Friday, January 20, 2012

Simply Living and Simply Talking?

I was reading this blog lately and I was reading the post about how she doesn't really like to talk that much. 

And it made me think about myself.

I've always loved to write.  And when I was a kid, I strongly preferred writing to talking.  Well, let me clarify that.  I didn't mind talking to grown-ups.  Or people who were older than I was.  But people in my class? No. I didn't love to talk to kids my own age.

Not that I thought that I was better than them.  I just couldn't think of anything to say to them.  And so often, kids were already talking to each other and I didn't want to have to interrupt, especially if I couldn't think of anything to say in the first place.  But I never had the problem with people older than me.  I could always think of something to say to them.  And they (probably) humored me and talked to me and I loved that.  People from my grade school/junior high/high school probably would describe me as nice, but quiet.  (Or weird and quiet.  I'm not sure.)

College and early adulthood was hard for me.  Now, I was around my peers a lot.  And I also had the pressure of wanting to meet someone to go out with/to marry/to have babies with, which was more situations where you know, you had to talk to someone.  I retreated to my studies or my work and would sometimes go days without having a social conversation.

Things got a little better as I muddled through my mid-twenties.  And then, at 28, I met Mr. Simple.  And you are thinking "Oh, and he is really gregarious, etc. and brought you out of your shell." Nope.  He knows LOTS of people and so he is forever running into people he knows, and so he is a friendly person, but in most ways, he is just like me.  He isn't the person who starts a conversation in a group.  He doesn't have long phone conversations. 

But I liked talking to him :) And we fell in love and got married.  But I still wasn't a big talker.  Certainly not in groups.  Certainly not in front of people I didn't know.  Certainly not in groups of people my age.

And then I had kids.  And you are thinking "Oh, and that is when things changed."

And you would be right. 

Somehow, once I became a mom, I talked to other moms.  About all kinds of stuff. Stuff I never imagined that I would talk about with other people.  And that was a great first step.  I finally was talking to my "peers."

And I'd go places and I felt like I fit in more because I had something in common with most people in the room.  I had a child.  (But trust me, I'm not one of those people who would talk ONLY about my kid at say, a Christmas business party or whatever.) But something about becoming a mom just made me more comfortable about being around other people. 

Also, at the same time I had my first child, I become a computer software trainer.  And almost every day for 4 years, I was up in front of people talking.  And I was the expert! I was the person that had answers to their questions (well, I didn't always have the answers, but most of the time I did!) After 4.5 years of that, I had lost any hesitation about talking in front of a group.

So now, 12 years after I had my first child?

Well, my kids, for sure, think I'm a talker.  In fact, they talk about how embarrassing it is that I carry on a 3-4 minute conversation with the clerk at Target or how I'll sit and chat with someone that I just met at Farmers Market. 

And I'd have to say I'm a talker too.  I love, of course, talking to people who live a similar lifestyle to mine, but I love talking to people who don't too.  I just love to hear how people approach life.  How they think. How they get through the day.

Of course, I love to write too.  I've written here for a few years.  I've written in journals off and on over the years.  I've written stories and I've written poems. 

But I think at this point, if I had to choose between writing and talking, I'd choose talking.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How I have changed since I started writing on this blog . . .

I have a friend who was recently celebrating her 43rd birthday (youngster LOL.  I'm 45!) and she was complaining about how she had noticed that she needed to use reading glasses sometimes.  And we were laughing and saying how she needed a chain so she could wear them around her neck, like my piano teacher always did. 

I was thinking that I wasn't 40 when I started this blog, but you know what? I was! I was actually just turned 42! I started this blog way back in August of 2008.  Sometimes, that sounds like a lifetime ago, and sometime it sounds like it was just a few months ago.

So how have I changed in the past few years?

- Well, workwise, things have only recently changed, and not completely.  Back in 2008, I had recently started having full-time daycare students instead of just teaching preschool out of my home.  I'm still doing daycare/preschool now, but I've been doing some freelance training and I'm working to so that Simply Living In The City will be its own business (classes, online store and book!)

- Speaking of Simply Living In The City, I think I knew that I wanted to do something like that way back in 2008, but didn't really understand how to make it a reality.  Plus, I was relatively new to the "simple living" scene myself.  I was still trying to find my way and discover how to make the simple life work for our family.

- Mr. Simple's work has changed over the years.  In 2008, he was in his 8th year of working as a fire inspector/public safety officer for our city's fire department.  In 2010, he took another job working as a manager of media relations for a large company (no, not THAT large company in my city), and then he became unemployed in June of 2011.  But he has since started his own business, and is doing quite well! In 2008, he was also broadcasting for the local arena football team, and he continues to do that as well as starting as the broadcaster for the basketball team too.

- My kids (sniff!) have grown up a lot since August 2008.  Super was 3, almost 4 when I started and Jelly Bean was 6, and Flower was 8, almost 9.  Now they are 7, newly 10, and 12! I don't have "little" kids anymore. They are still mostly "simple" kids though.  Flower has an iPod Touch (that she bought herself) and we were gifted a Kinect by a generous family member in December, but my kids still LOVE to play outside, still LOVE to read, still LOVE to make gifts and still LOVE to spend hours drawing (especially Jelly Bean.)  But lest you think that they are "simply perfect", they also appear to LOVE to annoy each other too. :)

- When I started blogging, I was starting out my first year of homeschooling and it was just Flower.  The next year, it was Jelly Bean and Flower.  Last school year, it was just Jelly Bean. And this school year? Everyone is in public school.  I miss homeschooling.  I still, every once in awhile, wonder if we made the right decision.

- I have really made great strides in living a simple life that fits OUR life.  Which for us, means thrifting for clothes and housewares.  Buying less.  And when we do, it is a NEED.  And it is something that fits our lifestyle, so it probably means that it is quality.  And natural materials.  But bought as frugally as possible.  Eating whole foods.  Using our cars less and walking and biking more.  Learning how to make things.  Like dairy products.  Soap.  Dishcloths. Mustard. Tomato sauce :)  Learning to make the best use of our space inside and outside of our home.  Coming to peace with living in THIS home and in THIS city. 

- When I started this blog, we had just started digging out of the financial hole we were in.  Being mostly debt-free still seemed impossible.  And we only had one car back then (and it was not paid for either.) Now we have two cars (both paid for), and no debt besides our mortgage.  We pay cash for everything.  We save up if we don't have all the money.  Or we decide we don't need it.
- I have had bumps in my relationships in the past few years.  But I'm pleased to say that I haven't lost a relationship with anyone. (At least I don't think so!) Some have faded a little, and some I'm still trying to figure things out, some are new, and some are stronger than ever.

- I've had some loss over the years.  I lost our son to stillbirth, actually a few months before I started this blog.  I'm not as sad as I was in those early days of his loss, but I still think of him every day.  And I still wish that he had lived.  I lost my grandmother in September 2009.

- I have had some health problems over the years.  I had a heart scare in early 2010 and then I lost a bunch of weight in 2010 and 2011.  Also in 2010 and early 2011, I was dealing with terrible allergies & sinus infections.  And I was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2010 and had it removed in early 2011.  And I was diagnosed with Meniere's in Fall of 2010.  And 2011 was the year that I got tendinitis.  And burned 25% of my body.  Here is to hoping to a healthier 2012!

- There have been other changes, in particular one that took place in 2011, but I'm not ready to share about EVERYTHING yet.  Baby steps.  I didn't used to share anything personal here, and so I've made changes with sharing things more here too, I guess.

But I am happier.  Happier than I was in 2008.  And we are better off financially than we were in 2008.  And we are simpler too.  Oh, and older too. But I still don't need reading glasses. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

MY list of Kitchen Staples

These are items that I like to have in my kitchen.  I don't always have ALL of them. Also, I didn't include staples like fruit, vegetables, meat, etc.  I'll put that on another list soon.  I'd like to say that I can find them all easily at one store.  Not the case in my city.  Well, that might not even be true.  There is a upscale grocery store that I have been in exactly once.  You might be able to find every thing there.  But I go to a couple of grocery store, health food store and a couple ethnic stores to get everything that I want.

- Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Organic Palm Shortening
- Organic Almond Oil
- Organic Flax Seed Oil
- Organic Hemp Seed Oil
- Organic Walnut oil

- Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- Organic Red Wine Vinegar
- Organic White Wine Vinegar
- Organic Balsamic Vinegar

- Unrefined Sea Salt
- Wheat-free Tamari
- Miso
- Shoyu

Condiments (I make most/all of my own)
- Organic Ketchup
- Organic Banana Pepper Mustard
- Organic Barbecue Sauce
- Organic Veggie Relish

- Agave Nectar
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Honey
- Maple Syrup
- Whole Cane Syrup
- Date Sugar
- Stevia

Basic Herbs
- Parsley
- Sage
- Rosemary
- Thyme
- Oregano
- Cinnamon
- Nutmeg
- Ginger
- Cayenne Pepper
- Curry
- Turmeric
- Ground Cumin

Nuts/Seeds (I keep these stored in the fridge)
- Cashews
- Almonds
- Walnuts
- Pine Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds

Nut/Seed Butters
- Organic Peanut Butter
- Organic Almond Butter
- Organic Sesame Tahini

Whole Grains (all gluten free/mostly gluten free)
- Short Grain Brown Rice
- Millet
- Quinoa
- Amaranth
- Buckwheat
- Teff
- Rolled Oats

- Popcorn

Flours (I keep these stored in the fridge or freezer)
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Amaranth Flour
- Teff Flour
- Buckwheat Flour
- Tapioca Flour

Dried Beans
- Black Beans
- Chick Peas
- Kidney Beans
- White Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Lentils
- Split Peas

- Organic Vanilla Extract
- Almond Extract
- Lemon Flavoring
- Organic Chocolate Chips
- Organic Cocoa Powder
- Agar Flakes
- Arrowroot Powder
- Tapioca Pearls
- Xantham Gum

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MY list of kitchen essentials . . . .

You are welcome to disagree, but here is my list of kitchen essentials (cookware, bakeware, appliances, gadgets, etc.) This list includes what you would need to do basic cooking and baking.  It does not include specialty items needed for making your own dairy, or preserving your own food, etc.

NOTE: I do not currently own all of these items in my own kitchen.  But I'd like to! :)

Next post: Essential Kitchen Staples (flours, sweeteners, oils, etc.)

OK, there are 4 pots and pans that I would consider a "must have":

- 8 qt. stainless steel stockpot
- 10 inch stainless steel skillet (or cast iron)
- 3 qt. stainless steel saucepan
- some sort of cast iron dutch oven

You could cook most things if you had those three items.  But there are a longer list of what I consider "very nice to have":

- 8 inch stainless steel skillet
- 12 inch stainless steel skillet
- 1.5 qt. stainless steel saucepan
- 2 qt. stainless steel saucepan
- 6 qt. stainless steel stockpot
- 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet

I'd say minimum is a 9 x 13 baking dish, a cookie sheet, a pie plate, and either a round cake pan or a square baking pan. But here are the "nice to have":

- 10 x 14 inch glass or stone baking dish
- 9 x 13 inch glass or stone baking dish
- 8 inch x 8 inch glass or stone baking dish
- 9 inch glass or stone pie plate
- 10 inch glass or stone pie plate
- Two stone or stainless steel cookie sheets
- stone or stainless steel muffin tin
- stone or stainless jelly roll pan
- stone or stainless steel pizza pan
- 9 inch stainless steel round cake pan

Electric appliances
I guess I'd consider most of these "nice to have" instead of "must have", but pretty high on the "nice to have."

- Immersion blender
- Blender
- Food Processor
- Hand mixer or Stand mixer

Hard for me to pick my "must have" on this list.  I'd really consider almost all of them a "must have."

- Paring knife
- Serrated knife
- Chef knife
- Kitchen shears
- Meat mallet
- Mandoline
- Grater
- Microplane
- Fine mesh strainer (both small and large)
- Colander
- Can opener
- Cork screw
- Bottle opener
- Garlic press
- Rolling pin
- Meat thermometer
- Candy thermometer
- Oven thermometer
- Freezer thermometer
- Stainless steel long handled spoon
- Stainless steel long handled fork
- Stainless steel slotted spoon
- Stainless steel pancake turner
- Stainless steel spatula
- Stainless steel whisk
- Stainless steel ladle
- Stainless steel tongs
- Stainless steel measuring cups
- Stainless steel measuring spoons
- 4 cup, 2 cup, and 1 cup glass measuring cups
- Silicone spatula
- Wooden spoons
- 1 large wooden cutting board for fruit and vegetable
- 1 large plastic cutting board for meat
- 1 medium plastic cutting board for dairy
- Glass mixing bowl set
- Metal mixing bowl set

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Well, a more everyday post to start out 2012

I feel like I should do a top ten list of things that happened in 2011.  Or 2011 photo review.  And I'll do that.  Just not tonight.

And don't worry, this isn't some "heavy" post either.  

Well, I guess it could be, depending on how you look at it. :) I'm thinking about cookware lately. And kitchen utensils. I know, really exciting.  But that's the type of stuff that thrills me lately.  :)

I have been weeding out my aluminum and Teflon pots and pans this year (I even said good-bye to my aluminum dutch oven this year!) and getting rid of plastic and silicone utensils.  I had already eliminated almost all my plastic containers - I use glass jars for almost everything now. 

With my cookware, I have had a cast iron 3 qt. dutch oven/10 inch skillet combo for a few years now, but I wanted to add more pots and pans to my kitchen, either with cast iron or stainless steel.  So this year, I've added a 14 inch stainless steel skillet, a stainless steel double boiler, a cast iron 12 inch skillet, a 12 inch stainless steel skillet, a 12 qt. stainless steel stockpot, and a1 .7 qt. cast iron/enamel saucepan as well as a stoneware deep dish baker, a large stone round stone, and a cast iron/enamel dutch oven .  Almost all were thrifted/garage sale or bought on clearance/sale too.  I'd love to pick up a couple more stainless steel saucepans, another smaller stainless steel stockpot, and some stoneware bread pans and, as well as a cast iron griddle/grill.  But overall, I'm pretty pleased with what I've acquired so far.  I could really use a pot rack now.  Especially in my tiny kitchen with its very limited storage space.  

With utensils, I've picked up a stainless steel ladle, a stainless steel spoon with long handle, and a stainless steel turner.  Oh and stainless steel measuring cups and measuring spoons.  I'd love to pick up a stainless steel slotted spoon and stainless steel tongs. [ETA: I bought a stainless steel slotted spoon and tongs today!]

Oh, and I'd LOVE to get a good cutlery set.  We have an inexpensive set, and now that I'm cooking and preparing MUCH more food from scratch, I have found that I really could use at least a few good quality knives.  

But some days, I just stand in my kitchen and smile.  I have managed to pick up lots of good cookware this year. I've managed to eliminate lots of extra packaging.  I've moved to almost exclusively glass for storage.  I cook from scratch almost always.  I even make lots of my own dairy now! We use stoneware for our plates, glass for our drinking glasses, and stainless steel for our utensils.  We are almost entirely non-disposable (no paper plates, cups, napkins, etc.) It is a tiny kitchen, but I am making the best of the space, I think.  

Next post will be a top ten list, OK? Or 2011 photos in review.  Or maybe I'll talk about yarn.  'Cause this is my blog and that's how I roll.  :)