Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Sauerkraut and Marshmallow Bananas

From this Side of the Pond

1. Growing up, were you close to your grandparents? Tell us one or two specific things you remember about them.

I've written about my mother's parents before, here and here. The biggest thing was that they were always there. They were a dependable, constant, steady presence. That doesn't mean they couldn't come up with surprises ("we're renting out our house for the winter and going to Florida this year"), but their there-ness never changed, even through hard things. A lot of things remind me of them, including the bags of marshmallow bananas at the discount store.

2. What's an item you were attached to as a child? What happened to it?

My father's typewriter?

My dolls, including a Crissy I got for my birthday when I was six. I should have taken better care of her over the years, but she and some other toys were put into a storage area that was abused by a family cat, and let's just say that almost everything in there had to be put to the curb. That was years ago, and I didn't expect to have another Crissy...then Lydia, the Squirreling formerly known as Dollygirl, was given her own vintage Crissy, and I had fun reconstructing some 1970's clothes for her.

3. When you look out your window, do you see the forest or the trees (literally and figuratively)? Explain.

The whole deal. We're on the fifteenth floor.

4. Do you like sour candies? Which of the 'sour' foods listed below would you say is your favorite?

grapefruit, Greek yogurt, tart cherries, lemons, limes, sauerkraut, buttermilk, or kumquats 

Have you ever eaten a kumquat? What's your favorite dish containing one of the sour foods on the list?

Sauerkraut is a staple around here. We go back and forth between the fine-cut Bavarian style and a coarser Polish type. They're both good.

Lemons? Lemonade. Buttermilk? Pancakes. The rest are good too.

But I haven't eaten a kumquat in years.

5. July 1st marked the mid point of 2017. In fifteen words or less, tell us how it's going so far.

Fifteen or less?

One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve fourteen fifteen home. (I didn't have to cheat there because we don't have a thirteenth floor.)

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thrifting with Mama Squirrel

Do you know the verse in Ecclesiastes 11 that says to cast your bread on the waters, and that after many days you will find it again? It's a strange metaphor with different possible contexts (including sowing seeds), but what it implies is a releasing, a non-clutching attitude towards whatever it is. And there's a promise that in the letting go, there will someday be a return.

I think that happened today, somewhat. I have been slowly collecting a bag of thrift store donations ever since we moved, and today I added a few more things I'd been holding onto. A maxi dress, because I'm not as tall as I think I am. An extra pair of pants. A set of salad spoons I kept thinking we'd use but we didn't. A shirt I bought last year but which always felt like someone else's. With storage at a premium here, there's no room for things that I just wish I used. Giving them away means admitting, somewhat, that I make mistakes on things. Well, of course I do. But cutting them loose means the final farewell. No more chance to redeem those particular less-than-brilliant moments.

So off we went, dropped off our bagful of donations, and had a look around the store. Our looking is somewhat limited these days: we don't need more furniture. We don't need a waffle maker or a coffee pot. We don't need toys or children's books.

I do need fall shoes, so I looked at all those, but didn't see anything workable. I browsed through the dresses (nothing) and skirts (nothing). In what used to be the dollar-deal section, now renamed 75% Off, I found one long-sleeved pink top I liked.
Okay, one nice find is a good enough return for a short trip. I headed towards the checkouts, back through the "boutique" of women's clothes. And that's where I found it, hanging with some sweaters in the middle of everything. A DKNY Cozy sweater, the real thing, in like-new condition. It even fits.
How can I explain why this is so good? Let's just's a useful piece of clothing that's fun to play around with. I had a couple of previously-thrifted imitation versions, but one was too tight and the other developed nasty holes in all the wrong places.  Yay, I get to try again!

It was totally worth giving up the salad spoons.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Less. More. The right to fry onions.

What more can be said about more vs. less stuff?

I remember a vintage Mad Magazine parody of home renovations, where weekend handyman projects involved turning an extra bathroom into a messy closet, and a knotty pine rec room into an attractive cement-walled basement. Perhaps satires of minimalism (if they don't already exist) will feature trendoids Upsizing, knocking around in Giant Over-sized Houses.

Some people object to the term "minimalism," preferring "intentional" or "conscious" over a word suggesting a cold, unreal sort of asceticism. Others object to hyper-romantic notions that small is necessarily better. Sometimes a family's needs change. A couple I saw in a video had lived in a tiny house for a year, but decided to give it up when they had a baby. They wanted to give her some floor space for crawling and toddling.

One writer complained that cooking caramelized onions for three hours in a tiny apartment created an indelible reek in everything she owned, including her bra. Comments on that story were largely unsympathetic, tending mostly towards "so don't cook onions for three hours." She did make the important point, though, that small-space living isn't always glamourous or fun, and it isn't for everyone.

For those who make a deliberate, conscious choice to live smaller, or with fewer possessions or clothes, does the romance rub off faster than the smell of the onions?

Or is the secret more in adapting? We live in a generous-sized apartment, with an eat-in kitchen and enough floor space for several (hypothetical) crawling babies. I probably wouldn't cook caramelized onions here, although we have baked cabbage rolls without too much olfactory distress. (To be honest, I didn't caramelize onions in our house either.) But we don't let garbage or laundry sit around too long, we wipe down damp things, and we clean the guinea pig's cage fairly often. We do have a kitchen vent fan, and a pretty good cross-draft when the balcony door is open, but why push your luck?

And in the end, we're not talking about onions at all, are we? We're talking about the things we feel entitled to do and have, never mind the consequences to us or those around us. Or to human beings half a world away who pick our coffee beans and sew our t-shirts.

Hey, where did that come from?

Because just as small spaces have inconvenient, less fun limitations, other intentional-conscious-minimalist decisions have their downsides too. If you buy expensive fair-trade organic coffee, you're probably going to drink less of it. If you wear 33 clothing items for three months, you may be fed up with your two or three pairs of shoes long before the season is over.

But you are getting less caffeine, and saving money on shoes. And saving time and energy spent figuring out which shoes to wear. And maybe putting money back into a people-helping coffee business, or the local store that sells it. Does that give you new resolve to stick with it?

You make the choice, you make a change, or at worst, you accept the situation you're in and try to find its good points. Maybe the tiny place where you can't fry onions is allowing you to live in a great city for awhile. Or letting you live on a smaller income. Or keeping you from having to own a lawn mower and a snow blower.  Maybe you have a bigger place, but having a tiny wardrobe or less stuff will allow you to share a smaller room and closet with your husband, and open up a bedroom for a parent, adult offspring, or friend to move in. (My grandparents did that for my aunt and uncle, and their toddler. Years later, the same aunt and uncle used their own basement as a granny flat for my grandparents.)

It's not about the adjectives. It's not about the fun-honeymoon side or the later second-thoughts side of choices. Everything may have advantages and disadvantages. So don't let either the fads or the critics blow away your decisions.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes: When summer kicks in

The Big Picture: Mr. Fixit is our Treehouse money watcher. His report is that moving to this apartment was a good financial choice. Our electric bill is lower, the water bill is included in the rent, and we don't have to plan for a new furnace.
The dining table can also be a workbench.

Food, not always very frugal but staying even: We have less money "invested" in food now, because we have less storage space for it. On the negative side, I would say that, as a smaller family with members who have various eating habits, we waste more food than we did when five people all ate the same dinner at the same time. (A big pot of soup is not always practical.) We still try to eat up leftovers for lunch, and we try to pick out the on-sale thing if possible.

Media and entertainment: Radio, library DVD's, and whatever incarnation of television Mr. Fixit is trying out. That's been mostly Netflix for the last while. I find it funny when one of my moved-out daughters says, "I just watched an old movie on Netflix," and it's the same one we watched. Which isn't really a coincidence, since I guess everyone out there gets the same new additions.

Critter entertainment: Muffin has been cavorting with shapes folded out of newspaper. He likes the old paper cup/paper hat thing (the same shape I was using to line the compost pail), because he can a) hide under it b) walk across the floor under it and think that nobody can see him, and c) chew a hole in the side and peek out when he gets bored with that.

Thrifting and yardsaling:
One local church always has a rummage sale on Canada Day, and we usually go. This year I paid a total of fifty cents for two things: a package of tiny candles (hard to find!) for our Christmas angel-chimes decoration, and a game in a tin called Shut the Box. It was missing its dice, but that was no problem. 

The only trouble with the candle for the angel chimes is that I can't quite remember if they made the cut when we downsized and packed to move. We had a big pile of "maybes," and I'm not sure if the chime went into the bins or to the thrift store (possibly for lack of candles). I'm not hauling out the bins to check, so I guess we'll find out at Christmas.

In any case, I have a little pack of candles for a quarter. And a game that we played several times over the weekend.
Thrifted grey blazer for the fall. Less than ten dollars, unless you add in the wound to my pride by the cashier. (I'm not a senior citizen yet).
Denim-blue cotton top, same trip.
Like-new grey corduroy pants for fall. Best find of the week at $2.

This and that: Half price flower baskets from Walmart. We bought two for the balcony.

Books finished in the first half of 2017: Minimalism and Ecumenism

This year's January-June reading was neatly divided in half: "We'd like to move" and "We're moving." Pile of online mysteries = anxiety because things weren't happening fast enough. Pile of downsizing and simplifying books = looking for HELP when things started to happen faster than we'd thought. 

You might think, from this list, that I never look at Charlotte Mason's books, much less the Bible or certain other things that I go back to a lot. I do; it's just that I don't find myself coming to the last page of those very often, so they don't end up on a GoodReads list (where I've been tracking books).

Christian Thought and Faith; Philosophy

Freedom of Simplicity
Foster, Richard J.

The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives
Willard, Dallas

The Pilgrim's Progress (re-read)
Bunyan, John

C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason
Reppert, Victor

Restoring Beauty: The Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis
Markos, Louis

The Ecumenism of Beauty
Verdon, Timothy

Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation
Pieper, Josef

The Arts and the Christian Imagination: Essays on Art, Literature, and Aesthetics
Kilby, Clyde S.

Mere Motherhood: Morning times, nursery rhymes, and my journey toward sanctification
Rollins, Cindy

The Power Of Generosity
Toycen, Dave

Minimalism, Organizing, and Lifestyle

Shelter for the Spirit: How to Make Your Home a Haven in a Hectic World
Moran, Victoria

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live
Warnick, Melody

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More
Boyle, Erin

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste
Johnson, Bea

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
Becker, Joshua

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
Blanke, Gail

Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman (re-read)
Ortlund, Anne

Gift from the Sea (re-read)
Lindbergh, Anne Morrow

Things to Wear

The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age
Johnson, Lois Joy

How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing
Freer, Alison

Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty
Black, Kate

Homemaking, Food, and Decorating

The Gentle Art of Hospitality: Warm Touches of Welcome and Grace
Ellis, Alda

Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place
Astyk, Sharon

Private Places
Wilson, Judith

Downsizing Your Home with Style
Ward, Lauri

New Cottage Style: A Sunset Design Guide

Survival Food Handbook
Groene, Janet

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two
Hensperger, Beth


A History of England
Arnold-Forster, H.O.

Romances and Mysteries

Fletchers End
Stevenson, D.E.

Vittoria Cottage (Drumberley Book 1)
Stevenson, D.E.

The Yellow Room
Rinehart, Mary Roberts

Brat Farrar
Tey, Josephine

A Shilling for Candles (Inspector Alan Grant, #2)
Tey, Josephine

The Franchise Affair (Inspector Alan Grant, #3)
Tey, Josephine

To Love and Be Wise (Inspector Alan Grant, #4)
Tey, Josephine

Dead Man's Folly
Christie, Agatha

Other Stories

An Old Fashioned Girl
Alcott, Louisa May

The Spartan Twins
Perkins, Lucy Fitch
(I'm not sure how they ended up in there.)

The Dean's Watch
Goudge, Elizabeth

Wise Blood
O'Connor, Flannery

Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1)
Willis, Connie

Blackout (All Clear, #1)
Willis, Connie

All Clear (All Clear, #2)
Willis, Connie


The Sighting (Wheaton Literary Series)
Shaw, Luci

Books about Books

Books for Living
Schwalbe, Will

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Liberty and Laundry

From our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Happy July 4th Hodgepodgers! And if you're joining in from outside the US of A, then happy Tuesday! Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then jump back here tomorrow to share answers with all your friends and neighbors."

1. When and where were the best fireworks you've ever seen? Speaking of you know your hot buttons? The things people can say and/do to set you off? When was the last time someone pushed one of your hot buttons?

The best fireworks I ever saw were two years ago, in Toronto, at the end of the Pan-Am Games. The second-best were a few nights ago, for Canada's 150th Birthday, from our multiple-stories-up balcony. We could see fireworks all over the city, near and far, from little backyard displays to the mega-blastoff from the downtown city hall. There were fireworks here on Victoria Day too, but not like this.

OK. Hot buttons. How about just a mildly warm button? I got asked a couple of days ago if I wanted a senior's discount at a Salvation Army thrift store. Minimum age sixty. (Mr. Fixit's reaction: "I would have taken it." Thanks, sweetie.)

2. Have you hosted any outdoor summer parties this year? Attended any? What makes for a great outdoor party?

I was invited to a backyard reunion last month, but we got rained out; I'm hoping to make the rain date later this month.

3. What does freedom mean to you?

Freedom of thought, if it actually exists. Charlotte Mason said that we are not perfectly free to think or say exactly what we like, though, because our duties of love and justice override "freedom." Mrs. Lynde may be proud of speaking her mind, but if others have to pick up the broken pieces behind her, that's not freedom, it's encroachment. Committing to love someone or to treat them with respect means back-burnering your own freedoms: the freedom to be pushy, rude, mean, or negligent. Recognizing an authority means not exercising any right you have to act entirely on your own. Still, you have the liberty to make those choices.

4. July is National Cell Phone Courtesy month...what annoys you most about people's cell phone habits?

I don't have a phone, so I'm not a good one to judge. 

Probably the obvious things, like having loud conversations in public places.

5. What's your current summer anthem?

Not an anthem, but an earworm: Mr. Fixit is re-watching as many episodes of Hogan's Heroes as he can find (between all the other things he does), so that theme song has been playing nonstop.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

Lydia is still looking for a summer job. It's not easy being a teenager and trying to slot yourself into employment, especially when it's only for a few weeks. The first summer job I had was at seventeen, when I was hired as a kitchen helper AND laundress at a summer camp for adults with special needs. The AND there was a big problem; multitasking between those two jobs would have kerfuffled anyone, much less a teenager trying to please the directors, the cook, the other kitchen staff, the counselors, and the middle-aged guest who was afraid to allow his prized rock-band t-shirt off his back and out of his sight. His intuition was probably justified, because every time I got a load of laundry in, I was called back to the kitchen to chop onions or wash more dishes. The unwashed and unsorted camper laundry got piled up so high that they finally gave up and let every cabin do its own for the rest of the summer.  I did get the rock-band shirt back to its owner, so I wasn't a complete laundry failure.

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

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

That's the way it always goes

I realized that my online-library copy of Organize Tomorrow Today expires tomorrow. So I'm reading it today.