Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Couple of Ways to Manage with Half

Cut your dryer sheets in half.
Gip over at So Much More Life recently posed the question, "Could you manage with half?" This got me to thinking, so I decided to share a couple of ways I've been managing with half for years.

Use Half the Recommended Amount

Over 25 years ago I started cutting dryer sheets in half as soon as I opened the box. Just grab out little stacks of a dozen sheets or so and cut them across the middle to get twice as many loads for the same price. And if you have a load you fear will still have static, splurge and throw in two halves!

Using half the recommended amount of many common products often produces satisfactory results. So why don't you give it a try for a week or two and see where you can manage with half?

Make Items Do Dual Duty

We use pint canning jars as drinking glasses. They're sturdy, stable, work equally well for hot or cold beverages - what's the downside? And we have a ready supply! Well, we do sometimes run a little low if we have company during canning season, but  . . .

So look around. What do you have that can serve a dual purpose?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Live the Good Life - Part 1

I'm currently reading The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. For those who don’t know, the Nearings left New York City in the early 30’s to pursue their ideals in rural Vermont and are considered the premier forerunners of the back-to-the-land movement so popular here in the U.S. several decades ago. While I don’t agree with them philosophically - in fact I totally identify with the native Vermonters - Scott and Helen Nearing do provide an interesting and detailed view of how they set about creating what for them was the “good life.”

When reading about the Nearings, I thought about how different the definition of “good life” can be, based on individual preferences, needs and wants. Then the question became - how does the average person today go about creating their vision of the good life? Hence this post, which I’ve dubbed Part 1 as I’m pretty sure I’ll have more to say on this subject.

Step 1: Define “Good Life”

How do you go about setting up the good life for yourself? Well first, you must define what “good life” means to you. What I think is good and what you think is good are likely very different. I know that what the Nearings saw as the good life is NOT how I would want to live.

So what is your ideal life? Really think about this - and make some notes! To get you started, consider the following five questions. And remember, there are no wrong answers.

  • In what type of place do you prefer to live? (City, country, deserted island, remote mountaintop?)
  • What kind of climate appeals to you? (Warm, cold, wet, dry, distinct seasons?)
  • What people, pets and/or possessions are close at hand in your ideal life?
  • How do you spend your time while living the good life?
  • What areas are non-negotiable and where are you flexible?

Most people can imagine of more than one scenario that could be the good life so don’t think your answers to these questions are set in stone. Also, your ideal can (and usually does) change over time. But what is it right now? While it’s never too late to start creating your own good life, you won’t get there if you don’t even know what it is.

So how about it? What would be the “good life” for you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Will You Become a Millionaire?

An AP-CNBC Poll reported on Yahoo News this morning shows that folks aren't too confident about becoming millionaires these days. In the US, Great Britain and Australia, less than 30 percent of those surveyed think it's likely that their personal net worth will total at least a million dollars/pounds in the next ten years. In fact, the US weighed in at just 21 percent and Britons at a dismal eight percent.

Reading further, it's no mystery why those quoted won't make it. Although the stated priorities if they had a million include "save it, invest it, buy real estate, pay down debt," no one seems to be doing any of that now. Instead, they're waiting to win the lottery or marry into money while spending whatever they make and maybe even more. I know, I know - saving money in this economy is impossible for the Average Joe. But guess what? Making wise financial decisions is possible for anyone every single day.

Is Being a Millionaire the Answer?

It's easy to confuse accumulated wealth with financial independence, but they are two very different things. Many people assume that a million dollar net worth equates to financial security. But think of the lottery winners you've heard about that are broke again in a few years. If you don't make wise financial decisions with what you have now, you are unlikely to start when you have more money.

The real key to the question here is not whether you need a million to be secure but how to be secure with what you have. Consider this: true financial security is not determined by how much you're worth but rather by how little you need. Granted, having more money can make it easier, but only if you use it wisely. If not, you can be back to scraping by in a hurry.

So how about it? Are you making wise decisions with your current finances, or are you just skating by wishing for your circumstances to change?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Simplifying Ever Simple?

Ok - so I'm on a quest (yet again) to simplify my life. I have a to-do list started and am adding to it as I think of things - and at the top of this list are my convoluted Yahoo Groups memberships. You see, over the years I've created three yahoo email accounts and have subscribed to several groups under each one. This strategy made sense at the time but has long since outlived its usefulness. It's been so long, in fact, that I'm not sure I even know how to sign in to one of them. And I'm only active on a couple of groups, and that's intermittent, so . . . Anyway, I figure I'd just go in and delete everything, right?


Well, I finally get into obsolete account #1 and guess what? It's tied to my facebook account. That's right - since I joined fb a year or so ago, every time someone posted on someone's wall or made any of the countless other moves on fb that trigger an email, that's where it went. I'm up to 900 or so - and that's just because I only have a few dozen friends. So I obviously can't delete the Yahoo account in question or I'll be getting all that crap on my real email. Not good!

Why is it So Hard to Simplify?

Let's face it - it's very easy to get way too much going on. Sometimes it's conscious and sometimes things just slip by unnoticed at the time. Then all of a sudden, the realization hits - THIS IS CRAZY!

Yearning for a simpler life seems to be common these days. Just about everyone I know personally wants to cut back on clutter - material possessions, activities that take up so much precious time, digital and mental clutter, etc. So I've been spending a little time on the blogs of like-minded folks for inspiration and motivation.

Getting started paring down any area of your life is tough but following through and letting go is often even more difficult. That's why simplifying is so hard. And then there are the unforeseen roadblocks, like my yahoo and facebook accounts being tied together.

What To Do?

So what are my options? Well, I could just delete the Yahoo account, but I think that would have consequences that serve to complicate rather than simplify. I could leave everything as-is, but then I've made no progress whatsoever. I think my best course is to immediately eliminate what I can (900+email messages and five groups) and then work toward slowly transition elsewhere everything that I need to keep.

How are you simplifying your life?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do You Hate the New Blogger Interface Too?

There's no denying that I am resistant to change - especially when the change is for the worse. Take the new Blogger interface, for instance. I must have at some point clicked the "Try the updated Blogger interface" link and brought this on myself but I don't remember doing so. At any rate, I HATE it! And not just a little bit. And not just because of my aversion to change. It really isn't an improvement in any way, shape or form that I can see and I have been posting way less often because it's so difficult and unpleasant.

If You Can't Say Something Nice . . .

On the other hand, I want to say that I am extremely grateful to Google for providing Blogger to us all for free. What a great opportunity for anybody to have a little piece of internet real estate! But the features of the old interface are so much better - why change? They say it's a sleeker design but to me it's sterile, unfriendly and not intuitive at all. Maybe I'm old.

How to Switch Back

The good news is that I accidentally found out how to switch back. There's a little checkbox next to some wording about Blogger in draft. Click that box and you should be using the old interface again. Happy blogging!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Casserole

Last night I made up a new recipe using a pound of ground beef and leftovers I found in the refrigerator. Now this may not sound like news – and it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve used leftovers to create a meal. What is newsworthy is the outstandingly yummy result! Who knew that would happen? I expected it would be edible but was pleasantly surprised that is was such a big hit.

Here’s what I found in the fridge (measurements approximate):
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 1½ cup steamed zucchini
  • ½ cup baked beans
  • 1½ cup grated cheese
  • 8 or 9 large corn tortillas

Here’s what I added:
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Sliced black olives

Here’s what I did:
  1. Sauté chopped onion until brown.
  2. Add ground beef and cook, stirring often.
  3. Puree leftover steamed zucchini and beans with about ¾ cup water in the blender.
  4. Stir pureed mixture into beef and heat through (looks like hamburger in gravy at this point).
  5. Tear up leftover corn tortillas and spread a layer in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.
  6. Top tortilla layer with about half the meat mixture and half the grated cheese.
  7. Lay on another layer of torn-up tortillas.
  8. Top with rest of meat mixture and rest of cheese.
  9. Sprinkle liberally with sliced olives.
  10. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove cover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
  12. Let sit 5 minutes or so and then serve.

We topped our casserole with sour cream and had freshly steamed zucchini (it’s about the only thing that’s producing well this year) as a side dish. Quick, easy, cheap and delicious – you can’t get better than that!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents

My SIL sent me a link to an outstanding article about what teachers really want to tell parents in which award-winning teacher Ron Clark lays it out on the line. Two key points I’d like to share are:
  • Quit with all the excuses. Do you ever make excuses for tardiness to class or late assignments? Enough already! Let your child deal with the logical consequences that follow specific behavior – such as detention or an F. What do you think is going to happen later in life when your child is late to work or fails to complete assigned tasks? It’s best to learn these lessons in school to develop punctuality and a strong work ethic for use in the real world when the consequences may include job loss. And now for your reading enjoyment here,  a relevant excerpt from the article “If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.”
  • Be a partner instead of a prosecutor. New flash! Your kid is not always in the right. Nor is it likely that your kid being persecuted. If the teacher has a problem with your child, don’t get defensive or assume it’s the teacher’s fault. Work with the teacher to correct the problem even if it means correcting your child’s behavior. Kids need to learn to deal with all kinds of personalities and situations to become successful, functioning adults and they need parental guidance to do so. That being said, don’t blindly assume it’s your child, either. There are a few truly horrible teachers out there – like the one my daughter had in the 5th grade. But with four kids going through the public education system, that’s the only truly horrible teacher I encountered. So, let’s see – if each child only had one teacher each year for 13 years (including kindergarten), one teacher out of 52 is still less than 2 percent. Considering that children usually have multiple teachers from about 6th grade on, in reality it’s probably less than 1 percent. So there’s not a lot of chance of getting a truly horrible teacher.
Note to Grandparents
I know the grandkids are cute and all. I know they’re just too, too sweet. BUT – don’t be blinded by love and adoration. Do the little darlings a favor and forward a link to What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents to your kids.