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Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Interesting Dialogue...

As you know, I have been encouraging any readers out there to write me with any feedback/insights/opinions etc.  Well, today I received a very interesting comment posted to the blog that is more than worthy of opening a dialogue...

Cheryle writes:
I must say, good for you Maren, for pursuing this interesting goal! Life is way too short, and I feel it is imperative to do what you must in order to be happy and enjoy every single day on this planet.

Do you ever feel sometimes though... and I mean no disrespect whatsoever by tabling this, it's just something that I have struggled with for years... that society and the world in general is on a progressively downward spiral... and that a single person's positive, well-intended efforts, while totally admirable, are mostly futile? That's the biggest challenge I face, when it comes to me personally dialoguing with myself about 'living with less'. I am a responsible, hard-working adult with no serious accountability to anyone but myself (ie no kids, no husband, no pets, not even a houseplant!). If I want to buy something or travel somewhere, I just do. I have a hard time justifying denying myself the things I like, especially since I am a healthy, educated, tax-paying, contributing member of society. Now, you know how Todd and I live - and it's definitely not to excess. But we certainly do not go without... meaning that we each have the usual material possessions (a house - small, and a vehicle - economical) and we make the most of our vacation days every year. And yes, we also eat ALOT of meat (which we actually buy from a local organic farmer, and overall it is MUCH cheaper, not to mention healthier, than buying from a grocery store). Truthfully, I don't feel bad about my lifestyle.

I'm not saying that I agree with wasting non-renewable resources, and just dumping garbage freely, and not recycling or anything like that... we are humans, with cognitive ability, not animals... But the reason I have a job is so that I can live life to what my version of 'its fullest' is. I am curious to know if you ever feel torn? Because really (and this is merely my opinion - like I said, I've struggled with this for years), unless someone is going to move somewhere and 100% live 'off the grid'... like almost completely disappear... we are all negatively impacting the earth, whether we like it or not.

Your thoughts?

See?  Great insights and questions!  I only hope that I can be half as concise in trying to respond. 

In response to the issue of a single person's actions being mostly futile - to some point I agree... and it can be maddening to work so hard at something, and have others efforts practically reverse your efforts right in front of your eyes!  Let's take recycling for instance.  Every other week, us country dwellers have the privilege (not) of frequenting our local neighbourhood waste transfer station.  Week after week, I bring my carefully sorted and cleaned recycling materials in blue bags only to put them on top of bag after bag filled with recycling that is ALL SCREWED UP (and manky, and stinky, and... well, you get the picture)!  Honestly people!  An extra 5 minutes here and there and you could do it right too!!!  So, yes, when I watch my beautifully sorted bags go right in there with the disgusting ones, I will admit that it does make me a little crazy.  However, the way that I look at it is this: just because those idiots choose to do it that way, doesn't mean that I have to, especially when it is an act that requires virtually no skill, money or effort to do correctly. 

As for the rest of your comments, I think that I need to be more clear about something.  There are three reasons that I started down this road: 1) to save money, 2) to try and reduce my spending to only those products that we actually need and 3) to reduce my environmental impact by doing so.  In other words, #3 is more of a bonus side-effect of committing to #1 and #2.  I also should clarify what sent me over the edge and started all of this as well:  EXCESS.  Now that I am a mother, it has really caused me to try and see the world from Chephren's eyes, and I realize how much impact that I have on what he sees.  I feel that if Chephren sees his mom and dad being happy with what they have and spending their money responsibly and efficiently, then he will come to value these lifestyle practices as well.  When I look around at other children out there, we have started them on the path to excessive greed and consumerism practically from birth.  Now, I am not saying that I want Chephren to 'suffer' or anything, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Like any parent, I want Chephren to have the things that he enjoys and will make him happy, however, I also want him to find more value in people and experiences than in the material world.  So, if I truly want these things for Chephren, I needed to start leading by example, which is really what I am trying to do.  So no, I don't think that my actions will impact a huge number of people, but if they impact my son, than I do consider that a huge benefit.

Now comes the part where I deep-sea dive off of my large and over-bearing pedestal and qualify all of the above statements.  Trent and I aren't undergoing any major life changes here, not really.  We are not living off the grid (at all!) and still use natural gas and electricity to heat/run our home.  I drive a fairly large gas-guzzling vehicle and regularly fill it up and take it in for oil changes and other maintenance.  We are still planning on taking vacations, as we always have and still love to do, but this year (at least) we will just take less of them.  We are also going to be building a house in Nordegg this summer - also a huge expense and not high on the list of things we could do to save the natural environment!  I guess what I am trying to say is this:  NO, I am certainly not perfect, and I could even give you the names of several of my friends who are doing it better than me.  BUT, I do feel that for me, personally at least, the changes that we are making (however small), are improving not only our quality of life, but have given us a sense of purpose and a new-found resolve to meet the challenges that we have set for ourselves.  Frankly, I can also tell you that in one year, when the challenge is 'up', our future lifestyle will probably fall somewhere in the middle between the way we were living before and the way we will be living for the next year.  Even at this early stage, I can begin to see which new behaviours will be here to stay and which ones probably won't make sense for us in the long-term. 
So Cheryle, I would say 'you go girl' when it comes to living your life in the way that you are choosing to do so.  If the choices that you and Todd make are the choices that are making you happy, than you are truly living your life authentically (which is far more than I can say for a very large majority of people in our society).  In fact, the lifestyle that you and Todd lead is one that Trent and I have often envied - who wouldn't want to take the kind of trips that you guys take, and do the kind of rad stuff that you guys do?  I truly admire you for following your dreams and living each day to the fullest.
Thank you so much for your comments - and I hope that you don't mind that I highlighted them in this blog entry.  I really do feel like they were a great way to get a dialogue going, and I would even say that this has helped me to clarify some of my own feelings on some of the 'heavier' stuff.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius (Who Me?!)
And tomorrow is another day :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trent finds a lonely leek, and other remarkable transitions...

When I first told Trent that I was going to start this little project, his response was, "I'm not doing that".  I was expecting as much, so I just smiled and said, "Don't worry, I don't expect you to".  Now, two weeks into the project, I would say that he has definitely started to come around.  First of all, I think that he has realized how much money this is really going to save us.  I will be posting the official numbers after the first month is through, but it is looking like we are about to cut our retail/grocery bill in HALF!  He is also enjoying other perks, such as a clean and non-overstuffed fridge.  He actually said tonight while we were making dinner together, "I absolutely love the fridge like this!  I could just look at it all day!"  Given how well things are going, it was no surprise that our dinner tonight was also fabulous.  Trent made us a pasta/hamburger/sausage casserole which helped us use up a lot of odds and ends that were 'crowding' our newly sleeked-out refridgerator.  He was so pumped, even digging through the vegetable drawer trying to find stuff to put in (he found a lonely leek by the way, and it made a delicious addition to the casserole).

Perhaps the best perk of all however, has been a much happier wife to come home to at the end of the day.  I can't put my finger on it, but something inside me is fundamentally changing.  I find that I am more relaxed and easy going, which are two words that I would have never thought could EVER be used to describe myself.  Maybe it is that there is a certain satisfaction in doing something that I know I can be proud of.  Maybe it is the fact that I am no longer worried about so many things that don't MATTER.  Maybe I am just giddy at the thought of saving almost half of our annual family earnings...

Whatever it is, it is good, and worth every sacrifice that we have had to make so far (and yes, giving up Starbucks counts as a sacrifice). 

"Only two things are necessary to keep one's wife happy.  One is to let her think that she is having her own way, the other is to let her have it."  Lyndon B. Johnson

Go hug your spouse right now!
Marebear :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

When in Rome?

Twelve days ago I started this quest
To live with less, I will try my best
So far it has been an interesting ride
My rules have been tricky in which to abide

For instance, recently, I was not at home
And you know what they say, 'When you are in Rome'
Rome I was not, but Calgary instead
Staying in a hotel, not my own bed

While on this trip, my rules they began to unravel
For, how would I eat, drink and travel?
I did my best to follow my rules
Although every Starbucks I passed made me drool

I went there for work, not for fun or for kicks
Some rules I did follow, while others were nixed
I ate out a few times, and although it was free
I still felt like a cheat, how weak could I be?

Now that I'm home, I have gained some insight
On reflection, I managed to do some things right
For one, I did carpool, with my dad, which was great
I also brought my mug and some snacks which we ate

We also went out to a friends for one dinner
Of all of the meals we had, it was the winner
So, although I'm not perfect, I can honestly say
That I have yet to enjoy my favorite latte

As you can probably gather from the above poem, I was in Calgary for the past few days on a business trip - at a poetry workshop in fact!  Although it was a great event for me to attend, it did put me into a difficult situation as far as my challenge goes.  We did eat out at a few 'chain' restaurants, and I did enjoy a regular coffee or two, however, for the most part, I would say that I did abide by the fundamental principle of 'living with less', which is spending as little money as possible (the trip did not cost me a cent of my own money).  I would also say that I did not even take full advantage of this situation and kept my meals/snacks to very modest proportions. 

So, in hindsight, I have decided that I did the best that I could in this situation and I can hold my head high and continue on my path for the next year.  One more thing that I have to add is that I have sure enjoyed the feedback, comments, and messages that I have received from all of my readers, so keep them coming! 

All the best, Marebear :)

"If at first you don't succeed... destroy all evidence that you tried." - Author Unknown
(So, if this blog ever disappears, you know what happened!  Just joking, but I thought it was a cute version of the quote that I was going to put in!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time for another poll!

Okay people, I need your help once again. The issue today is gift cards. This past holiday season, I received an abundance of them, and I am wondering what the possibilities could/should be with regards to spending them. The options that I came up with are as follows:

  1. Spend them! It wasn't my money to begin with, so what is the problem?
  2. Save them until after the 365 days are up, after all, rules are rules.
  3. Use them to buy things to give to charity.
  4. Use them to buy gifts for my friends/family (by the way dad, you can only vote ONCE for this one! - he knows that there are MEC gift cards in the mix!)

I know that you people will probably come up with more creative options - you sure did on the last poll, but these are the categories that we will be voting on for today. The poll will run until this Friday so get your votes in ASAP! And feel free to forward this link to your friends too - all votes are welcome :)

Waiting with much anticipation...

Marebear :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wanting to stop wanting!

So, I did it today. I went into the *nameless* big chain grocery store - you know the one: it not only sells groceries, but every possible other thing that you can think of under the sun. Well not quite everything I guess, and NO, I am not talking about Walmart - those guys are on my 'no' list for sure. Anyway, I went in there today to pick up a few things - mostly canned goods/laundry detergent etc. and I found myself (gasp!) wanting to look at/touch/buy other STUFF! The packages looked so new and shiny and to my horror, everything looked to me like it was an immensely good deal (I almost couldn't afford NOT to buy it - remember?) I found myself running through the aisles like a mad-woman, trying to focus on what I actually came in (and NEEDED) to buy. Don't worry, I escaped victorious (this time), but it has left me wondering exactly what it is about that other 'stuff' that makes me want it so badly.

Is it the shiny, glossy packaging (which when I get home is one of the first things that ticks me right off as most it goes straight into my trash bin)? Is it the bright colours? Is it the big stickers that indicate the price? I just can't put my finger on it. By the way, if there is an advertising psychologist out there reading, could you please provide me with some input about your consumerism (aka witch-doctor) tactics? You can let me know your secrets of the trade anonymously, I swear!

I guess the conclusion that I have come to (for now), is that it is okay to want 'stuff'. Most of us do, so I guess that it is pretty normal in the society that we live in. To that end, I have decided that I will continue to want certain things, but instead of impulsively buying them on the spot, I will put them on my 'list' and try to find them used or previously loved - which is a much nicer term. That way, I will have to work hard to buy the things that I want and if I don't really want them (which is often the case, as I am bewitched by the above-mentioned ad psychologist buggers), then I won't waste my time/effort/money.

The message for today is simple: Don't be left wanting, just delay the gratification... you will be much happier in the long run.

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need. ~Vernon Howard

I am not quite there Vernon - but I am working on it!

Good luck to those of you who are also trying to escape the witch-doctor's spell :) Marebear

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kijiji Tips and Tricks

You knew it was going to come up eventually. Kijii. Ahhhhhhh, Kijiji. How did we ever survive before the invention of Kijiji (or Craig's list)? So, today, I am going to help you, the buyer, navigate this amazing money-saving, landfill-avoiding, recycling of objects resource.

Now, well my use of this site has admittedly been somewhat limited in the past, my husband is a Kijiji expert. He spends pretty much every spare minute of his life on there. He would rather 'Kijiji' for ANYTHING, than do most other things.... and no, I am not going to give you an example, because it would hurt my ego!

So, my 'guest writer' for the day is the industrious Trent. Here are some of his Kijiji tips:
  • Be open-minded: you might find a great deal on something that you weren't expecting. For example, if you have your heart set on a certain brand name, you might miss out on a similar product that is a great deal. He used snowmobiles as an example (barf!), but say you wanted to buy a Yamaha, you shouldn't discount the Bombariers or the Artic Cats either.
  • Check back often: new items are posted all day, every day, and the best deals are what sell the fastest. If you don't have time to sit around all day (like Trent) and 'surf' Kijiji', then the site does allow you to set up alerts for specific search terms that you can input.
  • Don't hesitate: if you find that you know is a good deal, 'pull the trigger' (him talking, not me), because somebody else is out there looking for the exact same thing.
  • See what else the seller is selling: this one is great for moms out there because often another mom is selling a lot of different baby/kid items and you can pick up more than one item up in one trip!
  • Change up your search terms: sometimes the seller might have a different idea of what terminology might be used to describe the item. For instance, I am currently looking for manufactured stone for the unfinished fireplace downstairs, therefore I searched under 'rock', 'stone' and 'fireplace', getting different results for each category.
That is all that we could come up with for today, but if we think of others, we'll let you know. Also, if you are new to Kijiji, here is the link: Just select your desired city and away you go!
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. -- New England proverb
Marebear :)
P.S. The basement project is well underway and I can't wait to share the results with you in pictures!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Have you ever tried to decorate with zero budget?

So I am finally getting around to decorating/cleaning up the basement for my office and Chephren's playroom. For those of you who have never seen my basement, it is HUGEmungous, and this means that I am going to have to get very creative with things as I can't a) buy anything new and b)BUY ANYTHING NEW!? This will certainly be a bit tough for me.

First off, let me just try to paint you a picture of what I have to work with so far: I have let's see... 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 yup, 9 different paint colours left over from the rest of the renos we have done in the house. Do you think it would look super tacky if I painted each wall down there a different color? Let me be clear, I am not planning on just randomly painting them on or anything. I have a 'plan' for the colour scheme - and it might even look like I intended it to look that way... What do you think? The colors that I have to work with are:
  • Bright deep blue
  • Turqoisey blue
  • Yellow: kind of buttery in colour
  • Cranberry
  • Sage green
  • Beige
  • Dark green - kind of army-ish
  • Light brown - 'hiking trail'
  • 'Cappucino'

I don't know about you but I think it is going to look fah-bu-lous! I will make sure to take some pictures so that you can all see the finished product. After the painting comes the purchasing (or rather scrounging) of furniture - mostly for storage purposes, so it shall be interesting to see what I can come up with on Kijiji and such.

If you have done some 'creative' (read: cheap) renovations in the past and have any great tips to pass along, let me know. I am not above admitting that I could use the HELP!

Anyway, gotta run, a movie (don't worry it's rented), and a wonderful husband (not rented, but also non-returnable) awaits!

Cheerio! Marebear :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Questions, questions, questions.

As I have alluded to in previous posts, taking on this challenge wasn't exactly a long-standing plan, but more of an impulsive decision. That being said, there are a lot of areas that I haven't yet considered. A friend of mine posed me the following questions on the facebook group, and I thought it might be interesting to explore them here:

She wrote:
"Maren, I have a few questions. What if friends want you to come out for dinner with them? Must you decline? Or what about if you want to go snowboarding/skiing for the weekend, do you not purchase a ticket? Trips - must they be in a car with premade meals? What of money for 'fun' things? I assume alcohol fits in the be...verages category, does that mean your going to buy all Canadian homegrown wine? Ahh so many questions! So exciting!"

Okay, going out to dinner:
I think that I have sort of made up my own mind on this one. I am going to attempt to avoid big chain restaurants at all costs. So, if it is locally owned, it is okay. Also, no extravagant meals (not that I normally partake in these anyway, but, I guess that it should still be stated). I don't think that it would be realistic (or fun) to spend a year without going out for a meal AT ALL. As a rule, I rarely eat out anyway, so now it is just a matter of finding some neat little businesses to do it in. I am looking forward to both the challenge and the new experiences. By the way, if you know any great little restaurants/cafes in the Edmonton area, please let me know and I will try them out or pass them along to others.

Next, recreation:
The recreation thing is easy for me (mostly), because I tend to participate in sports that are either low cost or free once you have all of the necessary gear (which, luckily, I do). My sports of choice include: running, biking, cross-country and backcountry skiing (if people can put up with all of my falling!), ice climbing, rock climbing, hiking, scrambling, paddling, etc. Again, mostly free once you have the gear. There are two places where I am going to be challenged here. Number one is, what happens when I need new runners? (which is inevitably going to happen this year). But, I am going to leave you in suspense on this one and leave it to a later blog entry to discuss it. Number two is, I am training for a triathlon right now and need to use the rec centre pool (since all of the outside bodies of water around my place are FROZEN SOLID! To know more about how I feel about his, please see the entry about MOVING!) Given this frigid situation, I am a member of a rec centre so that I can do my swims and some of my bikes/runs there when the weather is too cold. I don't see this as 'consumption' because no end product is going into the landfill and it is really an affordable price for a monthly membership. If you disagree, I welcome your comments and/or suggestions.

Next, travel:
Okay, this is the toughest one of all for me because, as many of you know, I am truly a travel junkie. I think that I did ten trips last year alone! I am addicted and if I could, I would spend all of my time, energy and money in order to continue on in this very same fashion! So, for this year, I honestly don't think I could give it up entirely, but I am going to reduce the amount that I do travel. We are discussing taking two trips, one in the spring, and one in the fall. We will of course continue to go to the mountains on the weekends as often as we possibly can, and we are planning on spending most of the summer in Nordegg. So, if I am 'cheating' on any area of my plan, it is for sure this one. I just can't help myself!

Finally, wine:
Okay, another area in which I don't plan to be perfect. I love wine. In fact, I love it so much that I might even say that I like it more than coffee. I also think that I am going to need to continue to enjoy wine in order to make good on the rest of my challenges (!). My plan therefore is to continue to drink wine, but just drink less of it. We already purchase a lot of Canadian wines so I don't think that we need to make huge changes here. Again, I would love to hear from you if you have feedback or input on this one.

So, I think that about sums up the answers to the questions. I look forward to your feedback if you should have any.

And now, for an especially fitting quote:
Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. - Benjamin Franklin

Salut! And thanks for reading!
Marebear :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back to the Basics

Okay, so in my last entry, I kind of got carried away. I am going to bring it back down to basics... Which causes me to ask the question, why the heck am I doing this again? (!)

Honestly, I think that a series of events throughout my lifetime have brought me to this place (backpacking in five continents, living in a tent at 'yoga camp' and living in a van in Nordegg, Alberta), but it was this past Christmas that brought me to a final crisis point. Every time my husband and I have forayed into the world and lived with less, it has been such a blissful, simple, and yet amazing experience. Essentially, life gets pared down to what really matters: spending time with incredible people, both old friends and new. You don't have the opportunity to get caught up in consumerism because all you need in order to enjoy yourself is on your back (or in your tent, or in your van), or out in the world in front of you. My past adventures have truly been the happiest, most personally authentic times in my life. So much so that every time I return to 'civilization' (a misnomer in my opinion), I experience an extreme culture shock. I end up feeling 'less' until I have 'more'. It is completely ridiculous.

This Chirstmas was the final straw for me. We absolutely are blessed to have a huge mixed family (four different ones in fact), and this means a lot of visiting and comraderie over the holidays... and all of this I am okay with. It is the gift-buying that sends me over the deep end. Now, granted, we have done our share of buying in the past, and even more so, our share of receiving, but to me, it just isn't necessary or important. I want my friends and family to know that I care about them every day of the year, and not just at Christmas. I guess it is now on me then to find other ways to show them my affection... which is again, part of this new challenge.

Since I have undertaken this challenge (and remember it has been less than one week), I have felt like a more 'authentic' version of myself than I have in ages. It is like the 'travelling Maren' version of myself all over again. Even my husband has noticed. It is the best thing that I could have done for myself, for our marriage, for our family. I know that this sounds like a huge exaggeration, but I assure you, it is not.

Anyway, off of the soapbox for tonight. I just wanted to share the high that I am feeling with anyone out there who might be reading...

All the best! I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Marebare :)

Quote for today:

Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. - Storm Jameson

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That's it, we're MOVING (just kidding... well, kinda)

The official verdict is in! Not only did people vote on this issue, but many of them felt the need to comment and/or make suggestions as well. All of this information was duly noted and appreciated. It appears that for the next 361 days, I will be trying to bring my coffee with me as much as possible, and should the need arise, try to purchase a cup from a local vendor. There were lots of people who commented that I should try to give up the habit entirely, and I think that I can honestly say that the lack of Starbucks in my future should ensure that less coffee gets consumed by this little lady! So, for now, consider the 'coffee crisis' solved!

Next, I wanted to share that one of my 'groupies' has also decided to join me in the effort to live with only the 'MareBare Necessities' as well, and I think that this is absolutely wonderful - if you are also interested in doing so, I encourage you to do so and write to me about it so that I can share your experiences on the blog as well! Even if you are wanting to make some smaller changes - again, please share and we can post your ideas. All ideas are welcome!

In other 'marebare necessities' news, I had a very interesting conversation with my husband last night about this whole 'living with less' thing. Remember how in the last post I mentioned that living where we live isn't really conducive to living the type of lifestyle that I value? First off, I guess that I should elaborate a bit on this point and explain this comment. First of all, our gas bill. Oh my goodness do we pay a lot to heat this house! This is one thing that could of course be avoided if we lived in a different climate. Next, our growing season. For the past four summers I have had a HUGE garden but the harvest season only lasts for about 1-2 months -- I am certainly not a gardening expert either. Furthermore, in the fall, I have attempted (and spent hours, upon hours doing so) to try and preserve as much of the food as possible with pretty dismal results (again, not a preserving expert either). Finally, living out of town. A good friend of mine suggested that I try biking to/from town to save money/reduce my impact. Now, granted she lives in Australia and hasn't been to my house, and the notion itself isn't even a ridiculous option for me to do on my own (it is about 20 km one way on a narrow road with no shoulder), but I could never do so with my little guy. Anyways, my husband (who you should also know is only mildly on board with this project, but only because he thinks that it might save us a bit of money), commented that "if this really does work (in other words, if we can actually cut our costs significantly), maybe we should move to a warmer climate". I was stupified! He hasn't been reading the blog (again, he isn't that interested) so he couldn't have known that I was thinking the same thing.

Now, I know that this will start up some more debate and controversy because there are changes that we could make to live where we live more efficiently (I am open to suggestions by the way), and I will admit, that moving is a bit rash and, perhaps, impulsive(!). I am just throwing it out there as a thought for now, and maybe we will see where that thought takes us... One thing I know for certain is that my parents would have to come too - I could never give them up, even if meant that I could wear shorts and flip flops everyday!

So, for today's post, I think I will end with a few pics of some of the tropical places that I have had the pleasure of travelling to. The first was taken in Maui and the other in Thailand. Ahhhh... warm thoughts!

Cheers everyone!
Marebear :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Local Coffee Shop 'Recon' Mission

Recon - that stands for 'reconnaisance' right? I am pretty sure it does, but forgive me if I am not current on my 'GI Joe' lingo!

First of all, thank you all so much for participating and voting on this issue. Thank you also for the many comments and feedback that I have received both on the blog and on the facebook group - there have been some really great suggestions. So, given that it appears that the consensus of the vote is to buy from a local coffee shop (although there is still one day left to vote), I decided that it was time to do a 'recon' mission in my hometown for a local coffee shop that sells organic, fair trade coffee (again, part of the feedback that I have been receiving). And you will NEVER believe the amazing little cafe that I have been driving by unnoticed for months. It is truly a gem. Set on the historical and quaint Main Street of Stony Plain, Misella Delite is a must-visit for all Parkland County Residents (and those of you passing through onto Jasper perhaps?). Misella's is a vegan cafe that (gasp!) also offers a food co-op program during our local growing season. (Great tip by the way Linds - I have been wanting to find something like this for a long time, I just wish that it could be year-round! This brings me to another thought that has crept into my consciousness every so often - are we really living in an appropriate climate to want to live the kind of lifestyle that I truly believe in? But that is definetly a topic for another blog entry... or 30 more perhaps!)

Anyway, based on the pending outcome of the vote and the feedback that I have received to date, it appears that I will be continuing to brew my own organic, fair trade brew at home, and carrying it with me as often as possible. And for the occasional 'take out' cuppa java? I will be frequenting Misella's (their coffee is delicious by the way), as well as other local shops.

For more information on Misella's check out:
or e-mail:
or phone: 780-968-6714
or GO THERE at: 4922 - 50 Street, Stony Plain, Alberta

Ciao for now and stay-tuned for my next 'poll the audience' issue (which isn't far down the road I am certain!)


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Coffee Crisis

Okay, the first challenge has come to my attention and needs to be discussed... Immediately!
Those of you who know me, know that I love coffee and in particular, Starbucks coffee. To be even more precise, I am a sucker for a soy latte and yes, I regularly pay the almost $5 charge for one of these decadent beverages at least three or four times per week. I know, I know, it is an expensive habit to be sure.

So, given the new 'rules' that I am attempting to live by, I am wondering what exactly to do about my coffee habit. It is not an option to give up coffee (I did that for my entire pregnancy and I consider that enough of a personal sacrifice for one lifetime!), and plus, I vowed that I wouldn't be doing anything 'rash' to prove that most people could follow a plan like this one as well. I am wondering if it is better to continue on with the Starbucks obsession (although possibly switching to regular coffee/tea drinks and of course, bringing in my own cup), or would it be more in line with my goals to switch to a local coffee vendor in the area? It seems like a simple response, until you consider that I am trying to balance the best environmental decision with trying to buy from local business owners. The way I see it, Starbucks has a lot more funding to ensure that they are an environmentally responsible company than local mom-and-pop shop would. Therein lies my dilemma (I guess that 'crisis' might be a bit strong to describe this situation).

So, the way I see it, I have three possible options:

  • Continue on drinking and enjoying delicious Starbucks beverages, while ensuring that I use my own cup every time.
  • Purchase my coffee at Starbucks except limit myself to only regular coffee and tea (while, again, bringing my own cup)
  • Switch to local businesses only (and yes, bringing my own cup along for the ride once more)

I would actually like to know what YOU think about this dilemma and I have decided to 'poll the audience' and live by the decision that is made. You have until Wednesday, January 20, 2010 to weigh in, so do it, do it, do it! I desperately need/want your input on this one, so let me know what you think!

Here are a few resources to help you make your decision:

This article discusses how Starbucks is falling down on their environmental efforts due to their use of non-recyclable paper cups. However, the article does go on to discuss how Starbucks is a corporate leader in making good environmental decisions.

The Starbucks mission statement, including their environmental mission statement. Check our their link 'global responsibility' as well for more information.

Because Wikipedia knows EVERYTHING! Check out the information here - there is a lot of it. They are certainly not perfect, but they are trying, which is more than I can say for a lot of other big chains.

Okay, let me know the verdict and happy reading!

Marebear :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My three-fold plan...

It is now day two, and I am starting to achieve panic status. I really haven't thoroughly thought this through (I am truly impulsive - remember?), and I am starting to wonder what exactly I might have gotten myself into. What I am now realizing is that this process will require some extreme PLANNING (which, by the way, is the opposite of impulsivity)! But, despite my impulsivity, I think that I can be successful. For instance, right now, my plan since January 1st has been three-fold:

1) Communal Living: We live next door to my parents and enjoy communal meals with them almost 7 days per week. While this is awesome for us, we realize that this might not be ideal for everyone. However, for us as a family, it means cooking a total of 3-4 meals a week for the four/five of us and enjoying home cooked meals virtually 7 nights per week.

2) Soup nights: part of my saving money plan involves making soup at least one night per week. This, along with homemade bread and salad, often makes a wonderful and cost-efficient meal.

3) Meat Salads: Another night of the week I do a meat salad of sorts... this involves a meat salad and again, a homemade bread. It is wonderful and delicious, even if it doesn't sound filling.

These are my main strategies for 2010, and so far, it has been a wild success. The exception of course being Trent's mournful cries for 'more meat, more MEAT'!

My reply? Let's face it... life is cheaper without meat! (Sucker!)

Cheers and happy cooking!

Marebear :)

Out of the frying pan into the fire...

Okay, so now that I am 'pot-committed' to this project (I started a group on facebook - does it get any more committed than that?), I guess that it is time to figure out exactly how I am going to pull this thing off. For starters, I am an impulsive person. Impulsivity, while it can be a wonderful trait in some instances (I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I know there has to be something good about it), will be my biggest hurdle to overcome in the next year. Let me paint you a scenario so that you can understand what I mean... I am out grocery shopping and as usual, I have brought a list of items that we need for the upcoming week. I walk through the door of the supermarket and my list magically disappears into my handbag... never to reappear again. I am sure that there are other people out there who can relate to this problem. I find myself intoxicated by the colorful displays and the 'on sale' signs. So much so that I lose all sense of what brought me into the store in the first place, and I regress into a senseless buying frenzy.

At night, sobered up from the shopping experience, I peruse all of my purchases - and I begin to realize that most of them were not on the list in the first place. Then, in order to justify the excessive spending to myself and my husband, I find myself repeating my spending mantra "But honey, this book/shirt/bowl/magazine/frame/etc. was so cheap that I couldn't afford NOT to buy it". My husband, god love him, often just rolls his eyes at me and the cycle continues.

Okay, now allow me to clarify something. I am not a 'shopaholic' by any stretch of the word, and we aren't in a 'money crunch' because of any of the spending that I have done in the past. So you might be asking yourself, why then would I want/need to make any changes at all? The answer is three-fold. As I have stated in my first blog: my goals are simple: 1) find personal well-being and fulfillment while living with less 'excess' 2) spend less money and 3) reduce the impact that I am having on the environment.

As an afterthought, I am also planning to use this blog as a sort of resource for those of you (especially people in the Edmonton area) who would like to find out more about consignment stores, recycling centres/rules, saving money in the kitchen, etc. Therefore, it is pertinent that I encourage your feedback, ideas, comments, and any other tips that you might have to make my journey more enlightened. As I mentioned, I have a group on facebook under 'MareBare Necessities' and an e-mail address set up for this as well: Please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you feel would be interested and to comment on it. I will try to answer any mail/comments that I receive.

So, to kick off the tip sharing, here is a great web resource for helping you to use up leftovers in your kitchen:

Here you can enter in any food item that you need to use up in your kitchen and the site will provide you with a list of recipes to help you do just that! It is awesome.

Hope you enjoy!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

365 days of living with less...

'The MareBare Necessities' - My first day of living 365 days with less...

'Less' is definitely a subjective term, but to me this means trying to consume fewer new products, trying to spend less money on the new products that I do consume, and trying to decrease the impact that I am having on the desecration of our environment.

So, this leads me to the rules of my challenge:
  • No purchasing of new products unless they fall under the following categories: food, beverages, medicine, toiletries or personal hygiene products, gasoline or other car maintenance materials (we live WAY out of town), household improvement products/materials, underwear, or local arts and crafts.
  • I realize that I will encounter some 'gray' areas in the next year, and that the above list may need to be modified as the next year progresses. However, for now, I can't possibly foresee what all of these challenges will be and I plan to deal with it/write about it as these difficulties arise.
  • Minimize my environmental impact whenever possible and again, record the challenges that I encounter while attempting to do so.
  • Buy locally as much as possible.

I think that it may be as simple as this, but I will keep you posted. A bit of background on me and my family might be pertinent and interesting as well so, here it goes:

  • I am a 30-year-old female. My name is Maren, however my nickname, Marebear, fit well with the 'Bare Necessities' theme, hence the 'MareBare Necessities' title.
  • I am married with a one-year old son.
  • I live on a farm in a rural area outside of Edmonton, Alberta. While this is wonderful for certain things such as gardening, cross-country skiing, biking and running, composting etc., it does mean a fair amount of car travel for me to get to and from civilization (boo.)

I do anticipate that I will encounter a variety of personal, cultural and familial challenges in the next 365 days, and I thought it would make for a great story. Wish me luck and check back often to see how I am doing and find out tips and tricks for making it work for you too (if you are interested in doing so). I am also planning on including photos, financial comparisons from this year and last, environmental statistics and motivating quotes, just to spice things up a little. So, without further adieu, here is the first of many quotes that will guide me on my quest:

"It is only as humans that we have the possibility of implementing changes in our own lives." ~The Dalai Lama

Clear skies and all the best,

Marebear :)