It’s Not A Simple Life

Several books over the past several years have talked about going back to “the simple life”. Several years ago, with a busy career in the banking world while trying to take care of my widowed Mother,  my husband and a teenage son  while commuting 2 hours a day found me dreaming of a simpler lifestyle.

A book that I happened to read, The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn was the catalyst for me to start making changes that would completely turn my life upside down. Amy’s book was a compilation of the newsletter she wrote of the same name. After a decade of debt in the 80’s, families were looking to get out of debt and leave the lifestyle of spending on things that didn’t matter and investing in the things that do matter. The things that mattered to me was having time to spend with my son,  help my Mother,  have time to grow spiritually and pursue hobbies and interests for which there was no time.  Through strategies I learned to payoff debt and living a frugal lifestyle, I was able to leave that job even though at the time I contributed over half of our family income.

Tightwad Gazette

I eventually went back to work a couple of days a week at my old job when my son was getting ready to go to college. I had an opportunity to work from home as a Mortgage Broker. This seemed like a no brainer at the time since I would no longer be commuting.    This was a high stress job with little time off over a 11 year period and once again I began dreaming about “the simple life”.  Another book that led me to set a goal and accomplish early retirement is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book led me to think out of the box from the standard retirement advice given by financial planners which is usually save at least a million before you can retire and wait until your 67 to collect your Social Security.  Even though The Tightwad Gazette and Your Money or Your Life were written in the 90’s and some things are dated, the principles are eternal and still worth reading today.

Your Money or Your Life

 

If it’s not a simple life, then what is it? I say it’s a focused life. To achieve my goals, I had to focus on the goal, read everything I could find and put into practice those daily activities that would help me accomplish the long-term goals.

Last week John and I made a visit to Jamesport, Missouri. Jamesport is the home of a large Amish and old order Mennonite community.  I’ve admired the Amish ever since my quest for the simple life began. It was wonderful to hear the clop, clop, clop of the horse and buggys and enjoy the hospitality of our Mennonite host Marie at the Arbor House Inn. It almost sounds like a Beverly Lewis novel. I felt I was in one of her Amish novels. John pointed out to me their beautiful weed-free gardens. I felt a little ashamed about my weedy vegetable garden at home. I decided I needed to devote more time to the garden. While weeding, that’s when it hit me; the Amish do not live a simple lifestyle, it’s a focused life. They focus on what’s important to them and they give it their very best effort. Their devotion to God and family are their top priorities. It’s not simple in the way we might imagine a simple lifestyle. It’s very hard work raising large families, farming, growing gardens and canning for the winter.

Arbor House Inn

The Amish live by the Ordnung (church rules) which keeps them focused on what really counts.  In the English world (what the Amish call us) we would not give up our freedom to live this life, but we can decide on what is truly important and make daily decisions that keep us from being distracted from the life we really want to live. Ok, I am talking to myself.  I have lots of interests and get easily distracted. But my new goal is living a focused life (and having a weed-free garden).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast, Frugal and Filling – or What’s for Dinner?

I have to admit it – cooking is not my passion, even though I do cook most nights of the week, 52 weeks a year.  That may come as a surprise since women on the prairie or Pioneer Women on the Osage prairie are supposed to be great cooks, while raising a large family, homeschooling and writing blogs and books. I’m just not that talented or energetic.  I do have a meat and potato kind of guy but he tolerates my food experiments.  Tonight’s experiment was an A+ so thought I would share.

Sometimes I’ll try a new recipe but tonight it had to be fast, frugal and filling.  I opened the freezer hoping a fully cooked meal would appear and found some chicken and broth I had frozen about a month ago.  This was actually the leftovers that were boiled to pick the last goodies from the bone.  I had a small amount of Amish noodles, along with some fresh mushrooms and some wild onions in a moment of soup inspiration.

wild onions

I love creamy soups; clam chowder, cream of chicken, creamy potato but I’ve learned to start with the basic white sauce to make them. It can also be used to make a delicious pot pie.  It seems to be a lost art with so many canned soups available at the store. A white sauce is cheap and can save a last minute trip to the grocery store.  So for those who’ve never tried:

  1. 3 Tablespoons butter
  2. 3 Tablespoons flour
  3. 1 cup milk, half/half, or chicken broth

The above recipe is equivalent to about 1 can of soup.  You can add any ingredients you have depending on your soup mood.

Melt butter over low heat, add the flour and cook until absorbed by the butter.  Add the liquid while whisking.  Continue stirring until the mixture is the right thickness.

Once I had my creamy soup base, I added all ingredients except the noodles.  I brought to a gentle boil and added the noodles and cooked for an additional 10 minutes.  I had some leftover cornbread muffins and even my meat and potato guy was happy!

Soup and cornbread

There really isn’t a recipe, since I just threw things into the pot, but if there was a recipe, it would be something like this:

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Noodle Soup

Makes Three 1 cup servings or 2 man size bowls

  1. 1/2 cup shredded chicken
  2. 1/4 cup chopped green onions or to taste
  3. 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  4. 2 cups chicken broth
  5. 2 teaspoons chicken broth base seasoning (better than the cubes)
  6. 1 cup white sauce
  7. 1/2 cup dried noodles
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Make basic white sauce. Add all ingredients to the white sauce except noodles.  Bring to a gentle boil and add noodles.  Cook according to length of time given for noodles. Enjoy!

 

The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle

In today’s economy, knowing the Three R’s is a valuable survival skill for all, but for the rural homestead family, it’s not an option.  There is this false fantasy that moving to the country is going to be “The Simple Life” and we’ll just quit our jobs, grow a garden and live off what we eat.  Sounds good but, it also can be a very expensive life.  There are property taxes to pay, expensive homeowner’s insurance- especially in Oklahoma where tornadoes, ice storms and now earthquakes are common place.  There can also be trucks, tractors,  garden tillers and outbuildings for storage.  All of which can be quite expensive, even though we usually always buy used and do our own maintenance. In most rural homesteads close to us, these necessities take priority over new furniture, vacations, home improvements or appliances. There is a time and place for the nicer things, but they don’t come first.  All of this is a lead up to a small project I recently completed that even my husband asked why I didn’t just buy a new one.

We were given a used swing set about 7 years ago when my first grandchild was born. Now, 3 more grandchildren later, it has seen much better days.  We’ve been having visions of a wooden fort/swing set that John could build from cedar.  Cedar stands up very well outdoors and the kids would love it.  But he has a lot of projects going on right now and I wanted something they could use now that warmer weather is here.  I thought about getting an inexpensive set at Walmart which starts at about $185 including tax. Looking closer it really wasn’t any better built than what we already have, just nicer paint.  Ours was still solid, had a nice slide and a double seated swing along with two hanging swings.  It did need to be staked in the ground and painted.  It was very rusted but still intact.

A visit to Walmart and I purchased 4 cans of Krylon Supermax paint at $4.00 per can that can be used on metal.  It said it was no rust, no sanding and no primer.  Same brand had a nice paint to be used on plastic.  I bought 2 cans for $4.50.  I ordered the stakes online with Walmart for $11.47.  The total cost $38.72 including tax.  A savings of $146 and I think a nicer swing set than if I would have bought new!  It didn’t take long at all.  We did gently sand the rough rusted surface and then spray painted.  It dried very quick. Can’t wait to find out if the grandkids notice the difference.

It’s very rewarding to restore a used item, keep it out of the landfill and save money!

 

For Where your Treasure is…

February 29, 2016

More days have passed since I’ve written about my Lent journey.  I’m finding it’s more about what is gained than what is given up.  Giving up a few sodas and McChickens has been pretty easy.  It takes a little advance planning to pack some water and snacks when I go into town every Tuesday for Bible Study Fellowship. It’s amazing how quick this can add up.  I’ve gained health by giving up sodas and fast food.  I’ve gained an appreciation for the happiness it brings that such a small sacrifice is helping someone in their real need.

My grandaughters enjoy doing crafts so we created a beautiful jar for the money to donate to the Marland Children’s Home. It’s a lesson for them and me that giving to others in need should be a top priority for the daily walk of the Christian. Matthew 6:21 tells me, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  In addition to donating money, I need to include them in my daily prayers.

Childrens Home Jar