Category Archives: Simplicity

August’s Flavor of the Month…Zucchini

August started off with a bang for us. Last week DH was stung by a bee while he was mowing the lawn, and we had 1 Benadryl left in the cupboard (we did have some other antihistamines). It reminded me that when I do my Flylady zones for cleaning, I should be checking on first aid supplies as well. If you have kids, you can just about guarantee that the bandage box will be empty when you need one!

The school where I work decided to have classes in person this fall, which was not what I was hoping for. It won’t make a lot of sense for my husband and daughter to be “safer at home” for work and school and me to be working part-time in a place where Coronavirus will be circulating. I’m both holding out hope that school may change their plan, while also envisioning myself home full-time and trying to define what goals I would have for myself.

August, the month of zucchini bread

Cooking – zucchini bread #2, and many meals with sautéed zucchini. Looking ahead to next week, I’m interested in trying some Native American recipes that use beans, squash and corn. I was inspired by Padma Lakshmi’s new show on Hulu Taste the Nation.

Enthusiastic blooms

Gardening – this week my freebie pot of marigolds is in full bloom. The garden center was uncomfortably crowded in May, so I made use of free marigold seeds from my mother in law for some DIY patio decor.

Flylady – this week we are heading into Zone 2, the kitchen. I need to give special attention to a countertop that’s overrun with masks, Clorox wipes and other things that need a home. I will also check our supply of baking ingredients and go through some recipes in binders. If you’re new to the Flylady system of taking care of your home, you might enjoy my favorite YouTuber, Diane in Denmark.

Sharing – shared zucchini and tomatoes with my neighbor, and they gave us 1/4 of a watermelon and some rhubarb cake! We frequently share back and forth, especially produce in large sizes that we might not finish otherwise.

Budgeting – DH still updates our budget weekly, though it is a lot less complicated since we don’t go out and about much. This week we were under budget by $70.00 and put that money towards future gift expenses.

What’s growing abundantly where you are? Are you hitting back to school sales or making do with pencils and markers you have at home for virtual learning?

Appreciation – A Frugal Habit

This week I have been noticing a positive side-effect of the Coronavirus restrictions on our lives – a greater appreciation and delight in the small things in life.

This week we found new things to do for very little money, things we probably wouldn’t have considered “fun enough” in our fast-paced life before COVID came around.

Mock orange from my shrubs

My daughter and I went to a bakery this week in a rural town outside of our city which is owned by a woman who left the Amish life in her 20s. We had plenty of time to talk in car, and brought home some treats including lemon meringue pie! It was so simple, but it felt good to have a new experience (side note: not too many mask wearers in small towns…)

Tonight I am appreciating being home to be able to pick the kale from my garden and serve it sautéed with sausages for dinner. Far too often we have been guilty of planting seeds, watering, and then going on vacation only to come home to our veg gone to seed. I am delighted to have the time to tend to and enjoy our yard.

Yay, we used our kale!!

We had a great new experience for Father’s Day (early). We did struggle a bit with finding a balance between “fun enough” and “safe.” A number of plans were scrapped because they seemed too complicated with Coronavirus. We ended up having a perfect, simple day, picking up poke bowls and taking them to a magnificent park with views of Lake Michigan. I think we will enjoy variations of this throughout the summer.

Poke in
the park

Another simple joy this week was walking with my mom to her local ice cream shop. We haven’t gotten together inside yet, but this was a fun way to spend some time together.

I know we aren’t the only ones carving out joy in a simpler life. I have seen so many teens and even college students at the local playground, sitting on blankets, shooting hoops, or practicing hitting baseballs. I never even knew these kids lived in our neighborhood and I’m glad to see them outside under conditions that are deemed safe in our state.

Have you discovered or rediscovered simple pleasures as a result of lockdown?

Adapting to Change

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Signs of Spring in the Garden

How is everyone doing?  I’m finding it difficult to focus a blog post on any one subject, so I’ll give you a bit of an update on how we are adapting and any tips we have worked out for dealing with Stay at Home orders.

don t panic text on toilet paper

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Let’s talk TP.  We have been committed to ordering our groceries online, but our main store, owned by Kroger, won’t let us add toilet paper into a pick-up order.  I found that Kroger does SHIP many items in the mail.  We were able to have TP shipped for 4.95 shipping fee, or free shipping if you spend over a certain amount.  If your grocery is owned by a larger corporation, you might check this out.

What comes next?  I’ve been seeing a trend in my midwestern state that manufacturing anything is really difficult with Coronavirus lurking.  I asked my daughter to think about what clothes she might need for the summer and we ordered them right away.  I wonder if clothing manufacturers are going to have a hard time keeping their merchandise in stock with international factories closing, opening, and potentially closing again.  As for me, I just need to make sure I can still fit in the clothes I already have!

Speaking of supply issues . . . Apple seems to be having exactly the issues I described above.  I have been contemplating an Apple Watch for the last few months, and it’s about a 5 week wait to get one shipped.  DH found Best Buy had certain colors on sale for 100.00 off so guess who is wearing their Mother’s Day present already!  My Dad was always shopping for a new watch when I was a kid, so I feel this purchased is “Dad approved.”

Simple Things – We are enjoying our days together with work and school from home peppered with plenty of walks, planting cold-hearty seeds like kale, watching Project Runway and Top Chef All Stars, and occasionally getting meals delivered.  Restaurants we never even bothered with in our spoiled pre-Coronavirus past, like Jimmy Johns (sandwich place), now are bordering on magical when we get them delivered.

What simple things have you discovered? Any tips for procuring short-supply items?

 

Prisoner of Clutter?

Toys? Root of Modern Clutter?

In the past few days the article “Today’s families are prisoners of clutter” from the Boston Globe has been trending all over my Facebook feed.  I’m not sure why this article got kicked back to life, since it is almost 5 years old, but it interested me nonetheless.

I was intrigued by the portrayal of 21st century kids as over-saturated with toys.  Growing up, one of my sets of Grandparents rarely gave Christmas or birthday gifts.  It was more of a special event when they did.  They raised 6 kids, who had kids, and there were just too many Grandchildren to undertake gifts for every event.  In contrast, my mom only has one Grandchild.  My daughter also receives gifts from aunts and uncles.

That can make for a lot of toys.

I can imagine this situation reaches a crisis if you have a few kids, and the stream of toys keeps coming throughout the year.

The article states that one problem with the avalanche of toys is adults’ unwillingness to part with the toys and their desire to save the toys for future grandchildren.  A result is Rubbermaid tubs in the garage and nowhere for cars.

What is the toy situation at your house?

I have been lucky to have other relatives in the family to hand things down to.  One child gets all of my daughter’s clothes, and the choicest toys and books.  I don’t want to overwhelm them with toys either!  Other items I sold at rummages (like the Melissa and Doug mentioned in the article) or gave to Goodwill.  Items we still have include Legos, dollhouse, Calico Critters, American Girl dolls, Barbies, dinosaurs, and wooden blocks.  Those items put together are probably more toys than I had in my whole childhood, and that doesn’t even account for the items we don’t have anymore.

It’s hard for me to refute the assertion in the article that today’s kids have too many toys.

Playing the Scenario Out

Will today’s children become parents with tubs and tubs of toys to hand down, passing along the clutter crisis?  I have found that every few years there are a lot of toys we can pass along in one way or another.  Kids make great leaps in terms of interests and maturity and suddenly you both know that an item has served its purpose.  The problem comes in when we — the parents — don’t want to let the toys go.  It’s not Great Depression mentality.  Maybe it’s closer to a wish to have another crack at reliving the joy of childhood.  Certainly some items are “keepers” but saving enormous amounts of toys for hypothetical kids to come decades away means the toys aren’t able to give someone else joy.  Saving things also make a lot of assumptions about what a future child would be interested in — My Little Pony?  Beanie Boos? Anna and Elsa?

I can’t say this article doesn’t hit a nerve.  Though we have come to the very end of the toy buying years, the article will stay with me as we go through bins of toys.  Today we have some Dora Legos, Princess items, games, and craft kits headed for new homes.  It’s a start.

What are your thoughts on the article?  I’m interested in the opinions of those with and without kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Involuntary Simplicity?

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Mr. Saver Pays a Visit to the Food Truck

How would you feel about avocados being a rare seasonal treat?  Would your trip to Chipotle be complete without that glob of guac on top?  On my mind this week are thoughts about how changes in national (US) policy might affect my family.

Deportation of migrant workers, many of whom have falsified work papers (I didn’t know they were fake!), would immediately affect the prices of fresh food, most of which comes from California’s Central Valley.  Farmers hope their existing work force could be legalized, or that temporary work visas might be available to agricultural workers.  These low paying jobs are back-breaking and difficult to fill with US citizens, who can go work easier jobs for 10.00 an hour.  (For more background on this, read this article.). Crops need to be picked when they need to be picked and if labor is deported, millions of dollars of crops would be lost.

Rising fresh food prices could necessitate home gardens, canning, and buying local/seasonal.  Kind of a throwback to the ’40s  — before strawberries were available fresh year round.

The other piece of the food price puzzle is whether the government places trade restrictions and taxes on imported goods (say to pay for building a big wall), and importing fresh food like avocados and strawberries from places like Mexico quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.

Honestly, if the US sufficiently aggravates other countries, they may not buy goods from our farmers, who are barely hanging on as it is.  This could drive up subsidies which we pay for as taxpayers.

Changes in the cost of items can happen rapidly, as we have experienced occasionally with lettuce, citrus, and recently avocados due to things like weather and labor strikes.   What would your diet and budget look like if food prices increased?  Do you have a means to take advantage of food in season through canning or freezing?

Personally, I’m not ready to start stockpiling 5 pound cans of green beans, but it does get my mind turning about gardening and what we might grow that we will use and won’t be eaten by rabbits.  I have canned jam but never anything for food preservation; I do think this is a useful skill to have.

Do you think the scenarios above are possible?  Probable?   Canadian friends… where do you get your fresh produce from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimalist Motivation 

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-4-22-45-pmWell, hello!  I thought I would put fingers to iPad after a long hiatus because I’ve been thinking about my “saver” roots after watching an interesting documentary on Netflix called “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.”

I’ve been enjoying it on the treadmill at night.  The premise is that we have one shot at this life, as far as we know, and spending it acquiring, tending, and shopping for things is not a very satisfying way to spend our days here.  The show also brings in some KonMari ideas… it’s not that one needs to have nothing, but what we do have should bring joy and function to our daily lives.

The movie is relevant to me because I seem to have less and less time to tend to our house and belongings, so having less and being able to find things seems appealing.  I would love to know that my closet and my daughter’s only contains clothes we will wear and enjoy wearing.

We both went through our closets this weekend … nothing as extensive as Marie Kondo’s method of touching everything you own … but it feels good to pass along what we can and to be able to find what we need.  Trust me, more work is needed!  I choose to look at this as ‘baby steps when I can’ rather than a massive project tearing apart the house.  My work schedule and kid schedule just doesn’t allow for something like that right now.

Today I need to jot down what we are taking to Goodwill for tax purposes (one of my least favorite jobs!) and I will drop them off tomorrow when I run DD to dance class.

Have you seen this documentary?  Do any parts of minimalism feel relevant to you?

 

 

 

 

Wisdom from Tasha

IMG_7247“Nowadays, people are so jeezled up.  If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the liquid song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.”  – Tasha Tudor

I came across the quote from Tasha Tudor when researching corgi dogs (dangerous thinking I know)!  Corgis appear in most of her books and artwork.  The quote was the perfect sentiment at the perfect time for me.  It’s been a S-L-O-W week at home, with people still recovering from illnesses, leaving me the only one still awake at 8:30 p.m.  I’ve been reading my old issues of Victoria magazine, taking time to enjoy all of the beautiful photos and gracious living articles.

My little garden frog.

My little garden frog.


I needed to slow down, too.

I haven’t really found a good balance between home and work since switching jobs, and having my family resting so much made me realize what I high gear I am operating in.  

I want to take a bigger step back into my “core business” of family-food-home and one step back from the demands of work.  Thoughts, working moms?

According to Tasha, chamomile tea is required! 

 

Working and Unconscious Spending

Free-Downloads-Vector-Vintage-Stove-GraphicsFairy-redWith summer comes a break from employment for me because I work in a school.  This past year I worked more hours, and I am thinking about how that affected my behavior with our money.

All along we have been staying debt-free and working a budget, but even within that I can see an increase in ‘buying to get through the week’ kind of behavior – unconscious spending.  I can tell I haven’t been as mindful with money when I am afraid to see what the grocery spending looks like when I run a report in Quicken.  I haven’t run one in a long time, but did so tonight.  It was better than I expected, but lots of room for improvement.  When I get lax with our shopping and meal planning, it generally costs us about an additional 100.00 a month.

It’s easy to get in the mindset of picking up convenience items at the store, and saying ‘yes’ to impulse purchases, when you are so busy.  Yet, that isn’t really how I want to spend the money I go to work to earn.  What I dislike even more than the expenditure, is the unconscious part of the spending.  Unconscious spending to me means those expenditures where I say, “Looks good, I’ll pick one up.  Why not.”  Conscious spending is when I might deviate from my plan, but I do so with intention and joy (and a definite plan to use the item soon).

If any persons think some of the maxims too rigidly economical, let them inquire how the largest fortunes among us have been made.  They will find thousands and millions have been accumulated by a scrupulous attention to sums ‘infinitely more minute than sixty cents.’

-The American Frugal Housewife, 1832

Meccas for unconscious spending:  Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Fresh Market  All danger zones!  I don’t belong to Costco but I suspect that it also belongs on the list.

So, I am contemplating this summer how to find that balance come fall between minding the food expenses and not running around all weekend with coupons and grocery store flyers.  Your input is welcome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got $10 and Time?

Mr. Saver is Head Gardener in our home.  He was researching shrubs and trees and came across a wonderful, economical resource at the Arbor Day Foundation.  The Arbor Day Foundation sells an enormous variety of evergreens, fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and flowering trees, many of them priced from $ 4.00 to $ 19.00.  Who needs Monrovia at the garden center?!

Of course, there is a catch.  The plants are small, many from 6″ to 3 feet.  So, you need to be both frugal and patient to make this work.  There is also a “tree wizard” which will help you select the best trees for your growing conditions.

I was drawn to the “American Beech”  – its “beech nuts” serve as an important food for wild turkeys, foxes, and porcupines!  It grows 70 feet tall, has fall color, and you get all that for the low low price of $ 9.00!

Note – they only ship in spring and fall.  This is not a sponsored post – just sharing!

 

 

Slow Down Saturday

Santa Fe Cactus

Santa Fe Cactus, 2013

Wowee, what a week.  It’s such a blessing to be home all summer with my girl, but such a rude awakening when it is back to work and school.  This was our first full week of school and work. By about Wednesday my daughter was longing for a vacation to Washington, DC.  I find that when we have the urge to go on a vacation, what it usually means is: “I miss living life without so many obligations.”

We did decide that we could take some money from my checks and put it into a vacation fund that we can watch grow.  This might be a good introduction to our budget process for our daughter.

Today we are taking it easy as we are under orders from Laine’s teacher to “recharge our batteries.”  This is advice near and dear to my heart.  The next best thing to a vacation is being home without a massive to-do list and errands all over the place.

Meanwhile, we had a good week with our budget.  I wasn’t enthusiastic about cooking some of the nights this week, but having a meal plan really helps.  It is important that I continue to cook most meals at home or my checks will be used up in dining out costs!  I continue to monitor Quicken to make sure that my working isn’t causing a rise in grocery spending due to lack of meal planning.

On a humorous note, my most interesting google search that brought someone to my blog  this week was ‘getting laid at home’.   Pretty sure they didn’t get to the page they were looking for, but maybe they stumbled on a good Jamie Oliver recipe as a result.