The Eco Trio: Tagua, Pambil, and Acai Jewelry

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Many of the pieces that are made here at Mushpa + Mensa, use little, medium and larger seeds from the amazon rain-forest, collected specifically from Ecuador.

As a native Ecuadorian, I am able to travel back to my childhood country, bring my lady with me, and browse though many of the outdoor markets that sell these wonderful seeds, which we then take and make our eco-jewelry from.

So what are the three seeds?

Tagua:

The largest of all the seeds is tagua, although in other Latin American countries it can be referred to as vegetable ivory, palm ivory, marfim-vegetal, corozo, or jarina, the seeds all still derive from the same genus of palms: Phytelephas. There as six known species of this palm that thrive from Panama, to Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

tagua-fruit

Often it is referred to as “eco-ivory” because it has the same characteristics of elephant ivory, as it can be carved very easily as well as dyed with different colors, and it is hard and unbreakable and can be polished beautifully.

tagua-2

The female palm is the one that bears the fruit, which falls from the trees and  inside it holds usually 4 individual nuts. The immature fruit is usually sweet and soft, while the mature fruit has transformed into a harder that wood nut covered in a brown shell, which can later be used for multiple projects, like our tagua necklaces!

Pambil:

red-pambil

The second seed we often use is called pambil, and it is another palm from the Ecuadorian rain forest. This palm tree known scientifically as  Iriartea deltoidea,  which can grow between 20-35 meters tall and can be “easily recognized by the prominent bulge in the center of its trunk, and the stilt roots, which form a dense cone up to 1 m in diameter at the base.” It is also surrounded by a brown shell covering that can be removed and either left naturally as a cream color, or can be dyed as well.

Acai:

pambil

This is the smallest of the seeds we use. It is pronounced ah-s-ah-ee, and it is found in the tropical Amazon rain forest. It has recently been popularized in the United States as a super food for its rich antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and you can find it in juices, body products and supplements.

It has also been used by indigenous tribes for centuries as one of their most important sources of daily nutrition, and has been cultivated also for building materials and artisan crafts using its palm leaves and seeds. It also mostly cultivated as a source for hearts of palm! Delicious.

But here at the Mushpa + Mensa studio, we use it as the third in the trio of our sustainable seed collection.

tagua-pambil-necklace

All of these seeds are free from petroleum based products like many conventional beads, and free from animal cruelty. They are harvested by local communities as a source of income, and their popularization in recent years has allowed for many of these communities to build themselves up from the sustainable sources that the tropical rain-forests of Ecuador provides.

Now that you have a better knowledge of our trio of seeds, take a look at our shop and see what inspires you!

-Mensa

What to Read Next: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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dinah-eyes

I must admit I do not devour books. Reading was not something I grew up with as a child, but I have learned to become a better reader over time. Every time I finish a book, I find some sort of peace. I seek out knowledge through books, and I try to read a little every day. Sometimes though, a book captures me in such a way, that I become obsessed with the world inside it. I live it, I dream about it, think about it and it consumes me. The Red Tent was one of these books.

The subject matter? Women of ancient times. Specifically one woman: Dinah, mentioned only once in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. Her story comes to life. Her youth, her traditions, and the red tent. A place where women of ancient civilizations used to gather during the new moon, to observe their menses, and bring ritual and in some cases honor the life bearing blood that fills wombs every month.

Not only did the story of Dinah, daughter of Lea, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah bring knowledge of ancient womanhood practices, including midwifery and births, marriage, sex, and a young girls turning of age through her period. My journey with these women, made me understand the strength of the covens that formed during times where their stories, and names were barely mentioned.

red-tent

This story is rooted on the Bible story of “The Rape of Dinah” in Genesis 34, where the episode of her violation by Shechem is later avenged by her brothers Simeon and Levi on the city of Hamor, father of Shechem.

The Bible is a book where the female is scantly sacred, where lineage is remembered by fathers, and where the births of sons is most honorably, and women’s honor is due for the rise of power for man and tribe. Anita Diamant transforms the stories of Laban, Rachel, Lea, Jacob and Joseph and flips it on its head. She remains true to the old written word, but delves into a world lost by time filling in the gaps of Dinah’s story.  A woman’s world where magic, wisdom, strength and faith are rooted on the spirit of the female.

I give praise to The Red Tent, for it gave me sight into a world where eyes need to go, where women ought to be honored, and most of all remembered.

If you love history, if you want knowledge of ancient womanhood, and if you want to dive deep into a story of love, magic and blood, then I invite you to open the pages of this book.

Thank you to the author, and thank you to Dinah, whatever your real story may have been, today we remember you had a story too, and we honor your story now.

With love,

-Mensa

To Dance is To Pray…To Pray is to Heal

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A little food for the soul.

Enjoy.

Much love to all. May you fly, may you dance, may your soul be filled with joy.

– Mensa

Ps. I love you my mushpa!

Vegan Arepas con Curtido Fusion Recipe

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Arepas, Pupusas, Gorditas. Different maize (or corn meal) patties made slightly different in many Latin American countries. Delicious either way you eat them. A food that is economical, and so versatile it can be stuffed with literally anything you could imagine, from eggs and avocados, to meats and of course, the classic, cheese…ohh quesito!

pupusa

I decided to make Arepas once we started reaching the back row products in our kitchen cabinet. Somehow, we always end up getting the most creative when we have less resources. But I cannot complain. Even when we are low on food in the cabinets we often feel like our life is full of richness. Cheesy, I know, but true. And Cheesy is always good… as the recipe below will show you.

These Arepas were a simple recipe. Basic. Paired with cabbage salad, usually accompanying Salvadorean Pupusas. Here is the recipe. Go make them. Delicious. I used corn meal called P.A.N. This is what my mother gave me, and it is what I have read, the most commonly used corn meal.

arepas

For the Arepas:

2 1/2 cups of water                                                                                                                                            2 cups of PAN – Harina de maiz (pre-cooked corn meal)                                                                   1 teaspoon of salt.                                                                                                                                             Oil                                                                                                                                                                         vegan cheese for stuffing

Pour water and salt into a container. Mix well. Start pouring the corn meal slowly, while mixing. Make sure you don’t get any lumps! When all is mixed, knead the dough until it is smooth, and let rest for a few minutes (3-5 minutes).

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Oil your pan, or griddle  a little bit on medium to low heat. Place patties and fry them until they brown in one side, and then the next. About 5 minutes each side. The lower the heat, the better, as you want the water inside to dry out a bit. Ideally when you knock on one with a knife, it should sound hollow or like an echo. The lower the heat, the longer they will be on the pan.

Place them in an oven at 325 degrees and let them cook for about 10 more minutes.

Cut them open in half, and stuff with a small palm full of cheese. Veggies and Protein are also an option!

arepas-2

For the Curtido:

1/2 head cabbage, a carrot, and a yellow onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar/ maple syrup/ honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or Italian seasoning
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

You can use a bag of ready coleslaw as I did this time (excluded the onions). Mix all vegetables in a bowl. Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl, and then pour over cabbage mix. You can let it rest for a few minutes, while you season the arepas, but 2 hours or evnn the day after rest will absorb the flavors the best.

Serve along side the arepas and ENJOY!

Buen provecho,

Mensa

So Many Pens, So Little Time

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pen-pile

I have been saving pens, markers and mechanical pencils when they die for a long time now. I store them away in the utility room like some crazy hoarder. I have no idea what I will do with them all, but I know dumping toxic plastic into a landfill at the rate I would is not an option.

Honestly, we don’t buy so many pens in the Mushpa + Mensa household, they just appear from everywhere and nowhere. Actually, Mensa came home from visiting her family with a huge pen caddy full of pens, pens and more pens, most which were dried out. Last night they joined the rest of my dead pen collection and I thought, okay now is the time to figure out where these pens need to go to start their second life.

Here is what I discovered:

mercedes-pens-side-1The Pen Guy – He makes art out of pens. He covered his Mercedes Benz with pens… I mean come on, that’s cool and eco as long as the car never ends up in a landfill! The Pen Guy, collects and reuses thousands of pens in his art that would otherwise be thrown out. Donate your Ball Point, Dry Erase, Crayola, Felt Tip, Markers, Mechanical Pencils or any other type of pen and experience the transformation into beautiful recycled pen art. Here is where you can send the pens and keep them out of the landfill.

The Pen Guy – P.O.Box 994 – Forestville, CA 95436

If you are sending via UPS or FEDEX please address it to:

The Pen Guy – 6484 Mirabel Road, #994 Forestville, CA

teracycleTerracycle – They have boxes you can buy to recycle pens. Acceptable waste for this box are pens, pen caps, mechanical pencils, markers, marker caps, permanent markers, and permanent marker caps. Then the plastics undergo extrusion (a high-volume manufacturing process in which raw plastic is melted and formed into a continuous profile) and pelletization (the process of compressing or molding a material into the shape of a pellet) to be molded into new recycled plastic products. Terracycle also has a very helpful link to free recycling programs like for Brita and Pure water filters, guitar stings, cigarette waste and tons of other stuff!

pang recycling program

The Prang Power Recycling Program – If you use Prang art pens, they offer you a free recycling program for said pens.

There isn’t a multitude of options out there for pen recycling, but there is something. That means we can all do something. Also, invest in a pen or mechanical pencil you can refill. I am going to once I exhaust the last pen in this house! I will keep you abreast of the situation.

“People” say you do not really need pens or pencils anymore with all the electronics out there, but for me holding a pen in my hand is more organic and honestly where my truth comes from. I wake up every morning and write on paper using a pen for a half hour or so. It manifests my destiny, so I will keep on with it, but in a more environmentally conscientious way.

Here’s to you Mama Earth.

Love,

Mushpa + Mensa

Avocado Egg Salad Recipe

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Avocado Egg Salad

Avocado Egg Salad on Homemade Vegan Wheat Bread

Avocado Egg Salad Recipe

 

2 small organic avocados, peeled
6 hard boiled free range organic eggs
1/4 cup organic mayonnaise
6 chopped organic green onions
1 and 1/2 tablespoons organic lemon juice
6 to 8 shakes of smoked paprika, depends on how much you love it
sea salt and pepper to taste

 

 

 

  1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs (they should sit in a single layer). I use my Le Creuset Cast-Iron 1-Quart Oval (Dutch) French Oven so the eggs can rest in said single layer with no drama! Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan; let sit for 13 minutes (15 minutes if you’re cooking a dozen).
  2. Drain the water and immediately run cold water over the eggs. Transfer eggs to an ice bath and allow eggs to chill for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel and roughly chop the hard boiled eggs.
  4. Add the avocado to a mixing bowl with the mayonnaise, green onions, lemon juice, smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper. Mash the avocados, leaving them slightly chunky if desired. Add the chopped hard boiled eggs and stir well to combine. I like to let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes so the flavors work themselves into each other, but it is not necessary. Eat on toasted bread with watercress or greens of choice. I also will put it on a romaine lettuce leaf and eat it like an egg salad lettuce taco!

It’s delicious!

Recipe by Mushpa (aka Cara)

The BEST Women’s March Speeches Breaking Down the Truth. Amen.

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We are fired up!

This is such a special time in our American History, and I am proud to be alive in these times. The Women’s March on Washington is most likely going to go down in our history books as the start of another wave of feminism, and this time, WE WILL NOT STEP BACK.

Mushpa + Mensa were unable to hitch a ride to DC, and maybe all happened for a reason. We were meant to stay at our own city rally in Wilmington, NC. We stayed in our home town, made signs, and shouted, chanted, and participated in the Wilmington’s Sister Women’s March. What a phenomenal experience. Even more amazing was coming back home and seeing the pictures and videos of ALL THOSE WOMEN. Men and children also there supporting. Political figures, icons, celebrities, artists, and humans from all walks of life. All these little pink hats, all these powerful signs. So much to say, yet such unity in our voice. Despite the hiccups of  what it means to be part of this march (Can a pro-lifer still be a feminist? Is there space for white woman oppression?) the energy was ONE.

I am so proud of all of us. This light inside me grows. The strength in me grows, and so does the motivation. We are awake, and ready to go.

Despite not being in Washington physically, our collective energy filled every corner of the world, from Berlin, to Paris, from London to Costa Rica. This is not an American movement. This is WORLD WIDE.

The internet has united us, and I have witnessed some amazing and moving moments from the Women’s March. Here a few favorites. I hope you play them, enjoy them, and let them fill you with hope, motivation, and furious energy to fight this culture of hate, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and darkness that has crept up to a mainstream platform.

Without further ado, press play, and may the force be with you.

-Mensa

“We too must stand united….if we fall into the trap of separating ourselves by our causes and our labels, then we will weaken our fight, and we will lose. But if we commit to what aligns us, if we stand together steadfast and determined, then we stand a chance at saving the soul of our country.” -America Ferrera

“I’m not nasty like the combo of Trump and Pence being served up to me in my voting booth. I’m nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought to get me into that voting booth…We are here to be respected. We are here to be nasty!” -Nina Donovan interpreted by Ashley Judd

“We are the people. We have people power, and we will use it…This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life. It is wide in age, it is deep in diversity, and remember: the constitution does not begin with “I the president”, it begins with “We the People.” So do not try to divide us…” -Gloria Steinem

The 4 things we need to do according to Michael Moore:

1. Call Congress every single day (1 rep in the house, 2 senators) 202-225-3121
2.  JOIN A GROUP!
3. Form your own rapid response team: people that you will call, when we need to move fast. 10 people
4.Form regions of resistance. Blue states and cities. The country will follow your lead!
5. YOU have to RUN for OFFICE!

No More Boys Will Be Boys

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Watch all three videos and see.

I started this Blog entry today, as we here at Mushpa + Mensa want to start backing charities we believe in. Every month we will give 10% of our income to a charity we pick each month and promote in our blog, newsletter and on our website. This is something we have wanted to do and in 2017 we are making it happen!

The first charity we are covering will be End the Backlog. It is a is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national non-profit organization founded by actress and activist Mariska Hargitay with the mission to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. We heard about this organization as Cara (me) is obsessed with, My Favorite Murder, a podcast by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark about, you guessed it, murder. Each episode the girls tell each other their favorite tales of murder, and hear hometown crime stories from friends and fans. Check your anxiety at the door, ’cause Karen & Georgia are dying to discuss death. They gave 50% of their sales or MFM products for 1 month to End the Backlog.

In Joyful Heart Foundation‘s own words End the Backlog is the cornerstone of Joyful Heart’s Policy & Advocacy work, focuses on shining a light on the rape kit backlog in the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it; expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials; and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. Ultimately, we seek to change attitudes about sexual violence and abuse, educate the public, improve systems to lessen the trauma survivors experience and ensure greater access to justice for survivors. 

With this new person, whose name I shall not speak, in office we must fight this rape culture, now more than ever. Ladies, men, children, let’s do this. Buy our organic cotton and upcycled stuff and we will work to #changetheculture. I love you ladies!

We are women, HEAR US ROAR!

-Cara aka Mushpa

Last Minute Women’s March Sign Ideas

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If you are anything like us, we can get real close to the time of whatever-it-may-be and then get what needs to be done, last minute style, done. Don’t get us wrong, we do it well under pressure. The Women’s March tomorrow is no different. We are going to wake up around 7AM to get our signs done to get out to our local Wilmington, NC Women’s March. I did some image research and quote digging and came up with 10 good sign suggestions off the World Wide Web.

  1. We go high.
  2. Your silence will not protect you.
  3. Nasty Woman
  4. “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” Voltaire
  5. Hate Kills
  6. “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.” Audre Lorde
  7. Woman’s place is in the resistance. (in reference to Carrie Fisher…Princess Leigh….Star Wars. You get it.)
  8. I am stronger than fear.
  9. Truth matters.
  10. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”  Alice Walker

Get your recycled pieces of boxes, cardboard, old sheets and get to creating. We will collectively be with every human at every women’s march tomorrow. We love you.

womens-marchLove trumps hate. Be brave.

Cara and Maria Emilia

10 Best Stability Ball Exercises to Improve Your Yoga Practice!

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So I got a yoga ball for Christmas from my dear Mushpa! (Thank you to her, specially for inflating it as she tells me it was quite tedious and it took forever!)

My yoga ball is also called a stability ball, exercise ball, fitness ball, but for today’s purpose I will refer to it as my yoga ball.

yoga-ball

It is from Black Mountain Products and it is a professional grade stability ball that is “exceptionally durable…designed for gym, office and home use. Each pro series ball is designed to hold 2000 lbs. of static weight and is Anti-burst resistance up to 1000 lbs. of static weight. Black Mountain Products gym balls can improve your core strength, balance and overall agility. Each exercise ball is designed with dense walls for the ultimate support and durability for any use.” Check out this video for a demo. But you of course can get it from anywhere you’d like, in any color you’d like!

Depending on your height, you can choose from several sizes including 45 cm (5′ and under) 55 cm (5′ to 5′ 6″ tall) 65 cm (5’6″ to 6′ tall) and 75 cm (6′ to 6 5″) and 85 cm (6′ 5″ or taller).

If you want to use it as an OFFICE CHAIR ALTERNATIVE, some  awesome perks include:

  • Forces proper spine alignment since you have to keep a straight spine to say balanced.
  • Causes you to change positions often, and not stay stagnant in a regular sitting position.
  • Fitness is a roll away…If you need a mini workout or stretching session, your equipment is right there! Convenience!
  • Improves balance due to the constant readjustment your body does throughout your working day.
  • Works your core muscles without you even working hard for it, meaning it also burns some extra calories.
  • The constant movement improves circulation=more energy throughout the day.
  • It’s Fun! Bounce while you work…need I say more?

 

I searched throughout the internet for a proper yoga ball practice to better my daily yoga practice and poses, and found  many videos and blogs, but not one that encompassed all I was looking for… So I have gathered here the BEST 10 Yoga Ball Exercises to Improve Your Daily Practice! I included my cute drawings to help you get a visual. 🙂

 

  1. Moving Forward Plank: You start with your ball at the end of the mat and set your belly on it, and slowly walk your hands to the front of the mat. You can stop at your thighs, or for a bigger challenge move further down to your shins. Make sure your elbows align with your shoulders. Hold 10-30 seconds. Advanced: Do so with one leg up, hold, and then switch legs and hold.yoga-1
  2. Core Sit Up on a Ball: Begin by laying on the ball with your hands in your head, with bent knees at a 90 degree with your feet on the floor. Roll yourself forward and up, and back. One sit up. Then do it again. 20 times.
  3. yoga-2
  4. Back Stretch to Wheel: This one is delicious but can be intense. Lay on your ball with your feet on the ground ( bent knees at 90 degrees) and start rolling back with your arms back as if you were to fall back on wheel. Your arms don’t have to touch the ground. Reach for the ground for a deeper stretch. Advanced: If you are feeling like a baller, then use the ball to bend into a full wheel pose!yoga-3
  5. Feet + Hands Play Ball: Lay down with the ball between your feet. Lift the ball with your feet and pull towards your hands, and grab the ball with your hands. Hold the ball all the way back and before it touches the ground bring it back to meet your feet again. Let your feet and hands play ball! Advanced: Do this while you hold your head up, and every time you bring your feet down, don’t let them touch the ground.yoga-8
  6.  Back Stretch On your Knees: Place the ball in front of you about a hand print away, and place your hands on the side of the ball facing your belly. Start pushing the ball forward and bend  forward, until you feel the stretch on your back while you push your tailbone up. It should feel super nice!yoga-4
  7. Back Stretch Standing Up: This is the same concept as above, but you start standing up with your hands right above the ball, bending forward. Then roll the ball forward to create a stretch in your back.yoga-7
  8.  Circle Hips: Sit on your ball with your legs slightly open to create balance, and start rolling your hips in a circular motion. This one is fun! Reverse direction. Advanced: Add your arms by lifting them straight up with palms facing each other.      yoga-6                    SURPRISE STRETCH!: This is a stretch I saw from youtuber Marlita McKinney (minute 7:22), and is a Free Form Stretch! She does it so beautifully, and she gets so into it its almost like a modern dance performance. So put a good jam on, feel your energy and move and flow to where your soul calls! yoga-12
  9. Plank with Leg + Arm Lifts: Lay belly down on your ball to a plank. Shoulders aligned with hands. Lift your RIGHT leg up, and your LEFT arm up, and hold. Move back to plank, and do the other side: LEFT leg up, and RIGHT arm up. This is a tough one in terms of balancing, but with practice we can make it work!yoga-9
  10. Yoga Pike on Your Knees: This is a challenge, but super fun!  Start with the ball in your belly to a plank (Exercise 1. Moving Forward Plank) Start raising your hips up with control while the ball moves forward and your tailbone is pushing to the sky, and bring your knees in towards your chest. Then pull back and reverse the direction to plank.  This video is helpful.  Advanced: You can lift one leg while you do this, and then the other.yoga-10
  11. Full Pike to Head Stand!: The final and most challenging, but when we master it, so rewarding! So same concept as above, but instead of bringing you knees in, you pull your tailbone up and roll to your toes! Make sure your shoulders are aligned with your hands, and your butt aligned with your head. This will prep you for a full hand stand. Advanced: Move from the tip of your toes, into a full headstand! Voila! yoga-11

SHAVASANA with YOGA BALL: Last but not least you can always take you Shavasana with your legs up on the ball!yoga-5

These are my  10 Best Stability Ball Exercises to Improve your Yoga Practice!

Enjoy!

Mensa