We live in a society that constantly tells us that we need MORE. We need more stuff. We need a better house. We need a new car. We need to upgrade our computer. We need the newest hand-held tech thingy that everybody else has, and we need to get it BEFORE everybody else does. We need to “treat ourselves” to vacations and spas and new clothing. Because “we deserve it!”
But do we?
Do we deserve mounting debts (because so many of us can’t afford to own all the stuff we are told we MUST have)?
Do we deserve the stress of credit card bills or looking for new jobs or overtime hours to pay for them?
Do we deserve the endless task of cleaning and repairing and maintaining that big house we thought we “needed?”
Do we deserve the stress of being weighed down by all the stuff, things, do-dads, “I’ll save it for someday” things that clutter our living spaces?
Why is it that HAVING MORE, often gives us LESS? Less quality of life. Less time. Less money. Just less.
We are bombarded with images of “the good life” and have forgotten that “the good life” was dreamed up by teams of advertisers with one goal in mind – to sell us more stuff. No matter what the personal cost.
And as the world around us gets continually caught up in more, more, more, it is getting harder to say NO! And “NO” sometimes means that people look at you funny, and think that you are crazy, or backward, or just plain weird.
But saying “no” can also bring peace, freedom, contentment. Not a bad trade-off.
I am just as pulled into “the good life” ideal as anyone else. I want my homestead on acres of land (and yes, waterfront, please!). I want freedom to travel, and a DSLR camera, and a Macbook Pro. Sometimes it is an act of will to remind myself that contentment will not come from owning MORE. That my new-to-me, 7-year-old laptop is all that I need. That all the strange looks I receive when I tell people I DO NOT own a cell phone is a small price to pay for not having that bill to pay each month. That many of my “needs” are actually “wants.” And not having everything we “want” makes it extra special when something new comes our way, don’t you think?
But sometimes it feels lonely seeking “less” when everyone else is out there seeking “more.” And then yesterday a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while commented on the blog and mentioned her new website. In Goodbye, Mrs. Jones she shares her journey of leaving behind her big, gorgeous house in the suburbs, in favour of a simpler lifestyle, fewer bills, and a small house. She was “living the dream” and found that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Her dream has changed.
And so, as I seek change, concentrate on what is important, and try to become more of who I really am, I am going to embrace LESS in the hopes of finding MORE. Maybe if we team together we can find success in saying “no” to what we are told we need, and instead find contentment with what we already have.
Today, I choose to find joy in less. How about you?
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” Socrates
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23: 4 – 5
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6: 19 – 20Read More
I admit that I am often a last-minute person. Although I have great plans for holidays that might start months in advance, the bulk of the work is usually done a day or two before. And so, Valentine’s day is almost upon us, and I have been busy preparing both a meaningful way to share the day with my hubby, and some fun ways to celebrate with my students.
If you are like me, and your holiday planning happens last-minute, here are some fun and easy ideas for a handmade holiday that you still have time to do before Tuesday!
1. Take advantage of some of the beautiful printable Valentines available in blogland (this site is a good resource) for unique cards for all of the people on your list.
2. Make cute origami hearts (found here.) One year I made one for each of my students!
3. Make heart-shaped cookies. You could even write the Valentine message in icing and skip cards altogether!
4. For the love of your life, make a set of Valentine coupons. Take little slips of paper and write things such as “Good for one back massage” or “Redeemable for watching a movie of your choice together” or whatever you think your love would like the best. You could staple them into a book or fold them and put them into a glass jar tied with a red ribbon.
5. Create a video telling your Valentine how much you love them. Use your camera, or create a slide show of pictures with a favourite song in the background. If you have never done this before, Windows Movie Maker is an easy way to put together videos of this type.
6. Make a personalized card by printing out photos of things you and your Valentine have done together and pasting them onto a heart-shaped cut-out. (Hubby made one of these for me one year and I LOVED it!)
7. Create “Heartbreaker” Valentines from stapled paper stuffed with treats!
8. Make heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. (If you don’t have a heart-shaped mold and find it hard to pour the batter in a heart-shape, just use a cookie cutter to cut out the shape once the pancakes are cooked.)
9. Use a heart cookie cutter to create heart-shaped sandwiches for a special lunch.
10. Make a “Sweet Memories” jar or an “I love you because” jar. Find a pretty jar (or box or tin) and some small pieces of paper. For a “Sweet Memories” jar, write a memory you have of being together on each piece of paper and then put it in the jar. For an “I love you because..” jar, write things you love about the person instead. I have been lucky enough to be a recipient of both of these kinds of gifts and still cherish them years after they have been given.
Here’s to another handmade holiday!
What do you like to do to make Valentine’s Day special?Read More
Some of you might be saying, “The holidays? Already? Isn’t it too early for that?” I’ll admit that I don’t like hearing Christmas carols in the grocery store in October or walking past rows of Christmas trees before the leaves have even fallen from the trees outside, but if you are thinking about planning holiday events and parties – now is the time to begin.
And this is one of my favourites.
What is a “New-To-You Gift Swap?”
It is similar to the standard office party/large group gift exchange, where everyone brings a gift to the event, and everyone takes a different gift home. The big difference is that the gift you bring is something you already own.
What types of items do people bring to a new-to-you exchange?
It could be that beautiful Christmas ornament that you just never put out, or that scarf you were given that you never wear because it doesn’t match your coat, or that game you thought you’d love but your family never plays. It’s something that you don’t use anymore, but you think someone else might love. This leads to a whole lot of variety, and a whole lot of fun. One year one of the party-goers in my group of friends wrapped up a tacky Christmas sweater as her contribution to the exchange. What a laugh we had when that gift was opened! It was quickly followed with a photo shoot of the recipient modeling the “beautiful” sweater. It was such fun that it has become a tradition and there always seems to be a festive sweater hidden in the pile each year (and with the popularity of “ugly sweater” parties, it has actually become a very useful gift!) J Of course, if you only want pretty things or useful things at your party, you can just say so in your invite.
Why bother? Why not just buy something new?
In my group of friends, the gift exchange started as a way to share the joy of gift giving with each other, without having to add another item to our long “to buy” lists. For those of us concerned about the environment, it is a way to reuse and recycle and lesson the “consumer” aspect of the holiday season. But most of all – it’s fun! The selection of gifts is always varied and it’s exciting to see what items will appear in the gift exchange each year.
How do you decide who gets what gift?
This is the fun part! We play a game commonly called a “Yankee Swap” around here. (I have no idea how it got that name.) You can find the rules here. It’s the swapping and exchanging part of this gift-giving game that makes it so enjoyable – and it’s always interesting to see which gifts are the most popular and most often swapped. There are other ways you could hand out gifts, of course. But adding a game aspect adds to the excitement.
What would I write in an invitation?
On top of the usual “what, where, when” here are some things you might include:
You are invited to a “New-to-You Gift Swap” – a gift exchange party without the stress of buying a gift!
As part of this evening of fun and giving, each person will give a gift, and go home with a different gift. The only rule is – the gift must be something you already own. Maybe it’s something you have, but never use. Or something you love, but don’t need anymore. It doesn’t matter what the item is, as long as it is something that can be used by someone else. The variety of gifts is half the fun! Don’t forget to wrap it up!
Take it a step further…
Are you loving the swap idea? Here are a few ideas to take it a notch further:
- Have a tacky swap party. If laughs are more important than the gift, have everyone search their houses for the tackiest thing they can find and wrap that up! This might be a great accompaniment to one of those “ugly sweater” parties!
- With a really close group of friends you could go in the other direction and have everyone bring something they own that they really love. This is the true spirit of giving, isn’t it? Giving things that are important to us to those we love!
- If you really want to make this an earth-friendly party, you could also encourage reusable wrapping for your exchange gifts.
Time to Party!
Does anyone else host these types of parties or plan to hold one this year? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
I was inspired to write this post after “meeting” Amy from Joy to the Earth. Her plan for a more joy-filled, less commercial Christmas really resonated with me. It reminds me of the story of the Grinch - where Christmas came to Whoville even without the presents, the decorations, the roast beast. That’s the holiday I am celebrating this year – the one that makes us sing for joy no matter what is lying beneath the tree! Happy party planning!Read More
Last night Hubby and I attended a Settlers of Catan costume party and tournament. (We’re geeks, I know, but proud of it!) We really enjoy the game, and I like to dress up, so it was a perfect evening! I have always wanted to own a medieval gown (and an elven cloak, but that’s a story for another day) and this was the perfect excuse to make one.
Hubby decided to be the “robber” from the game. The robber is a grey playing piece in the new version of the game and black in the old, so we compromised and put him in a grey tunic with a black cape. I was lucky enough to find this fabric on sale for $1 a yard, so even with the cost of the pattern, this was one frugal costume! (and I think it turned out pretty well)
I decided I wanted to go as a settler of Catan, and so was in need of a medieval dress. I found a really soft cotton/linen blend in the sale bin at the fabric store which turned out to be perfect. I love this dress! It was so comfortable to wear, although people did keep stepping on the train at the back. I wonder how medieval women did it? I know they didn’t wash their clothes very often, and you would think the bottom of that train would get pretty dirty pretty quickly. For a night though, it was fun!
One of my favourite details is the laced-up back. I am actually considering creating some of my other dresses this way. It’s so much more fun than a zipper! If you want to know more about how I made the costumes, you can check out this post.
It was really fun to see some of the other costumes at the party. There were some strong-looking knights, a few trees, many robbers (with so many thieves in the room it’s a wonder the trophy wasn’t stolen!) and even a sheaf of wheat! The prize for the cutest costume definitely went to the newborn dressed up as a sheep.
It’s fun to be someone else for an evening. If you could dress up as anyone, or own clothing from any time period, who, or what, would it be?Read More
The nights are getting cooler, the leaves are starting to turn, and my garden is starting to look a lot more brown than green.
It is time for the fall harvest.
After another two frosty evenings in a row, some plants in the garden are finished for good.
I went out in the garden and harvested all of our tomatoes.
Red – Northern Delight and a few Beefsteak, destined for salsa, bruschetta, and BLT sandwiches (where the “B” stands for Basil - yum!) I already canned the bulk of them as salsa and stewed tomatoes.
Green – not even enough to make green tomato mincemeat! I might try to half (or quarter!) the recipe and at least make a small batch for winter desserts.
I also harvested all of the Mystery Keeper tomatoes, which will keep us in garden-fresh tomatoes for at least the first few months of winter.
The green and yellow beans are finished, but I did manage to have a snack of fresh green peas while I was poking around the garden. This is my absolute favourite way to eat peas, in fact, they rarely make it into the house (there’s local eating for you!)
Our soldier beans are not quite dry yet (and with the wet season we have had, many have rotted away), but I did collect a small bag of the first of the season. These will be made into baked beans (Hubby’s favourite!) throughout the winter, as well as substituted for other varieties of beans in burritos, nachos, soups and stews.
And what would a garden harvest be without a zucchini or two? We almost missed out on these with our cucumber beetle attack, but one plant survived and I have been able to harvest enough for fresh eating on pizza, in omelettes, and stuffed, and have frozen some of the bigger specimens, pre-grated, ready to keep us in muffins (and more muffins!) for the next few months. I also discovered a wonderful recipe for zucchini waffles which I made yesterday and loved! Kind of like a waffle version of zucchini bread. I added orange juice along with the milk in mine for extra flavour.
I pulled out the pepper plants which are no longer producing, and harvested jalapenos for salsa and jalapeno cheese sauce. I like to cut them in half, seed them, and then freeze them for later.
The carrots, squash, lettuce, spinach, chard, and potatoes are still growing nicely. The onions are curing on our deck, although I must admit I have already started cooking with some of them, I just couldn’t resist!
Most of the herbs are still flourishing, except for the basil which I pulled out by the roots yesterday and incorporated every leaf into making pesto, which I also freeze for later, some in ice cube trays and some in small glass jars. I of course saved a few plants to go with the delicious tomatoes all over my counter, but their season is almost done.
I must admit I have a certain satisfaction in knowing that our freezer and store room are starting to fill up with the food that will take us through the winter. Food that started as just a tiny seed in the ground only a few months ago. Growing your own food is a wonderful thing!
What are you harvesting from your garden?Read More