Around Here

Around here, it has been cold and snowy. I have been enjoying hibernation, trying to balance relaxation with tending to my own health and wellness.

I have been taking the easy way out where dinner is concerned. This bag of stir fry is a step up from the egg sandwich and fistful of chocolate I would rather be eating when I’m cold and tired.

This book has been keeping my mind engaged.

As always, Scout keeps me on my toes.

I joined in a free art history webinar the other day and got a nice overview of the progression of early art through the Impressionists who happen to be my favorite artists.

This is a famous Claude Monet painting that I was lucky to see in Washington DC last year.

The webinar instructor had a down to earth approach to art and a wonderful ability to simplify big topics. If I had hundreds of extra dollars I would sign up for a paying course she offers on the Impressionists. She gave voice to what I have long felt but didn’t understand about these lovely works of art. I’ll talk about that another day.

For now, I’m trying to find a balance between work and home, self care and doing as I please, healthy skepticism and unhealthy mental ruts.

Winter is a time of hibernation. We recede into our homes as animals take to their dens. Even the hardiest of plants conserve their energy and rest in anticipation of brighter days ahead. Aside from a few walks, I have been happily hibernating and wondering what kind of rebirth might accompany the arrival of spring.

Around here, life is pretty good these days

Yesterday

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful with blue skies and 26 degree temperatures that the weather app said felt like 19. Luckily, that little chill in the air didn’t deter me from heading out for a walk at a local state park.

I mean, what’s a little cold when it’s such a pretty day?

The wind off the lake was frigid and it was mostly me, the Canada Geese and a few other hardy souls out soaking up as much Vitamin D as you can absorb through a hat and three layers of clothing.

If I were working from the office, I would likely be swinging by the lake after work at least some nights to squeeze in a walk. Unfortunately, in my work from home routine, it’s hard to pry me out of the house on a cold day save for feeding the birds. That’s only because they sit on their empty feeder and stare at me sitting at my desk until I do something about it.

While I didn’t cherish the thought of going out in the freezing cold, I relished every moment of my three mile walk and realized that I haven’t smiled so much in ages.

I need to do that more often.

Do more of what makes you smile, friends. I promise you won’t regret it.

A Time To Recover

Winter is a season of recovery in my world. It’s when I slow down and rest. I stop running around and enjoy the art of hibernation. It’s when I enjoy the quiet and recover from months of adventure and work alike.

Today I will do just that and hope that you find some peace today as well. Happy Winter Saturday.

No Spend January

January is a special month for me and I have come to look forward to it. This is the start of a slower period and one where I intentionally keep things quiet.

You see, I do a No Spend Challenge where I intentionally stop spending money, stay home, use what I have and focus on being happy in the world I have created here. It’s a type of winter hibernation and I savor these quiet, cozy days at home.

How does it work? I’m so glad you asked.

First off, I pay my bills and buy needs. This should go without saying but you have to pay your bills, put gas in the car and buy food to eat.

That’s about the extent of it.

During most of the year, I don’t typically eat out a lot. It’s mostly when I’m traveling for work or on adventure days. My biggest weakness is buying books, accessories and bargains at TJ Maxx. Another weakness is at the grocery store. I like having lots of fresh produce and tend to shop sales to stock up on pantry items.

That said, compared to most people, I live frugally and without a ton of waste. In fact, I live this way so I can afford to travel and to do the things I enjoy.

During my no spend months, I question every purchase. I don’t buy a candy bar without questioning motivation and need. You may find it shocking to realize how many things you consider buying in a month when you say that you can’t buy anything.

I know people who spend five or ten dollars a day just on snacks and drinks while they’re at work or commuting. That’s upwards of a hundred dollars every month and way more than I spend on car insurance for a month. Is a snack really worth more than a grand a year?

I’m going to say no. Yet these very same people often complain that they have no money and make snide remarks about how it must be nice to travel so much.

There are some exceptions to the no spend rule. For example, genuine need shouldn’t be ignored. If you work in an office environment and break the heal on your dress shoes, you’ll either need to repair or replace them. But first, shop your own closet to see if you have something appropriate to use for a while.

If I’m traveling for work and can’t pack a lunch, you bet I’ll eat out. If the car needs a repair, that’s important too.

Instead of going on adventures and spending money on museums or movie tickets, I spend my Saturdays at home. This gives me a chance to sleep in, to work on my hobbies, have a movie marathon, dive into a book or take a walk. I focus on getting things done at home and doing things I enjoy.

I shop my pantry and freezer to experiment and create meals. Instead of buying a package of cookies, I make homemade cookies or muffins with pantry ingredients. I also usually make a few kinds of soup that I can freeze in two serving containers so I don’t feel the need to buy canned soup.

My grocery trips typically involve produce, eggs and whatever ingredients are needed to fill the gaps.

Whenever I feel the urge to buy something, I make a list of all the stuff I want to buy. I review that list at the end of the challenge and consider two things. Do I still want the thing? How much money did I save by not buying the thing?

After being in the habit of shopping and spending over the holidays, it’s a healthy move for me to say no to spending on extras. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it feels like work. However, it is eye opening to realize how many times a day I say no to buying.

If you’re looking to pay off holiday debt or to save for the adventures ahead, this is a super way to do it.

One more thing. What does it take to waste $10,000 a year? Just $27.40 a day or under $200 a week in unnecessary spending. Think you don’t do that? Maybe you don’t but you might be surprised at how much you do waste.

Autumn Weekend

See it, smell it, taste it, and forget the time of day or year. Autumn needs no clock or calendar. Hal Borland

I took this quote seriously this weekend and gleefully abandoned the clock to enjoy a quiet weekend mostly at home. I have been tired lately and I believe in listening to my body when it asks me to slow down. Not to mention, it has been gloomy, cool and rainy for a few days – ideal conditions to stay inside where it’s cozy.

To quote the frightfully wise six-year-old Wednesday Addams in the original 1964 television classic The Addams Family – “It’s so nice and gloomy.”

So I lit some candles, did a few small chores and slept in two days in a row. Well, I slept in as much as Scout would allow. Mostly, I read. My goal to read 100 books in 2021 seems well beyond reach as I am a daunting seven books behind schedule.

And, of course, Scout was thrilled to have me here and a happy cat makes for a happier life. The paper sack picture was made this weekend. All of the fall pictures came from early last week.

This was just before dusk and the light was lovely in places. Here’s one more for good measure.

So, here we are back at Monday. That means different things to everyone but whatever you do today, I hope you’re kind to yourself.

Back From Vacation

I was on vacation last week. It was unseasonably warm as I day tripped across the region looking at waterfalls and wind turbines, pumpkins and forest giants and all manner of things in between. I even saw an outdoor drama about Dracula as real life bats circled overhead.

I didn’t love the weather since it felt more like August than October but it was awfully nice wandering this earth and doing as I pleased for a few days. Since I work remotely most of the time, it felt especially nice leaving my house and seeing the outside world.

But I also spent some time at home doing a few chores and lounging with a book in my hand and a cat at my feet.

Fall finally found us on Saturday as temperatures dipped into the forties at night and about sixty during the day. The sky was blue and the clouds awe inspiring when I walked on the bike path at a local park. I should have been working up a sweat since I was there for exercise.

Instead, I chose a moderate clip that allowed me to appreciate my surroundings like the smell of campfire smoke and the feel of fallen leaves beneath my feet. I also liked the way a steady breeze carried a smattering of leaves as they drifted from the trees toward the ground to aid in creating Mother Nature’s patchwork quilt for the earth and creatures below.

I like my job and will be happy enough once I’ve caught up on the emails and stepped back into my routine. I do have many memories of this week to keep me warm and the knowledge that more adventures lie ahead!

This is what vacation is all about. Find the thing that makes you happy, the thing you wished you got paid to do and go do that. Just be sure to work in some rest and relaxation at some point so you’re capable of returning to work in a positive state of mind.

Happy Monday, y’all. Let’s make this one count.