Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting Dirty is even more fun than you think!

First and foremost I want to apologize for not posting the last two Friday. There was no natural disaster or power outage or even really bad traffic that kept me from posting. No my excuse is not as interesting, but perhaps entertaining. I hurt myself falling during a unicycle lesson. I’ll let that image hang in the air for a bit... Here is how it happened. My students were offered the opportunity to learn on thing they wanted to know, the vote was they would like to learn to ride unicycles. That took up all of Friday and the soreness bled over into Saturday as well. The ankle did not mend as I had hoped so I was still hobbling around this past week as well.
Which is actually for the best as the extra time gives me more to talk about here with you, my readers.

Spring has sprung and left its big flowery footprints all over town. I was thus inspired to make things grow from the ground, something on which I am not all together an expert. Fortunately my honey has a sixth sense for building projects. With his help we were able to begin square foot gardening.

For those of you who don’t know the soil in our area is hard clay, scrape way the grass and top soil and you have red muck perfect for making bricks but rubbish for growing anything. I was unwilling to believe that plants were not going to thrive in my yard and so the first spring in our new home I threw loads of money away on flowers, herbs, veggies, and ivy. The ivy is all that remains and is quite happy living entangled in my retaining wall. Everything else is dust. Ever the optimist I went out the next year about bought herbs and plant food thinking that maybe the bad weather had ill effects on my plants. I planted loads and only the sage survived. Which is fine because we eat a lot of pork chops and sage is lovely, but it would have been nice to reap the benefits of all the plants. You’d think I’d be curled up crying and throwing in the towel, but I’m not. I found a solution on the glorious Internets. A raised bed with controlled soil and weeping hose giving extra water, WILL yield healthy plants.

So my husband and I are growing our own tomato sauce, basically. We have two kinds of tomatoes (early girl and another bush hybrid), loads of basil, and for variety we also have green beans, peas, lettuce, and broccoli. I am very excited. The first step was to start the seeds so they have been growing in egg cartons for a while now. The lettuce is all sprouted, several of the peas have come up, a large number of the broccoli are up and we have one green bean.

Over the weekend we went to buy the materials to make the flowerbeds. I hear you at your laptops saying “if you buy lots of materials and create waste it isn’t minimalism.” The good news is most of the materials will be use to the fullest and the boxes themselves are reusable. The wood from the boxes is not recycled, I’d love to have found reclaimed pieces but they were not available. And better than all that we will lower our overall grocery bill as well as the footprint of the veggies we consume!

Friday, March 11, 2011

(Premature) Spring Cleaning and Adventures in Selling Myself

I awoke this morning to winter’s (hopefully) final hurrah. The snow drifting passed my windows, the cloudy weather, and the wind are making it hard to stay awake and focused. Winter always seems to slow down our thoughts and ambition. We fall prey to a sort of hibernation and routine becomes all we need. Now that I’ve had a taste of Spring my blood is boiling, I’m fired up and ready to tear the whole world apart and put it back in order.

Yesterday I ferociously attacked my guest bathroom. In my own defense I was provoked. The counter was covered with make-up products out of their place, magazines trooped in by my husband, and unnecessary knickknacks I had once put out thinking they might “look nice.” I was exhilarating to remove stuff, clutter, and junk. I was so inspired I pulled out all the drawers from the cabinets in the bathroom and emptied them of anything I wasn’t going to use. Believe it or not I filled up the tall kitchen trashcan and had to empty it and start gain. In the end I had 2 bags to take out to the curb and a much nicer bathroom to share with my guests. All that empty space sets off the fact that the paint on the walls is dingy and needs to be redone. C'est la vie, no?

I don’t always dive head long into Spring cleaning though. Sometimes I have to creep up on it and take it by surprise. I usually start by sorting things into piles one for giveaway, another marked return to sender, another for rubbish, and the last and most dreaded pile-for sale. This has always been tricky for me. Most of the time it is books, CDs, DVDs, or computer games. All of these I can take down to my local used bookstore and trade in for cash and credit at the store. This is great since I recycle books in and out regularly I always have credit and I don’t need cash to get that book I can’t find online, or at the mall.

Where this has gotten tricky lately are books that aren’t easily traded. I have disbanded my role-playing game sets and so those guides need to go to a good home, but the used book store isn’t it. I will be lucky to make back ⅓ of the value and few “gamers” go to that store to retrieve manuals. Now if I’m going to see these off to an appreciative audience I’m going to have to try to! For some items this may mean popping over to to peddle my wares. For other items I may have to venture over to EBay. I don’t know why this is more intimidating, but I just don’t feel familiar or comfortable with the pace. All the best sketch comedies paint EBay as a cutthroat market for our unwanted junk. I feel guilty selling part of my life online. It makes me feel odd having a part of myself out there for others to browse. I also feel guilty because I don't want the item anymore, but here I am enticing someone else to come and buy what I feel is a useless item. I'm sure they will treasure it as I did, at least for a while. With a mountain of items needing to be sold: this weekend I will take the plunge. Wish me luck, friends.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The problem with parties

One of the (many, many) questions I have about minimalism (and the extent to which I am willing to pursue it) is the problem of entertaining. What does a minimalist "party" look like. Will this be another part of my past that gets left on the curb when I have completed my transformation? Our lady of the streamline life, Miss Minimalist, tells us how to de-stress our holidays, but has not fully unwrapped the dinner party or summer shindig.

When I was a child my parents did not throw large Gatsbian parties or elaborate dinners. That is not to say they did not entertain. A "party" was anytime a friend or family member dropped by. My aunts and uncles would show up with a board game or a bag of gourmet coffee beans and my cousins in tow. The adults would stay up until all hours drinking coffee and playing Rooke, Rummy, or Risk. My cousins and I would run all over creation, engaging in games of Sardines or anything else our imagination could muster. Late the next morning we would go out for pancakes or my uncle would cook (biscuits and gravy is a family favorite). The next time the houses would rotate and my parents and I would travel. This is my ideal of minimalist entertaining. The friendship is the focus, not the food or the activities.

Now that I have my own home and my own family, I like to entertain when I can. I have the some goal I inherited from my parents, but I don't always hit the mark. Even though sometimes I try to fit 10 or 12 people around my small dining table, the focus is always my friends.

A quick Google search on "minimalist entertaining," 1,120,000 results including books and blogs on how to entertain minimalists and how to make your home more conducive to minimalists. It seems I am not the only one struggling with this conflict. I would like very much to see how you, my readers-my compatriots, deal with this issue. Please feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.