Saturday, September 17, 2016

Summer of '16 Wrap Up

Hi, friends! Can you believe fall starts next week?  Here in Virginia it still feels like summer with the temps in the 80's and 90's, and I'm kind of jealous of my Nebraska friend's fall weather. This summer wasn't too eventful for us, although I wrapped it up in a fun way with a trip to San Diego over Labor Day.  Today I am bringing you highlights of the Summer of '16.

* My garden was very unattended this year since I haven't felt the best, but it was the best producing year yet and is still going strong. So far I have frozen 25 pounds of tomatoes for winter use, had stuffed peppers numerous times, and shared the bounty of peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers with friends. I also planted onions and herbs this year that produced well.  I had intended to have a fall garden, but never got it planted.....thank goodness for the Farmer's Market!

*Speaking of the Farmer's Market, I have SO enjoyed going all spring and summer. This summer our family has done great with eating locally with over 80% of our food bought from nearby farms. We even extended it to locally sourced personal items like soaps, perfume, lipstick, and gifts for friend who recently married or had babies. I am hoping this will carry-over through the winter with focusing on eating more root vegetables and pasture raised meat (we recently purchased half of a pastured hog) and buying local gifts for the holiday season.

 * We didn't travel this summer, other than my trip to California, so much of the summer free time was spent on the porch with a cup of coffee or a local craft brew. I also made a lot of delicious food.....

*In August, Remington started high school at a local private school.  We chose a private school because of the smaller class size and accessibility to our home.  He has enjoyed it and has made some new friends in his classes as well as on the soccer team. Isn't he getting tall?  He is as tall as Chad now.....

* Over Labor Day weekend, Nakoma, Phoebe, and I went out to San Diego to visit Naomi.  We had such a fun time! We rented an Airbnb guest house close to where Naomi lives and enjoyed beach time, a day trip to the mountains, a day in San Diego, and time spent cooking and relaxing in our little guest house. 
Sorry for the picture overload!!

Phoebe did great on the airplane.  Nakoma and I met in Atlanta and flew together to San Diego, which is a 4 hour flight. Fortunately, we flew Delta which has screens in the back of each seat for movie watching.....such a great way to pass the time!

We were so excited to see Aunty Naomi!

She looks cool, but she really didn't like the beach very well!

To save money we did a lot of our own cooking in the kitchen of the guest house.

We went to Old Town San Diego one day and had authentic Mexican for lunch!

We spent a few hours at Seaport Village in downtown San Diego.

We had to stop at Frost Me Cupcakes!

And we took Phoebe on her first carousal ride!

We also had a fun afternoon in the mountains with my Aunt and Uncle.  It was a quick trip but great to spend time with them.

Since returning home I have been hard at school.  I am doing an online program for my degree so the pace moves twice as fast as school on campus; so next semester I hope to do a mix of online and residential classes.  So far things have gone smoothly and I'm doing well with the material.

Fall looks to be busy with three trips planned, plus school for all three of us!  Chad is still working slowly on his Masters of Divinity and working full-time at the university. He has a work trip for 3 days in DC coming up so I'm tagging along for that and hope to get in lots of sight-seeing. Then, in a few weeks I'm headed out to Nebraska for a long weekend to see Oksana.  Finally, in November we have another trip to Phoenix planned. It seems like all I will be doing the next two months is studying ahead and cooking freezer meals for these planned trips! Ha!

Well if you've made it through this update I consider you a true friend.....Hopefully I can get some other blog posts in over the next few months.....if I can work it between school and cooking. :-)

Hope you all have a great fall, friends!  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mindful Living - Local Food

Chad and I have another step in our Mindful Living approach with thinking mindfully about where our food comes from.

Much of the food we eat here in the US that comes from the grocery store is grown and harvested in other countries, or in this country by factory farms.   Many of these businesses care nothing for our health, the health of their workers, or the environment. Over the last year I have gotten away from the local shopping I've done in the past. I stopped going to the Farmer's Market, and the majority of our food was purchased at the grocery store.  Instead of going to the little local store that buys only from small farms, I found myself in a big box store so I could buy everything at once at a cheaper price. Instead of stocking up on meat from the man down the road, I bought it in bulk at Sams. Instead of making my own breads, chicken broth, and snacks, I was buying pre-packaged versions from the store.  It was easier, I was lazy, and I didn't want to shell out the extra money or wake up early on a Saturday to go to the Farmer's Market.

Interestingly, my grocery bill increased last year.  By shopping at the big box stores I was throwing unnecessary things in my cart. Many of these things were not the waistline can attest to that. And in actuality many things were really not "cheaper"...just more convenient.

Just like my shopping for fewer, better things in my wardrobe, I can use that same approach to our food purchases. Below are some questions I can ask:

Do I need this item or do I have the mindless munchies? Can this be made at home? What is the environmental impact of buying this? Has the food been treated with mounds of pesticides or grown in factory farms?  Is the packaging that surrounds this item filling up the landfills with millions of pounds of waste per year? Can I buy this item or ingredients for this item from a local grower? If not, a local store?

Obviously, we cannot find everything we need from a local grower or store, but I can certainly find a lot more than I have been. Sometimes pre-package items must be bought to make a special treat or recipe.  But on a day-to-day basis? No.  During the summer, especially, much of what we eat can be found locally.

My 100% local meal!

One last aspect is the community you foster when shopping locally.  You know the grower by name and they know yours. They give you cooking tips when you are chatting at the market.  How often does that happen when checking out at the big box store?  Most days you don't get more than a "hello" and "thank you."  Community is something that has been lost in our country the last 100 years.

Now let me take a step and say, I am not shaming anyone who chooses to shop at discount stores instead of Farmer's Markets for their food. I know most people don't have time to make things from scratch.  I do though. This is MY conviction, not yours.  I hope by bringing awareness that more people will choose to shop local and ethical. Even if you just made the switch on one or two things, it would be a huge step in the right direction! But please know if you choose to shop at big chains exclusively I still love you! :-) You'll still occasionally find me in a big store, but I am hoping it will be a lot less.

So what does the title "Mindful Living" mean for me when it comes to food?   It means I choose to shop local for my food, support the local farmers, and the small, locally owned markets first.  With this switch, I won't be able to afford as much junk food or wine.  My waistline and doctor will be pleased. What I will gain is fewer, better, healthier things - fresh food that is lovingly tended and harvested by a neighbor who values his land and works to make less of an impact on our environment and a sense of community and partnership with these people as well.

My encouragement to you is to become aware of where you shop and the lives of the people who produce what you eat.  Learn the facts! Ask questions! Read books! Watch documentaries! Then, if you feel the conviction I have, make the switch.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mindful Living - Ethical Clothing

I have mentioned before about how one of my goals for 2016 is to buy less for my wardrobe. While that was kind of sabotaged by stress and weight gain the last few months, and I had to buy different sizes, I am back on the bandwagon again. Today I want to talk about being mindful in the choices of where I buy my clothes and what that means to me and my wardrobe.

Several months ago Chad and I watched "The True Cost" on Netflix. Prior to watching this, the plight of the garment workers in other countries was already on my mind, in part from some very thoughtful posts by some of my favorite bloggers, Season+Salt and Truncation. But watching the documentary was very eye opening for me.  For so many years I have bought cheap fashion, also known as fast fashion; clothes that were bought cheaply at the expense of the people who made them. Usually, these clothes are made with poor material and wear out within a season or two and then are thrown away.  Can I, in good conscious, continue to buy clothing from stores that sell this type of clothes when their workers are being mistreated, working long hours for a few dollars a day, and only seeing their children a few times each year?  The $5 I spent on the cheap t-shirt that I didn't need is two days wages for some of these people. When you think of it like that it makes you really rethink walking into the stores that sell fast fashion.

 I know some people say if we pull out of those countries where most of the fashion industry makes the clothes, the people will be even worse off than they are now.  They will no longer have a job or any income.  I agree.  But when I need to buy something new I can choose to spend my money on companies that treat their employees with dignity, pay them a living wage, and have safe working environments.

Spending (or not spending) our money where our convictions lie is crucial to making any change in the world.

If we all would make the switch, these ethical companies would grow and be able to employ more of the people who work at the less than desirable jobs. Maybe the father or mother would then be able to make a better wage so their children would not have to work and could go to school. Maybe the family could afford better food and housing. 

In addition to the plight of the garment workers, the environmental aspect of  "fast fashion" items needs to be considered.  As I said above, when I would buy that $5 t-shirt, the quality was never the greatest because of the cheap materials used, and in only one or two seasons they were usually worn out and holey.

Did you know that 13.1 million tons of textiles get thrown into landfills every year?  Many of these clothes are made with toxic dyes that seep into our ground water or made with materials that take hundreds of years to decompose. On average, each American throws away 82 pounds of textiles, every year.  

125 years ago garments were hardly ever thrown away.  Once a dress was worn out it would be cut up and the more usable pieces would be made into curtains or dish towels, smaller bits would be used for new quilts, and totally worn pieces would be made into cleaning rags or stuffing for a pillow or mattress.  Unlike now, 125 years ago materials for a new dress were way more of a woman's budget, so the woman would need to make sure the textile was a quality piece that would last throughout the year or longer.  125 years ago the average American woman only had 1 new dress a year, if that! When someone was spending so much, they wanted it to last as long as possible.

By my switching to clothing companies with ethical practices I may spend a bit more; instead of a $5 t-shirt I may spend $20.  I will need to look for high quality materials and ethical companies that are known for their quality work. Yes, it's 4 times as much, but if it's well made it could last years rather than months, making it more economical and less of an environmental impact in the long run.

Taking it a step further much of our clothing really needs to be brand new? Obviously, some things like underwear you don't want to buy used, but for me, so much of what I do buy really doesn't need to be new. There are perfectly good, high quality, sometimes even new, items in thrift or consignment stores. When I actually need something, I can choose to look for it at consignment, thrift stores, or eBay first before I purchase an item new.

And taking it one step further still,  how often do we really need to buy clothes, period?  Is it because something is worn out and needs replaced or we need it for our job or activities?  Or is it just because as Americans we shop often for no real purpose?   I am SO guilty of without a purpose.

So what does the title "Mindful Living" mean for me and my wardrobe?  First off, it means I need to evaluate my reasons for shopping and know the triggers to avoid "stress shopping" or shopping without a purpose.  It means when I need to shop, I'll check at local consignment or thrift stores or on eBay for high quality, used items first.  It means when I do buy something new, I look for ethical businesses that pay their employees a living wage and have safe work environments.   Does this mean I will never shop at J Crew Warehouse or Old Navy again? I have learned never say never, but those will be a last resort, and if I follow the method above, I shouldn't have to shop at those stores. With this switch I won't be able to afford as many new clothes.....ethical clothing is simply more expensive upfront. What I will gain is fewer, better things; well-made clothing made by workers who make a living wage and clothing that will last for years to come and have less of an impact on our environment.

So this is my story of my journey to a more conscious way of consumerism. My encouragement to you is to become aware of where you shop and the lives of the people who produce what you wear.  Be aware of the things you throw away. Learn the facts! Ask questions! Read books! Watch documentaries! Then, if you feel the conviction I have, make the switch.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Looking Back - Spring 2016

I haven't done a family or acreage update for awhile so I thought I would take the time and fill you all in on what we've been up to this spring.  I feel like we haven't traveled much this year compared to last year, but when I looked through my pictures from March through June I see we traveled 3 times!

So here are some fun things we've done over the spring months of 2016. Just an FYI...lots of pictures!

Spring 2016

In March, Remington and I went to Nebraska to see friends and family.  Unfortunately,  I had some health problems which cut the trip shorter than anticipated, but we did get to see almost everyone planned.

(L-R) My best friend, Alicia, her mom, Cindy, our dear friend, Sharon, and I went to a pottery shop that was in an old church. 

I picked up some beautiful things for my kitchen!

I was able to visit my "oldest" friend, Kim, and spend the day with her. We've been friends since we were newborns!

Remington had a good time helping Sharon around her farm for the week we were there!

We also were able to spend a few days with Oksana and see other extended family. (Why are my children so tall?!)

But then, this happened so we headed home.  (I'm fine...we thought I was having heart issues but I guess it was an anxiety attack!)

Chad and I celebrated our 14th anniversary at the end of March! We also hiked several times this spring! 

We had a fun Gatsby themed banquet for his work end-of-year party. 

We celebrated his 40th birthday!

And took up eating sushi!

In mid-May we went to Phoenix to visit Chad's family.

And then went on to California to visit Naomi.  

We were able to meet her boyfriend, Nick, too.

We spent an evening on the beach, but as you can see it was cold.  Remington jumped in anyway!

Then it was back to warm Phoenix for a little more time by our family's pool!

In June we went to Chattanooga to visit our little granddaughter, Phoebe, who turned 1!

We had a fun day at the park for her birthday.

We loved spending the weekend with her and Nakoma.

As far as around the acreage, we have done a few things.....removing this old stump for one!

I planted my garden, although it's smaller this year.  We've been enjoying cucumbers and onions already, and tomatoes and peppers will be ready soon! I plan to plant lettuce to harvest in the fall once the onions are done.

I moved these iris to a new location.....

 I think their colors will pop better next spring along this shed!

My perennial flowers are doing ok, although I need to plant some taller ones.  The blue hydrangea on the right is new when I moved the iris and should grow taller and give some height to that area, but I still need to address the bare spot where I have the hanging basket.  Not sure why things I plant there do not grow well!

And finally, this is our favorite spot in the evenings and on weekends! We love to sit out here with a cold drink and watch the wildlife.  We have a hummingbird that comes within 4 feet of us to feed from his little feeder! We also see deer and hundreds of other birds each night!

Summer looks to be fairly relaxed.  Remington has been begging to go to the beach or at the very least the lake, so hopefully we can make that happen.  He has a church trip planned as well that will take him to the beach in a few weeks. In August, he will be going to a "regular school" after several years of homeschooling.  It will be his first year in high school and Chad and I both feel his education needs will be better met outside our home. It will be an adjustment for us all and I am trying to decide what to do with my life after home schooling my kids for the last 7 years!  

Chad is busy with more changes and a new position at work.  He has changed his position 3 times in the last year, but each have been a step up for him, for which we are thankful. He still is taking classes to finish out his degree, but since he works full-time he only takes 1 class at a time.  He enjoys working at the university, so there is no need to hurry and finish his degree so he can move on to other things. 

Well that's a wrap, folks!  Stay tuned next week for a new post on living with less and some more changes I have been making this year!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Stress Sabotages Minimalism

Hello, friends!

Here it is almost July and I finally sit down to type a blog post.  I have been avoiding the blog.  I thought about shutting it down, but never had enough nerve to hit the delete button.  I have been struggling for the past two years with my blog....what it was...what it became....what I would like to to become.  I have hopped all over the place with different subjects; from our story and family, to posts about faith, to my desire to be more minimalist, to my love of travel. At the beginning of the year, I decided to settle on a main theme - slow living and minimalism - but my content puttered out as quickly as it began. :-/

I am going to be totally honest here.  Stress has really gotten in the way of everything.  When I am stressed I eat, drink, and shop.....none of which lend themselves to a simple, quite life of slow, minimal living....thus the lack of blog posts on the subject! I also focus on myself rather than others during times of stress.  By doing so, I lose some of the desire and fervency to live my life with others in mind. I believe much of the benefits of slow, minimal living is having time to do the things you love, having time for others, having a respect for the environment, and the ethical and kind treatment of others. While this may not be true for everyone who is interested in slow, minimal living, it is the basis of what speaks to me about the practice. And when under stress it all gets buried, causing even more stress because I am not doing the things I have a conviction about. It's a viscous cycle.....

I am trying to deal with stress better.  This year I have taken up reading books and journaling again.  I love to read books, but the past several years with blogs becoming so huge I would tend to just read those instead of a book on a particular subject. Towards the beginning of the year I asked Chad what a perfect afternoon looked like for him..... he said reading together. :-)  He is a bookworm, so that figures!  He gave me a gift card to a bookstore for Valentine's Day, so I bought a book and we had our "reading afternoon."  I found out that I actually enjoy it and have read another 11 books since then! We regularly read together now, especially before bed and on the weekends. I have never been much of a "self help book" reader, but have enjoyed several books that speak to things I'm going through in life.

Exercise is another good way to deal with stress and one I have not been as good at recently.  I  found a yoga class on my side of town and want to start doing that a few times a week if I can make it work in my budget. I still have been walking, but I need to kick it up a notch! With yoga there is not only the exercise of putting yourself through each pose, but the mindfulness and meditation, both of which are great for reducing stress.

Writing is also a way I deal with stress, so I'm contemplating starting a new blog that will touch on the struggles I'm going through.  I think by voicing many of them it will be a way to help heal and get through stressful times.  I could keep everything on the this blog, but I really would like this one to stay more upbeat about living simply and minimally and the convictions and rewards that come with it.  I am hoping by having the new blog as an outlet to talk about my struggles I can get back to posting here regularly!  Stay tuned for more information on my new blog once I work up enough nerve to publish.J

Thanks for sticking with me, friends! Stay tuned this week for an update on my quest for fewer, better things and living with less. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Living with Less - Re-purposing Heirlooms

Part of my goals for 2016 is to buy less things for my wardrobe and home.  Today I want to talk about how I have been using what I already own to decorate and make my home comfortable.

I recently found this blog and love the idea of living in a small home and making the most of what we have. Carmella writes a series about using what you have, and after reading the last one, I realized I have been doing that for several months now, prior to reading her blog.

While my home is quite a bit bigger than the one Carmella lives in, I have written before about how we downsized when we moved to Virginia. Even so, I still have a lot of stuff....more stuff than I care to have, and a lot of it's heirlooms.  Since both of my parents have passed away and I am the only girl, I brought home many of the sentimental items that my more practical brothers were not interested in.  Some have been passed on to my two nieces, but I still hang on to a bit of it in case my daughters want some of it someday. Much of it sat in boxes and totes in my storage shed, and this fall I began to think about what could be done with it. Over the last few months I have been re-purposing heirlooms or simply digging them out and using them.  Don't you think that would make our ancestors the happiest, actually using and enjoying their things? I hope so.....

A few of my grandma's doilies were framed and used as art on the walls.  I still have several more I want to frame and add to this wall, but this is what I have done so far.  Simple embroidery hoops were used, so the cost was minimal. Others have been added to end tables, serving their original purpose.

Some extra silver from my mom's silverware set was used to make rings for my daughters and myself for Christmas. I still have a complete set to pass on to one of the girls someday, and we all have a piece to remember mom.

Remington's crib quilt had been in storage for over 10 years.  I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it, but realized it would make a great throw blanket this winter.  The plaid is more of a type of "winter decor," and it's very cozy for curling up on the sofa for a movie or with a book. While it won't stay on the sofa year-round, it is a good addition for chilly months. 

My Dad's old tool box has been cleaned up and filled with seasonal greenery or flowers.  Right now it holds pine cones, but it has held pumpkins, dried lavender, and hydrangeas throughout the year.

My great grandmother's handkerchiefs have replaced the tissue box in my purse and by my nightstand, and the pillowcases my mother-in-law embroidered as a child grace our bed.  My great-grandfather's shaving cup has been turned into a candle holder and sits on our kitchen table. Old fashioned candy dishes and nut bowls from both our grandparents were dug out and filled with candy and nuts over the holidays. It has been fun adding these "new" things to my home's like shopping without opening my wallet! It is another way to simplify my life. Rather than bring new things into my home, I use what I have.

How about you?  Do you have any family heirlooms you use often or have re-purposed in some new way?