Hooray for VirtualBox!

After tinkering for a bit tonight, I have discovered that my Magicjack will work in VirtualBox on my Ubuntu computer. The sound is not as clear but still coherent; my sister said it sounded like I was on a cellphone that wasn't getting the best reception.

I can deal with that. Should the need arise for a crystal-clear connection I can always boot the netbook or something for a bit. I don't use the phone that much so it isn't a big deal.

Tomorrow the rearranging will take place. I plan to remove everything from this desk and place it in a spot in the living room and the shelf in there will be moved into the bedroom where the desk is currently. This will allow me to use one computer for music, phone, general daytime surfing, chatting, blogging - as well as having a centralized spot so that I can better supervise my daughter when she is online.

Which reminds me - time to make her a user account on this Ubuntu machine. Hooray for Virtualbox! I can have my Linux and Windows too!

Minimalistic Heroes, and Current Progress

Today I discovered a photograph of Steve Job's minimalist home back in the 1980's.

I must admit, this gives me a different perspective of the man. Nothing is there that he didn't need.

There is a blog called the Everyday Minimalist. One of my favorite posts is here. I hope you will visit.

Some research last night indicates that I may be able to reduce electric usage with what I have on hand as far as my computers go. Some people have actually been successful getting Magicjack running smoothly using VirtualBox and XP in linux. This is a wonderful find, for I will be able to have my linux file server (which is my earnest desire) plus have my magicjack all running on a single machine instead of two machines like I currently use. I plan to attempt this in hopes of eliminating at least one running computer in this home.

Today I went out to purchase filters for my electric furnace to prepare for winter. I discovered a washable filter you could cut to fit your particular need, at a cost of less than some of the disposables they had available. I purchased two of these filters, so that when the time comes to wash them, I can pull out the dirty one and replace with the clean, then wash the dirty one and store until the next change. These filters are supposed to last a year each, so by rotating and keeping them really clean by washing them often I will be able to get two or more years from the pair.

Yes it would have been simpler to just purchase the disposables and toss them every month, but it didn't make sense either environmentally, financially or personally. A few minutes a couple of times a month and I will be able to have much cleaner air without as much of a dent in my pocketbook, with less junk going to the landfill. I may end up investing in a more powerful washable filter at a later date, but if these do what I want I may not, especially since my furnace takes an off-size filter.

I now have a stack of obsolete CDs going to someone on freecycle making a project, a stack of stuff going to a friend, and I'm considering listing a couple things for sale or freecycle. One step at a time.

A friend of mine commented that I "need" to keep some things that are useless "just because," whether or not they have sentimental value. Does anyone understand this comment? I just ended up giving them a blank stare, cause it totally went over my head. I'm keeping some things I like that are purely decorative, and some things that have sentimental value, but I am slowly eliminating the rest if it isn't functional.

Maybe people are starting to think I have went over the edge....


George Carlin talks about the importance of stuff in our lives. Language Warning: not for children.

Tummy Tamer Candy

My little girl has a stomach bug. Poor little thing was too ill to go to school as a result. I am making a batch of tummy tamer candy to help her out.

Usually I keep a batch of this candy around just in case either of us has an upset stomach, but with the moves and ensuing chaos I had yet to prepare a batch.

Tummy tamer candy is something I came up with a few years ago when my daughter could not keep anything down due to illness. I made them and asked her to keep one in her mouth to suck on. Being a small child she loved having the excuse to keep a piece of candy in her mouth, and in short order her stomach calmed down to where she could handle other things.

It is a homemade hard candy recipe made with ginger and Sweet Dreams (or Sleepytime) tea. The tea has chamomile and peppermint in it, both of which have stomach soothing properties, and ginger is famous for settling stomachs. You don't need a lot of ingredients or tools to make this simple herbal remedy:

That's it, all you need to make tummy tamer candy.

The recipe:

2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups brewed Sweet Dreams tea
1 tsp. ginger (approx) - you may have to adjust because some children find this dosage too spicy.

Mix it all in a heavy pot and cook over medium heat, allowing it to boil until you reach the soft-crack phase. Soft crack is where you can put some in cold water and it holds its strands together, yet it still is a tad soft.

Boiling towards the soft crack phase.

Once it is done cooking, pour it into a well-buttered baking sheet. If you don't have a baking sheet don't buy one. Just use some plates or baking dishes - you can even use a skillet if you have to - but on the things you can't safely flex a touch you may want to add a layer of aluminum foil and butter that instead to make it easier to break up.

I waited too long on mine. It went into the hard-crack phase. It's all good just looks a little different. Here it is poured out on the metal pizza pan I greased for the occasion.

The goal when you pour it out is to get a thin layer. If it is too thick it will take too long to harden plus be hard to break up.

Once you pour it out, you can take a buttered metal spatula and press indents into the candy in a small grid pattern to make breaking easier. I generally use 1/4 inch grids for mine.

I wasn't paying attention and this batch ended up in the hard-crack phase before I know it, but just because I cooked it too long the batch isn't ruined. It will just look a little different and harden faster. I didn't move fast enough to make a grid on this batch, but it broke apart easily enough.

Allow it to harden and break it apart.

Ready to eat!
My daughter licked the spoon clean and is now on her way to a happier tummy!

Yes, I love those "party's"

I know I'm considered part of the infamous "grammar police." And I know that not everyone is so picky about punctuation and spelling. But really - I saw a web site for a Halloween costume for adolescent/young teenage girls for a skimpy Dorothy (WOZ) costume that floored me. The costume, trashy though it may be, is not what startled me. It was the "comments" section.

Now I realize the web is considered an informal setting, and I do know that that site is not a professional one, but, oh my! I can't imagine that this is the way our kids are taught to write!

Its a great costume and really sexy. it makes me, a little chubby (not fat, just not skinny, normal basicly) look tottaly skinny its easy to move around in, and is just awesome. i love mine [...]i am siked for halloween cause i will look amazing! NEED TO GET THE RIGHT SIZE. Dont get it to small or to big. too small and you can't breath, to big and it jsut looks gross, i got mine a bit small but it looks amazing still/ i deffinetly recomend it.

I love this product! Dorothy has always been my favorite storybook character, and now i get to be her myself! i used this at a Halloween party, and the boys were checking me out! also its real comfy! the one problem- i have medium sized thighs and a big rear so the white made my thighs look a little big and the skirt emphasized my behind, which would have been fine except the fact that the teachers were there! oh well! no one else seemed to notice! but be warned... even if you're self conscious in this outfit, it still looks hott!

The Dorothy Costume is so cute and you get alot of people telling you how cute it is. But wear shorts if your a tall person!

I cant wait to wear it to all my Halloween party's!!

Please - PLEASE - someone tell me this is not the norm! It just makes me sick to my stomach. Have grammar, spelling, and punctuation gone out of style now? Are they still being taught in schools? Am I just an old fuddy-duddy? (Don't answer that last question to someone who just celebrated her 55th birthday!)

The Purse from Hell

I have the purse from Hell. I'm embarrassed to go through it here, but I'm opening it up and posting a quick snapshot.

Most of it is junk. Receipts, old coupons, loose change, extra napkins. . . Junk.

Whenever I need something out of it I am forced to dig. My cash/card purse constantly springs open in this chaos, spilling everywhere and making me desperate to ensure that I can account for all of my credit cards. Getting money out of it at the checkout is a total embarrassment. Forget answering the cellphone when it rings, I always have to call people back.

This has got to change.

Enter the Buxton Bag from those television infomercials.

My kid saw this on television and carried on so much about how perfect this bag would be for me that I broke down late last year and purchased it. I used it for a little while, but after deciding that it was too small to hold everything I handed it down to my daughter, who has been playing with it ever since.

I've been thinking. When I used that little bag not once did I have to hunt for
anything that I needed. It was always easy to locate and put away anything. I was never unhappy about locating things in this little bag - I was simply unhappy about how much it held.

Really though - how much stuff does one person need to carry? There are some people carrying a single ID and some cash - and they are perfectly happy. Why can't I cut down then?

We're going to try this. I am going to sort through this giant bag, reducing to the point where I can fit all that I need inside that Buxton Bag
without having to open the expanding zippers. By not opening the zippers I will have some extra space just in case it is needed.

Some things I would like to keep:
Insurance cards
credit card
ink pen
aspirin for headaches, etc.
breath mints or gum

I don't carry makeup because I rarely wear the stuff. When I wear it, I'll carry some powder. If there is room I may add a small vial of perfume to the bag. Books will be digital in the smartphone, as will most all of my notes.

Oh my! I found $50 in the bottom of my bag! Whoo Hoo!

I am happy to report that I fit everything I needed with total success!

I ended up with:
ID and papers
jump drive
hand sanitizer
bus route and schedule
bus tickets
spare keys
ink pen
smartphone (not shown - Used to take picture)
pack of gum
collapsible fan

All of this fit with room to spare! I was delighted!

Eventually I plan to go with a smaller thing of deodorant (yes, I'm strange), and I hope to either locate or replace my travel size lotion bottle. The map will be transferred to the van the next time I go anywhere. I'm also thinking of removing the checkbook since I so rarely write checks, opting instead to keep track of purchases on a spreadsheet in the smartphone. For deposits I can just carry a couple of deposit slips...

I not only managed to streamline my bag, but also my keys as well. Almost half of the keys on my keychain were unnecessary anymore!

Life is truly good.

The Gadget Bucket

This is what I call my "gadget bucket." It contains the majority of tools I use when preparing food. It has become overgrown, so in the name of simplicity I am thinning it out today.

Here are all of the items spread out so they can be seen better:

This hodgepodge contains:

2 metal spatulas
2 sets of tongs
hand mixer
hand grater
2 wire whisks
3 wooden spoons
plastic slotted spoon
2 plastic dipping spoons
manual can opener
potato masher
singer beater from electric mixer (location of mate: unknown)
chef's knife
boning knife
2 older tv knives
newer tv knife

Way too many gadgets for a single mom with a single kid. Let's see what I can thin out:

There! I managed to pare down 7 items from that bucket. One spatula, the lone beater, a pair of tongs, one of the older TV knives, the boning knife, one plastic dipper spoon, and the smaller of the two whisks will be placed in the storage container out in my building.

I kept two of the TV knives, one old and one new because they have different degrees of serration and depending upon what I am cutting sometimes I prefer one or the other. The beater will be kept because I know I have the mate and the mixer stashed somewhere, despite the fact that I may use it once every couple of years.

One of the whisks went into storage, though I was ambivalent about that. I tend to use one whisk or the other depending upon the job but feel it is silly to have two of them. In fact the only reason I own two is because you had to buy a 2-pack at Sam's club (I got these in the restaurant supply section).

I never use the boning knife - got it and several paring knifes as a bonus when I bought my latest set of TV knives. Why did I buy a new set of TV knives when I had several older TV knives already? I don't know offhand - I guess because of the one-piece metal construction and the heavier overall guage of the metal - I am abusive to these knives so I may have just wanted spares, though honestly I have yet to destroy a single TV knife despite using them to even cut down small trees in place of a handsaw (I have bent one however). If you ever want an excellent all-around knife you can use and abuse, invest in a set of TV knives. They run around $40 dollars and are well worth every penny!

I have owned three sets - the first set was lost in the divorce, the second and thrid sets are going strong (
why did I think I needed 2 sets?).

I kept out my favorite set of tongs and stashed the other set. Eventually I may feel safe enough to permanently let go of these items but for now storage it is...

One day I am in hopes of getting a wall-mount knife magnet to get those up and out of the way, then perhaps I will figure out another method of storing my gadgets besides that bucket!

For those who are curious, I have used a manual can opener for years for several reasons:
1) it doesn't take up as much storage space,
2) it has an incredibly long warranty, and won't break down and need replacing near as often as an electric can opener will (if it ever breaks down),
3) it cost a LOT less than an electric can opener,
4) it does not use electricity like an electric can opener (every little bit helps),
5) it doesn't take any longer to open a can manually than it does with an electric can opener
6) it is quieter than an electric can opener
7) it is just plain classier to have a well-built manual can opener than those darn electric gadgets wasting space, electricity and money.

I have always used a manual grater. I have never owned a food processor, though once I was given a salad shooter (I hated it). This particular grater was inherited when my parents passed away.

The potato masher is the same way. It came from my parents. My mother had 2 but one disappeared over the years. When I got older she started using an electric mixer to make our mashed potatoes. I remember the noise, the mess as it splattered everything, always having to clean up after it, wiping off the machine and washing those infernal beaters (which were never together when you wanted them so dinner was always late) - and the potatoes never had the occasional chunk that makes homemade mashed potatoes so special.

I looked long and hard to replace the hand mixer that my mother used to have. I assume she tossed her old one when she bought the electric mixer, but I have fond memories of making cakes and dream whip using that handy little device! It was quieter, it never broke down, you don't have to plug it in and you never have to worry about losing a beater :) Hence my manual mixer. If I ever locate my electric one and both beaters to freecycle it will go - I detest that useless messy thing!

As you can tell, I have a preference for manual devices instead of electric gadgets. After years of watching things break right before the novelty wears off I have learned my lesson. Planned obsolescence and breakdowns can kiss my grits!

Life Without a Coffee Maker

Growing up as a child, I recall the time when my parents decided they were tired of instant coffee and switched to drip.

Every year or so they had to replace that stupid machine, sometimes twice a year. Every time the latest machine went belly up they would gripe about how cheap things were made. Even the expensive coffee makers would die in a short span of time!

When I reached adulthood, I ended up marrying an inveterate coffee drinker. He would drink anything, so long as it was coffee.

For the first few years coffee was brewed in an electric percolator - I guess it tasted alright for he drank it - I wasn't in a coffee phase so I never tasted it!

Eventually we moved on to a "real" drip coffee maker. Determined to ensure my husband (and myself by that time) had good coffee I would clean the machine out with vinegar - only to have the machine die the next time we used it.

I thought it was a fluke, so we purchased another. I didn't clean this one for almost a year, but when I did - alas, I killed it too.

When I stopped trying to clean the machines, they would last a long time before eventually going to coffeemaker heaven, but go they all eventually did.

Sometime after moving out on my own I realised that I didn't really drink enough coffee to justify a coffeemaker taking up space on my counter, yet I did not want to have to keep instant on hand. For a time I attempted to find a consumer solution - single cup coffee makers, smaller coffee makers, coffee makers on clearance - all of these solutions still left some sort of monstrosity sitting on my precious countertop for the rare times when I wanted a good cup of coffee.

Currently I have a percolator pot, but instead of perking the coffee I generally boil the water in my teapot and pour it in to get the equivalent of a drip. It isn't bad, but still I have this pot taking up space in my cabinets for the rare time I get the taste for coffee.

I have heard that a French Press would be a good space-saving solution for those occasional cups of coffee, but there you go with the consumer bit. Always we seem to think (myself included) that we have to buy something to solve a problem. I honestly don't want to buy anything unless I have to, and considering that this metal stovetop percolator has no moving parts to die, I guess I'm stuck unless someone has a better idea.

The thing is, I don't even know if I would like the coffee that a French Press makes. Why spend that money on something that I don't know if I will like? It would definitely take up less space, and I could put my percolator on Freecycle. Hey, perhaps I could offer a trade in a classified - stovetop percolator for a french press? Then I could try it without having to "buy" it in the traditional sense.

Does anyone have any thoughts on living without a traditional coffee maker? What do you do in a minimalist kitchen when you want the occasional cuppa joe?

Update: I posted a "want to trade" ad on my local isp's classifieds in hopes of exchanging this percolator for a french press. Hopefully someone out there has a french press they are willing to trade. If so, I have reached a non-consumer solution to the issue (fingers crossed.)

Wants, Needs and Urges

I want a vegetable peeler. I don't NEED one. In fact, I haven't owned one since I gave the one I inherited from my mother away years ago...

I never could figure out how to use it, so out of my home it went... but now I am thinking that perhaps one may be useful for the larger volume of vegetables I handle at this point in my life..

I currently use a knife for all of my peeling needs. Why can't I just continue doing so? What is this sudden obsession for a new gadget? Is it just an obsession, or would it actually come in handy?

I honestly don't know. I wish I did, for this is frustrating.

Until I get this urge under control I need to stay away from the stores. I do not like inpulsive purchases.

For now, I will get out my handy-dandy paring knife and peel some potatoes for breakfast. Ahh, potatoes and eggs.

Life doesn't get any better than this!

Mental Peace

In our pursuit of simplicity, we will meet a lot of people who live and think a lot different than we do. These people may even try to convince us that we are wrong in wanting to pursue a simpler more peaceful existence. We may watch others doing this or that and think how silly they are to be doing this, while they are looking at us with the same disdain.

That is not peace. Nor is it simplicity. When we worry about what others do or thing, we rob ourselves of energy better spent on making our own lives as peaceful as possible. We waste time better spent on us by worrying about what these folks are doing and saying.

Let's be frank here: Who cares what they think or do? Honestly, in a hundred years, who's gonna care what these people have done? In a hundred years, who's going to care what YOU have done?

Since in the end it really doesn't matter what you or anyone else does, why waste your time on it? Why not instead focus on having the most peaceful existence that YOU can have?

Plowhorses are frequently fitted with blinkers to keep their focus on the row ahead. This helps the farmer to keep the rows straight as he plows. The farmer has to do his part as well, for if he is distracted he may guide the animal in an unwanted direction. He has to pay attention to where he wants to go.

We are like that. If we are worried about what the field near us looks like, we won't be paying enough attention to our own field, and thus our rows will be crooked.

This is true for any pursuit, but the pursuit of simplicity, frugality and minimalism concentration is very important. We tend to lose track when barraged by those who don't understand, who don't share the same goals as we do.

Instead of worrying about them we need to spend that time focusing on ourselves, focusing on what we want to accomplish.

The less we worry about what others want and are doing, the more peace we will have in our lives.

Tenderize Meat Without a Gadget

If you have ever dealt with a tough piece of meat, you know it can be frustrating. The temptation is high to buy that hammer especially designed to tenderize that piece.

You don't have to. In fact, you already have something in your kitchen that will tenderize that cut of meat just as well as a mallet. It's called a plate.

Yes, the average run-of-the-mill ceramic plate. Turn it on it's side and it becomes the perfect weapon against meat toughness!

I sprinkle my meat with a bit of tenderizer on each side before tapping it multiple times with the side of one of my plates. In the picture I use a saucer cause it's smaller and easier for me to manage, but any type of plate or saucer will do, provided it's solid and not plastic or paper. Then again, some of the more solid plastic plates may work as well!

Just whack on that tough piece of meat with the edge of a plate until you think it is good and tender all over. I enjoy taking out any frustrations so mine get beat up pretty bad, flipping mine over a couple of times just to make sure I'm done!

Remember whenever you think you need a new gadget - you may have something already at home that will already do the job, sometimes even better than that shiny new thingy at the store. One less thing cluttering up your drawers, and a bit more money in your pocket!


Financial Simplicity

In the past to simplify my bills I have paid electronically via the individual websites. It was faster and easier than mailing all of those checks, but still a hassle to go to each of those websites and pay in turn.

Today I have set up bill payments via my bank's website. A one-stop solution to paying bills. Instead of going to all of those individual sites I will go to one only to schedule all of my payments. Best part is that it is still free, even if they have to mail a payment!

I only set up two payees today, with plans to set the others up as I pay them. I am in hopes that it will make my life a little simpler than it already is. We shall see.

I am still in the process of digitizing the rest of those music CDs on a "think of" basis. I think about it, walk into the other room, and start ripping another to my hard disk. When I finish I will start back on the DVDs. I will be so glad to box all of these discs away! Should I put them outside in the building and get them out of the house? It is very tempting to just get rid of them.....

Continuing the Process

Simplicity is an ongoing, continuous process. You don't just wake up and decide to live this way, it actually takes a bit of work, a bit of habit-changing.

Sometimes you discover that you aren't as far as you thought you were.

Such is the state of my music collection. I have bragged for some time that all of my music had been placed on hard disk, and that I could toss all of my music discs should I desire.

I was wrong. Today I discovered that there was a large volume of compact discs that had yet to be added to the digitized collection. I have spent the afternoon working to not only rectify that, but also to ensure that I get ALL of them.

After this I will box up these discs and put them away in storage to prevent another mixup from occurring. Then, should I purchase more music cd's (rare but it does happen) I can make sure they are digitized before adding them to the storage box. Perhaps one day I will feel safe enough to eliminate the box.

It would be a nice feeling, to get rid of all of that dead weight.

Alas, my goal of digitizing more movies will have to be put on hold so that I can get this music out of the way. One bright spot - I haven't listened to some of this stuff for years, so I have some "new" tunes!

A friend has an idea that I feel has some merit. He suggests that I invest in an Apple Airport express and an external terabyte hard disk. The logic being that I would no longer have to keep a computer running to access my files, and I wouldn't have to worry about dropping the hard drive, I could leave it in one place...

The expense of such an option leaves it in the consideration stage, as I already have a computer and an internal terabyte disk. I could reduce the expense by simply getting an enclosure for the internal one, or use it as a backup to be kept somplace safe off-site.

Either way, I still have these discs to digitize. I look forward to the day when I no longer have to sort through a pile of discs when I want to watch a movie or listen to some fresh music.

Two approaches

It’s been a little over a year since we got high-speed internet, and I still do not take it for granted. Every time I’m shopping on a web site, for instance, I hit the “see all” button and all the products pop up on the screen. I couldn’t do that with dial-up, which let me see a few objects at a time. When I pay a bill online, I appreciate my fast internet connection. When my daughter sends me pictures of the grandkids, I can receive them all without a problem. I am so thankful!

Of course, “being thankful” and “taking for granted” are mutually exclusive. If you have one, it’s pretty unlikely you have the other.

What other things have I not taken for granted since we moved out of the giant house in town into the small house in the country? The sound of birds, the ability to walk around without much traffic, our new soft mattress, having our first couch in a decade, the peace and quiet. Every day, I thank God I still have a wonderful job that I enjoy.

Ever analyzing the past, I realize that I took so much for granted in the old house. The big closet, the garage in the winter, the huge exercise room, my sewing room, extra rooms for guests, a 4-block walk to work, and the ability to step outside our front door and get the mail (we now go 1/2 a mile). It is true that we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.

Going further back in my life, it was easy to take people for granted. I took it for granted I would have my sweet cousin Mike and my best friend Bernie for a longer time than they were allotted in years. I loved my Dad so much and was devastated when he died at age 64 (when I was 26). I didn’t take him for granted per se, thank God, but I took it for granted that he would always be here.

I took my body for granted in my younger years, its ability to physically do pretty much whatever I asked without pain. An ache in my right knee and a left ankle/heel with plantar fasciitis and who knows what else changed all that.

Part of the Journey to Simplicity is to encourage the “thankful for” and discourage the “for granted” feelings. At first, I was overcome with sadness and regret when I thought about the people and things I have had in my life whose presence I took for granted. But then I became just more determined to learn from that - and to appreciate everyone and everything I have now. I do not want to look back in years to come and regret a “take-for-granted” approach to my world that I might have had in 2009. I know some lessons we have to keep learning over and over, but I certainly hope this one sticks. It is a painful lesson, but I truly believe that mastering it is one step closer to a fulfilled life.

Cautious Pudding

You've heard of Hasty Pudding? This is like it but subtly different: It is Cautious Pudding.

My doctor told me, my scales told me, the medical charts told me, the mirror told me: I have to lose some weight. Then eventually my joints and varicose veins began to tell me the same thing, but louder and a little more shrill – and I gave in.

After the menopause, weight is easy to accumulate and hard to shift: I was prepared for that, so I felt encouraged to discover it’s not as hard as I’d been dreading.

Acid reflux and fluid retention (sorry, this isn’t too much information for you, is it?), and relentless inflammation pain in my legs mean that fats, sugar, and citrus fruit (and any other very sour food) cause me quite intense pain. There’s something else too – either wheat or yeast, I can’t figure out which, that makes me very bloated and stiff.

So I’ve upped the exercise, and been eating food very, very low in fat and sugar. I eat almost no wheat (rice/corn/oatcakes R us) making my own muesli with oats as the only grain. I don’t go near acidic fruits, especially citrus, except for the smidge of citrus in my Earl Grey tea. I can’t imagine life without a cup of tea, and Earl Grey is about the only one that doesn’t set off the acid stomach problems.

It’s been very effective. Where I was having to take analgesics every night because of the intense pain in my legs, and experiencing a lot of fluid retention and deep, dragging weariness, I now have no pain, enough (though not loads of) energy, and the fluid has all gone away.

The thing I have missed is comfort food. I love steamed vegetables and fish and salads and fruit. But sometimes, especially if I feel lonely or cold, I long for a bit of stodge.

Today I made a pudding I hope might be OK. It might not. If I eat bread – any, even a slice or two – I can reckon to gain 3lbs weight: if it’s the wheat doing it, then this pudding must remain a distant dream. Time will tell.

I put an ounce of semolina (which is wheat, but I tried making this with brown rice flakes and the result was disgusterous), with just a scant teaspoon of sugar and a dash of vanilla, in a glass bowl. I added a cup of skimmed milk, and microwaved it for about 3 minutes, whisking it up with a fork every so often to stop it clumping. When I had made it, I put a very small amount (about half a teaspoon) of jam on it. And it was delicious.

I don’t think it can be very fattening, because the amounts of the wheat and sugar are so small. It has to be better than a slice of toast with butter and jam.

You may be wondering why we have jam and semolina and sugar in our house at all! Well, the jam is Badger’s because he loves it and eats quite a lot. The semolina is left over from before I started this reformation. The sugar is for Badger’s porridge in the winter, and for when people come who like sugar in their tea.

I suspect that it would be more intelligent to just cross wheat and sugar right off my list. I have a bad relationship with sugar, because it sends me a bit bi-polar and creates anxiety. I am also suspicious of the voice inside me that says, ‘Just once in a while – just now and again for a treat’: because past experience tells me that today’s treat is tomorrow’s habit.

But I’m hoping it will be all right. We’ll see.

Today's List

Today is getting a late start.. the storms last night led to a rather restless sleep and I ended up taking a nap after my daughter hopped on the school bus. I am still a tad groggy but I have to get moving.

Sitting beside me is a simple notebook to jot down my things to do. It has a line down the center which makes it perfect. The left side will get all the things I want to accomplish today, and the right? It will get all the things that I'm leaving to the Universe to worry about!

I learned about that tip in a book by Jerry and Esther Hicks on Abraham. It's the equivalent of putting your worries on a piece of paper and burning them. Each day the paper gets tossed, and so do your concerns!

It definitely feels good to take action, and to make a decision NOT to worry about something! When I started it at first the list was longer than my to-do list, but now it is rather short!

Life is good.

My Kitchen Table

My kitchen table serves many purposes: staging area, food prep area, meal area (when we don't eat at the bar), work desk and household hangout.

As a result it seems to always stay cluttered.

Right now the table contains my laptop, some external speakers from where we were watching a show on hulu this weekend, a book about The Secret, notepad to jot things to do, a candle, a couple of letters, my cellphone, some tissues, and a three-ring binder.


I clean it off, and within minutes it is piled full again. This is not a minimalist table.

Now I have cleaned it off, so it contains my laptop, cellphone, and notepad for chores. Much better. The trick is organizing this section of the kitchen to prevent the clutter from recurring.

Craigslist, Classifieds and Freecycle

I am awake this morning, not only to see my daughter off to school, but also to meet another Freecycler. Yesterday I met two more people, one of which lives just a couple of streets away.

It is nice to know that my things are going to good homes and will get used yet again. That feels even better than discarding them in a trash heap, which I have done in years past when I lived in areas that did not have Freecycle.

I have located the local webpage that acts like the local trading post. That webpage is vci.net, the classified section. I have had several people tell me that in the Paducah area that is your best and cheapest method of buying, selling, or advertising services.

I'm thinking of trying it, but I am not sure on what.

The craigslist for the area covers a broad area - all of Western Kentucky. I wonder if there is some way to bring about a page for the Paducah area only?

The second batch of tomatoes should be done today, and some of the green ones should be ripe in a few days for another batch. I look forward to using them in chili this winter.

Bad Habits are Hard to Break

Even as I post things on Freecycle, even as I smile and hand my things to strangers, danger lurks in the form of bad habits.

Simplicity is living with less, yet I find myself wanting more at times.

Tonight it was my serious weakness: information.

I found myself resisting the urge to give Amazon even more of my money so that I could scratch that itch.

They had some books on simplicity I would loove to read.

I don't really need them however. There is plenty of information readily available on the Internet. If I buy these books, I fail in my goal of having less to deal with.

I did not fail. Instead, I blogged.

I feel like an addict who is having a hit waved before my face.

It is soo hard at times.

It is okay, I won this round.

Time to celebrate with a hot cup of tea.

Minimalism inspiration

Browsing the internet for inspiration is a wonderful thing. Sometimes you find new knowledge in a familiar place.

In this case, it is the blog that posted the 100-things challenge. Here are a few of my favorite posts.

This is a tour of the blogger's pockets. I wish I could do so well!

This is a single step to creating a minimalist home. He hits the nail on the head with this one!

This is living on a small footprint, Japanese style (edition, technically). Just look at those houses! Could you live in a home that small?

This final one is a beaut. Minimalism = Simplicity = Freedom and what a Ferrari has to do with it. Nuff said.

Check out these links and think about the things around you. Do they truly make you happy, or are you a slave to your stuff?

I must admit I am still in the slave stage, but that is changing with every day, every post, every step (even the wrong ones).


One Hundred Things Challenge

There is a blog discussing reducing your worldly possessions to the tiny number of 100. Within the comments section there is a comment by Barry stating that he lives in a 6' x 10' home now and has reduced his possessions to the tiny number of 76!

He rocks! His utility bills are incredible, and an inspiration to those of us who need it. Even my daughter was wise to the thought that if our bills were that low I would not have to work so much - and would be home a lot more for her!

So now she is going through her possessions as well in hopes that we can thin down and perhaps pare our expenses even more by relocating to an even smaller home than our little 12 x 60 mobile home.

Freecycle will be getting some more posts.

Sew Amazed!

I used to sew most of my own clothes. I started sewing in high school in Home Ec classes (do they even have them anymore?). Mom sewed simple dresses for my sister and me until we were old enough to sew ourselves. In 1989, the quilting bug hit and I tapered off fashion sewing and branched out into quilting. For many years, my former sewing machines, and later my present machine, mostly sat unused except for straight stitching for piecing quilts, an occasional embroidery for my uncle's handkerchiefs, and zig-zag for applique. Nothing difficult and nothing really creative - usually just simple straight stitching.

Now my quilting friend Sally has returned to sewing clothes again, and apparently having a wonderful time doing it. Her infectious enthusiasm, my ongoing disappointment with store-bought clothes quality, the lack of clothing choices in Maine, the frustration with ordering clothes on-line and their not fitting when I receive them (and the continual difficulty of successfully fitting my body) led me to think about getting back into sewing clothes myself. Yeah, it would be kind of fun to get back in the swing of things! Once I decided to do so, I knew I had to renew a working relationship with my sewing machine.

My machine is a New Home/Janome Memory Craft 8000. I can't remember the year I bought it (it was well before we moved to Maine) but I do remember it was expensive and close to top of the line at the time.

I've been taking the manual to work every day and studying it at lunch. I am flabbergasted! I had forgotten (or never known) that my machine can do so many things, so many stitches using so many feet. (For you non-seamstresses, the pressure foot holds the fabric down and different ones serve different functions.) My machine came with an assortment of feet, and through the years I bought more, yet I have hardly used most of them! I know nothing about most of them! I can't believe I have to learn all the wonderful things my machine can do - things I've never utilized for whatever reason. I have had the power all along to make anything in my imagination with this machine sitting here right in front of me. It's as if I had used an iPhone just to make telephone calls!

I think at some point in our lives we're all like my sewing machine. We can do so much more than we think, certainly more than we attempt. Our various talents and gifts (yes, everyone has them!) are lying dormant, just waiting to be called upon. Our accumulated wisdom is waiting to be put to use. Our life stories are waiting to be told to teach another generation. Our creativity is asleep. Opportunities for personal growth are wasted. We are either sitting in the corner unplugged, or are used minimally with neither artistry or challenge to enrich our lives and the lives of others.

I think that when I start up my machine and use all its features, I'll be reawakening something within myself also. Whether it's learning to fly on a plane, transcribing a very grueling dictation, passing my certification test, or mastering a difficult piece of music, I always appreciate another opportunity to smile and say to myself, "Wow! I actually did that!" Or, using Matt's favorite quote from the movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town: "I'm not such a loser after all!"

The Vegetable Garden

In today's world of mass-market food fluff there is a small blip on the radar. That blip is the vegetable garden. If done right, a small garden can provide a wonderful service to our budget as well as a fresh and healthy taste to our palette.

It isn't an instant thing, however. A large number of us (myself included) grew up thinking that the only healthy food came from cans, boxes and restaurants. When confronted with plants covered in squash, tomatoes, peppers we wonder just how do we transform these things into the products we are accustomed to?

The fact is, in a lot of cases we can't unless we want to spend more on specialized equipment and high-fructose corn syrup than the item is worth! Instead we have to learn other ways of eating our food.

I remember the first year my parents put out a garden. I helped plant, weed and harvest but when it came to the actual eating of the food I balked.

"Daad," I whined. "I can't eat that stuff. It's not sanitary!"

My father was at a loss until he realized my dilemma: I had been taught that in order to make food safe it had to be processed just so by the manufacturers. He solved the issue by pulling up a carrot, dusting it off and taking a bite before offering it to me.

It still took well into adulthood for me to realize the whole world fresh vegetables could open.

If you have a grill, then you are ahead of the game. Instead of concentrating on meats when you grill out, why not add some vegetables to the mix?

Squash, zucchini, peppers and other vegetables can be grilled easily. Just slice, coat with olive oil and grill. The flavor experience is one you won't forget.

Another simple way to grill vegetables is to slice whatever vegetables you have - squash, zucchini, onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes - just whatever and place them in an aluminum foil pouch with butter and a generous sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Close the pouch and grill for fifteen to 20 minutes depending upon the size of the pouch for a heavenly veggie treat. My picky ten year old loves when I fix vegetables in this manner! Experiment with different seasonings for a wonderful treat!

If you have tomatoes try a southern classic: fried green tomatoes. Slice some green tomatoes thin (1/4 inch or so thick), rinse and dip in some milk. Then take the slices and coat them with a half and half mixture of cornmeal and flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and fry in a skillet with oil (or a deep fryer if you have one) for a couple of minutes or until done.

If you have a surplus of vegetables, try dehydrating them to use in soups and stews during the winter. It doesn't take a lot of preparation and they make for a real treat in the winter.

For more recipes, check out the following websites.

Here is a website that covers tomatoes from planting to harvest and beyond. It contains multiple recipes for use and preservation of this wonderful fruit.

This website gives one various recipes for the wonderful sweet or bell pepper.

Here also is a site covering summer squash and zucchini.

I hope these tips will help you to lead a simpler life by reducing the path food takes to reach your table.

Happy eating!


Somewhere, near or far, there exists a Freecycle group just for you.

Don't believe me? Go to freecycle.org to see!

Freecycle is a wonderful way to find good homes for things that you no longer need or use. Why worry about what to do with that whatsit or how to haul it to a landfill? Give it away and let someone get some use out of it instead!

So far I've given several things away on the freecycle network, and I always scan the offers. One never knows when something you really need will appear in a post, like extra garden veggies or a vacuum cleaner to replace the one that just went south.

Sometimes there will be people needing something that you just happen to have, but never thought to offer. That has happened to me several times, and it always feels good to know you've helped someone out.

The last area I was in had a very inactive Freecycle network. If you find yourself in such a dilemma, don't hesitate to try to drum up membership, and remember to explore groups in your surrounding area as well.

If you find yourself surrounded by stuff you don't need or use, please consider offering it up on your local Freecycle group. Don't let your stuff go to waste.


Today the need arose to restock some perishables, so off I went to the grocery.

Pork loin was $1.69 a pound, but only if you bought the mega family size packs. The next best price? $2.99 a pound.

Such a dilemma. Do I purchase several pounds of a food we don't eat regularly? Package it, freeze it, hope to skate through any power outages and maybe eat all of it before it succumbs to freezer burn? Or do I pay over a dollar a pound more for a lot less - with no repackaging, no refreezing, no concerns about power outages and no fears it will go bad before it is gone?

When my two oldest children were home, it would have been a no-brainer, but with just myself and one little girl...

I chose the smaller pack. That pack has enough for two meals of pork chops, so one meal may get frozen after all. However, there is no danger of a single extra meal going bad before we eat it - our current refrigerator is a small one so there are no places for food to hide and be forgotten.

For us, that choice was the simpler one, despite the fact that the per-pound price was more. Simpler in that there is very little repackaging. Simpler in being less to store. Simpler in being less to worry about this winter when the power outages hit.

For each one of us, there is a different path on the way to simplicity. Where has your path taken you?

Working From Home

In order to simply one's life, one must also simplify one's work. There are several methods to do that.

One way is to pursue a work at home career. For a single mother, this would eliminate worries about daycare, sick children, etc. It also eliminates transportation, food and wardrobe concerns for all concerned.

In the past I have worked for Cloud 10 and I enjoyed my work. There are also a number of other agencies out there to work for.

Here is a website with a number of work at home websites and ideas. For more ideas google the terms "home agent" and "home office" - the term "work at home" generally populates more scams than work at home opportunities!

Check out the web sites ratracerebellion.com and wahm.com as well. If you're fast on your mental feet, you can even try out for the kgb!

If you want to go unconventional, you can try being a phone actor or actress. Yes - a phone sex operator. It may not be for everyone, but if you want or need to make some money what would it hurt to try? I haven't done it personally, but from the research I've done apparently there are a lot of women out there making a living from it, some secretly, some openly. If it ever comes down to my child going hungry or me becoming a PSO as it is called, I would apply in a heartbeat and at least give it a shot.

If you know anything about psychic phenomena or tarot, you can also become a phone psychic. I know some really good people persons who actually make decent money doing this, but they all say it is not something you are likely to get rich on... Just google the terms "phone actress," "phone sex operator" or "phone psychic" and watch the job opportunities populate.

Just remember, you should not have to pay money to apply for a job, though some charge a nominal fee for background checks.

Happy hunting!

Deodorizing Carpet Naturally

I decided to try the baking soda idea on my carpet to see if it works.

For starters, this carpet is an older one that didn't have a good life before I moved in. Translation: it stinks.

I want to replace the carpet, and would rather save the fifty dollars it costs to rent and use a cleaner and put it toward ripping it out and replacing it with an easier to clean surface, but I cannot tolerate the thought of a dirty smelly carpet.

One of the tips was to not only sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, but to use your broom to brush it into the carpet in order to gain the most effective odor removal.

I put baking soda on my living room carpet alone and brushed it in several minutes ago. Amazingly, I can tell a bit of a difference already in the living room smell. A lot of difference actually - my plug in is no longer getting overwhelmed and now I can smell it!

I'm thinking of simply ripping up this carpet and painting the floors for an interim solution. One, I don't know exactly what type of floor covering I wish to put down, and two I don't have the money in my budget. I really dislike carpet though. It is pretty, but holds dirt and odors to an unacceptable degree and costs too much to clean and maintain. This old carpet is worn anyway...

I have painted floors in the past, and they have a reddish floor paint that would go with the decor in here. They also have a battleship gray, but I'm just not a fan of that color, you know? Black would be overkill with the dark paneling, and I fear white would be too hard to keep clean...

Any ideas?

Handy Weblinks

I enjoy finding alternative uses for things I already have around the house for several reasons. One of them being that I may be able to simplify by purchasing less stuff such as cleaning supplies.

Here are a few links I stumbled upon today.

Here is the link to the official Dial document listing uses around the house for borax.

Here is a link to a page detailing myriad uses of vinegar.

Here is an online book about the uses of baking soda.

I hope these links are helpful!

Normally I am a fan of purchasing books to learn new uses for things, to clean things or to simply learn more, but while pursuing a simpler life it is not always the logical thing to do. If you purchase a book, then you have another thing to keep up with, store and haul around when you move. Not only that, you have cheated your household out of that much more money, money that could have went toward something more pleasant, like a simple home without expensive payments.

Thanks to the internet it is becoming easier and easier to locate needed information online. I hope you utilize it as well.


After dinner I washed up the dishes, then swept the floor and folded some towels. Since I use simple white towels instead of paper towels, those tend to build up in the hamper quickly!

To keep things simple yet tasteful, I have migrated to white towels, wash cloths, and kitchen towels. Bath towels and cloths are hotel quality from Sam's Club. The kitchen towels were bought in bulk from the same place. Inexpensive, bleachable and not bad to look at.

I do plan to continue to purchase bleach pens in bulk whenever I need them. I purchased two cases of them from eBay a while back for a dollar a pen including shipping, which is a lot better than one can purchase them in a store. At the rate I use them every penny counts! Whites are so beautiful when they are clean, and if you add blueing on occasion they stay so bright!

I used to have towels in every color of the rainbow, and every pattern too! Whatever caught my fancy was what I bought until I noticed how chaotic it all seemed. Through planned obsolescence if you purchase a supply of towels one year and need to replace one or two the colors will not be the same, and as a result anyone who wants to match their towels is either forced to keep mismatched towels, or buy complete sets every time.

I refuse to buy a whole set of towels when I just need one, and the thought of a set of towels just in case company comes is repulsive to me. Have something just hanging there for the one time a year someone comes over? What a waste, especially since they will probably be polite and NOT use the guest towels anyway!

After much thought on the matter I decided to switch to pure white towels, and have not regretted it one bit. I still have a couple of solid color towels in good shape I keep to dry the dog off, but when those are gone, they're gone.

I may end up adding some solid black towels to the mix for variety, but I haven't decided yet. I have plenty of towels right now so it's not even a serious consideration. Since big business wants to plan obsolescence into towel colors, I will rebel by choosing no color at all!

I do wish I could get a job working for a laundry service, if only to see how they keep their towels so bright white. My whites stay pretty clean, my towels beautiful, but I would love to make my kitchen towels just a touch brighter if possible. Those poor towels get abused.

I once asked a hotel owner how he kept his stuff so white and he told me that he soaks his dirtier towels in this stuff called "iron out." The rest he just washes really frequently. I have followed his advice ever since.

I read somewhere that cooks keep their aprons bright white by soaking them in dishwasher detergent overnight. I have done that as well and found it works great too. You take a quarter cup of detergent and mix it into a bucket of hot water, then add your towels. I assume that is what restaurants do to their towels as well, since they have to use them to wash dishes and everything as a result of regulations..


Despite my best attempts, some things still get forgotten.

Someone had given me a large amount of cucumbers. We have eaten and eaten, yet some were still left in the fridge.

The other day I purchased a small amount of squash for meals next week, carefully placing them and the corn in the veggie drawer.

My loving daughter decided to rearrange the refrigerator. Instead of tossing the older cucumbers, she placed them upon the fresh squash. You can imagine what I found when I went to retrieve the squash and corn.

Fortunately, the corn was in another section, so it was spared. The squash was not so fortunate.

I feel like Herman Munster in my desire to jump up and down shouting "darn darn darn darn darn!"

Oh well. Try and try again.

After analyzing what I was going to cook I reduced the quantity some. Instead of three whole ears of corn I took one ear and split it in half, taking the other two ears, splitting them and freezing them for later. There is plenty of cabbage and some bell pepper (approx. a half a pepper) to eat, and this way I can add a small piece of polish sausage to the menu to round it out a tad.

It is my hope to one day reduce the spoilage this small family produces. Each day I work on that goal, though like today there are always disappointments. As long as I don't quit I know I am making progress, however.

The Story of Stuff

Just stumbled upon this. This should be recommended watching for everyone, so please pass this link on...

Minimalist Weblink

Here is a site that I reread on occasion to inspire me.

Honestly, if it were not for my daughter, I would be living in either a small RV or travel trailer, saving up for a tumbleweed house. I have even considered one of those small class B RVs that look like a minivan on the outside, to combine both home and transportation fulltime.

Right now however I have my daughter to consider, and she has a craving for space. As a result we are in a 12x60 mobile home that I purchased on the cheap. 720 square feet, down from the 768 we were renting, yet this space is soo much more usable! Perhaps as she ages we can go a bit smaller? I want to not only save on space and possessions but on heating, cooling and maintenance as well.

Here is another site I enjoy. It contains some rules for minimalist living.

Here is a link to the 100 items challenge. Could you do it? Right now I know I cannot, yet I still go there for inspiration.

I hope you enjoy the links!

Today's Meal Plan

For breakfast the rice cooker is whipping up a batch of rice. Rice with cinnamon sugar and cream - a staple around here. Leftovers will be saved for dinner.

I think for this evening I will fire up the little hibachi grill to cook up a purely vegetarian meal of bbq cabbage, corn on the cob, and either grilled bell peppers or some grilled squash with the leftover rice as a side. The vegetables sound soo delicious I'm ready to skip to dinner right now!

I have thought about getting a small gas grill, but I'm just not sure. It would be a wonderful treat to be able to grill whenever. It would also be a lot faster than heating up my old charcoal grill, but the gas grills are not only large but expensive as well. This little hibachi was gleaned from a neighbor some years ago. I believe I will continue to use what I have - it makes more sense than purchasing a huge gas grill for just the two of us!

The rice is done. That rice cooker is one gadget that has been worth its' weight. I purchased the little thing for six dollars on clearance, and use it regularly to either cook rice or steam vegetables. Once I even used it to cook spaghetti! There is a recipe for bread you can prepare in a rice cooker as well. The bread doesn't turn out half bad, but it doesn't take much more effort to produce a more delectible loaf.

Time for breakfast!


Last night, I did something rare. I washed the dishes before retiring.

Usually whatever dishes in the sink are obliged to wait until after breakfast in the morning, but perhaps it would be more cheery to wake up to a clean kitchen instead of a cluttered one?

Perhaps if I change my routine, wash dishes twice a day instead of once life may actually become simpler, despite seeming like more work?

One benefit would be that I would not have to wash certain items before cooking breakfast in the morning, such as my measuring cup, spatula or skillet. That would save time in morning preparation, as I do not wish to have more pots and pans than I actually need.

I'm going to try it for a few days and see what happens. It definitely cannot hurt, and would be a great habit to start.


This morning I opened my shoebox looking for something different to wear besides the crocs I've trooped around in all summer.

Within the box I found four pair of dress shoes, a pair of hightop sneakers, some croc clogs for winter, a flipflop missing it's mate and an old pair of sandals that were still sound but had definitely seen better days.

My first thought was that I needed to watch the summer clearance racks for another pair of shoes until it hit me - how many shoes does one person need? Considering the fact that you can only wear one pair at a time, my current collection seems a bit much already!

In the end I continued to wear the crocs, and pledged to see if I could make the old sandals look a touch better. Why should I purchase more shoes when I don't hardly wear what I have?

Oh, yes. I tossed the lone flipflop.

Small Steps of Progress

The knives weren't as bad as I thought. There were only 2 that needed to be stored. The rest was composed of rubber spatulas I don't ever use, some wooden spoons and miscellaneous items. All but one of the spatulas went into storage. If I don't use the one in six months, they may all get tossed.

With the two gadgets out of the way, enough space was freed in the overhead cabinets to store some more of my overflow. Two boxes of tissues, some chewing gum, and my commercial sized roll of aluminum foil, which will come back in use after I use up the regular roll I have had for - well, since before I bought the commercial roll of aluminum foil, and I've had it since last fall!

I can actually see progress now. There is a large empty space on the top of the refrigerator, hooray! All the top contains now are the onions, the plastic wrap, and the small roll of foil. The papers attached to the front of the refrigerator are now placed in my binder for storage, where they look much better. I need to go through that clutter trap attached to the side of the fridge, but I'll save that for another day.

Dinner tonight will be leftovers. I have some chicken salad from the other day that needs to be eaten. My daughter will not be pleased, but it is a shame to waste good food. Found my freezer bags, so some chicken thighs and legs will be placed in the freezer before the day is through.

I am really beginning to believe that Gregory Paul Johnson is onto something when he talks about outsourcing our lives more. Read his book "Put Your Life on a Diet" to see what I mean.

Think about it: I'm a single mom of one, and when I cook, a lot of times a lot is wasted. Is there a way to have food at home for just the two of us that is not only economical, but not so wasteful of time, resources, storage space, and energy? I don't want to eat out every night, but most meals are for at least four people, and our two is just not cutting it. While I don't mind leftovers they do get old on a regular basis.

While I could get a larger refrigerator or a small deep freeze and freeze the leftovers, that does not seem like a frugal solution to the issue. The goal is to have less to care for, not more - and this small refrigerator helps me to control my spending on perishables. I can't purchase it if there's no place to put it! This also gives me incentive to use up what my refrigerator or freezer contains rather than shop for more.. encouraging me to save money...

Some things that I use a lot of like flour, butter and bleach may be good to keep a surplus of, but I honestly do NOT need to keep so much of EVERYTHING!

It will come with time.

Paring Down the Kitchen

Breakfast was homemade biscuits and sausage gravy, all from scratch. An inexpensive yet filling meal, one of the few that my daughter actually likes in this picky stage she is in....

My tub of flour is going down steadily. Part of me wants to use it all up then buy another large bag of flour, but I have been working on this last large bag for over a year, so do I really need quite that much? Can I perhaps pare down how much flour I buy? I must admit that of all my kitchen staples, flour gets used the most, for I bake homemade bread and dinner rolls, so I am torn. Perhaps I should at least move the flour to a smaller container until I decide?

Instead of lemonade, I have made another small dent in the giant tub of sugar by making some kool-aid instead. Another package of kool-aid bites the dust. I probably have over fifty packages of the stuff in my pantry. All for myself and one ten-year-old little girl.

I buy new things to try, and the old stuff stays stashed. If I like something, it gets purchased in bulk whenever there is a sale, without thought of how long it will take us to use it. On the occasions where I manage to resist the urge to stock up prices have skyrocketed, which acts as an encouragement to continue stocking up, but this chaos is driving me insane. I will corral this chaos however. One step at a time.

Within my cabinets I have a small deep fryer and an automatic can opener. Housewarming gifts from friends that simply do not get used. Today I plan to take those items out of my cabinets and place them in my storage building outside until I figure out what to do with them. I live near Paducah KY - does anyone have any ideas?

Also I will go through that bucket of knives and place some of the extras in storage. I don't know if I can part with them yet, but getting them out of sight may help with the emotion part of it.

I know - I'm getting emotional over knives I never use. Dumb, huh? Not so much the knives - but the thought of needing them someday and not having them. The feeling will pass.

I hope.

Does anyone have some simple fried rice recipes to share? Or any rice recipes at all that a kid would like? I've thought about broccoli casserole to use up some of the rice and some broccoli I have stuffed in my freezer, but have yet to locate a tasty sounding recipe. Thanks!

The Goal

Okay, just wanted to clarify the goal here.

The goal is not to buy more stuff to care for the stuff I have. Some things, like a magnet to hold my knives would be wonderful, but I have been unable to locate one locally. I would purchase one of those if I knew where to purchase it for it would not only help to organise, but it would be used for some time.

The goal is to have less, and to figure out how to deal with what I have and perhaps use it up better and to keep from buying so much in the future.

Thanks for all of your help!

The Kitchen

We recently moved into a 12x60 mobile home. It is two bedroom, but one of the bedrooms is quite small.

The kitchen is an average older trailer kitchen, with some cabinetry, but not too much, and a closet converted into a pantry.

Everything is stuffed, and the shelves are overflowing. I have Rubbermaid storage containers filled with large bags of rice, popcorn, flour, beans and other miscellaneous foodstuffs.

Told you that I'm a packrat.

I have a small bucket filled with kitchen knives, wooden spoons and other small gadgets. My cabinets are filled with food, dishware and other items.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen just hanging out, but there is so much stuff in there I am becoming distressed.

I need help to figure out how to make this work, to make it simpler while I use down these staples, and support to not purchase quite so much in the future.

Can you help me?

My Journey to Simplicity

As a single mother, things have not always been plentiful. Add to that some unpleasant experiences from the past, and you create a packrat.

I am that packrat.

Several years ago during a rough spot in my life, engrossed in pain and self-loathing I began to throw stuff away. Enough stuff to almost fill the dumpster near my apartment.

Then came the epiphany. I felt better with less stuff. A lot better.

Since then I have researched both on and offline about a simpler life. I have also given and tossed a lot more things.

Yes, I would be better helping the environment by donating these items, but my first attempts weren't exactly thought out - they came from a need to have less surrounding me, suffocating me.

Not only do I need to have less stuff, but I need to learn how to control this urge, this drive within me to constantly stock up, just in case. It is just me and a kid, how much stuff do we need?

Do I really need to buy a bulk of paper towels when we may use ten rolls in a year? Do I really benefit from that purchase of dozens of notebooks at five cents each that are now mouldering in my building outside? How many things does one small family need?

This is where I stand. I am in hopes that you, my reader will become my therapist and aid me on this journey to peace and simplicity.

Chances and Choices

I’ll be turning 55 this month, and, as is common with me in the past few years, it’s time again to get introspective. I have been thinking about all my life, how my life has been intertwined with the lives of others, how my life’s progress has been determined by the choices I have made along the way, as well as chance circumstances that changed my course. Everyone talks about nature and nurture, and along those same lines I’d like to talk about chances and choices.

Of course, the odds of my being here at all were low. My parents had been married for 12 years and had given up (at least relatives had) on ever conceiving. Then, like a miracle, Mom became pregnant with me, and two years later, my sister was born. I was influenced by our neighborhood, our family church, and the school I attended. I was influenced by my dad’s interest in music and my mom’s ability to sew. Our annual family vacation trips instilled in me a love for history. All these experiences were basically out of my control; these were the circumstances that Life handed me in the beginning.

I made a choice one year to be a Candy Striper at Methodist Hospital. How little I realized that that decision would set my life on another course and spur my lifelong interest in the medical field - a choice that charted another course for my life. (When I went to work after I got married, I applied for an entry-level job with that hospital, and from that day on, I never had a job that was not in a hospital.)

I tried to go to college because it was what every “smart” kid was supposed to do, and it was something my parents wanted for me that they had never had. I only lasted one year at Lambuth College, and I just decided that college was not where I wanted to be.

Meanwhile, Ed James had been married for a short time, divorced, served in Vietnam, worked on his family’s farm, and had been in and out of Lambuth College so many times it seemed ridiculous. That one year I was there was one of the times Ed was there, too. The odds of our getting together were low. His family was wealthy; mine were not. He and his family were drinkers; we were teetotalers. He and his family smoked; we did not. He was not drawn to music or French or anything else I was interested in. He was crude, unorganized, and undependable. I already had a boyfriend back in Memphis. Yet --- Ed and I met and fell in love during that one year. If I had been there the year before, we would not have met. If I had been there the year after, we would not have met. That one year was the pivotal time.

Of course, the most intriguing choice in my life was our decision to move from Tennessee to Maine in 1996. We told Rachel, age 18 when we moved, that she would be going to the University of Maine, and Matt, who was 13 when we moved, was given no choice in the matter either. What has become of that move? Rachel went into teaching, fell in love with Matt’s 7th grade science teacher, and got married. Several years later, Matt fell in love with another University of Maine student and got married. Their spouses were native Mainers who had never been to Tennessee, had no reason to visit Tennessee, and undoubtedly never would have met our kids, had we stayed in Tennessee. Rachel at the time was not happy at all about the move to Maine, understandably. She had friends and a boyfriend and was not anxious to uproot her life for the unknown. “What if it’s destiny, and your future husband is waiting for you in Maine?” I asked her. She said, “It would be my luck that his mom in Maine is telling him that his future wife is in Tennessee and we’ll just pass each other on the interstate.”

Now we have 2 granddaughters born of our daughter’s marriage, who never would have existed had we stayed in Tennessee. Our choice to move has forever changed the lives of our children.

Our choice to move to Ellsworth put us right in the perfect location for our daughter to meet her husband (who taught in the Ellsworth school system, where she was student teaching). It also put me 4 blocks from the local hospital which just happened to have an opening for a medical transcriptionist the first month we were here. I had finally found my calling - the job that would use all my gifts and bring me so much satisfaction - 13 years and counting.

These are just the major life choices/chances. My life has also been enhanced by seemingly insignificant interactions that have changed me a great deal - the young lady in the church choir who got me interested in quilting, the older lady in our rural church in Tennessee who taught me all about sourdough starter, the man playing a Celtic harp in a local store at Christmas one year who got me wanting to learn harp, and other people who were just minimally involved in my life but who played a major role because they helped enlarge the scope and passions of my life.

Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if choices and chances like these had been different? I can see the threads in my life branching off just like a family tree, with each instance/choice/chance encounter giving off its own thread in a new direction, each path in life arising from the one before it - all make up the person I am today - my likes and dislikes, my achievements and failures, my joys and my regrets, my politics, my faith, my hobbies, my memories from the past and my hopes and dreams for the future.

I’m so glad things turned out the way they did. I must not rest in contentment, though. Sometimes when you get settled in life, you think the tree has stopped branching. You build your nest and think things will always be the same. Not so. The tree keeps growing, the threads keep intertwining, and life continually surprises. The choices we made years ago are still coming to fruition, and the chance encounter we have tomorrow may just change our lives in ways we never could have imagined.