25 April, 2008

The Simple Life

Simplicity and the Simple Life seem to be on the minds of many in past days. I don't know if is a symptom of Spring Fever or a side effect of rising gas and food prices; but it has been on my mind too.

The search for something simple has always been in the plans for my husband and I, and now that we are coming up on our first wedding anniversary and have settled into our life together a little, it has become a goal of ours. However for us is not as easy a goal as we thought. We both work, I mostly full time and him more than full time. This makes convince food and instant gratification an easy way for us to eat at 8pm when we get home from work.

But while we try to work on the bigger issues there are some simple pleasures in our lives. I love to garden and have started growing veggies in pots out in front of our condo, hopefully this summer they will bless us with food at out finger tips. Also one of our favorite "dates" is going to the farmers market or during the winter the indoor Amish Market; my husband and I love to stroll, hold hands and talk to the sellers, it a louse us to feel active in our community and in our food choices.

One of the gifts that we give to each other for birthdays and other special occasions is parties; we throw something into the Crockpot and invite friends over to share the afternoon with us. The memories are fare better than any trinket that could be found hastily at a store. And this year for Christmas Ro got me crayons and paper, we'll sit and draw our dream home or just smiling little cows. Colouring is one of the small joys that adults seem to forget.

Eventually I will raise our own chickens and sheep like his mother does, embroider baby blankets like his grandmother does, bake bread like my mother does and grow bushels of vegetables like my grandmother does. But until that day, we will slowly slow down and begin to find what our Simple Life is.

22 April, 2008

Falure to Frugal-ize

I took most of last week off from work as a preemptive strike; more long hours are coming at work and I was still having some residual infection issues and the diet of doom was a disaster. By Friday I was feeling better and to make my week complete Saturday I was surprised with a trip to the day spa. My indulgent and frugal husband found two special offers at the day spa in town; and I got to have a day of guilt free pampering. I had my hair cut and and a lemon grass manicure/pedicure combo. It's been nearly a year since I had either. I felt so refreshed and relaxed. And after a nap he took out for Sashimi, yum. And a little shopping (the only non essential was some terracotta pots). I love my Hubs!

All of this luxury has me thinking. There are two very distinct sides of me. A) the barefoot, organ gardening, save the planet side and B) the Coach shoe/handbag , pearl wearing gourmet food eating side. And I know that somewhere there is a balance between these two halves of a whole, but there is one large wedge between them. Frugality! In many ways both of these things can lend themselves to saving money, and to each other. Turn your lights off when not in the room saves energy and money; buying one high quality purse and using it for 2 or more season is better than buying more than 2 purses and sing them for less than one season. But sill you have to have the money to by the one high quality purse to being with. I'd say you even need the money to keep the lights on, but we are at least safe from that.

My spending habits have improved a lot over the past year and a half. But still, most days I don't think I'm doing enough, and then not long after I think about how I miss seeing the J Crew and Lord and Taylor bags sitting on the floor, after a triumphant day of shopping. Is it possible to ever stop wanting? Seeing that many can't even live of a “six figure” income, I'm not so sure.

20 April, 2008

Summer Reading List

It's spring and for me that means it's time to make my summer reading list. Being in the world of Academia for so long means that Fall through Spring was usually filled with required readings, and research readings. So, Summer has always been my fun readings time.

The first book up, which I am actually reading right now is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I have heard great things about it from some lovely Lady Bloggers and my N.D. lives by some of its principles.

Next up will be You the Owners Manual, by Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz . I'm sure some of it will conflict with NT, but it's been awhile since I took an Anatomy class and it may be interesting.

I also really want to read The Four Fold Path to Healing, by Thomas Cowan. It's from the same publishers as NT and I think it may be filled with info that is truly helpful to me.

If you can't tell yet, there is a theme to all of this reading. It's all about my health. I've been sicker than usual lately and I know there is a connection to my diet and lifestyle. I don't think it's 100% do to how I live, but I know that at the very least there is room for improvement. And at the very least what I do may not be making me sicker, but it not making me healthier either.

I'm hoping that by June I will have gotten through my reading and have implemented some changes for the better. Then I'll get to update the Summer Reading List with some light readings.

Do you Ladies have any good suggestions or recommended reading, for me; what are you currently reading or planning on reading? I'd love to know. :)

17 April, 2008

Gram and Poppy

I have not yet mentioned that my Grandparents, Gram and Poppy, are my model for marriage, after all these years they still love each other and still show affection for one another. Poppy calls gram “the Bride” and Gram lets Poppy have his way, most times. They have learned what is worth fighting over, and really I think at this stage in their life they have decided nothing is worth fighting over. They freely give all that they have to their family and have taken more than one of us in when we needed it. Really I think they are my model for life.

Gram and Poppy, aka Bud and Muerial (Muky) as their Cronies call them, have lived their entire lives in H, CT. Poppy was school chums with Gram's older brother and they were High School Sweethearts. Actually there is about 3 years age difference between them, and Poppy spent some of Gram's senior year over seas. During WWII he enlisted in the army and served in Hawaii and other warm Pacific places. After he was discharged they were married on January 26, 1946 (does part of this date look familiar to anyone?) Poppy worked with his father as an independent plumber (and general repairs men) until he passed away, and Poppy took over the business. Gram was a 50's house wife who thought the occasional art or craft class for extra pocket cash; and later after her children finished school became a floral designer, specializing in dried flowers, and silk. They had three children, my father being the eldest, all born at the end of November. Mind you Gram and Poppy's Birthdays are the 7th and 11th of February, just do the math.

Early in their marriage they bout a house on Dixwell Ave, actually for those DSH-ers, its now the yellow hair salon on the other corner to the Keefe Center where practice is held. They lived there and rented part of the house out to others before buying the farm. Mind you the farm house was once not as big as it now is. In fact there were only two bedrooms; upstairs the kids slept in one room, parents int the other and Grams mother took over the small first floor 'parlor' (now the “green room”). When my father was in High school they finally decided to add on to the house, Poppy, Dad and Uncle B, along with some handy friends, built the addition that over doubled the size of the house. The half that now houses all the bedrooms, but mine, the kitchen and formal living room was all built by them. They tried their 1970's best to match the addition to the original 1800's house, owned by the street's name sake. The farm now has 4 acres, with a pump house and an awesome post and beam barn. The large bit of land now owned by the farm next-door was originally part of the property, but sold off at the same time as my grandparents purchase of their parcel.

The farm is no longer really functional, but in my life they used the back few acres as a Christmas tree farm, they always grew their own vegetables, enough for them, my parents and I (ok and M too) and still had enough to share with friends. Also at one point they had ducks. But if they didn't grow it they knew someone who did. The farm next door had chicken and Gram's dried flower provider had goats and sheep.

I have always been closer with Gram and Poppy then with my mother and father. I was born on their Wedding Anniversary and spent a lot of time at their farm when I was younger; and I am the oldest grandchild. Actually they had a large hand in raising me. I joke that my sister (M) is a Daddy's Girl and that I am a Poppy's Girl.

Poppy and Gram have been married for over 60 years, and have known each other and been close for at least 70 years. They have Cronies, people who they have been friends with for years, some they have known since grade school. Many of their Cronies are like Aunts and Uncles to me, they went on the Wedding guest list before any friends outside the Bridal Party did. They have watched me grow up and I have watched them grow old. Some have aged better than others.

The funny thing is that Gram and Poppy, by most modern agencies, do not have a healthy lifestyle. They still eat meat, red meat and pork, regularly, they drink and eat sweets, lots of sweets and few non-root veggies. But these two people in their late 80's are some of the healthiest people I know. Most definitely healthier than me.

Actually my family has a strange distribution of health. Most O'Connell's are good strong healthy people, with robust constitutions, Gram, Poppy, Dad, Aunt K and M are prime examples. But then there is the recessive sicky gene that Uncle B and I both have. We both have low body temps and throat susceptibility, not to mention bodies that like to attack themselves.

But regardless of this; I have found the key to my grandparents' health.

1.They are early to bed and early to rise. Retiring at 9ish and rising between 5 and 6 am. Poppy has taken to getting up in the middle of the night for a bit, but he makes up for it in afternoon naps.
2.They are active. Still very social and giving of their time to charity, they also keep up a large house and 2 of the 4 acres of land the other 2 are now wood with pine treas and grape vines. Poppy is always tinkering with something, and Gram is always moving, rearranging and decorating (or gardening in the warm months).
3.They enjoy themselves. Resting in the afternoons, or going out with friends. They maintain a time share and used to travel a lot with friends, they have however slowed down a bit in the past 3 years. But non the less they are at the Elks club or out to dinner weekly.
4.They are very religious. Going to mass daily; it gives them spirituality, a sense of community and something larger than themselves. And it gives them their moral compass and great compassion. They are the kind of Cradle Catholics who love and except everybody, regardless of sin, persuasion or background.
5.They eat what makes them happy, don't feel guilty over it and they eat at home. They eat sweets but don't eat a lot of things containing high fructose corn syrup. No soda. Their cookies, pastries and cakes are home made by Gram or come from a good Italian Bakery. They don't eat fast food or take out, but instead live off of left over pot roast and meat loaf. They drink beer daily and Gram loves her cocktails. Poppy hates most veggies but will eat all the spinach and carrots if you let him, and Gram will cover most raw veggies in Mayonnaise. When they do go out its to real restaurants, where they sit and linger with friends and family.

There is something in their generation and life style that we are missing. Up until maybe a year or so ago I thought they were going to still be kicking until their late 90's. Sort of like the Queen Mother, minus the cake like hats. But one keep part of their life style is fading away. They are starting to watch their friends, relatives and acquaintance pass on. Many of them were only 10 or 15 years younger then them, yet old by many standards. They people led good lives but were not as fortunate to have Gram and Poppy's health.

It seems that Old Age has become contagious.

On a daily basis I miss Gram and Poppy; I think of when I was younger and they would show me how to do things. And every time I pack Ro's lunch into the black metal lunch box that was Poppy's I do so with a bit of pride.

I am lucky enough to have the Best Grandparents in the world. I have learned a lot from them, and they still have vast amounts to teach me.

13 April, 2008

Seed Cups

I have finally started my seedlings; I know it's a bit late in the season and I hope it wont effect them too much. I have not planed seeds in years and this year I decided to try something different. I did not want to use those plastic trays that are bad for the environment and I didn't want to spend a ton of money on eco friendly seed trays... So I made my own!

First I made two boxes to hold all of my individual seed cups. I used the box that a juice flat comes in (I got this from work but if you shop at whole sale clubs they should have some there). First I wrapped it in a layer of cling wrap and them a lay of foil wrap; I covered both the bottom and the inside just in case. I don't want water leaking all over the place.

Next I made the seed cups. I used toilet paper and towel rolls, you could use any sturdy cardboard roll. I cut the toilet paper rolls in half and the towel rolls in thirds. Next I cut four slits, about one inch long, on the bottom of each. I folded the cut end in on themselves and taped them using masking tape, sort of like wrapping a present. Now the little seed cups can stand up on their own, even if some are a little wobbly.

I filled them with soil and them planted my seed like you normally would. I also labeled each cup with the sort of seed I planted in it. When the seedlings are ready to be planted I can just remove the tape and plant them or I can remove the seedling from the cup and then compost the cup (after removing the tape). And the components of the tray I made are all recyclable

I hope this works!