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Friday, February 26, 2010

How many days until spring?

I swear that counter's not moving!  Not that I am miserable or anything, but it just seems that everytime I log on the number hasn't changed.  I guess it could be that I feel like I have been 'living with less' for longer than just forty-some-odd days... and I still miss Starbucks...

On the plus side, a lot of other changes are already feeling like 'routine'.  Baking bread on the weekends, planning my laundry days according to the weather, and bringing along my thermos and my snacks wherever I go are all feeling really 'normal' to me.  I have even been stopping by the thrift store weekly to see what they have for fabric (I am accepting fabric donations by the way, so if have any lying around that you are not planning on using, lemme know!)  In other living with less news, after cleaning out my closet I made note of a few items that were on the bubble (clothes that I like but don't wear as often as I should), so if you see me wearing some questionable outfit combinations, know that I am just trying to 'spread the love' admist all of the items in my wardrobe (otherwise they are going to the chop! aka consignment store).

I have also started thinking about planning my garden this spring.  It must be the amazing weather that we have been enjoying here in Edmonton.  I honestly feel that my body has been literally drinking in the sunlight that we have been having the past few days.  I love this time of year, when you can literally sense that spring is on its way... and then WHAM! - we are often dealt with another round (or two, or three) of nasty, cold, bitter winter.  BUT, for now, I will soak up the sun as much as I can and take comfort in knowing that we are getting closer to spring with each passing day.

Tomorrow, we are having a February Thanksgiving (if only just to get rid of one of the two Turkeys that has been taking up space in my freezer).  In all seriousness though, I think that it is more than okay to celebrate occasions like Thanksgiving more than once (or even twice a year).  So gather up your friends and loved ones and give thanks around a Turkey near you one day soon! 

Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. ~Robert Caspar Lintner

On that note: Happy Un-Thanksgiving to One and All!

Marebare :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tightening the Purse Strings

So, yesterday I unplugged my clothesdryer.  I mentioned on Sunday that Trent finally hung my outside line and I am fortunate enough to have a very large laundry room for hanging stuff inside, so I decided that enough was enough.  I hung my sheets out to dry for the first time yesterday and I must say, they sure smell delicious!  Bettter than fresh bread even.  At first I wasn't sure about drying clothes outside in a Canadian Winter, but we have the perfect setup with our south-facing aspect.  And it is all about timing (and more planning), so I have started looking at the forecast to see which days will be 'laundry days'.  Good news for me, the rest of the week promises to be sunny and quite warm for February.  YAHOO!  On another note, Trent is very concerned... "What will I do if I ever need to dry clothes?" he asked me.  What a dumb question, wouldn't you agree?  Oh, and just in case you wanted to know just exactly how much these extra efforts were going to save us?  An estimated $104 annually.  Worth it?  I guess we'll see....

Onto another topic, I had more adventures in the kitchen yesterday.  I have really been getting into the Hodding Carter entries, he really is a fabulous writer and he has great tips that are really helping me out in this endeavor.  Carter advises to NOT plan when you go shopping, and just buy what is ridiculously cheap and on sale.  This is quite the opposite of what I have been doing so far, and not a great strategy for me to fully employ just yet because I really don't know a fabulous deal when I see one (I am getting better, but it sure is a lot of math!  And on that note, why doesn't the grocery store make it easier to compare?  They quote prices per pound and kilogram on different things, it is so annoying!!!)  ANYWAY, shopping with Carter in mind, I have been buying produce off the 50% off rack and found a bag of three artichokes sitting there the last time around.  Now, if you are like me, and have only eaten those things canned before, I knew that this was going to be quite the culinary experiment.  Last night, after looking online to see how to cook the buggers, I served up two of them to my family.  The results?  They are sure a lot of effort for not a lot of reward and I would much rather buy them for 50% off in the can next time!

Well, I must go, the sun is getting higher in the sky and I have laundry to do! 

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by colour.” - Author Unknown

(A fitting quote for today's entry, no?)

Marebare :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Great Purge and THE NUMBERS ARE IN!

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. - William Morris

As you can see, I am starting things off a little bit differently today.  The above quote by William Morris has been trying to break into my consciousness for some time now, and I have finally clued in.  This quote was first brought to my attention months ago by my mom's lovely friend Catrin (ohhhh, forgive me if I have spelled it wrong AGAIN!).  I haven't been to her house, but I am told that she exemplifies this quote in its purest form within her surroundings.  Then, this past Friday, I had a lovely visit with some close friends of mine, Allan and Shirley.  Shirley was sharing with me an interesting book about creating beautiful spaces in your home and this quote was again featured in that book.  Now, I'll admit that I am a bit slow on the uptake, but finally, last night at 3 in the morning, it hit me!  I need to PURGE my house according to Morris' brilliant quote.  I was so excited, revelling in all of the things that I was going to give away that I didn't fall asleep again until 5:30 this morning.  It was all that I could do not to throw open my closet doors and start right then!  (I think Trent would have had me committed for sure if I would have done so)
Historically, I was of the opinion that I have always been fairly good at disposing of unwanted or unnecessary items, simply because I was comparing myself to folks who aren't very good at it.  Now, when I look around my house with this new, shiny perspective, I can see that I am not as skilled in this area as I had originally thought.  You see, I, like many people, have attachment issues.  (Shhh!  Don't tell anyone!)  Thinking back, I guess that I have always had them.  Some of my strongest childhood memories involved giving away my 'very favorite pair of slippers' (that I NEVER wore) to a friend and then immediately panicking and wanting them back (my mom said no way and I quickly learned that re-nigging is a no-no).  I also vividly remember being paranoid every time I would go away for the weekend, wondering what my dad was going to give away or sell of mine this time (he is definitely someone who does not mind getting rid of stuff).  I am not sure where these attachment issues came from, but I am guessing that at their root lies a distinct fear of not having enough.  When I say that outloud, it sounds so ridiculous to me, because I have never not had everything that I needed to exist in this world.  So, I am simply resolving to end these attachment issues, here and now, starting today.  (Who needs a psychologist when you have a blog anyway?)
I did begin the great purge (with my closet of course) and I managed to sift out 2 huge recycling bags full of clothes.  I will not miss these clothes when they are gone.  (This is the mantra running through my head...)
Now for the big news... the first months totals are in! 
DRUMROLL PLEASE?...............................................
After one month of the living with only the Marebare Necessities:
  • I have spent $461.74 LESS on groceries than I did last January
  • I have spent $377.14 LESS on retail purchases than I did last January
  • I have NOT purchased myself a Starbucks Coffee of any kind (which would have saved me about $80 by now)
  • AND, our monthly Visa bill has been cut by OVER ONE HALF!!!
Plus, Trent thinks I am a superhero!

Yahoo!  I wish you all a happy, happy day!
Marebare :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Little Suzy Homemaker Takes Out a Squirrel...

If you have been following along daily, you may have noticed that I have been 'quiet' for the past few days.  Admitedly, the Olympics did have something to do with it (I'm still hooked), but mostly I have been very busy.  Don't worry, my absence in no way means that I have 'cheated' or 'fallen down' on the Marebare Challenge.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  I have been putting my all of my energies into figuring out how to do it even better.  For starters, Friday I spent most of the afternoon browsing through the thrift shops and the consignment stores in my area.  Was I ever pleasantly surprised!!!  I even indulged at the ladies consignment shop, buying myself a few sweaters for work, a skirt, a t-shirt, a pair of Parasuco jeans, a necklace and some earrings.... all of this for THIRTY-TWO DOLLARS!!!!  Can you believe it?  What a deal!  Then, at one of the thrift shops I came upon a goldmine of a find.  I found a Zoot Triathlon suit for $5!!!!  These things retail for over one hundred dollars, and this one is like new!!!!  If I decide to give up on my triathlon dreams because of my injuries, then at least I could sell the darn thing on Kijiji or something.  I am still revelling in the good deals!  I love shopping again!

Saturday Trent, Chephren and I laid low, and spent some much-needed quiet family time together.  Of course I took this opportunity to try and sew something new.  I made Chephren the adorable hat that he is wearing above... (nevermind that it was supposed to be a ladies hat and fit me, but nonetheless, all was not lost as you can see!)

Today is Sunday, and as I sit here wearing my dirty apron (yes I own an apron), looking more than slightly disheveled, I can't help but feel awash with a sense of serenity.  Despite the fact that I have flour in my hair, I feel satisfied following a busy morning and afternoon of baking making homemade soup, sewing another set of placemats for my mom, and all-around having a wonderful day of suzy-homemaking.  I also managed to brow-beat my husband into putting up my outdoor clothesline which he has been promising to do for three years... better late than never I suppose.  Speaking of Trent, I also found out that he has been withholding some valuable information from me; that we can get farm-fresh goods from many of our neighbours (eggs, poultry, beef, etc.)  (I think that it became apparent to him that this might be pertinent information, following my mention of starting up my own chicken coop a la Hodding Carter).  Speaking of Hodding Carter, I'll bet you were wondering what is up with the title of this post, right?  Well, after reading about Carter's attempts at taking out a ruffed grouse (hilarious story by the way), I accidentally almost mowed down a squirrel on the road by my house.  Believe it or not (I can't believe that I am about to admit this to the world), in that instant, I actually found myself wondering if you can eat squirrel!?  Now I know that I am taking this challenge pretty seriously, but come on, that's just gross!  On the other hand, could you imagine the look on my husband's face if I brought home some road kill for him to clean for dinner?  Don't worry, the squirrel is still safe... for now.

Happy Super Sunday!

Marebare :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Extreme Frugality Examples from Around the World

Recently, two of my friends and readers have passed along two interesting articles that are 'on topic' with the living with less theme. 

The first of these is actually a series of articles written by Hodding Carter for Gourmet Magazine.  Carter is a writer and father of four, and the articles depict his account of attempting to live with his family of six in 'extreme frugality'.  Admittedly, Carter's efforts put my efforts to shame, and reading his articles have made me question just how far I am willing to go to truly live with less. 

The next article is about the Hadza people of Tanzania, one of the last remaining true hunter-gatherer societies left in the modern world.  It is a fascinating story, and I strongly recommend that you read it, if only for interest's sake. 

Both of these articles have really caused me to question my motives for engaging in the process... and have left me feeling like my efforts are truly lacking (pardon the pun).  I am left wondering about the obstacles (both real and perceived) that are standing in my way from 'taking it up a notch'.  I find myself envying both Carter and the Hadza people, but for different reasons.  Carter is essentially doing the same thing that I am doing, attempting to live with less in our modern North American society, and doing a much better job of it, but am I willing to make the kind of changes that he has made: raising my own chickens, throwing sticks and rocks at wild birds in hopes of a meal (!), turning off my furnace, and switching to Folger's coffee in the 'big tub' (gasp!)??  If I am honest, the answer is no, but I am also interested in the 'why not' of this question so I am going to try to explore this topic a bit more in the coming weeks (or months).

As for the Hadza, I truly do envy parts of their lifestyle: no money, no social or familial obligations, no religious traditions, no war, no politics, etc.  Personally, I don't think that it is a coincidence that each of these elements of our society is also a leading contributor to both interpersonal and marital conflicts in our society.  The Hazda don't even marry by the way, at least not officially... What I am getting at, is that they live a life that is ultimately simple.  That being said, if you had a chance to read the article, you will also hear tales of their harsh living conditions; an increasing lack of freshwater, poisonous snakes, malaria-carrying mosquitos, flesh-piercing thorns, hungry jaguars, and the consumption of every part of the animals that they kill for food... and yes, they eat EVERY part.  I am really not sure that some of these things are for me...

Like many things in life, I am sensing that I need to find a balance.  I need to find a place to exist in my life that is authentic to who I really am and who I aspire to me.  I realize that it isn't going to happen overnight, and I do feel like I am on my way, however, for me, I think that it is going to be essential to continue to self-reflect and ask questions.  I guess that this is hugely what this blog is really about for me. 

Anyway, here is my favorite quote from the Hadza article:

The days I spent with the Hadza altered my perception of the world. They instilled in me something I call the "Hadza effect"—they made me feel calmer, more attuned to the moment, more self-sufficient, a little braver, and in less of a constant rush. I don't care if this sounds maudlin: My time with the Hadza made me happier. It made me wish there was some way to prolong the reign of the hunter-gatherers, though I know it's almost certainly too late. - Michael Finkel

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts...
Marebare :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1 month down... 11 to go!

Well, I've done it!  I have made it one month living with only the 'Marebare Necessities'!  I was planning on sharing the financial data with you today, but my visa bill runs from the 20th to the 20th, making that date so much easier for me to work with, so look for those numbers to be posted really soon!

I know that I have been quite reflective throughout this entire process, but I thought that I would give a 'month in review' update, especially for any readers who are joining in late.  This month has been all about trying to create new habits and behaviours.  It has been about trying to task analyze in a different way than I have done in the past.  Here are both some accomplishments and some revelations that I have had in the past month:
  • I have realized that I love the convenience of buying new items more than I enjoy the items themselves.
  • I have realized that the results of doing household renovations with only used materials can have unexpectedly pleasant results (but that it can also take FOREVER to find the materials that you seek)!
  • I am astonished to find that I actually have more time on my hands... I still haven't figured this one out, but it is undoubtedly a fact.
  • I have made approximately 20 or so loaves of bread, most of them edible (!)
  • I have not used a single plastic bag in 30 days.
  • I have taught myself to sew and made 2 sets of placemats.  (They are even kind of pretty too!)
  • I have only had one cup of starbucks coffee (not a latte), and it was purchased for me by someone else... not my fault.
  • Other than the above incident, I have only gone out for coffee TWICE, bringing my cup with me each time.
  • We have DRASTICALLY reduced the amount of food waste in our house thanks to the careful menu planning that we have been doing.
  • I have realized that some things are not that practical to buy used, mostly really inexpensive items that everyone tends to have in their home.
  • I cut my own hair to save some dough and it looks kind of ridiculous... anyone want to trade haircutting services for placemats?
  • I am quite shocked at how interested and supportive my friends and family have been... I find it to be quite encouraging and motivating to continue on.
  • My husband has come around and is mostly on board.  We are experiencing a different kind of happiness, which I think is a direct result of this little experiment.
  • I finally am starting to feel like a more authentic version of myself, especially as a parent...  It is pretty wild!  It makes me want to make bigger/better/faster and more profound life changes, so stay tuned!
Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. - Doug Firebaugh

I am still loving the Olympics, another Gold today!!!  Go Canada Go!

Marebare :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

What? It was Valentine's Day? I must have missed it... DARN!

What a great weekend!  First of all, I made it through what is perhaps the second-most overcommercialized holiday without any EXCESS!  Of course, I am referring to Valentine's day, a holiday that has never held a special place in my life, or that of my husband's.  And yes, we like it that way.  No pressure, no expectations, no over-priced chocolates or flowers, and no waiting in line at an expensive restaurant for dinner.  Trust me, it really is a joy to not be a part of this peculiar holiday.  After all, why do we need a particular day to remind us that we need to tell our loved ones that we love them?  Shouldn't we try to do this all year round?  I know that my husband makes me feel special almost every day of the year... after all, he's my lobster!  (and we all know that lobsters mate for life...)

Anyway, we followed up a blissfully unremarkable Valentines day with a great family day... a day that I think should be a holiday for every Canadian.  To me, it is simply a time to spend with those that you love, doing what it is that you love to do together.  Trent, Chephren & I, along with some friends and my dad went wall climbing for the afternoon.  Trent and I climbed, and Chephren ran around the gym like a wildman!  He had so much fun, it was just awesome to see.  Of course, we followed this great afternoon up with a wonderful dinner with my parents, but of course, we don't need a holiday to do that!  We are very blessed in that we get to do that with them almost every day.  Lucky, lucky, lucky are we!

Not too much else to report.  I am still trucking along with the elements of the 'plan': careful meal planning, making my own bread, soup nights, salad nights, second-hand goods, etc.  I wouldn't say that all of this has become second nature yet, but it is becoming a bit easier as the weeks go on.  I can honestly say that I'm not longing for anything as of yet, except for perhaps the instant gratification that comes with the purchasing of long sought-after items.  For instance, I am still looking for some second-hand stone for our fireplace downstairs, otherwise, the room is done and looks pretty great!  If anyone has some stone lying around, let me know!!!

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard

Well said Jane!

Happy Family Day Alberta!

Marebare :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Distracted, and yet motivated...

Okay, I admit it.  I am the world's biggest Olympics Junkie.  The Olymipcs start (no matter which season), and I completely tune out to the world around me... I just can't help myself.  Yesterday was Jenn Heil's race, a childhood and family friend of mine.  It was such an emotional day, I couldn't even bring myself to write, so just IMAGINE how Jenn was feeling!?  She is such a hero, there are no words to describe her...  Then, tonight, Alex Bilodeau lights it up and wins gold!  It was just incredible!  Those two athletes, among others (speed skater Kristina Groves for example), almost make me completely forget about the project that I am engaged in... like I said, JUNKIE!  Given that we don't have satellite or cable tv, it certainly helps my case that I am fortunate enough to watch the Olympics for FREE on CTV!!!!  What a sweet set-up!  Canada is just the BEST, and I am so pumped to be able to be a part of these games!

Now, despite the fact that I am a 'proud' junkie, I am still aware of this challenge in which I am engaged in.  In fact, I am perhaps more engaged in it than ever.  Today, my family and I went on our regular weekend run of errands and visited Costco and my grandma in Edmonton.  While I am a huge advocate for visiting Grandma at this point (she is Chephren's Great-Grandma by the way), the rest of the trip left me in a state of 'underwhelment'.  (I am pretty sure that is not a word).  What I am trying to say is that in the roughly 4 weeks since I have started this challenge, shopping (of any kind), has lost its shimmer for me.  I find myself in those stores, counting the minutes until we can leave.  It is certainly an unusual feeling, and I mentioned to my mom tonight that maybe we could change our weekend activity to include something a lot more active and fun, especially for Chephren's sake.  I guess we'll see what becomes of that request...

Is it possible that I have lost the will to shop???  Maybe... and at the same time I hope so!  Truly, I guess only time will tell, but for now, I would much rather watch Canada compete in the Olympic Games then shop for ridiculous consumer goods... a step in the right direction, I think.

All the best to Canadian Athletes!  Go Canada Go!!!!

Marebare :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wellness Counter

Hey!  Today's topic is a bit off topic, but not really.  Today I want to talk about personal wellness.  You see, for me 'living with less' has a lot to do with wellness.  In the past few weeks, I can honestly tell you that this little challenge has improved both my own personal wellness as well as that of my family's almost 10-fold.  What do I mean by this?  Well, I walk around with a greater sense of who I am and how I am connected with the world around me.  I feel more in tune with nature, my body, my friends and my family.  I know, it sounds crazy right?  The truth is, when you stop worrying about what you don't have, you realize what you do have... and I have many things in my life that are pretty darn fantastic.

In my mind, wellness has a lot to do with awareness.  Amazingly, I think that a lot of people go through their life without being aware of, present in, or truly engaged with, the world around them.  I read a great article the other day that offered a great suggestion for bringing awareness to your everyday life and to help focus your thoughts on improving your own personal wellness.  The idea is to keep track of every time you do something positive for yourself.  Have you ever used a stroke counter for golf?  I haven't, but I gather that it is a little do-dad that allows you to 'click it' each time you take a stroke.  Now, apply this clicker thing to wellness and give yourself a click each time you do something positive for yourself during the day.  Given that I am not a golfer (nor will I ever be), I decided to use this idea without the do-dad and just keep track mentally (although I am sure it would be much more satisfying with the clicker).  If you are in need of tangible or visual rewards, you could give yourself checkmarks, stickers, etc. in some kind of log book or chart if you'd like.  I tried this strategy out yesterday and gave myself the goal of obtaining 10 'clicks'.  Once I thought of it in this way, it was easy, and man did I ever have a fabulous day!  The truth is, when you take care of YOU, the world automatically seems like a better place.  Improving your personal wellness is basically like putting on a pair of rose-coloured glasses through which to see the world.  And who doesn't like to view the world in such a positive way?

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today - now quit reading and get clicking!!!

“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” - Mary Anne Radmacher

One of my favorite quotes so far!
Marebare :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A 'nudge' back in the right direction

Just when I was really starting to question whether or not I might be taking things a little bit too far (I cut my own hair on Saturday), a friend sent me this article that really helped me to put things back into perspective.

Now, if you are lazy like me, or just don't have the time or interest to read it, I will give you the 'coles notes'.  Basically it is about a millionaire in Austria who decided that his fortune was the source of his UNhappiness (no, that is not a typo).  So?  What did decide to do about it?  He chose to set up a charity in South America and donate the bulk of his fortune to it, whilst also setting himself up with a meagre budget to live on and a very modest abode - he will now be living on about $1400/month.  Crazy you say?  I totally disagree.  This guy is living the dream in my opinion.  My greatest hope would be that Trent and I could 'retire' at an early age and live on a very modest income.  I have seen (and continue to see) so many people working until they are too old to enjoy their retirement.  Personally, I actually like spending time with my husband, and wish that I could do so each and every day.  I would literally forgo almost every imaginable material possession in order to do it too.  Not that I don't like my creature comforts, we all do... but I do like my husband more!

After reading this man's story, I have come away with a renewed sense of determination to see this challenge through and perhaps even take it a bit beyond.   

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. - Thomas Jefferson

Have a good one!
Marebare :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gift-Giving for Cheap (or for that matter, for free!)

So, more digging on the internet.  I found this list of 30 totally free gift ideas on this website.  Of course, I couldn't resist adding my own two-cents on each of them in italics...

1. Give them breakfast in bed - You probably want to save this one for your partner or your roommate!

2. Print them off a handmade coupon for a back massage - I would say again, save this one for someone that you feel 'close' too!

3. Cook a special dinner for a friend or loved one - This is one that I have done often.  It is especially great for families that have just had a baby.

4. Give someone a special a day of pampering - I would save this one for any of the special women in your life (wife, friends, sister, mother, mother-in-law) - not that men don't like to be pampered...
5. Write a poem or a quote in honor of someone's birthday - We do this quite a bit in my family, and I know that I personally have a received a few of these that I cherish deeply.  My parents wrote Trent and I one for our wedding which we absolutely loved!

6. Clip the coupons from Sunday's paper and mail them in a card to a frugal shopper - I think that this one might be a bit out-dated, but on-line coupons might work, or for that matter, clip out any article in a newspaper or magazine that you think a friend might enjoy and send it by mail with a note.  (My friend Tess recently did this for me and it was very thoughtful).

7. Create a drawing or painting that has special meaning. - For those of you who are artistically inclined... (I wish I was, I think I'll just stick to photographs though!)

8. Make them a piece of jewelry out of seashells or pine cones. - Maybe a little bit juvenile... but who knows, you might be able to come up with something really neat.  If you do, I want to hear about it (and see the pics to prove it!)  My friend Jody once used 'earthy' items such as these to decorate a plain picture frame so you could do that instead.

9. Fill up a glass jar with sea stones and tie raffia around the top - See the above comment...

10. Light a candle and run a warm bath for that special person - Again, good one for someone that you share your life with.  Trent if you are reading this, I'll have mine with a glass of wine... (!)

11. Send an e-card or online greeting. - I don't find these to be all that personal.  Get out a pen and paper and send them a hand-written note instead.  These are my favorite and they let the person know that you think that they are worth the effort.

12. Print off information on a topic of interest to someone. - My brother Ben is the best for this.  He is always sending me stuff that he thinks that I might be interested in reading.  When you think about it, he is really saying, "I saw this and thought of you", which is a nice thought, don't you think?

13. Pass along a family heirloom or something that has sentimental value. - Probably not something that you are going to do everyday or anything, and it doesn't necessarily have to be an heirloom.  Books are wonderful things to share between friends.  I have mailed books to family/friends that I have enjoyed and that I think that they might like to read as well.

14. Surprise someone with a picnic using food that you already have on hand. - My husband is the very best at this.  Try it - your partner will love you for it!  I also have done this with some of my friends.  It is cheap and fun!

15. Leave a message on the bathroom mirror using toothpaste or lipstick. - Um, this one is so not for me.  Are you kidding?  Make more of a mess in my bathroom than I need to?  Maybe in the movies, but I am guessing those people don't have to clean it up afterwards!

16. Make cookies or fudge and wrap them in tissue paper. - I think that this is a good one.  People tend to love receiving baking and again, it lets them know that they are worth the time and effort. 

17. Send an e-mail that lists out the reasons why they are special or why you love them. - Kind of cheesy, but nice.  I know that I for one, do not tell 'my people' often enough how special they are to me.

18. Pick them up a free kitten or free puppy. - DO NOT DO THIS!  And if you do decide to do this, I cannot be held responsible!

19. Give them an old photograph that has been tucked away for some time. - I kind of like this one... especially for your parents.

20. Create a hobby scrapbook with images, articles and tidbits about their favorite activity. - I like this one too.  If you are like me and prefer to do things like this digitally, there are a ton of sites out there in which you can do it (although, I just remembered, this isn't free, whoops!) So, scrapbooking it is...

21. Check out a book at the library for someone and return it for them on time. - I can't see myself doing this, but if you want to, have at it!

22. Give them a seedling to grow using one of your own plants. - Personally, I love this one.  You can also find neat little pots at thrift stores to give them as well.

23. Find a funky shaped rock and write a story about what it reminds you of.  - Pretty neat one I think.  If you are artistically inclined, you could also paint on it.

24. Sew together pieces of old clothing for a truly unique table runner. - I love this one!  My sewing is coming along too by the way (now that I know how to use the darned thing!)

25. Create a gift voucher for one hour of doing whatever they want. - Ummmm, be careful who you give this one to... if you know what I mean ;)

26. Weed their garden for them or rake their lawn. - I hope someone gives this to me this summer... have you seen the size of my garden?

27. Decorate a household utensil with craft items you have on hand. - I am not sure what exactly they have in mind on this one...

28. Give them a hug. - You should be doing this anyway.

29. Give them a kiss. - Not exactly for everyone on your list is it?

30. REGIFT! - My all-time favorite gift-giving practice!!!!  (Come on, you know you've done it too!)Re-gift, but do it with caution and careful thought! (aka, don't regift the gift that you received from your aunt back to your aunt OR, don't give your mother that copy of 'Slayers' that you received for Christmas!)

For more on this topic, click here to read a list of re-gifting no-no's.

Okay, in all seriousness, it really is important to acknowledge the important people in your lives, no matter how you choose to do it. 
“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” - Richard Moss

Honour a friend or loved-one today!

Marebare :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

A really neat quiz...

I will admit that I am a bit brain-dead today, so I thought that instead of rambling on about the goings-on of my life and experiences, I would do some 'stumbling' around on the internet looking for some unique 'Marebare Necessities' related content. 

Success!  The website:  Cool Tools for Greener Living has a list of neat environmental quizzes that you can do...  I did most of them, and my favorite by far was the 'Environmental Footprint' one.  It is a very thorough questionnaire that really makes you question your day-to-day habits and practices.  I am not going to disclose my results here, but suffice it to say that although I am doing slightly better than our 'national average' in most categories, I could still be doing A LOT better!  It really made me think about what other changes I could be making on a daily basis to help reduce my environmental footprint. 

As an aside, I just want to say that there was a time when looking at sites such as these ones would have honestly given me an anxiety attack, or worse, nightmares.  I think it is because I felt so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things - much like the conversation I shared with you between Cheryle and I in previous posts.  Lately though, I have come to realize that it is a matter of perspective.  It is not realistic to expect yourself (or anyone else around you for that matter) to be perfect.  Alternatively, I would suggest that you could aspire to be a slightly better version of yourself.  In other words, small changes can have a great impact in the long run.  Making smaller changes (rather than gigantic ones), also makes these new behaviors more likely to last over the long term.  I guess what I am trying to say is, try not to get overwhelmed by the negative facts that you will likely see on these sites.  Instead, try to focus in on what you are doing right and build on that...  That is how I choose to look at it anyway.  So, if you have some time, try some of the quizzes, they really are pretty cool!

The earth is what we all have in common. - Wendell Berry Author, farmer, cultural critic

Sweet Dreams,

Marebare :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who doesn't love FREE STUFF?!

Hey!  I just found out about a really rad group/organization called 'Freecycle'.  A good friend of my family - Cindy, turned me onto this group recently, and I have since joined my local chapter in Spruce Grove.  How it works is you apply to sign up to your local organization and they provide you with a medium in which to post and reply to entries from other folks who are trying to get rid of/want other people's stuff.  In other words, 'one man's trash is another man's treasure'.  The best part is?  It is all FREE.  You heard me, FREE!  And who doesn't love free stuff?  From what I have seen so far, this is a very well-run and efficient organization, so I highly encourage you to join in the fun!

Here is the link to the Freecycle Website - join your local chapter today!  Here is a quote from this website:

I gave a loveseat to a lady who had nothing. Her husband had walked out on her and her children, and they were starting over from scratch. She was so thankful she cried - over a loveseat I would have probably thrown away.” 
—Louisville, KY

Now doesn't this just warm your heart?

Marebare :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The No Impact Experiment

As I have alluded to in previous blog entries, I realize that I am certainly not the first (nor hopefully the last) to commit to a challenge such as this one.  I did a bit of 'surfing' today and stumbled upon some really cool and inspiring stuff out there.  One of my favorites, was the 'No Impact Man' blog.  A few years ago, No Impact Man, AKA Colin Beavan and his family committed to living off the grid in New York city afor one full year.  Colin's project has grown exponentially since then and he now has a huge following, as well as both a book and a movie deal (!)  Colin has an 'experiment' for his readers to try out, so, given that it is very fitting with what I am trying to do, I thought that I would sign up for his challenge, as well as challenge YOU (yes, you) to do this one week challenge with me as well. The date for the challenge this spring hasn't been set yet, so you still have time.  The site also has lots of information if you have any questions about it.  If you decide to join, let me know and I think it would super rad to post all of our experiences on this blog as well. Go to the No Impact Project site and sign up under 'experiment' today!

On a related topic, while I was digging around on Colin's site, I was also reminded of this little video: The Story of Stuff.  It is absolutely AMAZING!  If you haven't seen it yet, watch it today.  Her other videos are well worth watching too!

So, today's theme is: GET INVOLVED (aka 'everybody's doing it') - even if it's just for a week.  If you do decide to join in the fun, I want to hear about it!

The gauntlet has been laid...
Marebare :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

One project done and another begun

Well, I finished my first sewing project - a set of 6 placemats.  And, considering the EPIC amount of errors that I made while making them, they actually look half decent, as long as you don't look at them too closely.  Trent is actually in absolute awe that I was able to complete this project at all - considering that I completed half of the project WHILE SEWING WITH THE FOOT OF THE MACHINE UP!!!  (How was I supposed to know that you were supposed to put it down?)  Anyway, he figures that I must have mad skills just given the fact that I was able to sew anything like that at all.  Luckily, he came home before the final step was done and was able to save me from screwing up the project all together. 
On a totally different topic, I wrote a funny little poem today - mostly for kids, but I promised my mom that I would post it on here so that she could share it with her friends.  I was inspired by the guest author that I met last week - Lori Nunn of Canmore, so I finally put pen to paper today and wrote this little number:

What's for Dinner?

My tummy is rumbling, I can't wait to get home
My bus driver's so slow, it's making me moan
We finally arrive at my stop, I'm elated
I near pass out in my driveway, but soon I'll be sated

I stumble in through the door and into the hall
I'm seeing stars on the ceiling, the stairs and the wall
I drag myself to the kitchen for a most tasty dish
But instead I am greeted with a plate full of fish!

I put my hand to my mouth, I think I might retch
I ran for the sink, which made a quick catch 
The problem is this, I don't like things new
I just like what I like, and lately that's stew

Bubbling and yummy and filled with good stuff
When stew's on the table I just can't get enough
My mom, she knows this, but she's giving me a 'look'
The one that means this: 'I'm no short order cook'

'But mom' I cry out, I'm starting to bawl
'You know that the stew makes me grow big and tall!
For the last time I ate it I grew a whole inch!'
(If you're short, you should try it, it was really a cinch)

So tonight I'll go hungry, at least 'till I check
Just what good this fish does, (what a pain in the neck)
With a growl in my tummy and a scowl on my face
I trudge up to my bedroom, my own special place

I turn on the computer and the screen comes aglow
And I click onto google, for they always know
I type in the word 'fish' and get 9 million hits
My mom's dinner plans are giving me fits!

I begin to click onto page after page
Pickeral, trout and red herrings are making me rage!
Salmon and scallops, well they start with 'S'
Doesn't make them worth eating, that is my guess

I keep on clicking and clicking until I suddenly stop
I don't even know which fish we have got!
'Mom' I yell down the stairs with a whine
'That gross fish that you're serving, do you know what kind?'

'Tuna!' she bellows, I can tell she's annoyed
'Well you should've served stew, which you know I enjoy!'
Still hungry as ever I returned to my work
My search was near over, I thought with a smirk

Aha! I did find it, the answer I sought
I found out exactly what's in that fish that we've got
'Oh wow!' I cried, 'Oh my, and Oh Gee!'
Did you know that tuna have high Vitamin B?

Now that I know this, I guess I can eat
I sure hope that this fish tastes better than feet
I sit down at the table, under mom's watchful gaze
My stubbornness no doubt, never ceasing to amaze

I took my first bite and I started to grin
After all, tunafish tastes kind of like chicken!
And chicken goes in stew, but I guess you knew that
So with glee I finished up, in no time flat

After the dishes, I headed on up to bed
With visions of tunafish, swimming in my head
The next day I awoke to a day that was sunny
But I noticed right away, that I felt a bit funny

My day was sure busy, which was just as well
I did great in math class and man could I spell!
I got all the answers right on a geography test
Which I usually don't, even when trying my best

I thought to myself, could it be, is it fact?
Can tunafish make you smarter like that?
If this is the case that I must not delay
I will trade in my stew for tuna today!

I got onto the bus, hungry as usual
I am dreaming of tunafish, starting to drool
At long last I am home, I leap like a frog!
But when I rushed through the door I found a.... hot dog?

Now, I know that this poem is slightly off topic - but I thought that I would share it anyway, hope you enjoyed it!

Marebear :P

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Local Thrift Shops, Stellar Finds and more SEWING

So, I had some time yesterday (thanks to my super-amazing-baby-watcher Rachel!) and I was finally able to poke my head in the door of the two local thrift shops in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.  At the Stony Plain shop, I bought:
  • A big farm for Chephren
  • Two puzzles for Chephren
  • Eight books for Chephren
All of this for guess how much?  GUESS?!  Only $8!!!!! (Which by the way, is what one of those books would have cost if it was 'new')

Then, I was extremely pleased with the United Church's Thrift store in Spruce Grove.  It was quite big and they had quite a bit of good 'stuff' there.  I managed to find a few huge pieces of fabric (for sewing, remember) and some other crafty stuff like yarn, string, etc.  So, I should be busy for the next little while trying to knit/sew my gifts for the next year.  Given the fact that I am new at the sewing thing, it might take me a while to get any good at it so I thought that I had better start on the Christmas gifts NOW!

Well, you won't believe what I woke up and did today?!  I got up and started sewing!  Like, with a MACHINE and everything!  And Trent wasn't even here to help me.  No one was actually.  Luckily, the color of thread that was already 'loaded' on the machine kind of worked for my project, because I have no idea how to change it (or anything else for that matter!).  All's I know is you push the little pedal and pull the fabric through and 'zing' - you're sewing!

I must say, the 'project' that I am working on is shaping up quite nicely, I will have to post pics as soon as they're done, which will hopefully be tonight sometime.

Cannot people realize how large an income is thrift? ~Cicero (Does this mean I am off the hook for working?!)

Peace n' love!
Marebear :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Addicted to Convenience

So I am just over two weeks in and things are going fairly well, although I would be lying if I said that there were certain things that I didn't miss...

First of all, Starbucks.  Now, I know that this sounds ridiculous, but honestly, this is the thing that I miss the most.  When I ask myself exactly what it is that I miss about it though, it isn't the coffee itself, or the ambiance of the store, or even the way that little white cup feels in my hot little hands (sigh), but it is actually the convenience that I miss the very most.  I miss going into town and not having to 'plan' to bring along my thermos of coffee or tea, (which is mostly what I have been doing, otherwise, I tend to go without).  I miss buying myself a 'treat' when I am finished doing a task that I mostly dislike (like getting the oil changed or taking Chephren for his shots).

And there are other things that I 'need' (read: am pining for) that would be just so easy to go and get new, and they aren't even that expensive... For example: bread pans.  I need some new bread pans, as I have been making all of my own bread for myself and my folks, and I only have two that are the 'right' size.  I have been looking for them on-line and in used goods shops, but these things are so cheap that you can't really find them used.  I also need a large metal bread bowl (or 2) for the same purpose.  Now, admittedly, I am making do with what I have, but it would be so much easier (and more convenient - there's that word again) if I could just go out and buy these things new.  

When I really think about it, I think that most of the money that I have spent (ie. wasted) in the past has been largely due to convenience, and of course, my impulsivity.  A huge benefit of this project for me then, is that I am being forced to evaluate which things are worth putting the time in to find used, and which things are simply easier to buy new.  For now, the search continues for these inexpensive items!

There is no reason that the universe should be designed for our convenience. - John D. Barrow
(says who John!?)

Hope the sun is shining wherever you are!
Marebear :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

So, you want to learn to sew do you?

Those of you who know me well (and even some strangers on the street) have probably heard me brag about my husband's sewing ability.  He has got some absolutely MAD skills in this department.  In the past, he has sewn me a duvet covers, pillowcases, curtains for our VW van and of course, repaired every single thing of mine that has ever needed mending.  How could such a thing happen you might wonder?  Well, my husband took home economics throughout Junior High, and not because of his love for home-making activities, oh no.  It was more about the anticipated ratio between girls and boys in the class.  Pretty clever hey? That is my Trentie - he is no dummy!  Alas, I was not one of the gals in those classes, hence, he is the sewing master while I am sadly and ridiculously unskilled in this area.

Given that it is apparently going to be a year of new challenges to be undertaken, I have decided that I am going to try to learn to sew.  Also, given the fact that I am trying to save money, I will be attempting to do so mostly on my own, (likely with Trent's help of course).  I started today in fact.  I actually sewed buttons (yes, buttons) onto the end of our duvet cover (which was cheap and poorly made to begin with, but oh-so-pretty!).  So, after months of it driving me bonkers, I finally did something about it.  Plus, get this - I didn't even have all of the correct buttons to sew back on, so (gasp!) I had to use some extra buttons that I have been especially saving for just such an occasion.  I can't even tell you the kind of satisfaction that I got from such a ridiculously juvenile task.  And no, they don't look that great even, BUT, my quilt will now have to refrain from falling out the bottom of the cover and onto the floor during the night, and this gives me great joy!

I will keep you posted on the remainder of my sewing adventures as they arise, and should you be the (un)lucky recipient of a hand-made gift that I may sew for you in the next year, I hereby apologize in advance!

“One has to look out for engineers they begin with sewing machines and end up with the atomic bomb” - Marcel Pagnol

Happy sewing!
Marebear :)