Our So-Called Life Has Moved

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An Unexpected Package

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Today, while I was at work, a package came in the mail. The return address was for a photographer. Rob opened it, thinking it was a bit early for the camera parts he’d ordered to be arriving. Interestingly, he didn’t notice the city it was coming from.

Ludington, Michigan.

That’s right. Wrapped in the package, mailed earlier this week, was my wallet. Inside it were our ATM cards and the entire $80 that we’d long written off as gone.

Let’s just say that my faith in humanity, and in our favorite part of that state, have been restored. I think a little something–maybe a gift card for dinner–needs to be sent back to Ludington.

So that’s it. There are honest folk out there. And, I dare say, a lot more of us than we realize. Let’s all build up some good karma and make the world a bit more pleasant.

And…if you’re ever in Ludington and want to capture the moment, by all means call Denyse Briggs Photography!

Minimalism Success: Couple Time

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Minimalism is about more than having less stuff. It’s about living intentionally and getting rid of all the excess clutter–that includes things that clutter up your time.

In order to do this, we have had to set some priorities. One of these priorities is couple time. Yes, I’m a teacher. And mother. And a blogger. Rob is a stay-at-home dad. And a camera repairman. And a tinkerer.

But we are also a husband and wife.

When we first became parents, we struggled with fitting in time with each other. Beanie would scream when we left her with a sitter–even Grandma and Grandpa! Her reflux and nighttime nursing created some strange sleep patterns. We found ourselves watching movies together while Beanie didn’t sleep, or sneaking in a snuggle during naptime.

But, as she got older and weaned, we found it necessary to have a bedtime routine. One that resulted in her going to bed before we did!

Jelly Bean gets lots of attention after I get home, and we make dinner together. Then, at 8:00, it’s bathtime, followed by story, followed by lullaby, followed by bed. Usually, by 9:00, we get time together.

The important thing about this time is what we don’t do. We don’t watch television, mindlessly. We don’t surf the Internet. I don’t write my blog posts. I don’t grade papers.

We might take a walk outside (staying near the house). We might have a campfire. We watch a movie. We play Pokemon (our new favorite nerdy-pleasure. Try it, it’s fun!). We play pool or race slot cars. It’s important that we have this hour or two to reconnect every night.

In the morning, as well, we enjoy coffee together. I try to be ready 15-30 minutes before it’s time to leave, so that we can sit down and chat. Beanie doesn’t wake up until 8-9:00, so this is couple time as well.

So, my advice to you is, plan your time. Budget it like money. Look at the “clutter” in life that is sapping away your time, and make time for the things that are important.

Minimalism Struggle: The Moped Garage

Written by Bethany. Filed under Minimalism. Tagged , , , , . No comments.

All right, I am going to start by confessing our biggest struggle. This is the reason that a relative told us we “suck as minimalists.” (It was said in fun, not to be mean…) Our house is pretty zen, especially in the main rooms. Clutter is under control, and it’s staying that way. But then you walk out to the back yard…

So it looks fine. Everything is contained under this portable structure. Just, please, don’t. open. the. door.

Ahhhh! Don’t say you weren’t warned. So how did this craziness come to be?

It started the way most out-of-control collections start. Rob got interested in mopeds. He found the website Moped Army and found a bike to fix up. He fixed up another for my graduation present, and we had fun riding around the neighborhood. Then, we began finding good deals on fixer-upper bikes and, since he is a tinkerer, he began fixing them up. New finds were exciting, and we had fun road trips, in search of the next treasure.

And, after years of this, we ended up with a rather out-of-control collection. It is beneficial to have multiple bikes, at least in our current situation, because they are useful for different things. Some are better suited for using as a daily driver while cruising, and some are better suited for achieving higher speeds at rallies. But, we don’t use all of them. And we find ourselves running out of money for keeping all of them up. Keeping track of the paperwork for all of these bikes is also difficult and a bit stressful. While we’re living in this house having 3-5 would be ideal. If we ever find ourselves living aboard full time, 1 would be plenty.

So, how to pare down? Very slowly. These bike are a labor of love, so Rob is getting them, one at a time, back into good working order. Then, it’s time to sell them. We can sell them on Craig’s List, or at a moped rally. Gradually–hopefully within the next year–we’ll get our collection down to a manageable size.

September’s Adventure: America’s Last Steamship

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Please excuse my recent disappearance.

Happily, I have come back with some stories from our first micro-adventure. Remember, we will be going on one every month during the “off season” this year. I have to say that we started out with what will probably be the most exciting adventure of the year–a trip on the S.S. Badger. Here are some stories from our adventures:

“Boatel” and Lake Crossing
The Badger is the last operating coal-fired steamship in the U.S., and its license expires in December. As it stands, the EPA may not renew its permit. We’re definitely hoping they are able to work something out.

We dropped Jelly Bean off and Grandma and Grandpa’s house, then headed to Ludington Friday evening. We spent the night on the ship, in our stateroom, then enjoyed breakfast on board right before we left port at 9:00. We cruised 4 hours to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. (Even though we’ve lived in Michigan our entire lives, neither of us had actually been to Wisconsin before!). After spending a couple hours in town, we returned to the ship to cross back to Ludington.

We were actually hoping for slightly rough seas, and we weren’t disappointed. There were 30 knot winds and 7 foot waves. Definitely nothing that the Badger couldn’t handle, but not weather that we would voluntarily sail Moonraker in (as we learned our lesson on the passage to South Manitou).

There was plenty to do on the ship, with a movie room, restaurant, bar, Bingo, a store, an arcade, and a kids’ room. We really just enjoyed sitting by the window (it was a bit cold outside!) and watching the water. We’ve definitely missed it!

The Spartan, the Badgers sister ship, now used for parts.

The view from our stateroom.

It was rough, but we had company on the Lake.

Docking in Manitowoc was a little rough, because of the strong winds.

Other company on the Lake.

We wouldnt have gone out, but these sailors seemed to be doing very well crossing the Lake!

It was obvious which port the captain favored, as everyone watching us in Ludington got a master salute!

I was not used to wearing my hair down in this kind of wind!

The perfect end to the perfect adventure!

The Minor Disaster
This time, the disaster happened on land, and it didn’t involve flames shooting out of a battery charger.

I don’t carry a purse, because I’ve found that I always leave them places, leading to many mini-panic sessions (or I don’t notice, and get a phone call later). Over the winter, I began carrying a wallet, later replaced by a change purse, in my coat pocket. I always kept it there, so it was never a problem. In the summer, I started out just carrying the change purse, but I worried that I would drop it while I was boarding the dinghy. Rob had the solution–he cut a length of rigging line, and I tied it around my neck. That’s how I wore the purse all summer.

Going back to work, the purse went back in my pocket, but nostalgia took over this weekend. So around my neck it went.

I paid for our hotel room Saturday night, after the cruise, then I helped unload our suitcases into our room. We were both hungry, and I knew that the specialty market in Ludington had great crab salad.

On the way there, we stopped at the beach and watched the most beautiful sunset we have seen in our lives. We didn’t have a camera, but it was a sight we will never forget.

We got to the market and ordered the salad. It was then that I noticed the line around my neck, untied.

I had used the wallet to pay for our room, and since then we had only been three places. So the odds were in our favor. We combed the store, the parking lot, the beach, the hotel parking lot, and our room. Nothing. We had no money and no access to our money.

Thankfully, my parents came to our rescue, and we learned how to do a Moneygram. (Luckily, Rob didn’t have his license in my wallet, or we would not have been able to receive it!).

So, all’s well that ends well!

The Best Hotel Ever
You’ve got to see this hotel. It’s called Nader’s Lakeside Motor Inn, and it’s definitely the best place we’ve ever stayed. We get the Jacuzzi suite, which is comprised of three rooms off of a hallway. This was a fun couple’s getaway, but it would also work well with Beanie, as she could sleep on the Fouton, in the dining room. We plan to go there again, when things are less stressful.

Meanwhile, at Grandma and Grandpa’s House
And while we were gone, Jelly Bean was having fun of her own!

First, the make-up...

And since she was looking like a rock star...

Make-up's good, so now it's time to work on the hair...

Minimalism Success: The Kitchen

Written by Bethany. Filed under Simple Kitchen Tips, Uncategorized. Tagged , , . No comments.

Once a week, I will be focusing on one area in which we have been successful in living minimalistically, and one area that is still a challenge. I would have to say that our biggest success is definitely the kitchen. I’ve posted pictures of our kitchen numerous times. Here is the story of how we transformed a rather ugly kitchen into something fun and usable. This is a post about our stove, and here is a post about our refrigerator. Here is the transformation of my sink, after I polished it, per Fly Lady’s advice. This is a post about our dishes. Recently, I posted this about decluttering the cupboards.

So, today, I will be letting you know how we make it all work. How do we cook from scratch in a sparsely-appointed kitchen, and how does it make our lives easier?

First, let me tell you about cleaning. I begin each day by making a pot of coffee. While the water is heating up in the tea kettle, I usually wash the dishes from the night before and wipe the counters and the stovetop. (I try to do this right after dinner, but that usually doesn’t happen). This process is done well before the water boils. After we enjoy our coffee, I rinse out the French press, wipe the sink, spray it with a solution, and wipe it again. We then rinse our plates in hot water after each meal, using soap if necessary (it often isn’t necessary, if our food was something dry like sandwiches). This takes 3-5 minutes. Usually, the pan we used just needs to be wiped off. Sometimes I have to use water. The saucepan takes a little longer to scrape clean, especially if we have pasta. When we use the grill, there are no pans to clean. We vacuum the floor once a week, and I usually wipe the linoleum once a week, using the spray solution. We clean out the fridge before going grocery shopping, and wipe any spills with the spray solution. We don’t spend a great deal of time cleaning the kitchen.

So what about cooking? Most of our meals are very simple. We’ll have burgers or brats, with a salad on the side. Or I’ll cook up grains and cheese, with the vegetables mixed in. We’ll make pizzas with lots of veggies. Sometimes I’ll make vegetable soup out of homemade broth.

But what if we wanted to make something fancy? It’s not too hard. I could make lasagna noodles the day before. Then, I could assemble the lasagna in my saucepan and bake it in the oven. While it is cooking, I could put corn-on-the-cob on the grill (still in the husks!) and assemble the cashew salad. I could then bake apple crisp in the skillet. Voila! A nice, fancy dinner, cooked simply. Clean-up will involve washing the plates and utencils, wiping the skillet with a wet washcloth, and drying it, and washing the saucepan in hot water. The cashew salad would have been made in one of my plastic storage containers, so the leftovers would be ready to go in the fridge.

When we were staying in Ossineke last summer, we had a multitude of dishes to use, as well as a dishwasher. We found that living that way was not easier. Sure, we just put our dishes in the dishwasher, after we were done with them, then ran it when it was full. But pre-washing the dishes before, then putting them away after, actually took a lot more time than just rinsing 3 plates. Using more pots and pans also resulted in more clean-up.

So, have you found your family’s “happy place” with kitchen decluttering? How do you keep your kitchen under control?

Everybody’s a Hypocrite

Written by Bethany. Filed under Life Lessons. Tagged , , . 4 Comments.

People hate hypocracy. It somebody is talking the talk, without walking the walk, that is unacceptable. It’s important to be authentic, and not to pretend to be somebody you aren’t.

So, we all try to hide it.

My Natural Parenting friends are relieved to see bologna in the fridge on our boat, so they then feel free to break out their Wal-mart brand drink boxes.

I’ve been informed that I actually “suck as a minimalist” because we have a rather large collection of mopeds in a portable structure behind our house.

You know what? We all “suck” at what we do, in some way, shape, or form. Because we all set lofty ideals, and, as humans, we all inevitably fall short. We all aspire to be more than what we are, and that is admirable. That may even be the essense of human nature. It’s a good thing.

So there it is. I buy bologna. I have an amazing addiction to Crystal Light’s fake mojito. I love Kroger’s sushi, with all of its disposible plastic containers. I own a few more than 100 possessions…

But, at the heart, I am striving to eat less poison. I am keeping us healthier with our lifestyle choices. I don’t cook with sugar (although there was the day I bought us doughnuts…and we all got sick to our stomachs!). I am moving towards minimalism. I think, like sailing, these choices are a journey. There may not be a “destination.” There may never be a time when you say, “That’s it. I’m here. I am a minimalist.” But I do know that I have better control over my house than I ever have had. I know that there is much more room in my closet than in most people’s. I know that I spend much less time washing the dishes than most families.

So, I’m both a minimalist and a hypocrite. And I’ve always felt that I should level with you about both of those things.

I’ve decided to focus a bit more on minimalism in my life. I will be doing to features each week: “Minimalism Successes,” about areas in which I really feel that we have “arrived” in regards to minimalism, and “Minimalism Struggles,” where I will confess some of our struggles in our efforts to pare down. I will share our first success tomorrow.

Micro Adventures: How We Will be Getting Our “Fix”

Written by Bethany. Filed under Marriage. Tagged , . 2 Comments.

After I wrote about adapting to life back on shore, fellow blogger Tony from Writing From Afar recommended that I read up on Alistair Humphreys and his concept of Micro-Adventurea. I looked him up, and I’m glad I did!

Basically, his point is that you can have fun adventures over a short period of time, such as a weekend. He suggests lots of mini-expeditions in Britain (which only made me want to sail over there and try them out! But that wouldn’t exactly be a micro-adventure…), so those of you who live on the other side of the Atlantic will want to have a look.

We’re going to have some micro-adventures of our own.

We’re aiming for one adults-only adventure per month, and possibly more with Beanie in tow. A lot of our adventures could be done with kids, but we’re going to enjoy some weekends-away without the little one (that is important for having a good marriage, I think, once the kid is old enough to spend a weekend with Grandma and Grandpa).

We recommend that you get out and do some adventuring of your own. You can try our ideas, or try your own (and post about them in the comments section!). Micro-adventures are a great way to get started with a life off of the beaten path.

So, here are some ideas we have:

–Do the “floating B+B” on the SS Badger ($79 per person, for one night).

–Spend a weekend on the CIty of Milwaukee, exploring what will hopefully become our home port next summer ($40 a night).

–Stay on the schooner Manitou and enjoy Grand Traverse when the Cherry Festival is not in progress.

–We want to save up for a weekend on Middle Island, where we will stay in the keeper’s house and have the whole island to ourselves! ($279 for the first night; $119 for the second)

–In the winter, the Blaney Park Lodge up in Germfask would be a lot of fun. It’s an old boarding house, converted into a B+B ($39-$70, depending on how fancy of a room you want).

Sea Suites floating B+B in Saugatuck. I don’t know if we dare go to Saugatuck on land, before we sail there (it’s our next port, as well as the home port listed on Moonraker’s stern!). But if we do, this looks like a lot of fun.

–Beyond that, there are state park cabins, and lots of free campgrounds that we could check out.

So, let’s all get out and try some new, small adventures!

Sunday Supper: Cheesy Grains and Veggies

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Here is a nice versatile recipe! We often make this as an alternative to Mac N Cheese. It’s so simple that it doesn’t really even need a recipe.

1. Choose your grains. We’ve used barley (be careful with barley if you don’t regularly eat it–it doesn’t digest easy and can cause some…um…embarrassing problems! You’ll probably want to soak it overnight, in water and some kind of acid medium, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Then rinse it and you should be good to go), millet, and brown rice. Cook the grains until they are at an edible consistency (to cook grains, you just boil them in water or broth). While the grains are cooking, add some veggies and boil them with the grains. Be sure to boil all the water away, rather than draining.

2. Melt a stick of butter in the grains. Yes, butter. Don’t worry, it’s your friend. It’s much better for you than margarine (aka trans fat sticks) or omega-6 oils.

3. Mix in some garlic salt and pepper. They are, after all, the perfect seasonings!

4. Choose your cheese. Barley likes parmesan. Millet likes colby, Pinconning, or something a bit more “cheesy” flavored. Rice goes well with anything. Muenster is always a favorite of mine, for melting. Break up the cheese and stir, until it melt right in.

5. If this isn’t hearty enough, add an egg or two.

Enjoy your easy dinner!

Saturday Simple Playtime: Having Fun With Dinner

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Going back to work, I notice that I don’t have as much time to play with Beanie as I would like. I try to fit in activities (at least 20 minutes worth a day) from each of her therapies: OT/fine motor, PT/gross motor, speech, and sensory. That could potentially leave me with little time to do the housework, cook the meals, spend time with Rob, and relax.

But it’s really just a matter of working smarter, not harder. Play can be mixed in with daily routines quite easily. Here are some ways to make dinner a fun and educational part of you day:

–Have your little one set the table. This is a great exercise in following directions (eventually multi-step–I hand Beanie all the spoons and tell her to put them where they go).

–Involve your little one in the cooking, as much as you can. This is a great time for direction following, fine motor practice, and even some sensory input (baking bread is a great sensory activity!). I have Beanie pour ingredients in and stir. Basically, she helps with anything that doesn’t use the stove.

–If you don’t eat together, you should! It’s a great opportunity for conversation, direction following (table manners), and just a great chance to catch up.

–When you eat Asian food, use chopsticks for some fine motor fun!

–Go outside and have a picnic sometimes. It can be out on the deck, or at the park.

–In the winter, have a picnic on the floor!

The possibilities are really as endless as your creativity. Bon appetit!