Snow: Day 3

Seems everyone in the ATL is getting a little bit restless. Most of us have been stuck at home since Sunday night. Those who have tried to brave it and drive in to work have quickly turned around and decided it was easier to work from home than fight the ice. Many of us work from home frequently anyway, so the icy conditions really just give us a reason to stay at home and be productive!

D & I have been trying to appreciate our time stuck at home and last night we decided the simplicity project actually worked! We live much simpler lives than we did 6 months ago. The thought of staying in the house another day makes us smile rather than cringe. Our cars haven’t been driven since Sunday evening. We’ve been creative about meals – using ingredients we already have to make yummy deliciousness. Our cats are loving the constant company (the bird feeder on the porch helps alleviate boredom too). I’ve made new pillows, a couple of new memory boards, done all the laundry, and deep-cleaned the apartment. Our driveway is a hill full of ice and with temperatures not going much above freezing today or tomorrow, it looks like we may be stuck inside until the weekend.

All in all, I’m okay with it. I could use a few more work from home days – not only have I gotten all sorts of personal projects done, I’m in a good place to be almost caught up at work very soon! Here are a few pictures of our excitement (all from indoors of course!)

The view from our living room - looking out into the Forest Preserve

Anxiously watching the birds at the feeder

Exhausted from all the bird watching, time to enjoy the new pillows!

Memory board made especially for my sweet sister-in-law


Our Simple Christmas

We talked a lot about how we wanted to celebrate our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs. Rowe. Would we travel on Christmas Eve? Which family would we eat Christmas dinner with? Would we buy people presents, use alternative gift catalogs, make gifts?

Sometime in early November, we decided that we’d host both of our families at our apartment for Christmas dinner. We knew it’d be crowded with 11 adults and 2 babies, but we didn’t care – we were sure it would be our best Christmas yet. We vowed to be creative about Christmas presents, and hoped to make them all rather than spend hours at the malls this year. We promised to limit our spending on each other and to be creative about how we used the money.

We finally settled on one gift for everyone: using Tastebook, we made a cookbook called “Rowe Family Recipes” and included 50 recipes that we had tried and approved as one of our favorites. Each family got a cookbook, each lady in the family would get a small gift that was personalized to who they are and where they are in life, and for each guy in the family, we’d make a basket full of homemade goodies.

Christmas morning came. As usual, I was up by 6am, drinking coffee, enjoying the silence and the lights on the Christmas tree. There’s something incredibly magical about the early hours of Christmas morning. With the looming threat of snow, I checked the radar and discovered that my family would likely not be able to make it down for Christmas dinner. We decided for everyone’s safety that they would come down the next day and we moved up Christmas dinner with D’s family so they could avoid possible snowfall here in the ATL. We had a delightful dinner with them. It was much less hectic than it would have been with both families here, and we truly enjoyed each other’s company for the brief time that we got to spend with one another.

This was the first time I was “on my own” for Christmas since 2003. Christmas of 2003 was the worst of my life – I was in Ohio, far from my family and cried most of the day. It was the first Christmas I had been away from my family, and I vowed to never spend Christmas away from them again. So you can imagine how hard it was for D and I to make the intentional decision to stay at home this Christmas and keep Christmas morning to ourselves. We decided that we wanted to start our own traditions now, so that when we have little Rowes there are certain traditions already in place.

It wasn’t until I realized that I wouldn’t see my family on Christmas day that I began to realize how special this Christmas would turn out to be. It was super hard to be away from my family. You see, Christmas is our family holiday. My mom instilled in us the spirit of giving from a very early age. For as long as I can remember I have been more excited about what I give other people than about the presents I open myself. And on that very special day, the seven of them were together – playing in the inches of snow given to the North Georgia mountains. D & I were at home, just the two of us, for most of the Christmas weekend. And yet this may have been my best Christmas yet. This was my first “grown-up” Christmas. Christmas was peaceful. Quiet. Christ-focused. Simple.

As it turned out, I didn’t see my family the day after Christmas either. We celebrated Christmas as a family yesterday and I was pleased that the rest of my family stuck with a simple Christmas – we got almost all homemade gifts … I’ve got quite a talented family!

Candles made out of beeswax, made by my Mommie

Amazing wood cross made by my sister and her fiance'

Adorable calendar of the twins made by my other sister (and their mommie!)

I missed them on Christmas – and it was hard to be away from the rest of the family – but our Christmas celebration was just as special yesterday as it would have been on Christmas day. And when they left last night I realized something: As as we all get older, new traditions will take the place of old ones, our one family will become multiple families, and we will hold the spirit of creative giving close to our hearts, forever.

The Beauty of Goodwill

Bargainsphoto © 2006 Valerie Everett | more info (via: Wylio)
I turned 30 last month and I am proud to say I didn’t have a major breakdown because of it. I tried to embrace the big 3-0, confident that my 30s will be much better than my 20s were. The week before my birthday, I came to two realizations about turning 30:

1) The majority of the clothes in my closet were styles that make me look like I’m in my early 20s. If I’m embracing my 30s then they have to go.

2) I no longer have the same body shape that I did in my mid 20s. Sure, I could tone up a little, but it is likely that I will never be a size 2 ever again. And maybe not a size 4. And I’m okay with it.

So embracing those two realizations along with the coming of age 30, I emptied my closet. Let me say that again – I emptied my closet. I had 4 bags of clothes to giveaway – 2 of which were filled with name brand clothes that were very gently worn! One of my sweet high school girls is having a blast with those clothes! Goodwill was pleased to receive the others.

While all this purging felt good it left me with very little clothes to wear in a season where lots of clothes are necessary. Reminding myself of my promise to live simply (and also of the little cash in my checkbook), I refrained from going to the mall and hit the local Goodwill stores instead.

Goodwill part one: 7 pairs of pants and 1 skirt all for under $40. Brands? Gap, Express, Limited, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor. Can we say Jackpot? Granted 6 pairs of pants will have to be hemmed – but when you only pay $4.76 for them, it doesn’t hurt so much to pay for alterations!

Goodwill part two: 6 shirts, 1 sweater, 2 dresses – less than $45. Brands? Once again … Gap, Express, Banana Republic.

7 pants, 2 dresses, 1 skirt, 6 shirts, 1 sweater = $100? Black Friday ain’t got nothin’ on me!

Resisting Temptation

One of the hardest things for me in living simply is resisting the temptation to “take the easy way out.” Today – we succeeded, but D totally gets all the credit. Let me explain …

Last night we had turkey enchiladas for dinner – thanks to my friend Jenn for the recipe! We used leftover turkey from our Bible study Thanksgiving last Sunday. We had so much enchilada mixture that we saved half of it and planned to eat the same recipe for dinner tonight. Sounds great right? I thought so too, until we got home from our long day today. The last thing I wanted to do was cook. The conversation in the C-D Rowe house went something like this:

C: Honey, can’t we just order Chinese from that cute place down the road?
D: But we were going to make enchiladas.
C: Yeah, but we don’t have anymore queso. I used it all last night.
D: Well it’s way cheaper to buy more queso than it is to buy chinese food. And we need to use the leftovers. They won’t be good on Tuesday when we can cook at home again. Not to mention we just put new tires and brakes on your car.
C: Ugh. Fine. I lose. But you have to get the queso.

D went to the store and got queso and then totally tricked me into making dinner. Here’s the second part of the conversation:

D: Baby, if you make dinner I’ll work on your Soul Munchies favicon.
C: Um, well, okay – I guess I could do that.

Yeah, I’m a sucker. So I made enchiladas with the leftover leftovers. And they were delicious! For dessert, we had chocolate banana bread that I made last month and stuck in the freezer. It also was delicious. And then, as if all that simplicity wasn’t enough, I just finished making homemade black bean soup that we can have as a quick dinner on the go tomorrow night before our youth band rehearsal, and freeze for two more quick dinners.

All in all, I guess the day was a simple success. Stay tuned – great tips about shopping, the simple way, coming up tomorrow!

Featured picture courtesy of sun dazed.

My Life Would Be More Simple If……

Today, Kevin & Taylor in the morning on the Fish asked people to call in and share the following: “My life would be more simple if _______.” Here are a couple of my answers.

I didn’t have a cell phone.

I wasn’t a Facebook junkie.

I had a secretary all to myself to help me do administrative work so I could focus on dreaming and visioning and inspiring others.

I knew how to grow a garden and had a backyard to grow it in.

I didn’t have student loans that are equivalent to a mortgage payment each month.

I knew how to say “no” so that I’m not torn in a thousand different directions all at one time.

I didn’t have a “messy” past that keeps coming back to haunt me every now and again.

Jesus came back and sat down to talk with me – person to person, face to face. No metaphorical Jesus in the form of people around me, but God in the flesh.

Or maybe some of these would make life more complicated rather than simple – I guess that depends on your definition of the words!

Now it’s your turn to finish the sentence – Your life would be more simple if ……?

Simplify Your Life Week

Picture courtesy of ThingsWeForget

When we began this project, we had no idea there was a “National Simplify Your Life Week”!  Apparently it’s been around for several years – when I searched for it today I found this article from 2006!  Then I came across these more recent articles:

Simplify Your Life This Week – From, this one was written today and has several links to check out

Celebrate Simplify Your Life Week – Last year, Smithsonian magazine took a look at inventions in the National Museum of American History that have helped to create a simpler life

Simplify Your Life WeekNC State gives day-by-day suggestions on how to enjoy the simple things in life this week

Simplify Your Life WeekOnline Organizing asks us to think about what it really means to simplify our lives and gives practical tips to help us do so

5 Tips for Getting Happier On Less Money – Earlier this year, The Daily Green took a look at how spending less money might make us happier

Less is More for Those Who Choose Simple Lives – Last year, the Fish radio station in Atlanta made the connection between living simply and our relationships with God

How will you simplify your life this week?

Simple Living At Its Best

It’s been a couple of weeks since we updated you on our simply living experiment. We have quite a bit to celebrate – here’s the short rundown:

We’re moving into a new apartment this weekend. I’m saying farewell to ITP living, but onlybecause the new apartment is just barely OTP.  We’ll save a couple hundred dollars each month on rent, and we’ll save about $40/month on tolls and who knows how much on gas. Besides the money savings, it’s an apartment complex that pretty much suits D & I perfectly – it is right next to a nature preserve with lots of trails. All in all, we’re excited about the move and about the shift into a simpler commute.

We spent last weekend playing games together. By not turning on the TV, we have realized just how much more meaningful 30 minutes of playing a game is than 30 minutes of watching some TV show. I won Monopoly for the first time in my life and I taught D how to play my grandma’s version of Gin Rummy. It was completely delightful!

We are learning how one person’s trash is another man’s treasure. Free moving boxes, a freemattress, a $9 twin-sized bed (mattress/boxspring included), free curtain rods, free dvd shelf, a possible free boxspring, free monitor … who knows what else is coming our way in the next couple of weeks!

Complete humility and joy from sponsoring two Compassion children. Then we realized that the money we save on tolls will pay for one of our children. Perhaps a third is in our future … but we’ll hold off at least one month.

Simple joy that comes from taking time to be with those we love and remembering that the world will still be there when we are done.

Pure bliss comes from going to the library to pay your overdue fines and being told that you don’t owe anything at all. The library goes from being a place that you avoid (because you owe them money) to a place that you frequent. Online holds make it possible to “shop online” for free – all you have to do is wait for your book to come in and then you go pick it up at the branch of your choosing.

It feels OH.SO.GOOD to give away stuff that you no longer use or want. I brought a carload of things to Goodwill last week – books, cds, clothes, shoes. And this weekend, we went to the mountains to clear out my stuff from my parents’ storage room and brought a whole truckload of things to the local thrift store. Cleaning out and throwing away is good for the soul.

I’d say our experiment is one that has been well worth it so far. How’s your simplicity journey going?

Could You Be Food Creative?

D & I are now the proud sponsors of not just one Compassion child, but TWO. That’s right. We fell so in love with Jose at first sight that we decided to Sponsor Amiru too. Amiru is 3 and is from Ethiopia, and we are already completely in love with him as well.

Being new Compassion “parents” has opened our eyes to all sorts of things we never thought about before. There was one family of a child that lives off of $10/month. We spend $10 on one lunch – sometimes on one drink – and they live off of that money for A WHOLE MONTH! This has also brought on a whole new meaning of “living simply.” Now, when we talk about what we “need” we think about the families of our children and most times realize that we don’t really “need” it after all.

Yesterday, I saw this video on the Compassion blog. I don’t think this is a real show, but it definitely would be worth watching if it was. What do you think – could you be food creative and live off of less than $1.25/day?

Day Two: Law & Gospel

As a Lutheran, I hear the phrase law & gospel quite frequently. One of the great things that is happening because of our experiment is a wrestling with “the law” that we’ve created for ourselves. Many thanks to those of you who have challenged our “list of rules” as being contradictory to the simple life. You’ve given us good points to think about and they have been great conversation starters for us along our journey. One of the things I am beginning to realize is that God gave us “the law” in order to help us truly live. The rules set before us were meant to be guidelines to help us not get caught up in the junk and to help us to focus on our relationship with God. The difficulty is figuring out a balance between the law and true simplicity.

When D & I first began to talk about this experiment, one of the questions I noted in my journal was this:

Will this list of rules that we decide upon create more complexity than simplicity? Will it be a way to obsessively control something in our lives or will it liberate us more than we could possibly imagine?

And then I read Chapter 4 in Present Perfect. I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole idea that we operate on autopilot. We are so conditioned to buy everything that society tells us we need. Perhaps some of you are more disciplined than I, but I have a really hard time not buying silly stuff (like dvds, or shoes, or Starbucks coffee). It’s particularly worse when I watch a lot of TV, because all the latest commercials tell me just how outdated my MacBook is or how much cooler I might be if I had the newest style of sandals. So yes – a list of do’s and don’ts could certainly create complexity, but I’m convinced that in order to get to true simple living, I need the list to help me realize what life will be like without those things.

However, we do realize that we aren’t perfect people.  We know we’re gonna screw up during this project, and it is highly likely that there will be more epic fails than there are epic wins. The truth of the matter is we hope that we can ditch the list of do’s and don’ts at the end of our experiment because we have tasted the goodness of simple living and no longer need a list to go buy.

Ah – the taste of the simple life.

Day One = Epic Fail?

Two failures to report today:

1) D called our cable provider yesterday to cancel our cable and he was told that if we cancel our cable, we will end up paying the same amount for only internet. Well, actually, internet alone is $2 cheaper than internet + cable. Really?  TWO DOLLARS?! We agreed that was absolutely ridiculous, but we can’t cancel internet because D and I both work from home at least once a week. So – we haven’t canceled our cable. We are going to call another company and see what their price is for internet alone, but since our lease is up in a month we feel like paying the start-up fees is a waste of money and goes against simple living. We’re left with a problem – do we pay for cable and not use it or do we use it since we pay for it but give ourselves strict guidelines on what we watch? What are your thoughts?

2) Tonight was movie night at church. Being the prepared person that I am, I made sure I had all of the DVDs necessary for the summer lineup as soon as they were released. As I got ready to leave this morning, I pulled tonight’s selection off the shelf so I wouldn’t forget it. Sometime around 4:30 this afternoon, I went to get the DVD out of my bag and it was nowhere to be found. I emptied my bag, triple-checked my car, and still – no movie. So I had to go to Target to buy another copy of the movie – violation of rule number 2 – we won’t buy any electronics.

Epic win of the day – After I had to buy another copy of tonight’s movie, I desperately wanted my “fix-it drug” – a huge Venti Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte. I did not get one. I bought the movie and went directly back to my office, where I drank water instead. Epic win indeed.

Are You A Slave to Your Cell Phone?

This morning as I was doing my regular facebook stalking, I came across this status:

Got rid of my blackberry yesterday to save money and went back to my old phone and blocked texting….I feel so completely liberated…. And we’re saving $65 a month on our phone bill!

Looks like I’m not the only one striving for simplicity. As the world around us becomes increasingly more complex, many of us are reaching out for simplicity. We long for something that will help us slow down and live in the now.

I am so inspired by this quote. I might be all on board for simple living, but I haven’t quite gotten to a place where I’m ready to give up my super cool new Droid – and am definitely not ready to give up texting. But I can see how it would be liberating … and who knows – maybe that’s my next step towards simple living.

How are you striving for simplicity in your own life?

The Simplicity Project

A little over a week ago I referred to a new experiment and promised more details soon. Maybe it was a spiritual disciplines small group I’ve been a part of, or maybe it was Monkey Town, or maybe it was Present Perfect, or perhaps it was a combination of these three and many other factors, but D and I have been praying about living simply for a little over a month now. For me, the desire to live simply started at least 5 years ago – and then, sometime in 2007, I came across this book, which shares one woman’s journey in living simply. That desire has been deep in my heart ever since that time, but I didn’t have the dedication or the support to do anything with it.

D and I have decided it’s time to stop thinking and talking about living simply and just simply do it. So we’re embarking on a 90-day journey to get rid of the “stuff” in our lives and focus on God. We picked 90-days because we found a 90-day devotional that we are using together. Instead of sitting down in front of the TV after dinner each night, we will sit down with our Bible and devotional book and explore, pray, and talk with one another. We thought about what our essentials are and what “the extras” are. We came up with a list of things that we will either limit our purchase of or completely give up. We share them with you here:

  • We will cancel our cable – TV has become one of the things that we obsess over and we have become slaves to certain shows. To be freed from this captivity, we will cancel cable so it is not even an option or temptation.
  • We won’t buy any electronics – no computer accessories, no movies on DVD/blu-ray, no music downloads, no video games – if it uses some sort of electronic device to use it, we won’t buy it.
  • We won’t buy any “junk food” – no cookies, ice cream, cakes, brownies, bagels, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon bread, frozen pizza, candies, popsicles, chips – if we want delicious snacks like these, we’ll make them at home – from scratch.
  • We won’t buy any clothes or shoes unless we have a special occasion coming up that requires it (i.e. wedding).
  • We will only go out to eat once a month – this includes ordering “to-go” food.
  • We will only have 1 bottle of wine a week and only 1 bottle a month that isn’t “3 buck chuck”.
  • We won’t make any coffee shop purchases (i.e. Starbucks, Caribou, etc.)
  • We will limit our book purchases to 2 books/month – one for each of us.


Although our purpose for this experiment is not “to save money” we are certain that saving money will be a positive result from the experiment. We are certain that we will end up with more free time, which means we will have time to read the many books on our shelves, listen for God’s voice, grow together as a couple, and so much more. We are also certain that it’s going to be hard – it’s not easy to go against the grain of society. Especially when fall tv kicks back up and everyone we know is talking about the latest hot show. Or when people invite us out to dinner but we’ve already planned our one night out. But we know, that no matter how hard it is, at the end of the 90-days, we will be glad we did it. We hope that at the end of 90-days our lives are so much more fulfilled that we continue the simplicity project for 90 more days, and then again, and again, and again.

We invite you to join us on our journey. We will write daily about our journey and share with you our joys and frustrations. We invite you to pray for us as we embark on this journey and to consider how you might join the Simplicity Project.