The Simplest Gift




We’ve received some lovely little clothes for our second son since he arrived. Lovely notes in the mail and hugs and texts and emails of congratulations.

Along with the thoughtful notes and tiny clothes, we’ve received meals.

We had a weekend of incredible dinners brought to us, enough for a feast and leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a bounty of salads, beautifully prepared meats and vegetables and fresh berries for dessert that left all of us very full and very happy. It was not only delicious but also unexpected and so very appreciated.

One afternoon I sent my husband a message saying I was very tired and that I would defrost something from the freezer for dinner instead of cooking. He replied that a coworker had brought in a home cooked meal for us that he was bringing home for dinner. Fortuitous timing that I was so grateful for. As we tucked into a beautiful homemade meal that evening I felt so much gratitude for the kindness of friends.

Every meal that has been made for us has been a delight in so many ways: a much needed reprieve from cooking, great fuel for the long nights of being up with a newborn and an inspiration as we tasted flavor combinations and cooking methods that were new to us.

Giving a meal is such a simple gift and yet it has such a big impact.

A meal gives the gift of rest and nourishment. It’s fuel, kindness and a break in a Pyrex container.

Read the rest of this post a Home Your Way.

photo credit: visualpanic


Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

Simplify For Fall: Kitchen & Meal Plan

This week I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here all week.

Simplify your: Kitchen & Meal Plan

Time I spent on this task: 3-4 hours *half of that was meal planning and organizing grocery delivery for the month


For this task I:

Tidied up our dry food cupboards and wiped them out. I checked for anything that was expired.

Yes, I have a LOT of spices. I use them. I really do.

Emptied out and sorted through all the crap that has accumulated on these shelves in the last four months.

that's better

Put some matting in the cooking utensil drawer.

Found a few more bits and pieces from the owners that we weren’t using and boxed them up.

Checked the freezer and refrigerator to see if anything was out of date. All clear on that one.

This was a good kick in the butt to take stock of what we have. If you look closely at the cooking utensil drawer photos you’ll see we have not one but two pairs of tongs. One is ours, one came with the place. I kept them both because I use a nonstick pan that would get scratched from the metal tongs. I’d like to pack up the nonstick and switch to cast iron now that we have a gas stove again. When I stop using nonstick pans I can get rid of the plastic tongs and plastic flipper.

Meal Plan

For the last year or so I’ve kept a meal plan on Google Docs. It’s pretty casual and has a master list of meals we like and then sheets for each week. Some weeks I don’t use the meal plan at all. I just make an online grocery order and select meat + vegetables for each night’s dinner and then our usual items for breakfasts. Lunch is usually leftovers.

For the Simplify for Fall Challenge I created a thirty day wheat and dairy free meal plan. We eat that way for 2/3 of our meals but I want to be completely wheat and dairy free by the end of my pregnancy.

Henry was a very gassy and unhappy newborn. I hope eliminating some known allergens from my diet will help our second child, and us, have an easier start. I also feel really good when I stay off wheat and dairy. I sleep well and have better energy. Perks abound.

As fate would have it Chris read the book It Stars With Food and wanted to try the 30 day nutrition challenge described in the book. So I took the meal plan to the next level and eliminated anything processed or packaged. I made two seven day meal plans that I will alternate over the 30 days.

Grocery delivery really simplifies my life and makes living without a car easier. For the challenge I set up my deliveries for the next month. It was pretty easy because once I had a shop in my queue for the week 1 & 2 meals I could just copy those lists for the following weeks. Simple. I’ll be using that method from now on.

Tomorrow: Toys & School Supplies

 Anyone else taking the Simplify for Fall Challenge? How are you fairing with the tasks?

No Machine Will Change Your Life


The other week I went to a demonstration dinner for a kitchen appliance called a Thermomix. A friend wanted to buy one and was hosting a dinner so we could all see the miracle machine in action.

I’ll admit it: I was impressed.

It could make bread dough and sorbet and steam veggies and make lump free cheese sauce. All quite quickly as well. It could crush ice and turn  sugar into icing sugar. One of the selling points was that you could make a four course meal in an hour. Hot damn!

We don’t have many kitchen appliances here. No blender. No bread machine. No electric wok. My Kitchen Aid mixer and food processor are in storage in Canada. I could have brought them overseas and used them here with an electrical converter but I decided against it. I knew it wouldn’t be good for the machines and I’d probably burn out a few expensive converters along the way.

As I watched the demonstration of the Thermomix I started to get sucked in. Of course, this machine would do it all. Dinner would be on the table in no time flat. No more standing at the stove stirring risotto for half an hour.

And look at the savings. The demonstrator had a guide to show much money you could save making your own icing sugar and bread. Supposedly you could save the cost of the machine in the first year.

Oh, right. The cost.

Around £800/$1250 USD.

Hot damn is right.

The cost snapped me out of my revery. I also started to look at the list of things you could make. Smooth soups. I like mine chunky. Bread dough. We don’t eat a lot of bread. Sorbet and ice cream. We don’t keep either of those in our freezer (if we get ice cream it’s in the summer at the ice cream shop in town).

And, call me weird, I like making cheese sauce from scratch. I find cooking to be meditative. I find it to be relaxing. I like chopping and stirring. I usually have good ideas when I’m cooking. The other night I made a cake for my husband’s birthday in my post-child-going-to-bed leisure time. I enjoyed it.

Also, I realized I’m already getting dinner on the table with what I have. I’ve already got my short cuts. The biggest one being once or twice a week I make a double batch of whatever is for dinner and we eat it the next night.

My shortcut is leftovers. Not a machine that costs over a thousand dollars.

The friend that is buying a Thermomix is dabbling in Veganism and I can see that the machine would be useful for her. But I don’t need to turn carrots into pate. My kitchen works just fine with what we have. I seem to get dinner on the table without a Thermomix (including when we had a dozen people over for a casual meal).

We still have our own gadgets that some of you might find excessive. I have an apple slicer and quarterer. I use it quite a bit. I have a meat thermometer and it’s taken a lot of guess work out of roasting chicken and other meats. I have a julienne slicer that is really unnecessary but a lot of fun for cutting up carrots and cucumbers and zucchini for salads, stir frys and sandwiches. I’m on the brink of buying a blender because I really miss making smoothies.

While I’m not immune to the convenience and fun of kitchen tools (who is?) I just can’t believe that a machine will change my life.

My iPod didn’t change my life.

Neither did my Mac Book.

Oh, and the Garmin running watch that I bought as a birthday gift for my husband but that I now use (thanks honey)… it didn’t change my life either.

Has anyone been sucked into a ‘this will change my life’ tool or piece of electronics? Anyone with dusty bread makers, pizza ovens and crock pots ready to get rid of them this week?

PS. We have an air date for our House Hunters International Episode. It will be on at June 25th at 10:30pm and 1:30am EST on HGTV in the U.S. (no word on when it will air in Canada). From the episode synopsis it looks like they are focusing on my husband’s strange and wonderful career path. If you happen to see it let me know. We won’t get to see it ourselves for a while yet. I’ve been thinking about writing about the experience so keep your eyes peeled for a post on what has to be my favourite reality television show.

Take A Bow


A reader recently emailed me with her story of conquering debt and simplifying.

Over a year ago she and her husband were mulling over all the extras they would buy and do with an upcoming increase in income. It was regular stuff, stuff that I know well: renovations and vacations.

Then they found Dave Ramsey and this blog.

It changed everything.

Instead of buying more they took a step back and started giving things away. Instead of upgrading they made do, and enjoyed, all the things they already had.

They quickly paid off a big chunk of debt. Now they’re tackling their mortgage.

I love reading these stories from people that have decided to live differently.

Not move to a commune different or sell the house and buy an RV to travel the country different.

Just different from what their peers or their family or the spring ‘must-haves’ list from Lucky magazine are telling them is the normal way to live.

Spend less. Have less. Do more.

I’ve collected a little shout out list below of people deciding to live different.

Rachel’s Shout Out List

Little Green Village Made $946 in April turning clutter into cash.

The Minimalist Year Donated a car load of stuff including dozens of mini muffin cups for the mini muffin pan she never owned.

Rethinking The Dream Sold their big house and moved into a two bedroom apartment. Now they’re able to travel more and have more family time with a shorter commute.

Not Buying Anything Pony Rider sent me to this blog (thanks!). Radical living without buying anything except groceries and guitar strings and not selling anything. We’re not aiming for this style of living but I applaud their efforts.

las maison des minous is biking more and driving less.

Stacy is getting the word out about cycling as a family and all the great benefits to living car-lite.

Momma Jorje has been running Minimalist Monday since October. If you’re a blogger you can grab the Minimalist Monday badge and make it part of your weekly posting schedule.

Hugs and Strawberries ran Project Simplify in March. Great before and after photos.

Mama Loves Life is cutting her living space in half. This will allow her a lot of freedom financially. Bonus: less to clean.

Green Veggies is getting rid of things they don’t use. Love that they got rid of socks, not because there were holes in them, but because they just had too many.

Well done!

Anyone else making small changes?

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