Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Recipe: Quick, Simple, & Delicious Granola

Hey Earth Muffins! With social distancing comes lots of FaceTime sessions with family and friends, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, and getting a little creative in the kitchen. In order to protect myself and those around me, I have been avoiding going to the grocery store as much as possible, which means I have explored every forgotten nook and cranny in my pantry, fridge, and freezer! After finding a mason jar full of natural mixed nuts I had purchased from the bulk bins a couple of months ago, I did a little Pinterest research and realized that I had all of the ingredients necessary to make a totally delicious treat: granola! It seems like making granola is a pretty creative process, so I found a base recipe but modified it as I went. I thought it turned out great, so I wanted to share my recipe with you!

A picture of a Ball mason jar filled with homemade mixed nut and oat granola

-1 cup of nuts. This could be your favorite nut (such as almonds, pecans, etc.) or a mixed. I used natural nuts, but I am sure any type of unsalted/lightly salted nut will do. Make sure to stay sustainable and shop in the bulk bins (if you aren’t sure how, here are my tips!).

-2 cups of old-fashioned oats

-1 tsp cinnamon

-1/4 tsp salt

-3 tbsp canola oil. If you are trying to make this healthier, I suggest using coconut oil or your other favorite oils in a (sustainable) glass jar!

-2 tbsp maple syrup or honey. I personally used one of each and thought it tasted great, so use whatever you think tastes the best.

-3 tbsp of brown sugar

What to Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking tray (preferably one with edges) with a silicone baking mat (if you have one; if not, don’t worry about it your granola will still turn out!).

2. Chop up your nuts using a sharp chef knife. If you aren’t into various sized pieces you could do this in a food processor, but I personally like the mixed sizes in my granola (plus you get to practice some of your knife skills!).

3. Add chopped nuts and oats into a large bowl. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and salt; mix to get the nuts/oats evenly coated.

4. In a small saucepan, stir together the oil, maple syrup and/or honey, and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved. This only took about threeish minutes over medium-low heat, so make sure you keep stirring so none of the sugar burns!

5. Add the liquid to the nuts/oats and mix until everything is nice and coated.

6. Evenly spread the granola onto the prepared tray. The key word is “evenly”, as you don’t want some bits to be less cooked than others.

7. Pop into the oven for 12 minutes. Take the tray out and toss the granola to ensure both sides get cooked!

8. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, until the mixture is golden brown. Don’t worry – the mixture will still be soft when you take it out, as the granola will harden as it cools!

9. Let cool to room temperature before eating, enjoying, and/or storing in an airtight container in the pantry.

A picture of a white bowl filled with homemade mixed nut granola with the words The Greatest Granola around it
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And there you have it, a simple recipe for tasty granola that can be served on top of plain Greek yogurt, in a bowl with some almond milk, or even by itself! I love eating it in place of cereal for breakfast, as I can’t find any bulk cereal around where I live and don’t enjoy having to throw away the plastic bag and recycle the cardboard box… Especially now that I will not have to go to campus in a rush every morning to get to class (the one perk of online courses!) there is no reason for me to eat a lot of cereal; I will definitely be playing around with some other granola/breakfast-y recipes in the near future! 

What do you think about granola for breakfast? Comment below and don't forget to follow Life of an Earth Muffin to never miss another post!


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Friday, March 27, 2020

Everything to Know About Endorsement Disclosures πŸ“£

Hey Earth Muffins! This past semester I decided to take an elective called “Law of Marketing” in my master’s program. While it clearly doesn’t have anything to do with accounting, I thought it would be an interesting topic to learn about to take a break from all of those debits and credits. In this course, we had a whole unit about endorsements that taught me SO much about what us bloggers and "influencers" must do to follow the rules set forth by the FTC. As I had no clue what these regulations were before taking this course, I thought I would share a summary with you all today to ensure that you all are properly disclosing your endorsements and/or testimonials.

A parody of the For Dummies series with the words Endorsement Disclosures for Influencers and an image of the social media apps on an iPhone
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First up, what the heck is the FTC? The FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, is an independent agency of the government that heavily focuses on consumer protection. Alongside things like endorsements, they also focus on antitrust law (under the FTC Act) and the advertising of cosmetics, foods, etc. The FTC works with the FDA as well over topics like supplements and prescription drugs, to monitor how these products are being advertised to customers. If you are interested in learning more details about this agency, I suggest checking out their website!

Now that we know who regulates endorsements, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is an “endorsement”? An endorsement is either when an advertiser gives you something of value to mention a product OR gives you something of value with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the advertiser’s product.

Company A pays you $20 to talk about a product – Endorsement!
Company B sends you free products in exchange for a blog post – Endorsement!
Company C sends you free products expecting you to talk about it in a YouTube video – That’s right, Endorsement!

If you have been blogging for quite some time, you have most likely been a part of an endorsement with a brand (I know I definitely have!). While it is easy to classify these transactions as an endorsement, the tricky part is knowing when you MUST disclose that it is such.

A picture of a phone with an influencer's pageview statistics on the screen

So, when must I disclose an endorsement? To put it simply, you are required to disclose if:

1. There is a connection between the endorser and the marketer that readers would not expect 
2. The connection affects how readers evaluate the endorsement (this criteria is always met if you receive payment or product!) 

If a significant minority of your readers is confused as to how you are connected to a brand (considering the whole population of readers/consumers of your media), I regret to inform you that you must disclose the endorsement!

You write a review about free makeup products sent by Company A – Must be disclosed!
You write a negative review about clothes sent by Company B who paid you $50 – Must be disclosed (yes, even if the review is negative!)

If you have been sponsored/endorsed by a brand for a long amount of time (I’m thinking of major athletes with brands like Nike), you do not have to disclose every single endorsement because consumers/readers DO expect the connection.

A picture of two hands holding an iPhone, taking a picture of food

Now that you know you have an endorsement AND you know that you must disclose, what is a "sufficient disclosure"? A sufficient disclosure is one that is both clear and conspicuous. The level of being easily understood and easily seen does depend on what platform you are using:

Blog posts – must disclose upfront in your post! Using “sponsored” in a title is usually enough, but you must let your readers know that it is an endorsement. Unfortunately, disclosing in tiny print at the bottom of a post will not cut it (which is what I used to do before learning these rules).

Social media posts (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) – must disclose upfront in the caption! Starting the caption with #ad is the ideal but there are many other options. Just thanking the brand is NOT enough; likewise, burying a #sponsored or #gifted in the middle of many hashtags is also NOT sufficient disclosure.

YouTube videos – must disclose at the start of the video AND in the title of the video. Again, putting a “this video is sponsored by Company X” in the bottom of the description box is NOT enough for sufficient disclosure.

After reading over these rules, you might be thinking to yourself that no one actually follows them… And you are partly right. If you watch a thousand YouTube videos and read a thousand blog posts, you will notice that the majority (if not all) of influencers do not actually adhere to the FTC’s rules. Is this because they aren’t aware of the rules? Probably. Even if they did know the rules, would they be ignored because “sponsored” content doesn’t seem as genuine as non-sponsored? Probably. But before you take this same point of view, know that the FTC has started to target major influencers who are not following these rules and will continue to do so (as one of its major goals currently is to improve this area). While you might be able to rationalize the fact that you are not a “major influencer” and will not be at risk, I personally would rather start using this best practice now than face any negative consequences in the future. Trust me, you can still make high quality endorsed content even with a small disclosure attached.

Overall, I hope this post was helpful for all of you! I know I learned a lot during my course, so I tried to fit as much information as possible into this summary. If you want to learn more about the rules or have any specific questions, I suggest looking at the FTC’s Endorsement Guides; these are great resources to look over if you have the time!

What are your thoughts on influencer endorsements? Comment below and don't forget to follow Life of an Earth Muffin to never miss another post!


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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Can a Trip to Disney World be Zero Waste?!

Hey Earth Muffins! Wow – it feels great writing an actual post for you all! If you read my latest updates, you will know that my boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Disney World over spring break, before all the craziness of Mister Corona started. We definitely lucked out with timing, as most (if not all) of the Disney parks are now closed due to the pandemic (please stay safe out there everyone!). After my boyfriend and I had picked our destination, I was excited to see if visiting Disney parks is possible when you are zero waste or, like me, trying to be as low waste as possible. We were in Orlando, FL for only a total of 4 days and hit up two different parks: Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

Image of Cinderella castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom with the words Doing Disney Zero Waste across it
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So the big question is, can a trip to Disney be sustainable? For the short answer: yes, it is totally possible to stay sustainable when hitting up one of Disney’s parks. BUT, it does require some effort. From our experience, I wanted to share some of my suggestions for making a trip to Disney World as low waste as possible.

Take advantage of the fact that you can bring bags into the park. My parents gifted me an adorable mini backpack purse for Christmas, so I was able to bring food and my 8 oz stainless steel water bottle into the park with me. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to bring in metal, but Disney is apparently only strict about no glass in the parks. That being said, you can bring in as many reusable containers as you want, which is awesome if you are wanting to reduce single use items when it comes to food and water as well as save a lot of money with how expensive Disney food is. There are plenty of water fountains around the parks too, so don’t worry about running out of water!

Reuse your Magic Band if you have been to Disney before (or are an Annual Passholder). Even if your band was linked to a different account you are able to re-link it to a new account, which saves you from having a plastic card/ticket to enter the parks and use for FastPass. If this is your first time to the park, no worries! Save your Magic Band for either your next trip or give to family/friends who will be going (who can then re-link the band to their own account).

Use the My Disney Experience app instead of paper maps, menus, etc. The Disney app has everything you could possibly need during your visit including wait times, maps, dinner reservations, booking FastPasses, etc. Make sure that someone in your group has a phone that has a battery that will last all day or bring a travel charger if you have one.

Image of the Tangled area at Disney's Magic Kingdom in OrlandoTake advantage of the dinner reservation feature of the app and take a break by eating in instead of eating out! Many of the Instagram worthy mouse shaped treats come with a lot of waste in tow… Even though Disney did make the switch to paper straws, single use items are still mainly used. If you have the financial resources, try a sit-down restaurant instead! My boyfriend and I had been gifted a bunch of Disney gift cards before our trip, so we definitely took advantage of eating in and found some really tasty food along the way!

Eat vegetarian/vegan options! On the topic of food, I suggest reducing your impact on the planet by utilizing the many vegetarian and vegan options at Disney. I have been a pescatarian since August (a post to come on this adventure in the near future!) and was excited to learn about all of the great options they have in their parks. Many of the take-out options are pretty customizable when it comes to removing meat from say a Greek salad (the price will also be less).

Reduce your food waste by ordering off the kid’s menu. I’ll be the first to admit that my stomach is the size of a large snail. Okay, it’s probably bigger than that, but I get full SO easily. To prevent throwing away half of a meal, I would definitely recommend either splitting or ordering from the kid’s menu. No one at Disney cares if you aren’t 12 and under (I promise!), and the meals are actually quite large, healthy, and cheaper than the adult versions of the same thing.

Use alternative transportation to get to the parks! Reduce the emissions from yet another car going to Disney and use the many other forms of transportation available in Orlando. Many of the resorts and outside hotels have shuttle services or take an UberPool instead.

Buy your Mickey merch at the thrift store (or borrow from family/friends) BEFORE you get to the park. While thrifting for Disney apparel is definitely a trial and error process because of the brand’s popularity, it can be done. After keeping my eye out for a couple of months, I found an adorable Mickey shirt for only $0.25 at one of the local thrift stores in Ann Arbor! I actually saw a woman wearing the same exact shirt at Magic Kingdom, but my impact on the planet was much much smaller. If you aren’t having any luck, try borrowing clothes (and even Mickey ears) from family or friends. This will also save you hella coin at the parks!

Be smart with your souvenir choices and avoid all plastic ones! I won’t sit here and tell you to not buy a souvenir at all because then I would be a hypocrite. But, you can still buy things at the parks that aren’t terrible for the environment. We bought a couple of paper postcards to use as wall dΓ©cor (which can then be recycled if we ever get bored of them) and then a glass ornament for our Christmas tree. While avoiding plastic souvenirs gets much harder when you have kids, try to steer your eager shopper towards something that will last a long time like a metal pin, glass figurine, etc.

Image of Cinderella Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom with a heart drawn in the corner

Overall, I think you can definitely make your trip at Disney a sustainable one! Like any situation, you just need to be cognizant of the impact your decisions will have. But, don’t feel like your whole trip has to be fully sustainable! I personally feel like doing my best to live zero/low waste 90% of the time is totally fine because I am still doing a ton to help out the planet. If you want to splurge on a plastic Elsa doll or a Mickey ice cream sandwich in plastic wrap 10% of the time, I say go for it! We all deserve a little extra at the happiest place in the world.


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Friday, March 20, 2020

I'm BACK & the World is Officially a Mess!

Hey Earth Muffins! I am back in the blogosphere and I must say – I definitely missed it! This will be my first post in 2020, which is (for sure) overdue. It seems like the world around us is 100% a mess right now, so I thought I would share some life updates with you all and set the expectations for the upcoming months on Life of an Earth Muffin.

To start things off, I am excited to announce that I officially passed my first CPA exam!! I started studying for FAR at the end of December and took it the last week of February before my Spring Break. This exam is notoriously the hardest, so I wanted to get it out of the way first so that the rest of my studying will just get easier. Now that I know that I passed, I have started studying for the second most challenging exam, REG, and will be taking it the first week of May.

The most challenging part of studying full-time for these exams is the fact that I am also a full-time graduate student with a whole lot of other classes to do work for. However, thanks to the Coronavirus, the University of Michigan has completely shut down and all of my courses are now online. While this is a challenge in itself (I don’t know if you have ever tried to virtually take a class, but it isn’t the easiest thing!), I now have a lot more free time since I don’t need to commute by bus to campus or waste time in between classes. I, unfortunately, lost my two campus jobs because of the shutdown as well, which also results in more time for CPA studying (yay me!).

So where am I at currently? As my apartment is off-campus quite a ways and I live by myself (my roommate graduated back in December), I am continuing to live in Ann Arbor and am protecting myself and others by staying inside as much as possible.

As you can imagine I have plenty of time to get my class work and CPA studying done, so I thought I would spend some of this free time blogging… Which I missed SO much more than I thought I would during my three-ish month break.

My boyfriend and I went to Disney World over Spring Break, and I did a lot of journaling by our hotel pool about upcoming posts I would like to write for Life of an Earth Muffin. As finishing up my master’s program and studying for the CPAs are still my number one priority right now (and of course keeping myself healthy from the Corona!), I don’t plan on sticking to any posting schedule. This might result in a couple of posts each week, one post a week, or even one post a month depending on how busy I am and how much screen time I have endured during the day (as blue light headaches are definitely real!).

I would like to end this post by thanking everyone for the support as I went on this break, and I look forward to writing some quality content for you all in the upcoming future! The Earth Muffin family is SO close to hitting 1,000 followers, which I never would have thought possible when I started my blog many years ago. Please take the necessary precautions to stay safe during this troubling time in the world; I hope you all are excited for the revival of Life of an Earth Muffin, because I know I am!


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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Goodbye for Now.... But I'll Still Be Around!

Hey earth muffins! I didn't expect to be writing this post any time soon, but I have made the final decision to put Life of an Earth Muffin on the back burner right now... If you read my recent Updates post, you will know that I just started studying for my CPAs. And, let me tell you, it is quite the time consuming process.

I don't think it is right for me to add extra stress on myself to stick to a posting schedule or right to you all who would be reading less exciting/interesting/"good" content if I rush through my posts.... πŸ˜• So, it seems like the best thing for me is to hold off on this blog for a few months until the exams are done and my masters program is finished.

I PROMISE I will be back (who knows, maybe I will write a post here and there!) - this blog is such a great outlet for me that I would never stop writing on it for good. 😊 Plus, there are a bunch of exciting topics I will be able to write about once I return:

-Success tips for major standardized exams (okay okay probably not exciting to most people)
-Reflections about graduate school
-Moving to a new city to start my career (and finally living with my boyfriend!)
-Actually having an apartment/house to myself to continue my zero waste journey! 

I would like to thank you all for the incredible support you have given me, and I hope that you stick around during my absense. ❤️


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