Thursday, January 26, 2012

Barter and trade on an everyday level.

My shop on Etsy has not been doing as well as I thought it would.  I'm not exactly sure why this is... I have a number of theories, all of which are probably true to some extent, and that all revolve around me not marketing myself enough.  So while I'm working on doing that, I've decided to approach a few other Etsy shop owners and see if they would be up for a little barter, because I have tons of stuff worth trading for.  And you know what?  A lot of them love the idea!

It actually makes sense to do business this way sometimes.  Especially in a crappy economy, like right now, where it seems like everyone is just barely scraping by.  We all still have lots of stuff and/or time, but money is pretty scarce.  So what do you do?  You trade!  Sure, I'll babysit my neighbor's kids for a few hours in exchange for some awesome home-grown vegetables.  Yeah, I'll swap you my extra hairdryer I'm not using for that funky costume jewelry you are getting rid of.  Why not?  It tickles my hippie-commune-living-wannabe fancy to think that even in "the real world," sometimes, this actually works.  And not just with friends and neighbors, either.  I see it happen all the time between vendors at the farmers' market, for example.  The government HATES this, of course, because there are no taxes paid on barter, and no real way to prove it even happened.  All the better reason to do it, in my opinion, ha ha...

But seriously, there are a few other reasons why bartering is a good idea.  For one, it is eco-friendly.  Just think of all the stuff in your life that you own but do not use or need anymore (c'mon, we ALL could stand to get rid of a few things!)  Now imagine that you could trade that unwanted stuff for something you do want, or better yet, something you actually NEED.  That's a hell of a lot better than all your stuff ending up in the garbage!  Another advantage to the barter system is that it builds community.  Growing up, I can't tell you how many times my parents stopped at garage sales when we were out and about running errands on a Saturday, and I never understood why, since they rarely bought anything.  Now I know it's partly because they just liked to chit-chat with other people that lived in the area.  And what's wrong with that?

In a true Utopian society, everything would work on the barter system because there would be no need for money.  Everyone would work or contribute to the best of their ability, and share their goods or services with each other.  This idea also poses a sort-of "chicken and egg" question, because it would require a very tight-knit community for this to be possible, but wouldn't living in this manner also form a very tight-knit community?  I believe that the barter system is one way that we can begin to foster this sense of community, and perhaps help to bring about some really positive social change.

Besides, if the economy doesn't improve anytime soon, we're all going to have to get used to being broke and adapt accordingly.  Bartering and trading is one such way to adapt, which is yet another positive.  In fact, it doesn't seem like there are any real drawbacks to the barter system, unless you have a surplus of something that no one wants or needs.  Thankfully, because it is easy to connect to millions of people online, that is highly unlikely.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cool dollar store purchase.

Check out this awesome kid's suncatcher kit I found at Dollar Tree yesterday!  I wonder if the company that makes these knows that this is a Pagan sacred symbol?  (Probably not, since the company also offers a suncatcher Jesus fish.)  I might have to go around to the other Dollar Tree stores and see if they have more... I know my Pagan friends would think this is as cool as I do.  (Yeah, we're all easily amused!)

I've always known this symbol as a "triple spiral" or "triskele."  In Paganism, we use the symbol to represent the threefold aspect of the Goddess (Maiden, Mother, and Crone.)  I know that the symbol itself is incredibly old, and was used widely in Celtic culture, which is why it is so popular with modern day Pagans.  I've also seen it used in a number of tattoos.  What I didn't know is that Christians have adopted the symbol to use in representing the Trinity, and that variations of the symbol can be found among the Greeks, Koreans, and Japanese.  Apparently, even the Third Reich had a version (thanks a lot for corrupting yet another sacred symbol, Nazis!)  For more information, read the Wikipedia article here:

I think I'm going to paint my suncatcher in shades of green and blue, with lots of glitter.  Yay!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The veggie fairy came!

Ok, after this, I'll stop talking about food for awhile, I promise.
Last Friday my first CSA box showed up on my doorstep, and I couldn't be happier with what I found inside:  3 lbs. of mandarin oranges, a bulb of fennel, some broccoli, bunches of bok choy, turnips, leeks, and spinach, a butternut squash, and a couple of kiwis.  Now, granted, I only really know what to do with about half of this stuff, but I'm looking forward to experimenting with the unfamiliar ingredients, as well as seeing what I can get my somewhat picky boyfriend to eat.

As I mentioned in a previous post, "CSA" stands for "community supported agriculture."  A CSA box is exactly what it sounds like:  a container full of produce from local farms.  You can sign up for these on a subscription or membership basis, and they get delivered right to your house or business.  You will have to check and see what is available in your area.  Here is a good site to get you started (you can also look up farms, farmer's markets, co-ops, etc.):

The CSA box I get comes from Farm Fresh To You, which is mostly fed by Capay Farm, 80 miles northeast of San Francisco.  All of the produce I get comes from either that farm or 4 or 5 surrounding farms, all completely organic.  For now I'm only getting a regular-sized box delivered once a month until I see how that goes.  There are different types of boxes you can have delivered, too:  some are all fruit or all vegetables, one is 50/50, and the one I get is mostly vegetables with just a little bit of fruit that's in season.  The price is between $2- $2.50 a pound, including delivery, which is fantastic for organic produce.  Also, the boxes are customizable.  You can go online and request that certain items never be delivered to you, or you can pick and choose what you want to have more or less of in your upcoming delivery, which gets posted ahead of time.

All in all, I'm really glad I made the decision to get a CSA box.  It's already making me eat more vegetables in my diet, because I open the fridge, and there they are just waiting for me to do something with them.  I'm also trying new recipes, like the shabu-shabu and the stir fry I made with the bok choy and the spinach.  And let's not forget, of course, how much I care about supporting local organic farms.  Through the CSA, I can do that, and they help me eat in accordance with the seasons. And I don't need to do anything but pay the bill once a month and have fun cooking.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

OMG, I'm totally getting a download.

I was catching up reading The Wild Hunt blog today, and I saw this post  which had a link to this video.  Ha ha ha ha... you gotta check this out.  Thanks a bunch, Jason!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Diet tips... and spirituality? Part 2

So to continue on...
I know that there are a lot of magical diets out there.  There also seems to be a growing trend among Pagans to embrace alternative eating habits, such as raw food diets, organic diets, and the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, for spiritual reasons.  I never gave any thought to the spiritual aspect of the South Beach Diet, I was following it for the purely mundane reasons that my doctor told me to give it a try, and that I've seen results when I've followed the diet in the past.  Which are both solid reasons.

Then, a few days ago, when I was re-reading Jean M. Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear," I saw my diet in a whole new light.  In the 100,000 or so years that our species has been around (some speculate that it is closer to 200,00 years), it is only in the last 10,000 years that humans have been living in agrarian societies, where agriculture is the primary source of food.  For all of history before that, humans were hunter-gatherers, like the characters portrayed in the book.  This means that, for the most part, our early ancestors ate a diet composed almost entirely of meat and vegetables, as that is what was available to them in the wild.  Large and small wild mammals, birds, fish, and shellfish were hunted for the valuable protein and fat they provided, and wild greens, fruits, roots, seeds, nuts, and berries were foraged for and harvested as each came into season.  Early humankind lived off the land, depending entirely on what Mother Earth provided, and edible grains were scarce and hard to come by until people started farming 10,000 years ago.

It's a documented fact that refined and processed foods (most of which are simple carbohydrates) are the major contributor to obesity in our culture, and that omitting these foods from your diet will go a long way toward making you slimmer and healthier.  Some doctors and nutritionists go a step beyond that, and recommend that even complex carbohydrates (generally regarded as healthy) should be limited, and thus we have a whole bevy of low-carb diets out there.  And then there are some who want to go even beyond the low-carb philosophy, who believe that we should be eating more like our ancient counterparts:  voilĂ , the "Caveman Diet" ( a.k.a the Paleolithic or Paleo Diet.)  Proponents of this diet reason that the time span in which humans have become accustomed to relying on agriculture for almost all of their food needs (don't forget, agriculture is used to feed livestock as well) is not enough time to adapt to this "new" diet biologically.  They argue that because our direct ancestors and the humanoid species that they evolved from existed on the same hunter-gatherer fare for hundreds of thousands (even millions) of years, our bodies have not had enough time in just a few thousand years to evolve to a point where a completely agriculturally-based diet is feasible.

I'm not sure if I believe these claims about the Caveman Diet.  Besides, I'm not following it, I'm following the South Beach Diet.  However, I am intrigued by the ideas behind the Caveman Diet, and I've noticed that it is similar to and compatible with the South Beach philosophy as well as some deeply held beliefs that I've had for quite some time.  For one, as a Pagan, I believe in an Earth-centered way of life best exemplified in the idea put forth by Christian ecologists that we are all "stewards of the land," and that it is our responsibility to live sustainably and take care of the planet, ensuring that it will be around and in good condition for future generations.  A lot of my thoughts on that subject revolve around food, and how human beings are unnecessarily wrecking the environment so that they can eat.  The Caveman Diet excludes many of these common culprits in environmental destruction:  GMOs (most of which are grains), factory farming (because hunter-gatherers had no domestic animals), and milk containing hormones and antibiotics (again, no domestic animals means no dairy.)  However, a true caveman-like regimen (consisting of only wild plants and animals) in this modern day and age is almost impossible, unless you yourself live off the land.  Therefore, the Caveman Diet has a few modern concessions:  grass-fed, free range and pasture-raised meats are permitted, and all produce (which is almost all grown on a farm these days) is allowed.  Beans and dairy (which are allowed on the South Beach Diet), however, are not.  So because I like the ancestral aspects of the Caveman Diet, both in its environmentally friendlier and potentially healthier approach to eating, I've decided to apply much of the philosophy to the South Beach Diet I'm currently following.  This means, of course, that I'm going to have to start limiting my use of canned foods (like the canned soup and chili I wrote about in my last post), and that processed meats (such as deli ham and turkey) and unnaturally raised animals (grain-fed cattle, for example) are off the menu.  I will also try to eat more wild and sustainable proteins, such as fish, shellfish, and game and less domestic (and potentially factory-farmed) meats.  I already severely limit my use of dairy because I'm lactose-intolerant, and both sugars and grains are either prohibited or used sparingly on the South Beach Diet.  And lastly, I'm going to be eating a lot more organic fruits and vegetables because of my subscription to a CSA box.

So what are the spiritual aspects of my new diet?  Theoretically, a more eco-friendly way of living.  And with this comes a number of spiritual implications:
1.  I'm treating my body more like a temple and less like a garbage dump.
2.  I'm contributing to overall sustainability and environmental health by buying organic, which lessens the use of pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics and hormones in meat, and also encourages biodiversity.  Which means I'm respecting Mother Earth.
3.  I will feel more secure in the knowledge that the meat I do consume was ethically and humanely raised, or wild-caught.  This is the best way I can think of (aside from raising the animals myself) to show respect for the animals who give their lives to sustain me.  In thanks, I will try to eat less meat.
4.  By supporting local organic farmers, I am contributing to my local economy, which in turn benefits my community (more info here: and adds a layer of social responsibility to the larger sustainability model that I am trying to follow.
5.  In changing my diet, I am also attempting to improve myself, which will lead to personal growth.  This is key when trying to nurture yourself spiritually.
6.  I feel very grateful to have this kind of abundance in my life that gives me so many food options, and I believe that gratitude not only gives you a better appreciation for what you have, but that in turn leads to a more positive outlook on life, which is also spiritually conducive.
7.  I am connecting with the prehistoric Mother Goddess and honoring Her as the Earth Mother.

In addition, I feel like I am paying my respects to my ancestors and acknowledging their wisdom in trying to live more like they did.  This is what I realized when I was reading "Clan of the Cave Bear" and I started noticing the similarities between the modern diet I am trying to follow and the ancient ways that the people in the story kept (which are supposedly pretty accurate.)  While I've never had much interest in reconstructionist religion, I'm beginning to wonder if I might be starting out on a path of "dietary reconstructionism," for lack of a better term.  Whatever it is, I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll be more likely to stick to my new diet now that I've found a spiritual aspect to it, and now I'm more committed than ever to my Earth-centered beliefs and will try harder through my choices to make the world a better place.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Diet tips... and spirituality?

I've been in Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet now for a little over a week, and I would like to share some of the tips and tricks (and yes, ways of coping) I've found that seem to work.  I also discovered something surprising about this diet, which is that there is a spiritual side to it that lends itself nicely to an Earth-centered religion like mine.  But more on that later; first, some information that might be helpful to anyone else navigating their way around the South Beach Diet.

Replacing bread:  Ever try to make a sandwich without bread?  What you make might arguably be more like a salad with meat and cheese in it, and of course the proportions have to be tinkered with.   But it's obviously not impossible, and doing so will expose the true purpose of bread in a sandwich:  it's simply a delivery system for all the other stuff - a place to put your hands when eating it, basically.  With that in mind, you can replace bread with diet-friendly delivery systems, such as celery, lettuce, and cucumber.  Celery and cucumber can easily be used to scoop tuna salad, chicken salad, or egg salad sandwiches.  Cucumber slices (instead of crackers) also make great little platforms for Lunchable-style sandwiches of sliced meats, cheeses, veggies and various spreads.  And let's not forget lettuce:  lettuce cups or lettuce wraps can be used with everything from burgers to shredded meat fillings to traditional sandwich ingredients, if you get creative.

Going out to eat?  I've also noticed that there are quite a few more options for dining out on the South Beach Diet beyond eating salads all the time.  Middle Eastern food, such as gyros or kabobs, can simply be eaten without the pita.  Falafel (fried balls of garbanzo beans mashed up with onion and parsley) is another good option (although keep in mind that it IS fried, and it does have a small amount of flour in it.)  Just make sure to eat plenty of greens with the falafel, and again, ditch the pita.  Chinese food has plenty of low or no-carb choices, including my favorites, Broccoli Beef, Cashew or Almond Chicken, and Mu-shu Pork (without the wrapper.) Basically any meat/veg or meat/nut dishes, bean dishes, and steamed or stir-fried vegetables are just fine.  Steer clear of rice, sweet or fruity sauces, and anything breaded.  You can also go out for Mexican food on the diet, and eat your way around the carbs.  This means don't eat the rice, tortillas, or taco shells, and look out for potatoes in some restaurants, too.  I usually eat beans and cheese, ceviche, or get a tostada and eat everything except the shell.

Quick and easy, or on-the-go:  soup and chili out of the can are my new best friends.  Because chili is usually nothing more than beans, meat, and tomato sauce with spices, there's no reason it can't be eaten on the South Beach Diet.  The same goes for many canned soups, especially bean soups.  In both instances, make sure to read the labels and check for any hidden sugars, and choose soups without rice, pasta, or potatoes.  Hummus is another one of my staples.  You can make your own with just a few ingredients, or you can buy it ready-made at most grocery stores (Trader Joe's plain organic hummus is awesome.)  Dip raw veggies in the hummus, or slather it on cucumber slices with pieces of last night's cold leftover chicken on top for a quick lunch (another personal favorite).  Also use any of my sandwich suggestions above for an easy, take-with-you lunch that can be made ahead of time. (I used to take these with me on field trips when I worked at a summer camp.)

Cook a lot and adjust recipes:  To get by on the South Beach Diet, you are going to have to do a fair amount of cooking for yourself.  Following this diet is, in fact, one of the ways that I'm learning how to cook.  And I've discovered that  I can still use many of the recipes out there with just a few minor adjustments.  Take, for example, the Italian Wedding Soup I made last night for dinner.  The original recipe calls for pasta to be added to the soup, which we all know is not allowed on the diet.  So I simply omitted the pasta and added carrots and extra beans and spinach to the soup instead!  The result was a big pot full of sausage, bean, and veggie goodness that is not only diet-friendly, but hearty and filling, too.  Plus I have enough leftovers to make a few more meals, which I can have this week or freeze and eat later when I don't feel like cooking.  Yum!

I've often read that this is the way a lot of people following the South Beach Diet operate:  they cook up a whole mess of food on the weekends, and then eat that the rest of the week or freeze what they make for future use. So I'm following suit, and learning to cook in big batches.  I can't wait to see what new recipes I will be making now that I've subscribed to a CSA box!  Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it as I go... (For those of you who don't know, "CSA" stands for "community-supported agriculture."  A CSA box is a crate full of local, often organically grown produce delivered to your door on a subscription.  But I'll get more into that in my next post.)

Alright, the diet spirituality discussion is going to have to wait.  Part 2 coming soon...