Christmas Wrap

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The ladybug came off a bar of soap I bought. I have been saving it all year just for this application.

I know it seems a bit early for a post about wrapping Christmas gifts, but my family is travelling here for Thanksgiving and I won’t see many of them near the Christmas holiday. We have developed a family tradition of sending the wrapped gifts home with each other when we gather at Thanksgiving to save on shipping costs.

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The wrap and gift tags.

I use the same paper for gifts all year long. I just dress it up differently according to the occasion. I bought this large roll of cream drawing paper at IKEA from the children’s section. Here. I’ve been working on this roll for a couple years. The brown paper is reused from a framing job I had done. The gift tags were all cut from an 87 cent piece of cardstock. I’m still working through a large stash of ribbons and string that my mom collected over decades and passed on to me. I usually color on the gift tags in colors that coordinate with my ribbon or string.

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I think the pile of presents makes a charming vignette in the corner for now.

My cost this year was just the cardstock. Everything else I had on hand. The paper can be reused and recycled. The fabric string and ribbon can be reused and composted.

Clean Threshold

Beloved Readers-

I realized this is the second kind of lame post in a row. The bathroom tile/grouting project is time consuming and I can really only work on it when my son is visiting at his dad’s because there is no second bathroom to use while work is underway.

In the meantime, I amuse myself with small projects I can knock off in an hour our two. Here is one from this past week.

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Here is the threshold to our apartment with decades of grime in the crevasses.
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And here it is a couple hours later.

All that took was a bit of vinegar, a toothbrush and some elbow grease.

And it makes me happy every time I cross the threshold.

PS. I did not get the house that I made the offer on, so back to the property search.

Butternut Squash Soup

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My new favorite soup!
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I used a whole chopped onion and 2 tablespoons of butter, because that is how I roll.

Things that are on the horizon, but not yet complete: the cleaning and re-grouting of the bathroom tiles, the acceptance/rejection of the offer on the hot mess net-zero house, a minimalist remodel of the apartment living room (whaaat? who puts that kind of effort into a rental?)

And this really is my new favorite soup.

Why There Is No Blog Post This Week

Well, okay, there is this….but there is no real content.

That is because I have been busily working behind the scenes to create content. Like the cleaning/repair/re-grouting of the bathroom tiles. I have devoted a couple days to this project and will likely need one more before it is done. And I so wanted to wait until I had Pinterest worthy before and after photos. They are soooo satisfying.

One of the other big things I did this week was put in an offer of a hot mess of a house. It hasn’t been condemned, per se. But the city basically told the owner to either fix these structurally unsound things or sell off. And they decided to sell off.

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Southern exposure–one and a half stories of solar gain!

Here in one photo, you can see all that attracted me to the property–the collapsing deck and stair, the defunct hot tub, the cheap, disintegrating siding, the native species weeds in the back yard.

What really attracted me was the location in a walkable city, in a market that has been increasing in value in recent years, the above mentioned one and a half stories of southern exposure, a highly rated school district and the price, which was set to ensure the interest of rehab flippers.

And one of those flippers may get the property. So for now, I wait, and rest up….because if my offer on the property is accepted, I will be working hard to gut/rehab it for several months.

Just think how many blog posts I can get out of this wreck of a house!

Three Kitchen Hacks You Might Not Have Tried Yet

 

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Can you guess which ones are hard-boiled and which ones are uncooked?

Minimalists are always trying to figure out how to live well with less stuff. Not to make life an unbearable grind, but because we find it extraordinarily fun to be efficient, we like to use our creativity in the service of humanity/earth and we have discovered it is the path to freedom.

I figured out a couple decades ago that American-sized refrigerators are waste creators. They as so big that people overbuy fresh foods and restaurant meals and then park the hopeful meat and vegetables and take-home boxes on the vast shelves. Then life happens. Work goes overlong and there is only time for fast-food or microwaved pizza rolls. Someone ends up in the hospital and there is only time for vending coffee and chips. Someone breaks up with you and the only thing that makes you feel better is ice cream and Netflix. I get it. And all that food that you bought when you were full of energy and a plan-to-get-fit turns into refrigerated compost.

I am a huge advocate for small refrigerators. Parisians have the right idea, but think smaller. Think dorm-sized fridges-just don’t fill them with beer. I have been using a refrigerator that fits under my kitchen counter for a couple decades, even when I was cooking for a family of four. When you can see everything, you are not as likely to waste it.

Many fridges come with a plastic partition for holding eggs. It is there, taking up your expensive refrigerated space, whether you have eggs or not. My system, photographed above, does not waste space. If you take a few of your dozen eggs and boil them, just indicate it in some way-a Scarlet H, or Sharpie happy face or stickers that you removed from the avocados you bought. Also, if space is really tight in your half-fridge (which does happen from time to time, I admit) you can Trim The Carton To The Number Of Eggs You Have. Even the bits are recyclable.

And speaking of refrigerator compost–

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Where the compost goes before it makes it to the big container…about once a week.
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Where the yellow compost container goes.

Even in my half-fridge, I have room for the small compost bin that some people keep on their counter top or under their sink. I learned a long time ago that refrigerating the compost keeps down stink and bugs. The difference between me and the big-refrigerator folks is 1) my compost is all gathered together, rather than in individual plastic bags rotting in the produce drawer 2) My compost is what is left after I have used the fruits and vegetables that I purchased. Rarely does edible food go to waste here.

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See that small spring clip at the bottom?

Minimalists are always on the look-out for new tools that perform multiple functions. The mighty spring clip is one of those tools. You see it here as a prop for the recipe cards. (I don’t have a lot of recipe cards due to me simplifying our diet and virtually any recipe being available via an internet search.) It also works as a bag clip for spinach or frozen peas or any foodstuffs that come in a plastic bag. ALERT: not kitchen hint–It works great to hold fabric bits inline during an assembly of a creative reuse of second hand fabrics, whilst still being so creative that safety pins would be too much of a commitment. You can use it to hold bunches of paper together (boring!) or combined with a shoe string as an emergency tourniquet (I haven’t had to use this one yet-as a matter of fact in 30 years of nursing, the only time I have had to apply tourniquets was to plump up the veins to draw blood-no emergency.)

I know my readers to be the most helpful and creative of people. What are your favorite kitchen (or household) hacks?

P.S. I know a couple of you (i.e. 20% of my readers) signed up to follow the net-zero house story. I am spending a fair amount of my time tracking down the right property. I have real estate agents looking for it. I am looking for it, via online searches and then I drive to any viable listing. Other people, who are just excited about the concept of creating a net-zero house in boring old St. Louis, send me links every week. And I check them all out. So never fear, progress is being made…if it is only eliminating about 200 properties per week that will not work for one reason or another. I assure you, once we find the right property, the blog about it will be way more interesting. XOXO, Fawn

Retirement and Personal Goals

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My handmade bookmark.

“Whaatt?” You say. What does shirking all your responsibilities have to do with goals and retirement?

And I say, “Everything. And it is not shirking your responsibilities, but aligning actions with your core purposes. And letting the rest go.” A religious person might describe this as aligning one’s will with the Divine Will, but we don’t want to scare people off…so we can just use New Age language to describe the process.

When I was a working stiff, my days revolved around the routine of working and all the support efforts that kept that lubricated: washing and ironing work clothing, packing work lunches, cooking food for the week on my days off work, using vacations from work to take care of the house and the kids. Anybody else use a Staycation to paint the exterior of their house? Or a travel trip to scope out prospective colleges?

Years ago I noticed that my life was deficient in play and spontaneous joy. And since then I have been finding my way back to that childlike innocent perception of the world that both sees what is true and delights in the variety and consistency of experience.

(Longtime reader Linda who asked about the diet plan is beginning to lose patience, I think.) Let me be as practical as I can be. I think workability is an excellent test for any theory that humans can devise.

Two years ago, I retired from paid employment because I was exhausted and Just. Could. Not. Anymore. I moved in with my mom and threw myself into helping her declutter her home after 46 years of hoarding. I helped entertain her guests and kept trying to figure out how to play. I took classes. I like yoga. I don’t like formal drawing. I don’t like Tai Chi. I don’t like Frisbee Golf. I like walking in the park. I like garden design. I like home design.

Then my son became ill and there was that one horrible week when he was in a hospital in one city and my mother was in a hospital in another city. Play? I have no idea.

But I do. Over the years I have discovered there is a Hansel and Gretel bread-crumb trail from where I am to the place I need to be.

Goals in Retirement (from paid employment-I’m not very retired)

Every day when I wake up, I ask my self first, “What does my son Mike need today to be as successful as he can be?” and secondly I ask myself, “What do I need to be my best and continue to be a good caregiver to Mike?” My counselor tells me I need to reverse the order that I ask these questions. But we have to start wherever we are, right? And let’s be really candid here, usually the first thing I ask is, “Coffee?”

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Photo of my calendar last week.

I would like to be around for a couple decades so I start with what promotes personal health.

Sleep– When I retired from nursing, I stopped setting my alarm clock on a daily basis. When I was working, I got up at 5am and went to the gym for a cardio or weight workout before I woke the kiddos and drove them to school and then on to work at 7:30am. Now I let my body wake up when it wants to, which is usually between 7-7:30am. But I am listening to my body in a way I was never able to before. So after spending 3 hours wielding  pick-ax on a landscape project, when I overslept the next day to 9am–okay, I get it. I am listening, beloved body.

Eat Healthy-For me this means organic, locally raised plants, which is why we have been members of a local CSA. But my son needs a lot of B vitamins, which are mostly found in animal products. So I try to keep the homestead meeting the needs of all the residents.

Minimizing Drug Ingestion-My favorite drugs are caffeine and wine. I’m glad that they are both legal for someone my age, but I recognize that some of my other goals are hindered by their ingestion.

Regular Movement-Some of us would call this exercise, but to peoples who live in cultures without access to cars, it is just getting on with your day. I want to live in a place that supports normal human movement (walking and more) and sometimes I need an intermediary support like a yoga studio, which supports my movement, local community and connection with others.

Connecting with others-Well, I have this blog, which connects me with you. I have my local church community (Yeah Quakers!), I have local friends I have made since I moved to St. Louis and I have recognized the importance for this introvert for creating down time from all these connections.

Play-Oh My Word…..this has been the most difficult part of the journey. What does “Play” look like for me? I’m completely bored by competition, so a retirement of golf would make me run back to work. It has taken a bit of effort to discern this but for me play includes: 1) a gift of service to community  2) a walk in nature  3) transforming something that is not functioning or beautiful into something that is both–this can be an article of clothing or an abandoned city lot or the decrepit tile situation in my current bathroom. Current arenas of play include: decluttering the Quaker Meeting house, planting native species plants there, hand-sewing projects, creating the zero-energy use house here in St. Louis.

What about all of you? What are your goals in retirement?

Native Species Plant Install

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Fawn & Mike taking an iconic break from the planting.

You know…when you have a pitchfork and a gothic window, you have to give it a try. For my international readers: this is the famous painting that we are trying to imitate.

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I think we nailed it.

This silliness was just a breather from the hard work of getting our 144 native species plants into the ground.

Here is Barbara panting Rose Verbena in the front bed near the street.

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This bed was first planted last fall, but we lost a few plants to the shade and the snow plow and just happenstance.

While we were prepping the ground for the row of Little Bluestem grasses, a couple of neighborhood kids came by on their bikes and asked if they could help (they told us over lunch that they saw these old ladies working really hard and sweating and thought we could use their assistance.) And boy we sure appreciated it!  They worked really hard digging up the Zoysia grass, which has deep roots. Plus we found 2 pennies, a marble and a couple of cool rocks.

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DJ and Fafayette were a big help!
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Here you can get a sense of the scope of the plan–a soft wall of grasses between our parking lot and the neighboring parking lot.

Benefits to this landscape change include: native species will support local pollinators (bees, butterflies, moths, humming birds,) the tall grasses will drink up the rain run-off from the parking lot keeping it out of the local water waste system, taller grasses are able to convert more CO2 to oxygen than the low lying ornamental species, the grasses will create a wind block and collect some of the local trash for easy retrieval, it increases the natural elements in the local landscape making things prettily green for a good portion of the year, it increases local habitat for native fauna (though I am still trying to discourage the local squirrels-most other species are welcome).

I will post photos when the planting of the Little bluestem row is complete.