Frugal Daily: a newsletter update

So far I’ve sent 16 newsletters out–with one on the way in the morning!–and I’ve already received several emails from readers who are enjoying the tips! I hope I am inspiring people to clarify and make progress on their financial goals, or even just to tweak their lifestyle to be a bit more environmentally conscious.

My tips range from abstract to concrete, all with the aim to keep frugality on your radar as you start your day. If I can add a few tools to your toolbox along the way, that will be gratifying.

Remember: there are no affiliate links; I’m not selling anything; you can unsubscribe anytime; and it’s not about couponing. (Unless I write about why I don’t do couponing. That would be the only coupon-related post I would ever do.)

A Quick Apology to my readers!

I accidentally bombarded you with some posts I added back into this old blog from my “new blog” which I am shutting down. Sorry I forgot to shut off my auto-notifications before doing that work everybody. Thanks for your loyal readership!

My Green Smoothie Recipe

smoothie-wordsHappy Monday morning folks!

On my way to work today I had a happy encounter with a man named Trenton. He’s a cancer survivor, and he asked me about my green smoothie. Trenton is working out to get fit, along with his 17yo son. He totally made my day when he asked me for my smoothie recipe, so I told him I’d blog it just for him! Here you go Trenton, this is for you!

Morning Smoothie

1 banana
a handful of strawberries (or other sweet fruit: apple, grapes, pear all work well)
1 cup kefir (could use yogurt)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
large handful chopped kale
water up to “max” line on Bullet, or enough water to make it liquidy

Blend, and enjoy!


I’ve been drinking this smoothie daily for the last few months, and I really love it. Here are some notes about the ingredients.

Bananas: This smoothie is best if some of the ingredients are frozen when you make it. I’ve had good luck with breaking up a bunch of bananas and freezing them on a tray, then storing the chunks in a baggie in the freezer. This makes for a nice cold smoothie, and allows you to take just the right amount of banana.

Strawberries: I like to use frozen sliced strawberries. I can get a nice big bag of organic ones from Costco for a much better price than the grocery store. This is something you can grow, but it takes a lot of area to grow a sizeable strawberry crop. I was also lucky to go strawberry picking in the early summer, so I kept back a few from that adventure for my smoothies (So delicious!!).

Kale: I grew a nice crop of kale this summer, so I was able to enjoy *Really* local kale for my smoothies! You can buy a big bag of chopped kale and throw it in the freezer for ready access through the week.

Kefir: I have been making my own kefir! Stay tuned for more on that!

Chia seeds: Chia seeds have a very high amount of Omega 3, and very low Omega 6, very good for the brain. Chia seeds get really thick once they’re blended up and mixed with a liquid, so you might have to adjust your quantities of chia and water to get a thickness you like. Too much chia or too little water, and you get something more like pudding, which is a little hard to drink. I like to put the seeds in after I add my kefir. If you put them in the bottom or over the bananas, they sometimes stick to the bottom of the cup, and miss out on the smoothie party.

Flax seeds: These are another good source of Omega 3s, and a good source of fibre.

Turmeric and Cinnamon: These are both touted as cancer-fighting ingredients, and they give the smoothie a nice flavour. Cinnamon can also add an impression of “sweetness” without added sugar.

Coconut Oil: Another healthy fat, which emulsifies and adds richness and a creamy mouthfeel. Coconut oil can also help to make fat-soluble vitamins available to your body. In the summer, when your coconut oil is liquid, try to add it to the top, otherwise it might harden onto the side of the cup and never make it into your smoothie. When it is hard in the cooler months, I like to layer it in with the seeds so it doesn’t stick to the blades.

I blogged about my Nutribullet just the other day. Well, this is the smoothie I’ve been making with it.

I’d love to hear other recipes, and your ingredient tips too! Let me know what you think in the comments!


Monday Mindfulness: One Moment Meditation App

I have heard over and over again that our inability to sit with discomfort is at the root of most dissatisfaction and anxiety. It causes addictions, ruins relationships, and leads to a lot of instability. How many of your decisions are made based on a desire to avoid pain, rejection, boredom, desperation or other discomfort? How would your life be different if you made decisions based on your values, or on the impact they would have on the earth, or on your loved ones?

I know my life would be vastly different. And these questions aren’t meant to judge you, because we ALL seek pleasure and avoid pain. We aren’t robots or monks (I’m assuming? I can’t imagine robots or monks would be interested in reading my blog!); pain, boredom and conflict will eventually *get* to us, and we will try to shift away.

What I hope for, in my life, and in my kids’ lives, is the ability in the millisecond before making that shift, to be able to make a choice. There isn’t a lot of room there, between the burn and the flinch, between the perceived insult and the angry yell.

With meditation, we get to create a space

meditation-by-spirit-fire
meditation” by Spirit-Fire, 2011

We can either choose to yell or maybe to take a deep breath instead and take a break, walk away, have a drink of water or look at a tree for a few minutes before coming back to the conversation. The space we create can allow us to choose our values.

When we meditate, we see all sorts of things pass by on the screen of our mind. They seem very important, until we say “Hmm” and let go and return to our breath. Letting go, over and over and over again, shows us that we CAN let go. And so, over time, we create a space where we can choose to let go.

Studies have shown that meditating actually causes changes in our brains, de-escalating emotions, and actually reducing pain. How remarkable! We can actually reduce our pain by learning to sit with pain. It turns out that what really increases our pain is the feeling, the belief, that we can’t handle it. When we bring compassion to our pain, it reduces the hurt. And all this can come from just sitting and breathing.

A simple practice

I’ve had an on-again-off-again meditation practice for over a decade, and what I love about meditating–most of which I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh–is its simplicity: Get comfortable. Set a timer. Breathe. Focus on your breathing. When your thoughts wander, let those thoughts go, and return your focus to your breathing. That’s it. No special position, just get comfortable. No special words; no words at all. So simple you can do it anywhere.

one-moment-meditationI have tried a few different meditation apps over the past year, but I hadn’t found one I liked until I tried One MomentMeditation. Many of them had music, guiding text or swirling colours. OMM has nothing fancy: just a timer for one minute, plus an optional warm-up and cool-down.

What I love about it is that it is almost impossible NOT to meditate with this app. Just one minute? How can you say no? And yet, even one minute seems like a deliciously long break in the middle of a stressful work day.

Even in one single minute we can learn how to bring compassion to our discomfort, boredom and pain. Even one minute a day can help reduce our pain, our anger and our sadness.

Even one minute can create space for us to choose our values.


I have no affiliation with One Moment Meditation. This is an honest review for which I have not received, nor do I anticipate receiving any compensation. I did include a couple of Amazon Affiliate links; however, I encourage you to look for the linked books in your local library.

Shooting star or seedling: What to do with all the great ideas?

 

seedling
Seedling” copyright Drew McLellan, 2007

I’m an idea person. I get a lot of them, though they are more like shooting stars than, say, seedlings. They burn bright and fade quickly instead of growing. That is, instead of me nurturing them, feeding them, watering them–believing in them.

It should not be surprising to hear, given the “itchy sweater” feeling I currently have about my life, that I have not recently nurtured any great ideas to full ripeness. I’ve been stumbling along, with only vague ideas of what I want to do, what I want to leave as my legacy.

 

It was a post somewhere on Penelope Trunk’s blog (which I’ve lost along the tangled path of her fascinating site) that made me realize that drifting along is basically ensuring my unhappiness. She claims that people who see a clear relationship between their actions (or lack thereof) and their situations, are much more likely to achieve happiness.

Let me rephrase that:

The way to happiness is realizing that you can make decisions to bring you happiness.

The decisions we make, the actions we take, those have consequences: they can lead us to a better life. If we abdicate the responsibility to choose, leaving it up to fate, we will continue to drift along, never getting what we want.

I’ve been drifting for too long–letting the path choose me instead of deciding where I want to go.

Part of that is because of the big changes that have occurred in our life over the last year and a half. The big decisions we made were to stay put in Sudbury instead of trying to make homeschooling work in another city, and to prioritize financial stability over homeschooling. (I personally know at least four families who persisted in homeschooling through a job loss, so I know that is possible–but that was way too terrifying for me!)

up-the-lane

I’ve really felt lost over this time. I hadn’t realized it at first, but losing the identity of “homeschooling mom” put me in a place of not really knowing who I was, or where to go next. I think I had to come to terms with that loss before I could move forward to something new.

I think I’m finally done mourning. I’m ready for the next steps.

I’m done drifting.

Now that I’m ready to move ahead, I realize I’ve been doing the prep work all along.

Over the last few months, I have really been trying to figure out my path, my meaning, how I can best contribute to the world. I’ll write more about my process later, but essentially I’ve done some work articulating my values, analyzing what brings me joy, considering my personality, and ultimately coming up with an action statement of what I want to achieve in this one life.

What I’ve come up with is this:

I want to bring people together to do cool stuff.

I want to create community. I want to help people feel good together, and help them feel good about being together. New people, lots of people, people you’ve never met before. I want to surprise you with the awesomeness of your neighbours.

 

So, lucky me: I got an idea a couple of nights ago. I think I maybe dreamed it? Or maybe it bubbled up at 4:30 am as I was lying awake. It’s a pretty good idea, maybe even great. It has even withstood the 24-hour stress test (I didn’t get stressed out about it after 24 hours!).

Following this idea could bring people together to do something cool. In sort of a metaphorical way. It has the potential to create community, surprise people about their neighbours, and spread some good vibes.

I’m making the decision to move this idea forward one step. And then, I hope, another. Who knows what it will lead to, but at least I know that wherever it leads, it was a result of my decision to take care of this little seedling of an idea, and hopefully watch it grow.

It is truly amazing how the universe jumps on board as soon as we make that decision to go somewhere good.

It all started with dental floss: the story of how I became a Christian

Photo on 2015-12-08 at 6.01 PMI didn’t mean to become a Christian.

I was brought up as a good agnostic, daughter of an ex-Catholic and an ex-Anglican, both of whom had left the church in their teens. I had been inside churches for weddings and one or two funerals, and once with my Girl Guide troupe when I shockingly took communion despite not having been baptized (actually, in retrospect I think it a United Church, so it might have been okay after all!). I conveniently edited out my having received a Gideon’s bible some time in about 1985, in which I pledged my soul to Jesus, and advanced in my years dutifully shocked by the horrors committed in the name of religions, Christian and otherwise.

From the time I was a teen to my years as a progressive intellectual (self-diagnosed), I believed anything to do with Church was about as evil, exclusionary, and judgemental as it can come. I actually felt torn about supporting good works being done by church groups, simply because they were being done in the name of Christ.

Of course I had reason to be sceptical. But I had no idea that there were all sorts of Christians, and all sorts of churches. I never suspected I would find a church that I could join, let alone love.

I think it began with dental floss.

When I lived downtown Ottawa, when I started this blog in fact, I worked very hard to tighten up our finances so that I could afford to stay home. I paid a LOT of attention to grocery prices, and I was lucky to have a friend with a car who was generous enough to bring me to far-flung magical places like Food Basics and Costco. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t exciting.

One day at Food Basics, as we were loading our bags into our respective carts, my friend noticed a pack of dental floss that had been forgotten at the bottom of the cart. He checked his receipt: nope, they hadn’t charged him.

At this point I probably would have said to myself something like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s only dental floss,” or more likely, “I’ll just pay for it next time I come,” and then forget all about it.

But my friend immediately took it back to the cashier and paid for it. The two of them chatted and laughed about it, and away we went. I was impressed and I told him so.

“I try to live a values-based life.”

Values. Not something I had thought very much about. I mean, I knew what values were, and I knew what many of my values were, but at that point I hadn’t thought carefully enough about my values to apply them to my small day-to-day interactions like this one. I knew to teach people decently, but beyond that I just hadn’t really thought about it.

A few weeks later, we were having another conversation, this time at the park by the swings. He was a stay-at-home dad, and our kids were close in age. We were talking about choosing that lifestyle, choosing to stay home despite the income hit, and he said something that got me right in the heart:

“St. Peter doesn’t look at how big your house is, when you get to the pearly gates.”

On that day, at a time when money was tight, the kids were burning me out, and I didn’t know many people who really understood, or whom I could count on for a word of support; when, if I expressed any doubt or stress, people were more than likely to tell me, “Why don’t you just put them in daycare and go back to work–it’s bound to be easier.” . . . On that day, his words brought tears to my eyes.

Not the idea of the spiritual reward at the end of an earthly life, but the idea that there was a doctrine of thought—a theology—that supported me in my choice to stay home instead of working, a choice that puzzled most members of my family, and which seemed at odds with much of our culture.

My friend said to me that day, “Colleen, I think your values are really in line with some of the main-line churches. I think you might really like it.”

I can’t really say what exactly had changed in my mind from the religious intolerance of my youth, but at that moment, I craved support, the kind of support that would see me through the next few years of being home with my kids. I wanted to find more people who chose their values over their net worth. I wanted to be with people who would think it was more than okay to choose being at home with kids over buying a home.

I was sceptical, but also open. And the next week I decided to go and see for myself.

The first church I walked into was impressive in its size, and probably in the CVs of its congregation, but the sermon didn’t light me up, and the music was lacklustre.

But the second church I entered . . . well, it took my breath away. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d come on their feast day, and they were celebrating with a chamber orchestra joining the substantial sized choir, producing the biggest most glorious sound. Thinking back on this, it seems that God opened a door for me, and with that music, cracked open my heart. I sat in the back and wept the whole service.

It wasn’t hard to notice that this was a beautifully different kind of place. Their mission statement spoke of welcoming ALL people, and indeed there were people from many walks of life: people of all ages, abilities, gender expression, sexual orientation, economic status, colour, you name it. The people in the room were the living proof that this congregation practiced what was being preached.

After that first time, I had to go back. I started to attend every week, and after a couple of weeks of observing from the back row, I actually got up the nerve to approach the open table. I had never heard of such a thing, and I had to re-read the invitation several times: that Everyone is welcome to receive the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

It was again a hugely emotional experience—one of the most bittersweet humility—to take the bread, and the wine. Bitter because of what was inside me: a gate, a barrier between me and all that was spoken of, about the Spirit’s Love for all humanity, about God creating us all as beloved children.

But tear-blindingly sweet to take it and to allow the thought: This Is Also For Me.

And did I mention that it was a sung communion liturgy? And that the priest was a former professional singer? Oh, that music . . . I still miss that music.

Yet there was still so much a barrier inside of me, and I still felt so very separate from everyone else in that room. I yearned for Communion every week, and wept at the Anthem, but when reciting the Nicene Creed, and singing the traditional hymns, I gagged on the words that seemed part of an ancient judgemental and exclusionary script.

That changed a little bit a few weeks later when I timidly asked the young woman in charge of Christian Education, “So, does everyone here believe the same things? Does everyone else here believe everything they say and sing?”

“No, not really,” said this young, tattooed, completely cool and normal-looking girl, who wore a cross bravely front and centre:

“Everyone here is on their own journey.”

That metaphor: that overused and worn out metaphor of a journey . . . that metaphor was what let me in. I could sing and puzzle over the hymns. I could read and consider the Creed. I could take what lessons the Scripture readings held, and look for the useful wisdom in the sermon.

That was the beginning of my own journey.

That day with my friend at the swings, I wouldn’t have believed where my path would eventually take me. And I have no idea how far it will take me yet.

But I’ll save those stories for another day.