Mindfulness and simple living, one small step at a time

Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unravelling, it’s the unravelling
And it undoes all the joy that could be.

Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favourite singers, and my favourite Joni album is Blue. That quote is from the first song, ‘All I want’. The song is about a love affair, but I was singing it as I cleaned my kitchen yesterday and thought how truly it applies to living a sustainable lifestyle.

It’s hard to reduce consumption when you are always seeing what other people have and wishing for it. It’s hard to be happy with your average size, west facing, three bedroom home when you are busy envying your mother’s lovely sunny north facing living areas, or your friend’s big north facing, fruit tree filled back yard with all its great nooks for kids, or another friend’s four bedroom home with large separate living areas and perhaps a study.

And importantly, if you are busy envying your friends, or even just lusting after the lovely homes you see (but can’t afford) in the real estate pages, it’s hard to busy yourself making the most of what you have.

I’m currently reading Buddhism for mothers of young children by Sarah Napthali, dipping into it here and there when I have a few moments. The idea of existing in the moment ties in well for me with the idea of learning to be happy with what you have and where you are. How can you live in the moment if you are constantly longing for more and better? Or to be more and better?

square baby bean worn by Eliane

Eliane modelling my first attempt at knitting a beany.

But by the same token, it’s tricky to appreciate the moment if you are constantly comparing your eco/sustainability/simple lifestyle creds with your friends or blogging mentors too (who me? would I do that?). Napthali is big on being kind to yourself. Living mindfully doesn’t mean beating yourself up everytime you notice your thoughts straying to how much happier you would be if only you had that extra bedroom, or how much better your life would be if only you could declutter your house a little quicker. It means noticing those thoughts and then moving on.

Rhonda Jean from Down to Earth says there are no simple living police checking to see how well you are doing, to take things one step at a time, just do something. Make a start. Napthali has a similar attitude to living mindfully.

I am taking simple living, living mindfully and decluttering each one tiny step at a time. When I covert my friend’s house, I notice my desire and move on. When I feel overwhelmed by the extent of the clutter, I pick up one piece of paper and file or recycle it, or put one toy back on the shelf or into the Vinnie’s box, which sits by the front door. At least, that’s my aim. Tonight I really wanted to start on a new square beanie for Eliane, since the one I knitted last year is really a bit small, but I ran out of time. So I have wound off a ball of wool to be ready to start tomorrow. One small step at a time.

 

Vegetarian Dishes: Liam’s Incan Bean Stew

A tortilla in a bowl filled with a pumpkin, tomato and nave bean stewLast week Liam* and I went hunting for some haricot beans to cook a bean stew recipe from a book on the Incas that my mother gave him for Christmas. It took us a while, but eventually we discovered that haricot beans are what we call navy beans, which are also the beans in baked beans.

Anyway, we made the stew and Liam made himself a bowl inside his bowl out of a tortilla, and heaped the stew inside. And, he declared the whole meal delicious. He’s not always terribly keen on new food, but whether it was having chosen itnd cooked it himself out of his own book, or the novelty of serving it in a tortilla bowl, he loved this meal. Or, you know, maybe it just was delicious! Because actually, everyone except my four-year-old daughter enjoyed it. And she didn’t actually try it!

Of course, the recipe as written was a little too spicey so we modified it to suit our tastes. This is how we made it:

Ingredients
250g dried haricot (navy) beans
4 tomatoes
500g pumpkin (after removing skin and seeds)
2 tsp Paprika (the original recipe called for 2tbs, which seemed to spicy for us, but play with it to get the level you like)
mixed herbs
salt
black pepper
100g sweetcorn

Instructions
1. Wash the beans thoroughly in cold water, then put them in a large bowl and cover them with more cold water. Leave them to soak 3-4 hours.

2. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with yet more cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for two hours or until tender.

3. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes finely, peel the pumpkin and chop it into 2cm cubes.

4. Heat 100ml of water in a medium saucepan. Stir in the paprika and bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes along with a good sprinkling of mixed herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add a little more of these later when you have added everything else, just do a taste test to see. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thick and well blended.

5. Drain the beans then return them to the large saucepan. Add the pumpkin and the tomato mixture and stir well. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

6. Add the sweet corn and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the pumpkin has almost distintegrated and the stew is quite thick.

7. Do a taste test – see if you need to add more salt or pepper. Sun gods and sacrifices, the lost world of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans

8. Serve in bowls. We served it with rice and tortillas. The book also suggested corn bread as an accompaniment.

Simple but delicious.

The book is called Sun gods and sacrifices, the lost world of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans by Fiona McDonald & Philip Steele. It also has other craft activities, from making feather fans to mozaic masks to a full size felt Inca tunic! Liam hasn’t actually done any of the other craft activities (most probably need some level of parent involvement), but he has been enjoying reading the book. The next thing he wants to do is try the recipe for making our own tortillas.
__________
*Have I been cagey about the kid’s names? I just can’t do it anymore – Liam is my nine year old.

This post is linked to Delectable Tuesday and Meatless (Vegan) Mondays and Real Food Wednesday .

Sustainable design vs sustainable building practices

Cover, Sustainable House by Michael MobbsIt’s interesting to read the updated edition of Sustainable House (pub. 2010) to see things Michael Mobbs would do differently today, some because of different options available, but also because of what he’s learned.

In the first chapter of the new edition (I don’t have a copy of the old edition, so I can’t compare), he says if he were doing it again he would use modular, factory made kitchen, bathroom and other pre-built products as much as possible, to avoid the miriad trips to and from the sites by “trades and deliveries to name just a few”.

Perhaps the largest gap in design and construction is the failure to achieve efficient use of energy, water and materials in the constructions of buildings of all types. Huge amounts of energy and resources are wasted during construction by travelling workers and delivery trips which easily exceed a thousand kilometres of travel a week for one modest construction site and this and the wastage from avoidable cutting to size and fabrication practices far outweighs savings to be made from the sustainable design of the house. (Michael Mobbs, Sustainable House, 2010, p. 15)

In the kitchen

A slice of Impossible Pie with a scoop of stewed Rhubarb.Yesterday: Impossible Pie (recipe to come) & stewed rhubarb
Tomorrow: Apricot custard pie from Simply in Season, my birthday present from my best friend. Because, my Mum gave me a couple of kilos of apricots yesterday, and though the kids are giving it a good go, we can’t possibly eat them all fresh (and we still have two jars of the apricot and peach jam we made last year).

We’ve already made the Greek  Tomato Salad out of Simply in Season, and after the pie I want to try Rhubarb Muffins. They’re in the Spring section, but I just harvested a stack of rhubarb out of our garden, so I think they count as summer too! I also want to try the Lemon Thyme Bread, which sounds yum, doesn’t it?

Simply decluttering January

Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life

Following a link from Sustainable Eats’ Simple Lives Thursday meme (from last week) to Dr. Laura’s Adventures I just discovered an ebook I am going to buy and read Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life. The first 12 pages are available free and just reading those has re-inspired me to work on our clutter. I’d add it to  my 2011 reading list there on the right but it’s not on Amazon and I don’t have time to create that list by hand right now.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for a truly minimalist life, but the line “I enjoy clean, tidy, uncluttered rooms… but don’t like to clean” is so true for me. I really am sick of living in a cluttered, messy environment where we can’t find the things we want, but on the other hand, I really don’t see us getting better at staying tidy with the amount of stuff we’ve got.

I think part of the secret is having a place for everything (which we don’t have), but the other part is just having less of everthing, to need a place for.

Two years ago I undertook to focus on decluttering in January…  And, I did do some decluttering, but no where near enough. So it’s time to try again. I declare January 2011 decluttering month. And I plan to start with my wardrobe. I’m not back to my pre-pregnancy weight yet (10 months on!), but I’m getting there, and I’m never planning to be pregnant again, so I can begin with all the clothes that are too big for me now.

But I also plan to get rid of a whole lot of clothes I’ve been hanging on to that I *might* want to wear again one day, but somehow didn’t between the last two pregnancies. With very few exceptions (my wedding outfit is the only one that comes to mind) I figure if I didn’t wear it between the last two pregnancies then it is probably years out of date and has to go!

Second up will be our overloaded filing cabinet. Perhaps we’d file things more quickly if we could fit them in there without a struggle.

First things first though, which is to empty the walk-in-robe of the boxes of kids clothes (too big for the Ms Ten Months too small for Ms Four), which are sitting in there because the studio/spareroom/storeroom got flooded in the horrid rainstorms early this month. It’s time to get organised!

High density sustainable urban design

I’ve been reading bits of books & book reviews lately talking about sustainable urban design and the advantages of increasing density. Books like Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature, and Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability.

And I’m wondering how they address the issues of social pathologies that arise with higher density living? I haven’t actually read the whole books, I emphasise, just reviews and/or extracts. I’ve put some of these sorts of books on my wishlist (my family have always done wishlists) and my birthday’s coming up, so maybe I’ll get to find out… On the other hand maybe they’ll be way too technical for me and I’ll retreat to reading escapist fiction 🙂

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