Saturday, July 24, 2010

Money-Free Weekend #1

In anticipation of our first money-free weekend, I went to this recommended website for ideas. There aren't any ideas listed for Greenville, but I did discover information on free botanical gardens in Clemson. The project was born partly out of my own discontentment and partly out of seeing the restlessness of my husband who often complains on Sunday nights, "We didn't even do anything this weekend." It's taken me almost three years to figure out that "doing something" means being outside. Matt's interest and knowledge about nature and wildlife always makes our time outdoors more enjoyable. I love seeing and learning from his enthusiasm. Anything that we can do outside is guaranteed to be healthy for us physically and emotionally. A day spent exploring botanical gardens and nature trails seemed like a good starting off point of the project.

Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 7:30. However, after turning off the alarm, Matt pulled me over next to him, and I didn't resist falling asleep again with my head on his shoulder. Sleeping is, of course, a money-free activity and was perfectly appropriate for the weekend. When we got up around 8:00, we filled up on Little Red Wagon granola, which Matt informs me is "man granola," and got ready for the day. We got to the South Carolina botanical gardens around 10:30. After a few false attempts to find the parking lot, we parked in shady spot from whence many winding paths led off into sunny parks and woods. We gave our little pug dog some water, and set off. Right off the parking lot is a park with a big red caboose. I now want my own. We couldn't go inside, but Henry and I peered in the windows, and it is all set up with a little table, chairs, a bed, and homey curtains. The way I imagine it would be living in a caboose is, I'm sure, more romantic than realistic, but it was fun to imagine.

There are paved paths all throughout the gardens. The twists of the paths and the groves of trees make it impossible to see where each path is leading, making each path a possibility. All along the paths are greenery and flowers arranged in a way that shows craftsmanship but suggests happenstance. And I finally understood the appeal of hostas which were ubiquitous throughout the park. Just looking into the gentle green of them made us cooler. Waterfalls flowed into duck ponds which we knew were man made. but we pretended they were natural. We saw very few people in the park, which made the experience even more our very own.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Perfectly Normal Human Being

How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being. - Oscar Wilde

I love my husband. He is funny, smart, loves God, and loves me. Nobody can make me laugh harder than he can. Last night he was on the couch and he pulled me into his lap. I wrapped my arms around him and put my head on his shoulder. He squeezed me tight and said, "I just love it when you're right here like a blanket...a very thin blanket."

Last night we started working on one of my projects. My amazingly talented sister Christina makes beautiful multimedia artwork. When she was describing them to me, I realized that this would be an excellent way for me to deal with a problem I've been pondering for a while. I have wonderful memories from college, as well as some beautiful letters and mementos. Presently, however, they are all just sitting in a box under our bed. Every once in a while I pull this box out and read through some of the cards; the words of affection and encouragement are as effective now as they were when they were first written. However, I don't like keeping them somewhere I rarely see them, and the master of the house doesn't like anything being kept in boxes under beds. Christina's mutimedia projects seemed like the perfect way to preserve and display some of my best memories.

Last night I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a small canvas for $4. Other than that , I used only things that I had already at the house. Matt helped me go through my Martha Stewart magazines and find some pretty things to use in my collage. (Christina tells me that it isn't a collage, but mine is still at the collage level). I didn't want to cut up any of the articles, so I only cut up advertisements. Matt found the cutest little cartoon drawing of some pink owls in an ad for Las Vegas and I cut out some trees from an ad for soybeans. Then I put all this together with a picture of my neice McKenna. I was hesitant to use a photograph, but I'm supposed to be living more courageously and this seemed like a good place to start. I haven't finished yet (photos to come when the project is complete!), but it felt good to create again, make use of that picture of McKenna (which, ashamedly, has been in box), and do it all with Matt - who apparently is as talented at spotting owls in advertisements as he is at spotting them in the wild.

Tomorrow begins our first "money-free" weekend. Tonight I'm going to the grocery store to stock up on food. We might be bored, but we won't be hungry!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Letter to the World

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me! - Emily Dickinson

There is something rather eerie to me about clicking on the "publish post" button, and sending my words out into the world wide web. In fact, blogging has always been vaugely unsettling to me. For one thing, my fear of writing is always that no one will want to read what I have to say. Secondly, there is something just a smidge egocentric about blogging. As someone who struggles with self-centeredness already, I don't need to set myself down a path of making it worse. However, I believe there is nothing wrong with writing because you want to even if no one reads it. Also, I know my mom will read it, and I can coerce my sisters to read it as well. My dad will likely read if for no other reason than to make snarky comments about my being a "cheapskate;" I prefer to think of myself as frugal. And as for making myself more self-absorbed, I am determined to blog responsibly and with accountability. I am asking mom, dad, coerced sisters, and anyone else who reads this to (privately) call it to my attention if my blogging ever becomes obssesive or down-right obnoxious. I hope it will never be necessary.

On to other things... (hopefully this blog will help me improve my segues)

The Greenville county library system is really fantastic! Until recently, Matthew has asked me to refrain from "borrowing" books due to my propensity to return them late and incur penalties. He figures (logically as ever) that if he's going to spend money on his wife's book obsession that we might as well have something to show for it. However, with our money saving becoming more intense, the library was really the only way for me to keep up with my reading. After promising to diligently return/renew all library books in a timely manner, I got permission to start borrowing again. The library website is extremely helpful and easy to use. Not only can you renew books online, you can request books, have them put on hold, and specifiy which the location most convenient for your pickup. Contrary to my childhood experiences, the librarians are actually friendly and helpful. And the downtown main library has a lovely little café that serves healthy, affordable food. It's halfway between my office and the church were my friend Beth works so we meet there twice a month to pick up (and return) our library books and eat some lunch. Last week they had a delicious whole wheat pasta dish. I have been hungry for it ever since, so last night I finally made up my own copycat version. It turned out great! Not only was it sugar-free, but Matthew loved it and told me to put it on the "make-again list." I am including the recipe here, but I can't post pictures of it because 1) we ate it and 2) our camera isn't working. I realize, therefore, that it is unlikely that anyone will actually make the pasta from this recipe. I personally never make a recipe if I don't first see a picture of it.

1/2 lb of whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 cup asparagus chopped into 1-2" pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled
1/8 cup + 1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
fresh cracked pepper

1. Cook and drain pasta according to the instructions.
2. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, sautee aspargus in 1 TBS of olive oil for 2 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and cook another 2-3 minutes; season vegetables with sea salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add shrimp and cook until cooked through and pink.
5. Toss vegetables and shrimp with cooked pasta, olive oil and parmesan.
6. Top with extra cheese and fresh cracked pepper.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Lady Engaged

"An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged. She is satisfied with herself. Her cares are over, and she feels that she may exert all her powers of pleasing without suspicion. All is safe with a lady engaged; no harm can be done." - Jane Austen.

It is unfortunate that a happily married, middle-class, employed woman would find herself disengaged and disatisfied; nevertheless, I have. In spite of the education bestowed on me by those wiser than I, the affections lavished upon me by my husband, and all the other countless blessings in my life, I am, in fact, bored. However, it turns out that if you Google "things to do" you can find some excellent suggestions including this helpful
post. In reading said post, I realized that these are activities I should already be engaging in - organazing the closets, decluttering the house, volunteering in the community, spending more time outside etc. Matthew and I are also working on saving money for our trip to Hawaii.

Thus the challenge: enjoy money-free weekends from now until our trip in November. To preserve the sanity of my husband, a few exceptions will have to be made. I will allow myself $20 a weekend for "emergencies." Any money not used one weekend can be carried into the next weekend. However, my main objective is to live fully with as little expense as is possible. My weekdays will be spent at my satisfactory if somewhat unchallenging government job, my weekday evenings will be spent cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and snuggling on the couch; and my weekends will be full of engagement at little to no cost! Then, as Jane says, "No harm can be done!"
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