Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One month into no-shopping challenge 2018.

To keep us on track, I've made a little calendar to keep on the side of the fridge. At the end of every day we abide strictly by our no-shopping challenge, we fill that day in with green. See the bright pink on the days we caved in and shopped? That's right, you don't!

 January       Year to Date      Category                              
      $0                       $0                   Clothing    
      $0                       $0                   Shoes                               
      $0                       $0                   Accessories                                         
      $0                       $0                   Cosmetics           
      $0                       $0                   Kitchen items                   
      $0                       $0                   Gadgets/electronics   
      $0                       $0                   Furnishings 
      $0                       $0                   Books   
      $0                       $0                   Shrubs/trees 
      $0                       $0                   Non-necessary household goods   

I'll be honest, I still have a little bit of a Pavlovian response when I see a UPS or mail truck. And it doesn't help that my neighbors across the street must have a full-on shopping addiction because packages arrive for them just about every day. But now that we've gone a month, I really don't think about it in quite the same way. An example - now that I know I will have absolutely no new clothing items for at least a year, I'm actually wearing more of what's in my closet. And I find myself wondering why I hadn't been appreciating all the nice clothes I already have. Or when I think about a book I'd like to read, I'm grateful for a wonderful library system.
Although we didn't include going out to eat on our no list, we agreed to cut way back and get better about meal planning and making sure we had things prepared to take to work for lunch. I met an old friend one night for dinner, but for the first time was really mindful of what I ordered. And even with a drink and a good tip, my tab was under $20. Tonight, my husband I and went out to eat for the first time this year, to celebrate our successful first no-shopping month. But we did it by going out on half-price sushi night and getting a pot of green tea with it. Under $30 for the two of us. In addition to my calendar, I have a count-down app on my phone. I imagine we'll re-up for some version when the new year gets here. Because this whole re-evaluating our spending thing? We've got this.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A walk in the woods.

Last Sunday was a welcome respite from the cold, and we took advantage of the good weather to drive over to Waterville, North Carolina for a hike in the Smoky Mountains.
I wanted to sneak some of this moss-covered log fencing from the parking lot into our car to take home but, weirdly, it wouldn't fit in the trunk.
It was sunny and warming, but the icicles were hanging on stubbornly.
Our hike took us along Mouse Creek, with frozen puddles in the rock crevices.
The trail followed the creek for two miles.
It was still a little damp from earlier rains, but not too muddy.
We passed Midnight Hole, although we didn't find out until later its name or that it is a popular swimming area in better weather.
I'd like to come back in the summer when it's greener, but I did love the contrast of the fallen brown leaves and all the mosses.
Mouse Creek Falls, our destination. Except we'd read that some people confused another falls with it and stopped before they got to the real waterfall. So we kept going.
We hiked almost another two miles before we asked a couple of backpackers about Mouse Creek Falls. They told us we'd been misinformed. Apparently, it was the tiny bit of water spilling over the rocks at Midnight Hole that mislead people. I honestly don't know why anyone would consider that an actual waterfall.
Turns out, we were long past the end of our trail and now on the Big Creek trail. Which was fine. There is something about watery places - rivers, lakes, oceans - that just restores me.
We decided to head back and find a place for lunch on the return hike.
That big flat rock at the edge of the Big Creek was our picnic spot.
Our lunch-time view. I've traveled to a lot of amazing places in this world but it's nice to be reminded that I also live in an area of great beauty. The Smoky Mountains manage to be gorgeous year-round.
We rejoined the Mouse Creek trail back at the waterfall and walked on to the parking lot. We're going to try to get out hiking on our rare free days whenever the weather permits.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Over the last many years, I have purged belongings multiple times, as I mentioned when I posted about my no-shopping 2018 challenge (17 days in - yay!). But the other side of the non-acquiring coin remains decluttering. I just finished "Year of No Clutter" (borrowed from the library, NOT purchased, thank you very much) by a woman who has OCD and comes from a family of hoarders. She's a borderline hoarder herself, but worked really hard to get that tendency in check. This book was laugh-out-load funny at times. She still ended up holding on to way more than made sense to me, but it was a reminder that not everyone has the same path and I just need to keep walking mine.
As I have been taking a clear-eyed look at my belongings, I made the decision that there was absolutely no sense in letting my wedding dress just hang in the closet for eternity. I loved that dress and I felt beautiful in it, but it's not like I'll ever wear it again. And my son's girlfriend and older daughter are both significantly taller than me, and the younger daughter will be within months. Even if they wanted my dress, which I doubt, it wouldn't fit. But I also couldn't bear the idea of it hanging on the rack at Goodwill, just waiting to be turned into a zombie bride Halloween costume. I boxed it up and shipped it off to Brides for a Cause, which sells wedding dresses and gives the money to charities that help women. It felt like a win all the way around.
I also had several things I wanted to donate but not locally. Gifts from patients or other people in the area, say. I found another place called Give Back Box that lets you print out postage-paid shipping labels and they distribute the items to charitable organizations. I had two cardboard boxes that hadn't yet gone to recycling so I loaded up the things I wanted to leave town. And then threw in other things because there was still some room. The uncomfortable silver shoes I bought to go with the wedding, dress, for instance. The packed boxes are in my car waiting to go to the post office tomorrow.
Finally, I have three keepsake boxes I put together when I lived at my last house. One for photos, one for papers (cards and letters, my sons' art, school papers, etc), and one for general mementos. I just went through them again, as I do every year or so, to cull. My rule is that I don't keep more photos or souvenirs than I can store in these boxes. Each time I go through them, I find more things I no longer feel a need to keep. Like why, as an example, was I hanging on to my certificate of membership in the Huguenot society? In case I emigrate to Canada and hope that it will improve my chances of being granted citizenship? Or even my honor society certificate? Even when I applied to grad school, I didn't need to prove I was in the honor society. Or, for pete's sake, the boarding school prospectus and the term reports which noted my ineptness at skiing and my unwillingness to devote time to piano practice or speak up in math class? Why would I hold on to anything that says I'm not enough? But still, letters from friends and long-gone relatives, romantic notes from my husband, and hand-drawn cards by my kids stay for now. I guess a super minimalist would ditch it all, but I feel like this is a manageable amount of sentimental-only belongings. I plan to reassess in a couple years because I know that the more I pare down, the lighter I feel.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

And life goes on.

I had let my starter die. I know, that's terrible. I just got out of the bread-making habit. So I tossed it and started the process over, letting the flour and water collect wild yeast from the air and ferment. Frances II is now a beautiful thing, bubbly and ready to go.
My second loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread from this batch of starter. Since we eliminated virtually all processed foods from our diet, I find I enjoy a slice of toasted fresh bread with butter even more.
I've been met with some pitying stares when I talk about what we don't eat. And I'm really not sure why. We eat very well and I never feel deprived. This dinner, for instance, was king crab legs, parmesan crusted zucchini and salads. Why would I miss convenience food when there is so much wonderful real food to be had?
I'm still mourning my Dad, but I'm happy. In addition to prompting my decision to do a no-shopping year, I've found myself spending a lot of time thinking about what I might want my life to look like long term. Suddenly, I find myself open to all sorts of possibilities post-retirement. So I've been reading, and talking with my husband, and spending a lot of time in thought. I believe this contemplative season I've been having is going to continue for a while.