Let’s Look for Ourselves – Don’t Buy into “all Muslims are bad”

With everything that has been going on lately I have been seeing a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment and I understand that people are angry about tragedies and evil acts which have occurred.

However, I have a major problem with the generality that Muslims are bad. The only thing that happens when we buy into that is the justification to harm billions of people.

There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims (compared to 2.2 billion Christians)*. If all of the Muslims in the world wanted us all dead and were all extremists and terrible people – things would be a heck of a lot worse than they are. The vast majority of Muslims are good, peaceful people. Attack the individuals and groups within that religion who are evil – do not attack the entirety of the group.

I see warning signs of Nazi Germany type propaganda – where one group of people is vilified in order to justify great evil. There is no race, country or religion that is all bad. There are evil individuals and those individuals sometimes act and poorly represent the others in their group.

I am Jewish. I am a member of a minority which has been attacked, which has been generalized and which has been misrepresented. This has never created a positive outcome. As someone who could be easily attacked, misunderstood and believed to be something I am not – I choose to defend those who are open to the same misconceptions.

Please – go meet some Muslims, go learn about their traditions, customs, and beliefs. (And please, don’t use a few lines of the Quran to represent its whole. If you are going to quote it – take some time to understand it as a book, with the whole concept of what it conveys.)

The correct target is extremist hate groups – regardless of race, color or creed. Don’t help create another Holocaust.

*pewresearch.org

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Where Health and Money Intersect

I read a couple of interesting articles (RockstarFinance featured daily articles) today and, amazingly, the more I read finance blogs the more I find out that I already incorporate a lot of the mindset into my daily habits and have for years. (I attribute this to the way my father raised me.) In a way this is annoying because things “that I could do to save money” are already my habits – so there is little money to be saved.

The biggest aspect of my financial health is really boosting my income. I work at a job I am passionate about and which gives back to the world, but it doesn’t come with a hefty paycheck. I need to find a good side hustle. (But back to our topic…)

Two of the articles I read today struck me as habits that I have had for a long time and which not only benefit your wallet but benefit your health. Here are the two articles: Thirty Days, 3 Seconds and How Drinking Water Saved Me More than I Expected. Now if you read these two articles you will see that first is being aware of your spending – every purchase you make you notice. I am pretty good about this (I have gotten a bit lax compared to before) but something that strikes me about it is that as you notice how much you spend, you are also forced to notice what you are spending it on and whether it matches your values. (For more on that see my post Minimalism and Money)

This can lead to changes in your diet too, i.e. you notice how much you are spending on fast food so you make a few less trips a month or you start heading to the grocery store more frequently. This ties right into the article about how by making a commitment to not spend on beverages and just drink water the author’s health and other monetary habits improved.

I happen to pretty much follow the not purchasing beverages rule (although I do buy almond milk and the occasional protein shake). This has lead to great health benefits for me – I have never had a habit of drinking soda and the thing is – I have never felt I was missing out. It just never became a habit.

So my take away is – good habits prevent other bad habits and sometimes thinking with your wallet can improve your health!

 

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Minimalism and Money

In relooking at my finances and reading blog posts I saw people posting about minimalism – including selling possessions to make some extra money, pay down debt and generally get ahead.

I am lucky – my parents (divorced) had vastly different approaches to money.I learned from their examples.

My dad grew up in the Great Depression in a poorish family. (They weren’t destitute – but they definitely watched their dollars.) My Dad is VERY frugal, had a good job and he has done well for himself – he’s not rich, but he will always be comfortable and he can afford to live well.

My mom on the other hand is much more entrepreneurial and focused on generating lots of income and then spending it! She had a lot more ups and downs. While, there were some really good times and lots of luxuries that I would have NEVER gotten from my dad. It was more feast or famine. She never saved for the rainy days and so struggled more.

My dad’s frugality imbued good frugal habits – because I grew up that way, I’ve never missed the “lattes” there is so much contest (in the financial blog world) about cutting out. The $4 lattes always seemed like a luxury for me and never became a habit  My mom’s entrepreneurial spirit inspires me to look for more than just a good job and her mistakes taught me that good financial management is important.

I started looking at minimalism and how to implement it in my life -what possessions I could sell, how I could cut bills down and I realized…I am already there. Converting to minimalism only gets you ahead if you aren’t already a minimalist and don’t realize it! I totaled up what all I could sell and I think I might be able to make a few hundred dollars (and I am being generous) holding a garage sale.

I guess the good thing is that I have saved myself thousands of dollars by not buying things I don’t need.

Ultimately, I think when it comes to financial advice you have to look at your own situation and priorities and figure out what matters to you and what doesn’t. Then figure out how to cut out the things that don’t get you closer to your own goals and the life you want to live. It’s all about thinking in futures. Don’t let the fun latte-filled lifestyle of today prevent you from having a a great lifestyle in the future. Don’t rob your future self of happiness and financial stability.

 

 

 

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Oooh Taxes are Due….Let’s Talk about Money

With the tax season comes a reminder on just how much I need to take a good look at my finances and make some changes. One of the habit changes I am making is to start thinking about money. I am in my 20’s and while I could be in worse financial shape, I could be in much better shape too!

I believe that if you constantly expose yourself to information and educate yourself about a subject you will start making better decisions in that area – naturally.

So, I am applying this to money. I am reading at least 1 financial blog post per day. Often, this leads to reading 3 or 4 blog posts. I have been doing this for a few weeks now and it is not only becoming natural – I really look forward to it each morning.

Here’s how I started:

  1. I found out about http://www.rockstarfinance.com. This is an awesome website – each weekday “J.Money” combs the internet for the best blog posts on personal finance – so all the work is done for you.  Just click, and read! On the weekend, I just use the archives and other links on the site to find articles and blogs to read.
  2. I set http://www.rockstarfinance.com as my homepage in my browser – every time I open up the internet to do anything it shows up! This reminds me (an interests me) to read even if I’m “not in the mood.”

 

What new habit will you start to increase your financial life?

 

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Acorn Squash Baked Oatmeal – It’s YUMMY!

Squash in my oatmeal? you say. Yes, believe it or not this squash adds nice moisture to the baked oatmeal, but doesn’t impact the flavor too much. (Plus, you can trick your kids into eating vegetables by hiding it in their oatmeal. We like it so much that I make it almost every week and then store it in individual portions in the fridge for quick delicious morning breakfasts!

You can definitely get creative and add in additional fixings if you like. We use nuts and occasionally some Craisins too.

Acorn Squash Baked Oatmeal

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour 45 mins (10-15 min hands on)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 acorn squash

2 1/4 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt.)

2 1/2 cups milk of choice (I use unsweetened almond milk)

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Nuts (optional) – to taste (We use a lot of nuts and I use walnuts, sliced almonds and pecans)

Craisins or Raisins (optional) – to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to  400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Stick the acorn squash in the oven and let it bake for an hour. A knife should easily go in the squash when it is done.
  3. Wait for the squash to finish baking before starting to prepare the oatmeal. Once it’s done, set aside to cool down a bit so you don’t burn yourself.)
  4. Lightly grease a large 2.5 quart/10 cup baking dish (I used a glass casserole pan) and set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Get out two good size mixing bowls. Place all of the dry ingredients (oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt) into the large bowl and mix.
  6. Combine all the wet ingredients in the other bowl. Pour in the milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  7. Now, remove the peel and the seeds at the squash’s center. Mash the squash up and add it to your bowl of liquid ingredients. (Note: It is important to mash the squash well – otherwise you will have chunks of squash in your oatmeal.) Mix the liquid ingredients well.
  8. Add the liquid mixture to the dry bowl and mix well.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the nuts and Craisins on top.
  10. Bake in the oven for 32-37 minutes until lightly golden brown along the edge.
  11. Let the oatmeal cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve as you wish – you can add more syrup, use whipped cream, etc. Use your imagination!
  12. Leftovers should keep about a week. I imagine it would be fine to freeze the cooked oatmeal for later recipes – but we usually eat it all within a few days to a week.

This recipe is my own but it is heavily based on two other recipes. The first is another Baked Acorn Squash oatmeal oatgasm.blogspot.com. The second is the Heavenly Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal (which was I enjoyed, but it was a lot of work grating those carrots and the rest of my family wasn’t in love with it) Oh She Glows – Carrot Cake Oatmeal.

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Yummy Vegan Burger Sandwich


This is probably my favorite meal so far on our new whole food, plant based diet.

It is simple and easy to make, yet flavorful and filling.

I use Dr. Prager’s kale & quinoa burgers from Costco (also available at health food stores). If you are doing a pure Engine2 or Esselstyn diet you will need to find a substitute as these burgers do have a bit of oil.


I also love Dave’s bread. Also from Costco. It is not only whole grain, I find it delicious!

Here is the sandwich step by step:


  
  

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White Bean Soup (Flavorful!)

This white bean soup is packed with flavor, is easy and inexpensive. You can make it on the stove top or in the crockpot. I serve it at home with a slice or two of toast. 

One of my favorite recipe websites has been budgetbytes.com. The recipes are not only quite good usually, but I love that each recipe is broken down by cost. Actually, that’s how I found the website – I was trying to find inexpensive delicious recipes that listed meal costs. I’d love to do the same thing – but at this point I just don’t have it together like she does!!

Anyhow, I saw this recipe on Budgetbytes and adapted it to the stovetop. Also, I used Great Northern beans rather than navy beans, because that’s what I had on hand.

Important note: Do not substitue cannelini beans in this recipe – cannelini beans, if not cooked properly, have a gastrointestinal toxin in them.

Here is the recipe: Slow Cooker White Bean Soup – Budget Bytes

 
   
    
   

  

Braised Broccoli and Tomato Pasta

Important Note: This recipe was inspired by and based on: Serious Eats – Braised Broccoli and Tomato Pasta. I changed the recipe based on what I had available in my house and omitted the oil to make the recipe Engine 2 and Dr. Esselsytn diet friendly.

 


  

Braised Broccoli and Tomato Pasta

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

8 cloves of garlic, diced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (garnish)

1/4 cup lemon juice + 1/4 cup water (or 1/2 cup dry white wine)

1 12 or 16 oz bag frozen broccoli (or)  1 head of fresh broccoli (cut into 1/2 to 1 inch florets)

2 cans of diced tomatoes (normal size cans – 14.5 oz each)

1 1b pasta – such as rotini or ziti

1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

Sea or Kosher Salt

Directions

1. Reserve 10 florets or so for later, place remaining broccoli in a large pot (so you can mix pasta and sauce in one pot later) and cook on medium. (If using frozen broccoli, no need to add water or oil.) If using fresh broccoli, add some water and cook, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.

2. Add the crushed red pepper, oregano and garlic to the pot and stir. Cook until fragrant – about 30 seconds. (I forgot to stir and left it on for two minutes and mine turned out fine – careful though, you don’t want the seasonings to burn.)

3. Add the lemon juice water mixture (or dry white wine) to the pan and stir. Cook to slightly reduce – about 2 minutes.

4. Pour in your diced tomatoes and give it a stir. Turn up heat and bring to a boil. One the sauce boils, turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1 hour. Season with salt to your taste.

5. Make pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce.

6. (optional) Add reserved frozen broccoli to the pot and allow to pot to continue to simmer for a few minutes (until broccoli is slightly tender.) This step creates better color and another dimension of texture – slight crunch. (You may want to steam fresh broccoli before adding it in.)

7.  Season to taste (add more salt if needed) and add nutritional yeast. Stir. (The nutritional yeast takes some of the heat out and makes me feel like I am adding cheese.)

8. Add chopped parsley leaves as a garnish according to your taste and preference.

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Recipes – Whole Foods, Plant-Strong Diet

The first step of my plant strong diet is learning how to cook plant-strong food that are yummy and satisfying. I am starting by cooking recipes I find online. I’ll be reviewing them and recommending recipes we love.

Mexican Lentil Soup – http://foodbabe.com/2015/01/12/mexican-lentil-tortilla-soup/ This soup was SO yummy! It was extremely flavorful. This is definitely one of my absolute favorites!!

Pasta with “Alfredo” sauce – http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/ I made this recipe for dinner the other night. I added frozen peas (these will cook when you heat the sauce) and sauteed chopped red bell peppers. We really like it. I will definitely be making this again. To make this plant-strong/Engine 2 diet friendly omit the oil when sauteing the garlic.

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Going Plant Strong

I never thought I’d be writing this…I have been the epitome of the carnivore. I love beef – especially steak, chicken, cheese, especially, especially cheese!! In fact, I have been staunchly in favor of eating a balanced diet low on sugar and processed foods and this diet most certainly included meat, dairy, etc. But, now I’m heading off in a new direction – a plant based direction.

What!!!??? How did that happen? 

On accident really. My boyfriend’s parents (Annette & Peter) were over a few weeks ago, I came home to find my refrigerator full of meat, eggs, etc. that I had not purchased. Annette was over and they told me that they were doing a special diet – cutting out meat, etc. Now, I could tell she wasn’t that excited to tell me…and I’ll tell you why…a few years ago they tried to do a similar diet, but I was pretty unsupportive – I just plain didn’t get it and I made my opinion clear – to be frank I thought it was stupid. This time when Annette told me about their plan I decided to try to understand their reasoning and find out what was compelling them to make this change. They love their meat, eggs, dairy and all the rest just like me – so just maybe I ought to look at their side and minimally be supportive. It’s not as if eating lots of veges will harm you!

Here’s why they did it: both Peter and Annette have high blood pressure – Peter especially. Peter is in his late 50’s and without medication his blood pressure is in heart attack range, with medication it’s still high – scary. Annette has been pre-diabetic for years. Annette’s dad has had triple bypass heart surgery.  They knew that if they didn’t do something about their health now, there might not have a chance to later. So the search for a change began.

Fast forward and they had stumbled upon Dr. Caldwell Esselyton’s book – Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and they decided to give it a shot. Now, I am the kind of person that needs to understand how and why. I am actually not big on extremes, but in an attempt to be supportive I started to read the book.

For me, this book was perfect. I love Dr. Esselyton’s approach – the first thing he does is make sure his patients understand why the diet is the way it is. I LOVE that! In reading the material (I spent a lot of time in the dictionary learning the medical terminology used.) I found out that Dr. Esselyton has statistics – he has successfully used this diet to help people at death’s door and they have gotten better. Now, I haven’t finished reading the book yet, and I am not 100% that the diet is perfect – but the diet is workable and has gotten the product of people who are now well.

Now, not only am I supportive of Annette and Peter’s choice – we are going to be embracing it in our household – with some modifications. We are actually doing something closer to the Engine 2 diet – which is the diet put together by Dr. Esselyton’s son Rip. This is a diet that includes avocado, coconut and nuts – with the Esselyton diet does not include. And we will probably eat the occasional fish and some meat – though I can already tell my body just isn’t into meat anymore. I plan on cataloging the journey and share the tips I learn along the way.

RESULTS: Annette and Peter have been on the diet for 3 weeks so far. Peter has lost 7 lbs and his blood pressure dropped 20 points. Annette has lost 10 points, her blood pressure has dropped – not sure on the exact amount, less than 20 points.

Our Starting Point

Aiden

Blood Pressure: 108/67

Pulse 93

Weight: 119 lbs

Boyfriend

Blood Pressure 119/64

Pulse 67

Weight 193

Our Goal

We are both in pretty good shape health wise. The main thing we want to do is stay in good health and maybe shed a few pounds. Since we are both predisposed to heart disease through genetics (though his family is much worse) we want to make sure we don’t follow the same path that our forebears have followed.

The Struggles

One of the biggest struggles so far is simply eating enough and staying full. Our bodies are used to high density, high calorie meals and so far the meals we’ve been eating just haven’t been filling us up. I’ll feel full, but then be starving just a few hours later.

We had a yummy vegetable lasagna and salad for dinner last night. That was the first really filling meal I have had. Beans have been pretty filling too. So, I’ll be experimenting!

 

 

 

 

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Beauty in Jupiter (FL)

Last week I visited the beautiful city of Jupiter, FL. It is a little beach town of Florida’s Eastern coast.

Enjoy the pics!

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On Education – What should we be trying to achieve?

In looking at my life today – what I want to achieve and the legacy I want to leave behind, I began think about what education really should bring about.

I began to ask myself: What is education really supposed to bring about? What is the purpose of sending kids to school? Is it to read and write? Is it to get a good job, make a lot of money and keep up with the Joneses? Is it to stuff useless facts into a child’s head so that he can get into a good college, where he can do more of the same?

What is the REAL aim and value of education?

I think that education is only as valuable as it teaches people to think and live effectively. Education is supposed to give the individual the data they need to best survive and accomplish their goals.

Education should teach people to communicate effectively, so that they can understand and be understood. This would, of course, include reading, writing and grammar (simplified so that people can actually understand it and use it to communicate more effectively).

Schools should teach children how to learn, so that the student may learn anything he or she so desires or needs for life. This of course would include the ability to observe what is, and the oft neglected dictionary. It is a fact, that is often neglected in the modern day of context clues, that in order to get a precise of what someone is saying, you must understand the words that are being used.

Children (and people in general) should be taught to reason; to assess situations, weigh the factors, determine what is correct and incorrect, and finally to determine the correct course of action.

An education should provide students with sufficient data so that they can understand the world around them, the people that live in it and how it all works. It should be applicable knowledge and should enable them to effectively live life and achieve their goals. This of course would include some understanding of society, governments, religion, mathematics, science, etc.

Education should prepare people for life. We all need to know how to properly feed our bodies; to care for our possessions; to cook, clean, sew and iron; to file our taxes; to get a job; to take care of our cars.

An education should include the formation of positive character: the value of giving back and caring for those around one; that each individual has the responsibility and ability to bring about a great change in the world.

In summary, education should prepare people for life, by giving them the ability to learn; to understand and evaluate that which is around them. It should provide enough basic data to the individual so that he can survive and make his own way. Finally, education should build character and teach people to care for each other and the world around them, for no man is an island. 

What do you think?

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Goodebox

I have been getting Birchbox for some time now and I LOVE it. The only thing is that I prefer natural products. If you are like me then you may want to check out this alternative. Go to http://goodebox.com/join-goodebox/. You can read all about it and sign up.

It is $16 per month, which is a bit more than Birchbox, but good natural products are always more expensive. One thing I really like is that they also have a bi-monthly option.

I haven’t tried this box yet, but I would love to hear from those that have. I heard about it and thought that I should share.

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Birchbox

For those of you who haven’t heard of it already Birchbox is great!

Basically, for $10 per month Birchbox sends you a box each month full of sample-sized high end beauty products. I’m always excited when I get mine!

It’s great fun to try the various products out, and I have discovered some products that I really love. They will also send you an additional surprise type product. One time I got chocolate macaroons (which I didn’t care for), another time a cute nail file, and some great hair clips most recently.

The only con is that it is not as customizable as I’d like. When you sign up they do ask you what you like, what type of products you prefer, etc. But, you cannot opt out of a particular type of product. For example, I don’t like perfume and I never wear it. Also, they will send shades of lip gloss that I would never wear. When I get those, I just set them aside unopened. I pass these products on as gifts to friends who do like those colors, scents, etc.  One thing that is nice though about this system is that at times it pushes me beyond my comfort zone and I try things that I never would have pulled off the shelf. Sometimes this leads to a new love for a specific type of product.

If you want to try it you can check it out here: http://www.birchbox.com/.

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Greatest Idea Ever – Crockpot Freezer Meals!

My boyfriend used to constantly bring up the idea of batch cooking. His idea, we hire a chef for the day and this chef will cook up huge batches of different foods. We will freeze most and keep some in the fridge, then throughout the month, we can pull food out of the freezer as we need it.

While I loved the idea of hiring a chef (or even someone who can cook well for the day), I wasn’t so crazy about having everything pre-made and just grabbing it from the freezer.

I am the kind of person who REALLY appreciates a hot fresh meal (and I don’t mean one that just came from the microwave). Then I came up with a brilliant idea. Crockpot freezer meals…I’ll explain more below.

I was already in love with the crockpot by this time. Crockpots are amazing because you throw the food in and walk away. Hours later your food is ready. You get a delicious hot meal, with a minimum of effort.

So what was my great idea?

Crockpot Freezer Meals: You prepare all the ingredients for various recipes and then put them in a large ziploc bag in the freezer. Then the day you want to use that recipe, you simply pull out the bag and dump the contents in the crockpot. Let it cook and viola, you have a fabulous hot meal and leftovers.

Well, I searched online, and it turns out I wasn’t the first one to have this idea. In fact, I found two other women blogging about of it (and many, many more as I continued looking). One of them even made their own cookbook based on the idea. I promptly bought that and used it for my first experiment. http://www.mamaandbabylove.com/2011/04/05/freezer-cooking-with-slow-cooker-recipes/ Note: If you buy her cookbook make sure you read the intro, she explains how things are organized (example, most recipes make 2 batches, not 1).

I froze three recipes from the book (2 batches of each). I have tried two of the recipes and they were both good.

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Here are some other websites I found that use this same idea. (Note: I have never used these websites):

http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/02/10-slow-cooker-freezer-meals-in-less.html

http://thekrazycouponlady.com/family/crock-pot-freezer-meals-im-sharing-my-recipes/

http://www.slenderkitchen.com/crockpot-freezer-meal-for-summer/#

http://ashleynoelbarnes.blogspot.com/2013/05/10-freezer-to-crockpot-meals.html

http://www.repeatcrafterme.com/2013/03/crock-pot-freezer-meals-for-summer.html

http://www.stacymakescents.com/crock-pot-freezer-cooking-tutorial-6-meals-1-hour

I am excited about this new way of cooking and managing meals. I will detail the actual process I followed in later posts.

Happy Cooking!

Aiden

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