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Sunday, July 31, 2011

100 Today

sunflower tower

Today marks my 100th blog post!
Rather exciting.

ripening alley plums

To celebrate the occasion properly, I thought I would give you all a little glimpse into a topic that has been occupying my thoughts for many waking leisure hours: minimalist-ish living.

(Also, full disclosure: I am feeling a little sad today, really missing my family far away. I'm so happy for all the adventures they are having, yet feel very distant, and truth be told, a little left out from their overseas experiences. However, I promised myself before they left that I would not mope. So, in the interest of keeping the blues at bay, I'm trying to focus on thoughts and activities that are positive and somehow enhance my life & theirs...)

neon calendula--it really is!

I have been lately loving the feeling of space in our little home. I love to think of space as a positive, full of possibility. It feels like there is ample room to dream, write, stretch, dance, draw, spread out a puzzle, cook, wrestle, read, drink coffee, watch a movie, snuggle up...whatever it is you want to do. When I walk into our home and see the airy space, it feels light and free. This sensation has kept me going on my quest to see what else I can live without, or put more positively, to find out how much is just enough for me and my family.

For inspiration, I have been reading a wonderful book (I checked it out from my public library--request it from yours if they don't have it!) by Francine Jay, aka Miss Minimalist, titled "The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide". The first part is full of the philosophy of minimalist living, the second a guide to the STREAMLINE method of clearing your space, and the third, which I'm just starting,  is a practical room-by-room plan.

This process has already led me to pare down a lot, over the last few years, and I must confess that as someone who does not love to clean, it has made the process of housekeeping a lot easier. But more that that, it feels better...more spacious, more organized, less chaotic. Although I still have a long way to go, I can find things more easily, because they have designated homes. It's easier to clean up for the same reason, as well as not having as much to pick up before sweeping and mopping. Having just the amount of linens and towels needed makes a lot less laundry (hooray!). And having only clothes that actually fit and look good on each family member makes it so much easier to find something to wear in the morning.

We have made a lot of progress. Although I think this process has made my family nervous at times, they have seen that I respect their individual possessions and I think they have benefitted from the increased feeling of calm and organization. (I invite them to weigh in with comments!)

For me, among the items that have been most difficult to let go of are things from my kids' baby days. Considering the age of my boys, we still have a surprising amount of baby and toddler paraphernalia (clothing, blankets, books, toys...) lingering around our home. Minou and I are equally sentimental on this point, which doesn't help (I'm usually much less sentimental about objects). I rationalize it by the times that we have young friends over and pull out the books and toys (which happens at least several times a year), or by thinking that if/when the boys have kids of their own, they might want those adorable little shoes and coats....and certainly the Playmobils...Maybe, maybe not, but for the moment they stay.

What I am looking forward to clearing right now, however, are several large items of furniture that will create significantly more empty floor space. At one point, we had two couches in our little living room. It was very cozy, and avoided overcrowding and brotherly elbowing while watching movies, but it grew a little claustrophobic over time. Since the futon couch can double as a bed, I want to keep it for out of town guests. The red couch, on it's way out the door, made a brief stop in the kitchen during the process of furniture rearranging. And somehow it made a good impression there, and was granted temporary permission to stay, with the excuse that it gave our kitchen an artsy coffee-house feel. It was a little awkward for eating, however; the chin of whoever was seated there just barely cleared the table. So eventually the table moved into the living room, and the couch stayed in the kitchen.

And there it's been for the last two or three months. I'm tired of it. Mostly the cats use it. The couch is so very comfortable, great for naps and sinking down into, but also incredibly dusty and cat-hairish and tends to consume many objects in its ravenous cushions. Once it moves along, the table can return to the kitchen....

...and then, just imagine all the glorious space that will be ours for whatever!
(Ignore that ugly exercise bike--it's on temporary loan for virtuous solo movie-watching). I think I have finally come around to loving the white tiles Minou wanted and I protested adamantly against. We ended up getting them because of a great sale. While they are rarely very clean, they do make the room look light and so much bigger.

At any rate, I will save the next piece of furniture earmarked for passing along for another day's post. I'm going to go and see if I can rustle up a little help and a truck to take Dusty Red to my local Goodwill donation center. I want the house to be beautiful and feel full of possibility for when my boys return.

How about you? Do you have anything that you don't use much, but find hard to part with, or something that mysteriously stopped and stayed on its way out the door?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Oh yeah! Woo-hoo!

Irrespective of all else I did on my day off yesterday (talk to my sweet boys and sweet Minou, jog, blog, buy a plane ticket, declutter, gather raspberries in M & R's garden)....

I am MOST PROUD of this.

I'm a first-time donor to the local Blood Center.  (they don't say Blood Bank any longer). Better late than never, right? There's always a first time to something new. And I was thoroughly inspired by the portraits of the numerous members of my community who have donated upwards of 100 times. 100 times! They call these individuals "Century Donors".

Maybe one day.

It was easy, simple, painless, and I feel great. Thanks to my neighbor R who reminded me to eat something with protein and drink plenty of water beforehand. And thanks to the patient phlebotomists who answered my 101 questions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wings on my Heels

When I jog, this is how I look on a good day...

...but THIS is how I feel!

See my goofy, blissful smile? Another small luxury...even better than coffee, and free!

Do you know this movie? I tell you, I hear the music as I go (gently at 12 minute miles).
First saw it at age 10, when I got my first pair of jogging shoes from my dad. I love it!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Thanks for the sun today and this refreshing green Sun Tea it created

Thanks for dinner straight from the garden

Thanks for safe and comfortable shelter

Thanks for the Lovely Ladies (and their eggs)

Thanks for splashes of color

Thanks for borage for the bees

Thanks for the zucchini they are pollinating

Thank you for pets to care for and their company

Thanks for the ability to plan for the future

Thanks for all that is growing and ready to burst into flower

Thanks for summer abundance

Most of all, thanks for family, friends and loved ones, my home and heart
wherever they may be

What are you grateful for today?
Please share!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Abundant Enough...

...or why I bought coffee today.

This summer, living alone, I have been trying hard to live with less. For the most part, I am enjoying this practice with simplicity. Trying to purchase less. Trying to drive less. Trying to use less electricity and water. Trying to eat more from the garden.

I like the wording of that last sentence better. We humans seem to respond so much better to positives than negatives. It's easier to start a new habit than to stop an old one (even if the new replaces the old). I realized that while many aspects of living with simplicity feel like more to me, such as the happiness I get from gathering sun-dried clothes off the laundry line or picking salad and blueberries from the yard for dinner, some aspects feel like the annoying pinch of a tight shoe.

Can you guess where I'm going with this? Not buying coffee. I ran out sometime in late June, and was initially determined not to buy more because the cupboard was full of green and black tea. Have I mentioned before how much I love coffee? With skim milk, iced, hot and black, espresso with a sugar cube "canard"...I generally don't have more than 1-2 cups a day, but the enjoyment I get from it is large.

What I realized today was that by denying myself something I really want, I was creating a poor-me mentality, leading to a feeling of poverty and not abundance. I don't want to practice self-denial just for the sake of it, and my financial situation does permit the purchase of little luxuries such as coffee. Each weekend morning that I woke up and couldn't have a freshly ground cup, I felt grumpy and it took me a while to get out my funk (tea, though lovely, was just not doing the trick). I also found myself wanting to snack more, looking for some other source of gratification to replace what I really wanted--coffee!

Thankfully, this afternoon I realized the error of my ways. I am extremely fortunate to not be in a financial state of true need, but want to live simply to focus my time and energy on the parts of life that are most important to me. Living simply is about living with just enough. What enough is will vary tremendously with individual situations, tastes, and temperaments. For me, a pound of coffee a month creates a huge happiness boost--a great investment for a small financial outlay.

I'm  already looking forward to the smell of those organic locally-roasted on-sale dark French Roast beans when I grind them tomorrow morning, and to wandering the garden to check the size of the growing zucchini with cup in hand. It's the small pleasures that count.

So how about you? What are the little luxuries that bring you large enjoyment?

Maybe it's something you can purchase, like chocolate, or maybe something uninterrupted hour in the tub with a novel, for parents of young children, for example...or storing a canoe for trips to the lake.

Please share!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sleep, Glorious Sleep...

Sorry for my recent silence. Perhaps you can tell from the post title exactly where my spare time has been going!  I don't know why I have been so tired lately, but it's real. This level of fatigue reminds me of when I was simultaneously in the very early stages of pregnancy , planning a wedding, and working in a bakery/cafe that required opening the store at 4:45 a.m (and no, I'm not pregnant now--Minou is in France, plus there's that T). I can remember leafing through catalogs of wedding registry items at Penney's (not yet a minimalist!) and Minou leading me through the home sections of department stores, when ALL I wanted to do was curl up on those lovely display beds with their puffy matching pillow shams and comforters. And sleep. And sleep. And dream, and sleep...

Part of the problem is that I don't like to go to bed at night. A natural night owl, I get a second wind, or get distracted easily by a good book I'm reading in bed and forget to watch the time. Or sometimes, I don't want to go through the trouble of my nightly teeth and gum care routine, and just put it off. Gretchen Rubin wrote about this delaying bedtime problem in her wonderful book The Happiness Project. However, I do have to get up and be at work in the morning. My start time isn;t too early most of the week, but the dog noses me awake when he thinks it's time to go out in the morning, usually around 6:30 a.m., and then the chickens need tending to. Once I'm out of bed it's hard to go back to sleep for a short hour. So basically, I think I've built up a little sleep deficit. Add to this the fact that I do very well with a full 8 hours, not so well with less, and I have been grouchy and less than sharp...not a great combination!

I also wonder how much increased physical activity may be contributing. In solidarity with the Minimalist Fitness Challenge, I'm trying to step up my exercise intensity a few times a week. I even started jogging again--so slowly, but with happiness. Although exercising makes me feel much more lighthearted (love that endorphin rush!) and energetic in the short term, it could be that my body needs more sleep time to repair afterwards. And speaking of both fitness and sleep, did you know that not sleeping enough plays a significant role in predisposing toward overweight and obesity? It has to do with the regulation of leptin, an hormone that affects perception of satiety and is produced by adipose tissue. Overweight people consistently have high blood levels, leading to resistance, similar to insulin resistance in Type II Diabetes.

So I'm allowing myself to nap on the weekends, and sleep in (gasp!) til 8 or 8:30. Decadent! And lovely! And I seem to have and remember interesting dreams when they happen in the morning. Last night, for example, I was eating a big plate of broccoli and cauliflower from a farmer's market. (??) It looks like we are finally out from under the rainy grey skies we have had here in the Pacific NW while the rest of the country sweltered, but I still have two comforters piled on my bed. I love to sleep with an open window, fresh air, and heavy, fluffy covers. Preferably white.

How about you? How much sleep do you need? How do you like your bedding?
Are naps allowed?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Swap, Meet

My neighbor M. (she of the goddess garden sanctuary) proposed a weekly trade of eggs for bounty from her garden, and I was DELIGHTED to agree! I just saw this movie (after being on the library reserve list for close to nine months) and it renewed my commitment to eating more fresh local food. Not only is trading a great way to eat super-locally (forget about a 100-mile radius, this is a 2-block radius), but as M. noted, it's a great way to get to know each other better. Most of us have fairly busy lives these days, and between working, mothering /caring for family, and maintaining the garden, it can be difficult to prioritize socializing, especially developing new relationships. That's why this is such a lovely arrangement--we can swap and meet.

We had fun looking around the garden and I loved sampling. M. was happy to share some of everything she had growing, which is a lot! Just being in this green-thumbed woman's garden inspires my inner gardener to start imagining, dreaming, digging, and planting. I'm not sure that this was quite a fair trade this week though--just look at all this glorious garden bounty I brought home!

garlic--elephant and regular

strawberries, cherries, snap peas

greens (tuscan kale and collards) and curious Jamsie

bouquet of snapdragons, foxglove, nasturtiums, chives, thyme, oregano & parsley

clustered garden beauty

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Great Goddess!

A few weeks ago, I walked over to visit a neighbor who wanted to purchase eggs. Her teenage son beckoned me back through the side yard around the garage, where she and her husband were relaxing in the backyard. Emerging through the fence, I was greeted with the sight of the most amazing garden imaginable, bursting out with flowers, berries, climbing peas and beans, a giant cherry tree, terraced beds, enormous vegetables, birdsong, winding paths, a koi pond, buzzing bees, spires of foxglove towering, a riot of colors.... It stopped me speechless in my tracks.

"I know!" laughed my neighbor. "We just say OH MY GODDESS!"

She gave me a tour, showing me the terraced beds she built herself from gathered river rocks, stone by stone, and the koi pond her son created from his childhood sandbox. This is a garden ten years in the making and clearly still evolving.

These small I-phone photos can't capture the full effect, but it gives you an idea:

The last two shots are of my beautiful neighbor M, who (with her family) created this glorious and sacred space .

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Vant to Draw Your Blood...

One of the things that makes a good day for me is learning a new skill...and that process is made so much easier and better if done with patient support and assistance! I have wonderful coworkers. Today FOUR of these generous individuals, including a Master Phlebotomist who talked me through it, lined up to allow me to draw some of their precious lifeblood into Tiger Top Tubes. All of them graciously assured me that I hadn't hurt them a bit, and I got three out of four veins (the one I missed was not visible, and it's a bit harder going just by feel). This was not a skill we learned in nursing school, and it's a useful one for sure. So exciting! Now I'm all pumped up to go donate blood to our local blood bank.

One Bowl: Breakfast

Start with a big bowl of fresh blueberries.
(extra wonderful when just picked off the bush)

Next, add a cup of rolled oats, lots of cinnamon, a few raisins, a large handful of walnuts, and maybe a sprinkling of vanilla sugar.

Moisten with milk or soymilk and voila! A complete meal in one bowl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

(T)ea Time

I enjoy tea (though I love good strong coffee).
Earl Grey is my favorite. Especially with double bergamot.

Somehow, tea seems right when sipped from thin china, while I prefer coffee from thick pottery mugs. Does anyone else have such strong opinions on the best ways to drink hot beverages? 

I am also now a new card-carrying T carrier. Which suits me to a T!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Identity Crisis

I think my blog is going through an identity crisis.

Let me give you a little background. When I started it, I had recently started a new full-time job and was also trying to return to school, online and part time, to complete another degree. The second morning after starting a new online class, and a bit sleep-deprived, I was in a serious car accident. Thankfully, I (and my mom) walked away unhurt from an incident that completely totaled the car. Millions of what-ifs swirled in my mind. Time to reevaluate life priorities. In the next couple of weeks that followed, as I forced myself to sit at the computer and tried to complete my reading and research, I found myself clicking again and again on inspiring blogs (and NOT doing my required reading). What were they? Mostly blogs having to do with creative, nurturing, simple family living. I was not actually doing things with my own children as I sat there trying to work (and they asked me), but I was reading about those who were. Finally I realized: this isn't working. I'm making myself sit here, but that's all. What I'm actually doing is reflecting my desires. There is time for this degree later. The time for my own life and family time is right now.

So I went downstairs to have a conversation with Minou, and essentially told him what was up and asked: Will you be disappointed in me if I take a break from these Big Plans? (I do not like to feel like or be seen as a quitter...though it is essential to know what, and when, to quit sometimes). He basically answered: Do what you think is right. And since you like them so much, why not start your own blog?

Hmm...thank you, and good idea. So I did. I took a leave of absence from my program and started this blog (I still spent time on the computer afterwards...but less, and it was happier time, with no deadlines). Many of the blogs I read and find inspiration from have a specific focus. Minimalist living. Family living. Frugal living. Gardening. Mine is a bit of a mish-mash, certainly not in one clear category or another.
And this is fine...

But here is the rub. My family does read this blog (they may be the main readers, in fact), and my children have understandably wanted to have some input into what are appropriate topics of discussion. (Contraception, which I talk about all day long at work, has been deemed too personal). I have been the recipient of some earnest lectures on the permanence of anything posted on the internet. This is more of an issue since I post pictures of myself and our family. Per request, I have removed shots of one unnamed family member. Although the likelihood of discovery (or interest in case of discovery) by anyone my kids might know from Real Life appears small to me, it looms large as a worry, and I respect that. I am choosing to blog for myself; that's not a choice they are making, and I don't want to make them uncomfortable or embarrassed.

However...several of my favorite topics have been stirring up some of those privacy concerns, namely Frugal Living complete with specific dollar amounts. (I love specifics--they're what make writing interesting!) I have been challenged and inspired to squeeze my belt tighter, and thus make future dreams possible, by detailed tips and real-life expenses from many blogs such as the Nonconsumer Advocate, the Frugal Girl, and Get Rich Slowly. Yet this level of frugality, while tolerated, carries some stigma among certain family members. And said family members are extremely precious and important to me. SO...let's just say that while I will still be participating in the July Food Stamp Challenge, I will not be writing about the process in such a concrete way.

Which leads me to question...what will I write about?

Any suggestions?

And you bloggers with kids...any similar situations?
How do you protect your family's privacy while writing about your life?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


When I visited my friend Sara a few weeks ago, I was admiring her many quilt creations that were displayed around the house. Looking at one led to looking at another, and she pulled out one that had been stored in her sewing room/office on a shelf for a while.

This picture was taken in a not-too-bright room, so it doesn't really do the colors in the quilt justice. It is gorgeous! Thinking about the planning and coordination that goes into selecting the fabrics, colors, and design boggles my mind--as well as the skill and sheer time involved in making the piece.

After I had admired it vociferously for a few minutes, she casually said "It's just been sitting on a shelf. I don't want it. I'll give it to you. Happy birthday. Happy graduation!"

Wow! I had to make sure that she knew that angling wasn't the intent of my admiration...she reassured me that she did, and that she loves to surprise her friends with gifts of her work.

I LOVE this quilt! I still haven't hung it up yet, since the wall where I'm imaginging putting it for maximum effect is part of the stairwell and a little bit technically challenging (I think I need to borrow a painter's ladder).

Let's give thanks today for artistic gifts...both given and received!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Garden Grows

and grows, and grows....

sunflower starts--blooms coming soon, I hope!

tomatoes and basil

winter garden starts: collard greens

yellow summer squash

shasta daisies and lavender

cherries ripening--we have a few on the tree this year!

blueberry bushes: my garden pride and joy

For beautiful, beautiful garden photos and ideas/inspiration, check out this collective blog.

Tell me, how does your garden grow?