Autumn 2013 Minimalist Lifestyle Update
Okay, okay, I know it’s been several weeks since my last post! It’s a good time to do one of my minimalist lifestyle updates, since that would also serve to let you know what’s been going on around here.
Toto, We’re Not in Indiana Anymore
House: after seven years of living with all-white interiors, we have taken advantage of no-VOC paint and slapped up some color on a few walls. Painting one or two walls is the perfect minimalist decorating method. A mere quart of paint is often enough for two coats, and it’s not a huge time-suck. No clutter, either. Going more vivid or picking up a complementary color in the other colors in your house or furnishings can make existing things look new again, reducing the need to go shopping for a new decor. The orange vase in the picture is one we’ve had most of our married life, yet it looks so different against walls that aren’t white anymore. The wall looks green in the photo, but it’s actually a deep yellow hue called Yukon Gold. I used it in the kitchen, too, and it’s so darn uplifting, especially when the morning sun shines on it. It was time for a change, and I’m glad that things are looking more cheerful and energetic as winter approaches.
My office is still all white, and will likely be that way for a while, unless I spot some color that helps me concentrate more. One thing to keep in mind about working at home: a contrast in the colors of the office/workspace and the living/leisure space can help trigger the proper mindset for different activities.
My office is also the guest room when we need one. A double-high air mattress with a built-in pump has turned out to be very comfortable and takes only minutes to set up or put away. Mom has stayed overnight a few times and reports sleeping like a log on it (and she’s 81). In a few months the office will also make a nice quiet place for a sleeping grandbaby.
Garden: just about everything that was planted this year survived, despite being planted in the hottest part of summer. I had great doubts about the clematis, because it just sat there for over two months. Then suddenly, in October, it grew three inches, then six, then two feet, and finally produced two lovely purple blossoms. The new climbing roses were also shy, but have recently produced shoots that are taller than me. No blossoms yet. Everything else bloomed, though, even the discount-table butterfly bush.
I was afraid that the local honey bees would be ticked off by the fact that I’d gotten rid of their beloved Russian Sage last fall, but they found the new purple salvia and seem to like it just fine. The sage was beautiful but constantly out of control, and I’d get wheezy after cutting it back. The door to the studio got purple paint. We’ve had several dinners in the garden with friends and family. I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything will look next year, now that the plants are established.
Neighborhood: the old Queen Anne house that burned down this summer has been on the market with no takers, so the city is preparing to buy it, raze it, and replace it with a small parking lot for the downtown shopkeepers. It’s sad, but it really is too far gone for nearly anyone to restore. The owners are bouncing back, we hear, reopening the quilt shop at a new location.
The food pantry garden at the back of our house is doing much better this year. At one time there was supposed to be a parking lot there, so we feel lucky that it is mostly lawn and raised planters. A derelict apartment building at the opposite corner was torn down last year and nothing has been rebuilt. Sometimes it feels odd to be the only residence amid either commercial space, parking lots, or green space, but it’s also pretty cool. And in a weird way it’s minimalist–no neighbors!
Out and About: we went back to the beach for nine days this fall for cat-sitting at a friend’s house while she was traveling. The house has an incredible view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. We walked, rode our bikes, had dinner at other friends’ houses, and caught up with old friends at the coffee shop. I didn’t cook the entire time, or worry about laundry, etc. It was like a real vacation, and for the first time in decades my brain cooperated by also going into vacation mode: I didn’t give a thought to writing, or even work-related reading.
I’ve made regular trips to my mother’s, giving her a hand as best I can with small projects, closet cleaning, yard work, and such. The whole family went there Sunday to rake up the zillion black walnuts that had fallen. She has recently adopted an orange tabby cat named Morris, and they are very well-suited for one another. She’s gone through so many things and gotten rid of so much, that should she decide to move, it will be fairly straight forward. Providing, of course, she can take her cat!
We’ve also made several trips to Chicago in recent months, thanks to a local commuter bus service. The stop is only a few blocks away, so we don’t have to drive to a station, and the cost is far cheaper than a train ticket–$15 for the round trip. It’s a comfortable bus with wi-fi. We also got a membership to the Art Institute, which serves as our base for a day in the Loop. All this is very affordable and helps to shake off the restlessness that comes from living among small towns and cornfields.
Heath and Diet and Such: we are still vegetarian at home, omnivore elsewhere, save for grilling brats a couple times this fall. The farmer’s market is almost done for the year, and I brought home a big bag of peppers, which I roasted. One of my very favorite meals is angel hair pasta tossed with olive oil and roasted peppers, and topped with ricotta mixed with herbs. It’s not Steve’s favorite, however, so we will soon have one of those suppers where we each fix what we prefer to eat, what he calls “run-and-grab.” I’m probably going to write some posts about food with recipes in the weeks ahead, as I’m still very much a minimalist cook.
My last update was written over a year ago, and the jeans I was wearing in the photo are two sizes too big now. It took a long time, but I’m very close to my fighting weight again. Part of it was the result of watching calories–I used the calculator at My Fitness Pal to figure out how many calories were in my home-cooked meals, and made adjustments to the recipes where needed to make them more reasonable. The other part was upping my overall activity level. Taking butt weight off my knees means I’m more likely to keep moving, too.
The Writing Life: I’m still working on the novel, and still enthusiastic about it, which means I’m either doing what I’m meant to be doing, or I’m delusional. Seriously, though, it’s a process which I’ve been preparing for my whole life, yet probably couldn’t do before this past year or so. I last wrote that I’d finished the rewrite of Act I around the end of April, and was planning to go right into Act II. Ahem. I’m just finishing the rewrite of Act II this week. Many things about it have changed, and required going back over the first rewrite. There were also several-week stretches in which I’d gotten no writing done at all in the past six months, when other people and things and situations demanded my attention, and I also needed time to process it all. Part of learning to be a novelist is learning to sustain the story through these times, to be a writer in the life you have, not the life you think you’d want.
This Blog: That’s enough update for now. Next time, hopefully next Monday, I’ll go into one of these elements in a little more detail. I also want to do an update of the site, which needs a fresh look, and an update of the blog roll. Speaking of which, if there are any minimalism or simple living blogs you want me to check out, let me know. Quite a few of the old standbys are no longer active, and I’d like to know about some new voices out there.
And of course, I’d love to hear from you.