Tag Archives: Simplicity Project

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

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

Share
amish

An Amish Christmas [book review]

This was a delightful book filled with 4 touching stories of love, family, and life. Each time I opened it I was instantly taken out of my own world and into the Amish community. I have to admit I was sad each time a novella ended, because I would know the end of the story – but not knowing the end allows each story to live on in my own imagination … and I love that!

We could learn a lot from the Amish – especially about celebrating Christmas. As I seek to define my own Radical Christmas, I find myself wishing that there was a real live Amish community close by, so that I could learn from them firsthand. I love the idea of a “First Christmas” and a “Second Christmas” – celebrating the birth of Jesus and the spiritual meaning behind Christmas on Christmas Day and then turning to the spirit of giving on the day after Christmas with the exchanging of presents. It’s a concept that I would love to figure out how to make happen in my own life!

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good book to put you in the Christmas spirit. It’s always hard to find books about Christmas and this one is a real gem!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

grinch2

Simplicity = Grinch?

What do you do when you want to have a Radical Christmas, but your family members just don’t get it? Maybe you want to nix the gift-giving, but the rest of your family is “just not ready for that yet.” They are expecting something from their Christmas list, and if you don’t get it for them … well, let’s just say it won’t be a happy family Christmas celebration! They are going to get you a gift – and they are probably going to spend lots of money on it – and if you don’t reciprocate, then it’s not because you value the simple, but true, meaning of Christmas. It’s plain and simple – you’re a grinch … with no Christmas spirit.

Let’s face it, sometimes family expectations are tough to live up to – especially during the holiday season. As siblings grow up and have families of their own, each family begins their own traditions and it becomes harder and harder to have one large family gathering. We end up making compromises that try to combine traditions – but what happens when you are pushing yourself towards something radical and the people closest to you just can’t seem to understand it?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It’s always hard when you want to do something different and it affects people other than yourself. And then I realized that it’s precisely for that reason that it’s RADICAL. If you were changing your behavior and it affected no one but yourself, it may be a tiny bit odd – but no one would really be offended. It’s only when we change our behavior and that behavior affects others that we are truly being radical. Is it hard? Of course. Does it sometimes feel insane? Absolutely. But it’s also exactly what Jesus calls us to. In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew that he has come to set families against one another – and that sometimes following Jesus means we do things that make our families upset.

That’s so much easier said than done. Maybe the hardest part about living a radical life is dealing with the backlash that happens from those people closest to us. This Christmas, I pray that God grant me, and you, the strength and the courage to live radical lives – despite the pushback we might receive from our family members.

keyboard

Digital Sabbatical

Last Wednesday as I was scrolling through my gooreader, I came across this post, recommending that everyone just take a break from Twitter and Facebook – if only for just a day. The ironic thing is, I read the post just after I had checked my Facebook for the tenth time in an hour and my email for probably the 15th time that day. At that moment, realizing that maybe technology has more of a hold on me than I’m willing to admit, I vowed to disconnect as much as possible this weekend.

So – Friday night, around 8pm, I disconnected. I put my computer in the spare bedroom, my phone in a drawer, and simply enjoyed the company of my dear sweet hubby. Saturday morning was probably the hardest – I typically check my email, Facebook, and Twitter from the comfort of my warm bed thanks to my Droid. But, when I rolled over Saturday I picked up the book on my nightstand instead of my phone and enjoyed a whole hour of reading cozied up under my down comforter, next to my love. It was pure bliss.

The rest of the day consisted of waffles for breakfast, a few more hours of reading, some Christmas shopping, a lunch date at my favorite Mexican restaurant, and delicious tapas for dinner with a movie at home. Not once did I miss my phone or my computer. Not once did I wonder what the Twitter or Facebook worlds were up to. It was amazing … and it made me want more of that disconnected life.

I think digital sabbaticals are going to be regular occurrences for us. In this hyper-technological, uber-connected world, we are in many ways longing for connectedness in a way that digital devices can’t provide. We are discovering that sometimes, to become truly connected, we have to disconnect for a while.

What about you – do you have a disconnected story to tell?

ugg

UGG Temptation

Young girl spotted - candid - wearing sexy ugg boots! Dublin, Ireland, 03/2010 ENJOY THE MAGIC!:)photo © 2010 UggBoy UggGirl | more info (via: Wylio)
Confession time: I want a pair of UGG boots. In Classic Tall Chestnut, size 6. Every year about this time, I think that my desire for these super comfy (and warm) boots is a fleeting desire that won’t come back … and every year I want them even more than the year before.

I had a pair of UGGs once – they were purple and I got them at Nordstrom Rack for $30. They were so comfortable (and so cheap) that I didn’t care they were purple. I wore them with everything. And then I wore them sledding. They were SO dirty after that. My dear sweet sister thought she would be nice and wash them for me. And they were never the same again. So I gave them away and I swear to you I almost cried. And every year I remember those boots and my love for them and long for the day when I have a pair to replace them.

But they are SO EXPENSIVE! And then yesterday I discovered Whooga Ugg boots has Classic Tall ugg boots on sale for $98. With shipping, they are $115. Reviews say they are just as awesome as UGG Australia boots – and that’s half the price. I resisted the temptation last night – but I have to tell you dear readers … the temptation is greater today … and although I am trying my hardest to remember this pair of boots is a want not a need …

biltmore_wallpaper_1280_01

Simply Biltmore

Picture courtesy of Biltmore.com

As part of our trip to Lutheridge last week, we were given tickets to experience Christmas at Biltmore. I had visited the Biltmore Estate once before, but D never had. Braving the cold weather (and fighting off a little stomach bug too) we spent Wednesday morning admiring the riches of the Vanderbilt Cecil family. It was a great day trip – and the house is incredible … the Christmas decorations were out of this world – but the whole time we couldn’t get over the fact that we were marveling at someone’s great wealth. In fact, if we hadn’t been gifted the tickets, we would have spent money to marvel at someone’s great wealth!

Now I’m sure the Vanderbilts did great things for people in need – but the Biltmore Estate is anything but simple. In fact, there’s probably not one thing in that house that represents simplicity. No – I take that back. The servants quarters were simple. With all the glamorousness of the rest of the house, the servants quarters were the part I most identified with. I can’t imagine what life might have been like as one of the family – it is hard to believe it was even real life. The whole estate felt like a movie set.

As we walked through it, I began to appreciate my own strive for simplicity. As I came home, I was grateful for my simple apartment with my simple furnishings. As I marveled at their many rooms and their beautiful furnishings, I wondered how much time they spent enjoying them. Being the constant hosts of magnificent parties, I wondered when they had time to enjoy the simple company of one another. Now I am not, in any way, judging their lifestyle – I in no way claim that I know what it was like. But in the end, I think I learned that perhaps the simple life is not quite as hard for me as I thought.

Have you ever had the chance to visit the estate? What did you think?

brusselsprouts

For the Love of Brussel Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts on the Salk - Sprial (2009-12-24 6731b)photo © 2009 Michael Arrighi | more info (via: Wylio)
Since we’ve been getting Cooking Light, we’ve been trying to cook with seasonal foods. Not only is it cheaper to buy food that is in season, it also means we can get things that are grown pretty locally – which is better for the local economy and the environment. Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s and the many local weekend farmer’s markets have become our go-to grocery shopping locales. Now that summer is over, our favorite veggie staples – green beans, broccoli, corn – are no longer in season. Now it’s squash, eggplant, and brussel sprouts. When we look through Cooking Light for creative vegetable recipes, we see things we never imagined we would eat. But – we’re pushing ourselves to be open to new things … and tonight was one of those nights.

I have to tell you that I never thought the day would come when I would make brussel sprouts for dinner. They seem to be everywhere over the last couple of weeks. Recipes all over our November magazine, fresh sprouts ready to be bought at every grocery store we walk into, pictures cropping up on friends’ Facebook pages … we can’t get away from them. So we decided we’d be daring and try them. D says he remembers having them when he was younger and hating them. I remember my mom thinking they were disgusting and promising to never make us eat them. Well, we had them for dinner tonight. I ate my very first brussel sprout ever. I felt so grown up. And … to be completely honest with you … they … were … DELICIOUS! I ate my first bite and my reaction (out loud of course) was: “Oh brussel sprouts … where have you been all my life?” They were good raw. They were good just after I had blanched them in boiling water for 5 minutes. They were good after I took them out of the ice bath to stop the cooking. And roasted with granny smith apple and pancetta – they were the best part of our meal.

Brussel sprouts – my latest simple love.

goodwill3

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!

cooking

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.

thanksgiving

Radical Thanksgiving

As the holiday season approaches, D & I have been thinking a lot about how we want to celebrate our first holidays as Mr. & Mrs. Rowe. Last year we served Thanksgiving dinner at a local community kitchen but we missed our opportunity to sign up this year. About a month ago I began looking for resources on an alternative Thanksgiving celebration. I thought there had to be something out there about fasting for Thanksgiving or hunger awareness dinner resources or something similar. But, despite all my searching, I wasn’t able to find anything. And then yesterday, just as I had given up on my search, I got an email about a “Radical Thanksgiving.” It contained an action plan for ways to celebrate a radical Thanksgiving, lifting up awareness for those less fortunate than we are.

The email was actually an advertisement for a book by David Platt, called Radical. I have to admit, it’s sparked my interest. Take a look at this video – calling us to live a radical life:

Intrigued? We have begun our conversation about how we might not only have a radical Thanksgiving, but a radical life.

We’ll post updates soon about our radical holiday planning. What about you – will you do something different this Thanksgiving?

cup_of_cold_water

Cold Cup of Water

Photo courtesy of Footprints

More than one billion people worldwide are without clean drinking water. I can’t imagine not having water to drink. When I think about how easy it is for me to get a cup of cold water, I’m almost embarrassed by the fact that I am not more thankful each day for the water that I drink. I am also a little embarrassed by the fact that even though I have easy access to water, I don’t drink near enough. Instead I drink tea or diet coke. We have two bathrooms in our apartment, and yet when one isn’t working properly we feel inconvenienced. There are people that don’t even have running water – and I complain when I have to wait 5 minutes to go potty?!

As I began thinking about this alarming statistic in preparation for my featured post for Blog Action Day, Jesus’s words in Matthew 10 came to my mind:

whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of those little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

I think about how good a cold cup of water tastes when I’m really thirsty. Especially those times when I’ve just exercised or been out in the hot sun. A cold cup of water is like a little slice of heaven. There’s nothing that tastes better. And I can have it any time I want. If I’m not at home or near a water fountain, I just stop at the local gas station and buy a bottle of water, not thinking twice about it. And yet there are so many people out there that can’t remember what clean water tastes like, because it’s been so long since they’ve had it. Some of them have probably never had a cold cup of clean water.

This is exactly what the water wagon is about – and yet when we leave Knoxville it becomes a summer memory. I want my whole life to be a water wagon. I want to constantly be offering cold cups of water to those people who need it most.

So here’s how I’m going to take action. I turn 30 next week. I’ve heard stories of people being afraid to turn 30 – but not me – I’m embracing it. I have been wanting to celebrate turning 30 in some big way, but I couldn’t figure out what that was. Today, I figured it out – I’m going to celebrate my birthday like I never have before, and raise money to help give people clean water. As a symbol of my dedication, I’ve given $30 in celebration of turning 30 – that’s $1 for every year I’ve been alive. I would love for you to help me celebrate my birthday by helping me reach my goal of $600. Every $1 that is donated goes directly to clean water projects in developing nations and $600 will give water to 30 people (or 6 families.) It’s the best gift that I could ever receive.

books

Simply Books

One of the greatest treasures in the world may be used bookstores. In a little town called Baraboo I discovered the Village Booksmith. From the moment I walked in, I knew I had fallen in love. Run by beautiful golden retriever, it was full and full of books. Now I’ve been to bookstores before – the cashiers at Borders probably know my face – but this bookstore was like one I’ve seen only in movies. Used books, rare books, old books, tucked in corners everywhere – and free coffee for you to drink while you peruse. You see the copy of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in that picture up there? Well, as I walked in the door, I found my own old copy – except I think it’s even more beautiful. At $6.95, I couldn’t help but buy it to add to our own collection of old books. Take a look for yourself:

And then, as I looked around some more, I found this:

There were old (1900′s) Chemistry books, Engineering guides, classic novels, poetry, Shakespeare, and oh so much more! Tons of current books too for half the price you’d pay for a new copy. I now have a new love for used bookstores and can’t wait to find one back home.

It’s the simple things in life, don’t you think?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter to win your own (new) copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress!