these athletes can’t eat whatever they want either, I have no idea.

The thing is, I started practicing intermittent fasting, and many times I find myself overeating after fasting.

I am aware this is not the best case scenario, not even remotely, but this is the truth .so.

Overeating is not recomended in my opinion not only from the caloric intake point of view but first and foremost because if makes you feel uneasy.

Bloating, heavyness, fatigue, you name it- I’ve experienced it.

I’ve been trying to make all kinds of adjustments, such as snacks and mindful eating, and I think that the key , at least in my case, is acceptance.

I need to accept my emotional eating , and when I will totally understand that this is part of me , and has been a part of my life since adolescence, then, and only then, maybe I will be able to workout the best way to get along with my eating habits.

The cooliflower.

Rise up- it’s fall!

Even (former) cynics like me can’t avoid that sense of joy creeping when its fall time.

Fall here is very short, a month at best, so I try to enjoy every second of it.

Being me, enjoying most definitely means food.

My daughter texted me the other day asking for a recipe for acorn squash.

Wow.The feeling that I had done something right raising that child.overwhelming.

“Simply scrub it thoroughly, half it, drizzle some olive oil and bake till tender”.

“.And please take a picture for the blog “.

“Mom, it turned out great, I put some brown sugar on top before baking “.

( I definitely did something right with her).

“about the picture..I had to start eating it looked so good so no “just got out of the oven ” photo.

Oatmeal!!!

Healthy, easy, super filling, full of fiber, comforting with no downsides.amazing.

My easy version:

6 tbsp oats

1 cup boiling water

90 seconds microwave

stir

drizzle soy milk

add 2 tbsp date spread ( home made)

1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp ground flax seeds

1 tbsp hemp seeds

stir

cinnamon

Enjoy.

Soup!!!

this is a Thai sweet potato coconut milk soul my neighbor brought.

And this is a vegetable soup I made, and added some dried mushrooms for a simple twist.

Add anything you like to a basic veggie soup:

bulgur

whole rice

pasta

mushrooms

whatever.

Enjoy the fall fruit!!

fall grapes.here as a simple snack – with sprouted mung beans , walnuts and a drizzle of tahini.

honestly- the tahini wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Pears.

classic fall fruit.

this here is an asian pear.

full of vitamins.

add some almonds and get a nutritious yummy snack.

Get out your slow cookers!!

Don’t have one?get one.this is a cheap useful device.I am almost positive that if you ask around your family , someone will admit that he or she can give you the spair one that has been lying around.

Bake beens in the slow cooker.

Presoak them.

Then pre boil them till almost tender.

Then transfer to the slow cooker , add olive oil, condiments of choice, and let cook for 6-7 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

Enjoy!

The cooliflower.

Early retirement cleaning projects, naturally….

I knew this was coming.

It was inevitable.

Major cleaning assignments, that up until my early retirement were classified as : “when I have the time”.

Well, I never really had the time.

I mean I had the time to clean, but not to tackle those nasty hidden spots nobody sees unless you make a point of talking about them.

I never made a point f taking about them.

Why would I?

Nothing interesting there to talk about.

So why am I bothering now?

So that all of you saving pennies towards early retirement , know what’s coming.

Sure- you can ignore all those strange cleaning projects, bit-

I will have you know that people around you have a tendency to let you feel like you are not a respectable citizen if you are not productive.

Since I have no intention of going back to work- not even part-time, not even sitting on a board of something or another boring thing-

I get the look from people. 

“So, what do you do all day??”

“Mmmmm…..I workout??”

“And then?”

“Then I eat”

“And then?”

“Then I rest. and read. and eat. again.”

“Seriously??”

“Emmm…yep”

So every once in a while I pull a long-forgotten cleaning project from hell and tackle it, so I can answer confidently”:

“Oh, today? I cleaned the thing!”

And that’s that.

So- what were the projects?

#1: Cleaning behind the desk in my adolescent son’s room.

I know you cant believe me, but I have evidence to show I did get into my son’s room and did move his desk, yes the one the computer is on and cleaned there.

This is the before-

yes, disgusting.

 

 

And this is the after.

#2: Painting the same adolescent’s ceiling.

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hen I succeeded entering the said adolescent’s room, and moved the desk, I happened to look up in despair, and that’s when I saw his ceiling was covered in what looked like suspicious mold or whatever.

I’m not absolutely sure what it was, but it wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t look very healthy, so my partner and I repainted the ceiling with anti-mold paint.

#3: Of course- the kitchen sink had to get clogged. 

I mean- why not?

Just because I am extra careful not to clog it with coffee remnants and oily stuff? just because I clean it only with natural sprays? (vinegar+baking soda+dish soap)?

It clogged anyway, so my partner took out his secret weapon-

You open the sewer and insert this device and start manually turning it (elbow grease at your service) until you unclog the very thing that clogged the system.

Mind you the secret weapon came out only after trying- and failing- the traditional -“opening the plastic cup under the sink and cleaning the disgusting gunk in it” .

The end result:

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#4: Cleaning behind the microwave!

I didn’t know it could get this dirty.

I mean, why would it??

My green clean all-purpose cleaner- baking soda+dish soap+ warm water and some vinegar, scrubbing-and voila.

#5: Then I had to clean the inside of the microwave, obviously.

I mean- who leaves a job half done??

arrrgggggggggggggg….

Take the glass tray out.

Discover that it has a tendency to let sticky stuff stick to it.

Scrub it .

Take a glass of water, squeeze half a lemon- better use a mature (old, I mean old) lemon, (why bother wasting a fresh beautiful one? mature ones are just as good for cleaning purposes), and start the microwave -30 seconds should do it.

wipe the dirt off the whole microwave interior, and place the glass plate back.

Amazing.

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#6: clean the ice inside the deep freezer. 

img_20191015_1535044373493794707818872.jpgI do wish I took a “before” picture” so you could appreciate the glorious work I had done to get the tons of ice out of this.

No- it doesn’t have an anti freeze thing -that’s the way it is. it has been doing a great job for the past decade and we are not about to replace it just because we need to struggle like animals every few months.

We can do it.

I mean-

I am retired-

Right?

enjoy- the cooliflower.

My struggles with intermittent fasting.

I have been practicing intermittent fasting since January, and I think it’s time to share my opinion on this oh so controversial subject.

I remind you I am no doctor/dietitian/anything of the sort.

Just me. early retired me, plenty of time and enthusiasm, a genuine interest in healthy nutrition, preferably vegan (for me) but not only ( for the rest of the household. I seem to care about them, a lot.)

So I read. actual books. and on-line too. I use my brain to asses what works for me and didn’t-doesn’t-won’t.

Let’s get to the point- shall we?

My previous post on intermittent fasting is linked here: So- intermittent fasting??

I re-read the post so I won’t repeat myself, and found it interesting that some issues remained an issue- some evolved as an issue- and then some new issues emerged…

#1 Issue: Hunger…..

Naturally, when your body is used to eating 3 meals a day ( + snacking in between) the sudden change does not go without saying.

there was- and still is- some saying here…

Some days I don’t feel any hunger, on the contrary, I feel great, but there are days I am actually hungry. I mean really hungry.

There is a huge difference between my actual hunger( quite rare- maybe once in a week-10 days) and my psychological hunger (not so rare…a few days a week….)
So what do I do?
Sometimes I just eat and actually don’t feel so great afterward, since my body has adapted to fasting between 15:45 to 08:45 (I am aware you might think it strange to mention those 15 minutes before – but trust me- when you are hungry- those 15 minutes between 08:45 and 9 am seem like eternity. )
sometimes I drink a cup of herbal tea, and sometimes I make myself a cup of apple cider vinegar drink– 2 tbsp ACV in a glass of hot water. yes- it’s “allowed” during fasting, and actually has many nutritional benefits.

Issue #2: I love eating.

That’s not the main problem I have with intermittent fasting, though I was absolutely sure that it would be.

The reason it’s not such a huge problem, I that I do everything I can to eat in between my fasting hours.
But- The thing is- though I manage to eat enough food- I find that whereas before IF I just ate the food I like with minimum planning ahead- now I need to carefully plan each day ahead, so I can make sure I eat enough protein and fruit -to sustain me through the next fast.

This means fewer carbs, no baked goods, pasta maybe 0nce a week, and salads are reduced to snack time because I am afraid that if I eat salad and some beans for lunch- by evening I will be hungry again. so instead of a large salad for lunch -I have a choice of legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy beans+ quinoa-bulgur- brown rice.

The obsessive planning ahead is a bit tiring, lucky for me I am retired, because I haven’t the faintest idea what working people do.

I am fully aware of the possibility that the hunger fears I have maybe totally false, and there are people out there managing to sustain themselves only on large salads and some protein shake.

While that may very well be the case for other people- it’s not the case with me.

As I said I love eating, I respect my body, and I totally respect my body’s need for fueling after workouts to keep going at the great pace it is going.

I am no spring chicken, and I cannot risk inflicting any severe damage to my body so as to lose a few pounds or simply out of ignorance.

In order to build strength- I need to build muscle. in order to build muscle- my body needs fuel- the right kind of fuel- in the right amount.

My research taught me that for my weight (132 pounds) I need to eat 54 grams of protein a day, so my main concern is supplying protein and vitamins to my body, the rest will wait.

Issue #3: synchronizing post-work-out meals and fasting.

I am a type-A organized person, (mainly because of fears of letting go, sadly not because I am such a perfect person.If you think about it, it’s probably yet another imperfection in a long and tiring line of imperfections), and as a type-A organized person, I try very hard to schedule my post work out “eating windows”.

*An “eating window” is a controversial concept stating that after a serious (high intensity) workout- such as spin class, running and such, your body needs to refuel in an eating window not wider than 60 minutes, in order to replenish glycogen restores in our bodies, and help mend the muscle tears our exercise has inflicted .

Meaning- that if you are exercising in a gym or outdoors- and there is a ride back, your food needs to be either prepared and waiting for you in that time window, or be taken with you to be eaten right after the exercise.

I am not absolutely sure this theory is completely valid, since I keep reading that “the body is smarter than us, it can manage different foods together, and knows when it needs to be refueled”- and all of a sudden there is a semi-scientific eating window that isn’t necessarily connected to what our body is telling us, since there may be times that people are simply not hungry after a workout- but find themselves thinking “oh I must eat otherwise my eating window will be shut!”.

*By the way, don’t get me wrong- I am not complaining that I need to eat when I am not hungry. this is not the case. I am usually hungry, most definitely after my workouts, that start at 05:30-06:00 AM, when my last meal is at around 15:45 PM.

The thing is, on days I go swimming at the gym, I usually add core class+pilates -or yoga.

This means that I swim fasted for 2 km (70 minutes-between 5:45- 6:55am) , then I shower and continue to my classes -until 9 am. by the time I get home it’s 9:45.

By then I am famished, ready to eat anyone.

This means that all the ingredients for my post-workout smoothy need to be ready, so I can whip it up the minute I get home.
And please don’t let anybody stand in my way.

The smoothy is hardly enough to satisfy me after all those hours +that intense workout- so I make myself oatmeal porridge as well.

*the smoothy includes 2 frozen bananas, 15 grams of protein powder, (Vega salted caramel, yummy!) cold water, 1/4 cup of soy milk, 2 tbsp of chia seeds (pre-mixed with water), 2 tbsp of flax seeds, and 1 tbsp of hemp seeds.

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for the oats- I put 1/2 cup of oats, 1 cup of hot water- in the microwave for 90 seconds, then mix in 2 tbsp of my date spread, a little soy milk, 1 tbsp emp seeds and some cinnamon. voila.

But-

between swimming and my classes, I can get hungry.

The thing is I don’t have a pre-workout snack- because of the fasting, and this is a bit too much exercise for me in a fasted state.

A morning run is fine, so is the swimming- but the classes can be sometimes- a bit too much.

What I started doing lately- and does help (a little) is I bring a small glass container with my 2 tbsp of ACV and mix in hot water from my double duty bottle.

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I drink the ACV beverage in the gym after swimming (and showering) and before classes, and it can keep me going till the end of the classes in good condition.

The ACV has many benefits- I linked an article – ACV benefits.

The potassium in the ACV is supposed to boost your energy levels ( plus help with leg cramps if you have them at night) . but the articles warn not to overdo it on ACV-so don’t.

To conclude –

I feel that intermittent fasting is good for me, but I still have my struggles. I don’t mind missing dinners and not going out to eat because I don’t do that anyway ( introvert, told you), so all in all- I think I will keep doing my IF -with necessary modifications if needed.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

Cheap thrills: 3 easy money-saving hacks for free!!

I believe it’s time for another fun round of ” how to save $$$ so retirement won’t take that long”.

#1: Diy healthy +frugal sugar substitute: your very own organic raw Medjool date spread!

My partner got his blood work results and was reluctant to share, so I figured it was not the greatest results you could get.

After some convincing, he told me the results shoed high cholesterol, and high blood sugar, to the level that us indicative of prediabetes.

My MIL is diabetic, and this is a serious indicator of other health issues too, such as heart disease, so even he was suddenly concerned.

I wasn’t surprised since up until that moment my partner’s approach to food (and Life) was the classic YOLO approach:

“I’ll eat what I want and do whatever I want to do with my time and my money since “you only live once”.”

He loves pizza, and so I learned to make homemade pizzas in hopes that at least I can eliminate the additives and who knows what ingredients they put in store-bought frozen pizzas.

But that didn’t help at all, because now he had all the pizza he wanted close by, fresh and seemingly “healthy”, since it was homemade…

He also loves bread and baked goods, so every weekend:

I let him be, (after failing at the nagging option…he is no one to nag to), and the test results were finally the wake-up call he (and I) needed to get him back on track.

*He is blessed with a lean figure, though the pizzas and buns were starting to show off as belly fat.as is common when you pass the “50” gate.

So he simply cut gluten and sugar off his diet and hasn’t stopped since the beginning of August.

I, naturally, was on board, and introduced the world of legumes and oatmeal to him.and yogurt.

I used to buy organic date syrup, and drizzle it freely on desserts, thinking it’s not proper sugar, it’s date sugar.

But then I researched a bit and discovered that throughout the process of making date syrup, many of the date nutrients are squeezed out, and you are left with mainly the sugary carbs that make it taste so good…though it is not as bad as regular white sugar, for sure.

Read here why: (remember my disclaimer)

https://www.healwithfood.org/nutrition-facts/date-syrup-calories.php

So I took their offer and made my own date spread.

It takes about 3 minutes of “work”, and the result is healthier ( all the fiber and nutrients of the dated are still there no worries), no added preservatives, you know exactly what kind of dates your spread is made of, you can buy the dates in bulk , on sale, and make it even a cheaper option, plus, it isn’t so concentrated, so it’s not as sweet as the store-bought solan or syrup, so it allows you to go easy on everybody’s sweet tooth and habits, should you have the strange desire to do so.

The process is simple: pit 15 organic Medjool dates. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes. The water should just about cover the dates. Don’t discard the water, they go along with the dates!

Place dates +date soaking water in the blender : (my Vitamix is my dear dear friend, truly. but for this, I use my Braun hand mixer, easier to clean. Unless I am about to make a smoothly right afterward, in that case, I use the Vitamix and do not bother to clean the date mess, since dates are a welcomed addition to every proper smoothy worldwide). blend for 30 seconds on high. EST voila.

I use this spread as a substitute for sugar in everything. On yogurt, with raw tahini as a sweet spread, in pancakes, cookies, cakes, even when I need to balance a tomato sauce’s acidity – I add 1/2 a tsp of the date spread instead of the usual sugar.

My partner hasn’t done more blood tests since, so I hav3no idea if his blood sugar is balanced yet, but he lost all the belly fat And says he feels much lighter now – and his runNing has improved.

#2: squeeze it like you mean it:

Ok come on you already know this one, it’s a basic 101 frugal tip. Squeeze your toothpaste before throwing. But I am here to tell you that even when you lose hope, and you are certain you squeezed the life out of it, it can miraculously give you 2 more weeks of paste! I was amazed when this happened to me and immediately thought:” well this is something to write about!”. And took a picture to prove my point.

#3: Why bother buying fancy microfiber towels? Simply declutter your closet!

I am aware people out there are making millions from fancy cleaning products, but not on my budget.

If we are being honest, 99% of the wiping we do with the super absorbent fancy microfibers is simple dirt that can b3 absorbed with recycled paper towels too.

By the way, I am not absolutely sure it isn’t more environmental and frugal to use recycled paper towels, the white ones that can be thrown to the compost afterward (so long as it wasn’t used to absorb toxic or oily stuff of course).

which one is better??

Anyway, since autumn winds are blowing and all that, it’s time to check the closet and make sure your clothes are in good shape and form and fit you and your current fashion style.

Check that they don’t need mending -if they do= take a needle and thread and simply mend them. it is possible- img_20190828_1307121037662940218476493.jpg

and the clothes that do not fall into those categories- well- if they are in good shape- give away or donate, and if not- cut them into cloths. and fold them nicely so you can grab one whenever you need a quick wipe.

img_20191001_1036086212382978005980462.jpgSure- it’s not the most absorbent material on earth, for sure not as absorbent as specifically manufactured microfibers- but again- how many times do you really need a heavy-duty absorbent cloth? I am sure you have a few of these at home from the last new year’s resolution to clean more efficiently. ( I know I do..)

told you- easy +frugal.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

Design your personal trail mix! frugal, healthy, easy recipe!!

I don’t eat airplane food.

I mean I haven’t tried business class food , not to mention first class cuisine, so I can only make bold and harsh statements concerning tourist class , but I’m pretty sure most people travel like me, with the common crowd, and if you happen to be priviledged – well then, enjoy, and do share the experience in the comments.

The thing is, although vegans enjoy the priviledge of getting their food first ( people around you are sure you are some kind of a celeb +you can get to sleep earlier then everyone), I am never certain about the food the airlines- every airline by the way- provide.

sometimes I’m not sure about the cleanliness of the food, sometimes I’m not sure how long it waited before being served to me, and sometimes, I’m not even sure it’s vegan…

Also, while traveling, I do everything I can to refrain from relying on airport food- for frugal reasons .naturally, plus the same concerns mentioned above.

This is why I decided to get my hands on some trail mix before my flight to India recently.

The thing is, I am frugal + having the time to compare and make wise choices, made me think of making my own trail mix from “scratch”.

That was one of the easiest things ever, which made me think why wouldn’t people do that all the time???

I mean : its easy, no cooking or baking involved, its by far cheaper than store bought, (less then half the price!!) it allows you to mix in only things you personally like, as opposed to compromising on some of the ingredients, it is most definitely fresher, cleaner, and healthier- since no additives are in, and no strange named ingredients such as chocolate liquor (?).

I compared the prices on Iherb, since they deliver internationally, and the average price for 100 grams of packed trailmix is around 4.5 bucks.

a typical bag contains almonds, cashews, raisins, cheries, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and chocolate nibs.

that is nice, but many times additives are there too, to help preserve the mix for a longer time.

I checked the price of the ingredients seperately:again, on Iherb;

almonds- raw organic: 10$ per 500 grams.

Cashews: 15$per 500 grams.

Raisins- 6$ per 500 grams.

sunflower seeds: per 500 grams.

cherries; 13$ per 300 grams.

cacao nibs: 12$per 500 grams

pumpkin seeds: 6.5$ per 500 grams.

total of 3300 grams.

Now Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that the store bought trail mix is made so that all ingredients, expensive as cheap,are represented equally, though we all know that may not be exactly true- mang times , to cut on costs, the cheaper ingredients are represented more dominantly than the higher priced ones.

3300 grams for a total of 64.5$, is 1.95$ for 100 grams.

This is a whopping 60% discount off the price of the packed trail mix (4.5$) and it has more of a variety , plus instead of chocolate, it has healthy super food raw cacao nibs.rich in antioxidants and other good nutritional ingredients.

I recently started emcorporating goji berries too, plus I always put peanuts a well.

peanuts are a great source of protein, plus they add some welcomed saltiness to the mix.

I buy peanuts in bulk, whole , unpeeled, and it takes me a few minutes to peel them. the reason I don’t bother to buy peeled ones is that they are so much Fresher this way, and maybe cheaper too, though I didn’t check.

You can design your own personal customed tailored to your personal taste trail mix, and put only the specific ingredients you fancy at the specific date you plan on eating it, by storing the ingredients seperately and combining each time the specific mix.

I keep my trail mix in the freezer, and enjoy it every day as a snack, while traveling as a substitute for airplane food ( along with fruit- apples or bananas) and as topping for my smoothies.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

5 tips that made my trip to India so great!h

So last week I told you about the present I gave myself for my 51st birthday:

2-week Intensive yoga course in India-full and honest review!

Now I believe it is time for me to share the best tips I used, that made my first trip to India, alone, not possible-but a meaningful and unforgettable trip. (plus- frugal, naturally).

I have no fear of sharing these tips- although I am by no means an expert on this subject-  (this was my first trip to India), because I firmly believe that people doing something for the first time have a huge advantage when it comes to giving this kind of tips- they still remember all the novice struggles and hardships, and can relate to all the FAQ with all the empathy in the world. I mean- I had the same questions just a few weeks ago- so.

Tip #1: take it slow. 

I cannot bear those “Europe In 5 days”/ “around the world in 80 days” kind of trips anymore. (my apologies to Jules Verne, I liked that book).

I will not go anywhere just to mark off a spot on a to-do list made of “famous must-see monuments in…..”).

As usual- this is my private opinion, no pressure here- do whatever you want.

I am aware that traveling for many hours and spending a lot of money may give you the impression that you have to check all the “best places to see” from a  google list.

But personally, since turning 45, I suddenly realized that touristic famous crowded monuments don’t do it for me. I am an introvert and find it difficult to enjoy myself in places like that.

Sure- I can take a selfie there (no. I can’t actually, I did it maybe once in my whole lifetime- the results are better not discussed). but to really have a meaningful moment? no. way.

Don’t get me wrong- I did all those things before it dawned on me that I actually don’t enjoy it. I went shopping for days in foreign malls (great sales! don’t miss the *** in ***!)  until I realized that this was a totally ridiculous thing to do- especially in the name of “saving money”.

The money, time and energy spent on going abroad, was by far not worth the “great sale” that made me spend valuable time in malls.

Plus- I found out that for me- as an introvert- the pressure of the shopping experience in malls is the worst way for me to make shopping decisions.

I am a much better shopper when I buy (or decide not to buy) online. then I can apply the “wait 24 hours at least before making a purchasing rule, check out other sellers, and make a calm decision without anyone hovering over me.”

So I simply travel to one place, carefully and thoughtfully picked, and stay there. the desire is to get to know the place and the people living there-culture, language, food, (mostly food).

I am fully aware I am “missing out” on some world heritage statues and museums.

And at the age of 51, I am, finally, ok with it.

I walk around without my phone, take pictures only on the last few days, and only the kind of pictures that will remind me of the experience, not of the specific relic.

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This is the breakfast (yes, breakfast) we had at the ashram a few times, the rest of the days it was couscous with potatoes, and noodles with potatoes, but no pictures because- as I said I wasn’t carrying my phone.

Tip#2: take it slow means get a lot of rest!

Yes, I am aware of the need to hurry and “enjoy yourself” “you can sleep at home” “go out and have fun!!!” attitude.

And I do not share it.

At all.

I acknowledge my need to rest so my body can function at it’s best, and my mind can be peaceful and quiet.

Perhaps this is a matter of age. perhaps it’s a matter of being an introvert.

Perhaps it’s just me.

I don’t care.

I  have no FOMO- (fear of missing out) -I am totally aware I am for sure missing out on so many things that there is n point in even trying to keep up, and I have no intention of doing so in the first place.

The best adventures I have had lately happened during meditations, alone, eyes closed.

for the past year, I have been working tremendously hard on trying to get together with myself, for the first time in 50 years of existence.

And I have been to the greatest museums and saw wonderful places, and nature is the best thing ever, and yet-

The wonders of the mind are something completely different as Monty python said.

So I rest well, during my trips abroad too. go to sleep at 20:00, rest at lunchtime, don’t get wasted or drink alcohol, a total geek-yes.

I don’t care what it’s called and if anyone has something to say about it.

Do whatever you want-I’ll do whatever I want.

All I can tell you is that I was the only one in the intensive yoga course that didn’t get sick during the course, and one of the few that came to each and every class and never skipped an asana.

But I can’t say I took a ride on the back of someone’s motorcycle, not knowing the person and without a helmet-because, I wouldn’t compromise my health and safety for a free ride,

I can’t tell you I dipped -head included- in the Ganga water- because I had no desire to do so once understanding the local traditions concerning the sacred Ganga,

I can’t tell you I made lifelong friends and shared my life story with anyone during the course,

And there are probably many other things people do- and I didn’t.

And this is fine, I respect them for doing what they like, and I respect my body’s need to rest- just as much.

#3: bring a double duty water bottle!

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Do yourself a big favor and get one of these bottles- not the brand- the kind- that keeps cold water cold for 24 hours, and hot water hot for 12 hours.

No free drinking in India -under no circumstances are you to drink from a stand in the street- that includes anything including ice cubes of course- and no washing your mouth or rinsing your toothbrush in the sink.

I bought an electric water heater on Amazon and it worked great until my roommate decided to try and start it without water. in case you were wondering- it wasn’t a success.

This is the water heater : I get nothing for writing this; just sharing tips here. By the way I have no idea how long it would have held up if it weren’t for my roommate’s decision to test it on dry, so just look for something you like.

So I was glad I had the water bottle and every evening I begged the kitchen workers to boil me some water and put in my bottle. it held ok -hot not boiling hot- until my coffee at 4 am in the morning. yes, I brought black coffee from home. and a mug too.

all I can say is that trips make you appreciate your home even more…..

#4: travel light!

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This is the same gear I used for my month in Guatemala, and what worked great for a month- worked even better for 2 weeks.

How to “travelight” :a month in Guatemala with only a standard carry-on duffel bag??

I can tell you that the Indira Gandhi airport in New Delhi is huge and for me, it was very confusing: I had to get from terminal 1 (domestic flight from Dehradun to Delhi) to terminal 3- international flight back home- and despite the 2-hour gap-I was pretty close to missing my flight.

If it wasn’t for me being early- and getting a front seat on the domestic flight- therefore getting on the first bus to the terminal- and catching the shuttle to terminal 3 immediately -then checking in with hand luggage only- I would probably have slept at the airport instead of in my bed that night.

By the way- the shuttle between the terminals is free- provided you show your previous ticket at the booth, but on the way back I had no time to spare so I paid 25 rupees- that’s about 30 cents, so. giving you the whole information here.

#5: polish your double wringing technique!

In order to travel light- you need to do your laundry. almost every day. sure- you can look for a laundry -but it is so much easier to simply bring light clothes and wash them in the sink with a local soap.

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This way I got my clothes clean and dry the next day, and didn’t carry too much stuff with me. just remember to wring the clothes from both sides simultaneously- aka double wringing. otherwise it will take ages to dry- India enjoys sudden rain showers in September…

Enjoy- the cooliflower.

 

 

2-week Intensive yoga course in India-full and honest review!

On September 7th I celebrated my 51st birthday, and since for the past year I decided that there is no better time to make dreams come true than the present moment, I went, by myself, to Rishikesh, India, to an ashram called Parmarth Niketan, to participate in a 2 week intensive yoga+meditation course .

I returned a week ago, and I am more than ready to share the details with you- just in case you decide this is something that might suit you as well.

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India has been a dream of mine for many years, but stories and some movies I saw, that emphasized the poverty and harsh conditions kept me away from going. I was afraid of not being able to withstand the extreme situations I heard of and decided this was probably not for me.

But after my trip to Guatemala, something changed.

I understood that I could take more than I thought I could, and maybe if I planned right- this could be an interesting experience.

Here are links to my Guatemala trip:

Volunteering with Ninos De Guatemala -the whole truth.

Vegan and frugal in Guatemala-my month in antigua (and a side note on traveling alone).נ

So I booked a flight to India on Air India, a connecting flight on Indigo, and booked my 2-week yoga course at Parmarth.

Parmarth is a Hindi ashram that holds world-known meditation sessions and ceremonies.

the most known ceremony takes place every evening on the Ganga banks at sunset and is a ceremony dedicated to praising and thanking the gods and the sun for warming, lighting and nourishing us. the ceremony is called Aarti, and people from all around the world come to participate.

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India in September is hot, quite humid, occasional showers storm, and the streets, at least in Rishikesh are loud and dirty. and magnificent.

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yes these are monkeys wandering about in the street. in packs. and cows, wandering about as well.

The monkeys are very fond of bananas by the way so when you go get some from the carts in the street, quickly hide them in your backpack or the monkeys will have a go at your snack…

sanitation, at least in Rishikesh Is something to be cautious of- meaning bring your personal water bottle and fill it only with clean water -that includes the water you brush your teeth in, and the water you wash your toothbrush with as well…

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This is my water bottle- aka -best friend in those 2 weeks- I drank cold water from it and used it to store boiled water they gave me in the ashram kitchen to make my coffee at 04 am in the morning when I woke up to go to listen to the chanting.(kirtan).

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This is the ashram, truly a magical place, and I do believe it has a kind of a spiritual vibe in it- I can tell you that as soon as I sat to meditate- I would get into it- maybe it was due to the fact that I had no day to day issues to deal with and was surrounded by spiritual talk- all I know is that it was really easy to relax and get into a meditative mode there.

The place is by no means fancy- or even a 3 stars hotel.

The beds were hard as rocks, the rooms plain and simple- and we cleaned it ourselves -my assigned British roommate and me, and food was simple too.

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No air-conditions by the way.

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This was breakfast- most days it was couscous or noodles with potatoes.

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And this was lunch. rice with vegetables and chapati. very tasty.

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This is the yoga hall, and the course was by all means intensive.

In the morning, at 06:30 to 08 am- morning yoga class, including pranayama- breathing techniques, and some asanas, then breakfast and rest – and we adjourned at 10:30 to 13:00 for nother yoga class- this time asanas- in hatha yoga.

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I feel that I truly progressed in my yoga practice, though it wasn’t easy for me to keep up with the rest of the group.

one was a qualified yoga teacher and the rest have been doing yoga for many years- while I embarked on my yoga journey only about 2 years ago.

But I didn’t let that- or the fact that I was the oldest in the group- by far – keep me from progressing and learning, and since I am an introvert and aware of my body’s need to rest well after working out, I didn’t wander about in the streets of Rishikesh like the rest of the group and when everybody else got sick -I kept going to all the classes and getting my practice .

The yoga practice was demanding ; I believe in a level between intermediate and advanced- but adjustments were given all throughout the practice so that both levels could enjoy the class.

*just saying -I paid full price and got no discount- this is my honest review and not to worry- there were some things that bothered me there- like the noise people made until late hours at night, the state of the room when I first came in, the fact that I had to practically beg for hot water for my coffee in the morning- but these are small things, that didn’t prevent me from having a wonderful time- though this was by no means a vacation or a retreat.

If you want to try a taste of India in a relatively safe environment and get your yoga practice to the next level- check this place on line- maybe ypu will find this to be as interesting as I did.

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Namaste -the cooliflower.

10 Lunch Ideas: vegan -healthy-protein packed- simple- tasty.

So I was thinking about food today.

Ok-

I think about food all.the.time.

And since I highly appreciate easy nutritious yummy food, that happens to be vegan, I scrolled back and gathered some of my favorites.

enjoy!

1.mung beans sprouts+red rice+ tomato and cucumbers+ spicy chickpeas.oh and a few walnuts.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match almost any ingredient: meaning hot with cold, fruits with vegetables, sprouts with nuts, any kind of grains- rice, quinoa, whatever.

Ok try and make the grains whole, and protein-packed as possible, so quinoa is a great choice, plus it has a kind of bland indistinguishable taste that can easily mix with absolutely anything.

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Here is a reminder of how to easily sprout on your basic kitchen table:

How (and why) I sprout my own sprouts

*This is lunch in the process:

 

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#2: stuff red peppers with a mixture of whole grains and add a tomato sauce.

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#3: Can’t beat the pasta:

to pack the protein too- add cooked lentils, cooked beans, chickpeas, nooch, tomato sauce, coconut cream curry sauce, olive oil, lunch is ready!

#4: chickpea flour omelet! 

Yes, we can. the basic ratio is 1:1 (cup chickpea flour to water). add nooch, ground pepper, get all kinds of veggies or grains or legumes in the pan ( I suggest before pouring the chickpea batter-like frittata) and enjoy life. if you really miss omelets- add turmeric- it gets that yellowish color.

#5: No shame in eating some salad! add cooked quinoa for the added protein. 

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#6: cook those sprouts. with onion and some garlic, salt, and pepper, and you have a protein-packed quick meal, to use leftover sprouts.
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#7: rice noodles in tomato- tofu sauce!

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#8: baked sweet potatoes and apples. yes, apples. they combine well no worries, 

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#9: Buckwheat. it’s an acquired taste. but super healthy so if you like it- you nailed it. try cooking it with onions and garlic and some vegetable oil, maybe add some sweet potatoes for good measure. and yet- it is an acquired taste.

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#10. basic 101 bean stew. always saves the day. comfort food in the essence.

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Enjoy- the cooliflower.

Are potatoes good for you??? +great baked potatoes tip!

Who doesn’t like potatoes??

they can be boiled, pureed, baked, fried, french fried, cut into Mc Donald’s chips, and more.

And yet-

I kind of stopped buying and making them, thinking they are basically starchy-no fiber- high in carbohydrates only- no vitamins food.

But then…

My son got me researching protein-packed food, so I learned some pretty amazing stuff.

  • need I really remind you again that I am an early retired criminal lawyer, not a health certified anything, just a health and nutrition enthusiast, that has now plenty of free time and some strong will to learn as much as I can about healthy nutritious food-plus I am a super generous human being who shares whatever I find with you.

Oh- and The thing is- I believe fancy expensive super complicated food is for rich fancy people, not for me.
95% of my food staples are bought through my online supermarket, using all kinds of coupons, I never eat out or order in, and I do my very best to cook as much as I can from scratch and simplify the process while at it.
*I strongly believe that if more people knew how to prepare simple nutritious meals at home- then they would understand how beneficial the vegan diet is- since it checks on all requirements: healthy, nutritious, basic, simple, tasty, and even super frugal!!

Back to the potatoes.

So apparently there are contradicting opinions online as to the health and nutrition benefits of these beautiful easy to make frugal household staples.

The facts:

Here is a link that sums up the important and FAQ: potato info

And to make it extra clear:

the pros:

A baked potato is quite filling and supplies you with 3 grams of protein ( nice amount), and quite a lot of potassium and vitamin C. the total calories from 1 baked potato- 110, is definitely not high, especially for the value you get.

The frugal point is not forgotten- potatoes are a cheap staple and -if stored in a dark -relatively cool place, can keep for at least a few weeks, though please don’t make my mistake -if your house starts smelling like there is a problem with your gas stove- go check your potato stack.

one rotten potato can really deprive you of the joy of life.

the cons:

the nutrition facts are valid for a baked potato. “naked”.

meaning- not slathered in butter-cheese- whatever, not fried in deep oil or pureed Joel Robuchon style.

Watch here if you are interested in what that means.

Robuchon mashed potatoes

If you are very anxious to know and can’t wait to watch the clip- it basically means putting a lot of butter to join the potatoes.

this makes a super tasty puree but the nutrition facts alter. a bit.

Also- if you are watching your carbohydrate intake- the potato is rich in carbs, 26 grams, so do your math and decide if you are in or out.

If you are in- here is my pro tip for cutting at least half of the added olive oil needed to prepare nicely baked potatoes-

like these:

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.

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these sweet potatoes weren’t prepared using the pro tip, because the tip is difficult to apply on sweet potatoes, and the result was double the amount of olive oil. yet super tasty baked potatoes. ( you will be surprised to hear that actually sweet potatoes contain less protein than regular white potatoes. (only 2 grams for 1 serving).

So what is the pro tip? I can’t stand the suspense!

The tip is to first boil the potatoes until they are quite soft- though not totally soft- definitely not breaking apart(!!) and then transfer them to a baking tray- drizzle a little oil and coarse salt , perhaps rosemary if you got some- and bake for 20 minutes- while the oven is working anyway. (frugal. told you). by the way, don’t peel them. quite a lot of the fiber and vitamins are in the potato skin, so why bother?

first, boil, then bake

This way- the potatoes turn out crispy yet tender, yummy yet healthy, nutritious yet fast to make.

win-win-win.

Enjoy- the cooliflower.