Simple Living, The Cell Phone

Simplifying ought to be simple.

It isn’t.

It’s time consuming, often complex, and sometimes more than a little frustrating.

Take cell phone bills. (Really, take ’em, please.) Cell phone bills aren’t particularly simple, and they can be so painfully expensive. And they aren’t just a one-time expense, they roll around every. single. month.

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We have just now reduced our “Family Plan” to family members living in our immediate household, but the expense is still high.

Friends have recommended another cell service provider that uses the extensive network towers from our OLD cell service provider, but at a far cheaper rate.

In the interim, we need to go to our cell phone company, discuss how many monthly minutes the two of us really need, and do what we can to adjust our bill as quickly as possible.

This isn’t the most fun we’ve ever had.

I hate messing with bills. I hate thinking about them. I’d rather just close my eyes and bleed money than think long and hard about how much each little item is on my cell phone service charges.

Therefore, I’ve been bleeding money. O.o

I hate taking the time out of my busy, messy week to stomp into a store and talk to a nice salesman about why I want to leave his company.

“Hi! You are too expensive, so I want to figure out how to get out as cheaply as humanly possible until my contract is up. Then I want to dump you altogether.”

Simple living isn’t always simple. This time, frugality wins. We’ve got to make the time to go deal with this expense and cut it down to size.

Yick. But doing so will save us approximately 80 dollars a month. I can think of a lot more fun things to do with 80 bucks than pay a cell phone bill.

Can’t you?

 

 

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Healthy Vegan Diet or Dirty Rotten Cheater?

There’s an important difference between laws and principles.

I should know: I’ve kept the law, but stomped all over the principle.

The law was to stay gluten-free vegan. But, exhausted and very hungry, I found myself eating potato chips.

LOTS of potato chips.

After a week of very careful dieting, the potato chip grease in my tummy  caused…um…serious distress. Which led to my present state of re-evaluation.

In other words, if I am starving and absolutely must cheat, might it make more sense to choose the healthiest choice that will fill me up, rather than the food that is technically “vegan” but but is terribly unhealthy?

Hmm.

My tummy says I need to think seriously about this.

 

Simplifying my Closet – the Gluten Free Vegan Way

Closets have doors for a reason.

So they can be closed, thankyouverymuch.

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This is one closet of two rather large closets that are filled to the brim with clothing.

There are only two of us. One walk-in closet ought to be more than enough.

Why so much stuff?

In the spectrum between minimalist (very little stuff, but all of it is nice,) and frugal, (don’t spend anything on stuff, but keep everything in case we need it later,) we’ve erred on the side of frugal. We’ve been given stuff, inherited stuff, and we are very active in jobs that ruin our clothes, so we need a lot of stuff.

Thus, lots of clothes that take up a lot of space.

But there’s one big humiliating reason why there are soooo many clothes: they are in all different sizes.

I’m hanging on to clothes in the hope that one day I’ll fit into the size I want to be.

Sound familiar?

Most of us have been there. Most women, I’ll venture to say, have a closet that contains at least a couple of sizes. My closets contain *cough, stutter* six.

Six sizes. Five of them I cannot wear. And I’m clinging on to the other five in hopes that one fine day I’ll be able to step out and be the new me, the version of me that has hipbones and ribs. The pre-three-kids-and-menopause me. The ancient history version.

If I were counseling me, I sit myself down, take my hands, and look gently into my eyes. “You’re good enough,” I’d say. “You’re a kind person with people who care about you. You don’t need to conform to anyone else’s standard of beauty. And besides, should you ever happen to lose weight, just go out and buy stuff you love!”

And the me being counseled would say “Bwahahaha!”

“In this economy, I’m going to trot out and buy a new wardrobe! Riiiight!” (Even in my imagination I talk back. Hmm.)

So therapist me and frugal me are locked in battle…and minimalist me is losing out bigtime. The closets are bursting.

This is part of the reason for the big dietary change. It is difficult…but not entirely impossible, to be a chubby vegan. (It’s also difficult to be a diabetic, acidic vegan with high triglycerides and hypertension. Another plus.)

So yeah, it’s kind of like I’m eating tofu so I can clean out my closet. Closets. Don’t laugh. It makes sense, in a very roundabout way.

In the process, I’m discovering that my refrigerator and cabinets are cleaner. This is a totally unexpected perk. Before, my cabinets held everything under the sun, from brownie mixes to dried seaweed. Now they only hold gluten free vegan stuff…which means a lot of utter junk is just gone. There are no noodles, no breads, no croutons, no sweets. There are only canned vegetables, peanut butter, dried fruit, dried veggies and bags of brown rice and beans. Real food.

The fridge is a haven of veggies and more veggies, with a side of fruit.There are no Diet Cokes, no cheeses, no meats. There are salad greens and olives, pickles and tofu, carrots and bok choi and grapes.

It feels kinda nice.

My goal in decluttering my home is to reduce things to their essence, to keep the best of everything and toss the excess.

Eating vegan feels like doing the same thing for my body. I’m reducing ME to my essence, keeping the best and losing the rest.

That’s an awesome feeling. I’ve got a long way to go, but the act of trying makes me feel more alive and purposeful. More like my younger, bouncier, stronger self.

And if simplifying my life and diet ever results in a simple closet…well, you’ll hear me singing hurrahs from the rooftop!

 

Family First

Aside

Sometimes you just have to stop and remember what’s important. Simplifying your life is always about figuring out what is important…and what’s not.

Unfortunately, sometimes a lot of things are important. Bills need paying. The house needs cleaning, Meals need cooking.

We have paying jobs that must get done if we are to pay the bills, and we have volunteer activities that give our lives meaning. On any given day, there are a thousand different things that are pulling at us, begging for attention.

The worst thing about having a mile-long laundry list of tasks is the feeling…the FEAR, really, that we’ll choose to do the wrong thing.

And the absolute worst feeling is, at the end of the day, realizing that you chose wrong.

I’m thinking of this because I dropped my laundry list of “to-do’s” Wednesday to go to my sister’s house. I hadn’t seen her in weeks, because we have been busy and I’ve been sick. But in the last few days, a stomach virus ripped through her household, dropping the whole family like dominoes.

They needed help.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t an instant decision. I had a lot of things that really, really needed to be done at home.

And I was really, really scared of getting the stomach bug.

But.

I scratched my head and mulled. What it came down to was this: how would I feel, looking back, if I DIDN’T go? Would I want to step back in time and slap myself?

Check.

I went to help, but what I got was sheer delight: my absolutely adorable tiny niece and nephew toddling around in their footie pajamas, giggling, jabbering, and being adorable in the way that only tiny toddlers can.

I got the kinds of grins from them that mean that they know me, they trust me to be there for hugs and diaper changes and doling out lunches and sippy cups. They like it when I turn them upside down or toss them around, because they trust me to be fun.

Those kids have my heart in the palms of their itty-bitty hands.

I wasn’t there near as much for my first niece and nephew, the twins’ big brother and sister…I was off in another state, raising my own kids. I loved them, but I wasn’t always THERE.

With these two, things are different. My children are grown, and I live much closer than before. This time, both of their grandmothers are gone.

My “auntiehood” got a lot more important when that happened.

I want to be there for these babies.

Even at risk of a stomach virus.

You can read this and think that I’m patting myself on the back for braving the virus and being a nice sister. If so, you are wrong.

I braved the virus for myself. Because that family…my sister and her kids, matter that much to ME. Because having those babies recognize me as part of their lives is worth any effort it takes to get to my sister’s house, even at the busiest times. Or the sickest times.

Babies don’t last long, and relationships are built early.

Simplifying means focusing on the most important things in your life. And the most important things are always people.  When in doubt, choose love.

You’ll be glad you did.

Tofu Marinade Makes Vegan Yummy!

“But I hate tofu!” (I can hear you in here. You didn’t know that, did you?)

Trust me, you don’t hate tofu. You just haven’t found a good tofu marinade yet.

Until now. 🙂

You see, tofu doesn’t taste like anything on its own. Have you ever heard anyone say they hate noodles? Of course not. Noodles taste like nothing. You can’t hate something that tastes like nothing. It’s possible to love or hate lasagna, or tuna casserole, or mac and cheese…because they taste like something. But noodles taste like nothing at all. You can’t hate ’em.

Same deal with tofu. No flavor. Give it a flavor–then decide!

Want to try a tofu recipe? Good. It’s wonderful for you, an excellent source of inexpensive plant-based protein, great for a vegan diet!

Ingredients:

1 package refrigerated, extra-firm tofu

2 tablespoons Sriracha (or to taste)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)

1 large zucchini (sliced)

4-5 green onions

Oil for sauteeing

1/4 cup peanuts or cashews

Optional: cornstarch for dredging, water

Step one: go to the refrigerated case in your supermarket, in the produce section. Do not buy those packets of “silken tofu” in a little packet like a juice box that live on supermarket shelves. They are fine for extra protein in smoothies, but they have a very custard-like texture that doesn’t hold up well in cooking.

So – look for extra firm tofu instead, the kind that comes in the refrigerated case. It has a sturdy, cheese-like texture.

Bring your refrigerated pack home, and slice it into squares. I like my squares about 3/4 of an inch so I can get a solid mouthful in each bite.

Prepare marinade: (I’m making this simple, folks, so there are two, count ’em, TWO ingredients here.)

Sriracha sauce and soy sauce.

New to Sriracha? Me too. But I’m in love! It’s a kind of asian hot sauce, with a shot of garlic and a hint of sweetness. It adds a happy kick to just about everything…including this marinade.Image

(Worst picture ever, here.  Sorry folks!)

So: use equal parts sriracha and soy sauce. A couple of tablespoons of each is plenty. You can baste the tofu with a brush or shake it up in a sealed container…just try not to abuse the tofu squares so they stay nice and …square.

Allow the mixture to marinate a couple of hours or overnight.

Then drain and reserve extra marinade.

Now this is up to you: if you don’t mind the extra fat and calories, and want a little crunch on your tofu, gently coat the cubes in cornstarch and fry. (Sooo good…that little extra crunch on the surface!)

If the extra calories bother you, simply saute the tofu in a little oil.
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Set sauteed tofu aside. (If fried with cornstarch, drain on absorbent paper.)

Add sliced zucchini to the hot pan and stir fry for about two minutes, then add sliced green onions and stir fry another minute. Add reserved tofu, the extra marinade, and stir fry until everything blends.

Note: If you have cornstarch on your tofu, it may thicken your sauce a little and you may need to thin it with a little water. If you don’t have cornstarch on your tofu and would like a thicker sauce, add a tablespoon of cornstarch stirred until smooth into 1/2 c. water.

Garnish with peanuts or cashews.

Yum. Trust me on this. Even my meat and potatoes man loved it!

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Procrastination Station

If I’m going to get serious about simplifying, the procrastination needs to stop…well, you know, eventually.
Just kidding. I’m working on ways to trick myself into doing all those tasks that seem so impossible to accomplish…especially the kinds of tasks I’m afraid are going to take forever and be crazy-boring. I can spend MONTHS avoiding a 10-minute task. Literally.
This week, as part of my effort to simplify, I had a bunch of items I wanted to sell on e-bay. I set them up in the kitchen, with a sheet as a backdrop, and took pictures of and listed two items.
Two. Out of ten. The rest of the items remained on my kitchen countertop, taking up prime space, IN MY WAY.
That’s just wrong.
So today, I promised myself this: I would attack the photography part of the exercise…something I knew would take less than ten minutes, and allow myself to actually list the items another time.
Done.
Ten minutes, and I could safely clear all the clutter out of my kitchen and reclaim my countertops again.
Have you tried setting a time limit for a task you’ve been avoiding? Say five, ten or fifteen minutes?
Try it. Promise yourself to spend only…oh, five minutes attacking some job you hate. Maybe it’s a messy desk. Maybe it’s blowing these autumn leaves off the porch. Whatever it is, set a timer & promise yourself to spend only five minutes on the (horrible, loathsome, time-eating) task.
When the timer is up, stop.
See how much you’ve accomplished?

I mean, hey…you can always procrastinate later.

Vegan Me.

Aside

What would you eat on the last night of your life?

Do you have it planned? Do you know the menu?
On the last night of my life…my OLD life, I eat this:
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It’s two eclairs, shorter than my little finger, on a tiny plate. I bought them frozen, and they taste like sawdust with a sprinkling of chocolate. That’s probably what they are.
In the interests of full disclosure I will say this: I did not eat two. I ate many. They all tasted like sawdust, and I ate them anyway. Because that is what I do when I’m getting ready to start a diet.
And this:
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It is a plate of greasy, homemade food. Fried pork chops, corn, peas, biscuits and gravy. I don’t make gravy. The last time I did so was probably five years ago. That stuff’s just BAD for you!
So why am I eating sweets and greasy food?
This: I’m going to simplify my life in a big, big way…in one of those big ways that might make it more complicated for a while. 🙂
I’m going vegan.
Sound too hippie for you?
Let’s put it this way: I am making the shift to a plant-based diet. I’m not changing my religion, or telling anyone else what to eat. I’m not going to throw ketchup on people who wear fur. I will continue to bathe regularly, shave my legs and wear shoes made of leather. I’m not going to do anything different at all except…
Stop eating meat. Or eggs. Or butter. Or anything else that comes from animals.
While I’m at it…I’m dropping sugar.
And Diet Pepsi.
Let’s have a moment of silence for Diet Pepsi.
For me, Diet Pepsi is its own food group. It makes everything else taste better. It’s bubbles have delighted my nose and throat for decades. It provides my other basic nutrient…caffeine. It doesn’t have calories and it’s absolutely lousy for you…how many things can you say that about?
So long, Diet Pepsi.
*Sniff. Whimper.*
And since we are dropping things anyway, there goes gluten. Wheeeeee…..out the window. No bread, no sandwiches (except for the occasional one on gluten-free bread,) no cookies, no cake, no biscuits, no doughnuts.
(Ooooh. Another moment of silence for doughnuts, please. And any of you who have stock in Dunkin’…it WILL be dropping, so this is your heads-up!) Nothing at all made with wheat will touch my lips.
Or teeth. Or tongue.
Really.
Why? Partly because of my own health issues. I don’t do well with gluten, for example, and I drink entirely too much Diet Pepsi.
Why vegan?
Why not just eat less and exercise more?
Why not do something more moderate?
Because I’m not just a little concerned about the size of my midsection, I’m concerned about my overall health. I don’t like all the aches and pains that are cropping up. I don’t like it when there just isn’t enough energy to do what I want to do.
And I’m aging. Eleven months from now I’ll turn fifty.
Fifty is an age where things can really start to happen. It’s the age where doctors start to listen a little more closely to the thumping of your heart. They recommend a colonoscopy. They get a little more strident about your need for mammograms. They demand blood work and gripe about triglycerides and a1c numbers.
All because youth is no longer in your favor.
And my husband is even older. I’d like for both of us to have as much energy, strength, and overall happiness as we can.
This isn’t forever. I’m making a commitment to stay vegan and “clean” (no sugar, Diet Pepsi, etc.) through the end of the year. That’s two months. After that I’ll re-evaluate and see what I think my body needs to stay healthy.
It’s hard to say no to vegetables. I’m gonna say “yes” to every fruit and veggie I can get my hands on. I’m going to improve my digestion, brighten my skin, and hopefully get a little of this spare tire off of my belly. I’m going to feed myself as many micronutrients as I possibly can, shoving in superfoods like…well…like candy!
So yeah…that spare tire thing. What do you call yours? That extra roll around your middle that plopped down and made itself at home while you weren’t looking? Most of us have one. Those of us who have it hate it, but we name it to keep from crying.
My daughter used to call hers “Pudge,” after the fish in Lilo and Stitch. I’ve heard them called a “food baby”–because it feels like a pregnancy. I’ve seen people make them talk by squeezing the fat together, pat them lovingly, and even smack them as though to make them behave.
I’m tired of mine. I’m tired of hiding it under carefully constructed clothing, worrying about it, wishing it would go away, and not being able to keep my pantyhose up because my “Pudge” is too round.
It’s going.
I’m changing.
So this is the last day of my life…as an omnivore. In my new life, I’m a vegetarian.
The last day of my old life, I ate fats and sugar and salt. I felt heavy & logy and miserable.
On the first day of my new life, will the low-fat vegan me feel better?