New Ways to Give Up Plastic

Most people are familiar with the fact that plastic is ubiquitous and highly damaging to the environment. It’s not hidden knowledge what the most common single-use plastics are and how to cut back on them, such as switching to reusable bags instead of taking plastic bags from stores, using a reusable metal water bottle instead of buying bottled water, and saying no to plastic straws at restaurants and cafes.

These three examples are very good places to start when cutting back on single use plastic. With a little bit of time and effort, it is possible to give up those three forms of polluting plastic all together. After changing your habits in those simple ways, you can begin to look elsewhere in your life and see where polluting plastic is lingering around (for its short lived lifespan) and ways to replace it or stop using it all together. Below are three ways that I have reduced my plastic use in my daily life. Check ’em out and share how you cut back with me. We can do this together.


Do you floss? Maybe you do, but not as regularly as you should; however often you are flossing, you are probably flossing with plastic. It is obvious that the thin, string-like hygienic product that we keep in our medicine cabinets is made from plastic if we take a second to think about it. What else would it be?

To be honest, I had not considered what my floss was made from until I stumbled upon silk floss (let me repeat that – silk floss – how luxurious)   in the supermarket aisle one night. After taking a moment to read about the product, I was instantly sold. Never again will I buy plastic floss. Silk floss does the job perfectly and is biodegradable. It costs a little more than cheaper, average floss, but it is worth the cost because it lasts for a long time and doesn’t come with any plastic polluting guilt, however, as you can see, the packaging is sadly plastic, but has a plastic 5 recycling lable so will be recyclable when the product is all used up.


Sponges & Cleaning Products

Colorful sponges that come in four packs of bright yellow, pink, and blue can be made from polyurathane, a plastic and what makes that even worse is that they fall apart. Have you noticed that after a couple of weeks of use that bits of the sponge begin to break off into your dish washing basin? Where do you think those bits of plastic end up going once down the drain? Even if you pick out the bigger pieces, there are bound to be smaller ones that make their way down your kitchen sink’s drain and into the water system.

Instead of using those Spongebob-yellow sponges I have been using wash cloths. I also found more durable sponges made out of natural cellulose with a fiber on top that resembles coconut husk (it is not, but the packaging does not tell me what the top is precisely made of, it does say however, that the entire sponge is 100% plant-based).  I have used these sponges for my bathroom cleaning mostly and am happy to read on the labels that the sponges can be boiled to sanitize and that they are top rack dishwasher safe, plus It scrubs better than the cheap sponges.

For cleaning products I primarily use a simple vinegar and water solution to which I add essential oils. I also found a blog listing secondary uses for lemon peels; soak them in vinegar in a sealed jar for two weeks and add to the vinegar spray for an added fresh scent and as a way to get more life out of the lemons. When life gives you lemons… make lemonade, and then make lemon scented vinegar from the peels!

I also use borax for more heavy-duty soap scum. Used together with the fibrous sponge brings a smooth shine to my bathtub without any harsh chemicals lingering around to contaminate my next bath.

Tea and Coffee

I mostly drink tea, but sometimes coffee, never, ever do I drink Keurigs – those little pods are completely wasteful, prime examples of single use plastic waste. I thought I was doing pretty well with tea and coffee, buying organic and fair trade when my budge allowed, but taking a closer look at my tea bags I realized that my tea often came in little, individual plastic packets (even the organic kinds sometimes). And if the bags aren’t wrapped in plastic then they are sometimes wrapped in aluminum or paper. Even the expensive triangular tea sachets upon inspection are most definitely made from plastic.

It’s impossible to know what the tea looks like inside the box, so I choose to buy a certain brand of tea that comes in a wax lined paper pouch, all 20 tea bags in one pouch, and no staples, strings, or labels. Limited waste. Even better is loose leaf teas bought in bulk. The brand that I prefer from a box is Celestial Seasonings. For bulk tea I buy from a local grocery store. It has to be said that herbal tea grown from the garden or collected from a wild source, dried, and put into glass jars is the least wasteful form of tea and the most pranic. Herbs and flowers for collecting include mint, nettle, chamomile, Calendula, and lavender to name a few.

Plastic is a vital and necessary part of modern life. It is in our phones, computers, cars, almost everything. There is no doubt that plastic will be a part of our daily lives, but certain types of plastics can be cut out of regular use – single-use/disposable plastic. This type of plastic is overused and has a minute lifespan of sometimes only minutes (think about the plastic spoon used to eat greek yogurt, out of a plastic tub, it only takes minutes to eat that snack and then the spoon and the tub are waste.) Start becoming aware of plastic’s detriments and then decide to abstain from using it and encourage those around you to do the same.



Shaun White & Instagram Inspiration

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in full swing in my second homeland of South Korea and watching expert athletes push themselves to their best has inspired me to push my physical yoga practice as of late. Shaun White especially inspired and impressed in his final run that won him gold in the men’s halfpipe finals.

Concurrently with the Olympics I have been taking part in my very first Instagram yoga challenge, which has turned out to be very beneficial to my yoga practice, keeping me constantly practicing and practicing poses that I generally shy away from.

Let me get back to Shaun White for a moment, though. Sexual harassment settlement aside, the man has skills. He performed a physical feat that most of us can hardly even comprehend. One of the most impressive things about Shaun’s performance is his age. He is one of the older Olympic athletes at 31, one of his biggest competitors was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, aged 19. More than a decade separates these two, on paper the 19-year-old should have looked better based on youth, but Shaun gave one of the best runs of his life in his 30’s.

Just as Shaun White showed the world, ability is not solely determined by age however, great for us yoga students in or beyond the 30s Club. My good friend and international yoga teacher, Mindy Sisco is training her body, through a lot of hard work, to do yoga poses that she couldn’t do just a few years ago. I witnessed her transform her handstand practice in a matter of years to a point where she can now confidently lift up into a handstand and handstand straddle as if she was born doing it.

Mindy is the yoga teacher responsible for my first Instagram yoga challenge which just ended yesterday. I have seen these challenges before and the first thing I thought when invited to participate was – that looks like it takes up a lot of time – the reality being both yes and no.

Yes, to participate fully in an Instagram yoga challenge, which to clarify, is a predetermined list of poses, one for each day for every day of the challenge; yes it does take time and commitment, but yoga as a whole takes time and commitment. Mindy’s challenge took place over 16 days and included poses such as urdhva dhanurasana (full wheel) and adho mukha vrksasana (handstand). For each day of the challenge I had to prepare my body for the pose that was to be photographed. Many of the days involved backbending, which is a shape that does not come easily to me, and therefore, a shape which I do not much enjoy. That meant that I had to warm up and prepare my body more than I would have for a different type of pose that m body is prone to, such as a forward fold. I joked on my Instagram feed that I was annoyed by yet another backbend, but to be honest, I was partially annoyed and partially grateful, because in my own home practice I barely ever incorporate backbends, but this Instagram challenge forced me to practice them.


Yes, the challenges take commitment and time, but not a lot of it. I would say I averaged ten minutes of warming up and taking pictures. That’s not that much time. By completing the challenge I completed 16 days of challenging poses, the practice may have been short at times, but at least I got on my mat. I believe it is Jason Crandell that says, “Fifteen minutes of yoga is better than zero minutes of yoga.”

Shaun White and IG yoga challenges are two recent places where I have garnered inspiration from lately. It was exhilarating to watch all of the winter athletes display their skills in the Olympics, such precision and expertise which surely means a ton of conditioning, practice, and discipline. A good reminder that any type of practice is also a discipline. If you practice an instrument daily, then it is a discipline; if you practice an instrument every other month, then it is a waste of time and you will never see much improvement. Yoga is a practice that requires consistency and diversity in poses practiced.

What’s inspiring you these days?


You can find Mindy on Instagram at @kaizenkorea You can follow me with yoga, travel, and sustainability posts at @karabemisyoga

Peace, Love & Wellness, Warren, PA – Studio Review

This  is a bit overdue, but three months ago I visited a somewhat local yoga studio to attend my first gong bath at a wellness studio in Warren, Pennsylvania, which is a short drive from my home. Warren is an old oil town with monstrous Victorian homes and a little downtown area next to the river, which is where the yoga studio is located. To call Peace, Love & Wellness a yoga studio is a little bit of an understatement however, because the studio also has massage space, an inviting seating area, a sauna, and Kelly, the owner offers wellness coaching to individual and corporate clients. Peace, Love & Wellness is not a yoga studio, it is a well-rounded wellness studio.

Back to the gong bath, my only other experience with gongs in yoga had been at another local studio attending a Kundalini class with the same teacher offering the gong bath at Peace, Love & Wellness. My first experience was magical, the gong vibration flowed up and swirled around the room before crashing down on to me. That may sound hippy dippy, but try it for yourself. It feels great.

The gong bath class at Peace, Love & Wellness also involved some Kundalini kriyas, which can be more challenging than a vinyasa practice. A lot of dynamic endurance is required, as opposed to a still, static endurance for a yin practice. I have done Kundalini kriyas in which I swore that my arms were going to fall of. Luckily, difficulty did not reach that extent at the class in Warren before it was time for the gong bath. After some sun salutations we were brought down for relaxation. I layered up because I am always cold, and closed my eyes to absorb the gong. It was similar to my first experience except that this time the teacher had a second gong that offered a sharper sound, reminiscent of whale song, and it lasted for a longer time. I left the experience feeling relaxed and settled.

Classes at Peace, Love & Wellness are various and plentiful. Check out the schedule, here.  Yoga styles offered include hatha, buti, vinyasa, and kids yoga.  Classes can be bought as a part of a monthly or yearly package, which include massage and sauna services, or as drop in classes. The gong bath that my husband and I attended was reasonable at $15/person.

To get to the studio, go to downtown Warren, PA right on the Allegheny river and the studio is located at 338 Pennsylvania, Ave. You will see large letters spelling out YOGA in their second story front windows. The studio is located right above a lovely little cafe that I enjoy visiting when in Warren, the Arbor House Coffee House Cafe & Tea Room. Might I suggest that you make a day of your trip to historic Warren and visit the cafe after your yoga class, a plan for a fantastic day trip.


Visiting Montreal

At the very end of 2017 I took a trip with my husband to visit his close friends in Quebec. It was a last-minute trip and the temperatures were brutal, averaging around -25C (-13F) most of the time,  but we managed to sight see a little and succeeded in not spending our entire trip indoors.  Here are my top highlights from our trip that I think will interest other yoga people, history nerds, and slow fashion enthusiasts out there.

First, the Yoga

There is a huge and important Sivananada ashram located an hour north of Montreal. Our friends lived north of the city as well, so the ashram was even closer to us for our stay. While visiting I attended one two-hour, beginners yoga class at the ashram. They have classes open to the public twice daily, once at 8am and again at 4pm. It costs $10/person and you can choose between the beginners’ class or an intermediate class.

The ashram is a large compound that unfortunately,I did not get to explore (remember the temperatures?) I did however step inside the registration office to pay for the class – the building was warm and welcoming. The woman at reception spoke French and fluent English. After classes there is an option to pay $10 on top of the class for a vegetarian meal, we passed on this option, but the smells were wafting around in the registration office and they were tempting me to cancel our prearranged dinner plans and stick around for the food.

The class itself was taught by whom I would guess is a student of the ashram. He led the class though pranayama at the beginning of class, which was a good 20-30 minutes long. After breathwork the asana practice began. It was a beginners class, but the teacher threw in some more challenging poses such as sirsasana. At the end there was an enjoyable savasana and the class began and ended with chants sung beautifully by the teacher and the few devotional students who somehow managed learn the minutes long chants – dedication.


I planned to go back and attend an intermediate class, but it didn’t fit into our schedule, so I’ll have to go back on our next trip. If you’re planning a trip to the area, check out their website (hyperlinked above) for more information and schedules on themed weekends. There is lodging on sight and the schedule is that of an ashram – early morning risings for satsang and asana with karma yoga in the middle of the day and more asana in the afternoon, a busy, disciplined schedule that is fully optional, for those not quite ready to live life like a yogi.

Next, Some History

I am a self-proclaimed history nerd and Montreal had some lovely history to satisfy my dorky desires. I searched Tripadvisor and Google for a historical site that interested me and was in my price range (I am a proud budget traveler), and I came across the perfect Victorian townhouse that offered guided tours by guides decked out in crinoline and waistcoats. The townhouse was  the prior home of Sir George-Etienne Cartier, a Canadian politician and former Prime Minister. It is located in Old Montreal, a historic district near the river. The tour guide gave us a tour in English around the townhouse which took about an hour (there are also tours in French) and as mentioned previously, he gave the tour in head-to-to-toe Victorian attire (and he had a very endearing French Canadian  accent.)


We visited at Christmas time so the focus of the tour was a Victorian Christmas, which is really interesting because the Victorians gave us most of the Christmas traditions that we follow to this day. The museum also had  some fun hands on experiences, such as making Christmas cards, sampling Victorian hot drinks – wasil and tea, and trying on Victorian clothes. The best part? The museum was free  during all of 2017 because it was the 150th anniversary of Canada. Although it’s now 2018 and it will no longer be free, I recommend visiting if you have some free time in Montreal, even if to simply get out of the bitter cold temperatures for a while.

Finally, Vintage Clothes

My friends knew that I was interested in doing some second-hand shopping while in Montreal and surprised me with a stop at a massive vintage store. It’s called Eva B and it’s more than a vintage clothing shop, it’s also a cafe and bistro, and in keeping with the world-wide stereotype of Canadians being extremely friendly, a woman handed us small cups of hot apple cider (in glass not in single use plastic) as soon as we walked in, she also had little bags (paper) of popcorn, too.

After searching a multitude of racks, I sadly left empty-handed, but there was a lot to choose from, most from the 70s/80s/90s. The price tags were more than I’m used to at Salvation Army, but most things were actually vintage, no H&M or Forever 21 in sight. Before leaving we grabbed a couple of hot samosas for $1 that were amazing, so that convinces me of their menu. Photos below are of the second level of the store and the front entrance, recognizable by the graffiti.


There’s plenty more to do in Montreal, I am sure, sadly the weather prohibited a long day trip to the city, but what I did see of it on this trip was enjoyable and entertaining. I’m already looking forward to a return when the weather is more hospitable. I’ll be back, Montreal.

Good News in 2018

It’s only mid-January, and all ready there have been some big, positive announcements around the globe regarding decreasing the use of single use plastic and climate change in general. With natural disasters becoming more and more common and devastating (this past year in the U.S. alone was a record setting and expensive year due to natural disasters – hurricanes and wild fires) legislation and commitment by cities and governments is some positive news that is welcome to start out 2018.

The four big news stories that I have seen in the new year came from Montreal, New York City,  China, and England.

Montreal has banned plastic bags. The ban went into effect on January 1, 2018 with penalties to shops who do not follow the law going into effect on June 5, 2018. I visited Quebec just before learning about this ban for a short trip between the Christmas and New Year holidays, while there I noticed that all stores charged 5 cents for each plastic bag, but local Québécois  that I asked were unsure if this charge was local, province wide, or in all of Canada. When I returned home I tried to do some research and in google searching I found the article about the plastic bag ban in Montreal.

In my opinion, plastic bags are utterly useless; they are not strong, therefore they break easily and most people toss them straight into the garbage they live their life cycle of just one use between the store, the car, and the cupboard. People casually toss them straight into their garbage, most people that I have witnessed in my area do not even recycle them. Some stores have recycle bins at their entryway in which to collect used plastic bags for recycling, but they have to be clean and dry, and of course people would have to collect them and remember to bring them with them to the store to drop off, and not all stores have these containers, so it is not convenient.

Rather than go through the process of recycling plastic bags or pollute the oceans by throwing plastic bags in the garbage, why not buy a couple of reusable bags from your local grocery store and use and reuse those for shopping? I wish more major cities would set a standard of banning plastic bags which would encourage states/provinces and countries to do the same. It is a big shift to make, but I am so glad that Montreal is leading the way in doing so in 2018, really proving that they are French Canadian, in the fact that France banned plastic bags as a country in the summer of 2016.

A couple of weeks after Montreal’s ban went into effect, New York City announced that it will be divesting from fossil fuels in the city’s pension funds and that it will begin the process of suing five large oil companies for the negative impacts that their actions have had resulting in climate change and damage to the city – hurricane Sandy, for example. This is big news, especially since it completely contradicts the view of the president, who would rather invest in coal than renewables and whom does not even believe in climate change. Thankfully, some cities and states have vowed to take action against the president’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement; Mayors and governors around the Unite States took a stance to pass their own laws that were in accordance with the Paris Agreement after Mr. Trump pulled the United States out to show that US Americans do believe that climate change is a real and imminent threat and that as individual cities and states they will not sit back and do nothing.

Possibly the biggest news that started this year off in terms of plastic pollution was that China has banned the import of other countries’ waste as of January 1, 2018.  A lot of people are unaware, but much of the recycling collected in the U.S. and Europe does not get processed in the countries where it is collected. About a third of the waste produced in the U.S. is exported, sent to other countries for them to process or bury. Much of it gets sent to China, but no longer. That’s a lot of waste that has nowhere to go now. This news is good in that some of the waste that was exported on container ships would blow off and end up in the ocean creating ocean pollution. But now what will happen to waste at home in the U.S.? Of course the answer should be that the U.S. will have to handle our own waste, and we should, and by facing the waste problem straight on, would give more thought to using less packaging and creating less waste. Likely however, it will get sent to another country because the U.S. does not have the facilities to handle it all. Another negative effect may be that recycling centers say that they can no longer manage recycling waste and therefore may put them instead in to landfills (see the hyperlink earlier in this paragraph.)



The final big news that has come out since the start of the new year came from Teresa May just this past week. The PM of England declared that England’s newest environmental plan includes a goal of stopping all UK plastic waste by 2042. That is a few steps forward of Montreal’s plastic bag ban, but as some critics have said, it is too far in the future and her plan lacks clear guidelines, but it is a good start to move the conversation towards reducing and eliminating plastic waste.

There has been talk that many UK politicians are getting behind environmental movements due to the Blue Planet II series with Sir David Attenborough. The series is beautifully made, awe inspiring, and full of fascinating information. The fact that a TV series can educate so many worldwide on the sate of the oceans and the wildlife that habitats them is better still if it moves politicians into action.

Although the devastating, recent mudslides in California along with the multiple natural disasters of last year weight heavy on all of our hearts, it is a small comfort to know that governments around the world are beginning to make changes to combat our negative impact on our planet. As information becomes more widespread and people demand change by their leaders, there is hope that governments all over will pass similar laws and will overpower the attempts of some politicians (ahem, Mr. Trump) to take us back in time with environmental regulations. The future looks bright, albeit with a lot of hard work in the process.

Bye-bye 2017, Welcome 2018

Well, that was fast. It doesn’t seem possible that 2017 is coming to a close and a new year will be here full of hopes and goals. This year was a big year for me personally and quite the roller coaster around the world. In this post I want to reflect on my past year in terms of my personal life, yoga, & sustainability, as well as use this platform as a way to commit to a few goals for my 2018.

My previous year was full of primarily of weddings and green cards. On Earth Day 2017 I married my love in our down to earth civil ceremony. The choice to marry on Earth Day was intentional as was the entire day and the way that we designed to tie the knot in the most sustainable way that we could. You can read here for ides on planning your own DIY, sustainable wedding.

My husband I again got married in September which was the big shindig with my large family and friends the came from near and far to celebrate with us. This event we also planned to be as DIY and sustainable as possible. I have not written about our wedding in any blog posts yet, I will post tips bit by bit during 2018 as wedding season gets nearer.

As mentioned above, my year was full of our two weddings and a green card, which belongs to my husband (finally). That was a stressful, long, and moderately pricey endeavor, but it was well worth all of the hard work and sacrifices that we both had to make so that he could settle with me here in the U.S. We completed the entire process with some advice from a few friends whom previously obtained green cards, yet without the assistance of an attorney. Coming in 2018 will be a few posts with tips for others who are going it alone to get a green card.

In terms of yoga, my year was both quite and busy. Unfortunately, I did not attend any trainings in 2017 save a few workshops with my dear friend Mindy and some classes here and there at local studios and during my travels. It is a serious goal of mine to attend a weekend or week long retreat in 2018 and to seek out a YTTC in the next couple of years to continue to build my teaching tool bag.

This past year, however, was busy for me as a teacher. I taught in studios and increased my corporate schedule. I continued to teach vinyasa, designing classes appropriate for my students, hatha classes for the corporate students, and some fun workshops and seasonal classes. My 2018 teaching goals, besides training in classes, workshops, and YTTCs, is to push myself more and more to therefore safely push my students to their abilities and beyond as well as to force myself to become more creative with workshops and collaborations.

Finally, and most importantly, I have had some great experiences in my local area, attending educational events on the environment and sustainability. On a personal level I have tried my best to cut back more and more on plastics and have continued my slow fashion lifestyle. Looking towards the future, I am excited to have been accepted as a 5 Gyres ambassador, a title that means that I will host some educational events in 2018 and into the future in which I’ll share the damaging effects of plastics on our oceans. Being an ambassador is a commitment to learn and share and by having an association with their name I have more weight when sharing information with the public as opposed to standing alone on my soapbox. Many people are already aware of the dangers of plastic, but many more are not, and to ask someone to change their daily habits for fish can be seen as a stretch and annoyance, so I am looking forward to utilizing 5 Gyres resources to give myself more credibility.


This time of the year is an excellent time to reflect on goals and lessons learned from the past year’s experiences and an even greater time to dedicate yourself to personal goals and resolutions. I can’t wait to give 2018 my all and hone my skills and craft with each passing month and year. This yoga thing is such a journey, as is life as a whole. Each new pose is a practice to get there and each teaching experience is an opportunity to obtain more and more knowledge to benefit my students of the present and in the future.

Tis the Season for Karma Yoga

The holiday seasons is not only fast approaching, it is on top of us. As I write this, it is December 20th, so Christmas is just five days away for many in the west and those all around the world who celebrate the Christmas holiday. Here in the U.S. Christmas began showing up commercially way back around the time of Halloween. Retailers unpacked their Christmas stock, to what many is considered way too early, and each year it comes out earlier and earlier, so that customers can decorate early and check presents off of their lists. Although Christmas seems to have morphed into a season of materialism it still offers a time of giving to those in need.

This is an old tradition that may even go back to Mary and Joseph being given room in a barn, but at the very least goes back a few hundred years. According to a historical documentary by the BBC, Victorian Farm Christmas,  the Victorians were charitable during the holiday season giving through collections at churches to go to the poor or by giving food directly to those without. Many today continue this tradition of giving at Christmas time, whether it be by dropping change in a red, metal Salvation Army pot, or by making a donation to an organization.

Within my communities I have noticed multiple ways to give this year, such as by donating toys to children without, food to a food cupboard, and yoga classes by donation in which the money raised is given to a specific cause. In fact, I hosted a candlelit Slow Flow earlier in the month that was by donation. Teaching for free or attending a class and donating to a cause is what is classified as karma yoga, or yoga in action.

tis the season

Karma yoga can come in many forms. It might be performing a chore, giving of time or money, or freely sharing yoga with others. Around the winter holidays is a great time to host a karma yoga event or find one to attend. People have it in their hearts to give and it’s cold, so a great time to move towards indoor activities. Of course, however anytime of the year would be a good time for karma yoga, but during the holiday season is a very appropriate time to give.

As a student look for donation classes in your community. If you are a teacher or studio owner, host a class or two by donation and find a local organization that will benefit from the money you raise. It is so easy as a teacher to host a karma yoga class, the skill is already there, and the space if a studio is readily available is there as well, all that is required is organization, promotion, and some time to plan and teach.

May you and yours have a joyful holiday season and may you find ways to give to your community this season and into the new year.



Upcycled Gift Wrap

This holiday season alter your wrapping style from wasteful to thoughtful and hand crafted. Why? Because gift wrapping has an extremely short lifespan and ends up in the garbage seconds after being torn apart. It is a complete waste.

Instead of being tempted by the sparkly, shiny papers and bows at your local box store choose instead to upcycle things already at hand in your house. Use items that are on their way to the recycling center such as newspaper, brown bags from the grocery store, or other paper products like calendars, maps, & magazines and catalogs.

In order to be more sustainable you must think and plan ahead. The same way that you have to remember to bring your resuable bags from the car into the store and to take your tumbler with you in the car before you stop for a coffee, you’ll have to plan to hold onto newspaper and other things to be used for wrapping. This takes foresight, but you likewise buy and keep store bought wrapping paper and bows, so it should be an easy shift to begin storing newspapers and brown bags for wrapping in the same location and stock up for upcoming birthdays and holidays. It’s not that common these days to receive a newspaper since most people consume their news from online sources, so you may have to acquire newspaper from your place of work or from a relative who still gets a daily paper. Junk mail and advertisements that come are another source, for me it is the local penny savers that I keep to use because they are abundant where I live. We must have 3-4 placed in our mailbox weekly.

To jazz up your gift wrap have a search on pinterest for upcycled wrapping ideas, there are many. You can paint the wrap or stamp it with a homemade potato stamp which could make for a great winter craft night in. Here is a detailed blog on how-to make potato stamps. You can also make bows out of newspaper. There are a lot of different styles and techniques to make different types of newspaper bows. A quick google search brings up half a dozen styles that you can create so that your gifts under the tree are unique and look as snazzy as purchased bows made in China. Here is a good blog tutorial to make bows out of newspaper or, a neat idea for those with little ones in the house, to make the bows out of children’s scribbles.

Creating bows will take time, but as I find with most things that I do with my hands to create something, is in the end satisfying and meditative. You’ll need simple household items such as scissors, glue, and tape. Making a patter first for your bows may quicken up the process.


Other embellishments can be added like twine or other festive string, using twine and other string as ribbon is not necessarily waste free, unless you hold on to previously used string and give it a second life as gift wrap, so I cannot say completely that the gifts that I wrapped are absolutely zero waste, but they are more ethical than plastic based ribbon sold at stores. A more eco idea is to use sprigs of pine tree snipped from the back of your Christmas tree or from outside. If you’re wrapping during another season, for a summer birthday perhaps, then you can use other seasonal plants. Check first to be sure that the plant is not harmful – don’t give your friend a gift with decorative poison ivy on it, for example. This blog has a lot of different ideas including using bits of plants and more.

Crafting your own gift wrap is not hard, it just takes time, so put the kettle on, sit in front of the heater and get creative. The best part about upcycled and DIY gift wrap is that on top of being unique and personalized, it utilizes materials that are easily recyclable as opposed to store bought wrapping paper, which often IS NOT RECYCLABLE and sadly ends up in the landfill.

Yoga Farm, Lansing NY – Studio Review

A few weeks ago my husband new husband and I took a week long trip across New York State for a mini-honeymoon. We drove to Ithaca and the Adirondacks in the height of the beautiful fall leaves to hike, bike, kayak, and do yoga, of course. In fact, our first stop on the trip was to the Yoga Farm in Ithaca and boy am I glad that this studio was on our itinerary. Yoga Farm is welcoming, in the middle of nature, and is sure to provide an experience for students in which they do more than the physical postures, they evolve to know themselves better as a person.

The Saturday that we drove to Ithaca the Yoga Farm was hosting a workshop called ‘You’re Personal Key to Fulfillment & Connection‘ which is a snipet from their larger Radiance Course which is a five month program.  The Saturday workshop that I attended was two hours long, included no physical asana practice, save some minor tension relieving neck and shoulder work, but rather included a lot of self reflection and guidance by teachers and studio owners, Christopher & Daniela.


Christopher & Daniela are founders and owners of Yoga Farm and emanate a depth of warmness and sincerity to their students. They both instantly give acute attention to each and every student that walks through their Yoga Farm door. And once in the door, you are welcomed by not only the teachers but also a hominess of the studio. At Yoga Farm there is a student library, a water dispenser that gives cold or hot water and tea and mugs for students to make tea, and for our workshop, all of the props were set up before the students arrived so that we could find our seats and begin right away.

Their studio has an abundance of props, and you know I am a prop fanatic. They even have little floor chairs for students to lean back in which is a benefit to most of us who cannot sit for two hours in a crossed legged position without our lower limbs going numb and feeling as if they might fall off after 10 minutes.

After encouraging us to get as comfortable as we possibly could with bolsters, meditation cushions, and blankets, the workshop got started which included some meditation and group discussion with the intent of finding a guiding force to lead us to clarity of our true self and to guide us away from negative reactivity to daily stressors. I found the workshop to be personally insightful and I took away from it a personal resource that I have the opportunity to utilize daily. As mentioned the workshop was a teaser from their longer Radiance course that is a multiple months endeavor.

The studio offers a variety of workshops and courses that, for the Radiance Courses specifically, fall under their  ‘Pay what is honest and in integrity for you’ philosophy. When I saw this information on their website I read further, which you can do here. Before attending my two hour Radiance workshop at the Yoga Farm, I had decided to pay a typical fee for a weekend yoga workshop, regardless of what I took away from the workshop because I am a yoga teacher who earns a supplementary portion of my income from teaching yoga, so I wanted to pay a respectful sum for their work and effort. I assume that most students follow a similar payment choice when deciding how much to leave for the workshops. What I love about this unique payment option is that it opens the doors of the studio to people who might otherwise be limited to not being able to attend classes due to financial difficulty such as unemployment or disability, and finding Radiance within ourselves shouldn’t be restricted to only those who can afford it.

I was curious and intrigued by the Radiance open tuition, so I emailed Daniela and we set up a time to have a phone call and talk about it, from that conversation I will write a separate post to come soon.

If you would like to attend a Radiane workshop you can find the schedule on their website. On top of two hour workshops they also offer two upcoming weekend workshops that are day long courses but are not residential, so are more readily available to locals of Lansing.  One weekend workshop is right around the food-coma-corner, happening the Saturday immediately after Thanksgiving, Saturday, November 25th, 3-5pm, titled ‘Discover Your Inner Voice’ and the other over the weekend of New Years – Saturday, Sunday, & Monday, December 30 through January 1st.

If you are looking for an asana practice as well as or instead of a self reflection course, then look no further because they also offer yoga classes throughout the week. I attended a class the week I was visiting which was a Slow Flow class that left me with the ubiquitous yoga bliss afterwards. They have an array of classes on their clanedar which you can find updated on their website. Unlike the Radiance Courses and Workshops, there is a set fee for yoga classes at the studio. They cost: Drop-In Class prices: One for $18, Three for $45, Eight for $96, Unlimited for $95/month.

If you find yourself in Lansing, NY which is itself beautiful and a short drive from the college town of Ithaca, NY I would highly suggest checking out a class or workshop at the Yoga Farm. As implied in the name, the studio is located in a beautiful landscape not far from Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes. The studio is inside a refurbished barn and sits on many acres of land. Practicing at Yoga Farm is a step beyond a city studio, they have created their own little yoga paradise in a beautiful landscape; you won’t regret a visit.

What I Would Have Said

I hosted a clothing swap this past weekend in Jamestown, NY. It was the third swap that I have hosted in the area and I was determined to speak at this one about the ethics behind the event. At the previous swaps that I hosted in Korea I spoke to attendees about my reasoning behind hosting, how I disagree with the modern, fast-fashion industry, and the primary problems with the industry in terms of labor and damage to the environment. However, back on U.S. soil in the small city near the small town where I reside and teach yoga, I could not give a similar speech.

Let me explain that technically I could have and the people attending would most certainly have been polite and receptive, but at each of the three swaps in the U.S. the time for speaking came and went. I felt that there weren’t enough people and if I spoke to a handful of swappers, then it would have felt too much like preaching. At this last one I even advertised that I was going to speak on the ethics, but as the clock ticked closer to my time to speak everyone seemed to funnel out of the door. Do I think that this was intentional? Maybe on a few accounts, or maybe they had elsewhere to be and had already done their swapping for the afternoon. There wasn’t a massive collection to browse, so this is a very feasible option. Whatever the reason, my audience left the room.

I was bummed, but upon reflection I realize that “preaching” to happy people swapping their clothes for others’ may not be the best way to go about it. Posting on my website might be a better way to share my views on fast fashion and why I avoid it. For if I were to have spoken to people who happily (and blindly) shop fast fashion then it may have been perceived more as an attack, like a vegan lecturing a gang of omnivores on the detriments of factory farming at a party, at a Korean BBQ restaurant.

There is also the sad truth that environmentalists can come off as being major Debbie Downers (I have been extremely guilty of this in the past) when they share how the world is slowly ending at the hands of consumers, also known as people. That last statement, was of course a cynical joke – mostly, but on a serious note, people having a good time may not want to hear about pollution and labor rights. But if you have made it this far into the post, then you may be curious enough reading about exactly those two things and more depressing facts of fast fashion, if so, then carry on reading.

Why I Host Swaps… My Unspoken Speech at My Most Recent Swap (altered slightly for word and general public, main ideas the same)

The reasons that I host swaps can be summed up in four words: labor rights and environmental degradation.  The fashion industry today looks completely foreign to how the garment industry of the last century looked. As recently as the 1990’s, 50% of clothes sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. Thirty years prior to that in the 60’s, around 97% of clothes were made in the U.S. for a U.S. market.

Today? A measeley  TWO PERCENT or in numerical langauge – 2%. Two percent?!?! We went from almost 100% in my mother’s generation to almost 0% in mine. For the United States that is an entire industry nearly completely lost. Jobs lost. Skills lost. The reason being? Globalization.

The textile and sewing industries were shipped to developing nations where labor could be paid far less than an American worker. Where labor rights were skim, so workers could be forced to work 10 to 12 hr. days, for very little pay, and in unsafe conditions. My fashion revelation and shift in consumerism occurred as a result of learning about the tragedy at Rana Plaza in 2013. Rana Plaza was an eight story building that housed seamstresses in a shoddy building. In a day in April, 2013 the building collapsed killing 1,134 people.  Read more details here about Rana Plaza.

My other gripe with fast fashion is how utterly unsustainable it is. We do not need even a fraction of the amount of clothing that we buy these days and we certainly do not need close to the amount of clothes that companies and the media try to convince us that we need. Fashion trends come and go, and come and go, and come and go again and again and are so in our faces that we feel lesser-than if we don’t keep up. Luckily for us we can generally afford to keep up with the trends because clothes are becoming cheaper with the outsourcing of the work and lower grade fabrics. Clothes have become so cheap, that they are disposable.

We buy without limit. Sometimes we buy without even liking what we buy and definitely without knowing anything about the item. Without knowing that a lot of water, air, and soil pollution was created by production. By material being shipped around the world to be dyed, cut, sewn, and shipped to a shop near us. That those dyes are harmful to the communities that live near the factories that produce them. That most of the items at fast fashion shops are made of synthetics, many of which (polyester & acrylic I’m glaring at you) are plastic based – i.e. come from oil production.


[Sidenote – It is this sort of information that makes me feel slightly sheepish for sharing. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, but isn’t it better to be aware of how our choices affect others half way across the world? Anyway, it’s about to get a little more positive.]

This is where the clothing industry has evolved to. It is totally different from the past when people used to make their own clothes or buy from a skilled, local tailor in their community. But we don’t have to shop fast fashion all the time. We have options that are more ethical that we can use to supplement our closets with.

A clothing swap is one, or second hand. Buying fair trade or organic is another way. Or simply getting by with what you have and ignoring the billboards of what’s new and desireable. Ask yourself when you shop: “Do I really need this? Do I have something in my closet already that fulfills this need? Is there a more sustainable way that I can obtain a similar item? Can I just borrow from a friend?” And hopefully by having that dialogue in your head you will realize that you can happily go without another polyester tank top in your closet.


That is roughly what I would have said if I had had an audience to say it to. Changing habits is hard, especially when the habit you are changing is one that brings you a lot of joy. Retail therapy, anyone? But you can still feel the buzzy high of finding a good find a thrift store, or a really well made top of environmentally friendly fabrics and made by fair trade labor. The shift may take some time, but it’s still fun and much more rewarding.