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Potatoes


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We eat a lot of potatoes in our home. The main way we eat them is baked. We wash the potato, stick it several times with a knife and then microwave it with the baked potato button on our microwave. We add butter, cheese, ranch, bacon bits (just whatever we have around the house) and chow down.

A baked potato is more than a side here. We consider them to be a whole meal. We take spells where we eat this several times a week but lately we’ve only been eating them once or twice a month. I will purchase the smallest bag of potatoes I can at the store to keep them from going bad on our slow spells.

I also enjoy frying potatoes. I peel them, rinse them off and fry them in a skillet with the bacon grease I have saved from previous meals. These are fantastic by themselves or with a bowl of brown beans and a slice of corn bread. Sometimes I will slice up a single potato and fry it up with an egg or two to make potatoes and eggs – a staple from my childhood.

Chop a potato into small pieces, add some sliced hot dog (or spam, bacon, ham or whatever meat we have available), cook thoroughly and then toss in an egg to make a Poor Man’s meal. I like to season this with some salsa if I have it but most times I just put in a dram of ketchup. I got my Auntie hooked on this meal.

I occasionally slice them up into wedges, drizzle with oil and seasonings and bake them. Katie isn’t too crazy about them this way so we don’t do it very often. When we had a fryer we used to have french fries a lot but I can’t see buying a fryer right now and this doesn’t work too well on my hot plate so we buy big bags of frozen french fries and bake them instead. There is a noticeable difference in taste from the bags to baking a fresh potato in a fry shape – and we aren’t fond of the difference (well, Katie isn’t – I can eat almost anything).

Do you eat potatoes a lot at your home? Do you consider them just a side or a whole meal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 



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The Library Book Sale


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Every single year my local library hosts a book sale. Proceeds from this sale go to fund the library and the numerous programs that they offer.

I go to this sale every year; any books I purchase are read and donated back so that they can sell them again.

This year I had a surprisingly large pile of books to contribute. I didn’t count exactly how many there were but I had four plastic grocery bags stuffed full. They were so heavy that I had to haul them there using my handy dandy shopping cart.

Something clicked within me this year as I browsed the selections. While there were several books that seemed interesting I found myself rethinking any potential purchase. Would reading this book really benefit me?

Most of the time the answer was no.

I only ended up buying three books this year. I purchased an old dictionary (while online dictionaries are wonderful sometimes you want to physically look up a word), a thesaurus (yup, this writer possessed neither dictionary nor thesaurus) and a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale which I’ve wanted to read for ages.

My new (to me) books

My new (to me) books

My total cost was $3. I’ve already been using the dictionary and thesaurus. I’ve even managed to read several chapters into the NVP book by reading a chapter at night before bedtime.

Even better, I’m now four bags of books lighter thanks to my donations.

While I doubt that I will ever completely eliminate print books from my life, it feels good to know that my collection hasn’t grown any larger in the three years I’ve lived here. In fact, it has shrunk as my needs have changed.

What do you do with your unwanted books? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Simple Curtains


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I’ve not used curtains much in this old place. I’ve been too busy enjoying my life to even bother with them. That said, over the years I’ve debated on purchasing some to brighten up the place.

While going through my sheet tote I encountered a treat. I still had some of my white sheers from Western Kentucky! Not only that, Katie had tossed in some white lacy sheers that she had found during the time when she lived with her father.

They don’t match but being the same color they still go together. I looped the two sheers from Paducah, converting them into valances for my front door and the window that holds my air conditioner. The lacy sheers are now being used to cover my front window.

They really cheer up the place!

They really cheer up the place!

Nighttime view

Nighttime view

I made the valance by running the rod through both the top and bottom pockets.

I made the valance by running the rod through both the top and bottom pockets.

This little change has made a world of difference in my little living room. It is much more cheerful now. Even better, I’m now actively using items that had been previously stored and forgotten.

What stored items have you put to use lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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My Crazy Daily Notebook


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notebook photo retouched

I wrote a post a while back about how I use notebooks in my daily life. However, I never really covered exactly how I use them because I didn’t believe that there would be much interest.

The other day a friend of mine stumbled upon my main notebook and leafed through it, fascinated. “You use the Bullet Journal method!” she exclaimed.

I had never heard of the Bullet Journal so I had to look it up. Basically it is a notation system devised to help you keep track of stuff you need to do as well as notes in a highly configurable format. It relies heavily on symbols to help the user keep track of their notes.

After some investigation I realized that I do use a variation of the Bullet Journal method but with some differences:

  • Since I write copious notes every day, I assign a single page per day just as if it were an official day planner. If I run out of space I stick a post-it note to the page and keep scribbling. As a result I don’t have the calendar page for each month with the days listed to keep track of my schedule. I do that on my daily pages. Important dates are highlighted on my notes page for that month however.
  • I write the date (yearmonthday) at the top right corner of each page. Beneath that I write the day.
  • I can’t have my notes and tasks touch. I guess I’m like the kid who can’t allow foods to touch—it grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. A a result, notes are placed to the sides of my task list (or below if it is a light day). Sometimes I use post-it notes when I run out of space on the page or it is a really busy day.
  • If I have to keep track of doing something multiple times a day (like reminding Katie to take her medications) I draw a box on the edge of the page with a spot for each time the thing has to be done. A check mark is placed after the time that each task is completed.
  • On the top of my page are my current goals. These can be quite personal, so I blurred them out on this snapshot (along with the very personal note I scribbled at the bottom).
  • Beneath that I write my To Do List. I write everything down, including silly things like make the bed, feed the pets or even fix a cup of coffee. These are the items that get me started in the morning, easy tasks that show my progress during the day and help keep this girl on track. Each item gets a line drawn through it as it is completed so that I can see my progress, and if I run out of space I stick a note on top and keep going.
  • If I decide not to do something, I strike it out and then draw an X at the end of the line (like this-X). This tells me that I don’t need to bother with it because I don’t want or need to.
  • If I decide to do something the next day I put an arrow at the end to let me know (like this->). This tells me I’ve moved the task.
  • Notes, appointments and whatnot receive a double arrow (like this->>) to let me know I have migrated the note to the appropriate spot, be that a special page, new notebook, or whatever.
  • I leave pages in the back for my sections like shopping lists (I plan some purchases for months before I either make them or decide not to), phone numbers, project notes and whatnot. These get entered into my ToC (Table of Contents) in the front of each notebook for later reference.
  • I also keep a Wish List and another page for goals I want to accomplish. These are marked off depending upon whether I achieve them or decide I no longer want them using the same method I use for tasks and notes.

 

If I didn’t take copious notes I probably wouldn’t need something so extensive but I got into the habit years ago thanks to my Auntie showing me her method for keeping track of life. This method evolved from her tips and productivity tips I’ve encountered over the years.

Until fairly recently I used to use a notebook until it reached the end, writing in the days as they arrived but that resulted in some confusion when it came not only to planning, but when I had to switch notebooks in the middle of a month. As a result this notebook spans three months, while my next one has four so that I can finish the year.

That last notebook will be tight (I have just one page left free in this one, and it only spanned three months) but I want to start the New Year on a fresh notebook so I will make do by adding notebook pages if needed (like I will do on this one). Next year my notebooks will span three months each to minimize migration. I doodled a lot in this one so if I minimize my doodling I should be fine with that number.

I could probably get more use out of my notebooks if I switched to college (narrow) ruled composition notebooks but the wide ruled notebooks have exactly 25 lines per page. College ruled notebooks have 29 lines, which activates my OCD.  I only lose four lines per page so it’s not a big deal even if Katie calls me picky for digging though a pile of notebooks just to pick out the wide ruled ones.

I’ve also switched entirely to the black marbled covers on my notebooks. I like to decorate them with inspirational images that I print out and the black marbling makes an awesome background.

How do you keep track of the stuff you need to accomplish every day? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 



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Nominate Your Favorite Simplicity/Minimalism Websites Today


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It has come to my attention lately that the current lists available for minimalism/simplicity websites are out of date. I would like to correct that but to do so I need your help. It is my desire to compile an updated list and to publish it at the end of this year.

Here is what you can do: Place the links for your favorite simplicity/minimalism websites in the comments section of this post. Add a short description of the website and why you feel that it should be included.

To make this fair, I am not nominating this website (since it’s mine). If you feel it should be included in the list, give me a shout out and I will do so.

Please note that I moderate comments on this website manually, so if your nomination doesn’t appear in a day or so message me here and I will track it down.

Let’s help others improve their lives by crafting a resource that they can use!



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Car Free: Stormy Emergencies


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Katie had to stay after school the other day to make up some tests. Normally this isn’t a big deal; she does what she needs to and walks home afterwards. However, on this particular day a tornado warning occurred.

With the town sirens blaring I was left frantic. Had my Katie left the school yet? Was she walking home in the wind and the storm? I tried to message her but didn’t receive a response. Panicked, I called the school. She was there and safe, huddled in the hallway with the other students.

Eventually the all-clear sounded and Katie got in touch. She was fine, but her teachers wouldn’t allow her to leave the school without a parent.

I gathered up my umbrella and headed out. On the way there I encountered a friend who asked me what in the world I was doing out. I explained the situation and he insisted on giving me a ride up there and taking us home.

Gotta love my awesome friends!

So the Universe is still taking care of me during this car free adventure. I’ve had my share of challenges but everything is working out wonderfully.



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Closest Thing to A Coffee Shop


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One of the things I really miss about Paducah is the coffee shops. One in particular, actually. Rather than mourn the loss I decided to locate the next best thing within walking distance to my home.

Biancke’s Restaurant is a piece of history in this small Kentucky town. It has been open for over 100 years and frequently serves politicians, celebrities and normal folk alike.

They are rather laid back so they have no problems with me camping out with my laptop; I make sure to order a sandwich or something and they make sure my drink is always filled.

I always leave them a good tip.

I don’t go there too very often but it is my personal treat when I finish a big project or I just need to get out of the house for a bit – it isn’t as uptight as the library and I can eat and drink while I work.

I think Katie likes when I come here. She always refuses when I invite her to come along. It’s for the best I reckon. She gets bored easily and I can sit there for hours.

In fact, I’ve been here most of the day today.

While I would be delighted if a coffee shop came to town I am very happy that this restaurant caters to my needs. Thank you Biancke’s!

Do you have a favorite coffee house or restaurant where you hang out? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Goodbye, Hamper!


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Today I tossed my laundry hamper. It was an old handmedown from Middle Daughter and had seen much better days.

I not only tossed it because it was ragged (I was too embarrassed at its condition to even share a photo with you) but because it was an excuse machine.

As long as it wasn’t overflowing I had an excuse not to do my laundry.

So now instead of a hamper I will use my washing machine to hold our dirty laundry. I keep the door open anyway (front-loading washers tend to mold if you don’t) so it will be a simple thing to store my dirty laundry there instead of in a hamper.

I have a couple of laundry baskets that I will continue to use to sort through my dirty clothes. These will be used to sort whites from colors, though for the sake of simplicity I am replacing all of our white items with colored pieces as they wear out.

Now I have a little more floor space in my tiny home while eliminating a big excuse machine from my life.

Have you ever considered eliminating your laundry hamper? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Things I No Longer Make From Scratch


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For most of my life I’ve been a big proponent of making things from scratch. Growing your own food, preserving it, making clothes, soap – you name it, I’ve probably made it at some point in my life.

I’ve changed a bit. Part of it is because my life circumstances have changed but I’ve also stopped because it was no longer practical to make certain stuff anymore. At the risk of getting flamed, I’m going to share a list of the things I no longer make from scratch any more. Here goes:

  • Clothing. When my kids were small I taught myself to sew. I would stock up on clearance fabrics and notions, sewing in my spare time to outfit my rug rats in style. When I was pregnant and couldn’t afford even secondhand maternity clothes I raided my stash to make oversized tops and bottoms so that I wouldn’t have to run around nekkid. I even made the winter coats my kids needed for years!

I stopped doing that shortly after I left my husband. I was finally able to be in full control of my budget so I could save up and shop yard sales and thrift shops when I saw that we were in need of wardrobe updates. I ended up saving a lot more money this way. Not only that, I saved the time I had spent stitching the stuff together and I no longer had to stockpile an unholy ton of fabric. I don’t even own a sewing machine anymore!

  • Quilts. I started sewing quilts for the same reason that I started sewing clothing – we never had the money to buy blankets when we needed them. I continued making quilts as gifts to friends and family for several years after I stopped making clothes. One day, after spending months hand-quilting a quilt for Katie, it finally dawned on me that I could have bought her a cute comforter for a lot less than I spent making that quilt. Not only that, but I rarely ever saw anyone actually using the quilts I gave them so it dawned on me that they would probably appreciate other things (like a gift card to a restaurant) much more than they did my sewing skills. As my quilt collection wears out I replace them with inexpensive blankets. It is cheaper and one heck of a lot less work!

  • Laundry detergent. I honestly can’t remember when I started making laundry detergent. I would whip up huge batches of the stuff and then cuss every time I had to shift the heavy containers around to clean my house or refill my container. After a while I got tired of dealing with the humongous batches so I started making it in smaller quantities – which increased the expense and the trouble (because I had to make it more often). When I had trouble locating the supplies here I broke down and bought a $3 bottle of the store bought stuff to make do until I could find what I needed. To my surprise that bottle lasted me almost a year! I haven’t made any laundry detergent since.

  • Dishwashing Liquid. Both my laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid recipes require Octagon soap, so when I couldn’t locate it for the one I was out of luck on the other. A 99 cent bottle of dishwashing liquid from the local Family Dollar has lasted me so long that I can’t remember when I bought it last so I have no plans to make it from scratch anymore either.

  • Liquid hand soap. I’m lazy so I just use the bar these days instead of going to all the trouble of turning it into liquid for a dispenser. I’m not sure if the store-bought liquid stuff is cheaper than making it but Katie is now asking if we can find out so I may buy a bottle and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted.

  • Garden vegetables. I used to keep a small garden with little things like bell peppers, peas, squash and stuff but this little plot of land won’t grow anything but sunflowers (and only one variety of sunflowers at that). I gave up as a result. It just isn’t worth the effort for me to fool with.

  • Dehydrated anything. I used to dehydrate vegetables, make our own beef jerky and fruit roll ups but we no longer really eat stuff like that so I ditched my dehydrator when I moved here. We haven’t missed it in the slightest, though once in a blue moon we might splurge on a small pack of jerky at the store. Making our own jerky was a lot cheaper than the store bought but we no longer eat it so I can’t justify keeping the equipment to make it these days.

  • Stir Fry. I used to buy all of the veggies and stuff to make stir fry from scratch because we love it and it is a simple one-pan meal. However, with just the two of us we always have stir fry veggies go bad in the fridge before we can use it up, which increased the expense. Nowadays you can grab a bag of Bird’s Eye stir fry for slightly under four bucks, which gives us a meal with leftovers. We can buy in bulk on our stock up trips and toss them in the deep freezer. No more spoiled veggies, cut fingers (My knife skills need work) or prep time. We just pour it out in the skillet, heat it up and go. It has ended up saving us time and money both over fixing it from scratch, and allows us to have it when we want instead of having to make ourselves sick of it trying to use up all of those veggies.

  • Bread, biscuits and dinner rolls. I’ve made these from scratch since I first moved out on my own. While nothing tastes as good as bread fresh from the oven there is a lot more waste with just Katie and me here to eat them. I may whip up a small batch as an occasional treat but for everyday use I keep the frozen ones in the chest freezer for those days when we just want a roll or a biscuit apiece. I sometimes splurge on the smaller loaves of bread that you have to bake but not very often. We don’t eat a huge amount of the stuff so rather than mess up the kitchen (and have more bread than we will eat before it goes stale) we just pop what we will eat in the toaster oven when we want. A bag of rolls or biscuits only costs a couple of dollars and will last us for several months with no waste.

Cutting the biscuits

  • Soymilk. I love the taste of home made soy milk but it is so expensive to acquire the soybeans here that I don’t even try. Now that Katie and I have discovered a brand of milk that we can both drink without it bothering our allergies (don’t laugh, but it is TruMoo chocolate milk) we just get it to drink with our meals when we’re not in mood for water. It is cheaper than store bought soy milk and tastes better than the store bought stuff hands down.
Way better than the store bought stuff!

Way better than the store bought stuff!

If I had a family to care for this list would probably be a lot shorter but I don’t so there it is. No longer making these things from scratch saves me both time and money in my current circumstances.

What about you? Are there things in your life that you’ve discovered that it is cheaper to buy than to make? Please share your stories in the comments below.



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Cleaning Up


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Now that things are calming down I have been slowly cleaning up and getting life back to normal. I’ve washed up the laundry left soaking in the tub when everything started, knocked out the dirty dishes, cleaned out the litter-boxes and tidied up the kitchen table.

I’ve approved any pending comments, checked my emails and knocked out a few posts.

I’ve done a bit more than that but you get the idea. I’ve been plucking at things a little at a time and now slowly things are being set to rights.

Fortunately, being a minimalist I have learned what is important and what isn’t. We had clean laundry so the dishes were done first.

We can still walk through the house (but the table was piled full) so that told me what I needed to do next.

We needed rest, but we needed a tidy home, so little at a time I assessed my priorities and started taking care of business.

I’m not done yet, but I’m on my way. Thanks to minimalism I’m not as stressed as I would be if I felt like I had to do it all at once. Instead I determine what is most important right now, focus on that, and then move on.

As for Katie, I’ve taken the next steps with her as well. I’ve scheduled the appointments, called for transportation, and arranged for her medical excuses to be faxed in to the school.

All is good.

How do you handle things when you become overwhelmed? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Related Posts:
Katie is in the Hospital
Car Free: The Adventure Getting Home



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