Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gardening As I Can

Spring has been very slow to arrive here in the eastern midwest. I've been quite eager to get things planted in my yard, as it's my first full spring in my new little house. However, it has been too cold and rainy to allow for much gardening at all.

In lieu of planting outdoors, I've started several herbs and a few other plants in temporary pots and kept them next to the window in my bedroom. It has worked pretty well, although the frequent cloudy days have meant less sun exposure than I'd wish. My primary concern is the fact that my cats like to nosh on the leaves and so I have quite the time trying to keep the frisky felines away from my seedlings.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I'm very excited, as I've just put together a proper and well-designed vermicomposting system and populated it with about 100 worms so far. It just occurred to me that I could include pictures, so maybe I'll get some of those.

Monday, March 5, 2012


If there is one area of life that doesn't come naturally to me, it's interior design. [Well, lots of things don't come naturally to me, but interior design is the one relevant to this post.] It is not very easy for me to make a room attractive, especially when I'm limited by so many practical concerns, including budget (all-important) and the fact that I have a resident energetic and messy preschooler. However, I'm beginning to make inroads into an understanding of how to make my home both functional and beautiful.

Part of the issue is my own personal aesthetic, which trends toward the utterly classic. Yesterday, I was being teased by Candace, who is both friend and sister (-in-law-once-removed-ish), about my preference for neutrals. "That's right," I joked. "I've got to make sure those beiges aren't too light or too dark!" It's not quite as bad as all that, but even so, there's a bit of reality under the humor. The problem is, I really prefer to work with a lighter and more restrained pallet. I would rather have my walls, floors, and furniture be pale neutrals, and allow my wall art and shelved curiosities to take center stage. And as I work on decorating my little cottage, I've come to realize that the old adage, "Be yourself," is as most cliches because there is good reasoned truth behind it. Your home is where you have to live, and it should reflect you. If, like me, you recoil at most trends, and any professional decorator would break out in hives just looking at pictures of your house,well, it doesn't matter as long as you like it.

Here are some elements that I, being me, plan to incorporate in my new home:
  • Neutrals - I really do better with furniture that is in whites and softly cool-toned off-whites, or light wood such as pine or white oak. It's what I liked when I was 13, and I haven't changed. Any attempts to branch out of this have resulted in expensive purchases that I found I didn't actually like. Same for walls, floors, etc. Exception: I don't mind a more ornate area rug or accent rug, and I might be able to handle a border or even mild wall-paper on some walls. But the latter is not certain.
  • Owls - Owls are my favorite bird, owing to an old family tradition that would take too long to explain, and I've collected them since high school. I have a sizable collection, and I'm always looking to add to it. Owls are enjoying a boost from a current popularity trend, so it makes it easier to acquire owl-themed household items, but as with all trends, it's fated soon to pass.
  • Blue - My favorite color, ever since I was old enough to have a favorite color. Blue can serve as both a neutral and as an accent or theme color. I own plenty of blue stuff, and I hope to find a rug that has plenty of blue. It's so versatile, but moderation and variety in its usage prevents rooms from feeling too cold if there is a lot of blue.
  • Maps - Maps have fascinated me all my life, and I now possess several antique maps that I am planning to have matted and framed professionally, so that I can put them up in my front room.
  • Natural - I may be or of the least hippie members of my family, but I still have an affinity for natural materials rather than synthetic, so I use a lot of woods, rattan/reed baskets, and nature-inspired art or fixtures.
  • Jungle - Hey, a few really cool jungle-themed items can really make a room, right?
  • Books - I own too many books, and while I am always culling my collection, I still seem to be being constantly overwhelmed by numerous tomes. Despite my scale-back efforts, I will always need to incorporate BOOKSHELVES into my home design.
We'll see how it all works out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tip for Cat Owners: Pine Pellets

This blog has been on hiatus for more than four months, but we are still devoted to seeking and then sharing the simple pleasures of life.This post relates to two of the simplest of pleasures: owning (and caring for) pets and saving money. I enjoy both of those activities!

As a cat owner and cat lover, I've spent a fair amount of money over the years buying the kitty cat necessities: food, litter, litter boxes and scoops, catnip and toys... I started out with the standard clay-based litter, and while it was functional, it didn't neutralize odors, it scattered and spread dust everywhere, and it created a lot of trash. I know that clay is a natural material, but it didn't seem useful to put a bunch of dirty clay in the landfill. I switched to silicon crystal litter, and while it was quite expensive by comparison, it absorbed odors much better than clay, it didn't have much dust, and it produced less waste because less of it was required to be effective and it lasted twice as long per unit as clay litter. Still, I didn't like sending all those bags of tiny rocks into the landfill to fester in nitrogenous waste. And even more than that, I didn't like spending top dollar on something for my cats to poop on.

One day, while shopping at the local grocery mart, I decided to take the plunge and try something completely new and different: plant-based litter. While more expensive than clay, it is far cheaper (~$5 for 10 lbs) than crystal litter. The pine pellets are resource-efficient: in addition to being 100% natural and biodegradable, they are formed from the waste product (sawdust) of another industry (lumber). Perfect!

I bought a few bags and found that I loved the effect: pellets absorb odors as well as the crystal (I don't have quantitative data, as I don't own a smell-o-scope; I'm just judging from my own olfactory experiences) and when stirred to activate or increase absorbency, they emit a pleasant "pine fresh" odor. I was happy with my choice and worked on switching over completely to the new litter system. And then... while researching pine litter on the internet, I read that the "pine pellet cat litter" is actually sold very cheaply in bulk at feed stores because it has been used as horse stall bedding for ages, and has just recently been adapted, remarketed and sold (with significant price increase, of course) as cat litter.

I live in a small town in a rural area, so at the next opportunity, I took myself off to the local farm supply superstore and picked up two bags of pine pellets, each bag $5 for 40 lbs. While not everyone would find it practical to stock up on 80 lbs of pine-scented cat litter (I know, for example, that there are apartment-dwellers who wouldn't have a place to put it), there are probably feed and farm supply stores that carry smaller denominations that still provide the benefit of bulk pricing.

I'm happy with my purchase. And I'm thinking about putting the post-usage sawdust in my compost, where it is likely to not only biodegrade (nature has microbiotic organisms who exist to break down nitrogenous waste) but also to keep away critters who have been messing up my bin but may be dissuaded by the scent of feline urine. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Technology can simplify

I got a blogging app for my phone.

Now I can blog from anywhere. The keyboard interface still isn't what I like, but I'm giving it a try.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Soon-To-Be-Fall Cleaning

I think I'll be doing some housekeeping around here.

I might add some links to useful sites about simplicity, organization, decorating, etc.

Baby Steps.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Keeping Up

Well, it seems as if my life is becoming more complicated rather than more simple. In addition to being a full-time mama, I work a "regular" job in an office, and I've had to put in overtime lately.

Perhaps I should institute some sort of schedule so that I can get one or two things done at home nightly, rather than giving in to feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by everything staring me in the face and doing nothing at all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Baby Steps (still)

As stated in the previous post, the midwest portion of the Simple Pleasures crew recently took up residence in a house with a yard. Adventures, with hilarity, have ensued. I should share some of those. However, I haven't forgotten my focus on Sleep and Baby Steps, including those tiny little steps to simplicity and a life that is uncluttered, both physically and psychologically.

In tidying up my bedroom (still not completely unpacked from my move nearly two months ago, but such is life), I found a packet of diapers (nappies) that my little guy has long since outgrown. I didn't know what to do with them, but it occurred to me that I could donate them to any place that would have little children roaming around on a regular basis. So this morning (a nice sunny Monday morning, in point of fact), I took them with me to the daycare and left them with the toddler-age teacher, who was immensely appreciative.

The best part? Everyone benefited from that little arrangement!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Cleaning... to Moving!

So exciting! A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to finalize the purchase of an amazing little cottage that is just crying out to be loved and updated into a haven of joy, purpose, and simplicity. We've spent the past several days working on readying it for habitation, and on the weekend, we'll move most of our stuff into it, submit a Change-of-Address form to the Post Office, drop by the DMV, etc. etc., and take up residence in a perfectly retro 1930s bungalow storybook cottage. There will be plenty of composting, gardening, DIY projects, and more, to make good housekeeping for me and good (I hope) reading for you.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Cleaning

My Winter Cleaning has transitioned into Spring Cleaning, even though spring is really take its sweet time arriving to my part of the country. I was very excited to participate in an action that blessed someone else while improving and simplifying my own life. Week before last, I heard of a single mom at church who really needed a crib for her infant. I'd been cleaning through a lot of old stuff, including the crib that my own Little Bug has long outgrown, and hoping to get rid of it. Perfect situation! I called the contact person and was able to give away not only the crib, but the mattress and pad, sheet, and crib bumper. Another mom can use the crib to meet one of her needs, while I am lucky to not be storing it anymore.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter Cleaning, mini-post again

Most excellent tidings! I found someone to take the bag of maternity tops (and I slipped in some old maternity-related books and magazines of which I also wanted to be rid--I'm so sneaky).

I still have a long way to go, but every little bit helps. Baby steps can carry you a thousand miles if you take enough of them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter Cleaning mini-post

I have taken something of a break from heavy cleaning efforts while hosting a visitor for a week. However, I was able to do a little sorting, and I pulled out some maternity clothes that I obviously won't be needing any time soon. Yes, I could keep them on hand in order to attempt to be prepared for some nebulous possibility that I may have more children in the future, but I'd rather be rid of the clutter, and it's more sensible that someone else get some use out of them, rather than have them sitting in a box in my closet.

I have been asking around, and apparently nobody at church or work is (or knows anyone who is) expecting a baby right now. I could list the items on Craigslist, but so far, that hasn't worked well for me, so I may very well just end up giving them to Goodwill.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Cleaning, Part 5

The Great Winter Cleaning Orgy continues... I'm hoping that once I deal with all these boxes and the things in them, I actually won't ever have to deal with this level of cleaning/organization again. If you get all your stuff organized and keep it that way, it isn't as bad anymore, right? Right?! I mean, it should make daily life easier (and more efficient and thrifty) and it will make moving much easier. And when I die (many years from now, I hope) it will make things easier for everyone who has to go through my possessions. So, ease all around.


Over the weekend, much was accomplished:
  • Did a recycle run to get cardboard, paper, and plastics out of the garage and apartment.
  • Added cardboard bedding to the vermicompost, put all compost from container in the apartment into bins in the garage.
  • Went through old papers and memorabilia, organized it, recycled a lot of things I didn't need. I actually was able to consolidate enough to get rid of two boxes.
  • Went through the Little Bug's school papers, eliminated a lot of the ones that don't need to be kept, and then organized the "keepers" in a single location.
  • Sorted through magazines, took out and filed any articles or pictures I want to keep, and put the magazines in a stack in the garage, ready to be given away to anyone who wants them. Or maybe I'll give them to the library for their used book store.
  • Got a new space heater, because the old one mysteriously quit working on Thursday night.
  • Got some new plastic bins, the better to store and organize things.
To do for this week:
  • Deal with some insurance issues.
  • Organize and file papers currently being centralized on the table.
  • Remove more recycling.
  • Go through some boxes of clothing, glean.
  • Take stuff to Goodwill.
  • Give away some items to people who can use them.
  • Clean fridge.
  • Plan menus for upcoming week and a half.
  • Plan the Little Bug's birthday celebrations.
  • Bake cookies and rolls.
  • Take the Little Bug to get his feet measured.
  • Have the Little Bug's hair cut.
So far, no interest in the book I put on Craigslist. I don't care about getting money for it, really, but unfortunately, I don't even know anyone to whom I could give it away for free.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Cleaning mini-post

I got rid of three more books. A friend came over, I offered some books to her, and they completely fit some needs that she and her family have at this time. Perfect!

I put another book for sale on Craigslist but am not sure if it will get any interested parties. It's a book focused on a fairly niche market.

But small victories are still victories.