Showing posts with label simplicity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label simplicity. Show all posts

Plastic Free July {observation}

10.26.2016

I want to participate in Plastic Free July and make it a wholly plastic free month sometime. They encourage disuse of single use plastics - most of which I avoid anyway (shopping bags, straws, plastic water bottles, coffee cups/lids) - for the month. But I'd like to go all the way.

Eventually.

But as of right now my plastic usage, mostly in the form of food packaging, would be too overwhelming to try to just stop cold turkey. My tired mama brain might implode.

Maybe next year. But, for now, it's one bite at a time. So, when Slow Your Home (awesome podcast!) suggested participating in it, I took one week in July to observe the plastic use in my life and then the next week I kept track of every plastic thing I threw away - trying to keep it as authentic as possible. In doing this, I hoped to find a few things I could cut out while I worked on a longer term solution for the more overwhelming things ... like all the food packaging!

Zero waste is a highly respected lifestyle in my book, but there have to be small steps to get there. (Besides plastic, the next biggest thing we throw in the garbage is food scraps - which kills me, especially since I've researched composting! I just need to find the right system for our small place and pull the trigger. More on that to come.)

My week of observation found that we trashed:

16 plastic food wrappers
12 plastic container lids (not recyclable in our area)
1 styrofoam meat tray and plastic wrap
7 dental flossers
9 disposable diapers
8 misc items (mailer plastic, gift wrappers, etc.)

Yes, I kept track. Yes, I know I'm a nerd. :-)

It may not seem like a ton (even with the diapers, it probably would only fill a small bag) but it's a lot considering that it is possible to find and purchase meat and produce without plastic. It just takes some doing.

The one single use thing I'd like to do away with is the dental flossers. I hate using the regular stuff that you wrap around your fingers and end up in a spitty, gross mess - the flossers are way more motivating. BUT is there something I could use that doesn't require throwing out plastic? (Plastic that, btw, that once made will never disappear from the earth.) Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home suggests using a gum stimulator. Ever seen the rubber thing on the end of a toothbrush? I never really knew what they were for, but I'm considering getting one, watching a YouTube tutorial, and seeing if by my next dental appointment it helps or hurts my teeth! Whatcha think?

Also, I'll be rid of the disposable diapers (nighttime use) once my son decides that sleeping through the night is a desirable thing to do, but until then I'm allowing myself that convenience for nighttime sanity. You win some, you lose some.

What do you think? Is reducing plastic consumption even something you think about? Would you ever experiment with a plastic free July?

(Next year! Next year!)

Acting Globally (and why I'm messed up)

4.15.2014

When you live in a rich county in the middle of America, with your friends, church and little family in a nice little home ... it's quite convenient to disappear into lifeassuch and forget.

For me, it doesn't happen very often. But sometimes, I forget what I've seen, who I know, and my responsibility as a global citizen. 

________________

James 2:14-17 (NLT, emphasis mine)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well" -- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
________________

I believe this more a result of an inability to act - in truth, I am stuck. I literally have contemplated this for months: what do I, a wife and mother in suburbia with fairly small resources, do to care for the wider world?

My perspective has been broadened, my heart opened to the things of the world, I cannot return to my previous bliss. There are faces I cannot and will not forget. I also cannot return to life in the third world. I am literally stuck between worlds. I feel the duality.

It has me messed up. (And I'm glad.)

I've accepted that after living in a third world county, I will struggle with these issues for the rest of my life. (Joking with a friend, I mentioned that since I have mini life-crises every few months, maybe I will avoid the big mid-life crisis?)

But I've felt ready to act. Yet I have been unable to find any outlet to satisfy this desire.

So sometimes it's just easier to "forget" and get caught up in daily life. I am supposed to be present here and now. Right?

But, as healthy as living in the present is, something in my life is missing. There is a disconnect between my thoughts and actions. Do I just resign myself to feeling this way? Or do I work to resolve it in some way?

I feel an enormous yearning to "make my feelings, actions and life congruent" (Voluntary Simplicity, p. 36).


This article (written by an ex-pat too!) takes the "think globally, act locally" to a different place - and a perspective I really like - think and act locally.

Yes, please. I love the idea of supporting local economy, small business and keeping revenue in the community. It's amazing to make friends with your neighbors at the farm, the post office, coffee shop, and antique stores. But, for me, it's not enough.

When I came across "think globally, act locally" in my reading about simplicity, all I wanted to do was think AND act globally. But how?

(Am I missing the point? Am I trying too hard? Can I think and act locally and globally or am I out of my mind?)

What do you think? How do you act globally?

simplicity as spiritual discipline

4.02.2014

Leisure is a mental and spiritual attitude ... not the result of spare time ... it is an attitude of the mind, a condition of the soul ... it implies an inward calm, of silence. It means not being "busy" but letting things happen. Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality. Only the silent hear, and those who do not remain silent do not hear. ... Silence here does not mean noiselessness; it means more nearly that the soul's power to answer to the reality of the world is left undisturbed.

-German philosopher, Josef Pieper (Leisure, the Basis of Culture)

Wealth: Is it just about money?

3.10.2014




One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. (Prov 13:7)

__________________________________________________________________________________


 What defines wealth? Who defines it for you?

While I've pondered this, I'm reminded of a blog post about the richness of India and my thought that the poor in Haiti may just be richer spiritually as a result of their complete reliance on the provision of God.

I've observed the inability of many to say no and the desperate need for time and space in our lives.

The desperate need for time and space in my life.

Last week I accidentally, yet so easily, overscheduled myself and found that I was having difficulty concentrating, being motivated and was waking up several times during the night because of stress! This is exactly what I've been trying to avoid.

"There are many other ways to measure and experience quality of life besides material wealth: time affluence, the joy and contentment of health, strong bonds with other people, civic participation, creativity, kindness, autonomy, security, serenity, generosity, wisdom and so on. Yet these forms of real wealth are often neglected as we chase from one job, errand or appointment to another, trying to buy what we could obtain far more directly if the story had a different plot and our system was set up differently."
Less is More (p. 216)

And I want to change my thinking. I want to look at a gorgeous house and appreciate it, but not be dissatisfied with my own. I want to be able to trade income (money) for more time and truly believe I am richer for it. I want to be rich in love (Ps. 145:8) rather than things.


If only I wasn't running against the tide, trying to redefine these things for myself. If only society (and, yes, I am generalizing) considered wealth to be more than just big houses, nice clothes, and lots of stuff. If only I wasn't so easily sucked into that definition of success!


Thus, this is my goal. To be "wealthy" in time, in space, in breath, in contentment with what I have (to want what I have), in relationship and family, in my creative endeavors, and richness in Christ.

Rustic: a practice in imperfection

2.17.2014

In writing about simplicity, I want to be mindful of how I approach these subjects. Often I find myself focusing on the negative, i.e. what we shouldn't do, as opposed to what we can say yes to while living in the same way. In the future, I hope that I can present my ideas in a positive light, not pushing right vs. wrong ways of living on people, but rather sharing my own values. 

_________________________________________

That said, I have tended toward perfection in my life, and eventually I realized it has been more trouble to my mental health than it is worth. There is freedom in letting perfection go and embracing imperfection. Please don't read this as "letting things go" and therefore, apathy. I still believe in quality. It just doesn't need to be perfect. Releasing myself from the intense pressure of perfection has been a soulful and spiritual act, one that I still find myself embracing over and over.



When I was creating for the Market, every once in awhile I would view my work with a critically perfectionistic eye and wonder if anyone in the world would want what I was making ... and then I would remind myself that quality, not perfection, was the goal. I seriously considered making a sign that said "rustic: a practice in imperfection" and shoo-ing away anyone that wanted factory-made perfection. I didn't, but the idea stuck with me.


Then, very recently, when I was reading about Simplicity, I came upon the Japanese idea of "wabi-sabi" - and this is just what I appreciate about the lasting quality of rustic, vintage, and beautiful things.

"Wabi-sabi is imperfect: a beloved chipped vase or a scarred wooden table. This getting-away-from-perfect is one of the wabi-sabi's most appealing facets. It means you can keep the tablecloth even though it's fraying on the edges and admire the rug as it fades from brilliant red to pale rose. You can let things be."
Less is More (pg 160)

source
source
"Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow and uncluttered - and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, net Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet - that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust and frayed edges and the march of time they represent." (You can read this and more about wabi-sabi here or just Google it.) 

source
source
This is what I find to be beautiful, you may not and that's okay. There are many different kinds of beautiful things and in that, I rejoice. The main draw for me is reclaiming items instead of buying new and continuing in the culture of brand-new, perfection-based consumerism. This also perpetuates the Haitian saying, "De ga je" - using what you have and the creativity that comes.

eat seasonally, valentine ...

2.10.2014

Valentine's day is this Friday. (Happy heart day!) I'm not a huge celebrator of this holiday of Love, but I do remember candy hearts and making valentine bags for collecting cards/candy in elementary school. It was definitely not the day to be sick at school! One year, my best friend bought me a surprise carnation and I was so happy. I ran up the stairs to show my mom and tripped up one of the last steps ... the flower snapped off right at the blossom! Ugh ... I was seriously devastated.

(This klutz still trips up the stairs, but you didn't hear that from me.)

All of that to say, holidays are high time for eating. And, most likely, not seasonally. For instance, I literally just saw a local advertisement for a pound of strawberries at $1.88 this week.

Um, it's February.

There is snow on the ground.

No Kansas strawberries in sight. 

strawberries from our garden, last June
Oh, they're in Kansas, all right. Waiting patiently at the grocery store. For all of us loves to come, buy and consume with chocolate.

Personally, I'm not buying strawberries this year. Not only because they are on the "dirty" list, but mostly because they aren't in season.

I love this quote from an essay in Less is More,

As Helen (Nearing) put it, "There is something extravagant and irresponsible about eating strawberries in January." When I first heard this comment, I was a bit put off: I found it quote ascetic and demanding. But now, although my own gardening and eating practices are never quote as pure, I understand more fully what she means. Eating in line with the season is eating on nature's time, not on culture's consumptive clock. No wonder that the kale we harvested from our garden this week tastes so sweet. We ate in step with the heartiness of kale in autumn, in step with the November frosts that kiss the bitterness off of the leaves.

There is something so right about eating seasonally. But it is so difficult- especially in the winter and when growing in Kansas is very difficult. Almost anything and everything is available in grocery stores year-round ... we are so spoiled. Spoiled to the point of not even knowing, much less caring, about eating with the seasons. Mostly, I fall into this category.

I don't have the chance to grow and/or store a ton of food. So, what are your tips for eating seasonally? Help!

on saying no

2.03.2014

We've had to say no several times lately.

I promised my husband that I'd strip my schedule down to almost nothing in order to attempt to get us through this last hairy semester - and I've done it. The days are mine, but my hope is that weeding out the unneccessaries in my schedule will at least lower my stress level ... in hopes to better balance out his. (?)

(Of course, this said after a full week of sick, whiny child - stressful to say the least ... but I digress.)


But I hate saying no. I'm a helper and a doer and, dang it, I like saying yes!

When I say no, I feel all sorts of silly things like guilty and "what are they thinking of me?" and "wouldn't I want them to help me?"

FALSE.

Why does such a small word - one so easily blurted a million times out of a toddler's mouth - become so hard for some of us to say? Even for our own good and for the health of our family?

Granted, I think it has to do often with personality. My husband has no problem saying no to things and he doesn't care one whit what someone else thinks. This has helped me fight my natural inclination to 1) say yes and 2) feel bad for saying no.

But honestly? It's just not possible for me to live my life simply unless I say no. Over-commitment, busy schedules, running here and there and there and here ... it's just really common for Americans. I suppose it makes us feel worthy and successful and like we're not just sitting on our hands waiting for something to come to us. Carpe diem, right?

Lately, the busyness of some lives has blown me away and I. don't. want. it.

But this requires saying no.

To good things.

A lot.

source

But you know what I've seen in just the last month of practicing this? I've been able to say yes more during my day and it has been freeing. See a friend, cuddle a newborn, make cookies and lick beaters with my little.

(Just like decluttering my home gives space for things that I really love.) 

Open schedules = lives open to opportunity. Opportunity unseen without space in my life. May God allow me to see beyond myself (and what I want to fill my freer days with!) and fill it with His abundance.

"...vague, indefinite riches..."

1.28.2014





I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is no possession but enjoyment. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet smelling herbs – is more elastic, starry and immortal – that is your success. (Thoreau)

Less is More {book recommend!}

1.27.2014

 I picked up a book at the library, Less is More (by Andrews/Urbanska), that is a compilation of essays on Simplicity. It's not a profound concept written, but reading this book urged me in the direction of writing about a simpler life again using some quotes from the material.

And it introduced me to Thoreau. I've obviously not had enough Thoreau in my life. (Currently catching up on a few of his books and essays!)
 
source
Here's a quote from the preface:


 “What do people involved in the Simplicity movement do? 
Usually people have focused on individual actions: reducing 
spending so they can work less and have more time for the things 
that are important to them. Thus, a life with less – less work, less 
stuff, less clutter – becomes more: more time for friends, family, 
community, creativity, civic involvement. Less stress brings more 
fulfillment and joy. Less rushing brings more satisfaction and 
balance. Less debt brings more serenity. Less is more.”



As I read this book, I was struck with how the gospel corresponds to so many ideas (and ideals) of living life with sustainability, stewardship and simplicity. The quote above reminds me of John's gospel quote (3:30) "He must become greater; I must become less." It's not the same context, but the concept is brilliant. A life with less stuff leaves room for community. A life with less of me, leaves more room for Him. Ironic, I know. A paradox that still baffles me sometimes.

Materially, less is more. 

Spiritually, less is more.

_______________________________________________________________
(... it's encouraging to know that I'm not the only one thinking about, writing about or trying to live this out ... check this recent blog post out - it's good!)

Check out my previous series on simplicity: living simply, decluttering, repurposing, food, time, conclusion

Why I'm Not Teaching My Child to Read {yet}.

1.20.2014



I've not set out to make my child a genius.

I've known this from the time I was pregnant, I wasn't going to push her to be an overachiever. To be impressively smart, for me to brag about her genius. What's the point? She needs to be allowed play, a childhood. She has plenty of time to study - years of her life in education - years that I'm not beginning just yet.

(And, if you wanted me to brag on her, there are so many other things I could tell you!)

It's like there is this unspoken rule in today's North American culture - "you must be a really good mom if your child can count and read and write, so push them! the younger the better and more impressive!" At least that's how I've felt.

Well, frankly, I don't care.

I could care, except I pretty much gave up pushing her from day one. My daughter's personality helps me realize, when she is ready, she will be ready. And not one day sooner. (Trust me.)

And it's not like I just ignore every part of learning - she knows her colors and can count to 8! Ha. She can get dressed, pick up toys, feed the dog and herself. She won't go to kindergarten until she's almost 6, so I figure if I start with letter recognition and writing around the time she turns 4. If she's interested. And even then, I think the best way of learning is incorporated into play - which is exactly why I love Montessori activities. They feel like play with an educational tweak.

I don't WANT her to read at age 3-1/2. I want her to be little. To say words wrong. To learn sometimes just by default - truly, it is amazing how much she takes in without me pushing?

A friend recently told me that there is a marked difference between kindergarteners who attend school half days and whole days, but by the end of first grade, they are basically at the same level. Interesting.

I'm not worried and I am choosing to continue not to be.

***************

I guess the biggest reason behind this stems from desiring a life of simplicity. I intend to write about simple living from several perspectives in the coming months, but it just seems like so much pressure for a mom to have super "smart" children. Pushing, pushing, overscheduling, a thousand activities, know your letters, know your numbers, go - go - go. It doesn't feel free or peaceful or simple to me.



Time for play, space, experiencing nature and un-pressured learning in a home environment (how to interact with each other, cooking with each other, independent play, etc.) sounds much less pressured. And that's the path I choose.


"The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions." source

our recycling system

1.29.2013

Last June I did a series on Simplicity and talked a little bit about re-purposing, re-using and recycling. Someone asked what our recycling system looked like and I'm just now getting around to tell you! Oops.

Our "system" - if you can even call it that - is extremely simple. And ugly, which is why we keep it in the basement, so I don't have to stare at it piling up. (If I had a walk-in garage, I'd probably store it there, but since we don't this works.)

In Kansas, you can recycle plastic/tin/aluminum, paper, chipboard (cereal boxes), and cardboard and clear/colored glass. Go here for more details as well as drop-off locations.)

So, I keep a crate for paper/cardboard, an old garbage can from college for the plastic and tin and a little sturdy box for our glass - not too much is made from glass these days. And it's incredible how quickly these fill up. I set aside the junk mail as it comes in and plastic containers as we empty them and scan the kitchen counter as I go downstairs - I take it with me and throw it in!


When it gets too full, I drag it upstairs to the car and dump it at the recycling place on my way to somewhere else. If everything is sorted like this, it really doesn't take a lot of extra time to dump and go. Plus we have so much less trash - it's amazing. And, once we're potty trained, we'll have even less trash! (I still wish she could wear her cloth dipes.)

I am thankful for the recycling options available in the States, I really am. But in Germany/Switzerland and Korea, you can recycle almost EVERYTHING - even food scraps! Almost every bit of food packaging is made to be recycled unlike so much of ours. You end up with so little trash. For some Americans the Euro recycling units and habit took awhile to get used to, but it becomes second nature really quickly. I wish the US could come up with a system like this - seems possible if other 1st world countries can do it!

I really hate to NOT recycle - to think of all the trash in the landfills that could be recycled instead of building up problems in landfills...

Last summer I also read The Story of Stuff (see a short version here on youtube: The Story of Stuff) and Seven by Jen Hatmaker...


... and it made me really re-evaluate my practice of recycling. That maybe just recycling isn't enough. Maybe finding ways to reduce is better. You know the adage, "reduce, reuse, recycle" - well, it's not just for thrift, it's in that order for a reason! If you reduce you won't have as much to recycle. (Duh.)

Now, the hard part is the way our goods in the US (mostly food in my case) are packaged. Almost everything has some kind of packaging, etc. And it's not like I can just stop buying food! So I still throw more away than I'd like, but...

How have I found ways to reduce economically? I haven't found too many ways yet, but I'm still looking.

1) Stop buying stuff
2) Find things to buy in bulk
3) Buy produce without the produce baggies and wash it later (you do anyway, right?) or shop at a CSA or Farmer's Market with your own basket.
4) Compost (another whole bag of worms - literally!- but something I'd like to do.)


I'll end it here. What do you think?

It can get really complicated, but instead of getting overwhelmed, I do try to do what I can with what I have. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or patience (with myself or a 2 yr old!) to make our bread/tortillas myself or a garden large enough to sustain us with produce or a budget big enough to buy all organic, fresh, whole foods. Maybe someday, but for now, buying a few things in bulk, trying to use less packaged materials and recycling are the ways I contribute.

this week's CSA (week 3)

6.20.2012

Here's what was in this week's CSA bag:

3 stems broccoli, 2 lbs new potatoes, half dozen brown eggs, 
6 small peaches, 1 med head cabbage, 2 lbs carrots


Remember last week's red raspberries? They were SO tasty and we ate them plain with sweetened whipped cream.


And we licked our fingers...


and even the bowl!


-->
YUM!

We also tried baked kale chips and they were a hit, even with the girl! I've altered the cooking time in the recipe below because I think ours were a little over-salted and definitely over-baked. Watch them closely! 



Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crisp. Place baking sheet on a rack to cool. Eat right away!

Living Simply: a conclusion

6.16.2012

"'Enough' is having our survival needs met (food, clothing, shelter), having possessions that bring joy and comfort and even having those few special luxuries that add to the quality of our life." *


source


Simply... living simply for me is one step at a time. Realistically, my family can't live like the Zero Waste family. We just don't have the resources to do that.

And do we want to? I don't really think so. I think many of the ideas are great but as a whole, I'd like to fall somewhere in between Zero Waste family and Crazy Consumers.


Balance, friends, it's all about it.


But just recently, it struck me. Simplicity looks different for each person.

So, some will live on one end of the spectrum, but most float somewhere in the middle, finding their way in our crazy world.

One friend sees it much like I do, living life really well without having to buy new, buy expensive, buy lots.

Another just tries to max out her family's fun time with the least amount of money as possible.

And still another considers carving out distraction-free time to spend with her husband.


huh. 


Simplicity can be as easy or as complicated as we make it, but I'm pretty convinced that the philosophy of living simply doesn't equate with definition of the word "simple". It isn't easy, especially since life in the US doesn't always lend itself to this somewhat counter-cultural way of living. It takes work.

But it is rich. Full of life and wonder.

And I choose it. Just one little step at a time.


___________________________________
More resources on living simply:

SimpleMom.net
Simple Living Manifesto
Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster

Do you have any resources on living simply?  More importantly, what is simplicity to you?



*a philosophy I want to live by

Living Simply: Time

6.15.2012

An extra little tidbit I wanted to add into my simplicity series was about time.

What would your day (or week or month) look like if you decluttered it? Maybe it's not just time for us to declutter our homes but our calendars too?

source

There are so many great things available for us to do. But what if the only things demanding your time were those you really needed and really wanted to do?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it. would. be. lovely.





_______________________

Sure, we need to work, we need to eat, we need to wash our clothes. But really, what would you do with your time if it was only those few things you actually needed to do? 
_______________________


My personality tends to become easily overwhelmed, so I've focused on living fairly simply with my time. I can handle a busy day and probably a busy week, but any more than that and I'm just about off my rocker. This requires not doing things. Even good things, noble things.

Personality trait or not, culturally we're just not used to decluttering our days. We "need" to say yes and yes again and pretty soon our days are so full we wonder where the weeks went. Or where our lives went.


I desperately miss coffee break twice a day in Germany. Or a friend just stopping by for tea. Relationally, emotionally and physically, this rest was so refreshing. And there was time in our lives for that.

source


Instead I am busy, you are busy, your friends are busy and weeks and months slip by and still you haven't made time for each other. They say "we need to get together!" and never actually do it.

I don't want my life to slip away from needless busyness.


I want to be able to say "no" purposefully whether or not I have a "good excuse" - just protecting your time is enough of a reason to say no.



I also feel slightly shy writing about this because as I write I am putting in part-time hours at our church for the summer to allow another girl to go on a mission trip, I'm babysitting, teaching piano lessons and running my shop. I have projects up the wazoo to work on (although most are soul-food), all while trying to keep a clean house, meals on the table and be a full-time wife and mommy.

Some seasons of life are busier than others. I think we recognize this. But, like I said before, I just don't want to end up at the end of my life and wonder where the time when. Or have a 16-year old daughter before I know it.

Our time is so precious - a gift from the Creator. Let's use it doing what we really need and want.


(My conclusion on this simplicity series coming tomorrow.)

Living Simply: Food

6.14.2012

Food.

A subject I love and hate. I love to eat and used to love to cook (bake, more specifically) but lately, I've just been so hard-pressed to come up with even a simple meal! Read on to see how I've just recently ventured into something that's completely helped motivate me!

I used to eat really well (with a few necessary sweets). Then, I got married.

Okay, so it's not Jeremy's fault, but I wanted to please him, make what he liked, and I wasn't going to make him food and different food for me. So, I just started to eat what he liked and my healthy eating has gone down ever since. Not horrible, but just not great. White rice and pasta instead of whole wheat. Less veggies, fruits, etc. Plus, with our very limited budget, it's difficult to buy fresh - it's just expensive! And organic is almost out of the question.

And when I don't have much choice of food, I get unmotivated very quickly.

But, I've been wanting to find a way to eating less processed (more simply) on a budget. We still eat plenty of processed foods, but I'm working toward more whole foods in our diet, especially since the girl is eating table foods and we want her to eat well, which means we need to also!



"Even though we cannot draw the line precisely at the point where sufficiency ends and excess consumption starts, a standard appropriate to the present world situation would insist that the majority of Americans consume far too much."


So, here are some of the ways we're working on simplifying our diet.

Gardening (although our "property" is not nearly large or fertile enough to support us fully),


Gardening provides organic, pesticide free food for us. A recap on what we're growing this year: corn, watermelon (maybe?), red and yellow onions, garlic, sugar snap peas, green beans, tomatoes, dill, basil and parsley.

Have you heard of the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen"? If not, follow this link on pesticides, a guide to what you should buy organic and what are fine to buy non-organic. Onions are at the top of the clean list and apples, celery and strawberries are at the top of the dirty list (ones you should always buy organic). This has really opened my eyes to what I'm feeding my family and myself! I don't want our babe to be ingesting traces of 50 different pesticides with every bite of a strawberry! So these I either won't buy or will get organically.

Well, I've finally found a way to do this.

Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) 

Basically, a CSA is a subscription to a farm to buy produce directly from the farmer every week throughout the growing season (May through October). We are paying $17 a week for the produce (market prices with sales tax added) and it's basically a surprise every week!


In last week's CSA bag (from left): 6 brown eggs, 1 med cabbage, 5 green onions, a HUGE Napa cabbage, 2 cups sugar snap peas, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 1 small bok choy, beets and on the end, our very own green beans.

week 1

My favorite one of the bunch, Swiss chard. Isn't it gorgeous?!


This week's CSA included 1 small cabbage, a bunch of red kale, two large kohlrabi, 1 bag salad greens (3 cups), 14 shallots, 1-1/2 cups red raspberries and two little roma tomatoes from our own garden (a toddler got one of those...boo.)

week 2

And my favorite of the week?? The raspberries! I can hardly wait to make something yummy with them. I grew up with a big red raspberry bush and got so spoiled with free fresh raspberries. Mmm!



For some reason, this way of getting produce has completely transformed my thinking about cooking. I'm motivated by the produce to find new recipes and new ways of cooking. Luckily, my husband is a good trier of new things (thanks love!) and even if he doesn't love it, it's okay. I'm excited to cook now! And I must meal-plan to 1) use all of my produce and 2) stay within my budget after the $17. (As opposed to spending $17 at the farmer's market every Saturday and still not knowing what to get.)

Awesome, right?

I'll be doing a weekly update on what CSA produce we get every week in case anyone is interested in trying it out!!
  
Finally, we were given an awesome anniversary gift. Our teflon cookware (Jeremy bought over 5 years ago) was getting scratched and sticking. It was time for new. Teflon can give off harmful chemicals when it starts to break down and stainless steel is a much better (healthier) option.

We've switched to cooking with stainless steel! It definitely has a learning curve after cooking for so long with non-stick cookware, but it's so nice to stir something with a wire whisk and not be afraid flecks of Teflon are contaminating the food. I love it! (FYI: We did keep a very small omelet non-stick pan for pain free fried eggs.)

 (Ladybug posing with our new 10-piece set of Berghof pots and pans.)

Share your food tips with me! And what do you think of my new adventure into a CSA?

Living Simply: Reusing, Repurposing and Recyling

6.13.2012

It's a harsh way of thinking to refer to all consuming as bad, so, I try not to go to that extreme.

"Our days begin with consuming. Consuming is not wrong; in fact it is necessary for life."


However, it is the amount of our consumption (or necessary vs. not) that bothers me.


Do you shower with a tepid 5 gallon bucket or spend 20 minutes under the hot streams?


Do you eat three large meals every day and three snacks, too, ending with a belly fuller than Buddha? 


Do you drive 10 feet to the dumpster instead of walk? 


You know what I'm saying. Perspective, friends. It's all about it.

I just try to keep perspective in mind when I do things and use things. It's helped that we've needed to save money because instead of paper towels we use plates for snacks and cloth rags for cleaning. Instead of paper napkins we use cloth, too. Instead of toilet paper, we use cloth.

PSYCH!

Not quite. (Get the scoop here.)


Anyway, just little choices of reusing help me feel like I'm not just consuming and filling landfills with bunches of disposable junk. (Of course, the disposable diapers we use every day still bothers me ... but rashy bums are a different story for a different day...)


So, you all know that I like to repurpose things. I absolutely LOVE to buy second-hand and make something ugly into something beautiful. And, I'm not a professional at it, but it is so fulfilling knowing that I'm breaking the cycle of buy-new-buy-new-buy-new and using something that has already been loved and won't cease to exist if it goes into a garbage truck. And, if you don't like it, make it better!

(And, please, don't get me wrong. I love a thing with a tag pretty much as much as the next person. We buy plenty of new things. New clothes are my vice - shhh!! A few of the things we would only buy new are mattresses and pillows - used? Ick!) 

My repurpose case(s) in point:

(t-shirts into bloomers)



(vintage dress scraps into high chair cover)


(old, yucky chair with gorg lines)



(vintage sheet into kitchen valance)



(25 cent record player ... yes! she will make her prettier appearance soon!)


And, just wait until you see the other repurposing projects I have in the works including: a livingroom makeover, a vintage dress into pillow covers, from shirt to baby dress and more! I think repurposing projects are some of my favorite to do and to find. People are just SO creative!!

Finally, we recycle.

source

It's INCREDIBLE how trash adds up when you don't put your paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, cardboard and glass into the recycling bin - it's crazy!! And, after living in Germany (where you can pretty much recycle most everything including food scraps), US recycling seems so limited. How I wish recycling was less about "can we make money on this?" and more about "let's work to keep our planet". Korea, Switzerland, Germany ... all of these first world countries can do it, why not us?

However, instead of complaining, I try to be grateful for what we can recycle and diligently do so. Every couple of weeks, we load it up in the backseat and take it about a mile down the road and dump it.

(I'd love to know exactly where it goes and how recycling is done here in Kansas, but I haven't checked that out yet. Maybe I will in the near future.)


So, get in on the conversation! How do you reuse? Do you like repurposing? What do you think about recycling? 

Living Simply: Decluttering

6.12.2012

One of the first and most basic things I think of when I consider living simply is LESS STUFF.
Getting out from underneath the load of STUFF is simplicity to me. Decluttering. Getting rid. Simplifying. Really, if we only kept the stuff we really need versus what we want, our load would be so much lighter.

My mom is really good at this, so I've grown up and still am living the decluttering way. However...

...stuff accumulates SO fast! 

And, I'll be the first to admit it. Even I still have too much stuff. 


"{We're} consuming in an effort to improve our quality of life...Unconsciously, as a culture, we've internalized the belief that material possessions will fill the spiritual vacuum in our souls."

source


So the other week my friend, Valerie, challenged her blog readers to join her in getting rid of 100 things in a week. Here's her challenge and updates here and here.

For some reason, this challenge motivated me to not only declutter but to clean and work on projects too! I've been crazy motivated ever since... weird, but cool. (Thanks Val!)

Before this, I'd several things listed on Craigslist - and all but a few have sold and I was able to thrift a few necessary items with the money (mostly things for our girl: shoes, a few puzzles, vintage and gifts.)

The challenge week I made it to 50 things (and made $8 on it at a garage sale!), and just last Tuesday I donated over 50 more items (books, jewelry, some random vintage and our old pots and pans).

(By the way, can I add that I am so proud of my husband who went through his books, organized them on his bookshelves and got rid of 30+? Love it!!)

One of my main motivations now is because I'm a mom. I'm already going to have a hard enough time raising my child in the consumeristic culture we live in, and I don't want to make consuming hoards of stuff and stuff and more stuff a bad habit. I want her to know you can live well without so much stuff!! (Maybe even better than those with tons of stuff.)

Let me say, there is nothing wrong with liking stuff (I do), or wanting stuff (I definitely do) or buying stuff ... it's just all of the stuff adding up without end can't - won't - doesn't satisfy.

*********

(Sidenote: Now, my "picking up projects" posts may seem in direct contradiction to my decluttering, but there are a few differences. First, I am repurposing them (see tomorrow's post) - one of my many ways of living simply. Second, I am only keeping them until they are ready to sell. Really, it's just one way of including others in this repurposing and reusing cycle - I can't reuse everything! But I can beautify things, make a little money along the way, feed my soul, and encourage others in the way of reusing.)

What do you think? How does clutter affect you?

Living simply. Is it really that simple?

6.11.2012


"One Wall Street banker put it bluntly: 'net worth equals self worth.' Under this definition, there is no such thing as enough." 




Ever since I got back from Haiti I've struggled with what life should look like for me. I've been blessed to experience life outside of the borders of the US and after living in a third world country, your world can't help but be rocked. 


I've been on one end of the spectrum before Haiti, wanting nice things, designer jeans, diamonds, lots of makeup. And I've been to the other side after Haiti, angry, refusing to spent any extra money,  bought no new clothing, secretly criticizing those who did, and basically feeling "better" than those who didn't care (so-to-speak) about other people in the world. 


I'm happy to say that I've fallen somewhere in between since then (where I want to be) but how I'm supposed to live in light of my experiences and knowledge has been and always will be a struggle. Sigh. Living out a paradox is so difficult.


How do I live in this culture (America) in spite of and alongside my experiences?


In the last couple of years I've run into a lot of blogs and websites talking about living simply. Living simply seems to best fit my struggle.

*********


And then they have post after post after post about cloth diapering and and recycling and reusing and organic food and saving and spending and this and that and on and on... 


... and while I have a desire to live simply, all I could think was, "Is living simply really that simple? 'Cause it sure seems complicated to me!" 


I wanted to either go curl up in bed until the world went away or run away and become Amish.




Well, obviously, neither of those were good options and I didn't actually act on either of them. 




Hence, throughout my processing, comes this series of posts. I've really spent a good year thinking about what simplicity looks like to me, how it should be acted upon and what I should expect of myself and other people. 


I think simple is the best way to live, but not everyone is going to live that way. Heck, everyone's definition of simplicity is different! We're all different! It's okay. 



(Oh, and this post here just about sums it up for me.)




*all quotes this week taken from Simpler Living, Compassionate Life

On Living Cellphoneless

4.30.2012

I have to admit, living without a cell phone has its advantages.

And disadvantages.

But all-in-all, it's been a pretty easy switch. We needed to save money, wanted to simplify and decided that giving up our cell phones was worth it.




*********


But, I'm not gonna lie. There are times I've missed having a phone...

- like when I catch Ladybug doing something funny, I'd love to snap and send a quick pic to the fam. Instead, I have to race to get the DSLR and snap it instead.

- Or when I realize that "mobile coupons" at Target are only available to those with smart phones. #societaldiscrimination.

- That time when the urgent care visit took 5 hours instead of two. Even I was really starting to worry.

- At Home Depot when I thought the 14-1/2 inch cut wasn't quite enough but couldn't call home to remeasure. Sure enough, it was 15-1/2. Bummer.

- Having to admit, "Um, I don't have a cell phone. Sorry."And being stared at like I have two heads or something.

- Missing call, after call, after call from my best friend.



Then, there are things that I haven't missed, like...


- Being called or getting a text after I've gone to bed.

- Being on my phone instead of being with my daughter.

- The temptation to answer or text in the car.

- Losing my cell or dropping it in water.

- Sticky little fingers always asking to play with it.

- I can  always text over email.

-And last, but most definitely NOT least, I do not miss the $80 bill every month. Not. One. Little. Bit.


:-) Ever thought about simplifying like this? Could you live without your cell? Or other electronics?

Garden 2012: Planted!

4.13.2012

Over Easter, my parents helped me till and plant the rest of my garden. I've decided that this is the last year I'm growing in my garden soil - if it doesn't do well, I'm going to pots next year.

So, we'll see about the experiment as the summer goes on. But as for now, here is my garden!

A few small rows of sweet corn, one row of watermelon, red onions and an egg carton full of pepper seedlings (which haven't sprouted yet...)


One row of sugar snap peas, two rows of bush green beans, parsley, dill, basil, chives, garlic, yellow onions, a cherry tomato and a roma tomato plant.


and my (free) flower garden. Lots of experiments this year!


Grow tomatoes, grow!


And on the other side, a few strawberry buds. Maybe we'll get more than 5 berries this year!


 Can't wait for the produce I am hoping for!