Simplicity: To Top it All Off . . .

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My wardrobe post from this past spring is my most-read post of all time, so I thought I’d take a day this week to discuss changes we’ve made to our current clothing selections.

We each have a few more clothes than we did in May, but certainly nothing approaching “normal” American levels of attire. You’ll remember from last week that we all now own rain boots. These are in addition to our regular shoes. Also, I purchased a pair of sneakers for myself earlier this summer because we like to play tennis; doing so in sandals is, while not impossible, not practical. Munchkin recently had a birthday, and he received as gifts new undergarments, two pairs of jeans (so the old ones went away – they were really ratty), two shirts, and a pair of shoes (slip-on sneakers). Earlier this week, Will traded his sandals out for a pair of black sneaker-esque shoes. His goal was shoes that would be comfortable for walking and go with both jeans and more dressy attire. He’s very happy with his choice. Seahawk is the only one currently still only in sandals and boots. His birthday is later this month (can you believe it’s already October?!!), so I’m sure he’ll end up with new shoes then, if not before. [Read more…]

Simplicity: Limiting Waste

simplicity copyI’ve talked a few times about how important it is to me to reduce the amount of waste we produce. I’ve read numerous books on the subject, too. And you know what? No matter how “easy” those authors say it is to live a “zero waste lifestyle,” they’re WRONG. It’s really hard. At least it is where I live.

But I try. And I think we do okay (if my neighbors’ full garbage cans every week are any indication, anyway). We go through, on average, one plastic grocery bag two to three times a week in waste. By limiting our waste, we’re not only contributing less to the landfill (a passion of mine), but also saving the money on garbage service – we don’t have it at all. Because we go through so little waste, we just take our bags to the grocery store and dump them in the public waste bins. And when we do get a surplus of large trash items, we borrow my dad’s truck and take a load to the “transfer center” for a small fee.

So how do we keep our waste low? There are three basic steps. [Read more…]

Simplicity: Slowing Down

simplicity copyThings change when you don’t have a car. You have to be more patient. You have to understand that you need to leave the house earlier than you used to. You have to allow more time to get places – and to get home. In short, you have to slow your life down.

It would be easy to decide that we weren’t willing to embrace this slower paced lifestyle. We could take out a loan and fix the car (although maybe not – the cost of the repairs will likely be roughly twice what we’re paying for the car). But instead, we decided that we do want to live life a little slower. We don’t want “Simplicity Breeds Happiness” to be just a catchphrase in our family; we want it to be something we truly put into practice in our everyday lives.

[Read more…]

Simplicity: Like a Child

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We’ve had to start attending a new church recently. Biking instead of driving has forced us to adjust the way we do things, and traveling 18 miles (each way) to church is something we just can’t do anymore. Our new church is the Church of Christ in our town. It’s about a mile from our house, so it’s a very quick bike ride to get there.

There are some noticeable differences between this church and our other one – primarily, the new one offers communion every week whereas our old church did it only once a month, and the new church has no musical instruments. All worship songs are done a Capella (this means without instruments, for anyone who doesn’t know). ┬áDuring the month of August, there’s no children’s church, either. This is to give those workers a much needed break. I think this is a wonderful time to keep families together during church services. It’s good for children to be exposed to what the adults learn in the sermon, so they can absorb “deeper” teaching (rather than just the Bible “stories”), learn to think critically, and ask questions at home.

[Read more…]

Simplicity: Counting Your Blessings

simplicity copyI’ve been reading a very sad book this week as I work on writing my children’s schooling curriculum for the coming year (more on that in another post – it’s in process). It’s called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr, and it’s about a young Japanese girl during World War II who suffered the aftereffects of America’s dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Long story short, ten years after the bomb dropped, she was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away. It is a novelization of true events, much like the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

[Read more…]

Simplicity: Relationships

simplicity copyWhen I logged into WordPress tonight, I wasn’t sure what to write about for this week’s Simplicity post. Then I had my phone ding with an email (I know, I know – email on a phone is probably the antithesis of simplicity . . .). That email was simply from Bloglovin’. (In case you don’t know, they’re a website that allows you to get all of the updates from blogs you subscribe to in one email at the end of the day rather than getting emails from each individual blog as they post. It’s a very convenient service.) After I went through those, I was looking at the other emails in my inbox, and that’s kind of what I want to talk about today. Not the specifics of the email, of course, but the reason that email was there in the first place: it’s someone with whom I have a relationship. [Read more…]

Simplicity: Fun Family Activities

simplicity copyWhen I was trying to think of what I wanted to write about today, a couple of things kept entering my mind. They all have to do with our current family situation, which I’m not going to go into here. What I decided to go with ideas for free (or cheap), simple family activities. The list definitely won’t be all inclusive, and it may or may not include things that work in every town. But they’re things our family does for fun, and hopefully at least some of them will inspire you to slow down and find something simple to do today. [Read more…]

Simplicity: Living in a Smaller Space

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In case you hadn’t noticed yet, it’s summer! I don’t know about where you live, but where we live, it’s been really hot, too. Miserably hot. The kind of hot that reminds me why I don’t really care for summer and makes me look forward to the fall. The fact that our house (apparently) wasn’t built to handle the heat just makes that even worse. You see, the top floor of the house is where the main living areas are. The lower level just has the kids’ playroom, one bedroom, a “half” bathroom, and the laundry area. The top floor is absolutely unbearable in the summertime. We just dealt with it last year, but this year we decided we weren’t interested in doing that. (The windows all open sideways, not up and down, so putting an air conditioner in is very tricky. Especially since it’s the second floor, not the first.)

So on July 1st, we moved most of our stuff – the stuff we need every single day, anyway – to the lower level of our home. Will gave up his office so that we could put our bed in the bedroom. The playroom is now the kids’ “everything” room, which really isn’t a big deal; most kids have only one room for sleeping and playing in anyway. The only times we go upstairs are early in the morning before it gets too hot and when we’re cooking or bathing.

We’ve done this partially to keep our sanity and partially as an experiment: Can we live in a smaller space than we currently have? The answer has been a resounding “Yes!” Why are we using this time as an experiment like this? Because Will has his mind set on us living in a “tiny house.” He’s been very interested in the tiny house movement for years, but we were never sure it was logistically possible – or feasible – with children. Now we know that, within reason of course, it is. He’s gone out and priced tiny houses, and depending on where you live, they’re really not so “tiny.” The one he’s looking at is 18×24 feet with a loft. That’s about the amount of space we’ve been living in the past two weeks.

We knew that in order to pull it off, we’d have to simplify even further than we already have. We’ve moved some of the boys’ toys to Will’s office at the church, and they play with those toys when they’re stuck there late on Wednesday nights while Will talks to his dad. A lot of Small Fry’s outgrown clothes are going either to our new nephew or the consignment store. Come fall, almost all of the quilts I’ve made over the years are going to go to a social service agency that can get them to families in need. Same with our extra bedsheets. The kitchen is probably the main “problem” area, but since we’re not planning to move for a few more months (or longer…), I’m not ready to think about that yet.

Until we did this, I was always kind of averse to the idea of tiny house living (I don’t expect that we’ll live in a huge house forever, but a tiny one?). There are times when I’m still unsure, but I know in my mind now that it is possible for us.

Have you ever done anything like this? Tried living in just a portion of your house?

How do you keep your house cool and livable in the summer?



Simplicity: Lessons from Macaroni Salad

simplicity copyWhen I first started this series, one of the things I talked about was how “Simplicity is NOT taking the easy way out.” I want to share with you a lesson I learned this past week based on that theme, and then I’ll share a recipe at the end.

Have you seen those boxed “Simply Pasta Salad” kits in the grocery store? I’d seen them lots of times over the years, but never tried one. One night recently, we were having grilled burgers for dinner, and I wanted a quick, easy, won’t-heat-up-the-kitchen side. Pasta salad seemed like just the ticket. Unfortunately, it was already nearing time to start cooking, so I didn’t have time to make a macaroni salad from scratch and none of my family likes the Reser’s stuff that the deli carries. So I decided to try the box kit. They were on sale for $.99 that day, so I picked up four of them – some for now, some for later.

The concept is simple. Inside the box, you’ll find a packet of dressing powder which you mix with oil and water, and a bag of pasta, which you need to cook. Mix the two items together, and voila! Pasta salad. It was really quick to put together, but it wasn’t great in the flavor department. The dressing was really oily and honestly, pretty bland. The pasta was fine; it was just corkscrew pasta, not unlike what I would be likely to use for my from-scratch pasta salad (my grandma’s recipe). There were no add-ins. I suppose that could be considered my fault – there’s nothing on the instructions that says “don’t add anything to this, it’s perfect as-is.”

As we were eating the second batch of it (with my in-laws over for dinner), I was thinking about how “ho-hum” this salad was, and how I should have just made macaroni salad from “scratch.” It takes more work, but the result is so far superior that it’s worth it. And to me, that’s what simplicity is all about. It’s not about taking shortcuts so you can have more down time. It’s about making the thing you do worth the time and energy so that they’re more enjoyable.

My Grandmother’s Macaroni Salad

(I don’t have the exact proportions anymore, so I’m doing this out of my head. My grandma passed away in 2001, so I can’t just get a new copy of the recipe from her, but I’ve made this enough over the years to know it.)

3 8-oz bags of small pasta – your choice on the shape
You can find these on the Mexican food aisle of the grocery store; you could just use 24 ounces of pasta from “traditional” means, but I like the small bags for this recipe.
1 cucumber, diced

1 bell pepper, diced
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
4-6 sweet or dill pickles, chopped
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/4 cups mayonnaise – store bought or homemade, whichever you prefer

2-4 tablespoons mustard
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
Relish, optional

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

When pasta is cooked, drain the water and rinse with cold water until you can work with it with your hands. Combine pasta, vegetables, eggs, and cheese in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to combine. I find that my hands are the best tools for this job. It’s messy, but effective.

Eat immediately or chill before eating. (It should be pretty cold already since you rinsed the pasta.) Refrigerate leftovers.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is that it’s so incredibly versatile. Don’t like cucumbers or bell peppers? Use carrots and celery instead. Don’t like vegetables at all? Add more eggs and cheese. Not in the mood for macaroni salad? Substitute potatoes for the pasta, and now you have potato salad. The cheese cubes add a little something special, too, in the midst of the soft pasta and crunchy vegetables. It’s a texture right in the middle. Yum.

I’ll never buy “Simply Pasta Salad” kits again!