Friday Favorites — 02092018

Hi friends, I hope you’ve had an awesome week!

I’ve decided to try out a “Friday Favorites” feature here on my blog this year. It’ll be a short list of things I’ve enjoyed throughout the week or in the recent past.

I figure this will not only allow me to share a little more about my day-to-day life, it will also work as a sort of gratitude exercise for me, helping me to stay focused on positive things.

I think my personality naturally leans toward the gloomier side (I’ve mentioned before, how depressed I was when I was younger), and while I’ve become a lot more cheerful over the years, it’s much easier for me to stay upbeat when I focus on the good.

And maybe some of the things I post about will be useful for you, too! 🙂

So, here we go, in no particular order:

1) A clean pantry, freezer, and fridge

Last week I decided to clean out my freezer, fridge and pantry. None of these areas ever gets too bad, honestly, because I try to keep on top of such things, but still…I knew both could use a bit of straightening and cleaning, and there were a few older items lurking in each that needed to come out.

fridge

I felt so much better after doing this! Especially since it reminded me of some of the dry and frozen goods I have squirreled away…which in turn helped spur some ideas for upcoming dinners – always useful when it comes time to write up the meal plan for the week!

2) Awaken with JP

I learned about this YouTube channel by listening to The Minimalists’ podcast. They had JP Sears on as a guest at one of their live events. I’d never heard of him before. Because I live under a rock. But now I’ve watched/listened to a bunch of his videos and think they’re all pretty funny.

Btw, I personally think gift cards are awesome, both to give and to receive. But the video still made me lol :).

3) Thank you notes

Steve and I spent some time over the weekend writing thank you notes for everyone who donated to our recent fundraising efforts on behalf of the Houston Food Bank (unless I didn’t have your physical address, in which case I messaged you! :)) Writing thank you notes is something I often put off, but after I do it I’m always glad I did. It reminds me to be grateful to have people in my life who care about me and support what I’m doing. So I guess you could say I’m grateful to have something to be grateful for!

4) Digital comics

I never really read too many comics growing up, just stuff like Richie Rich and Archie when I was little. A few years after we got married, though, Steve got me into reading more grown up things…like superhero titles ;).

I’m so glad, too, because I love comics, now!

Deadpool WG vol 9

As a writer, I feel I can learn a lot from how tightly these stories are paced, and how efficiently they are told, with as few words as possible. Plus, they are just plain fun to read. And now with the advent of digital comics, it’s easier than ever to collect a whole bunch of titles without needing an extra closet (or two) in which to store all those long-boxes!

long box_1

 

I like to read my comics on the Comixology or Kindle apps, using my Amazon Kindle Fire. These past few months a lot of Marvel titles have gone on sale on Amazon, and I’ve been tearing through them. Particularly the Deadpool catalog. So funny!

5) Target runs w/Steve

I only go to Target every once in a while, when there’s something specific I need from there, so it always feels like kind of a special occasion to me. I like to wait until Steve’s off work so we can go together. It’s just more fun that way. Probably because after we’re done shopping we usually sit and have a snack and some conversation in the little concessions area up front.

pexels-photo-264529.jpeg

(Stock photo from Pexels)

 

This last time we went, I was pleased that a couple of the things I needed were on clearance, and that I remembered to use a $5 gift card. My bill ended up being only $27. This isn’t so unusual these days, but there was definitely a time when I would have spent waaay more than that, and probably on things I didn’t need at all. It still surprises me sometimes, how much my attitude toward shopping has changed, but I like love it, and so does my bank account. #ThanksMinimalism!

6) Jessica Smith TV

Jessica Smith is another YouTube discovery. I’m not even sure how I first heard of her; probably YouTube recommended one of her clips. All I know is, I quickly became hooked on her workouts. They’re so simple, yet not necessarily easy. There are no complicated moves and usually no jumping involved, yet somehow she always makes me “sparkle” (her nice word for sweat) like crazy. But I also always have fun! These are a great way to break up the week’s workouts, on those days when I don’t run.

You can watch a ton of Jessica’s content for free on YouTube, but she also has a digital store with a mind-boggling array of professionally-produced discs and digital downloads available for purchase.

walk on

This one includes my favorite routine, the “Boogie Down Mile.” Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds!

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the cute pup, Peanut, who cameos in most of Jessica’s videos. This may just be what other work out videos have always been missing: an adorable French bulldog. ‘Cause how can you go wrong with one of those? Answer: you can’t.

7) Dune

Steve and I and a friend of ours are doing a group-read of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune.

It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ve read it twice before, but it’s been a long time. I’m loving it all over again! Not to mention it’s bringing back lots of memories.

In some ways, I really hate thinking about my younger years (because, again, I was often in a dark place back then), but Dune is a pretty good memory for me. I was probably thirteen the first time I read it and back then, the story completely captured my imagination in a way nothing else ever had before. I remember being blown away by the realization that someone could a write a book like this, with such a detailed background, its own language and history, etc…it definitely inspired me to want to make up my own fantasy/sci-fi world, too!

Maybe someday I still will ;).

Also, how awesome is this retro cover?! I love it.

Dune

8) Pretzel buns

I know pretzel bread was sort of everywhere a few years ago now, and now…not so much. But just because they’re not trendy anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t still delicious! Steve and I had some this week, with homemade veggie burgers.

pretzel sandwich

A left-over. Went deliciously the following day with some Tofurky slices.

These buns were store-bought, but maybe sometime I’ll try to make my own.

There was that one time Steve and I made pretzels and they turned out alright, so this is not completely outside the realm of possibility!

Okay, y’all, I think that’s it for now. What have you been loving lately? I hope you’ve had a wonderful week, and that you enjoy your weekend! Love,

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#MinsGame Days 3 and 4

I don’t know about anyone else, but even though it is now January 4th I still feel like I’m “coming down” from the high of the holidays. Maybe it’s because I’m easily overstimulated? I’m not sure. All I know is that even though I had a great, fun Christmas and New Year’s, I just feel kind of drained now. Which is unfortunate because it’s a new year and I would rather feel pumped up and motivated right now. Oh, well. Maybe by next week I’ll feel sufficiently recovered enough to get started on a few things :).

Speaking of overstimulating…this Minimalism Game project was fun, but decluttering is always a bit overwhelming for me. It’s hard not to feel emotional when you’re looking through and parting with your things, particularly if you’re purging a lot of items at once. I don’t want or need any of this stuff anymore but I still attach emotions to getting rid of it, even if it’s just the negative emotions of “man, I can’t believe I used to spend so much money on this,” or “I can’t believe I’ve held onto/carried this around for so long,” etc.

I’m sure those of you who have cleaned out your homes know what I’m talking about! Still, the benefit is so worth it.

To wit…

Days 3 and 4 relieved us of the following:

  • 1 water bottle, 1 mouse pad, and 1 letter file/organizer thingy (technical term)
  • 1 belt, 1 tie hanger, 1 broken USB drive, and 1 utensil holder thingy (also a technical term)

Onward to Day 5!

Minimalism Game

Happy New Year!

I hope 2017 has started off well for everybody. Steve and I had a low-key celebration here at home, as usual, and spent NYE eating our traditional meal of tamales (tofu, spinach, and cheese) and various snack foods. We watched Phantasm II (because one of Steve’s Christmas presents from me was the new re-mastered edition of the first movie and we’d watched that a few nights ago).

Anyway…In an effort to continue our seemingly never-ending de-cluttering process, Steve and I decided to play the Minimalism Game last month. We sort of cheated, I guess, because we started gathering things to get rid of way back in November, in anticipation of the game. But whatever, I don’t think there are really any hard and fast rules with this project :). I’ll be posting what we got rid of here throughout the rest of this month. And since I’m already behind (surprise, surprise), here are the first two days’ worth of stuff:

  • 1 broken chip clip
  • 2 dry erase markers

 

Exciting start, huh? 🙂 I decided to make the images black and white in an effort to make photos of clutter look somewhat appealing. Not an easy task, really.

 

 

So, what’s a Minimalist?

I wanted to share this video I saw on YouTube recently, because I think it’s probably the best video I’ve seen about minimalism so far (and trust me, I’ve watched a lot).

Specifically, it’s one of the most thorough explanations I’ve seen of what it can mean to be a minimalist and how you can go about becoming one. Also, here is the link from Becoming Minimalist that Audra uses as a template for her discussion. If you’re curious about the minimalist lifestyle and what it can potentially do for you, check these out :)!

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realize it is already a full week into 2016, but as it’s likely clear by now, I am not the greatest at posting in a timely fashion. Ah, well. I’m sorry. But I hope everyone had a nice holiday season — and a good 2015, for that matter.

Looking back, it was a really fun year for S and me. It seems like we went a lot of places and did many interesting things. Our most involved travel adventure was a road trip we took to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see Rob Zombie and Korn (plus a ton of other bands) back in October. Along the way we stopped in Hope, Arkansas (where we toured the childhood home of Bill Clinton), Memphis, Tennessee (Graceland) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (The Warhol). We had a blast!

Here are some pictures of the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich I tried at Graceland. Mmm, yummy! S, for some odd reason, does not like bananas so he didn’t partake, but he had a veggie burger that was pretty good, too :).

PB and banana sandwich

What else can I say about 2015? As the year came to a close, I found myself not feeling the need to make a ton of resolutions, for once. It feels odd saying it but I think I’ve gotten to a point where I am just generally happy and content with the way my life works. I’ve managed to cut out a lot of excess and focus on what matters most to me:  my marriage and home life, reading, and writing as much as possible.

Speaking of which…I blew my yearly reading goal out of the water. I read more books in 2015 than I ever have before in my life (or at least since I started keeping track) — 86! I know some people regularly read way more than that, but for me 86 is a crazy-high number. I usually hover somewhere around 50. The greatest part of this is that 40 of those were “old” books, or titles I’d had in my possession prior to Christmas, 2014. So I was able to wipe a whole bunch of reallly old stuff off my TBR list. This makes me happy. Very happy. So even though I didn’t do so well at controlling the number of new books I acquired (I bought 73, all told, and that’s not counting Christmas presents), I still feel pretty good about the progress I made in this area. Here’s hoping this year I can beat the reading record again, as well as actually stick to my rules of not buying stuff I can’t read right away. I still need a bit more discipline in that area, it seems.

On the writing front, I also probably wrote/revised more in 2015 than ever before, too. I’ve got a couple of long-ish projects in the works right now, but am too superstitious to say anything else about them at this point :). Soon, I hope.

And on the minimalism front…the other day I went into Walmart and didn’t buy anything that wasn’t on my (very short) shopping list. If that doesn’t say I’ve turned the minimalist corner, I’m not sure what does. And it’s not like I wasn’t tempted. I almost bought pumpkin pie- and cake batter-flavored ChapSticks. And a Star Wars puzzle. These things may or may not have gone for a little ride in my shopping cart. But the important thing is, they saw their way back out of there before I left the store! There’s a time when that wouldn’t have happened. I felt so much better having said “no” to these things, though, not because there’s anything wrong with buying them but because I know I didn’t need them and I would have regretted buying more stuff for no good reason. This year I hope to continue to buy less, get rid of more, minimize and just generally continue to simplify my life. It feels so much better this way.

Hoping your year has gotten off to a great start, and wishing you a wonderful 2016,

Elizabeth

A nice video

I really liked this video!

I thought this young lady did a great job of succinctly summing up her journey from living a materialistic life to a more minimalist one, and I could relate to many of the things that she said.

If you are looking for encouragement and inspiration to make changes in your life to become more minimalist (or if you are just curious about what it means to be minimalist), I’d recommend watching it.

Have an awesome day,

Elizabeth

5 TBR (the impossible dream?)

On Tuesdays, I post a bit about what I have been reading lately.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to SO not be a minimalist, right? Well, here’s another example.

I used to work in a video store. This was back in the days when movies were released on VHS. I love movies (and I had a pretty good employee discount), so I used to buy TONS of tapes. One day I told one of my co-workers that I had bought so many VHS, I had stacks of them at home that I had never watched or even unwrapped. He was shocked. He said “When I buy a movie, I am always so stoked to watch it that I can’t wait. I take it home and watch it that night!”

So then, I was shocked, because…it made me wonder. Why was I buying so many tapes if I wasn’t excited enough to watch them, not just that very same night but in some cases, not ever? Basically, I was just hoarding. Something I used to do a lot of back then. Thankfully I (eventually) got over that sort of behavior. For the most part.

Recently, this little tid-bit of conversation with my co-worker re-surfaced in my memory while I was contemplating my TBR piles (both physical and digital). I counted and it seems S and I own roughly 178 books that I have never read :(. Granted, a lot of these are his, not things I bought for myself, but…some are mine and altogether, there are probably around 100 or more that I would like to read someday. I know this sounds crazy and it will likely take me a few years, but I would like to get that number down to…5.

Yes, 5 total!

Wouldn’t that be awesome? I can’t see myself reading more than 5 books at any one time anyway (I usually read 1 – 3, MAYBE 4), so 5 seems like a decent number to have in reserve at any given time.

In order to make this happen, I will obviously have to stop buying so many books. So I’ve implemented a new rule for myself. From now on, I can only buy things I will read immediately*. Things that I am “stoked” to read right away. Because if I’m not that excited about reading it NOW (or in the VERY near future), it can probably wait, hm? True, it may no longer be on sale later (this is where I get into trouble, with sales! Particularly of e-books), but…I think I’d rather pay more for it later than to have it sit on the shelf now, making me feel bad for who-knows-how-many months. Or years. Because I do. Feel bad. Even though digital books don’t take up physical space, they still tend to take up mental space. For me, anyway. I get anxious when I see how much stuff I’ve bought that I still haven’t gotten around to reading, and when I start to feel as though I will never catch up.

Anyway, we’ll see how this works out, but so far so good. In March, I bought ONE ebook and I read it right away. The TBR pile did not grow! Instead, it shrank by 5 books. In April, I bought 2 ebooks and 1 small paperback and I am currently in the process of reading all of them right away, too. Plus I read 4 books from the TBR pile, so yet again, it got smaller. I like this feeling, of using and enjoying things I already have instead of feeling like I am just hoarding new ones.

I will continue to report on how this little (okay, pretty big) goal of mine is progressing over the following months. In the meantime, here’s a book I finished over the weekend and can finally take off my TBR list (after having it sit on my shelf for almost 4 years)! Woo-hoo!

DSCF3466  Happy reading,

Elizabeth

*PS – An exception to this rule may occur at Christmas time, when I tend to get a lot of books as gifts. If I do get gifts, I won’t count them against myself, especially since I tend to be pretty good about reading those within a few months of receiving them :).

PPS – And may I also take this opportunity to brag on my husband, who does not seem to have this book-hoarding issue? He usually just reads as he buys. I look forward to the day I can do this, too. Honestly, I used to pretty much do that, too, but within the past two years or so, my e-book buying has escalated.

Go ahead and do less.

I’ve found that you can do two things well, and one thing really well. With two focuses, you won’t be as concentrated, won’t learn as deeply, but it’s doable. With three or four focuses, you won’t do anything well or learn anything deeply or serve anyone exceptionally.

So start paring down to two things: figure out what the most important two things in your life are, and cut out the rest. Be ruthless.

-Leo Babauta, writing at Zen Habits

Growing up, my mom taught me to appreciate small things like a trip to the library or a walk around the neighborhood. So I knew you didn’t have to do extravagant, expensive stuff in order to have fun and enjoy life. But I never heard of minimalism or voluntary simplicity or anything along those lines. And I guess I watched too many movies and TV shows or something because I definitely had it in my head that more was better. If you weren’t doing twenty things and being amazing at them and looking great while you did them, you might as well not count. You might as well be nothing, a loser. Which was too bad for me, because I never seemed to have the kind of energy or ambition required to do a lot of things, no matter how hard I tried :(. As a result, I always wound up feeling bad for getting tired when I’d take on too much, and for being so…well, slow.

It seems to take me a long time to do most anything well: read a book, cook a meal, walk around the grocery store. I can force myself to speed up for a while, but I can never sustain that for very long, and then afterward I am exhausted.

So when I started learning about minimalism and such, it made me really happy. It felt like someone finally gave me permission to feel the way I do and to live the way I want. That probably sounds stupid to people who have always done exactly what they wanted to do, but…apparently I could not figure out for myself that this was okay. I needed a ton of minimalist authors and bloggers to open my eyes :).

Now that I know better, I’ve reduced my activities a lot. I sometimes feel weird (and guilty) about scaling back so much because it seems I’m traveling in the opposite direction from most other people. Instead of looking for more things to do, I’m trying to do fewer. Instead of adding, I’m steadily subtracting. While everyone else is talking about how busy they are, I’m really…not.

But you know what?

It feels great.

I am happier and more focused than I’ve ever been. And it turns out I DO have energy and ambition — for the things I actually care about! I think in the past I got caught up in a lot of stuff that wasn’t a good fit for me because it was what other people were doing, or because I thought I “should” be doing it. Duh. 😦

Anyway, if you’re reading this and you feel too busy and stressed out and you haven’t heard this before (or need to hear it again today), I just want to say to you what I wish someone had said to me when I was a kid:
Not everyone is wired the same way. Some of us might only be here (as in on this planet) to do one or two or a few things and that’s fine. Figure out what it is that you’re supposed to be focusing on (not on what everyone else thinks you should be focusing on) and then go for it. Pour your heart and soul into what matters to you most, cut out the rest, and see what happens.

Go ahead and do less.

If you decide you don’t like being so minimal, it’s super easy to start adding things back into your schedule and life. Probably too easy!

Best wishes,
Elizabeth