Bird and Belle's Adventures in Marriage


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Project 333

Lately I’m becoming increasingly aware of the material things that surround us. It shames me to think of our daily abundance when others scrape by to meet basic needs.  It shames me to think that the money used to purchase things that ultimately do not enrich our character could have been used to fund a meaningful trip to see family and friends. It shames me to think of the resources and energy that went into creating all these things that sit largely untouched in our home.

Do all these things make me feel better? Do they make me feel stronger and more empowered? Do they improve my health? Do they make me whole? No matter how I spin it, the answer is always “no.”

But how on earth do you change 30 years of habit? How do you begin to sift though the piles of things and pare down. The thought of radically changing our lifestyle overnight is overwhelming and the possibility that it might not work is near crippling.

Instead I am taking baby steps towards this ultimate goal: I want my world to be filled with purpose, pride and efficiency.

My initial closet purge was the first step. This week I’m taking the next step by carting that box of acquaintances to the consignment shop (I have not missed them in the least) and starting Project 333.  I first read about this challenge in January and it has haunted me since. Such a noble experiment! But I could never do it… or could I? After reading 333 success stories I have decided to try.

I carefully selected 33 pieces of clothing to wear for the next 3 months. Choosing just 33 pieces was HARD and I’m still tweaking the list. Doing this in the summer is particularly challenging because my summer wardrobe has never been one that mixes and matches well. I hope that come fall I’ll be better organized and able to gather 33 pieces that can be rotated around and layered in unique ways.

Project 333 rules include accessories in the count. While ready to take next big leap towards minimal living, I’m really not ready to commit to a small handful of accessories. I am, however, going to do a Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers with my accessories to weed out things that are rarely and never worn. I know someone else would enjoy them far more than I. Maybe by fall I’ll be ready to embrace the full rules. Time will tell!

Belle’s Project 333 – Summer:

  1. black cotton dress
  2. orange sun dress
  3. tan sun dress
  4. black maxi dress
  5. black and white maxi dress
  6. multi colored maxi
  7. Anthropology dress
  8. red and white striped top
  9. pink floral button-up top
  10. white crepe top
  11. cream lace top
  12. slate blue T
  13. green floral button up
  14. white T
  15. black tank
  16. white tank
  17. olive-green tank
  18. dark blue jeans
  19. denim shorts
  20. khaki pants
  21. khaki skirt
  22. seersucker crops
  23. red skirt
  24. long teal skirt
  25. white jacket
  26. aqua sweater
  27. cream sweater
  28. pink sweater
  29. denim jacket
  30. black flat sandals
  31. white wedge sandals
  32. cream heels
  33. red flats
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Bouncin’ Belle

Please excuse the poor photo quality here. My "good" camera is out of commission for the next few weeks.

This week I made a glorious discovery – 12 oz bags of frozen black-eyed peas for $1! I stared in disbelief. “I bet they have dairy in them or weird stuff I can’t pronounce.” I fished a bag out of the freezer and consulted the ingredients.

Ingredients: Black-eyed peas, water

I felt like I had just won the lottery. This week did not leave me time to cook my usual pot of dried beans and the thought of spending too much money on mushy canned beans made me sad. These frozen black-eyed peas were the perfect solution. I tossed a $1 bag in my cart and headed to the checkout with zero thought as to what I would do with said black-eyed peas.

This morning I poked around in my cupboard, fridge and freezer. What could I do with these peas… I did not have all the ingredients for a traditional vegan Hoppin’ John, but I did have enough things that I thought I could pull off a decent improvisational meal. Yes, I would prepare my own version of Hopin’ John tonight using an onion that was just about past prime, a can of fire roasted tomatoes and two green tomatoes I had frozen last summer. (I will post on freezing tomatoes soon…)

The end result was absolutely delicious and the entire meal came together in under an hour. We served our Bouncin’ Belle with left over roasted sweet potatoes, however, it would also be delicious with wild rice.

Bouncin’ Belle*

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Gayelord Hauser Instant Veggie Broth
2 large green tomatoes, chopped
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (the no salt added variety)
1 tsp. bourbon smoked paprika
1 12oz bag frozen black eyed peas
Kosher salt to taste
2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke

1. Saute the onion in the olive oil until translucent and starting to brown. Add garlic and saute for another minute.

2. Add broth, green tomatoes, can of fire roasted tomatoes, black-eyed peas and bourbon smoked paprika. Salt to taste.

3. Cover. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and let continue to boil for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add nutritional yeast and cider vinegar. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 more minutes or until it reaches a consistency you like.

5. Once your ideal consistency is achieved, remove pot from heat and stir in 1/4 tsp liquid smoke. Cover and allow to stand for 15 minutes prior to serving.

Enjoy!

*This recipe is 100% my creation and counts as No. 2 in my 31 in 365. 10 more to go!


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I Will Never Buy Salad Dressing Again

 

Let me be the first to admit that this dressing did not photograph well. I hope to order a couple new dishes for photographing food this weekend and avoid future gross looking creamy dressing photos!

Let’s face it – a bottle of salad dressing that lists only ingredients you can pronounce is expensive and does not really fit with our new year’s plan to save more. Rather than live a life of dry salads, I decided to start making my own dressings. Scary, right? I agree. Instead, I have avoided salad failure by sticking with other folk’s recipes. Susan V. at the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen has a great post on dressing, along with some killer recipes. My most recent salad creation combined fresh greens, sliced strawberries, pomegranate seeds, green onions and chopped tomatoes “dressed” with a divine Lite Goddess Dressing created by Susan.

For the past two months we have consumed this dressing on a near daily basis. Last night, spurred by a need for dressing and a lack of parsley and green onions, I decided to strike out on my own. My original intent was to create a balsamic dressing, but I was out of regular balsamic vinegar. I was also out of garlic and all fresh herbs. My dressing was not looking good. Rather than making another grocery trip I used what we did have: silken tofu, shallots, white balsamic vinegar and a gourmet Dijon mustard we received for Christmas (Thanks Clinton and Katie!). The end result was a creamy, tangy dressing that was met with grunts of approval as Bird chowed down.

Creamy White Balsamic Dressing

3/4 block of lite Mori Nu silken tofu
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 shallot
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Put is all in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.


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Eliza Doolittle On A Budget

“Well I just don’t want to think about it. I’m ignoring the entire thing!” huffs a perturbed young Belle as stomps out of the kitchen and into her room.

“Ok, Eliza Doolittle,” my mother calls out.

I huff louder, shut my door and retreat into Belle Land – also known as the land of great delusion and ignoring of all things important, stressful, pressing and… financial.

Please click the image to enlarge: This week's grocery list and yes, it is often this organized! This week, however, I spent time online finding what is on sale at different stores and building our meals/lists around those. I also took into consideration what we already had at home. Items in green are from the local Co-Op, items in black are from Kroger, notes in red are details on store promotions and special savings.

Sadly, this is still a pretty accurate description whenever finances are brought up. I really don’t like thinking about money and financial planning. I’ve made numerous attempts to address money, and even sought guidance from my financially savvy friend Natalie, but my attempts are weak and I always return to financial oblivion. I like it in oblivion.

After Bird and I said “I do” we sat down to discuss money and how we handle it. Bird is financially responsible, organized and is quite capable of living with a credit card but never carrying a balance. I am not – hence not having one. Five minutes into the discussion I felt Eliza taking over – “Whatever you want,” I exploded. “Actually, how about you handle all finances? Tell me if something is wrong, otherwise, I don’t want to know!”

After a little more verbal sparring it was agreed that this was how we would manage our money. He would manage; I would pretend it did not exist. I called Natalie to tell her about this great new development. I expected some cheering. Instead I got a long pause. “You know that won’t work, right?” she asked.

Of course it will! And it did for the next six months.

Then Christmas happened and we started looking at real estate in the cities we hope to move. My excitement grew as I scrolled through online listings of well-renovated historic homes. I could visualize our cats in the big windows and smell my dinner in the gourmet kitchen. And then I would see the price tag. I searched for a mortgage calculator to see what a payment on one of these homes would be and I nearly barfed. The skies were darkening in Belle Land so I quickly put buying a house out of my mind.

After returning home Bird and I had a serious discussion. While I am perfectly content to rent a home until the day I die, Bird is not. In order to buy a home we just have to have some money in the bank and this money, tragically, will not appear without us both working towards it. So after substantial stressing out on my end, we chose to start tracking every dollar that exits the account in order to better understand where it all goes.

Two weeks into the tracking and I’m hooked. Together, we record everything we buy on a piece of paper hanging on the fridge. It is a rather archaic system, but agrees with Eliza. She can handle a piece of paper but please God keep Mint and other such online financial tools away!

Fueling my saving fury is the $5/person/day challenge that Krista and Jess have set for the month of January. Talk about a noble venture! And amazingly, they still eat very well. While I am quite neurotic and love this sort of obsessive tracking, I do not think there are enough hours in my days to dedicate to daily tallying and posting. Nor do I think $5 a day would feed us. I’m pretty active and Bird is a big guy whose tall frame requires a good bit of fuel. Without adequate food we get grumpy and no one likes a grumpy spouse. No one.

What we can do is continue to track our expenditures and use more care in planning meals. Can we prepare more simple meals with fewer ingredients that still pack as much nutritional punch? Can my lunches be simplified? Where else does the monthly income go? I like this new financial endeavor that we are embarking on together. Having Bird by my side as I monitor the sheet on the fridge makes it all easier to stomach. I think that tying it back to my favorite pastime – cooking – will help me stick with it. I also think the promise of a gourmet kitchen in Seattle, San Francisco or Chicago might make the entire thing plausible. Time will tell.