Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ready to Kiss 2016 Goodbye

Hey gang! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was slightly chaotic. But that seems par for the course this year. I really want to go into the new year with a calmer spirit. I'm trying my best to scratch off my 'to do' items or just get OK with things going undone. Because that's ok. All the things do not have to be done! I am trying to retrain my brain.

I'm ready to put a lid on this year. It hasn't all been bad, but it has been a wild, non-stop roller coaster. I am more than ready to step into the new year and settle down, to practice simple living and find some calm. With New Year's Eve coming up, I've been thinking about New Year's traditions.

I know a large group of wild women who believe wholeheartedly in burying money on New Year's Eve and digging it up the next morning. The idea is that you bury your poverty and then you uncover your wealth. I think there is some discussion about what you can then do with that money. I think the majority rule is that you cannot spend it, but you can donate it. {Y'all can keep me honest in the comments}

Many people go out for New Year's Eve. My husband and I did that for a handful of years. It can be a lot of fun to dress up all fancy and spend the evening out with friends.

But for the last couple of years, we have found that we enjoy spending New Year's Eve at home. Big surprise, right? I think we are so blessed to enjoy each other and our home so much that it is actually where we chose to be. So our tradition is to stay home and make nachos and drink margaritas.

What are your New Year's traditions? Do you go out and party it up? Or do you stay home and have a more intimate celebration? OR do you go to bed early?

Do you get up on New Year's day and go run a 5k? Or spend the day in your pajamas putting up Christmas decorations?

Does anyone have any special food or drink they make for the New Year's?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Let's Get Real

Hi, everyone! We are headed for the end of the year like a fright train. No matter the ups or the downs, life just keeps chugging along.

Before I go any further, I had someone ask about my new boots. They are the Smarty Riding Boot at Payless. These boots come with the option for an extended calf. I usually wear a 6.5 and I ordered the same size but with the extended calf. They are still on go and get yourself a pair right now!

I posted this on my Instagram (@justjinny - come find me) last night. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people. In this age of social media, it is really easy to walk around thinking everyone else has their shit together. How do people seem to always keep their house so perfectly tidy and decorated? How is it those kids always have on coordinating outfits and perfect hair-dos? Why does so-and-so always seem to be on vacation? It's like they all know the secret to life, but some how you missed the memo.

But there is no how-to manual for life. That photo of the perfectly set table is taken in front of the sink full of dirty dishes. And the photos of the kids was taken a split second before the baby threw up on her brother.  And so-and-so might be a jet-setter but their marriage is falling apart and they are swimming in debt.

It's all about perspective. And life is much too organic to be anything as mundane as cookie cutter.

All you really can do is try to live life as close to your authentic self as possible.  I follow a lady on Instagram that posted just today about how other people only share their highlight reel, and not their authentic "down and dirty" life. So she shared a photo of her inflamed stye in her eye. It ain't pretty, people. But that is her reality. It's so real, and I love that.

I just feel that if people weren't so afraid to share the shit parts of their life, we all might have less anxiety about how we are doing life. Instead of scrolling through social media comparing ourselves to everyone else, maybe we could actually make a true connection. If we were more willing to share our flaws, we would be able to better relate to other people's realness. We would be able to sigh with relief and say 'Oh, you too? I thought I was the only one!'

Because we are never the only ones!  We are all part of that club, the 'I have no clue what I'm doing' club. So, let's be authentic and real, let's admire those that seem to have it a little more together and encourage those that are trying to find their feet. Let's be honest and ask for advice, let's share all the tricks and tips.  Let's share the ugly and the pretty, the good and the bad. And let's support each other. We are all just clinging to this huge rock, hurtling through time and space, trying our damnedest to figure it all out.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Life with a small closet

Does anyone else have trouble finding knee-high boots that fit their calves? It can't be just me right? I'm a curvy girl. I have curves all over...even my calves. Usually the knee-high boots I try on never zip all the way up. Doesn't matter if I'm wearing jeans or leggings or tights. That zipper won't budge. So, when I find a pair that fits I wear them until they look ratchet.

This was the case with my brown knee-high boots. Love them. But I've had them for many, many years now and they had started to crack. And so the search was on for a new pair of knee-high boots that would zip all the way up. On a random trip into the mall (very random as I rarely go there) I stopped into Payless and found the perfect pair of knee-high boots.  They zipped right up with room left to spare. The downside was the price. Regular price was $59.99. It's not really a bad price but it's Christmas time and my money is going everywhere else but to me (Yes, I know I JUST told y'all that dollar bills are not the reason for the season! But do as I say, not as I do!!!). Needless to say, I left without the boots.

But I'm subscribed to the Payless email and eventually they were running a really great 50% off sale. It was too good to pass up. So not only did I buy a new brown pair, but I went ahead and got a black pair too.

Forget thigh gaps. Look at that gap between the boot and my knee! I can put my whole hand in there!! Unless you have thicker calves you probably have no idea why I am so giddy. That's ok, I love you anyway. So, I am totally thrilled with my purchase. I love them already...obvs. But here is my ever-present, on-going, problem. My closet. It's small. Like postage stamp sized small. And only half of it is mine.

I am touching both sides of the closet.
When something goes in the closet, usually something has to come out of the closet. This is life in the love cottage. You have to love your items enough to bring them in, for one, and then until they can't be loved anymore before letting them go. So, I did a fast and furious thinning of the shoe herd. I love my shoes but if I have only worn them a couple of times or not at all over the last year (or longer), I have to let them go.

You see those platform pumps?! I love those shoes. I look great in those shoes. But, I hardly ever wear them because they just aren't comfortable. And if I'm honest with myself, they aren't really my style (no matter how much I want them to be). I'm more of a wedge girl. A big box of shoes will go to donation and hopefully someone else will find them and love them until they can't be loved anymore.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cars are not Christmas gifts

They appear every year around this time. Holiday commercials. We are bombarded with jewelry commercials, electronic commercials, and car commercials. All with the same intent. Spend more money. The holiday car commercials baffle me the most.

I love the bit at the very end...'Thank you, Santa'. Um....Santa? Santa isn't going to be making the payments on that shiny new Mercedes-Benz for the next several years. I can aaalllmmooosstt let jewelry and MacBooks slide. But a car? It just seems really shallow to me. A purchase made for the status symbol rather than any heart-felt sentiment.

But, I'm not here to tell anyone what to do. If you want to buy a car for Christmas, or a new ring, or laptop or whatever...than do it. Just make sure its for the right reasons and not out of society pressure. Do not fall victim to the never-ending barrage of a not so subtle message...'spending more will make you happier' or 'if you aren't spending more you aren't doing Christmas right'.

Christmas is NOT about the dollar bills, y'all.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I'm no Chef but...

I want to thank everyone that came by to read my first post. It sounds like the idea of simple living really hits home with a lot of people. I changed the settings to allow anyone to leave a comment (you don't have to register or sign in anymore), but all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing. Please feel free to leave me comments (words of affirmation is a big part of my love language).

Today I want to share a recipe with y'all. If you've known me for any amount of time, you'll already know that I have not always known how to cook. I wouldn't really say I know how to cook now, but my husband seems fairly pleased with what I put together...and I guess that's all that really matters. With an eye towards moving away from too much processed food (when you are poor and starting out, you eat what you can afford) and the advent of the Internet (mainly Pinterest, how on earth did people do the things before the Internet?), I've grown my confidence in the kitchen.

Ok, so this is a recipe for One Pot Creamy White Bean and Ham, Tortellini Soup.

Here is the ingredients as listed on the recipe I (sort of) followed:
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups cooked and cubed ham
  • 15 oz. can canneli beans, rinsed and rained
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried thyme, ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 cups (1 pound) uncooked refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 2-3 cups half and half *
  • Garnish (optional)
    • fresh parsley
    • Parmesan cheese
    Here is what my ingredient list looked like. I didn't have any chicken bouillon, so I didn't use it. I left out the red pepper flakes. I had honey Dijon mustard, so that's what I used. And I have no clue what canneli beans are, so I just used white kidney beans. You do not have to be Martha Freakin' Stewart to whip up a meal at dinner. Just use what you have, make common sense substitutions (it's cooking, not baking), and season to YOUR taste.
    Melt butter in olive oil in Dutch oven/large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook, while stirring, for 3 minutes. Add garlic (I used garlic cubes..because I had them and I was too lazy to mince up some fresh cloves..use whatever you have) and saute for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour then cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes (it will be thick).
    Turn heat to low and gradually stir in 5 1/2 cups chicken broth. Whisk 2 tablespoons cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth and add to soup. Stir in ham, beans, Dijon mustard, bay leaves, bouillon and all remaining herbs and spices. Notice my very technical measuring technique. I basically eye-ball all of the seasonings, including the mustard.
    Bring to a boil; cover, and reduce to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    This is when you take a wine break. don't cook dinner while wearing face cleansing strips, drinking wine, and wearing PJ's? You totally should. Multi-tasking at it's finest.
    Add tortellini and boil for 1-2 minutes or until cooked al dente.
    Stir in half and half, adding additional half and half or broth if desired for a less “chunky” soup and warm through. Again with the measuring technique. I just poured and stirred until it had the consistency that I was happy with.
    Garnish individual servings with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese if desired.
    Doesn't that look good?! Especially on a cold, drizzly day? It was pretty darn tasty and it only used one pot plus a cutting board to make. That means less clean up for me. And, it's just as good the next day so take it to work for lunch. Your tummy will thank you for it.
    If you decide to try this recipe out, please leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it. I'd love to hear from you.


    Sunday, December 4, 2016

    Welcome to the Love Cottage

    My husband and I bought this house as our "starter home" about 15 years ago. It is about 1100 square feet with three bedrooms (if you count the very tiny third room that has the backdoor in it), a bathroom, a eat-in galley kitchen, and a one car carport.

    After so many years, we started thinking that it was time to upgrade to a bigger house. You know, because that is what people are suppose to do, right? People always seem to want bigger, and fancier, and newer. People don't just stay in the first home they buy. It's a social standard that has grown out of an increasingly self-centered, entitled, and ego-driven mentality. We must always be striving for "more". In 2010, we put our house on the market and easily signed a contract to sell it. And then we discovered we couldn't get financed for a new mortgage. We nearly lost our home and were looking at the possibility of having to move back home with our parents. At the time, we had five pets, so we were fairly sure no one would rent to us. And there was no possibility of giving our pets up. So, there we were....practically homeless and not sure what we were going to do. But by some miracle of grace, the buyer of our house decided to let us out of our contract after being told of our situation. I'll always be grateful to that woman for being so kind.

     I had a whole new appreciation for our home after that experience. And that is when I affectionately started calling it the Love Cottage. That is also when I started trying to guide my thoughts in the direction of "I do not need more space, I just need less stuff". Would it be nice to have more storage? A walk-in closet? A second bathroom? Sure. I'm sure it would be very nice. But having less storage really makes me think about what I'm buying. How bad do I want it? Do I have a place to store it? Am I ready to get rid of something else in order to bring it home? It forces me to really think about the attachment I have to the items already in my home. If I don't love it, if it doesn't hold any sentimental value, if it's not useful..I give myself permission to get rid of it.

    This new thought process has allowed me to really narrow down what I need vs. what I want. It has allowed me to create a warm, cozy home that holds a lot of value to us. Our base-boards are dusty, we have several on-going remodel/paint projects happening at any given time, there is animal hair on all the furniture, and coffee splatters on the kitchen floor, our sink is stained a colorful kaleidoscope from our artistic endeavours, our grass isn't very green and we have weeds. But, the walls of this tiny house are filled with music, laughter, creative energy, and love. Lots of love.

    So, I hope you come back to visit. Follow along as I share my ideas of remodeling, redecorating, re-purposing items and space. Follow along as I share recipes and gadgets that make life in a small home easier. Follow along as I continue to learn what it means to live a simple, yet purposeful life.