You always have options.

My hope for you today and always:

I hope you will have the chance to explore our world and discover many wonderful places.  

I hope you will have the chance to connect with people that need your help; with people that could be cheered from your smile.  

I hope you will never underestimate your influence, nor your power to affect change beyond your own community!  

I hope you will discover your options; your ability to choose wisely.  It's so easy to get caught up in daily routines, mindless entertainment, and/or relationships that drain you, not sustain you.  It's so easy to get caught up in consumerism.  You have options.  

I hope you will learn to say no to the clouds of uncertainty, anxiety, instability.  

I hope you will find your sunny spots; the people, places, experiences, memories which truly inspire you to live your life in a principled way.  

I hope you are comforted by your character; your ability to be someone's compass on a stormy day.  

Most of all, I hope you will have the strength to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.

Stay still to find your silence, but keep moving to find what is unknown.

<3 Paz. amor. felicidad siempre

Saying NO to food noise

Food shopping: A necessary evil of the 21st century. An ugly byproduct of our consumer/capitalist society. An absolute exploitation of humans' need to eat. An expense that continues to increase beyond normal inflation.

After being in the Philippines for the past week, I realize modern food shopping is all of the above and more. Given zoning laws, polluted water supplies and/or other corrupt government restrictions, we are limited in our abilities to live off our land in the "free world". We have created a demand for food filled with chemicals, carcinogens, hormones and other unnatural substances for the sake of "convenience". We have voted with our dollars, and have demonstrated that we will be compliant to the modern food shopping experience, no questions asked.   This despite the fact that our demand for food that is out of season nor local to our state and/or country is severely impacting our planet, ecosystems and the local agriculture/food supply of the native region from which said food originates.

We agree to all of this because we are so disconnected from our food sources, and blindly wander the aisles of supermarkets from sea to shining sea, choosing boxed food that promises "no fat" and weight loss (among other things), over food that grows in nature. We don't have to climb mango trees, or grow our own rice, or raise our own cattle; although I wish we did.

We would have a much more healthy and respectful relationship for what food is supposed to do for the human body; nourish and sustain. We would say no to our gluttonous ways; say no to the vast square footage most supermarkets occupy; say no to the wide variety of brands and products the shelves must cater to.

Indirectly, I have learned to say no to food noise.

I've already professed my love for "The Avocado Lady of Shanghai" on numerous occasions in earlier blog posts. After I went there this weekend, I was reminded of what makes her shop so impressive; hint, it's not the food.

It's the fact that the avocado lady operates with all of her food displayed in cardboard boxes or plastic bags. Everything is packed into her tiny shop of three "aisles", one box or bag stacked on top of the other, without any regard to fancy marketing campaigns launched by international brands, or apparent greed for profit (candy is not placed at children's eye level, for instance). Her shop is like a great European market; tiny and to the point. It's such a simple process to food shop with the avocado lady. In fact, it's so simplistic she doesn't even use a calculator or cash register; just handwritten receipts and an apron pocket to guard the cash. Her shop doesn't even have its name posted on the building; everyone just knows about the shop from word of mouth.

Would your local supermarket survive on just word of mouth alone? Could you guarantee that your dollars were going to support local farmers and their families? Would you be able to duplicate my week's worth of groceries in your local supermarket for under $80?

You CAN if you say NO to food noise!

Here are 5 tips to think about the next time you food shop:

#1: Prepare a list of recipes that you plan to prepare for the week with the specific ingredients and ONLY buy those items at the market.

#2: Speaking of markets, shop at a farmer's market! Connect with your local cooperative extension if you don't know where the nearest one is located.

#3: When you return home with your groceries, chop up fruits and vegetables to store in the refrigerator or freezer (depending on how they will keep). The upfront time invested in food preparation will be worth it, trust me! Meals will be prepared in a flash, and food will not be thrown out/wasted.

#4: During your food prep, save the scraps for a compost pile. Don't know how to make one? Check out THIS LINK for more details.

#5: Finally, if you are tempted to buy extra food while at the market, please think about donating food to your elderly neighbors, or a local food bank/shelter, ESPECIALLY if you buy products that are "buy one, get one free", etc.

My tip #5 is my most personal one. In my food picture, you might have noticed a multi-pack of toothbrushes. I'm using them for the care packages I'm preparing for Lent. Everyone can be thoughtful and generous to those who have less. An excellent example of what NOT to do, is in the case of couponing shows. I find them to be a disgusting, gluttonous display of food noise. What a useless way to spend one's time, cutting up coupons to selfishly horde 70 bottles of (chemically-infested) ketchup in one's basement, with the only claim to fame being that it was "free" (when in reality, time is money).
There are so many inconsistencies in the world, but I'm offering you a solution to one. Say NO to food noise, and say YES to voting responsibly with your dollars through the support of local markets, local farmers, local ecosystems and healthy, sustainable methods of consuming food.

My wish for you today is to eat mindfully; thinking of how your shopping choices affect the environment, affect the economy and affect the well-being of those around you.

<3 paz. amor, felicidad siempre

Day Two and Three in El Nido, Philippines

I am forever humbled by the beauty of a sunset, fresh colorful fruit (especially mango and papaya), and the warm, friendly smiles of the Filipino people.  It makes me so happy to travel in the Philippines!! :)  

Day One.. journey to El Nido

To document this trip, I've been organizing my photos into color schemes.

Day one, otherwise known as REDy for action!

The whole first day was spent on travel.  Luckily, we were able to do so in style. The red carpet treatment before, during and after takeoff were moments to remember forever.  Special thanks to the folks at ITI charter planes who got us from Manila to El Nido safe and sound.

ORANGE you excited to see day two's pics?

'Til then...

<3paz.amor.felicidad siempre<3