Which Town is Our Town?

In the near future, we are going to be handed a bit of freedom and opportunity. At that point, we are seriously considering making a big move and doing some lifestyle changes. But there will be more to come on all that in another post…. For now, help us figure out our dream locale by playing a game where you throw in your two cents!

The game is called “Which Town is Our Town?” The rules are simple. You read what we’re looking for and what we’re not looking for and if you live there, have heard of there or have been there, convince us that YOUR town is OUR town!  If your town wins (by having the most votes for the town/city), I’ll write a post all about the pros/cons of your town and why we will or won’t be moving there. Comment below to cast your vote and sell us your great city 🙂

Your town is not our town if:

If the locals in your town think that 25 C is too hot or that -10 C is not too cold, then your town is not our town.

If words like sustainable living, organic gardening, homeschooling, small house movement or naturopathic medicine would raise a few eyebrows in your local coffee shop, then your town is not our town.

If it’s hard to find local foods most of the year, then your town is not our town.

If ½ an acre or preferably more of land costs in excess of 50K, then your town is not our town.

Your town might be our town if:

There is a beautiful beach we can drive to within 2 hours.

There are beautiful, snowboardable mountains we can drive to within 2 hours.

There is natural beauty to be found at many corners, and specialty coffee shops, bars, top of the line restaurants and all around rad places for cool cats at the remaining corners.

There are many young families and you frequently see children playing outside.

You have this amazing gluten-free bakery that gluten-eaters frequent because, yes, it’s that good.

There is a sense of community and pride evident by clean streets and friendly people.

ocean famWe want a place with an awesome vibe, community feel, natural beauty, and cool peeps. One of the most important things to me is being somewhere warmer than here (Southern Ontario).  Major bonus points (although not a requirement) if I can smell the clean, salty air that comes from living somewhat near the ocean. That being said, there is something to be said about loving what you’ve got, so I’m happy to hear from people who think our roots are already planted in the perfect place. Okay.  Sell it. Go!

It’s Simple

It’s amazing when you go into a seemingly tedious project for one purpose, and then come out on the other end of it with a changed view of life. That is exactly what has happened to me in the last few weeks.

My house is up for sale, and as part of preparations, I went through and staged it.  It has truly been an eye-opening experience. We have been living here for only four years, but the amount of stuff we have accumulated is scary and in all honesty, excessive.  As I went through each room, packing up all the items deemed unnecessary for daily living, all I could think is, why do I have all this stuff? Where did it come from?

At the end of the day, I had successfully filled my basement and huge shed with boxes. I then forgot about it and focused on the business of selling my house. The change happened when a couple of weeks later I realized that I couldn’t remember what I had packed away.  Right now, at this very moment, I have approximately 50 boxes of random things in my house and for the life of me; I cannot remember what is in them. What’s more is that I started looking around my house with new eyes and realized that not only did I obviously not need whatever is in those 50 boxes, but I also don’t need half of what I still have hanging around unpacked. 

How did this happen? How did we accumulate a houseful of things that we don’t need or use and for the most part do not hold any true sentimental value? Looking within, I came to the conclusion that, in a way, we equate having an abundance of things with having an abundance of wealth and happiness.  The funny thing is that the complete opposite is true. Sure, when you buy something shiny and new you may experience a happy high that lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, but it is not the lasting kind of happiness that fulfills us long term. The truth is that the more things you’ve accumulated, the more cleaning and picking up you have to do, the more money you have to earn to keep up with living in excess, and as a result the less time you have for the important things like following dreams and spending time with your loved ones.

I was hit hard with the minimalist bug.  It was a slow start.  I have a baby and a 6-year-old that I homeschool. As you can imagine, time is not something I have a lot of.  I started with my junk drawer – you know – that one drawer in your kitchen or office where you stick everything that doesn’t have a home.  Within 15 minutes, I had thrown away everything that was in it. I actually didn’t need a single thing in there! And I felt free.  A huge weight had been lifted, and it was only one drawer.  Whenever I had time, I went to the next drawer, which became a closet, which became a room.  Where I once opened my wardrobe filled with 300 items of clothing and felt I had nothing to wear, I now open it with 100 items and feel like my options are limitless because I love everything I’ve kept. I had uncovered clothes that I had forgotten were even there. With each area I decluttered, I felt like I was not only organizing my house but also clearing out the clutter in my mind.  Studies have shown that the clutter in our homes and the clutter in the rest of our lives are intrinsically connected. Both mental and physical clutter can eat away at our productivity, motivation and most importantly, happiness.  Clutter is stress.

I still have a ways to go.  There are still nooks and crannies I haven’t touched. Those 50 boxes of forgotten items?  They haven’t been tackled yet. I will get there though. It has become important to me to weed out the unnecessary and the excessive to make room for simplicity, gratitude for what I have, and freedom – freedom from possessions and freedom of time.  I highly recommend giving it a try.  Being an extreme minimalist isn’t for everyone. Thankfully there are different levels of minimalism, and in my opinion minimizing is something that most people can benefit from. It will benefit you by reducing stress, creating time and freedom, and making you aware of consumerism and the effect it has on you and our world today. It can benefit our community when you donate the items you don’t need to the people who do, in fact, need it.  If you decide to undertake it, go easy on yourself. Take it one drawer at a time or 15 minutes a day. Less really is more.  It’s simple.

Weekly Menu

I’m always looking for ways to make dinnertime a bit easier.  Between homeschooling Gordo (6-year-old son) and almost constantly having to carry Bita (10-month-old daughter), along with all my other daily tasks, I feel like I have very little time leftover for preparing delicious meals. I find that the most anxiety occurs when it’s 5:30 p.m., Mr. Right is leaving work soon, and I still have no idea what I’m making or if I even have anything in my pantry/fridge/freezer to make.  Enter menu planning.

Once upon a time, I was a daycare provider.  One way to keep sanity in my household was through menu planning. It helped simplify the week, reduced anxiety, and helped me stay within budget if I just sat down every weekend and planned what I was going to make and bought only what we needed for the week. I have been struggling since Bita was born. Way more often than I care to admit we have eaten processed, sugar and salt laden, completely unhealthy packaged or ordered food because I haven’t had it together. I hope that in sharing menu plans with you, it will help you in some small way while holding me accountable for my families eating. You now know my situation a little better.  Easy is the name of the game.  You aren’t going to find anything fancy this week, or anything that takes more than 20 minutes of my time. In fact, four of these recipes use less than 5 ingredients (not counting common pantry items), three of them are slow cooker recipes, and the other two are one skillet wonders. Two of the dishes are vegetarian and two others can be made vegetarian. I should mention that, at my house, a weekly plan contains 5 meals.  I cook five nights, and we eat leftovers two nights. Here is what I’m feeding my family this week:

Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

Shredded BBQ Chicken

3 Bean Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Mango and Black Bean Quesadilla

Healthy snacks are hard for me to come up with too.  This week my family will be snacking on nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, apple and kale chips, raw veggies, crackers and homemade hummus.

If this has been at all helpful to you or inspired you in any way, please let me know in the comments below.  Depending on the level of interest, I may make this a weekly Sunday post.  Enjoy 🙂

I Dont Know

Today I was confronted again with the often-repeated phrase “I don’t know”. Such an easy, apathetic and lazy excuse for an answer. Once said, it can completely kill a conversation and leave the other person feeling like you are either dumb or disinterested.  I’m not saying there is never a time where it can be safely said. What I am saying is that I believe we, as a society, too often use it as a crutch so as not to give too much thought to something we’d rather not be bothered with.  I am 100% guilty of this, most especially when answering questions such as “Why are some birds brown, others black and others red, yellow, blue….?” Or “If God is in everything, are we killing a piece of God every time we kill a bug?”

I realized that it had become a problem for me recently when my 6-year-old son started prefacing his questions to me with “I know you’re going to say you don’t know, but…..”.  It forced me to take a look at why I was so quick to avoid any kind of real thought to his questions and also to evaluate how I felt when others give me the same excuse/response.

What should we do about blah blah blah?

I don’t know.

Can I go [insert place here] on [insert day here]?

I don’t know.

How do you feel?

I don’t know.

Do you think we can blah blah blah?

I don’t know.

Where should we go from here?

I don’t know.

How was the universe created?

I don’t know.

 These are all questions I have posed or have had posed to me that resulted in that very answer.  What if that little three-word phrase didn’t exist in that context?  What if we could no longer use it to answer questions about our feelings and thoughts or even straight facts? We might replace the answers with:

What should we do about blah blah blah?

Let’s brainstorm and figure it out together!

Can I go [insert place here] on [insert day here]?

Let’s look at the calendar and see if that will work.

How do you feel?

I feel [insert feeling here] OR I need more time to think about that.

Do you think we can blah blah blah?

Of course we can!  Let’s figure out how.

Where should we go from here?

Well that depends, where do we see ourselves at the end?

How was the universe created?

Let’s Google it!

It’s almost just as easy to come up with a thought -out, acceptable answer in a very short amount of time, as it is to say I don’t know. An answer that gives you personal power and leaves the other person feeling validated.  With every “ I don’t know” we throw around, we relinquish our creative power and inner knowledge.  We give away the gift of looking within to hear our truth and set it free and we give away the knowledge that could be incurred by learning something new.  Really people, it’s all within you and what’s not, we have the all-knowing Internet for.  Let’s challenge ourselves to be less lazy and more caring; both of ourselves and of the people we interact with by giving a bit more thought before using that catchall phrase.

“When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran