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Friday, 29 March 2013

Simpler Living Tips #2: Footwear

   I will never forget the footwear excesses of former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos.  When her husband was deposed from power, they found over 1,000 pairs of shoes belonging to a woman who had only two feet like the rest of us.  What are some ways of simplifying with regards to footwear?
Choose quality over quantity
Almost 20 years ago I went looking for a good pair of winter boots with my mom at a shoe store in Alliston, Ontario known for its quality products.  I was headed into my first winter as a teacher, and my mom wanted to be sure I would have warm feet during yard duties.  The pair of boots we picked out was over $100, but they have been my only winter boots for 19 winters.  The tread is wearing thin at the heels, so this is definitely their last season.
My 19 year old boot!
Choose neutral colours
Choosing black, white or brown shoes allows your footwear to be much more versatile than a specialized colour like pink or red.  If you want to dress up a pair to match a particular outfit, consider adding a bow or other shoe accessory that can be removed again later.
When possible, choose natural fibres
Vinyl and fake leather may be cheaper, but they cause more pollution during production than genuine leather or suede.
Odour eaters
Shoe odour can be removed by sprinkling baking soda into shoes overnight and then vacuuming out the next morning.
If you run out of shoe polish, a few drops of lemon juice can do the job.  Scuffs can be hidden in black or brown shoes by covering with the correct colour of markers and then polishing.
Set a limit
The more pairs of shoes you have, the more you have to store and care for.  By setting a limit for yourself, you will only buy more shoes when one pair wears out.

Feel free to share any tips you have!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Simpler Living Tips #1: Cleaning

   There are aisles dedicated to cleaning products, most of them highly specialized: a floor cleaner, a window cleaner, toilet cleaner, dusting spray, etc.  I used to buy and use many such items, but I decided to simplify—fewer products, fewer chemicals, less cost. To clean my house, I now use exactly four cleaning products: water, vinegar, BORAX and baking soda.  Allow me to explain:


Since being introduced to the microfibre cleaning cloths made by Norwex®, I discovered how to clean windows, mirrors, counter tops, toilet seats, floors and walls with water.  Because the cloths lift up dirt and contain antibacterial silver, just making them damp with water and rinsing them out allows you to clean safely and effectively. 


  • If you do not have the cleaning cloths referred to above, you can still clean your windows simply by mixing vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  Spray the window or mirror and then wipe with newspapers.  You might think that the ink from the newspapers would ruin your cleaning job, but they don’t.  This method does not leave streaks.
  • Soap scum on bathroom tiles or shower curtains can be removed with full strength vinegar and a lint free cloth.
  • Brass and aluminum clean up well with vinegar
  • Use as a deodorizer by placing one cup in an open container in the room with an offensive odour.  This can be done in the kitchen while you are cooking fish or another food with a strong smell.  Although it takes a bit of time, isn’t that better than the unpronounceable chemicals were spray as room deodorizers?
  • To clean your washing machine’s inner workings, run a hot cycle with 2 litres of vinegar added.  Once or twice per year is a good guideline for this one.


  • Use it to clean toilet bowls.  Sprinkle into bowl, swish and let it sit at least 10 minutes before flushing
  • When my children were in cloth diapers, I dissolved borax in a pail of water to soak diapers until the pail was full.  I dumped the entire pail into the washer and used the spin cycle to remove the liquid.  Then add detergent and wash the load of diapers.
  • Use as a laundry detergent booster, see the instructions given on the package.


  • To deodorize shoes or carpets, shake generously and let it do its work for at least 30 minutes.  Then vacuum.
  • Use as a no-scratch powder in toilets, sinks and bathtubs with a sponge or scrub brush.
  • Cleans silver, glass cookware and any metal pan that needs scouring.
  • An open container in the refrigerator removes odour.
  • Baking soda and vinegar together with hot water can keep your drains clear.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Resources for Living More Simply

To follow up on my post dated March 7, 2013, I have gathered a list of resources that may be helpful in simplifying one’s life.


The More with Less Cookbook compiled by Doris Janzen Longacre (originally published in 1976)

Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert (2005)

General resources:

Living Me to We compiled by Craig and Marc Kielburger (Global citizenship)

To Love, Honour and Vacuum  by Sheila Wray Gregoire (Putting housework in perspective)

Living More with Less compiled by Doris Janzen Longacre (Tips from Mennonites living all over the globe)

Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson (Avoiding the problems of “overload” in many aspects of life)


www.thepeacefulmom.com has a series entitled “Living on Less than $28,000 a year” and free printable menu planners I have been using.
www.purposelyfrugal.com has different ideas for living simply.

Please leave a comment if you have used one of these and/or if you know of other resources that could help in this journey.

In future posts I will share some practical ideas I use to simplify my life.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Windshield Wonder

My fifteen year-old son has been taking a school bus to high school, a 25 minute route that is mostly on an expressway, since September.  Thus far it has been uneventful, apart from the bus driver sleeping in one morning and one-time bus stop made at a coffee shop where all the students disembarked before school to make a purchase.
   Yesterday at supper time, however, he told us about something more dramatic.  On the highway, fairly close to the end of the route, there was a cube van in front of them and in the lane to their right.  Chunks of ice were coming loose from its roof and landing on the road.  One chunk actually hit the windshield of the bus with a “thunk” and cracked it, sending a few pieces of glass into the bus. 
   Providentially, the bus driver was calm and unharmed.  He was able to maintain his  speed and  presence of mind until they reached their destination.  These kinds of incidents remind me that praying for safety is not to be done flippantly, for the Lord does watch over our comings and goings much more than we are usually aware.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Good versus Great

I don't want readers to see this post as an endorsement of the film cited.  There are violent elements, and I do not consider it suitable for children despite the expectations that it would be. 

  Last night I went to see “Oz: the Great and Powerful” in 3D, and as proof of my inexperience I had to remove my 3D glasses half-way through because of queasiness.  I found the film engaging and artistic; it also addressed the difference between goodness and greatness.  The title character declares, while still in Kansas, that he will not be a good man because he aspires to be a great man.
   Now we run into a distinction between these two words.  For many young people, the words good and great are interchangeable: they appear in comments on their essays and tests and they are used to describe whatever is considered “pleasing.”  If these words were truly interchangeable, what Oz is saying makes no sense.  Allow me to point out the difference between good and great:
  • Good has to do with the moral quality of a person or thing.  Goodness is opposed to evil.  Think of the nickname given to Queen Elizabeth I of England: “Good Queen Bess.”  As a ruler, she put the needs of her people first and thereby set herself apart from those who reigned in England before her.
  • Great is about power, might and prestige.  Greatness is in the foreground for all to see.  There are a large number of rulers who had “the Great” added to their names, such as Herod the Great.  This individual is known as one who had grand plans and brought them about.  However, he was also ruthless and far from good in the moral sense.
   As the film continues and a cyclone takes us out of Kansas and into the Land of Oz, the contrast between good and great is also highlighted in the characters of the three sisters, Theodora, Evanora and Glinda.  When it comes to saving the people, Oz is able to take his eyes off what he wants to achieve for himself and embraces goodness and discovers that it is better by far.
   When we follow God's lead who is perfectly good and great, we will see that any area of greatness we might possess ought to be placed in the service of goodness.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Why I Choose to Live Simply

This week I gave a talk to a small group of women about living simply.  Before getting to the practical tips and ideas of how to live more simply, I thought it was important to show the context for this way of life.  Here it is for you to consider:

First of all, I should define what I mean by simple living.  Recognizing that the North American lifestyle encourages waste and discontent, I strive for a life that is not consumed by material things.  Practically, for me, living simply includes all of the following:
  • Being content with what I already have materially; making do with what I have
  • Having space in my day for prayer, Scripture reading and reflection
  • Cooking from scratch whenever possible; working together in the kitchen
  • Family nights: entertainment at home with games and activities
  • Relying on God instead of endless insurance or alarm systems
  • Not always the easiest or most time saving way of life, but done with purpose
   My husband and I choose to live beneath our means because for us this means less stress and better well-being than running after all the material things the world wants to offer us.  It is a key way that we live out our faith in reliance on God’s provision.  When we are able to spend less money than we earn, we do not stockpile the wealth.  Rather, we have more to share with those in need.  This opportunity to give keeps us motivated to live simply; we see regularly that we can be a vessel God uses to bless others.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Dessert Loved by Tatyana

   In 1998 my family hosted one Russian and one Canadian through Canada-World Youth and learned from Tatyana to enjoy our desserts more.  She was unaccustomed to desserts in her country, so she savoured every bite by eating slowly.
   A recipe she particularly liked was Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, so I was reminded of her when I turned back to this old dessert last weekend.  I had run out of eggs and was trying to remember a baked dessert that did not require any.  This cake also has the benefit of being mixed right in the baking dish and no need to grease the dish.

            Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
  • Mix 1 cup flour (part or all whole wheat is OK), ¾ cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons cocoa (Fair Trade preferred!), 2 tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt (optional) in an ungreased baking pan.
  • Add 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, ½ cup milk and 1 tsp. vanilla and stir well with a fork until smooth.
  • (Optional: stir in 1 cup chopped nuts at this stage)
  • Sprinkle over cake batter 1 cup packed brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa.  When the oven is ready to go (350 degrees or 325 for a glass dish), pour 1-1/3 cup of hot tap water over all.  Bake 30 minutes.  Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.  Can be served cold as well.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Career Days

Career Days

   During the typical career day students are given a real-life experience of a particular job in order to help them decide if this is something they would like to pursue as a career.  Can a 40-something also have career days?
   During the past 10 days, through “helping out” I have also had real-life experience of three different occupations, namely janitorial work at a school, delivery work in my neighbourhood and assembly production of wooden skids.  These tasks are not part of contemplating a career change, but I certainly learned a thing or two:
  • I have a greater appreciation for those who clean public spaces.  There is a dignity in removing dirt and making things sanitary, even if it is often overlooked.
  • I now know what it’s like for my children to deliver flyers three days per week after school.  It takes time, and when people have not shoveled their sidewalks it is a challenge to push or pull the cart.  Letter carriers face some of the same issues, day in and day out.
  • Constructing a useful product to raise money for my son’s school beats selling something that nobody wants to buy (overpriced chocolate bars, magazine subscriptions, etc.).  Working in a team atmosphere made it enjoyable too!