Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year

sand and sea shawlette, knitted for a favorite aunt for christmas. i purchased gift yarn when visiting boston to make another one for myself out of different colors. so delicate and beautiful. this was a real joy to knit. very special yarns make all the difference!
There is so much to say/reflect on ... where to begin?

Simply, I suppose.

I'm certainly hoping that 2014 will be a brighter year for the blog. Mainly in terms of taking better pictures. I thought it would take a camera but I have a new tablet that takes marvelous photos. I also feel like my blog posts should be more cohesive, more on-topic and less rambly. So if it's about menu planning, go into detail. Same for knitting projects. But then again I don't want it to feel forced. So we'll see. I want to go easy on myself, that's for sure.

I do think it would be nice to share my intentions with you. Some people come up with a word for the year. It doesn't work for me. I need specific goals. Mind you, not resolutions, just a directed sense of striving. Mindfulness. Hmm, maybe that's my word. But I feel like that's always my word.
chumley, my sleepy sweet beagle
Anyway ... here are some of the things, in no particular order, that I've been slowly ruminating on for the last several weeks as the old year comes to a close and the days slowly creep toward length and light.

~ reach goal weight (20 lbs) -- continue to follow a set exercise schedule and reduce portions of meals. I already cook from scratch with unprocessed foods and eat a 95 percent vegetarian diet, so not worried about the actual food itself

~ get a new-to-me car, and pay for it with cash

~ set a cash budget for eating out (currently $50/month, so if DH springs for one meal we can go out twice a month if not more depending what carries over from month to month)

~ no-spend challenge :: NO new clothes (other than underwear or shoes)/yarn (unless it's for a specific project, the md. sheep and wool festival in may being the one exception to this)/kitchen items/books for the year.

~ take the 52-week money challenge. Each week, save $1 more than the last week (starting at $1/week). At the end you'll have nearly $1,400 saved in cash.

~ reduce monthly food spending by smart menu planning. taking advantage of freezing, eating leftovers for lunch instead of making separate lunches, shop twice monthly instead of once monthly (this will make my gas and tolls go up, but i think the smart menu planning -- such as easy meals on hard days and having a good lentil soup stocked in the freezer -- will inhibit impulse/unhealthy takeout meals).

~ contribute monthly to my 403B plan starting in March (this fund has been inactive for a couple years....)

~ write more regularly to friends

~ take 1-2 knitting classes to sharpen skills

~ establish a good 8-hour sleep routine so I can have easier, calmer mornings and really come up with a good healthy breakfast menu rotation.

~ make homemade cleaners instead of buying them.

~ find a way to give the whole year round, perhaps by sponsoring a child or doing Kiva

~ continue to declutter and organize ahead of a move we plan to make this summer. i want our things very, very streamlined.

~ improve as a partner in marriage ... haven't thought this one through yet but I'm aware of my personal trouble spots.

There. There may be more to come. I'll add things in as I think of them.

doing the laundry is not one of my favorite jobs, so i try to do it while i'm enjoying my morning coffee on the weekend, or i follow it with a task i do like more. 
We have another big year coming up. I can't really talk about our plans yet but there are 2-3 major ones in the works. It's exciting but both of us need to feel grounded and balanced so as the unofficial "homemaker" I feel it is my job to have the pieces in place. A cozy home is no joke for the physical and mental benefits it provides. I've come to see my domestic duties as essential to all else that's tangential in our lives, to friendships, to family relationships, to success at work, etc. Yes, it takes an effort. It does not mean sitting on the couch day after day doing nothing. I do learn (mostly from my husband, who helps with anything when asked) to sit and do that sometimes, of course. But I think that when work needs doing and it's joyful work -- I mean, you can see folding laundry and keeping the dishes washed, plants watered, pets happy, food prepared as truly joyful to accomplish -- that's how I feel most fulfilled. It's instantly apparent to me, as I travel around and sometimes stay with other friends and family, that MY home is the center, the source, of the peace I feel. Not everyone's home feels like you could just STAY and just BE yourself without a care in the world (often it just feels like a quick stopping place, a place that's "okay" for a little but makes you restless quickly, that certain warmth is missing). But ours does. And yes, I'm proud of that. It takes good, honest, roll-your-sleeves-up work to make it happen. I may not have a choice for a while yet, or ever, to truly be a stay-at-home wife and mother, although I strive for it with every financial or work-related decision I make. But I can rest easy enough knowing I've more or less figured out the balance. Giving just more than half of myself over to home and family life seems to be the key, for me. After all, I certainly benefit too. Who doesn't benefit from giving, and this kind of giving really does bounce back to me.

I am grateful for my cozy home life with DH, a calling I care about, the healthy, gentle way we shop, prepare, and eat our food (more and more I tend to call my diet the "real food" way), good relationship with close family, and skills I can both utilize and enjoy, such as knitting, and good sleep nearly every night.

spinach lasagna is a favorite frugal meal in our house, as well as homemade pizza. we figured out that a homemade pizza is less than $4. If you eat one every week, that's $16. One takeaway pizza is way more than that! The lasagna stretches into lunches well and also freezes well in squares. 
You CAN live the simple life you want to live, but it requires mindfulness. and then, you have to be willing to work to make it happen. and the ability to sit back and be aware that you are nearly always enjoying it. to feel how that feels. and really, to me, that's what it's all about.

Happy New Year, make this one a blessed, full, and happy one for yourself and your loved ones. Take initiative and watch things bloom.

blessings and light,



  1. Hi Karen,
    Happy new year! Loved reading your goals. I'm doing the 52 week money challenge on my blog too. One of my resolutions is to be more mindful in all that I do. Its easy to say but hard to do, but I'm working on it!!
    Tell me, is your spinach lasagna made with lasagna sheets or spinach as the sheets?
    Warm regards,
    Jan x

    1. Jan,
      Can't believe I missed this! I use pasta. Not sure how the spinach-as-sheets would work! i do use the no-boil noodles. :-) so far I have the first $15 for january saved, plus i found $10 in a pair of jeans! $25! slowly ...... ;-)

  2. Loved the comfort of this whole post. But I did want to comment on the first part: GORGEOUS shawl!! I am so impressed with how your knitting skills have developed; you are awesome. :) Love you & miss you already!!! xo

  3. THANK YOU ari!! it means a lot from someone of your knitting caliber!! i miss you too! must. write. soon. argh. xo hug to troy