Simple Moments Defined

Photos from a morning walk around our apartment complex.

Over the years we have simplified our lives so much, but there are a few big moments that truly defined us, that bettered our lives and allowed us to live the simple life we wanted to. I thought I’d share some.

The moment…we donated everything in our bedroom including our bed. That was in 2010 when I looked around at all of our cookie cutter black and big furniture. I felt claustrophobic and sick to my stomach because I wasn’t a keeping up with the Jones’ girl. I felt owned by my stuff. Once I learned that there were families sleeping on the floor in my own town, we donated it all to an organization that would help one of those families and we then slept on a sleeper sofa and air mattress for the next two years.

The moment…we pawned our ‘wedding’ bands. I quote ‘wedding’ because we didn’t have a wedding. Over eight years ago we took a half day off of work in the Air Force, went down the road and 15 minutes later we’re married. That money that would have gone to a wedding went to paying for a trailer in cash and living in that trailer. But years back I looked down at the ring on my hand and asked why. My only answer was that I wore it to let others know that we were married and because it’s ‘tradition.’ Neither made sense to me. We knew it and that was enough for us. So we pawned it and used the money to have such a lovely dinner, a day I won’t forget. We had acted on our belief that experiences are more important to us than things.

The moment…we decided to not celebrate the holidays anymore. This was back in 2008. We didn’t like others telling us when to be thankful (Thanksgiving), giving (Christmas), loving (Valentines) and even how to do so. We didn’t like the consumerism, money wasted, food wasted and forced actions that went with it, the accommodating stress, and not to mention all of the stuff. We decided we wanted to celebrate every day, on our terms, how we want to. It felt more authentic to us that way. My parents also made the same decision that year and it’s hard for us to express to others just how much joy it has brought us, that it’s made us that much more giving and thankful. And this was coming from a family where the holidays were so huge I remember others being envious of the detail my parents put in. But now that detail goes into every moment.

The moment…I deleted every major social network I was on (Facebook, Google+, Twitter). They were all time wasters for me. They never felt like real connections. Doing so led to finding out who I really cared about. It led to phone conversations and emails. It also led to losing contact with some but I think if we really wanted contact, we’d have it. It made me prioritize, make time for things of value to me and not be so jacked in to a device all the time.

The moment…I read The China Study and, again, changed my diet. I changed my diet before it but never was I so impacted by a book. A book that I have passed on again and again and those people have said the same to me, that their lives are forever changed because of it. If you care for your health I cannot recommend the book enough. I think it should be a mandatory read in high school. I was a physical training leader in the Air Force and studied nutrition for years on end but nothing in that time came close to the power that lies in the truth of that book.

The moment…we let go of our cell phone, back in 2009. We bought a pay as you go phone, put it in our glove compartment for emergencies and have only used it once. We’ve found that we don’t need a cell phone. We let go of it because of cost but also because we didn’t like the idea that we felt ‘on call’ all the time, connected all the time. I remember walking around campus, when I was working on my Bachelor’s, and seeing nearly everyone with their head down looking at their device while walking. I went home, called my parents and cried because I was saddened. I was excited to be on campus because I thought it would be like the ‘old days’ that my dad talked about where people were excited to learn and not consumed by text messaging or staying ‘up to date’ 24-7.

The moment…I waved good-bye to a 9-5 job. Even though I got my Master’s in a subject that means a lot to me (library science), I wasn’t finding a job that I knew would make me happy. After moving to Austin, my husband suggested and supported the idea that I stay at home and work on my greatest dream, writing novels, while creating things I enjoy and dabbling in other ventures. It’s made us both happier because he gets to come home to a happy home and I get to do what I love, while also encouraging his dream of creating video games for a living.

By definition, I’m a non-conformist and so I know all of these decisions aren’t trendy or popular but trendy and popular never got me anywhere. Digging deep, asking why, and finding what matters most to me did.

There are many other ways we have defined simple. We went debt free, after paying off our car a year back; live on less than half our income; own very little (update coming soon!); go for walks, hikes and bikes; stopped buying in bulk and now only buy what we need even if just a cup of black beans; progressively make more and more of our stuff instead of buying store bought; are a one car family; and live as sustainably as possible.

Simple is relative. How you define it is up to you. It is possible to continue partaking in the holidays but simplifying them and there are great resources out there on how to do so. Create the life you love. Be brave and swim against the tide, despite the looks and comments. If it makes you happy, and doesn’t cause harm to others, then that’s all that matters.

Cheers to simple.


Five Things

I think we’ve all had those moments where we lose hope in people. Maybe it’s a click of the news, someone cut you off on the road or poor customer service. What if I had a solution, nay a suggestion, for gaining that hope right back in one swoop. Craigslist.

I know I’ve talked again and again about my experiences with people I’ve met through Craigslist. I could write a book and title it, Strangers Aren’t So Strange : A Craigslist Story. I could fill the pages of the walks of life I’ve met but it would mean nothing if others didn’t experience it too. So here is my suggestion. Pick out five things in your home, things you just no longer use or need, things you could let go of. Log onto Craigslist and post them in the free section for someone who could use them.

Here’s the catch. Arrange to meet and give them the item, once you are contacted by someone. Don’t stick it in front of your door and tell them it will be waiting outside. That misses out on the experience. This is coming from an introvert who has such trouble starting conversation but I’ve found that people don’t care how you reach but that you do reach.

What you will find, what I have come to find, is that people will surprise you. When you give freely you get all the good in that person. They are so happy you didn’t just dump it off at a thrift store and instead allowed someone to have it for free and connected with them.

Every interaction I have, when I post something for free, goes differently each time with one exception. I’m greeted with open and honest kindness. I had a man give me $60 for free clothes for the “good deed” of helping his friend who had no clothes. I’ve had people offer me a place to stay with my RV, say they’re willing to help me move my stuff into the RV, give me a bottle of wine, passed on my blog link, and promoted my business ventures all because I put something up for free, making it easier on their lives to get what they are looking for. It’s a grand thing, giving.

Yesterday I posted some wheat flour for free because I’m going a month without flour and didn’t want the temptation around. When the woman (Laura) showed up she brought me some fresh chopped rosemary from her rosemary bush as a way of saying thank you. And now I have them in bundles hanging up to dry. Never do I expect anything in return and every time people surprise me. I’ve had conversations that went on for five hours, cried with strangers, hugged them and arranged to meet again. People can not only be kind, but they are kind if we give them the opportunity.

So: five things. Grab, post, experience and be surprised by humanity.



Borax Free Laundry Detergent

I have been making laundry detergent for over two years now. I remember when I was first looking for recipes, I found borax as an ingredient in nearly every one. It was completely foreign to me. What is borax? I didn’t know. And I figured, just because it’s handmade doesn’t make it natural. I immediately went into research mode. Through my research I found that borax is listed as a poison, pesticide, and a fungicide. I found I wasn’t the only one who grew concerned about if it was the best thing to mix with my clothes, what I wear every day. So I excluded it and my detergent works as well as any other I’ve tried in the past.


1 cup soda ash (aka sodium carbonate – aka washing soda)
1/2 cup baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate)
1 bar Kirk’s Castile Soap
Essential oil (optional)

A note about the ingredients
: Sodium Carbonate is a natural ingredient pulled from the ashes of plants and when made in bulk it is made from table salt. It is called washing soda because of its ability to remove stains, oil and grease spots from clothes. Sodium bicorbonate works as a great exfoliating agent, which is why it is so often used in cleaning. All of the ingredients I buy on Amazon but I did stumble on an article saying that you can turn baking soda into washing soda/soda ash simply by baking it.


Grate your soap with a cheese grater. Then mix and store all ingredients. Only one tablespoon (two if really dirty) is needed for a load. Also, I recommend putting the detergent in first, then the clothing. It mixes better that way.

I went with a dry detergent, versus liquid, for two reasons. One, I’m a natural born spiller. Give me a liquid, I will spill it. So I figured I rather spill something dry. Second, dry weighs less and I want to talk a bit more on weight in the future. I did the math a while back and it ended up being cheaper than any other calculation I’d found. I also don’t buy Arm & Hammer because they are well known for testing on animals and I prefer my products to be cruelty free, so I’ve found other brands online and in stores.

I’m currently working on making my own bar soap and can’t wait to share those results! It’s been something I’ve been interested in for a long time coming.


Three │Simple Living

Living with less: But only the best

I’m coming to find that though the journey of those embracing a minimalistic and simple life is unique to the individual, there are common learning lessons that we all come to find.

We are almost done with phase 2 of our ‘mass’ declutter, in preparation for our RV move and there is one thing I realized. Much of the stuff that I let go of was cheaply bought and poorly made. The long lasting, great investments I kept, for the most part.

Through this simple journey I’ve come to redefine what quality means to me. Since I spend very little, I have the money to invest in quality things. Things that if I were buying all of this stuff would have been far out of my ballpark range of prices.

The last (or second to last) thing I got for quality’s sake was my dinnerware, which I wrote about earlier. I bought it from an American Company, HFCoors and got this set. While $140 is higher than I’ve ever paid for dinnerware, it was worth every dime to have sturdy, lead and cadmium free plates and bowls. I knew right when I opened the box that I got my money’s worth, the true opposite of buyer’s remorse.

As much as I love thrift stores, sometimes I feel that the ‘thrifted’ trend of hauls and whatnot encourages frivolous spending for the sake of cheap stuff. For not everything at a thrift store is of good quality, just as any store. I say we turn it around to promote better, not cheap. Though price is not an indicator of quality, that much have I learned. I’ve purchased three pairs of $50 Toms and won’t again. They lose their function all too quickly for the price.

This all really started for me when I switched my cats’ food and litter. Years back I made a point to acknowledge that their health is just as important as mine, that I rather give up another expense to cover good quality food for them. I’m a huge supporter of the company Blue Buffalo. They have grain free, by-product free food that has given them shinier coats (a sign of good health in cats) and they sell the most amazing litter. The litter I buy is made of walnut shells. I’ve tried a variety of eco-friendly litters, after learning of the harm clay does to the environment but also what they breath in from it when using the litter, and Blue Buffalo takes the cake in quality.

Now I make sure that every thing in my home, every thing, is something I’m just absolutely in love with. I use it, I adore it, I would promote it. I want every item, piece of clothing, electronic device and otherwise be something I’m proud to have. That even goes for things I make – I want to make sure I will love the heck out of them and so now I ponder my crafts a bit more, consider their place in my home. And lately, I’ve been saving my money and making some replacements to poor quality items.


Simple Deodorant


Living a sustainable, and thus self-sufficient, life is incredibly important to me. I’ve found that it goes hand in hand with living simply. And so I wanted to share our deodorant recipe. I’ve shared it on an older blog but since this blog is a keeper, it’s time to revisit. I’m telling ya, it’s as simple as it gets and you know how much I like simple.


One part coconut oil
One part baking soda
A touch of lime essential oil (optional- gives it that key lime pie smell)


Simply melt the coconut oil just enough so that it’s a liquid. Blend it with your baking soda. Pour it in your containers and voila!

At room temperature it is a thick paste. What I do to bypass that and keep it a solid, so it still rolls on like regular deodorant, is keep it in the refrigerator. I pull it out just five minutes before use, apply and put it back in. I’ve been using it successfully for months now. There will be more bath and body recipes coming, as I really enjoy using natural ingredients and reaping the benefits. Plus, it’s just not as much fun if you don’t share. Cheers!


The First You

We hear it all the time, _________ is the next Hunger Games or _________ is the next Adele. I recently read a review by my current favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss. He recalled a time before his first book, The Name of the Wind, came out and how he was compared to a previous successful author in his genre, saying, “Pat Rothfuss is the next Scott Lynch!” Patrick’s humble response was, ”Why do I have to be the next Scott Lynch? Why can’t I just be the first Pat Rothfuss? I’ll probably be a lot better at that, I’ve got way more experience at it if nothing else….”

The thing is, we don’t need blog posts to tell us how to be original. We already are. The challenge is to push aside what others are doing and do you. Let them stand out in their way and you in yours. Be a storyteller of you. Be inspired but be you, be the first you. No one wants another Vonnegut, Rowling, Tom Hanks or Ghandi. They are sufficient enough to pull off the job. Editors aren’t looking for a copy of someone else nor are those casting for a new show.

I think Neil Gaiman said it best in an interview with The Nerdist Podcast. He talked about how there will always be better and smarter writers than you but ended with, “But there is nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.”

Well, there is no one who can write, photograph, draw, paint, (insert your skill here), like you can. Trust your gut. Find out what makes you tick and share it with the world, the way you know how. Believe in your talent.


Black Bean & Corn Salad

I wanted to start an online catalog of sorts, including dishes I love so much I make again and again. Since I’m a bit impatient when it comes to eating, I’m keeping the photos very minimal. It will be nice to have my recipes digitized (and ones I’ve tried and loved from others – credit will be given if not my recipe), so I can easily reference them.

On to one of my favorite bean salads that I’ve been eating for years. It was my first cold bean salad and I fell in love. The key ingredient is that red wine vinegar. And really, this is one of those recipes where exact measurements don’t matter (and I’m a measurer).


15 oz organic black beans (I pressure cook dried beans and weigh them)
3 ears fresh corn or one bag of frozen corn
1 small red onion, chopped
Juice of two limes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 jalapenos, diced
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped (amount up to you)
Avocado peeled, seeded and chopped (amount up to you)
Ground pepper to taste


1. Cook your dried beans. While cooking, boil your chopped red onion and frozen corn in another pot,  just until the corn is thawed and the onion is a bit translucent.
2. Drain your pot of beans and your pot of corn and red onion.
3. Mix all ingredients, chill in the fridge and then eat.

Yields: 11 Cups (not including the avocado and tomatoes- where the amount is up to you)


UPDATE: I’ve decided I want to keep my recipes separate from this blog and they can now be found here, for any interested.

Cheers and happy eating!