The Month Of Elul: A Time For Apologies

The New Year Is Here!

Are you spiritually prepared?

The month of Elul is not only about self-reflection and finding our inner-selves. It’s also about apologizing for every time we “missed the mark” this past year.

Apologizing can be hard. The more time that passes, the more difficult apologizing gets. We don’t want to bring up the past and open old wounds, I get it.

Have you considered that apologizing is empowering?

Growing up, I was taught that admitting when I’m wrong is an admirable thing. Swallowing your pride and being vulnerable with the truth is an admirable trait. Personally, I’m brutally honest (just ask my friends and family) and am the first to admit when I’m wrong and these are all values that are very important to me.

So why have I never given myself this courtesy?

I thought long and hard about everyone I’ve wronged and could have treated better, only to realize the biggest apology I owe is to Myself.

After a (few) long and painful meditation sessions I was prepared to get it all out… So here it is:

I’m sorry for mistreating you
For distrusting you
I questioned your ability and doubted your intelligence
And made you feel powerless.
I told you you were worthless for so long
You turned into nothingness


I’m sorry for starving you from light 
For so long
Now your heart is too dark
For your mind to wander
I turned your dreams into demons
And left your heart too barren
For any love to grow.


I’ve done nothing but wrong you
I made you feel small and weak
Convinced that you were incompetent
I’ve mutilated you
Enslaved you 
Denied you and
Cast you out from your people
I filled your soul with doubt
Bitterness and sadness


I’m sorry for making you believe you’re not strong enough to 
Weather the storm and
Work through all this pain I have caused you
I deemed you unworthy of anything good and
Made you think your life is not worth living
I know apologies will not heal these deep wounds
I’ve afflicted you.


It’s time to thank you.
Thank you for having the strength to still be here
For never giving up on me
I hope you can forgive me and 
We can fix things together.
I don’t know how I will ever repay you but 
I will spend the rest of my life trying

This being my first Elul, I had a lot of reflection to catch up on. It’s been an intense few weeks of attempting to revive my soul (and I’m happy to report that it’s working.) I thought I would have a lot to apologize for, but looking back I am proud of how I’ve handled confrontation, avoided drama and been honest with myself this past year and would not do anything differently.

I encourage you to also spend some time with yourself. What should you apologize for? Who has wronged you? What should you thank yourself for? Maybe even write yourself a letter too.

Stay soft,

Joey D.

Rosh Hashanah Greeting Card on RedBubble
Click the image or text for my Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Greeting Cards!

Vegan-Kosher 1-pot Pulled Pork Recipe

I couldn’t find an quick and easy “pulled pork” jackfruit recipe online, so I made my own! I want to try this next in my slow-cooker for Shabbat… Is that “Kosher”?

Kosher, Vegan and can be made gluten-free

I wanted the cheapest vegan pulled pork in as few steps as possible. This is also a 1-pot recipe, so all you will need is a cutting board, knife, a sauce pan, spatula, and something to break apart the jackfruit.

The only things in here are jackfruit, onion, oil, spices and vegetable broth. If you’re in a pinch, water will do. That makes this less than 5 ingredients! 

All this food from the clearance bins was less than $6:

-$1.67 for jackfruit

-$1.99 for 2 heads of iceberg lettuce (of which I only needed 1/2 of 1)

-$1.49 for the buns (regular $2.99) In actuality those buns were in my freezer from last week, but I added its cost for posterity.

Ingredients:

The onion, leftover broth, and spices I already had at home, so you can round the total up to $6 if you like. I shop at dinner hour during the week, which is the best time to find half-off fruits, veggies and bread. The stuff that gets thrown away at the end of the night is sometimes even more than 50% (like the iceberg lettuce I got).

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil with spices and cook until brown (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add jackfruit and fill the pan with broth until the jackfruit is mostly submerged. 
  3. Cover the pan and let it simmer until the jackfruit is soft (for 10-15 minutes).
  4. Once the jackfruit is soft, add the barbecue sauce and cook until hot. 
  5. Put on a bun (or gluten-free alternative), top it with some crunchy lettuce and it’s ready to serve!

These with a side of coleslaw or potato salad, I see this being my favourite summer comfort food. This was my first attempt, so I’m looking forward to trying it again.

Next time I would like to make my own barbecue sauce, but I was being really lazy… If you tried making this yourself, let me know what you loved or may have done differently in the comments below!

The Month Of Elul: Rehearsing For A New Year

Feel free to download this and print it off as a colouring sheet!

The head of the year, Rosh Hashanah, is upon us.

“Shanah tovah um’tukah,” means “May you have a good and sweet new year.”

The King is in the field, and so, it is our time to speak with him.

Preparing for this Mitzvah requires an entire month. The month of Elul is all about introspection. We take the time to evaluate ourselves, to show G-d our best nature and prove why we deserve another year of this life—to continue to serve The King.

After Elul comes the two days of Rosh Hashanah. This is the time in which G-d decides our fate for the next coming year. Will it be “good and sweet”, or will it be our last?

How will you prepare for death?

An old Rabbi asked the class. He was sharing his hatred for Rosh Hashanah… and what the old Rabbi said made me fall in love with this Mitzvah.

To summarize, the pressure of the Lord’s judgement, he said, was terrifying to him. He asked his class, “How could I possibly be ready to answer to G-d? Have you cast none wrong? Of course no one is clean. So to this, I say, I will never be ready.”

You are judged in this life by more than just G-d. Society also judges us—not necessarily by the good we do in the world, but what we guilty for. We also judge ourselves: for those silent moments where we know we could have made a difference, but did nothing.

Your emotional baggage holds you back from more than just opportunities—it will hold you back from a peaceful death. And this is what Rosh Hashanah and the month of Elul are all about. I can say I was more than ready to “take stock of my soul” after this past year. What I need most right now is purpose and there could be no better opportunity than this Mitzvah.

But how do you “take stock” of your soul? What does that even mean?

While the sages provide no instruction past the Six Stages of T’shuvah, there are also fundamental mitzvot to guide us through this soul-searching.

Opening our hearts to forgiveness, preparing our souls for an intense 10 days of repentance and prayer, and giving tzedakah (to charity) are critical in preparation for the High Holy Days. As Sephardim, we even start reading Psalm 27 right on Rosh Chodesh: the first day of Elul, 40 days before Yom Kippur.

My tips for a successful Rosh Hashanah:
1. Spend the month of Elul in solitude. This really helped me attune to my inner-self and better articulate my needs, attitudes, ideologies, regrets, and hopes for the coming year.
2. Have your Machzor handy (or print out the selection of prayers for Rosh Hashanah if you don’t own the payer book)
3. Make a list for tashlich—things you wish to cast away “unto the waters” and never see again.
4. Create spiritual resolutions for the year. Prioritize things like sharing more time with family or becoming more vulnerable in your relationships—goals with deep meaning that will benefit your soul.
5. Give tzedakah (Donate to charity)—it’s Shmittah (Sabbatical) Year, so don’t be a cheapskate!
6. Plan your meals around synagogue—there is no more important time of year to show up for your community than the High Holy Days!
7. Pray to the graves of the righteous. Visit the graves of your beloved and Jewish memorials. I will visit at least one abandoned rural cemetery or prison cemetery to pray for those who have no one left to pray for them.
8. Send out greeting cards—it’s cliché, but for good reason!

There’s a lot you need to do to prepare for the perfect Rosh Hashanah. Having the potential to change your fate for the next year is a lot of pressure! You see why it takes an entire month for us to prepare?

You still have time to rehearse your new role in the world. What role will you play?

Do you deserve a good and sweet year?

Sources:
Chabad.org
MyJewishLearning.com
ReformJudaism.org

My Easy 1 Pot Baked Mac N Cheez (Vegan, Nut-free)

When I’m in artist-mode I don’t take care of myself. I’m more than guilty of getting lazy and slipping up with my self-care. Self-employed people work endless hours, skipping meals and losing sleep over our work.

When it comes to being lazy and trying to cook, they usually don’t go together. It’s always the same thing: I need a break and go to make something to eat, I’m too tired to think of something to eat—never mind find a recipe—and then just order pad-thai for the second time this week instead.

If you’re finding yourself in a dinner-funk, this one is for you!

I will be using “cheez” rather than “cheese” because this is a vegan recipe. There is no dairy in this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of elbow macaroni (or any pasta)
  • 2 cups of milk substitute
  • ⅔ cup of cheez powder (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ⅓ cup of vegan cheddar cheez
  • bread crumbs

Directions for Pasta:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil: set stovetop to medium-high until boiling
  2. Once boiling, add 3 cups of elbow macaroni (or any pasta) and cook according to package—I was unfortunately out of macaroni noodles and had to use penne
  3. Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally
  4. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit
  5. Remove pasta from heat and turn stovetop down to medium-low for the cheez sauce
  6. Strain the pasta and put it in a casserole dish for later

Directions for Cheez Sauce:

  1. Add milk, salt, pepper, and minced garlic to your warm saucepan (the pot from before)
  2. Whisk all the clumps out before melting in the vegan cheez
  3. Melt cheez over medium-low stovetop, pour sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir evenly
  4. Press the pasta down to pack it into the dish before adding bread crumbs
  5. Add 3 fist fulls of bread crumbs and the rest of the cheez on top 
  6. After the last of the cheese, I added an extra fist-full of bread crumbs for good measure
  7. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, at 350° Fahrenheit

Ideas for variations:

  • Add buffalo wing sauce to your cheez sauce to spice things up (I’m the only spicy food lover in the house, which is the only reason I didn’t try it)
  • Add onions when you bake your pasta for some more variation in texture
  • Make it more kid-friendly by adding extra cheez and swapping macaroni for bow-tie noodles—I halved the recommended amount of cheez to reduce the cost-per-portion, but you can never add too much cheez!

So that’s my easy 1-pot baked vegan macaroni and “cheese” recipe for lazy artists and busy people. Let me know how easy this was if you tried this at home and how it turned out—if you’ve been looking for an excuse to use your pretty pyrex dishes, here it is!

My Tarot Journal: Entry 2

Saturdays are when I do my weekly tarot readings as a part of my self-care ritual. This is what my cards told me about the coming moon cycle…

Spread: New Moon Direction Spread (The Witches Fix)

Deck: Tarot Marseilles

  1. Starting Point: Prince of Wands (reversed)
    • Deceit 
    • Swift change is coming to your life, be prepared
  2. Direction: 10 of Pentacles
    • finance and family
    • money, success and material comfort
    • “unearned” money and profits
    • feeling inhibited by your background/upbringing
  3. Energetic Aid: 5 of Cups
    • something lost, something gained
    • a sad card denoting grief and emotional wounds
    • melancholy
    • “the cup is spilled and its contents wasted”
    • it’s time to explore other avenues
  4. Potential: The Fool 
    • cut yourself some slack
    • don’t worry about what others think
    • “however mad your plans may seem you are always in tune with yourself”
    • s in tune with yourself”
    • This is the start of a life-changing journey
    • Someone unconventional will make you think about things differently 
    • Nervous energy, unstable conditions
    • Can symbolize an unconventional sex life
    • Great, but undisciplined mental energy
    • Look before you leap, stay cautious
  5. Adjustment: King of Swords
    • Logical, clever and quick witted 
    • A love for rational thought
    • “Nine times out of ten you will find him working in some professional capacity, where his bright and restless mind can be put to good use.”
    • Requires lots of mental stimulation from company and lovers
    • Playing games to burn the remaining mental energy
  6. Lesson: 9 of Swords
    • Oppression, fear and anxiety 
    • A dark place of fear and suffering
    • It’s currently an extremely difficult time
    • There seems to be nowhere to turn to for help
    • This despair has grown out of control
    • This does not quell the pain, but points towards a solution for these problems must be faced
    • “A dark night of the soul”
    • Someone sensible must come up with a rational solution, or only time and courage will heal the wounds

Some words of wisdom:

  • Focus on fulfillment and wellbeing
  • Health and success are coming your way
  • A peak has been reached and your dreams are about to come true
  • Love will flow more easily in your relationships 
  • Ideas are coming quickly and you will have plenty of energy to execute them
  • Something you’ve wrestled with for a long time is now coming smoothly and effortlessly, at last
  • Beware of feeling smug

If you drew anything from this reading please let me know in the comment. Do you practice tarot or any other alternative form of spirituality? I would love to know!

After a very long year, I’m looking forward to 2021—to new opportunities and change—for everyone.

Until next time, you can check out what I’ve been working on here!

—J

Turn Your Coffee Addiction Into Your Skincare Routine: Recycling Your Coffee Grounds

After hearing I could use my used coffee grounds in my garden, my plant pots are now filled with more coffee than soil… So I had to find a new zero-waste use for them.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

My partner dried out an 8 oz jar of used coffee grounds to use as a scrub for the stovetops, but we had almost the entire jar left when we ere done and didn’t want to risk them going moldy. So when I found half a jar of coconut oil in the back of my bathroom cupboard, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it! I came up with this simple DIY body-scrub recipe that’s great for reenergizing and softening your skin!

This is the easiest, quickest body scrub you will ever make.

  • You only need 2 things: coconut oil and used, DRIED coffee grounds.
  • Take your used, dried coffee grounds and mix it into your coconut oil (the other way around is a mess)
  • I like a 1:1 ratio of oil to coffee grounds, but you can make the consistency as thick as you like.
  • Since I practice aromatherapy, I also added 5 drops of peppermint essential oils to make it a refreshing and festive scent. I don’t recommend buying essential oils for single-use cases as they’re very expensive, but it’s your call.

I have sensitive skin and eczema and this scrub not only left my skin soft as hell, but plumped up and exfoliated my skin without irritation or dry patches afterward!

I also see this being a quick and easy gift idea for the holidays

If you added some crushed candy canes and wrapped it in a nice mason jar with a festive ribbon, it would make a great homemade and zero-waste gift!

Until next week,

Joey Toadstool

Tarot Journal Entry #1

I thought to myself during the previous full moon while doing my regular spread that I should start a tarot journal, or at least some sort of record of my practice. It’s become very meaningful to me over the past year, as it has become a very bonding experience.

Despite the fact there are so many different decks, spreads and intentions I’ve bonded on a much deeper level with numerous people—becoming friends through the vulnerability we give to our decks.

The process of reading tarot can be cathartic and trigger a need for self-compassion and understanding. Reading tarot for yourself can so easily feel like reading for a friend or loved one. The care you put into interpreting each card to each situation—tarot can provide guidance in periods of self-doubt and isolation. A tarot deck you really love can become a close friend: a confidant.

Now that I’ve set out to spend more time on myself and working on myself I’m getting back into meditation, yoga and my spiritual practice. Crystals have an aesthetic appeal—and as a sensory-sensitive person their textures can be extremely soothing in my anxious palms—but their messages aren’t as clear to me as tarot. Crystals on my desk remind me of the intentions and goals I’ve set out for the month, but often nothing more.

  • Deck: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck
  • Spread: Single-pull          
  • Guiding question: What energy can I manifest to ensure a positive birthday celebration?
  • Card: Buffalo
  • Element: Earth
  • GROUNDED YET HEAVENLY, PRACTICAL YET SPIRITUAL

Key message: “…the Buffalo does not fear death, illness or misfortune… Its gentle eyes look ahead, trusting every turn.”

Reflection:

This hit me hard. It had me burst into tears. I’ve been so scared about what’s wrong with me; so scared about what this illness could be and just trying to suppress my fears and anxiety. I’ve realized I can’t keep pushing it down.

Seeing doctors isn’t the only thing I need to begin healing. I’m realizing that now.

I interpret this is saying “tough times are ahead, but don’t let them ruin your fun. You’re still you, regardless of your illness.” I will somehow turn my hardships into opportunity. 

Making more time for myself on a spiritual level (meditation, sun salutations, foraging in my neighbourhood, tantric sex, etc.) is what will keep me grateful, reminding me that life is precious and worth experiencing regardless of my ability. I’m not sure how yet, but I’m working on it surely.

What do I do with my time?

**AN: This is an un-cut piece I wrote as a submission for ‘An Invisible Work Day And The Gig Economy’, a standalone-issue zine covering experiences of different self-employed people and the impact of the Gig Economy on our daily lives.

Some famous person once said, “If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life”, or something to that effect.

Whoever that person is, it’s their fault why I do what I do — which feels like nothing.In reality, I do a lot. I find as the years go on, it gets more and more difficult to describe what I do to people. Especially older people. My go to is “Oh, I’m a freelancer”, which just means I’ll do about anything for money. If they pry further, I move onto what I actually do.What is that? I write.I’m not a writer though, oh no. I’m a painter. Actually? Yes, actually.

Does selling my paintings make any money?

Not at all! Selling fine art is probably the most difficult thing to sell online — nobody wants originals anymore, they’re only looking for prints and custom work. So naturally, I do that now. I sell my prints and small works at local art shows and craft fairs. The craft fairs turned into its’ own entity entirely, causing me to branch out into digital illustration, apparel design, and open an online store to sell year-round. This is how I make a large amount of my income. Funnily enough, selling my own merchandise was enough to market me to other indie artists and small businesses as an artist-for-hire. These clients were asking for branding and logos, so I started doing that too.

A dirty secret I have is I spend a lot of time on content marketing — it’s easy to feel like it’s your only job, when really you should be making content to market. But that’s the thing, people need to see your content to buy it.

I spend about half my work-time on social media, which is very embarrassing for me to admit. I don’t enjoy the dependence my career has on my online presence, but the reality is that I get half of my online sales through my fans online which is something too valuable for me to neglect.

You may think painting an abstract painting on a four-foot canvas and writing web-copy are nothing alike? And you would be correct! Writing is still difficult and probably always will be. It’s dragged me miles from my comfort zone, forcing me to form thoughts into words, rather than images.

As a result of my many hats, my daily life can vary widely.

If I had to give you a snippet of my day, it always starts with walking my dog — he gets me out of bed at an acceptable hour every morning, like the good boy he is. We go for a walk and I take the time to sort my thoughts out for the day; what I’ll be writing, what I’ll be working on, clients to follow up with, invoicing, and whatever other administrative work I can get done that morning. I have trouble with taking breaks. I’ll work way past breakfast and lunch, until almost supper time before I even get hungry. It’s a horrible habit, but it’s so difficult to break that kind of concentration. If I do manage a to get a break in, it’s with some home-made cookies and dairy-free milk while I read or listen to music. My afternoons are filled with great natural lighting; warranting product photography sessions, fine art videos, and painting in my airy living room studio space. Social media management takes up more energy than I would care to admit, and a lot more time.

The clean Canadian breeze flows through my living space as I clean and cleanse my home in the late afternoon sun — the outside air always leaves my sheets feeling so fresh. It sounds dull, but it’s one of the best things I can do for myself regularly.I love what I do and the only thing I would change is the ability to stretch time! There’s so many projects I still want to work on and people I want to work with, and I feel like so many other self-employed or creative people can relate to that. We’re never satisfied I think it’s important for today’s ‘Renaissance Man’ to take the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, a thing I certainly struggle with myself.Enjoying the work you do is great, but you need to be able to enjoy moments without work even greater.

That’s why self-care has become a big part of my life, my writing, and my artwork. I enjoy my time snuggling with my dog under the Kotatsu while I peck away at my keyboard for my next article, but not nearly as much as baking cookies with my partner and playing video-games together on a Friday night. You know what I mean?

We could all use a bit more time.

I hope you enjoyed something a little different. If you did, you can support the creator and purchase a copy of the zine here.

Until next Sunday,

—J

November 2020 Playlist: Grunge Girl Fall

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted a new monthly work playlist.

That’s simply because I’ve had the same music on heavy rotation for the past 4 months. It wasn’t until about mid-October that I needed to change things up. My work days now look a lot different now than they did a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.

After a two-month sabbatical from my business and clients, I have a much clearer vision and focus for my work. I’ve cleaned out my office, rebranded and was fully prepared for the Witches’ New Year. The pandemic has had a large impact on how my business has been forced to adapt and to find new, innovative ways to keep operating.

As per usual, here’s an entirely unthematic playlist of music I’ve been listening to while I work.

My top five from this playlist:

  1. Shut Up And Let Me Go—The Ting Tings
  2. Heads Will Roll—Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  3. Frustrerad—Agent Blue
  4. Rollerskate—Gurr
  5. Combat Baby—Metric

Listen directly via Apple Music.

My bullet journal spread for November 2020

I keep a bullet journal and wanted to show off my cover spread for this month.

Cover Spread in my bullet journal for November 2020

My standard layout and system are very simple, but I also indulge in decorating a spread to denote the beginning of a new month.

This month, I used exclusively scrap paper from my junk mail—all of the calendars, note pads, magazines and other miscellaneous paper goods random companies send you unsolicitedly—to create this monthly spread. This spread is inspired by Halloween and the Scorpio Moon, a period of death and moving on.

Learn the basic layouts and system I use with this video from the creator of the bullet journalling system.

Until next time, go check out my new shop look!

—J