As Ostara fast approaches, falling on Thursday March 19th, I wanted to share some recipes, decorations, and ways to celebrate the Spring Equinox as the Wheel turns again.
DISCLAIMER: Many items profiled in this article are sold in my new shop at mysteriousdragonfyre.com. I recommend them because I use them regularly in my practice.
Deity & Decoration
Ostara is a wonderful time of year to ask blessings of and give offering to the Triple Goddess. In Dragonfyre Wicca, this is the time of year when the Queen of the Witches features prominently in our rites and rituals, and we set our altar with items sacred to Hecate. No matter which Deity you prefer to work with, it is easy to use our setup as a guide.
As you can see in the picture above, we have the main items set in the shape of a pentagram, with a framed print of the Triple Goddess representing Spirit, a beautiful chalice that belonged to my grandmother filled with spring water representing the Water Element, a patchouli-scented candle resting in a glittery holder represents Fire, Earth is represented with a soapstone trinket box containing pink salt*, and finally, a black brass incense burner contains purple sand, a charcoal disc, and some dried lavender, ready to burn during prayer. For an offering bowl, we used a tiny selenite bowl and filled it with apple chips that just came out of the oven.
This is the basic setup, which features items sacred to Hecate. Since it is Ostara, we like to add a few extra decorations which represent the Sabbat:
We’ve included a picture of our decorated altar, where we’ve added some yellow flowers and a potted shamrock, an egg (dyed using turmeric, see below) in a 'nest' of fresh thyme, and some rose quartz. Feel free to add any of the above, or mix it up a little with a floral wreath made from springtime wildflowers, which you can wear during ritual, then place around your statue or picture, statues of small springtime animals such as bunnies or lambs, and herbs and stones of the season such as lemon balm, sunflower seeds, rosehips, vervain, clear quartz, agates, lapis lazuli, and amazonite.
Traditional & Modern Ways to Celebrate
Ostara is all about springtime and the celebration of new life, and so at this time, it is a good idea to perform spells for prosperity, growth, and agriculture.
In the days leading up to Ostara, dyeing hard boiled eggs is an ancient tradition that survives to the present day among Wiccans, Christians, and many others. Highlight your wishes for the new season by decorating them with symbols of the season, and then consecrate them in the name of the Goddess of Spring and the God of the Sun.
Runes are perfect to decorate your eggs with.
Pictured above: Berkano - beginnings | Fehu - wealth | Sowilo - good fortune | Wunjo - joy.
Photo Credit: Peter Lomas via Pixabay
Dyeing eggs from natural foods you may already have in your home is incredibly easy. Here are the basics:
Bring 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a boil. Add colouring ingredient, lower heat, and simmer for a half hour. When the 30 minutes are up, remove pot from heat and let cool completely and strain to remove foodstuffs. Now, you can add your eggs, and once they reach the shade you like, remove them (with tongs!), dry them with a paper towel, and enjoy!
4 cups chopped beets will make pink eggs, 4 cups of onion skins orange, 3 tablespoons ground turmeric yellow, 3 cups of chopped red cabbage light blue, and 4 cups of blueberries dark blue.
I found this recipe and the colour combinations at goodhousekeeping.com, click on the link to be taken to their page with full instructions.
You can also create magickal amulets and talismans for fertility, protection, and prosperity. wisewitches&witchcraft.com has a great article with step by step instructions how to make portable magickal items.
On Ostara Eve, place some patchouli incense in a hanging censer (or any incense burner you can carry without dropping or burning yourself) and light a lavender candle (also in a receptacle that enables you to safely carry it). Carry both throughout your home, briefly visiting each room, and bid farewell to Winter and welcome the Spring.
Once your celebrations are done, take your crushed eggshells and toss them into your garden as an offering to the Fae Folk and as fertilizer for the new plants that will soon begin to poke their heads through the soil.
Delicious Things to Eat
Traditional foods to enjoy and share with friends and family during Ostara include: biscuits, cheese, eggs, fish, ham, honey cakes, lamb, nuts, seeds, and sprouts. Here are a few of our favorite recipes for you to try out:
6 eggs [hard boiled, cooled, and peeled]
1 shallot, finely diced
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Smoky (sweet) or Hungarian (hot) paprika
*Slice eggs lengthwise and remove yolks with a small spoon, being careful not to damage the white. Place whites on a plate and yolks in a small bowl.
*Add all remaining ingredients except paprika and mash and stir together with a fork.
*Spoon (or pipe) mixture back into holes left by the yolks, and top each with a pinch of paprika.
(I found this wonderful recipe for Medieval Honey Cake online! I bake them in ramekins so they’re smaller, and bake for only about 30 minutes. Source: poppyandprune.com)
3 cups cake flour
1 cup honey
½ cup oil
½ cup milk
*Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9” round cake pan with parchment paper and oil the interior.
*Mix together flour and honey. When reasonably combined, mix in oil. Then add the milk. When thoroughly mixed, the batter should have a consistency not unlike that of Play-Doh.
*Spread the batter into the pan, smoothing with a spatula. Bake 35-40 minutes. This cake is best served warm.
Ham & Spinach Quiche
1 store bought pie crust
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup chopped cooked ham
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups shredded cheese (a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and monterey jack)
*Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
*Place pie crust in pan, flattening it into the sides and trimming any excess. Place in fridge while preparing filling.
*Crack eggs into a large bowl, and add heavy cream. Beat until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then stir in cheeses. Add ham and spinach and stir the entire mixture until well combined.
*Pour mixture into pie crust, using a spoon to ensure that it spreads about evenly. Carefully place quiche in oven, and bake for 35 minutes, or until texture is “jiggly” but solid.
*Remove from oven and let sit for three to four minutes, then cut and serve immediately.
Thank you for spending some of your time with me.
I wish you a blessed Ostara!
My new online shop is up and running! It's been a labor of love this past year to put it together, and although it is in it's infancy and there's so much to refine and add, I'm excited to say that it is finally live :)
You're welcome to head on over to the shop's homepage using this link. For the time being, I'll re-post my current blog from my shop to SonjaRants so that you can get a taste of what's going on there. You can go to the original post on mysteriousdragonfyre.com by clicking on the post itself.
Without further ado...
As promised, today's post will be all about the much anticipated questionnaires, or surveys, that are listed in the book. I'm not sure how much I'm infringing on copyright laws by giving you the questions, but I'm bringing you along for my ride, and I can't very well only show you my answers without you first knowing what I'm answering. If I do have to remove them, I'll let you know why they're gone, and I'll try my best to describe my answers in a different way.
It's been probably about a week now since I first told you about the book that inspired this series, Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight by Peter Walsh. I hope you've ordered your copy, either through my special discounted link, through Amazon, or your nearest bookstore, and you've received your special package. If you have, from now on, when I'm speaking about something specific, I'll reference a page number and you can read along (like in school!). If you don't have a copy, don't worry! You do not need one to follow along, since my six week path is VERY different from the one in the book.
Ready? Here we go! On page 35 we get our first survey:
SAVING INVENTORY - REVISED (MODIFIED FORMAT).
We're told to answer the questions thinking about how we felt and acted this past week. The scoring chart is pretty straightforward, but they do reverse the wording of some of the questions, so the actual addition at the end is a little tricky. I'll get to that at the end, though. My answer is BEFORE the question (in red) so you don't have to search for it.
SCORING: 0=NONE ~ 1=A LITTLE ~ 2=A MODERATE AMOUNT ~ 3=MOST/MUCH ~ 4=ALMOST ALL/COMPLETE
3 - 1) How much of the living area in your home is cluttered with possessions?
3 - 2) How much control do you have over your urges to acquire possessions?
2 - 3) How much of your home does clutter prevent you from using?
1 - 4) How much control do you have over your urges to save possessions?
3 - 5) How much of your home is difficult to walk through because of clutter?
The next set has a slightly different scoring system, but still counts toward your total score.
SCORING: 0=NOT AT ALL ~ 1=MILD ~ 2=MODERATE ~ 3=CONSIDERABLE/SEVERE ~ 4=EXTREME
3 - 6) To what extent do you have difficulty throwing things away?
2 - 7) How distressing do you find the task of throwing things away?
3 - 8) To what extent do you have so many things that your room(s) are cluttered?
0 - 9) How distressed or uncomfortable would you feel if you could not acquire something you wanted?
3 - 10) How much does clutter in your home interfere with your social, work, or everyday functioning? Think about things that you don't do because of clutter.
0 - 11) How strong is your urge to buy or acquire free things for which you have no immediate use?
3 - 12) To what extent does clutter in your home cause you distress?
3 - 13) How strong is your urge to save something you know you may never use?
1 - 14) How upset or distressed do you feel about your acquiring habits?
3 - 15) To what extent do you feel unable to control the clutter in your home?
1 - 16) To what extent has your saving or compulsive buying resulted in financial difficulties for you?
3 - 17) How often do you avoid trying to discard possessions because it is too stressful or time-consuming?
2 - 18) How often do you feel compelled to acquire something you see(e.g., when shopping or offered free things)?
2 - 19) How often do you decide to keep things you do not need and have little space for?
3 - 20) How frequently does clutter in your home prevent you from inviting people to visit?
2 - 21) How often do you actually buy (or acquire for free) things for which you have no immediate use or need?
3 - 22) To what extent does the clutter in your home prevent you from using parts of your home for their intended purpose? For example, cooking, using furniture, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.
3 - 23) How often are you unable to discard a possession you would like to get rid of?
Based upon your answers to these 23 questions, you'll tally up three scores: Your clutter score, your difficulty discarding/saving score, and your acquision score. The sum of those three scores will then give you your overall total score.
Scoring is a bit odd, so pay attention:
Score One: Clutter
Add together your answers to the following questions:
1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 22
This is your total clutter score. My total was 26.
Score Two: Difficulty Discarding/Saving
Add together your answers for the following questions:
4 (reversed), 6, 7, 13, 17, 19, and 23
This is your total difficulty discarding/saving score. My total was 19.
NOTE: your answer to some questions need to be reversed when adding up your total because of the way they're worded. For example, if you answered question 4 with 0, tally a 4. Use the following as a guide: 0=4 ~ 4=0 ~ 1=3 ~ 3=1 ~ 2=2
Score Three: Acquisition
Add together your answers for the following questions:
2 (reversed), 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, and 21
This is your total acquisition score. My total was 7.
To get your grand total, add all three scores together. My grand total was 52.
On average, people who do not have cluttered homes would generally have a total score in and around 24, while those of us who do have issues with clutter consistently score above 40.
My total score is a little bit embarrassing, to be sure. That score is high. Although my acquisition score is lower than average, my clutter and difficulty discarding scores are way up there. I hate to admit it, but this is pretty accurate. Over the years I have accumulated quite a bit of stuff, through purchases, gifts, and hand-me-downs. I have recently made some changes to my habits so that I'm really thinking about why I'm buying what I want to buy, and that is making a difference, but I have, for years, had issues with letting things go. I know they won't sell for much, and I feel they're worth so much more, so I keep them. Or they have sentimental value, even though they don't necessarily fit in with the decor in my home or have a place to live, and still I hold on to them. As with my shopping habits, this problem I have with letting things go will also have to be addressed while I go through my home de-cluttering all the rooms
Did you take the survey? What did you get as a total? If you're not already in the process of de-cluttering, does that score make you think twice about the stuff in your home? Leave a comment and let me know. As always, thanks for reading, glad you're here.
About a week before I got Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight, I was already taking steps to streamline my life. I am very much a lover of order, of rules, of schedules. But I am also a person of extremes. This is a part of my personality that gets me in the most trouble, I think. A task that should take me 10 minutes must be done 110%, and in the end, it takes me an entire day, and I’m still not done. So I get frustrated and give up. I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal (as Hubby will attest), and that will be a major hurdle for me in the coming weeks. Because I’m this way, I can get scattered if I don’t have a clear path to the finish line. And so schedules, plans, and lists are my best friend when I’m trying to get myself back on my course.
A few weeks ago, I went to the local discount store and bought myself three large journals. One would be an actual journal that I would take a few minutes before bed each night to jot down some thoughts, feelings, ideas, whatever remained from the day. Journaling has always seemed like something I should do, since I love to write, and my brain never seems to shut down the running commentary, but I have started and failed to continue this activity too many times to count over the course of my almost half-century on this earth. When the program brings us to my closets, you’ll be introduced to a pile of notebooks that tried to be journals over the years and ended up in a box with very little written in them. I tell myself this time will be different, and I am making a very conscious decision each night to make that a reality.
Why journaling? According to Forbes.com, there are no less than five excellent reasons to do it - and none of them necessarily apply only to creative types:
Clears your mind.
Helps you de-stress.
A tool for self-improvement.
Improves memory and problem-solving skills.
Follow the Forbes link to a wonderful article written by Noma Nazish (@noma_nz)
The second notebook is a place to record my recipes. I cook and bake a lot. I enjoy it immensely. Baking often leaves me exhausted by the end of it, because everything takes so much time and patience, but I feel real satisfaction when I’ve made something delicious. However, I rarely write things down. I’ll find a good recipe and decide to make it. I usually make little (or sometimes large) changes and jot them down on scraps of paper. Can I ever find them the next time I want to make something? Nope. So I have to try to figure out with my Swiss-cheese of a brain which ingredients I removed, changed, added... and it doesn’t turn out tasting the same. Sometimes it’s better, other times not so much. But maybe dinner and dessert shouldn’t be such a crap-shoot in my house. So I’m going to take the time to write down my recipes so that they’re great every time. When I’m too old to spend any time in the kitchen, my kids may be interested in the recipes, and I’ll have something to show them. My brother and I often lament at holidays that I never asked my grandmother before she passed how to make certain things that we loved. I may figure a few out by trial and error, but most I fear, we will never taste again. As an aside, if you're interested in some of the things I've made and posted here, click on the "Recipes" category in the sidebar.
The last notebook is likely the most important. It is for my daily schedule. A full accounting of most of the hours in the day of a modern human being is difficult to do. Plans can sometimes change on a dime when you have kids and a family, but making the effort will give me a leg up, and I suggest that you buy yourself a notebook and sketch out, at the very least, a rudimentary schedule for the week.
It may seem odd and unnatural at first to schedule almost every moment of your day, but you'll get used to it. What do they say? Do something for thirty days straight and you'll develop a habit. Use that power for good! Not comfortable with this level of anal-retentiveness and/or OCD? That's okay. Don't write down the time, leave out the obvious like "make the bed", you need to find what works for you, because what works for you is what you will stick with. Just find something, even if you purchase a day planner or write it down in an oversized calendar, and stick with it. I promise you this will help you.
I also made a list of things that wouldn't be done on a weekly basis, maybe bi-weekly, maybe monthly, maybe only once or twice a year. I carry a pen and small notebook with me when I'm working on a room initially, and if I notice something, I make a note of it and add it to this list later. If I complete a task, for example, washing all the door handles, I wrote July next to it. This way I know in a month or so, I should repeat this particular task. Some things like spray painting the mirror, I can check off once complete, since it will be a one-time chore.
The way I went about mine was I started with a list of things that need to be done in my house on a weekly basis; things like laundry, watering the plants, posting items online for sale (during my purge), blogging, planning, my fledgling business, and my husband's business. General housework (once a week stuff like dusting, vacuuming, etc., was a separate category that had it’s own slot, with a subcategory listed.)
Once that list was complete, I wrote a number next to each task indicating how often per week it needed to be done, for example, vacuum 1x, laundry 3x. Next, I staggered as best I could and added days of the week. I wrote out my days with the tasks that happened every day entered and blank spots for the ones that were fluid.
First draft of the "master chore list" as I like to call it. Lots of spacing to add more things. After I took this picture, I remembered that I should add things like taking out the garbage, watering the plants, cleaning the fish tank. It never ends.
Lastly I added in the tasks that changed and set timers on my phone. Now I don’t even have to stress about what time it is and how long I have to complete my current task. I also gave myself permission to go over my allotted time by a few minutes, and if I finished early, I could take a little break before I started the next one.
We’ll get back to the topic of the notebooks a few times over the course of the next few weeks, but I promised we’d get into some questionnaires this post, so we’ll leave the journals for now. Since this post ended up (as usual) much lengthier than I expected, I'll sneak in another post later today with the questions and answers you'll have to think about while completing Peter's program.
Thanks for spending some time with me, I know how valuable it is, especially if you have rooms to de-clutter!
Full disclosure - I am not starting the journey I am about to chronicle from scratch. You're joining up with me about a quarter of the way through. My journey began a few months ago, after I first saw the Minimalism documentary and finally quit working. At that time I did a massive clean up of the "Dump Room", and made quite the dent in the garage, basement, and kitchen. We also made a few upgrades to our home (mainly the kitchen), and so I was forced to do a little cleanup in those areas as well. By no means is my home clutter-free, and in some cases, all I really did was move junk from one room to another.
I'm not going to get too much into my own home today, though. I'd like to keep on track this time and talk about the second, and in some ways more meaningful, motivation for my de-cluttering efforts, and this series of posts.
I very recently read a very good book called Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight by Peter Walsh. I was intrigued by the title, and although I could definitely stand to lose more than a few pounds, I immediately felt the correlation between being overburdened by stuff and being overweight. Before I get too far into it, here are some buying options if you're interested:
If you're Canadian and love a good deal on books, use my link and get a bargain book copy for only $1.99! The link will also net you $10 off your first order of $25 or more. Once you enter your email, enter 'Peter Walsh' in the search box and you're golden.
Don't fret, my American friends, I would not leave you out of the bargain book loop. Here's your link to get this book for only $1.29. That link will take you to the Canadian site, but you'll get a pop-up suggesting you shop at their US site. Follow that link and you'll get a discount on your first order. Here's your screenshot:
For those of you who prefer Amazon, here are the direct links to Lose the Clutter:
Canada - amazon.ca - $11.99
US - amazon.com - $9.76
(I do not receive any compensation from Amazon, I offer these links as a courtesy.)
Alright, the commercial break is over. The book seeks to empower you with the tools to take control of your eating habits by giving you simple meal plans that are easy to follow even if you’re a picky eater or have a busy schedule, help you gain some stamina and muscle with the help of simple exercises that can be done almost anywhere with no special equipment or setup, and finally to overcome the mounds of ‘stuff’ that has accumulated around you over the years and is (in many cases) causing mental stress, familial conflict, and is keeping you from living your best life.
It’s a relatively simple premise: eat well (and not too much), move your body, and live in a clutter free environment (both physically and mentally) and you will find that you’re a happier person. Now, I know that his book isn’t called “Lose the Clutter, Find Your Happiness”, but it could be. I think that most people would pick the book up for the opposite reason that I did. Losing the weight would appeal to the masses, which may have been one of the factors in the choice of title. I picked it up because I’m at a place in my life right now where I’m looking for ways to simplify my life, minimize the things in my home, and just be happy. I was already well on my way when I found this book.
Because this post (and this series) is not intended to be a book report, I won’t lay it all out for you here at the outset. As I bring you along with me through the six week program, I’ll share the author’s thoughts and insights, without giving too much away. You will also find precious little in regards to the actual diet plan or exercises for two reasons; I think you should get the book and read it yourself, and also I won’t be following any of his meal plans, and only a few of his recommended exercises. This is not because I don’t think his ideas and suggestions are any good, it’s because our family has our way of eating, and since it rarely includes take out or junky, processed foods since I stopped working, we’re going to stick with our food. I think I already mentioned that I was more into the de-cluttering part of this whole thing, anyway. As for the exercise plan, I have already started my own thing, and may or may not decide to incorporate some of his suggestions in the future. Peter’s advice is, more or less, as long as you’re doing some sort of physical activity that could be classed as exercise and is not a part of your regular routine (i.e. housework is NOT exercise), it’s all good.
Next post, we’ll delve into a few questionnaires you’ll have to fill out to get a better sense of where you stand (yup, I’ll share my answers), and get an overview of Week One. I’ll also share some of the things I’ve been doing to help myself succeed.
Thanks for stopping by, as always, feel free to leave a comment. Have you tried de-cluttering? How far did you get? How long did the process take? How did you feel emotionally while doing it?
It's safe, secure, and only costs you $3. Thank you!
Over the last year I've read some interesting articles and books regarding minimalism. I hate to admit it out loud, but for most of my life I have been surrounded by clutter. I'm just not a very good housekeeper and although I don't really have an impulse buy problem, I do have issues with letting things go. Whether because I think they're bringing some value to my life (even though they've been in a box in the basement for 10 years), or because I think I may find use for them at some point in the future, I always seem to have a ready excuse to hang on to it. Last year was something of a breaking point, though, since an entire bedroom (lovingly labelled "The Dump Room"), my basement, and my garage had become completely unusable because they looked like they belonged on an episode of hoarders. Bags, boxes, papers, and all manner of loose 'stuff' was piled floor to ceiling. And there was always more coming. All I did was open the door, toss it in, and close it again.
The rooms were only part of it. Drawers were filled with junk. Shelves were piled high and covered in dust. Corners became homes to wayward items. My bathtub became an extremely large clothes hamper. Stuff even lived on the stairs.
All of this mess was seriously stressing me out. I was working nights, not sleeping well, exhausted and dealing with a chronic illness. It was a vicious circle and I did not see any way out. I was ashamed. Even though few people knew how we lived (as is often the case), I was always petrified one of the kids would say something and my secret would get out. There was no way in hell that anyone could ever just drop by for a visit. Most times, even when we had lots of advance notice, I would find an excuse to reschedule or cancel because I didn't have the time or the energy to clean up. It was often a sore spot with Hubby, as he is a social creature, and very close to his family. He would ask if someone could come and visit, and it would inevitably start an argument. Even when I relented and we invited people over, it would be a week or two, and I would clean like a mad woman, right up until the time they rang the doorbell. All that work just to get the first floor decent enough. I would still spend most of the visit apologizing because the house was messy and I didn't have time to clean it. With a straight face, no less.
Visitors were banned from going upstairs, which meant the kids couldn't play with their cousins or friends in their bedrooms (where all their toys and video games are), and if the powder room was occupied, well, you had to wait. Which probably seemed odd to some family members, since they are fully aware that I have two full bathrooms upstairs. I'd often tell them that the toilet wasn't working, the seat was broken, or make something else up, just so they wouldn't go upstairs.
Since my house was so full of clutter, I started to let almost everything else slide, too. I tell myself it was the long hours, the exhaustion, the pain, but if I'm being honest (which I will try to be during this series), I think I gave up. I felt despondent looking at all the junk. I didn't know where to start, and so I didn't. I even let the dishes pile up, storing dirty dishes in the oven to make a little counter space the few times a week that I attempted to cook dinner. I rarely even cleaned the bathrooms. We had lived in clutter for years, and now we were beginning to live in filth. I used to always excuse my mess by saying I was messy, not dirty, except that now I was.
By now, some of you may be wondering why my husband or kids never did anything about the mess, or if they got after me about it. The short answer is no, no one helps me clean the house, and no one complains about it, either. The long answer is that my situation is of my own making, and so I am the only one who can change it. This may sound alien to you, but the way both my husband and I grew up was that the man worked and the wife kept house. Those were the roles, and we started our relationship with the understanding that we would continue those roles in our home. I tried, at first, but my mother only worked a few hours a week, leaving plenty of time for the home. I worked full time until about five years ago, and the first five years that we lived in this home I had a ninety minute commute one way. In my husband's eyes, I wasn't keeping up my end of the bargain, and we did fight about it, but that's all we did. We didn't make any changes. I also never taught my kids to pick up after themselves. It's hard to teach skills you don't have.
As with all things, eventually, something has to give. My will to live in squalor finally broke. After a few heated exchanges, some tears, and a lot of pleading, Hubby started helping a little around the house when he could, like doing laundry (sort of), and loading the dishwasher. My kids started helping too, emptying the dishwasher and picking their clothes up off the floor. Not a whole lot of progress, but I was willing to take any help I was offered.
I still felt absolutely paralyzed by my junk. I was doing my best to not be dirty, but we were still messy. I still refused to look into the dumping areas, still pretended they didn't exist. When the neighbor rang the doorbell, I always pretended I couldn't hear it, so that I wouldn't have to open my door and expose my shame.
One day I was scrolling through Netflix, looking for something to watch. I am a sucker for documentaries, and when I came across Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, I hit 'play' without a second thought. This movie was about to change my life. I sat forward, enraptured by the cleanliness of everything. Everything seemed to have strong, clean lines. The sun was shining on all the gloriously smooth, gleaming, clutter-free surfaces. The only dust was by the side of the road, and even that seemed to have a certain order to it.
Don't get me wrong - I may be giving you the sense that everything was sterile. Far from it. The homes looked almost organic. Everyone was living a regular life - only without a crap-ton of stuff. The people making the documentary and being interviewed for it all just seemed content, a calm happiness radiated from them, while the skeptics around them all looked hurried, harried, and well, unhappy. That's what I want for myself, my family and my home, that easy kind of happiness.
The second thing I don't want you to misunderstand is this: I have no intention of going full minimalist like the people in this film. I understand why they did it, I applaud them for it, but within my own life, I need to be realistic. I think a lot of people fail at a lot of their big dreams because they aren't being realistic. I would not be happy in a one room home where there is zero privacy, and I am fully confident that I can say the same about my family. I will definitely do something about the sheer number of t-shirts in my closet, but only 10 or so items of clothing? Maybe not. Will I get rid of my books once I finish reading them? Hard no. I love my books, and there are a great many that have been read over and over. The next time I start Stephen King's The Dark Tower series will be read through #8. I have a kindle full of books (including The Dark Tower!), but when it comes down to it, I need to hold a book in my hand while I read it and will accept no compromise. I also enjoy having some decorative items in my home. They bring me some joy just by looking at them, and I believe that in bringing me this feeling that they have earned their place.
Having said that, I have waaaaaay too much stuff and I am prepared to do something about it. That's where the book, Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight by Peter Walsh comes in. I had intended this to just be a quick minimalism intro post and spend the bulk of my time with you today talking about Peter's book and it's impact on me, but that obviously didn't go as planned, and so we will leave the book for my next post.
Thanks for stopping by, as always, feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to add or ask.
If you read my "PLEASE NOTE" in the side bar, I wanted to let you know that I'll be systematically going through each post (as time permits) as I have to manually remove the ads. It's a process.
If you haven't read it recently, please do, it has been updated.
It's safe, secure, and only costs you $3. Thank you!
Well, well, well. Look who decided to show up.
Me. I'm talking about me.
Where the heck have I been while my poor blog fell into disrepair and languished in a comatose state? That's a valid question. I'll give you the shortest answer I can, because it's a long story, but not a really exciting one.
The situation at work got super stressful, which in turn just put my messed up autoimmune system into overdrive. My fibro got unmanageable, and the dyshidrotic eczema that was only affecting my right palm got funny and decided to attack both of my feet. If you're standing for almost eight hours straight four nights a week, I don't care who you are, it's going to affect you. By the time I gave my notice in mid-April, my left foot looked like it was disintegrating. Gross. If you decide to look it up, try not to look at the pictures.
Since I was so stressed and it was affecting my health and my family (my house was an absolute disaster and we were ordering food more often than me cooking), hubby told me to 'retire'. Life is too short to kill yourself for minimum wage. I love him. So I stopped working at the end of April, and the very next day I threw myself into housework, trying to clean up and do some laundry. I also had a pretty great idea for a business, which I started planning and designing a site for. I'll let you know here first when it's up and running.
I also threw myself into cooking and baking. I started taking some online courses. I kicked my eldest out of the second largest room and turned it into my library. We did some painting (interior and exterior), we had the cabinets redone, the countertop replaced.
In other words, I traded in one hustle and bustle for another one. Except that the madness now is a good kind because it's for our family, and even when I get a little stressed, it doesn't last, and it's usually because I'm just having a rough day. And if I'm being honest, I just don't have too many of those any more.
There you have it, the abridged Cliff's Notes of the last few months of my life. Next, you may be wondering why I'm here again, giving my blog an adrenaline shot when I just said that life was still crazy, just in a different way. Because it is slowing down a little now. I have had a lot to say these last few months (13 unfinished posts in my drafts folder is evidence of that), I just didn't get around to writing it down. I feel like I have some time now to devote to the research, time, and energy I usually expend when getting into a topic to write about.
I also just finished reading this great book that uses a six-week de-cluttering program, and I think I'm going to take you with me while I try it out. More about that in the next few days.
Lastly, I wanted to tell you about a change I'll be making here at SonjaRants. Over the next few weeks, I'll be removing all the ads from my site. I may still suggest a product or service that I enjoy, and if I have a referral link, I will post it. I also added a "Buy me a coffee" button to the sidebar and will add one to the bottom of most posts. I find myself increasingly annoyed that I can't read half the articles, recipes, or any webpage in general because there's so much garbage around trying to get my attention. Or I'm closing a popup every 60 or so seconds. I want my readers to have a pleasant experience. Come here, read my post, look at my pretty pictures, and don't worry about a hard sell.
I added the button hoping that if you're enjoying the read, maybe learning something new, you'll understand the work I put into this and click the button to buy me a coffee :)
It's safe, secure, and costs you $3 CAD.
Thank you in advance, you're the greatest!
I read an article a few weeks back that really hit home about unanswered emails clogging up the author's inbox and the euphoria she felt when she cleared it up. You can read it here: Unanswered Emails Were the Bane of my Life by Moya Sarner at the guardian.com.
Now, I say a few weeks, but the truth is that I actually emailed myself the link so that I could write a post about it, and it promptly got lost in my own insane inbox. I found it last night while going through my own purge, and it was dated February 12th.
Last night I couldn't get to sleep. I work nights, so for obvious reasons I often have trouble sleeping on my nights off. Sometimes I (quietly) putter around the house, sometimes I read, play video games, or binge watch Netflix or whatever has piled up on my PVR. However, spring seems to actually be here, and I've been getting that cleaning itch. Since it's 2:30am, I'm not exactly going to go outside and start raking the lawn. Well, I might have, but it was raining, and still not warm enough for that.
So I decided it was time. Now, just for clarification, I had nowhere near 16,000 unread emails in my inbox. I had probably about 700 unread, and maybe another 500 read, but just sitting there waiting to be dealt with. I have a terrible habit of glancing at emails and leaving them, figuring I'll get to them eventually.
Usually I don't.
Since I was in a mood and nothing was interesting me, I decided to plunge head first into clearing up - totally - my inbox. For the next five hours I almost went blind dealing with the nightmare that had become my inbox.
I did not re-read Sarner's article prior to writing this, but I believe that she went about clearing hers in stages. I wanted to do mine all in one night, but decided to actually do it in two phases. Not really because I wanted to, but I had to. I just didn't have the time or the fortitude to do the kind of sweeping purge I had in mind all in one night.
I do feel a certain kind of lightness looking at the emptiness. However, I also now have this nagging at the back of my mind that I need to keep on top of this, need to keep it clear, need to keep checking. I think I've checked my inbox more today than all of last week, dealing with each new email as it comes. I'm going to have to find a happy balance, but will continue with my new madness for at least the foreseeable future.
So what, exactly did I do for five hours? I did it in stages. First I deleted all the old emails that I wanted to continue receiving, but had no value to me because they were outdated. Today's world runs at top speed, so I don't really need the headlines of my daily 680news.com any older than yesterday. I also closed my eyes and deleted any other weekly or dailies that I am subscribed to straight out, without even looking at them.
That was the easy part. Next, I went line by line and did one of three things, I either unsubscribed, placed it in a folder, or dealt with it. I also cleaned up all my folders and nested them under only three main ones so that I could see them at all times instead of having to scroll through the 50 or so folders I created. The hardest thing to do was deal with the ones that were left. A great many were already 'expired' - meaning that whatever I had pushed aside with the intent of going through had been pushed aside for too long. So surveys I wanted to take, reviews I wanted to write, offers I wanted to take advantage of are all gone. There's a lesson here. I need to stop procrastinating. In my real life as well as my online life.
So that's it. I have 7 emails left. One is a tax receipt I'll be using up tomorrow when I finally get around to doing our taxes, two were sent from hubby about stuff he wants me to research for him, one is a shipping notice for an item I haven't received yet, and the last three are quick ones I have promised myself I will deal with before I go to bed tonight.
What's phase two? A little simpler. I'll go through all of the emails I have in folders and delete anything older than a year, other than pictures.
And so my purge will be complete and I will feel permanently lighter.
This post is #2 in a series. Click here for the previous post, Getting My Groupon On.
On the heels of my successful initial Groupon order of the GoodFood weekly meal prep kit, I ventured back into the world of discounts and deals to find my next one. With the swift help of the Groupon customer service department, I am able to log into my online account once again, and so I spent a little (who am I kidding? A lot) of time perusing the deals available.
The app is pretty easy to use (for more on the app, see my first post), but I find the website has more to offer. There seems to be a plethora of choice online, however, there is one caveat: the US only deals are mixed in with the Canada only or North America-wide deals. So, you may see something that looks great, only to find it is not available to you. Further to that, I mentioned in my first post that I didn't appreciate USD pricing when I am very clearly purchasing within Canada, but at least the app tells you right away which currency the pricing is in, whereas when you're online you only find the currency once you click on the item to be taken to the description page. Not cool.
The same hotel, listed as US$100 per night on the app, no currency listed on web.
Take a look at the hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada). Since I am looking at a hotel in Canada, and I am accessing the site from Canada, I would assume that if there is no different currency listed that I am purchasing in CAD. What is even worse about this particular example is how far down I have to go to find the fine print that informs me that I am, in fact, paying in USD. I most likely wouldn't find out until I looked at my credit card statement. I am not okay with that.
For the sake of research, I was considering purchasing an item I knew would not ship to Canada, but clearer heads prevailed. I did not really want to have to deal with any run around today, so I am going to leave that for another time (perhaps). I did, however, Google the question, but I didn't find any real answer, even three pages in. So I looked through the FAQs on groupon.com, again, no real answer. So I sent an email to customer service to see what they had to say. Customer service is probably going to hate me soon.
The closest answer to my question. This seems to be telling me I better read ALL the fine print before I buy anything.
I send the question to customer service.
I got an answer from customer service the next day - not a good answer, but an answer nonetheless. Basically the same thing I learned from FAQ - Buyer Beware. So I will remind anyone using Groupon to READ THE FINE PRINT. All of it, before you make a purchase.
I will mention that their FAQ section is pretty easy to navigate, and as you type in your query, the suggested topics that pop up are pretty relevant. It is also helpful that it is really easy to send them an email if you can't find what you're looking for. I am finding more and more online companies these days are either doing away with the ability to send an email (WHY?) or making it really difficult to even find a contact email for them. In other words, you have to have the fortitude and ability to jump through numerous hoops and really, really want it. I prefer email because I am not the quickest typist (online chat), and I also prefer to have as much information as possible upfront before I start asking questions, or answering them, for that matter.
And so, I didn't actually purchase anything today because I got so hung up on the issue of shipping. Stay tuned for the next installment, I promise I'll spend some money!
New to Groupon? Use this link to sign up today! Available to Canadians and Americans, great deals on one site.
Click here for my review of GoodFood.
#1 - Getting my Groupon On
Last week I started a new series where I will order different goods and services from Groupon and let you know how the order process goes and how good the actual items/services are. My first order was a 51% discount on my first order from GoodFood, a recurring subscription for a meal prep kit delivered weekly. (You can read the initial post here.)
I signed up for the family box, which consists of four meals that each feed four people and will cost me $140 per week. Each meal will have all the ingredients, washed, measured, and properly portioned, along with a recipe card. The price is surprisingly fair - it's about $35 a meal. Yes, I can absolutely make dinner for less than that, BUT I will have to figure out what I'm making, go to the grocery store to pick everything up, then wash and measure it all prior to cooking. There's also waste to consider. We're pretty good about using up what's in the fridge, but that has only been a recent change in this household. As recent as six months ago I was throwing out a whole lot of spoiling food every week. Even with the recent change in habit where I try to use up everything fresh we buy, I still end up with a decent amount of scraps and odds and ends that I have to throw out because we just can't go through it quick enough. Especially if I need a quarter cup of heavy cream and I have to buy a carton of it. Since things like cream, spices, vinegar, etc., are sent in the exact portion I will need for the recipe, I don't have to throw it out, or have it sit in my cupboard until I'm sure it's no longer any good.
Since I am an exceptionally curious person, I wanted to know how the options and pricing available to me through GoodFood compared to other companies offering a comparable service. Mind you, I did some preliminary research before I even signed up because I need to know I'm getting the best bang for my buck, along with the best service on offer. So here are some companies (that deliver to my area), and how they compare:
GoodFood offers two family sized options, The Classic which can be ordered for 2 or 4 servings and offers "unique ingredients... for a culinary adventure" or The Family, which has family friendly fare which can be prepared a little faster. The Classic will run you $150 per week, at a cost of $37.50 per meal and The Family is $140 per week, which is $35 per meal. I would love to try out The Classic, but I have a very picky eater, and little time for cooking most nights during the week, so The Family it is.
Also, of note, I found the GoodFood website very easy to navigate, and quickly found all the information I was looking for. The same cannot be said of 3 out of 4 of the 'competition' - Chefsplate wanted my email address right away, Fresh City was not user friendly, and Prepd looked like an eleven year old used a free website builder. Only the HelloFresh website was as easy and informative as GoodFood.
My first box arrived on Tuesday February 28th. I received an email the day before letting me know what to expect in my box and that it would arrive at some point before 8:00pm. Since their box is lined and contains ice packs, you do not need to worry about being home when it arrives. Our box arrived at some point between 4:00 and 6:00. I say at some point because although there were two cars in our driveway, no one rang the doorbell or knocked on the door to let us know we had a delivery. I found that a little odd. If I hadn't happened to look out the front door around 6:15, I wouldn't have known it was there. I probably would have only gone out to look around 8:00, wondering where my food was.
That aside, I was excited to bring in my box and check out the contents:
There was a whole lot of goodness packed into that box, it was difficult to get it all into one shot. Just a quick glance assuaged my fears of portion sizes, this looked like a decent amount of food.
First up, Shrimp Al Ajillo with Patatas Bravas. From my research I have learned that all of the aforementioned meal kit deliveries come with recipe cards. As you can see from the photo above, GoodFood sent me beautiful, full page recipe cards that were exceptionally easy to follow and will definitely find their way into a binder with two sections: "Make Again" and "Nope". GoodFood also has a link to each recipe on their website, so if you spill something on your card, or if the dog chews it up, you're good. Shrimp Al Ajillo will make it into the Make Again section. I hate green beans. Hate them. I haven't touched a green bean in over twenty years. These green beans were so good I actually wanted more! The shrimp were also good, but the real star of this meal were the potatoes. Simply roasted, but with the addition of the smoked paprika mayo - a delicious surprise.
The recipe card states 35 minutes for prep time, but it took me just under an hour from start to plate. Maybe I'm just slow at cutting the ends off of the beans or pulling the tails off of the shrimp.
Day two was Chana Masala. Hubby really enjoyed this dish, but the rest of us weren't too keen. Since it's an East Asian dish, I expected really bold flavors, but I found it really bland. I don't care for chickpeas or kale, so I was hoping the spices would make it worthwhile. The spiced naan was quite delicious, even if there was too much vinegar on the salad. My older son only ate about half of his meal (that has probably only happened a handful of times in his 18 years on this planet), and I had to make the younger one a peanut butter sandwich because he took one bite and said nope.
The recipe card states 40 minutes for prep time, and that time was pretty much bang on.
Day Three was Pork Chops with Onion Gravy and Parmesan Broccoli. I was the least excited about this meal because we eat pork chops all the time. However, this meal was even more enjoyable than the shrimp meal. The parmesan on the broccoli was a nice, sharp contrast to the sweetness of the gravy on the chops and barley. Definitely keeping this recipe!
The recipe card states 40 minutes for prep time, but once again I took almost an hour. There were a lot of components to this recipe, and a lot you had to pay attention to. It was worth it, though.
And we come to Day Four: Loaded Ground Beef Nachos with Fresh Salsa. My kids were looking forward to this one all week. Unfortunately, with all the stuff on it, my picky youngster would only try one chip. That was okay with the rest of us, because we really enjoyed dinner. Even with all of the fine chopping, this meal was on the table in an hour (The card said 40 minutes). It seemed like every meal this week featured an ingredient I am not fond of, so I give a whole lot of credit to GoodFood for designing meals that made me enjoy these foods! Today's ingredient was the radishes. Truthfully, I almost didn't use them. I am really glad I stuck to the recipe because they were a delicious addition to the nachos, along with the red pepper ketchup. There was a lot going on with this nachos, and yet every flavor shone through and it was a harmony for my taste buds.
I work nights. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but lately I just can't find the energy to plan my meals, do my grocery shopping, then actually get into the kitchen and get it all together. Yes, it's the nights, but it's also the fibro, and the long, cold winter. By mid January I was already done with it. GoodFood has been an absolute lifesaver this week. Our family ate delicious, fresh, home cooked meals and I didn't have to put too much effort into it. I was able to wake up on my worst day, pull my ingredient bag out of the fridge, and be sitting down to a simple, yet wonderful, meal in less than an hour.
I am extremely happy that I signed up for this service. The ingredients are fresh, perfectly portioned and pre-washed. The recipes are relatively simple but full of flavor. The price is very fair, and the portion sizes are perfect - no one is going hungry in this house.
We put our meals in order of preference and here it is:
ME: 1- Shrimp 2- Nachos 3- Pork Chops 4- Chana Masala
HUBBY: 1- Shrimp 2- Pork Chops 3- Nachos 4- Chana Masala
18 YO: 1- Pork Chops 2- Nachos 3- Shrimp 4- Chana Masala
13 YO: 1- Shrimp 2-Pork Chops 3- Nachos 4- Chana Masala
All opinions expressed in this blog are my own, unbiased after testing the product. The product was fully paid for by myself. The subject of this blog entry has no expectation of a review, favorable or otherwise.
Hi! I'm Sonja and I'm glad you're here! I'm happy to share some recipes and gardening tips with you while I let you know about great (or not so great) products, services, and media I encounter.
I'm switching it up! I'll be removing all ads from my site to give you a better reading experience when you visit. I have, however, set up a Ko-Fi page, where you're welcome to buy me a virtual coffee to sip while I bring you all the glories of Sonja World.
Hey look! You're visitor #