This movement is often called "voluntary simplicity," but we should distinguish between technological simplicity and mental simplicity. ... In so-called "civilization," we've been using more and more complex technologies for simple-minded reasons -- they give us brute power and shallow pleasures. But as we learn to be more sophisticated in our thinking about technology, we will be able to use complex tools for complex reasons -- or simple tools for complex reasons.
I am a mindless consumer. I am in need of reining in my spending and focusing on what I already have that pleases me. This really hit home for me today, two days after Christmas. I had resolved to do a small Christmas for my children and it didn't end up that way because I bought too many things for them. It doesn't matter if they are all well liked or will be played with, what matters is that I am teaching my children, especially my daughter, that if she wants something she should have it. The best I can do now is try again, try to do better in the future. I realize that it is an enormous luxury to be able to afford to give my children and myself many, many things that we do not necessarily need but still enjoy. I am sure many mothers on this vast planet would like to have my problem and I seem like a jerk for blogging this in the first place.
I want to save money. I want to be a person who knows where every single penny has been spent and makes mindful choices, even if a mindful choice is having an extravagantly expensive coffee out with a friend or buying a new book instead of waiting for it to become available at the library. The money spent on extras needs to be planned and alloted. I need to go to the grocery store with a shopping list and I need to stay out of Target, period. On the other hand, I don't want to go overboard here, just have some control. And I think identifying why I buy things is more important than what I buy. Trying to remember in the moment of purchase that having long term financial security will make me feel better than the quick thrill of the new item.
My New Year's resolution for 2009 is being mindful of my purchases. I am not going to go wild and sign up for Compacting or declare I will not buy anything made in China or will only buy handmade, etc. I admire people who do this but for me, at this time it is too large a leap and I will fail quickly and then I will completely fall off the wagon feeling defeated. I am just going to resolve to be mindful and to wait 24 hours before purchasing anything that isn't a need. No more impulse shopping. No more loading Etsy out of boredom. No more cruising by the bookstore just to "browse".
With the economy dipping ever farther as each day passes this resolution could not come at a better time. Our income could swing dramatically in 2009 and I want to be prepared. I want a fantastic safety net and to really start getting aggressive with long term savings. We are young, time is on our side and I want my husband to be able to retire at a reasonable age. We are on track right now but improvement is always possible.
We celebrated the Winter Solstice today which was a nice little bit of celebrating for Ella, who is so anxious for Christmas that she can hardly stand it. We talked about today being the shortest day of the year and being the first official day of winter. In honor of the day we made a seasonally appropriate dinner together, read a book about the winter solstice and made a winter lantern. We had also planned to string some cranberries on fishing line to hang outside for the birds and animals and to make some pine cone bird feeders with peanut butter and bird seed but we ran out of time. We'll get to those tomorrow. Our dinner consisted of Potato and Cheese Soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups and fresh crusty french bread. We adjusted the recipe a bit, as follows:
3 Tbs. butter
1 onion, thinly sliced (called for 2 leeks and we improvised)
6 large potatoes, peeled and diced (recipe called for 4)
5 C. of water
2 C. of milk
1 1/2 C. cheddar cheese grated (called for 1/2 cup)
salt and white pepper to taste
1. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the sliced onion and saute them for about 2 minutes on low heat. Add the diced potatoes and continue sauteing for another minute while stirring continually.
2. Add the water and cook over moderate heat, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
3. Add the milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and paprika, and bring the soup to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the soup stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
"This is an idyllic wintry soup, both light and robust, a happy marriage between potato and cheese. For a bit of extra strength and flavor, and 1 tsp. of cognac per serving. Although the soup is particularly appetizing during the winter months, it is also appropriate in early spring and fall."
For our winter lantern we followed these instructions. We chose to vary our paper choices, our first tissue layer is silver, followed by yellow stars and angels cut from construction paper and then covered with a light cream tissue paper. We used an older clear vase. Now that the project is completed with a candle lit inside it we've decided a dark construction paper would have been better for the angels and stars so they would pop more but on the whole it is very icy and wintry and cloudy looking with some hints of stars and angels showing through. It works and best of all, Ella is thrilled. It will grace our table until spring.
Our book is The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson. It is far too advanced for a three year old so we really just looked at the pictures and I condensed and simplified the content inside. We talked about how long, cold and dark the winter was for people before electricity existed which is why the winter solstice had so much focus on fire and light in many cultures throughout history. In Europe people would tie apples to trees to remind them of the warmth and produce of summer, now we hang Christmas balls on trees. They also put candles on the branches of the trees to symbolize the sun, now we hang Christmas lights. Yule was celebrated by the Scandinavians by men feasting on boar while a Yule log burned. The Peruvians would create a fire of the first rays of the winter solstice dawn by using a mirror and then carry that fire to their temple where it was kept burning throughout the year.
I made my big order for seeds for 2009 from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds today. I also bought used copies of Seed to Seed and Four Season Gardening. I am going to try to start saving many of my own seeds to be more economical and we are going to be moving into gardening year round by utilizing cold frames. Bob and I are planning a couple new beds to add to the four we put in last year and I am thinking of applying to get a 20x20 plot at our town's community garden as well. I need the space for bigger plants like corn, squash and melons. I just can't manage the vines in our smaller beds and I'm sure our HOA wouldn't be pleased if we dug up the entire back yard and made it into a garden a la Food Not Lawns.
I will blog my seed order soon. There is nothing more exciting in dreary, bitterly cold January than getting the year's seed order in the mail. After they arrive I will get busy making a gardening chart figuring out where it is all going to go, how much extra room I need for all the additional plants we are adding to our garden and at which times the seeds need to be started to be ready for transplant in late spring. Another late winter project is stepping up our composting system. We have a regular old rubbermaid bin with holes poked in the top in our basement full of red worms busy composting most of our whole food kitchen waste. They are doing a great job but we just need more worms and a bigger system. I've been doing some reading and I'm not quite ready to commit to any specific composting product yet but by March I hope to have something here and up and running. Another possible addition will be a rain barrel. We are pushing our HOA as it is so we'll see what we can get away with in our little back yard.
I just have to add that parsley is surprisingly hardy. I had no idea until this winter. We've had some bitter cold days, below zero days with a good bit of snow and ice and it is still perky and green down there in the bed. Now it isn't producing like it does when it is warmer but it isn't dead. I picked some just last week to be used in a recipe. Imagine that!