Aiming to keep my dirt-dwelling life simple, special and sweet


In my morning affirmation book, Simple Abundance, today's entry said that the day should be budgeted as such.

8 hours = work
8 hours = whatever you want
8 hours = rest

Very, very simple, (and not always that easy) but I like it. Do we each take time for "whatever we want" each day? If not, how can we add more. Life isn't meant to be 100% about what we do - it needs to inlcude who we are and what we love.

Buying Local

My husband and I chose to go to a large local craft store (that starts with an "M") for a discounted framing cost of $458 but in return we received our print back, damaged. There is a long blue line that runs on the print (we assume it happened during the framing process). The manager couldn't do anything to help the situation as the corporation's damage and refund rules nicely protect the business.

Because the corporate policies are super tight (and well planned) the store manager sent us home with a loss of product and money. The manager we dealt with was abrupt, matter-of-fact, and it felt like she was very condescending - it was our problem, not hers. She told us that the print was damaged upon arrival, was recorded by personnel, but she would not show us or give us a copy. Wouldn't that evidence have shown us that she was right? We were really upset and within my husband's and my talk of "fighting the system" I realized a large lesson and it will change the way I do business in the future. 

Our intention to shop at a big store was to save money - to get a deal. Yet, we paid greatly for getting a few dollars off and the experience was less than thrilling. The manager didn't have to treat us nicely, and she didn't care to. The fact is that the M. arts and crafts store will survive with or without me as a customer. They'll probably survive with or without my mom, sister, and other very crafty friends. That's the result of big business - they're big and we're small.

I do believe that it's possible to choose to help instead of hurt when I feel wronged. From this experience I've decided that I can help by shopping locally in the future. Not just so I might be treated better, but the products and benefits of my patronage will be more positive. When I buy big business, where does my money go? It goes to the corporation, which leads to a few having big paychecks. When I buy local, the money goes to my fellow citizens and my community. Big businesses want my business, but my local businesses need me. 

For things like clothing, I have realized that buying local can be a challenge. There are little (if any) locally owned clothing stores in my community. Yet, I've lately been shopping at my local Vintage Values resale store, where the money collected goes toward a valuable community service.  In the past few months that I've bypassed the major stores and headed over to the resale shop, I've found not only great deals on real quality clothing but a sense of satisfaction because I know that my dollars are helping. Also, I realize that I'm decreasing my footprint here on our plante because I'm able to make use of products that have already been made, sold, and distributed. Nothing new had to be created with additional resources. Here's a little taste of what I picked up this past Friday (yes, in one trip). 

1. A nice silver tray for the coffee table ($10)

2. Sweaters for the upcoming fall and winter cold weather...

3. Slacks for work...

4. Shirts for work and at home...

My last trip to the resale shop cost about $90 for all of the clothes pictured above, three skirts, two pairs of jeans, and a few things for my husband. Pretty good deal. Included were brand name items from Ann Taylor, NY and Co., Banana Republic, Gap, and others.

I still shop on Craig's List for my home things, which helps local families. The people I've met (via buying their stuff) have been moving, redecorating, or trying to earn some extra money for important things. I've benefited by gaining the things I felt I needed for my home, and the sellers gain the money they need. And again, the transaction is without additional resources being used to produce or transport the product. I've listed my examples of great finds in a previous post, Convenient Shopping,  but here's the most recent and proof that one can achieve great things by shopping locally. 

New dresser for my dad's winter bedroom ($100)

 Cherry queen-size bed ($200) and rug ($60) for my dad's room

So, I'm turning lemons into lemonade and a disappointment into an opportunity. I will do my best to keep my money going to local businesses who need it and shopping in a way that decreases my footprint and prevents the additional use of resources. With the big businesses, their intentions involve making a profit. With local businesses, their intention is to make a living. That's a HUGE difference and it's one that I need to remember. The lady who runs the local fabric and quilting shop told me that she began her business because she loved quilting and she wanted to help people do it. I doubt that the big crafting stores would have the same type of answer. 

Baked Apples

I've been trying to keep cooking healthy and simple, and I love Gina's Skinny Taste website because all of the recipes have proven to be tasty and good-for-you. The baked chicken parmesan was named "the best ever" by my husband. I can vouch for the other recipes, too. Gina, the author of the site, has helped me to drop a number of pounds as she details all nutritional and Weight Watchers points values. It's been helpful.

So, last night, good friends visited and along with an easy dinner I wanted to make a good fall dessert. Skinny Taste is the first place I look, and since I had tasty macintosh apples on hand, the recipe for  delightfully baked apples is what I chose to make.I topped each baked apple half with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled caramel topping on top. Very good. 

The leftover apple was even fantastic chopped up into my oatmeal this morning. I look forward, also, to using Gina's "crunchy topping" recipe for cobblers this fall.

Fall Cinnamon Cider

A girls' cooking get-together was a great reason to try out Fall Cinnamon Cider. I brought out my Grandma's glass punch cups to hold the warm drink, and it was wonderful. Perfect drink for a chilly fall day.

Weekends are for Crafting

If and when I move back on a boat, I might have to open a craft shop at the marina or figure out how to have a sewing machine on a boat. I've really enjoyed quiet crafting time the past few weeks.  

This is a baby quilt for my soon-to-be-born niece, Ashlee. I chose the farm print from a cute shop in downtown Annapolis, Cottonseed Glory Quilt Shop . There were so many fabrics to choose from, and I ended up with this farm patter which I think is really darling. The quilt ended up sort of small, but I think it will be helpful over a stroller or carseat during those long and tough Michigan winters.

Apron attempt (learned how to do apron straps, but not much else):

Another marker roll. This time for Sawyer, with Princess and the Frog fabric and a button with her initial: 

Good Ideas

Today, I think it would be so great to:
  1. Live on a boat;
  2. Open and run a craft / quilting / home furnishings store so I can enjoy all of the "stuff" but not have to live with it.
I could keep my sewing machine at the shop and quilt during the day and teach other people how to do it. There would be a Keurig machine so others could come in and sip sweet coffee while sewing up something nice.

Remembering is a Beautiful Thing

Last weekend my family and I celebrated 93 years of wonderful life that my grandma lived. We gathered around her resting place which is nestled on top of her husband's (my grandfather's) grave. He died many years before her - 1952 - when she was a young mother. There's something special knowing that they are together again after ALL of the years they spent apart. I'm also very happy that we all (the children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, cousins, family and friends) were all there together, with Grandma and Grandpa.

Thanks to Naked Empire for capturing pictures from our day.

I just saw this picture from a traveling lady and it is of a Swiss cemetery. How pretty and wonderful.

5 Fine Ideas for Fall

Similar to the blogger, Randy Taran, I see the fall as a time for new beginnings. Maybe it is because school begins in the fall, and I was one of those children who excitedly perused the aisles of school supplies early in August each year. I still have a passion for paper and pens, and for new beginnings. Change is exciting, to me, and that's why I really enjoyed the piece, Five Steps to Happiness, by Randy T.

Although difficult in practice, I do subscribe to the belief that we are what we think. We can think ourselves anywhere and toward becoming anything we want to be. Any situation can be changed through our thoughts. Again, difficult in practice! Yet the above article by Randy gives some good advice for beginning to change our ways.

A highlight is the quote: "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape". Wow - focus on one thing. Focus on one big goal or just focus on one thing at a time. Although simple, it's really good advice and the perfect way to begin anew this fall.

Black Bean and Mushroom Tortilla Casserole

I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday magazine, and it is also listed on many blogs (see address below). It is a good, quick, and healthy meal.

Full recipe found at and picture curtosey of:

My husband wanted meat in it (even though I was going for a Meatless Monday), so adding to the directions, I cooked up the mushrooms and beans, browned 1 lb. ground beef, then mixed half of the veggie mix with meat(next time, I will include some taco seasoning in with the beef). I did half veggie and half with meat in the casserole dish.

Served alongside was: homemade guacamole, sour cream, and extra salsa. I also roasted up some corn in the oven with a quick and easy recipe by Gina at Skinny Taste -

Darn Stuff

Is it crazy that my husband's mention of a houseboat for sale - only $19,000 - makes me question my life right now? I find that the constant cleaning, emptying and filling the dishwasher, putting things away, straightening up, and looking in disgust at my backyard of dead grass (even with plenty of watering and care) makes me really  miss the liveaboard life.

I subscribe to and frequently remind myself of Suze Orman's suggestion of three priorities, in order: people, money, things. With the house, it feels like things have taken priority. One has to fill a house with things. Right? It seems that there is always something requiring more money. Then those things need to be put away, cleaned, used, then repeat over and over and over.

I am so incredibly thankful for being able to have the money to have nice things - yet, I do not want my life to be swallowed up by the caring for things. It's people that come first, then money, and then lastly, things.  I am a person, so I realize that if the things are bogging me down, I have to take care of that first. Then save my money, and only deal with things when it is completely neccessary.

As if the universe was using email this morning, I received my weekly Zen Habits article - -
and it has given me some good ideas for taking control of the stuff in my life. The author writes that we need to unautomate our money - put more thought and time into our spending and on what things we are buying and storing. There are a few helpful strategies that I can focus on this week.

I have started this, again, this week. From my checking account, I have withdrawn enough money for two weeks of gas and groceries. Other money has gone toward bills, debt, and savings. This idea originally came from Larry Winget's book, You're Broke Because You Want to Be - He says that groceries should not cost more than $50 per person each week and he also says that each person is responsible for the choices that he or she makes. If one wants to be financially healthy, he or she can - by making choices that reflect that goal.

  • Using a 30-day list for wants. Waiting 30 days to purchase an item can be a drag, but we’ll likely realize how little we really desired it in the first place.

    I feel that my husband and I are very lucky because we can go and get anything that we want. I notice I typed, want. Many of our wants are not neccessarily things we need. Giving ourselves 30 days to think about things might help us to pare down the unneccessary stuff in our life.

  • Purging 2 items for every 1 you bring into your life. Yet another inconvenient (at times) rule-of-thumb that can raise awareness around just how much clutter we bring into our lives.

    My favorite store lately is the Goodwill in a nearby small town. My winter wardrobe has been purchased there, and I am very thankful for the money I have saved because others have taken the time to sort through and donate the things no longer needed. I can return the favor. I'm sure that there are things in my house that I can donate to the Goodwill when I purchase new things )once 30 days has proven that I was in need of them). Donating items will be like sharing, in a way. If things are sitting in a cabinet or closet and I haven't used them in days, weeks or even months, might be better to share with someone who will.

  • Spending with cash over plastic. Going without plastic isn’t easy, but you can’t get much more aware than we spending cold, hard cash.

  • I want to get back to the feeling I had coming home to my boat - relaxation, thankfulness, peace. Right now, it's a continuation of work once I arrive home. I need to reflect on that and make some different choices. My life cannot be about the things I have. It needs to be about the people I love and experiences I have with them. Having the house does help with the people I love - my family can come to visit, we're able to help out a friend by renting a bedroom. Land living isn't all bad but I think I need to make it more of what I want it to be.

    Maybe with some new behaviors, I wouldn't be thinking about buying one more thing - that $19,000 houseboat. I think I'll give myself 30 days to try some new things and think it over.

    Simple Saturday Morning

    This morning I took it easy and slow and indulged in some of my favorite things. 

    Being with dogs.

    Newman's Own K-Cup

    Keurig Machine

    Sweet Skinny Creamer

    Drinking coffee while starting a sweet new book

    Baby Quilt Finished

    Finally, my baby cowgirl quilt is complete. It headed to Tucson yesterday via FedEx. Hopefully the soon-to-be-born baby girl will benefit from snuggling with this quilt for many years to come. I really enjoyed quilting again, especially for such a special occasion. The picture below is the quilt after basting, before putting on the binding (and Edward, my dog, is helping to hold the quilt in place).

     I also learned that seam allowances are things to be respected when sewing. I had many seams that ripped open when the quilt was washing and shrinking. Thanks to the fantastically helpful lady at Joann Fabrics who led me to do some "whip stitching" and the You Tube video tutorial which showed me how to do it (along with some very cosmic music that inspired me).

    Even the husband thinks it turned out well :) 
    This quilt is featured at Show and Tell Saturday:

    Marker Roll

    Using the idea from the crayon roll tutorial (in a previous post), I decided to make a marker roll for a very special artist I know. He is a master drawer of trains, specifically the Thomas variety. I hope he enjoys a Thomas marker roll in which he can hold his skinny tip markers, useful for the track and wheel details he always includes. 

    This craft is featured on Show and Tell Saturday at:
    My marker roll was adapted from the crayon roll tutorial at a great blog, The Pleated Poppy.

    Come On, Irene...

    Hurricane Irene is headed her way to the east coast and southern Maryland. We now, at Friday afternoon, have an official hurricane warning and will expect the arrival of Irene tomorrow afternoon.

    Latest projection:  


    We have been in close contact with our live aboard friends who have spent today and many days up to now planning how to prepare for the storm. Their decision has been whether or not to stay put in the marina, haul the boat out of the water, or head up the creek and find a hurricane hole where many anchors will hold the boat down through the storm. To further illustrate their decisions this week, the first mate said, "... and from there we can tie ourselves to trees if need be..." 

    Safe at home, we have stocked candles, food, batteries, and water. Our county has told us to be ready to be on our own for at least 72 hours and we have prepared for longer than that.


    As I entered Internet Explorer this morning, the daily quote banner had this to say to me:

    "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

    It is a quote by, Jim Rohn, and I found a revision on another website.

    "You are the average of the five people...inlcuding yourself."

    Further reading brought to light that it is the people we surround ourselves with daily who influence our thinking, feelings, and daily operations. If we think about the kind of person we aim to be and the traits we hope to have and display, we can think about our top five people and whether or not they influence our aims. If they do not, a reconfiguration is in order.

    We can reconfigure each day who we talk to (in person, on the phone, via email), whose words we read (in books, on a blog, in the newspaper), or which people we encourage ourselves to think about (our families, loved ones of present and past). 

    We can also increase the amount of positivity we include in our life, if we do not have the options of escaping from the influence of negativity. Outside of those situations, we can choose what we do and how we do it. The other day I read something that said: when you are low, heal yourself, and when you are good, enjoy. If our daily interactions are less than what we require, our time away from those needs to be healing - this can be in super small ways or in big ways, depending on our schedule and resources. For me, sometimes music and engaging myself in certain readings brings my spirit right back up to where I like it to be.

    Who I aim to be and who surrounds me on a daily with their influence, is what I'm going to meditate on this Monday. I hope you can find time to do the same.

    Crayon Roll

    The sewing machine will not have been purchased in vain! I am dedicated to making some very useful things with my new machine, and today I attempted (successfully) to make a crayon roll. 

    It's a handy dandy little contraption for carrying around crayons - which, I think, would be useful for a young colorer for trips, visits, and when crayons need to be put in a backpack (which can act like a black hole). After this first practice, I plan to make one for myself, pen-size. I have so many pens floating around my office, purse, work bags, etc. that this would help me stay organized and know where my favorite pens are. 

    Thanks to this blogger/crafter for her so specific and visual tutorial on how to make a crayon roll:  For the fastener, this tutorial suggested an elastic hair tye for securing. Very good idea, as I have many not being used.

    My inaugural roll is going to hold my longer sewing tools that would otherwise get lost. See, my sewing will help me become more organized and will keep my husband happy that I have resurrected this hobby - without clutter. 

    Featured in "Made By You Monday" at 

    Everything has to have a place

    No longer will shoes lay all over the floor at each side of the entryway coat shelf. It will be easier to sweep up the floor :)
     Organization makes me happy.

    Oh, Brother

    It has been YEARS since I have used a sewing machine. A rocking boat wasn't the best foundation for sewing projects and the sewing machine wouldn't fit in any of our storage spaces. After a miserable attempt at trying to sew new slipcovers for our cabin cushions, the Fashion Pro sewing machine went away....until recently. 
    A new baby in the family will soon be here and a quilt was in order. Homemade heartfelt gifts are the best; especially those that are useful. Hopefully, this quilt will provide a soft place for Karsen to learn to roll over or a warm cover on a chilly night.

    Being back with stitching felt good, too. Before I moved south, I would spend hours with NPR on the radio, a good strong latte, and sew useful gifts for family and friends. As a college student and employed full-time, the nights of sewing alone provided welcomed seclusion and relaxation.

    All was going really well, until, the stitches became loose, fabric glumped up inside the bobbin. The next step is quilting and I made the decision to rest the Fashion Pro and invest in a new machine. After reading many reviews, the Brother CS-6000i seemed a reasonably priced and sufficient machine for me, a returning quilter. So, I ordered it  and when it came - oh my! I realize that keeping my liveaboard lifestyle afloat doesn't (or shouldn't involve) buying stuff, but I can't help the excitement I feel using this new machine. I will examine my landlubber need for stuff in future posts. For now, I will just admire....
    If you sew, read on... if not, shake your head in disappointment that I am slightly straying from the theme of this blog. 

    There are 59 stitches: including, leaf, curves, and many buttonhole options. So nice for ALL of the future quilts, dresses, purses, and gifts I will sew in the future!


    Even though my compost isn't ideal, my container veggies are growing. That's a good thing.

    There are buds that will turn in to cucumbers and green beans. I also have basil and it smells so good.
    Two tomatoes have started to grow. Hopefully, more will come. Seeing the brown leaves on the right maybe I need to water this plant more.

    Compost Correction

    In my attempt to be kind to Mother Earth I began a compost bin this spring. As easy as it seems (find a space, drop in biodegradable items, let it turn in to dirt) it can be tricky. My bin was doing good until I left it alone.

    I didn't turn it, didn't think about the mix of layers I needed (brown and green)and like other things when you leave them alone, my compost is now sludge an it smells.

    Because Google is my BFF (Best Fact Finder) I learned that sludge-y compost needs to dry out. I have also learned that my compost may have too much "green" like kitchen scraps, which is what I primarily put into the bin. There's been more of this since I started up juicing again. This morning my scraps included pulp from the grapefruit, carrot and ginger root juice I made as well as the egg shells from my breakfast and cofee grounds.

    Although I had drilled holes in the botton of the bin and on top, I have decided that I need more holes to allow air to circulate. I have chosen three weapons to combat the sludge.
    Weapon 1 - Drill for creating more air flow holes in the bin
    Weapon 2 - Newspaper, brown matter, which should slow down the creation of the smelly, sludgy matter (created by too much green - kitchen scraps)
    Weapon 3 - Baking soda to combat the unappealing smell so my nice neighbors won't be able to smell my compost composting

    The holes are small, but hopefully they will allow enough oxygen to reach the compost and help dry out what is currently too wet.

    Google led me to the website: which has taught me that in addition to the newspaper, another brown material I could be putting in to the compost is dryer lint. We have a trashbin next to our washer upstairs for when we clean out the dryer's lint tray. I also put in our grass clippings, which is a good brown. There should be more brown than green material and I'll have to monitor this a bit better.
    Here's hoping that my compost can get back on track so it will be ready for my raised bed gardens next year. Currently, I have a container garden in my small backyard and next year I'd like to put these plants in the ground.