Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Frugal finds and fixes for the finish of February

Time for another installment of Frugal Finds and Fixes!

Finds: French-style scarves from the thrift store, $2 each (also the t-shirt, same price)
A spring/summer dress, cotton with an embroidered hemline
Fixes: Most of our fixes lately have involved tidying things up. Our dining room china cabinet was a bit neglected and mish-mashy, so I emptied the shelves and refilled them with a special set of family china. When I've tried to do that before, I always got stuck because there are settings for twelve, and that many dishes looked overstuffed/overstacked. I kept it to eight this time, and stored the extra four in another cupboard. It just looks better.
A find which could become a fix: I found this cotton-knit dress at the thrift store. Its colour could be called "granite countertop," but I thought it had potential.  I don't know if you can see it in the photo, but it does have some stitching and shaping (not just a long t-shirt).
So here's the question: do I leave it as is, or cut it into a tunic?
(This is how it would look at a shorter length.)

What would you do?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A minimalistic post about my year of Project 333

In keeping with the less-as-more theme, I'm going to make this as short a post as I can.

About a year ago, I set up my first Project 333 capsule wardrobe. It wasn't particularly cohesive or coherent; just everything I had left in my closet after getting rid of things that didn't fit or I didn't like. Even some of the remaining things got phased out, or worn out, over the next while.  Last winter/spring's list does not look much like this year's. I'm still in learning mode.

Why am I still doing this a year later? Mostly, I think, because it keeps a lid on what I bring in and use. A "thrift haul" for me might be two or three things; but that's two or three things. Two or three, plus two or three, plus two or three, can be a problem.  I'm thinking it's time to step things up...or down...to a new level of "enough." Not for minimalism as an end in itself, but as an experiment in making the most of my own best, and letting the rest of the stuff move on without me.

(Project 333 home page. #project333)

UPDATE: one large garbage bag of less-necessary, less-lived-in things, ready to go. That's actually a relief.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"Go live those things"

It's funny, how many things eventually fall into much the same patterns.

When you've been around Charlotte Mason education long enough, you start to find the phrase "Charlotte Mason education" awkward and redundant; there is simply education, the principles and practice and goal of true education, whatever name you put on it. Education is a discipline, an atmosphere, a life.

In Christianity, you start to hear the idea that there is no "Christian life": it's just "life." That can be an unsettling one.  Some may protest that it's splitting hairs, playing with words; but it begins to make sense. Christ came not that we might have Christian life, but that we might have life.

One of the most interesting blog posts I read this weekend is "Beyond Minimalism," at Simplicity Relished. Daisy, the blogger there, makes some of those same points. Nobody wants to be a minimalist just so that they can be more of a minimalist, right? Cleaned-out closets are not an end in themselves. In attempting to separate the tool of minimalism from the goal of meaningful living, she says,
"Minimalism doesn’t hold life-giving purpose. It can lead us in a good direction– but somewhere along the way we have to find the actual source of purpose. We need to identify what it is that matters more than the items we clear out of our lives. More than stuff, more than busy-ness, more than useless information, more than meaningless social engagements. And then we have to go live those things."
Daisy also has a gorgeously-photographed post about using a variety of fair-trade jewelry on a simple dress. (She says she's building "an accessory arsenal.") Other minimalist writers urge us to curtail accessories, don't have more than one pair of earrings, one scarf, and so on. Is one approach more valid than another? Daisy's sleeveless wool dress might be simple, but it's not cheap; does that make it a more or less minimalist choice than the somewhat-similar navy cotton dress I found recently at the thrift store?

The simplest response is that we're individuals, and we take truths and express them in our own ways. The DHM at The Common Room posted today about Charlotte Mason education (or just "education"), reminding us to "mix it with brains."  There are important foundations, key principles, examples and guidelines; but no precise recipe.

We just have to go live it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: "It takes more than wishes to do the dishes."

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then hop back here tomorrow to share answers with all your friends and neighbors. See you there!"

1. Have you ever been fishing? Did you catch a fish? If so did you keep it or throw it back? If you haven't been fishing is that something you'd like to try?

Some relatives had a summer cottage on a lake just outside of town, and one Sunday afternoon after noontime chicken dinner, my grandfather picked out some of the gristly bits for bait, and (very uncharacteristically) asked me if I wanted to fish off the dock with him. I was about nine and knew nothing at all about fishing, but he showed me what to do. We caught a few sunfish, which I then (as his fishing partner) was expected to help clean as well. So I did, and when we got home, my mother fried them for supper. While I appreciated Grandpa's gesture of comradeship, I was just as glad that it only happened once.

Fish out of water, big fish in a small pond, living in a fishbowl, packed in like sardines, this is a fine kettle of fish, plenty of fish in the sea, fish or cut bait...which fishy phrase most recently applies to some area of your life?

We have dumped stuff in our blue recycling box forever, but recent efforts to increase the blue box output and incorporate a green bin have been a "whole new kettle of fish." And apple cores and orange peels and leftover mashed potatoes, and nasty-smelling bean cans that I might have previously chucked in the trash. We are on the final stretch of our "gearing up" month, but we still have to figure out how to get the remainder of the garbage into just two bags. (That is, remembering not to start another one too soon.)

2. What's something you're always fishing for in your purse, wallet, desk, or kitchen junk drawer?

Keys, mostly. But I have been "fishing" a lot less for the past while, since I started using a Kangaroo Keeper that I bought last year (new in the box) at a yard sale. (You can stop laughing now.) I don't care about all its little pockets (they are pretty useless), but having a transportable inner-thing that fits most of my purses and bags has been very helpful. If I want to switch purses, I just pull the Keeper out of one bag and deposit it in the other one.

4. Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight or night? Explain why you chose your answer.

No idea!

5. What's the oldest piece of clothing you own?

Do scarves count?

6. We've got one more month of (officially) winter here in the Northern hemisphere. Are you feeling the need for a getaway? What's been the best and worst part of your winter so far?

Well, today we're supposed to have record-breaking highs, after a couple of months of mostly snow. So that feels like a bit of a getaway. The bests and worsts are mostly things I don't want to post about here. How about the best recipe we've found lately? Our teenager is so addicted to these that she made a batch herself.

7.  The Wednesday Hodgepodge lands on National Margarita Day...will you be celebrating? Frozen or on the rocks? Are you a Jimmy Buffet fan? If so, what's your favorite JB tune?

I had to look him up, so that tells you how much I know about country music. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

On the fisherman and contentment:  Plutarch said that most people think you have to go to a big city not only for excitement but for intellectual stimulation and scholarly resources. (No Internet in his day.) He complained that when he visited Rome and hoped to learn some Latin, he was kept so busy with people wanting him to discuss philosophy and do business and whatever else, that he never could find the time. His language study had to wait until he got back home to his boring little town in Greece. So everything has its up-side!

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Arts and the Christian Imagination (Book Review)

The Arts and the Christian Imagination Essays on Art, Literature and Aesthetics, by Clyde S. Kilby, edited by William Dyrness and Keith Call (Paraclete Press / Mount Tabor Books / ISBN 978-1-61261-861-6 / 256 pages  / Hardcover / $28.99)
Arts and the Christian Imagination
Our homeschooling community views education in the context of lifelong learning, and as part of the classical and liberal arts tradition. We recognize the value of each person as one who has been created in God's image, and who therefore shares in some of God's attributes such as the ability to imagine and create, and to form a relationship with the things that have been created. Our  curriculum includes more than normal amounts of poetry, drama, music, and art, the things that many schools would treat as frills or extras; but to us they are so vital, in the literal sense of vital meaning life-giving, that we have started referring to them as "The Riches."

Another phrase we use is "spreading the feast," as opposed to shoving things down people's throats, but which acknowledges that as human beings we do have "affinities" or natural, God-given attractions for truth and beauty. In fact, we are so out of touch with current beliefs as to insist that truth and beauty not only do exist, but that teaching them to children, and seeking after them as adults, is part of what we are called to do as Christians.

A writer and academic who agreed with that idea was Dr. Clyde S. Kilby, a longtime professor at Wheaton College, and author of The Arts and the Christian Imagination, a new collection of his writings from about fifty years ago. His essay "Christian Imagination" is also included in the older edition of Leland Ryken's collection The Christian Imagination, and appropriately enough it follows there right after C.S. Lewis's essay "Christianity and Culture." The subheadings include "The Bible: A Work of the Imagination"; "God, the Imaginer"; "The Failure of Imagination in Evangelical Christianity"; and "Learning to Live Imaginatively," and these are typical of the things he discusses throughout his work.

At one point Dr. Kilby refers to Lewis's description of a child on Easter morning who was heard to say "Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen," and he says "In our desperate evangelical desire for a clear, logical depiction of Jesus risen we have tended to remove the chocolate eggs...There is a simplicity which diminishes and a simplicity which enlarges...The first is that of the cliché-simplicity with mind and heart removed. The other is that of art...The first silently denies the multiplicity and grandeur of creation, salvation and indeed all things. The second symbolizes and celebrates them...[it] suggests the creative and sovereign God of the universe with whom there are no impossibilities."

So part of the problem of Christians making sense of the arts, besides needing more chocolate eggs, is that we may try to stick to what we call real, in the "life is real and life is earnest" sense, and forget that God's creation is full of amazement and grandeur, and although it may be fallen, it still reflects the power and beauty of its Creator. We have a feast laid out for us in Creation, and in the beautiful things that people have created in art, in music, in literature, things that are just as real as our everyday world of work, and that can give us a clearer picture of the love and holiness and power of the Father who inspired them.

The only complaint I have about the book is the almost unavoidable problem of repetition through the various essays and talks. Like any teacher, Dr. Kilby had favourite illustrations and examples which he re-used over the years, and reading the whole book in a short time might make you feel that you've been through a particular point several times already. On the other hand, exploring the collection of talks as a whole is a good way to get a sense of his most vital themes.

Well recommended for those wanting to dig deeper on the question of faith and the arts.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review, but received no other compensation. All opinions (as much as humanly possible!) are my own.

From the archives: just another school day, about ten years ago

First posted March 2007. Links updated/edited. Ponytails was in Grade Four, and Lydia (Crayons) was doing kindergarten. The Apprentice was in her second semester at public high school, but she was also doing Canadian Geography with me.

We had a picture study lesson that was kind of a transition lesson: we've been studying John Constable, and we're going to be starting Claude Monet, so I read about both of them from Hillyer and Huey's Young People's Story of Fine Art: The Last Two Hundred Years. (Basically the same as Hillyer's art book) The book talks about the problem of making something in a painting bright enough to look realistic, like trees; painters before Constable used to make their trees brown, but Constable managed to make them green by using little dabs of different colours; and that's why he was an influence on Monet and the impressionists, both in the "dab" technique and because of his interest in light and the brightness of things. We looked at a Monet calendar I have and also some prints-on-canvas I got from Hampstead House; I held them up close and then from across the room so the girls could see the difference. The prints aren't great, but you could still get the effects; "The bridge at Argenteuil" was wonderful with all its reflections in the water.

It was a good lesson because it felt like we were all discovering something together, and because it linked something we knew about (Constable) with something new.

Besides that...we finished "Les Biscuits," a story in our French book about a greedy girl who grabs a handful of dog biscuits instead of chocolate cookies from the kitchen shelf; a chapter of Sajo and the Beaver People (we're almost done, the beaver is about to be rescued); and some geography, about faults in the earth. Ponytails worked on multiplying 3 digits times 2 digits, and played a game of Math Munchers on the computer. Crayons did a Miquon Math page. And there was an ongoing game of paper dolls. Oh, also Ponytails is reading The Secret Garden to herself, and Crayons is busy with a bunch of old Ladybug magazines.

The Apprentice and I did some of her geography in the evening as well: we finished reading a Canadian Geographic article about David Keith, a Canadian environmental researcher who is also involved in public policy. Real people doing real things.

How was your day?

Related: Another post about Grade Four/Kindergarten

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Where Bea Johnson Meets Charlotte Mason

"The home should be a sanctuary. We--mothers, fathers, and children--have the right, if not the duty, and certainly the power, to bring positive change to the world through our daily decisions and actions." ~~ Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zero Waste Home (Book Review)

I recently watched Bea Johnson on a Youtube TedTalk about the ZeroWaste lifestyle. When she evangelizes about reducing waste, people listen. She seems to have earned a certain amount of "street cred" by her testimony of a sinful (i.e. overspending and overtrashing) past, and by the fact that she practices her gospel of glass-not-plastic while raising two teenagers (in California). Besides, she's an attractive woman with an easygoing speaking style. If viewers were expecting a hellfire and damnation sermon about plastic straws, it wasn't going to happen.

I borrowed Zero Waste Home from the library, mostly because of our impending garbage collection restrictions, and also because we've been making an extra effort to streamline our possessions. I figured out two things quickly: first, this is (like listening to Bea Johnson speak) an enjoyable, chatty, practical book. Second, in spite of the fact that I like the book and got a few ideas for things we might try here, or products we might look for, I will not be a Zero Waster any time soon, if ever. There are just too many things I would have to say no to, and some of them are very good things, even if they do come in non-compostable packaging. When we were at the very busy Euro-Foods store this morning, I wondered how the meat and cheese counter people (and the already-antsy customers) would react to someone slowing things down even more by bringing in glass jars. Along with meat (wrapped in butcher paper) and three prepared cabbage rolls (which they put into a foam clamshell), we bought frozen perogies (in a plastic wrapper), tea (in cardboard boxes), chocolate (in wrappers), a glass jar of sauerkraut, doughnuts and rolls (which we put into plastic bags), and some cheese (which came in foil-wrapped triangles inside a round cardboard box, you know the kind). So we brought home just as much packaging garbage as we would have from buying supermarket foods; but at the same time we were supporting a locally-run store with its own bakery, meat processing, and cabbage-roll-wrapping facilities; plus the small company that made the perogies and so on. In a Zero Waste lifestyle, I guess we could take in jars and ask for the cabbage rolls and pork loin to be put in those; we could make our own sauerkraut; we could choose a different kind of cheese that doesn't come in extra packaging. And we probably wouldn't be buying the Polish chocolate bars, or the perogies. Again, all this comes out of the choices we make every day, and Bea Johnson makes a very good point about it: those choices are based on the ideas that are the most important to us. If we are convinced that every bit of paper and plastic and styrofoam should be rejected for the sake of the planet and/or for our health and/or for our peace of mind, then saying "no" is a no-brainer, and it's totally worth giving up boxed tea and perogies in a plastic wrapper. I'm just not sure that that's the best goal for our family, right now.
I found her take on clothing interesting, and somewhat surprising. She has little interest in promoting the purchase of new sustainably-made clothing, preferring to shop what's already been produced, at thrift stores or by swapping clothes with friends. She gives a sample list of the contents of her own closet, which comes out to around the same amount of clothes as a Project 333 wardrobe. But when she describes being able to sweep all her clothes into one bag and leave the closet bare for visiting renters (and having all the members of her family do the same), I realize that that level of proficiency in Tiny-Wardrobe-ness, like the problem of boxed groceries, is probably not where I need to be aiming right now. I also don't see myself using cocoa or cornstarch as makeup anytime soon. Or making my own glue.
However, I am not dissing everything that the Johnsons do, by any means. While I don't agree with some of her thoughts on population planning, or the small value she puts on owning books, I am in total agreement about the need for children to have more time outdoors, less time plugged in, and fewer but better toys. When it comes to the bigger picture of trying to live responsibly and safely, I think they have a lot of the right ideas. The question then comes down to how we implement those ideas, and how far we take them before they run smack into other (also valuable) values.

Final take from a still not quite converted reader? Worthwhile picking up in any case for the generous amount of practical homekeeping help (even a few recipes). You might also want to check out the Zero Waste blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Heart the Wednesday Hodgepodge

"Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: Happy Valentine's Day Hodgepodgers! Here are this week's questions...answer on your own blog, then hop back here tomorrow to share answers with the universe. Here we go-"

1. What do/did you call your grandparents? If it's something unusual tell us the story behind the name. If you're a grandparent what do your grands call you? Who chose your moniker?

When we were very little, it was Bamma and Bampa, just because we couldn't say Grandma and Grandpa. But we did eventually learn how to say "g." 

2. Ever taken a road trip along the California Coast? If so what was the highlight of your trek? If not, any desire to do so? If you were to take a trip along the California Coast what's one attraction you'd have on your must-see list?

Mr. Fixit and I were just talking about how both of our mothers coincidentally took similar trips, driving with friends to California around 1960, before they were married (and you have to realize how far southern Ontario is from California!). 

3. What are three things you don't know how to do?

Drive. I mean, I sort of know how, but I don't because I drive terribly and I'm scared to.

Income taxes. Mr. Fixit does them online.

Barbecue. Mr. Fixit's department.

4. Tom Peters is quoted as saying, 'Celebrate what you want to see more of.' If that's true what will you celebrate and more importantly, how will you celebrate?

Um...more space in the house? We are celebrating that by continuing to clear out, donate, recycle, sell off a lot of things that have lost their usefulness.

5. Thursday (February 16) is National Almond Day. Do you like almonds? Which would you prefer-an Almond Joy or a macaron? What's something you make that calls for almonds?

I love almonds, preferably chocolate-coated or maybe tamari-flavoured. But I don't make anything with almonds because of family allergies.

6. What does Saturday morning look like at your house?

Errand, grocery, and yard-saling morning. At one time it was take-the-girls-to-dance-class morning. Sometimes even get-groceries-while-they're-in-dance-class morning.

7. Share with us a favorite book you've read this winter.

According to GoodReads, I've read 15 books so far this year; but some of them are sort of adult picture books (decorating and so on). How to Get Dressed was a fun read on OverDrive. Only the Lover Sings was more of a keeper (and I liked that it was short enough to want to go back to again).

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This week I put 2/3 of our "good" cutlery set into the everyday kitchen drawer. The other third is in the dining room, in case we need it; and the older* everyday stuff is in a bag in storage, in case one of the offspring discovers a sudden need for forks and knives.

(*Older? I wrote that and then realized that, since the "good" cutlery was a wedding gift, it is probably about the same age as the mixture of things from our pre-wedding apartments or the inherited odds and ends that came with the house. I probably should have just said less pretty.)

I also cleaned out the linen closet (almost Zen in its half-emptiness).

I cleaned out a lot of quite old plastic storage containers.

I did quite a lot of laundry.

And I published my new book.

(Maybe it's the adrenaline from that that is inspiring all the cleaning energy.)

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

You know you're moving on...

You know you're moving on from being a homeschool mom when you admit that your teenager is probably not going to use the 20-year-old copy of Writer's Inc. that you saved just in case. Keeners look up their own extra resources. The rest just use whatever copied material the teacher hands out. The odds of the "mom shelf" being used...except by mom...are low.

You know you're moving on from the big-family, Sunday-dinner phase when you decide to use the good flatware for every day, and bag up the other mismatched stuff for future apartments or eventual donation. And when it appears that keeping only eight settings handy out of the twelve would probably be enough.

You know you're moving into this millennium when you actually start rinsing out milk bags for recycling. Because, up till now, who cared?

You know you're moving on when...maybe...you have too many towels.

Friday, February 10, 2017

From the archives: The cost of homeschooling?

First posted February 2012 

Of all the reasons for or against homeschooling, the supposed "real costs" or "missed-opportunity costs"  argument has to be about the second-oldest after the socialization question, and it's just as misleading.

The Deputy Headmistress of The Common Room has posted her current thoughts on this, here and here.  It's also worthwhile to go back to her 2005 post here, because the comments are so interesting.  I originally posted a response to that one here.  (The DHM and I have been friends a long time.)

All I can add, to all that, is this:  first, you may save money by homeschooling.  It depends on your lifestyle, your curriculum, how many kids you have, how much money you were making or spending before, and so on.  As the DHM and others have pointed out, you won't be spending money on extra shoes, band trips, and pizza days either, and you may be saving money related to daycare or other parental work expenses. But most people don't begin to homeschool solely with the intention of saving money.  As in, we can't afford to send you to public school any more, so you'll just have to stay home.  There are usually other reasons involved in the decision--academic, religious, health reasons, bullying, bad teachers, whatever.  So from my admittedly limited economic understanding, this is not something you can approach with a simple comparison of costs.

Second, as far as the actual cost of the actual homeschooling goes--that is, minus the arguments over whether or not the kids' shoes wear out faster, or whether you have lower medical expenses because they're not being coughed and sneezed on by thirty other kids, or how much money you won't have to spend on peanut-free granola bars and juice boxes--the only point that all homeschoolers* can agree with on this, is that we're in control of that cost.  If we have money to burn and count a whole lot of things as "school", we can homeschool very expensively.  If we're broke, we can scrounge and use freebies.  In most cases (see the note below), we are free to decide that this year we will or won't teach a certain subject, will or won't have swimming lessons, will or won't buy a new printer.

Yes, you could put together some kind of an "average" family picture, and say that "most" homeschoolers pay a certain amount for math materials, reading books, computer stuff; or that people who spend a certain amount are more successful at homeschooling than others.  But what's the point?  A glance through any general homeschooling magazine, or through a week's Carnival of Homeschooling, will show such a diversity of approaches and lifestyles that such comparisons would be meaningless.  Even within our own family, every year's expenses are a little different: some years we've just re-used what we had, other years we've needed to buy new materials.

Conclusion?  There isn't one, except that, like the socialization question, the "costs" question is just as red a herring.

*"All homeschoolers" meaning all who live where they are free to plan their own work and/or choose their own curriculum provider, rather than being required to teach a set curriculum, buy required books, etc.

RELATED POST:  Frugal Homeschooling: Let Me Count the Ways

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes

Fixes: A hole in Lydia's jeans.
I wasn't going for completely invisible, just functional.
A thrifted sweatshirt, for a dollar. The coloured-tag dollar deals are one of the best bonuses of the MCC thrift store we go to. It also helps to know what you're looking for, so you can make even short visits more productive. I needed a sweatshirt, I like this shade of grey, and I didn't mind if the label said Large.
Household habits and changes:
We donated most of our marriage-long accumulation of music CD's, keeping just enough to fit into one end-table drawer. We got rid of a VCR, a record cabinet, and a 40-year-old toboggan.
We have also begun seriously stepping up our recycling habits.
Looks funny, but it makes you think twice about putting something in the bottom pail (garbage).
I also put my name on the library wait list for Bea Johnson's Zero-Waste Home book. Any ideas help!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

A Superbulous Wednesday Hodgepodge

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back here tomorrow to add your link to the party. See you there!"

1. What's the last thing you did that someone else thought was super? 

That's a hard thing to answer when you're talking about yourself! Maybe I thought they thought it was super, but they were just being polite.

2. The last thing you ate that tasted superb? 

Oh, that's a touchy question too--because Mr. Fixit and I often take turns cooking, and I like most of what he makes. But if we're really going for superbulous, and in a way that won't step on anyone's culinary toes...we went out for some really good panzerotti on New Year's Eve.

3. Supersensitive, superstitious, superwoman, superambitious, supercilious, supervisor, superficial...pick a super word from the list and tell us how it relates to your life in some way recently or currently. 

Superabundance: the way God answers prayers, small ones and big ones.

Superefficient: I posted "what goes in, what stays out" lists by every garbage pail, waste basket, and recycling box in the house, in preparation for new garbage pickup restrictions. "Green binning" has been around for quite awhile here, but we have never bothered much with it before, preferring to compost our own stuff in warm weather. (The superabundance of backyard wildlife here is one reason we have been cautious about incorporating too-easily-accessed receptacles.) But the choice between that and being supercharged for extra garbage bags meant that it was time to get organized.

4. Do you love easily? If you're comfortable doing so, explain why you think that is. 

Another hard one--I'll pass.

5. Valentine's Day lands on a Tuesday this year. Will you mark the day in some way? If you're celebrating with a dinner out somewhere will it be on Tuesday or will you celebrate over the weekend? 

No special plans yet! Mr. Fixit and I might do lunch out somewhere.

6. What's something you are loving right now? 
New books, and time to read them.

7 Write a three word (or less) phrase you'd like to see on a Valentine candy heart.  

Fully functional.

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 

Sorry for the generally laconic answers in this one: I have been overdosing on the Spartans, I guess.

Linked from A Hodgepodge That's Easy to Love at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Is anti-materialism garbage? And other questions.

If there's anything in the less-is-more, few possessions and no-garbage movement that makes you slightly itchy, you're not alone. Although you may feel slightly guilty about that reaction; after all, it was Christians who popularized the phrase More-With-Less. The Scriptures have plenty to say about how messed up the rich man is, and why we shouldn't love "the world," however you define it. But that can get us into guilty legalism, or a Nathaniel-Hawthorne-esque picture of solemn, black-garbed lives. Or, in this decade, we're more likely to think of stark white, minimally-furnished rooms. Whether the concern is for our souls or for the planet, we seem to end up in the same place. Possessions are troublesome. Clothes are only for warmth and modesty. Brownies should be made out of black beans to justify their existence.

There is nothing new about the argument for and against things that give us pleasure. I think even St. Paul ran into it with his churches (e.g. his letter to Timothy, referring to people who tried to ban too many things). Yes, the days are evil, and we are to mortify the flesh, etc. On the other hand, every good and perfect gift is from the Father, and it is not sinful to enjoy and be thankful for the useful and/or the beautiful. In certain situations, you might find yourself grateful for the invention of disposable diapers or plastic water bottles. Or, equally, for the life of an artist whose work gives you joy. Or for a bunch of flowers on a difficult day.

It is a good thing, I think, for the extreme minimalists to ask big, uncomfortable questions, and for the rest of us to consider the answers they come up with. Is more recycling what's really needed, for instance, or just less produced and bought to recycle? What happens (asked one person) when the recyclables are recycled into something non-recyclable? In our own region, I hope that the current push to blue-box and green-bin more of our waste will be met at the other end by something other than chucking it in the landfill. But how do you really know where anything goes? Did my thrift-donated sweater clothe someone locally, or did it get bundled overseas to be donated or resold? Is a disposed-of laptop now getting picked apart by someone struggling for food in China? Is one endpoint better than another?

Is it a worthwhile pursuit to bring home cheese in a glass jar instead of a plastic package, for the sake of less garbage? Or, equally, for someone else to then post diatribes about the wastefulness of animal products, even in a glass jar? St. Paul knew about this, and so did Jesus when he talked about tithing herbs and straining out gnats. Are we creating the big picture, or are we missing it? Is it better to special-order a refillable pen and bottle of ink, or to simply buy what's on the Walmart shelf and not waste time worrying about it? Are the socks I bought hurting somebody in an Asian factory? Should I have spent the extra effort tracking down some that claim to be all-natural, fair-trade, or both? Or could I have used that same energy and time listening, reading, walking, helping?

Does God mind if we go out after church for a burger and fries?

Are there one-size answers to these questions, or are they all maybe yes, maybe no? If you have any thoughts, I'd like to hear them.

Old meets new (photos)

Over the weekend, Mr. Fixit cleaned out some records, sold the small cabinet that held them, and moved this 1940's Sparton console radio into the living room.
This photo is Mr. Fixit's "man cave," five years ago; the radio has been in the corner there (under the Three Stooges poster) for at least that long. Console or floor-model radios aren't something Mr. Fixit usually handles; they're not a big seller these days, and they're hard to move around (and ship). This was one he just liked and didn't worry about re-selling.
But it was time to polish it up and give it new life upstairs.
This old radio is more compatible with new technology than you'd think. It has an input on the back that can connect with a smartphone. Ponytails came over on the weekend and said she had heard a song she thought Mr. Fixit would like. He plugged her phone into the input and played the music through the radio.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

February Free Fill-the-bag (because next month it won't be)

Someone in the local paper advised us, tongue in cheek, to do spring cleaning in February, before new garbage restrictions take effect in March.

I'm taking a break from formatting an e-book (tedious but important), virtuously eating Finn Crisp, not-as-virtuously drinking instant coffee, and looking at the list of 60 Things to Toss Out. The first one, wrapping paper scraps, I took care of on Monday. Christmas lights that don't work? --not my department. Next on the list are old magazines and old receipts. I might have a few of those.

Unmatched earrings? I refuse to toss them, on the off-chance that their mates might someday show up. (I hate losing earrings. Don't you hate losing earrings? I stay in denial as long as I can.)

Bathroom products, shoes, scarves? Under control. Hair ties, sunglasses, nail polish? I don't have any. But I do have some old regular glasses that could go.

And then we're back to the paper stuff. "Scraps of mail." "Old paperwork." "Books you don't enjoy." OK. Yes. They have obviously been peering into my file boxes, and I agree. Time for a clearout.

The rest of the list can wait.