Last Week's Simple Living Secrets: Week 2

.... Back to the blog after a full yet restful weekend.  Ben and I walked to a baseball game, completely rearranged the living room, had good friends over to barricade in with as Irene came closer, walked down the street to our favorite brewery/restaurant, and enjoyed lunch and an afternoon with our favorite newbie twins (belonging to our dear friends), and met with a church small group to recap the summer - all in one weekend!  Even with all that going on, the weekend managed to still feel relaxing.  We spent time eating leftover bruschetta, drinking iced coffee, and catching up on some reading and short naps.  Sometimes, bad weather is just the excuse you need for some quiet time at home....

A Few Simple Living Secrets from the Past Week (either practiced, or reflected on):

1. Canning is work, but well worth it, to save money and time in the future.

This week, I canned for the first time by myself.  I ended up with a pantry full of bread-and-butter pickles and basic tomato sauce.  I enjoyed trying it on my own, and I know later this winter when I'm in the midst of classes, I'll be glad I did!
You can read more about last week's canning adventures in my posts Yesterday, In Pictures. and Updates from the Garden, and My First Time Solo-Canning!
2. Natural Cleaning Continues to Impress Me with Its Wonders!

Fruit flies will forever be a pet peeve of mine.  It seems we battle them on-and-off all summer long, especially in a kitchen without air conditioning.  Last week, while at my parents' house for supper, my mom shared a tip that her mother-in-law passed on to her (the best tips are gathered from stories, I've learned!).  If fruit flies are in your kitchen, put out a bowl of apple cider vinegar with two drops of dish soap.  You'll find a few flies in there in almost moments.  Today I got a chance to try it, and truly, within minutes, there were flies floating in my natural concoction.  So easy!  Now, who is going to clean them up...?

3. Give Freely, and Double for Yourself.

This title will sound incredibly selfish, until you read on.  I am continually learning about how I can give more freely to those around me, with my time, resources, and self.  It is not easy, especially in a self-centered society and as an independent person.  However, I have learned that the moments that I go beyond my natural inclinations to give, I receive back twice a blessing in the feeling of joy, contentment, and reward that comes back.  Also, it is a powerful way to foster relationships with others in a more authentic way.  So, one way Ben and I are both learning to give is through cooking.  We went over this weekend with lunch for dear friends of ours who have just had twins.  It was such a pleasure to be with them and their boys, and easy to bring over lunch for the four of us (+2!).  While we (or rather, Ben) was getting the ingredients for a crockpot of Mennonite mac and cheese (one of our favorites), we decided to get larger containers of ingredients to make a second batch for ourselves for dinner this week.  My work this week for planning out our meals has been virtually nothing - just adding a few veggies and sides to our crockpot of mac and cheese that will certainly take us all week to finish!

5. iTunes U.

If you have not discovered iTunes U, then you are missing out!  My poor family, in my excitement to share my "tips" with them, I have probably told them about every lecture I've listened to on iTunes U, and then asked if I've ever told them about it before.  Lovingly:"Yes, Rachel, you told us about it the last time you were here..." - oops.  Well, if you're a learning-a-holic like me and love to hear new things, you are just going to dig iTunes U.  Through Apple's iTunes store, you can go to the iTunes U tab on the top of the store menu.  There, you can download tons of free lectures, talks, roundtable discussions, and videos from major universities around the world in any department you can imagine.  They are all free, and can be downloaded onto your iPod.  I have learned about sustainable food systems, Michael Pollan, immigration laws, gardening, psychology and attraction, and much more in the past few weeks from listening to these lectures while I work around the house, or walk through the neighborhood.  If you haven't, check it out!

I could keep going (and going, and going...), but I'll leave it at that for this week.  Later this week, I'll be writing about a lesson learned in gratitude, perspective, and abundance.

A few thoughts on simplicity that are challenging me this week, to leave you with:

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.  ~Elise Boulding
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.  ~Lin Yutang
The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

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