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Archive for October, 2010

Happy Halloween everyone!

We got David’s cloak from the thrift store for $3 and my sari (which I fashioned into a funky medusa/greek mythology-esque dress) also from the thrift store for $6.  Yay!

Hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween!  :)

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Instant oatmeal

Yep, I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I never made oatmeal with old-fashioned oats until last year at 34.  And what I was missing all those years!

When I first left my job a year ago and had to really watch our budget, I knew that going bulk with a lot of my grains was a good frugal food route to go (you can see my bulk food area here from a previous post).  I had heard that old-fashioned oats took a little longer to cook but were heartier and knowing David’s appreciation for hot cereal, I bought a pound (and doing so is about 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of a box of instant, even organic!).

When I first made it, I remember thinking, “now THIS is what oatmeal tastes like.”  It really has that oat-y flavor and you can make it all sorts of ways (doing away with the sickeningly sweet flavored packets of instant that I used to enjoy).  You can also add other grains to it to make it a multi-grained hot cereal (like cracked wheat, buckwheat, amaranth, etc.)

Cooking old-fashioned oats is simple – it’s a 2:1 ratio of water to dried oats, bring the mixture to a soft boil, then put on the lowest heat setting for about 15-20 minutes.  I always add a pinch of salt and a pat of butter as it really balances any sweetness you add to it and really draws out the flavors.

I typically make oatmeal once a week, though more in the winter.  It’s only 19 degrees on this chilly morning, so oatmeal seemed like a good call.  Today I’m making our oatmeal with maple and pecans (though we’ve been enjoying a lot of apple/cinnamon oatmeal recently with our ABUNDANCE of apples from our CSA (I seriously have more than 6 large apple-picking bags worth of apples taking over our fridge right now and another big bowl of getting-ready-to-turn apples on my counter that I’m making into muffins and crisp later today).

So, if you haven’t tried oatmeal the old-fashioned way, you really ought to.  Once you do, I don’t think you’ll be returning back to packets anytime soon.

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Though I don’t like to spend a lot of time making “seasonal” crafts and artwork, I like to add just a few to celebrate the seasons.  I’ve had a couple angels in my mind that I’ve wanted to paint and with the upcoming holidays, it just seems fitting to put my vision onto canvas.  I have a couple images in mind and will likely sell holiday cards, but that’s pretty much it.  And I want these to be able to stand on their own without the holidays, for those who – like me – love the imagery of angels year round.

This little lady took me about 8 hours to complete but I’m happy with her (though I didn’t realize how similar she looks to hopeful girl):

 

I have another angel sketched out but need to do the background, so I’ll have another one complete in a couple days.  You haven’t been seeing Friday shop updates because frankly, I’ve been spending all my time in my whimsical shop just uploading all the different options for my 20 pieces and that in itself takes a lot of time to create, photograph and list.  But the good news is that I’ve sold more in my art shop in one month than I have in my  goodies shop in the first 4 or 5 months so it’s keeping me busy and I’m so grateful and humbled to have people interested in my work.  I’m also getting some custom requests in this shop (something I was a little unsure about before but am now embracing) and FORCE asked me to make their holiday cards using my sisterhood girls, so it’s all keeping me busy (but thankfully not overwhelmed).

Keeping busy is good because I really need to pay off my starting costs and get out of the red (and I’m *really* trying to curb my supplies spending now that I have a clearer business plan and idea of where I want to focus my time and expanding my eco-supplies shop is not part of that plan which should help cut down on that spending).  Feels good to have a clear path, know my direction and not feel all over the place with the shotgun approach I was initially using.  Overall just feeling grateful and so very happy to be able to live this kind of life.   This very week last year was my last one working in the corporate world…time really does fly when you’re having fun.  Thanks for following me on this journey.

Heart full of gratitude…

 

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Okay, so yesterday’s post was a bit heavy, so let’s lighten it up with more reasons to love the fall!

I get to wear my favorite clothing of all year: long sleeved shirt, jeans, mary-jane doc’s, striped socks and a soft pumpkin-colored scarf.  Next favorite thing to wear after PJ’s!

The breezes are blowing leaves around, the dogs enjoy being outside and don’t have muddy paws yet (note Peanut is, as usual, sleeping on the couch!) ;)

Though most blew off during the crazy wind storm we had the other night (I swore that the doors would fly open a’la exorcism/possessed spirits horror movie), we still have some yellow leaves around (this one covered in rain from said storm)

Yet the snow isn’t too far off; we seem to be right on the snow line that’s been hitting the mountains and can’t even see this particular one right now.  We just got snow tires put on our vehicle the other day and picked up our chains for when it turns on this season.  We’re ready.

And now we’re heading out to the health food store,  then to hang out at the bookstore, pick up our CSA and then return home to watch scary movies.  ‘Tis a great start to our “weekend” :)  Happy Tuesday everyone.

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When you think of decluttering, people don’t often come to mind.  And it sounds a bit cruel in simplified terms.

But lets revisit that quote in the last post from Shirley at  Choosing Voluntary Simplicity:

To me, simplifying means eliminating anything that is a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace.

Now use that definition to the people in your life.  Do you have family, friends, coworkers or acquaintances that are “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”

Sure you do.  We all do.  And though its a heavy topic, sometimes we need to take a break or break away altogether from those people in our lives.  And sure, sometimes this sounds easier that it is.  You can’t always avoid a draining co-worker or walk away from a family member.  But you can set up boundaries, you can refuse to allow yourself to get caught up in the drama and you can learn to let go of the one-sided relationships in your life.  We’re talking decluttering on a very personal level here.

What relationships in your life do you need to reevaluate?  Here are some of the types of relationships that can be cluttering your life and I’m sure you can think of a couple people that fit into each category:

Energy vampires

These are the folks that are always in some state of drama.  Something’s always going wrong, they are always miserable and they want to suck you into their black hole.  These folks often call on you when they need to vent but never to share good news or want to share in any of your news.  Its as though they avoid happiness at all turns and choose to remain in a vicious cycle.  And I don’t mean to assume that relationships aren’t give and take.  Sure, there are times when you need to lean on someone and then in turn other times they need to lean on you.  That is the symbiotic sway of strong relationships.  But I’m talking about the ones that drain you, all the time.  Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”

All about me’s

You know them.  The world often revolves around them.  You are just a member of their choir and they are at the pulpit.  I know a bunch of these folks on Facebook alone – they post often, don’t engage with you when you try to reach out, they’re amassing followers like a cult leader.  And they don’t care what you have to say.  If you chat on the phone, they often will gab for the first hour and give you 2 minutes to share what’s going on in your life.  These people can also be the one-sided folks that you want to be friends with but they dictate the friendship on their terms – contacting you when its convenient for them or need something from you, but not answering you when you reach out.  They just don’t have time because it’s all about them.  Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”

Are we even friends?

These are more acquaintances – people you know and are friendly with, but not someone you would really call a friend.  These folks are the “spam email” of the relationship world.  They want to connect with you on Facebook or other social media site just to connect but add no real value to your life.  They’ll reach out when they need someone to come to their tupperware party or need help moving or need help with a job, but otherwise, you wouldn’t really connect.  I’m not suggesting you get rid of acquaintances altogether, but perhaps you should ask yourself, are they just clutter in my life?  Are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”

High demand people

These folks are the high-pressured people in your life and have exceedingly high expectations of you.  On the other spectrum of the folks that don’t have the time of day for you, these people expect you to be at every event they invite you to, give you grief if you don’t call all the time or make you feel uncomfortable in their space because they are perfectionists and expect you to be too.  They expect you to be the perfect friend or family member and if you don’t meet that expectation, then you might as well pack your bags and get ready for the guilt trip. They don’t understand the ebb and flow of life, the distractions people have and the saying “gee, we picked up right where we left off, like we’ve never been separated,” would never leave their lips because their pissed that you haven’t been there for every single occasion in their life.  Once again, are they “a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace?”

I started reevaluating my relationships about a year or so ago and came to the realization that I needed to weed certain people out of my life.  I found myself taking things personal, allowing myself to be weighed down by others drama and not standing up for myself and my needs.  I was either being a people pleaser or avoiding people altogether so I wouldn’t need to start drinking after interacting with them.

But then I started repeating a mantra over and over: “I don’t have space in my life for negative energy”

This has been a tricky road for me, a people pleaser, to traverse.  But I’ve learned that I need to take care of my own needs.  Getting approval from everyone isn’t the end goal.  I’m not going to hang on for dear life to a person or situation that is just draining me or becoming a detriment to my own life.  Life is too short to be dragged down by people in your life.

And so I let go.  I started cutting people out of my life.  And not I’m talking about an angry slash and burn of contacts.  I just quietly removed myself from these people or situations. 

“I don’t have space in my life…”

And this doesn’t mean that I’ve put up a permanent wall but more of a, “I just can’t continue to be drained/wounded/ignored/sucked-into-your-black-hole, but perhaps we can come back full circle and be a part of each others life again in the future.”  In other situations, I’ve taken a giant step back so that I’m not so closely involved in the drama.  Although I mourned my expectations of that relationship, I had to let go of some friends and family at certain points in my life.  Some have vanished altogether, some are at a distant arms length, some have come back into my life with a renewed sense of mutual appreciation, respect and love.  I am also learning to let go of past hurts and just accept it as part of life.  It is a process.

Recently I deleted half  of my “friends” on Facebook – over 100 people.  Talk about decluttering!  Sure, some see it as a networking opportunity, but for me, I really only want to be connected to people who I’m in regular contact with or whom I have a fondness for and want to keep in touch or those that reach back out.  I can’t even tell you how many people “friended me” only to never say a peep or answer back messages sent their way.  I even accepted friend requests from people I didn’t even remember but saw that they were friends of friends and surmised that we must have none each other at some point.  How ridiculous is that?  Once again, the people pleaser was emerging; I didn’t want to appear rude afterall.

But it was beginning to feel like these people were friending me just to size me up and check out my photos or to link in case they ever needed a job referral.  If we never talked in high school and I’ve never seen you since, why do we need to be connected?  And if I’ve sent you messages and you can’t give me the courtesy of answering back, ever…then what’s the point?  And if we worked in totally different departments of the same company years ago and we haven’t chatted since, where’s the friendship in that?

My girlfriend Peg is a very engaging, gregarious and popular lady.  People are instantly drawn to her and she in known in many circles.  But I love her no-nonsense take on FB.  Her approach is that if a person isn’t someone she would want to share vacation photos with, then she isn’t friends with them.  Even if it means turning down countless friend requests and regularly deleting contacts.

This approach may sound negative, but it really isn’t.  It’s about quality relationships, not the quantity of them.  And on Facebook, it seems like everyone is in a contest to see how many “friends” they can amass.  Like a giant popularity contest for adults.  C’mon, let’s be real folks.

So to those who got lopped from my personal profile, no hard feelings, but it was an empty connection.  And the empty connection left me feeling bad and once again “I don’t have the space in my life for negative energy.”

Recently this issue was ignited for me.  I had a friend that I’ve been trying to find for years, one that I was chasing…always emailing, never hearing back.  I cared deeply for this person and wanted to share in their life.  Clearly I was more invested and I was like a puppy dog waiting for a bone to be thrown my way.  I finally got an email back and was thrilled to see their name in my in-box, but then the body of the message was nothing short of a resume of their life over the past 10 years.  And that was it.  No greeting, no closing.  I fell back into old patterns and excitedly wrote back looking for details, only to get a very curt, cold reply.  I was hurt.  It’s always painful when it becomes very clear that you are the one invested and the other person is not.

I really tried not to take it personal, but I processed it for a couple days. I was disappointed and hurt that this person didn’t share my enthusiasm of reconnecting.  Finally, I made the decision to make peace with it and let go.  I will not chase this person.  I will also not wish ill-will.  I instead wish them well in my heart and have let go.

Like I’ve said before, relationships are about give and take.  Sometimes you give more, other times you take more.  But if it’s all one-sided or if it’s an empty connection, wouldn’t you rather free up that space in your life and focus on those connections that allow you to give and receive enjoyment, contentment and peace?

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I’m still a student of the simplicity movement.  I take two steps forward, then one step back.  I struggle with balance and negotiating terms that work best for David and I.  Pushing, pulling, staying on track and falling off the wagon, moving fast, taking it slow and learning all the while.

About two years ago when I seriously started this journey toward a more simple life, I read dozens, and I mean dozens of books on the topic.  One of the tenants of the voluntary simplicity movement is decluttering.  The idea is that doing so allows you the physical and emotional space and time to enjoy the things that are important to you (and in a karmic/energetic sense, allows for new people/relationship/opportunities to come into your life).

Shirley over at the blog Choosing Voluntary Simplicity sums it up just right:

To me, simplifying means eliminating anything that is a drain on your time, energy and soul while giving nothing back in the way of enjoyment, contentment or peace.

And so we’ve shed lots of items…minimizing our belongings and donating often when things feel out of balance.  Resisting the urge to buy things that will only add to the clutter and learning to let go of the things we said we’d get to, but never did.  Freeing up physical and emotional space.

Decluttering from a business perspective has been especially challenging for me this past year.  I’m still learning what’s working, what doesn’t, what I want to pursue, what I don’t.  It has been particularly tough for me to keep inventory levels in check and to not save every last item from the recycling bin in hopes that I’ll someday convert it into art or something useful (I consider myself an eco-artist after all!).  This, I fully admit, has been a personal challenge of mine and one that I’m constantly negotiating.

But sometimes decluttering can be applied to non-tangible items like technology and, dare I say, relationships.  Let first discuss that lighter topic of the two: technology (or more specifically, email).

I have two email accounts: personal and business.  And like a home, these accounts need regular housekeeping.  A little each day is no big deal, but put it off for even a little bit and it compounds and soon becomes overwhelming.

Last week, while David was off at work and I was having trouble sleeping, I decided to finally delve into something I’d been putting off for a long time – going through my inbox and deleting old emails.  On this particular night I went through the 2000+ I had in my business email account.  Now mind you, I’ve been through them all, but some things were auto-generated newsletters that I learned I didn’t really need and were just adding to the clutter.  I also had lots of alerts to “convos” or Etsy-specific emails that I had received.  It takes a simple delete once you get them, but if you let a week’s worth remain in your inbox, well, it’s all downhill from there.  So that’s how you end up with 2,000 emails over the course of a year.

And so this past week, I’ve been diligently going through each day and filing what I need to keep and deleting the rest and it’s so nice to look at that inbox and see less than 10 emails sitting in there at any time.  Now I feel confident that I’m not missing/forgetting anything and it makes me feel as though I have things under control and that in turn equals peace of mind.

Tonight, I decided to do the same with my personal email.  I had over 2000 emails as well in that account – many of them absurd spams, others were things I signed up for (but didn’t realize I’d be getting daily digests and even more-than-once-a-day-newsletters).  Because of the sheer volume, I felt overwhelmed and stopped checking it regularly, often missing out on the emails I truly want to receive – those from family and friends.  It was all so overwhelming.  And I could have easily cleaned it out in less than 15 minutes with a slash and burn method, but I decided to take the time to sort by name and then go through each group and figure out what was going on.  Was it spam?  If so, I’d click that to help my service provider understand the spammy email accounts.  Was it something I signed up for and no longer care to received?  Then I searched for the unsubscribe button so that I don’t have to keep doing this every 6 months.

The goal is to limit the amount of email coming in so that I can manage it on a daily basis.  And sure, it took me close to 2 hours to get through it all, but the emotional space it cleared up was more than worth it.  Sounds so stupid, but I feel so much better having all that junk, all that clutter gone.  It truly is freeing.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss another way to declutter your life exploring a much heavier and sensitive topic: relationships.  As painful as it is, sometimes you need to take a “sabbatical” or “break-up” altogether with certain family, friends or the energy vampires in your life.  Oh, it’s a loaded topic, but one you’ve certainly considered at some point in your life.  So come back and lets discuss.

 

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This past week I talked about visiting your local thrift store for costumes/accessories for Halloween.  It can be a cheap and green treasure trove of ideas!

Here are some great resources for you if you are looking for ways to green your Halloween:

  • Green Halloween.org – this website is a great resource on costume swaps across the U.S., eco-friendly costume ideas as well as green crafting and decorating; they also have a great Halloween pledge (which is really just a list of great ideas on how to green your Halloween) which can be found here
  • Nature Moms.com – looking for natural/organic candy or other eco-friendly treats to hand out?  This blog has a great list with link to some of these options
  • Kiwi Magazine – want to make some eco-friendly crafts with your kids using materials you can easily find around the house like (think egg carton spiders and milk jug pumpkins)?  This link will give you some easy-to-follow directions to have an afternoon of fun with the wee ones
  • Safe Cosmetics.org – looking for natural, non-toxic ways to paint your face without having to purchase all the heavy gunk they sell in the conventional stores?  See this list for some great ideas using items that you can find at your local health food store, if not your own pantry

When I’m trying to “green” something, I start off thinking about what’s normally used or done and then try to think of creative ways to make it more eco-friendly.  I often go to two sites for inspiration: Martha Stewart or Family Fun Crafts (click on either link to be taken to their Halloween-specific sections) and then I find a craft I like and figure out ways to make it using reused/recycled or eco-friendly ingredients (see my post from last Halloween to see what I did).

And if you don’t feel like making eco-friendly crafts/decorations or don’t have the time, see all the great stuff my EcoEtsy team is selling for the holiday here.

What eco-friendly Halloween tips and resources do you have?  Would love to hear!

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You know those days, those weeks where you just have trouble going?  Yeah, I’m having one of those.  Don’t feel like cooking, cleaning, doing.  Just feel like vegging.  Lacking motivation to do things…except paint.  So I guess it isn’t so bad.  But the days are flying by and I’m wondering what I accomplished?  Maybe because we just got off our “weekend” and slothed through our weekend.  Lots of TV, lots of junk food, totally unhealthy.  And though that can sometimes feel great to do, I’m feeling more blase and crummy than relaxed.

So I’m feeling unmotivated yet have that creeping feeling that I gotta snap to it!  Still struggling with that balance, but went a little too far in the lazy zone!  Meanwhile, here’s a peak at my second painting.  I tend to always do two at a time…so here’s hopeful girl:

Here’s hoping that today will yield more productive results!

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So on Monday and Tuesday night I worked on this latest piece.  It’s a reflective piece on my excitement about getting into my favorite publication.  Without getting all in your face about the law of attraction as I know some people think its crazy speak (that’s okay, I happen to think a lot of organized religions do the same!) I’ll simply say that I believe in it wholeheartedly and can look back on my life and count all the times I’ve sent a thought, a prayer, an intention out to the universe and received it back.  And yes, a positive attitude can go a long way.

With that said, I created this piece and am a bit stuck with what to call her.  I thought about calling her intentional girl, since asking for specific things in your life is intentional, but David thinks it sounds off and should be called intentions girl or something else.  To keep things consistent, I always title my pieces ” —” Girl, so what do you think?

I won’t be selling this original piece as it’s so deeply personal to me, but will have merchandise with this image in my store by next week.  Speaking of which, I am now selling journals/sketchbooks.  Only have one listing up now for a medium size but will have larger options as well as lined options and eco-friendly choices too.

In due time I’ll get my shop 100% stocked with all the available options possible, but meantime if you see an item you like but not the image, just send me a message and I can make it for you.  Trying to keep that balance going and taking things one day at a time.  For the past week+ its been working out great and although I need to still temper that perfectionist in me that wants to keep working at it until it’s all done, I’m just letting go and keeping things in check.  Even if it means losing out on some business opportunities, I am keeping the original goal in mind.

Hope you are having a fantastic day :)

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is really all it takes to get most of the things you need in an economically and environmentally friendly way.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love Target.  You can find just about everything you need want there. ;)

Sure they have food and necessary household items but if I’m not careful and intentional, I can walk out with a dozen more things than I intended to purchase.  Have you seen their latest commercial with the woman that walks by the hats and then determines, “yes, I think I am a hat girl” … yeah, that’s the power of the impulse purchase and having spent 8 years in the retail management, I know that this is what companies want you to do: add to your basket.  And it works.

So I’ve really been trying to challenge myself when I add something to my Target list and think, is this something I can find at the thrift store?  Is this something that I can make with a little time, creativity and maybe ingenuity?

For example, we were in need of a permanent hand soap dispenser for our kitchen.  Sure, I could have dropped $10 on a nice one from Target, but I decided to scour my favorite thrift store and sure enough they had lots of them.  Some really gawdy, others not so bad and I left with one I found for 99 cents.  It wasn’t in perfect shape and had some faux wood sides that were scraped or peeling.  But it had a great chrome style pump.  So I decided to decorate the outside of the dispenser with a little glue and paper and voila, we have a decoupaged soap dispenser.

Using some leftover papers from my crafts and images downloaded and printed on the backside of already used paper, I glued on various pieces of music sheets, vintage postcards and french ephemera.  Then if you apply glue on top of the paper and brush the entire container, it seals it as well helping to repel water.  Super easy project, and it allows me to be green and save green at the same time.

Another example is Halloween.  We love Halloween and go to my girlfriend’s zombie party every year.  Knowing we’d need costumes and not wanting to drop premium dollars on cheap crap at the regular or Halloween-specific stores, we headed on over to the thrift store where they had not only the usual racks to go through but Halloween-specific racks.  There had everything from capes and thematic costumes to perfectly hideous prom dresses circa 1983.  I knew what I wanted to be so I had a specific outfit in mind (which can be tricky when going to the thrift store and having something specific in mind) and was thrilled when I came across this BEAUTIFUL traditional Indian Sari for $13 – for the long top (long enough to be a dress), pants and traditional wrap.  This thing is gorgeous and can be reused again afterwards.  I think I’ll be making pillows with the yards of fabric from this ensemble after Halloween.

David on the other hand is still uncertain what he wants to dress up as, so we picked a couple odds and ends that he’ll be able to fashion into a costume.  After all, zombies don’t need to be that well dressed. ;)

Sure, there are things I won’t get at the thrift store and will always buy new and the latest surge in bed bugs really has me looking over items before they come home with me.  And I also realize that not every thrift store is set up as well as the one I go to.  When visiting some family member in a part of Florida that is economically depressed, we were shocked at how some of the thrift stores in those areas were barren or only carried junky stuff, so it may take some time to find a good thrift store and some travel time to get to it (the one we shop at is about an hour away from us, so we only go about twice a month when we’re in the area running other errands.  Did I mention that it’s directly across the street from Target?).

Having said that, join me in the challenge to skip the new and see if you can find reused on some of the items your were planing to purchase.  What great finds have you found at the thrift store/garage sales/Craiglist/Freecycle?  Please share!

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