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Beautiful Berlin: IGA 2017

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One of the many reasons I love Berlin so much is the abundance of free or inexpensive public events. IGA (Internationale Garten Ausstellung) is on the pricier side of this, but still pretty reasonable considering the scale of the event. This festival of gardening is spread across a 104-hectare site, in fact, it is so large they installed a gondola lift to transport visitors between the main areas!

There are many attractions, but the three we particularly loved were the Blumenhalle which housed a diverse collection of plants from all around the world. The “Promenade Aquatica” or water gardens were relaxing and gave us a very welcomed mist bath on a hot day, and the International Gardens, where you can find a Chinese tea house nestled into the woods.

There was also a gardeners market, and we came away full of inspiration for expanding and diversifying our own little urban jungle. I was pretty excited to see so many vertical gardening solutions. We have ordered our first ‘green wall’ and started buying plants for it, but it was nice to see a mature example in person.

I’m afraid of heights, so riding the gondola lift was pretty scary, but it’s important to do scary things sometimes. I was proud of myself for getting to the end without crying, and we even spotted some deer from overhead!

The only downside I can think of for this event was food. There weren’t really any vegan options. They did have a few vegetarian offers, but the staff was unable to confirm if they were milk/egg free. Sadly a mix of hunger and rain caused us to leave earlier than planned.

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Giving Time

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I have clear priorities in my life. My husband, our cats, my business (which is also my passion), the garden, maintaining our apartment, further education, and then a group of activities that I vaguely call culture. Culture includes going to museums, public events, outdoor activities, reading, and blogging.

I want to make time in my life to blog well, but I frequently feel like I am trying to get my post out in 15 minutes. Rather than a carefully edited essay, my posts are more like jotted down thoughts and pictures. There can be great value in unedited thoughts, but that is not the kind of blog that I envisioned myself starting. I want to really provide others with clear methods and instructions for applying minimalism, zero-waste, veganism, and kindness into their lives. To share lessons I have learned over many years of seeking an alternative lifestyle. I also hope to improve my storytelling skills in the process.

Right now I am trying to decide if I should blog more often in a less stylized way, or only post once a week with a focus on creating better content. I am wondering if any sweet bloggers out there would be willing to share an opinion in the comments.

Should I choose less is more? Or is an unedited insight into the vegan, zero-waste life valuable in it’s own way? What do you think?

Natural Pest Control

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Our first crop of spinach was mercilessly attacked by bugs, so I bought some natural bug repellent plants – mint and lemon thyme – to add to our garden. I also made a mixture of castile soap and water to give the plants a spray every few days. I used about 2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronners soap and 1 liter of water, plus some crushed garlic directly into the bottle. New spinach and cabbage seeds are germinating, and the older tomato, basil, and carrots are still going strong!

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A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (2016) – Free Full Documentary

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There is a wonderful documentary called The Simpler Way currently on youtube. I stumbled across it by accident and found a lot of great information and points here. In particular, a discussion about how the need for perfect, uniform sized vegetables to fit harvesting, cleaning, and packing machines stunts the diversity of our food and puts undue pressure on farmers as well as resulting in enormous food waste.

The story follows a group who form a community in Australia to practice methods of simple living in response to the global environmental crisis. It also features thoughts from thinkers and intellectuals dedicated to the topic.

Some people in the comments have stated that the ability to reclaim wood or find materials for recycling is enabled by our current consumer culture, and therefore this project does not make sense, but I disagree.  These people are trying to make a change from where we are now, not some imaginary untouched world. Where we are now is millions (if not billions) of tons of plastic, glass, and wood that could be recycled or reused.

If we do happen to reach some ideal future where there isn’t enough waste to be reused like this, I am sure it won’t be too much trouble to shift our ways of living again!

 

Unpackaged at Bio Company!

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After a trip to Original Unverpakt yesterday Jonathan and made a trip to the local Bio Company this morning and were delighted to find out that they are now offering unpackaged products! This is a huge step, as Bio Markt is a big chain across Germany. Thanks to low taxes on food and good eating culture many Germans shop in biological supermarkets like this one, so good low-waste food is not a ‘luxury’. I spoke to the staff to share my enthusiasm about the new line, and they also seemed genuinely enthusiastic about unpackaged goods and excited to expand their selection further. The two products we still couldn’t find unpackaged were tofu and soy milk.

In addition to veggies and pasta, I picked up a vegetable brush and well as a couple bathroom supplies. I bought a small comb, pumice stone and body brush. I’ve heard quite a few bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers talk about using body bushes to increase circulation and skin softness (to replace moisturizer) so I decided to give it a go myself and will be sure to report the results here.

This is such a wonderful step in the right direction, and it’s actions like these that continue to give me hope for our future.

 

 

Given

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Jonathan and I just watched the most incredible movie on Netflix called Given. It is about the Goodwin family, world renowned surfers who travel the world with their two small children learning the skills of humanity. From weaving to rubber making to beekeeping, they take an interest in the crafts and the people behind them. This movie is beautifully shot with an incredible soundtrack and the story of a simple wholesome family is heartwarming.

I highly recommend checking it out, you can see the trailer here.

Chasing The BIG Dream

I’ve been planning to start saving for our boat after my wedding on Dec 1st, but thanks to an unexpected job offer that came in yesterday I am able to speed this up and will start a savings account at the end of the month.

I’m reaching for a wild dream that would have been even too big to hope for a couple of years ago. I am going to buy a catamaran (hopefully a Palamos Mira) and upgrade it with a water maker, eco toilet, and solar panels to make a self-sufficient floating home. We are also looking at ways to have an onboard garden to grow some of our own food. With this, we are going to give up life on land to sail the world.

It will be a long process, from getting our captains licenses to buying the boat to doing all the renovations ourselves. Our budget is about 40k, which is inexpensive for a boat, but still a lot of money! We also want to ensure that we can continue to work remotely while traveling. Currently one of my jobs is 100% remote, but the other requires me to be onsite for a few hours a week. Jonathan’s current job requires him to be in an office every day.

I don’t think we will be hitting the sea’s full time for at least another 5 years, but we will certainly do some test sails before then. Looking at my current savings ability it should take around two years before we can buy the boat, and then another year and a half to do all of the renovations and eco-friendly rebuilds.

In the meantime, I will be tracking our progress on this blog, as well as talking about how we continue to enjoy life to the fullest while saving. I am excited both to share this with others and to be able to look back in 5 years and see my whole journey in pictures and writing.

In my next savings post, I will talk about how I found work online and how I overcame my fears and started my own business which has allowed me to work from home. If anyone has any specific questions please feel free to leave them in the comments!

And don’t worry, I am still talking about zero-waste, minimalism, and vegan eating. This will just be a new topic in the mix!

 

Low Waste Shopping

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Last night Jonathan and I returned home very late from a trip to the Netherlands. We had done a good job of using up food before we left, so the first thing on todays agenda was shopping. Having arrived late and tired from a very emotionally draining weekend, with a pile of laundry, cleaning, and work (from home) waiting for me I was not feeling up to a 2 hour round trip to the zero-waste store so I did a low waste shop at my local bio market.

The biggest difference here is that I bought rice in (recyclable) plastic. I brought my own bags for the veggies and although the tofu is packaged the ones at the zero waste shop also have some packaging.

It’s good to know I can still keep my waste pretty minimal at a ‘normal’ store, and just wait to stock up from the zero waste shop when we get time. This mini-shop will tide us over for a couple days while we recuperate.

We also managed to stay low waste while traveling, although I slipped up and had a Starbucks after one particularly intense incident.  We ate a lot of food from our favorite Dutch restaurant SLA (this means salad in Dutch) which has made a commitment to sustainable business. You can’t beat good food and good ethics!

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Vegan Eats: Tianfuzius, Berlin

On Sunday Jonathan and I went to Tianfuzius at Regensburger Str. 1, 10777 Berlin. As far as I can tell this is the only vegan Chinese restaurant in Berlin, and thankfully it is also extremely good! They have proper spicy Sichuan food bursting with flavor and some of the best service I have ever received in this country.

The menu is extensive and full of dishes I had never heard of before, made up not only of tofu or meat substitutes but also different kinds of vegetables. I had spicy potato noodles and a tofu and black bean dish with mochi rice balls for dessert. The food came quickly and everything tasted incredibly fresh.

The price is a little more than you might find at other German restaurants (I don’t know any Chinese restaurants to compare to) but for the quality, it’s more than reasonable. We had a 3-course meal for two people for under 50 EUR. Refills of tea and rice are free, which we really appreciated.

I would rate this restaurant a 10/10 – we can’t wait to go back!

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The Benefit of Negative Feelings

The pursuit of happiness is important, but I feel that too many people make the mistake of trying to achieve happiness by ignoring anything that causes them even momentary discomfort. A spectrum of emotions is a blessing, not a curse. No one should live in fear, be paralyzed by guilt, or spend prolonged periods in pain – but in the right quantities, all of these feelings have an important role to play in our lives.

Pain (physical) is extremely unpleasant. It needs to be. Pain is our bodies most effective way of telling us that something is wrong. Leprosy (among other things) affects nerves making its host unable to feel pain. The loss of a leprosy sufferers extremities is due to repeated injury and infection that goes unnoticed, not because of the bacteria itself. People with congenital analgesia (a condition where you cannot feel pain), frequently die in childhood due to unnoticed illness and injuries. When a small child reaches out to touch a candle flame and burns their finger, they are learning a valuable lesson about fire that will protect them in the future. I am not suggesting anyone should be thankful for stubbing their toe, but recognizing the important part pain plays in our lives can help us to better enjoy the full human experience.

Guilt is a word that comes up way too often when I talk about minimalism, zero waste, veganism, and activism. People do not want to feel guilty. This is a tragedy because guilt is a guide to help us live kinder and more fulfilled lives. When I read about the Rana Plaza disaster and watched The True Cost I felt guilty. Of course, I had heard whispers about sweat shops and garment workers conditions but brushed them out of my mind because a Primark shopping spree was just so satisfying. Having been presented with new information I started researching ethical alternatives and spending my money better. I decided to join the debate about woman’s/worker rights and connect with other people on the same journey. Now when I go shopping, I spend money in a way that aligns with my beliefs, and that brings me more happiness than any fast fashion haul.

We have a name for people who are unable to feel guilt, it’s Sociopath. Don’t hide from guilt, confront it and use it to make positive changes in your life. There is no shame in learning something new and using that information to challenge old habits.

Note: This does not mean other people have the right to force their feelings of guilt on to you. Guilt is your personal moral compass, not something to be imposed. 

Stress & Anxiety are tough to talk about because in our current culture most people have too much of both. Unlike pain, stress does not immediately tell you what is causing you harm. Often the thing that is causing you harm – like a difficult boss – is not as easy to avoid as a fire or thorny plant. Even though I have personally suffered a lot from stress, to the point that my hair was falling out, it did force me to make some major life changes that have brought me more happiness than I could have imagined possible. I’ll talk about my suggestion for addressing stress and anxiety in the next section.

Fear is a response that arises from the perception of danger. Like pain, it works to keep us safe, but like stress it has also become complicated in our modern culture. A fear of public speaking is not likely to protect us from physical harm. Advertisers and politicians can use fear to direct our behavior. Thankfully man (and woman) is ‘the rational being’ and I think we need to approach fear in the same way we approach anxiety. Look for the root cause, decide if that cause is justified or not, and act accordingly. Overcoming your fear of flying may open you up to new possibilities, but holding on to a fear of driving too fast might do you good too.

I overcame my status anxiety and depression through minimalism. I feel like minimalism can help a lot of people (and our planet) but my goal is not to tell people what to do, but rather to tell them what has worked for me so that they can try it out if it’s interesting to them.

I am not talking about Grief today, because I feel that that needs its own post.

Once again, all of these feelings need to be experienced in healthy doses. If you feel constantly anxious, or afraid, or guilty I strongly recommend seeking professional help. If that isn’t an option, start by talking to your parents, friends, or church. We live in a complicated world, and everyone needs help sometimes.