Wednesday, July 6, 2016

And so it begins...

.... the transition to a minimalist lifestyle.

My husband has recently been reading some books on simplifying and minimalism, and he came to me (big grin) about embracing a minimalist lifestyle. He spoke about less stuff requires less maintenance, less cleaning, less space for storage, and costs less. We would pay less for housing since we need less space, which would reduce our utility bills. I was hesitantly excited. Could this really be happening?

This morning, we sat down together for breakfast and I asked him if he was certain he wanted to go down this path of minimalism, and he responded with all the right answers. We talked about what it would mean for us, individually, and as a family. And in the end, we added it to our list of characteristics which define our family.

Coincidentally, I am reading, on my kindle, the ebook "Adopting the Minimalist Mindset: How to Live with Less, Downsize, and Get More Fulfillment from life" by Ben Night, which includes an overview of minimalism and then steps and tips for adopting a minimalist lifestyle. It is one of the many free books I've picked up off amazon for my kindle.

One of the topics in the book is the big purge vs removing one item from your home daily. And he makes a good argument for the latter over the former. The last thing I want to do is all the work of a major purge only to over time bring it all back in again. I truly, want us to learn to live with less, so one item at a time, on a daily basis.

I'm kind of excited because I already know where I'll start.... in the kitchen. It is just so easy to accumulate stuff in the kitchen, especially when I can buy it all so inexpensively at the thrift stores. PYREX/Corning for $1.00?! Yes, please! And so today, I will select one of my covered dishes and a pie plate (I have made 2 pies in my entire life and have 3 pie plates.) to keep. The rest I'll either sell  or donate back to my favorite thrift store. Oh, the irony!

Keeping just the one with the handles and decorative edge.

Keeping the clear, round set on the left.

And these unlidded smaller dishes can go with the large one.

And because we're adopting minimalism as one of our family characteristics, I'll be introducing the concept to our daughter through the Children's Bedrooms series of photos. Afterward, I will help her select her first toy to pass on to another child.

I am so excited as we go together toward our new minimalist lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Parenting Book Club

I got the ok from the library to start a new discussion group, and I've decided to go with Parenting as the topic! I'm sooooo excited!!

Meetings will be the last Tuesday of the month, 6:00 pm, at the Wapakoneta Library, downstairs.

Our first meeting will be Tuesday, June 28 and will be a meet and greet for everyone to come in, share some of their parenting successes and challenges, and help set the direction for future books.

The first book up for discussion is The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler. I came across this book recently on a random stroll through the parenting books, am so  inspired by it, and am looking forward to discussing it with other parents.

"In The Secrets of Happy FamiliesNew York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler has drawn up a blueprint for modern families — a new approach to family dynamics, inspired by cutting-edge techniques gathered from experts in the disciplines of science, business, sports, and the military.
The result is a funny and thought-provoking playbook for contemporary families, with more than 200 useful strategies, including: the right way to have family dinner, what your mother never told you about sex (but should have), and why you should always have two women present in difficult conversations…
Timely, compassionate, and filled with practical tips and wise advice, Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More should be required reading for all parents."

Books will be checked out at the first meeting for reading and discussing at the next meeting. Performing "experiments", trying out the methods suggested in the book are highly recommended! Let us know how it goes. 

Future books include:
How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen & Listen so Your Kids Will Talk
Bringing Up GEEKS (Genuine, Empowered, Enthusiastic Kids)
Raising a "G" Rated Family in an X Rated World
Boundaries With Kids

and other books as suggested by club members.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The things I say....

A month or so ago, I started buying our milk from a local dairy. It comes in half-gallon glass jars with plastic lids, has 5% milk fat (yum!), and costs $3, which is a little pricey, but it's worth it.

It's worth that price for so many reasons, including:  We're supporting a small, local dairy. The flavor and creaminess are wonderful. And the only trash generated is the plastic cap. We pay a $2 deposit on each jar which is refunded when we return them.

So the other day, I was chatting away and popped off with "Wouldn't it be great if our only trash was the lids from the milk?! Hahaha"  *giant pause* Whoooaa... what if that was our only trash? And how can I make that happen?

This week, I am paying special attention to the trash as it goes into the bin, and there is a fair amount of trash coming through the mail. I will call into the post office next week to find out how much of it can be blocked before it comes in the mail box. Meat comes in recyclable containers, which is ok, but not great. I also buy quite a bit of frozen vegetables and that packaging is not recyclable. I've stopped buying the frozen hash browns and frozen fish filets.

My goal is to get our trash down to just the lids on the milk by the end of the year.

What steps have you taken to reduce your trash?


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Little Heathens...

... is the book I am finishing up this morning. And I am compelled to share this paragraph from the epilogue:

"I've only recently become aware of my good fortune in having grown up in an environment where everyone knew everyone else. In our community no one was a stranger. If we met an unfamiliar face on the way to the Farmers Store, we offered a greeting because we knew that person had to be a guest in the house of someone we knew. We were privileged to live with the comforting conviction that we had absolutely nothing to fear from people. Of course, we were quite aware that there were dangerous forces and conditions over which we had no control, but we were confident that no person was out to do us injury. This atmosphere created in us a sense of security, a sense of belonging in the world. Is there a more valuable gift than that?"

We, here in the US, are constantly on the lookout for the bad to happen. Bad courts us through the media all day long. And it has made us a fearful culture. We make so many of our decisions from a position of fear rather than love. 

How many of your neighbors do you know? We've unlearned to be neighborly. Being neighborly doesn't mean being best friends with all your neighbors, but it does mean being friendly. You don't have to like them, but you can be kind. And if you did know all your neighbors, wouldn't that make your neighborhood better? safer? more welcoming? And isn't that where we all want to live?

I am going over and over this in my own mind. How do we change our society? Can society be changed? Am I foolish to believe we can once again live in a non-fear based society?

Well, while some may call me foolish, I do believe we can move away from so fear-based, and the first step is to control the media/news inputs into our homes. Most of what is reported in the news has no direct influence on the decision-making in my home anyway.

Second step is to stop believing that most people I don't know may be out to get me, my children, my stuff. This is what the news would have me believe, and it's just not true. Let's say, for the sake of conversation that only 5% of the people I don't know are out to get me. Now it's just a numbers game that I can turn in my favor by doing the third step.

Third step is meet and greet more people! A cheery hello given to the shopkeeper, person I meet on the sidewalk, parent at the school is all it takes to make a connection. It could be the first step toward a friendship or it may just be a cheery hello given away at no charge. Either way, it's cost me nothing and it's helped to build a better community.

What else would you add to my list?


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sustainable Living is .....

.... packing (waste-free) lunches.

Waste-free lunches is an idea we picked up from the kindy (preschool) our daughter attended over in Australia. The day ran from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm which, obviously, includes lunch time. But contrary to most preschools here in the US, there was no hot lunch served. The children were expected to bring a packed lunch from home. And it was to contain no throw-away waste.

No plastic wrap. No paper napkins. No pre-packaged chips. Or cookies. Or string cheese. Or throw-away yogurt containers. Or juice boxes. 

A long way from most packed lunches here in the US.

And we adapted. I browsed the thrift stores to pick up a few plastic containers with lids; as well as a lunch box and a stainless steel water bottle, which she still has. Once we adopted the mindset, it wasn't hard at all. And our lunches are still packed this way now. 

Fresh foods are packed in washable containers. Forks and spoons from the drawer are included (usually). And at the end of the day, it all comes home, gets washed, and is ready to go out again the next morning.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sustainable Living is....

Planning the Garden

The Baker Creek Seed catalog came in the mail!!! And yes, I've been page-turning, dreaming about all the seeds I'd like to order and putting out a garden again.

Kenn and I went for a walk and talked about where we'd like to put the garden. We've had it behind the barn, which was good for water access, but not so good for weeding. Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

This year, we're going to put it out kind of in the space between the house and the chicken coop. It will require a long hose for watering, but unless we're up to installing a new water line (which we're not), almost anywhere will require a water hose.
Mississippi Cobb Gem Watermelon

I'm dreaming of tomatoes, green beans, lettuces, and so many other fresh veggies. Maybe we'll even get out some fruit trees. In a perfect world, we'd get a couple of bee hives and plant a special bee garden. Oh! And a butterfly garden. It's so easy and fun to dream. It's so easy to get in over your head, too.

Reality is our garden will have a large patch of tomatoes, some for eating fresh and more for canning; salad fixings - romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peas; onions, strawberries, squash, and watermelon.
Boston Pickling Cucumber
Hopefully, we will plant some fruit trees this year, looking forward to fresh fruit in 5 or so years.

What does your dream garden look like?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Maple Fest 2016

Maple Fest 2016

Our county parks department puts on a Maple Fest in the even numbered years. And so, out we went. This is a modern tapping system - plastic spilees, plastic tubes, and a plastic collection bag.

Not a typical collection bucket, but it let us see the sap dripping out of the tree. Sap can run for as little as 6 days or as much as 6 weeks. It all depends on the temperatures.

Trees are typically tapped in late winter or early spring, but it isn't the date they go by, but the temperatures. To make the sap run, temps must be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day.

Maple trees (ash, dogwood and one other) grow branches directly opposite each other. That plus the 5-pronged leaf make them easy to identify.

Native americans were the first to collect maple sap and cook it down to sugar which was easily stored. They heated the sap by heating rocks by the fire and setting the hot rocks into a container (hollowed log, tightly woven basket, or pottery dish) containing the sap.

The fire, rocks, and sap had to be tended by the women and children all day long. Ash was strained out using a woven grass straining tool.

Maple sugar - the preferred method of keeping maple sweetening around for use and trade.

Pioneers came along with their cast iron cooking pots and refined the process a bit. Starting with the raw sap in the largest pot and cooking it down, pouring it into smaller and smaller pots ...

until they also ended up with a firm lump of maple sugar. It's the cone-shaped thing in the middle of the photo.

It' takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup. And you wondered why real maple syrup cost so much more than the fake stuff. Now you know.

Evolution of the spile, used to tap the trees and drain the sap.

Our group. That's my husband in the black vest and daughter in the pink hat.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are a breed of woodpecker bird known for their own maple tree sap collection methods.

One bird will tap a row of holes all the way around a tree, leave for a couple hours, and come back to a lovely meal of maple sap. An added bonus is if the ants have arrived before their return.

And the modern method of cooking down the sap - a 4-bin wood-burning cooker. Maple sap is 97.5% water and just 2.5% sugar.

Early in the season syrup is light-colored (golden) and with a lighter flavor. Dark syrup is from later sap. Ohio ranks 4th or 5th most years in maple syrup production. Vermont is 1st of the states. Canada is 1st in the world. That said, maple syrup is a Canada and eastern, north of Kentucky US thing.

A warm pancake with a bit of real maple syrup. Yum!


And of course, when we got home we cooked up some pancakes and sausages to have with real maple syrup.

Cheers - Ann