Archive for the ‘minimalism’ Category

My Farmer’s Market is NOT Better Than Your Farmer’s Market

10.21.10

Mesa Farmer's Market
I go to my local farmer’s market all the time. So I talk about it a lot, on twitter and on my blogs. One thing that amazes me is a certain response I get: “I wish my area had a good farmer’s market.”

And worse: “If I were as lucky to have as good a farmer’s market as you, I would go, too.”

I’ve seen pictures of beautiful farmer’s markets around the internet. Or, at least ONE beautiful farmer’s market. And, at least, it seemed to LOOK beautiful in the pictures.

Which is one of my points with this blog post — pictures glorify reality.

I remember the first time I went to my local market. My friend, Adrianne, told me about it and invited me to go with her. I had visions of beautiful flower vendors and rows of tables with stunning baskets of perfectly arranged produce. I’ve seen pictures online. That’s what a “good” farmer’s market looks like. Right?

Wrong.

A good farmer’s market is an existing farmer’s market.

When I first arrived at my local market, I was disappointed. Our market is tiny. It has two short rows of vendor tables along a sidewalk. It doesn’t even span the length of the parking lot on the side of it. My first thought was, “This is it?”

But guess what? It has fresh local produce! And believe me, fresh local non-genetically altered produce is pure awesomeness. So, if you have fresh locally grown produce at your market, and nothing else, then you have a good farmer’s market.

Izzy and I make the twenty minute drive to our market about every other Friday for just three vendors:

  • produce farmer
  • hummus vendor
  • vegan tamale vendor

I got over the fact that our produce vendor is under an ugly green tent that discolors photos in an ugly way. I don’t fret that our produce sits in banged up florescent yellow bins instead of gorgeously displayed baskets — which I now realize look better in pictures than in reality.
Mesa Farmer's Market
On the other hand, I do enjoy the chit-chat and joking we do with the farm family we’ve gotten to know over the past year. I definitely enjoy the fresh local foods. I like being a part of my community.

If you’re waiting around for “good” to come — any kind of good — you’re probably just missing it. Because of the internet, we see great-looking pictures of other people’s lives where the ugly and the clutter is missing, and we compare that to the unedited view of our own environment.

Ugly is everywhere. Mundane is everywhere. But beauty is everywhere, too. Beauty that is unique to an area’s personality, that isn’t the manufactured big-box beauty we’ve learned to expect, only shows herself to those who look for her.

I don’t have a “good” farmer’s market. Except that I do. Because any farmer’s market — by its very nature — is good, even if it’s not the gorgeous one we’ve seen in pictures.

If you think your city or town doesn’t have a good market, please rethink that. Go visit your market. Is there naturally grown produce?

Yes?

You’re so lucky — you have a good farmer’s market!

No-Plan Vacations: Why On-the-Fly is Easier Than Ever

08.12.10

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It didn’t matter that my parents are both planners (Dad would go nuts if I still hadn’t booked my Christmas flight home from college by the March before), living for the moment is at my core. Eighteen years of nurture did not overcome nature in this respect.

To make things even better (not worse), I married someone who is the same way.
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Sometimes things get frantic (like when we realize the concert we assumed would start at 8:00 actually starts at 5), but mostly it’s just fun. It works for both of us. (And yes, we grabbed the keys and made it to the concert before the doors opened. We’re flexible like that).

For example, I knew I had to get myself to the beach this summer and introduce it to our kids. San Diego is only a seven hour drive away. When the kids got out of school in May I let Izzy know it was my biggest wish for our summer break, and he agreed we should make sure we fit it in somewhere. Where, exactly? Well, that didn’t matter. We’d find a weekend.

So after we packed the first summer month with work video and audio recordings, after we filled July with a visit to my family in Missouri and my daughter’s dance company rehearsals, we ran into our first commitment-free weekend last week.

Let’s go!

And this is how Izzy and I do things. We pulled up Google Maps and jumped on the route it gave us to the entire city of San Diego, since we didn’t have a hotel yet. No time for hotel booking!

We drove until we landed at a beach. We jumped out, put leashes on the dogs, and we all ran to the water. The kids were so ecstatic (goal achieved) that we let them go in with their clothes and all. The rush of waves weirded the dogs out, but the rest of us loved it.

We played until we were freezing and starving. And then, at about seven pm, we called a couple hotel chains and they told us what they had available around the city. We found one that wasn’t too far out of our price range and booked it. It took ten minutes of being quiet in the car while Izzy made two calls.

Tech & Spontaneity

Smart phones, Yelp, Google Maps, Google, and Evernote all make it easy for us spontaneous-types to be ourselves.

  • Suddenly hungry and need a vegan restaurant in San Diego? Yelp “vegan,” pick a promising option, and clip the other options to your Evernote for the next meals.
  • Need to know how to get to that hotel you just called from the who-knows-what beach you landed on? Google Maps knows how to get there, even if you don’t. And when you find the boogie-board rental place on the way to said beach, drop a pin at your current map location to find your way back. No need to write down addresses or directions, or anything at all.
  • Have a couple hours to play before it’s time to drive home? Google “fun free things to do in San Diego” and find people just dying to share the possibilities with you. I did this during our drive from Phoenix, just in case we needed a non-beach activity, and clipped the two most interesting ideas to my Evernote. They were waiting for us when we found that extra two hours.

Here’s what we did before driving back home to Arizona . . .
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Izzy and I pack life in. We’re always doing stuff we love and that doesn’t leave much time for planning. We plan a menu of a few meals every week, and I plan upcoming episode topics for work. And that’s about as much planning as we can stand. We know what our interests are and we just make them happen. I’ve found that very little planning is actually necessary.

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We may not get great hotel deals this way, but instead of calling ahead or getting online to do price comparisons, we’re working and making money, or doing something else that is awesome and fun.

So who cares about missing the deals? Not me.

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Why Nobody Died When We Got Rid Of TV.

06.28.10

kids_in_hallway
I mentioned recently that we don’t have TV. Readers reacted. It was cute.

Our decision to remove television from our daily lives was not entirely for the reasons you might think. Also, our kids are actually allowed to watch it a little from the internet. But they rarely choose to. So here’s how that phenomenon came about and why…

The Reasons: A Combo of Old-Fashioned Values, Creativity Values, & Futurist-Techie Geekiness

Old Fashioned Values: It’s probably obvious from my blog that I only embody some old-fashioned values while many others I shun. I’m quite strict and traditional when it comes to what I think is appropriate content for children — more strict even than many of the religious families I know. There are a lot of “children” shows that are surprisingly not really child-friendly.

Restricting content is the easy part, though. You just tell the kids why they can’t watch a certain show and then empathize with their wishes that TV producers wouldn’t deliver that kind of content to children. Kids understand honest reasoning, and they respond well to your empathy toward their unfulfilled wishes.

Creativity Values: It’s the general limiting of time on the television that I found difficult. For years we let our kids watch TV, more than I ever thought I would as a parent. I am an avid non-watcher. I always thought I’d be good at limiting the amount they watched. It turns out that if you’re also distracted with an exciting lot of projects you enjoy, it’s hard to monitor amounts. And when a child sinks into the TV habit, it’s hard for him or her to motivate themselves to do creative stuff.

Plus, all day, everyday, our kids were constant infomercials to Izzy and me, pitching sales lines like, “At Best Western, if you drop a towel, they’ll pick it up for you!”

We supposedly needed this mattress, and that kitchen device, and a million different other things. The kids were adding items to their own Christmas list every single day starting Dec. 26 of each new year.

Futurist Techie Geekiness:
Then something amazing happened. Television shows began to appear on the internet! Izzy loves diving into the future headfirst before anyone else has gotten there, and as soon as a handful of shows became available online he sat the family down and made a proposition. He told the kids that we would let them each buy a TV show episode from Netflix every week in place of the TV. They could also watch some shows online.

The kids agreed. We canceled the satellite. For probably four years now, absolutely zero shows feed though the big black box in our living room. It only works for gaming and DVD’s now. We don’t even have local channels.

Then The Magic Happenend

Something truly magical and amazing happened two or three weeks after we got rid of TV — the kids lost interest! They stopped requesting the weekly show we promised to purchase for them. Since that time, internet television has grown and shows are easier to access than ever (and are usually free) but our kids only sit down to watch them around once a month or so. It’s amazing.
dinner_outside
A few weeks ago we were having dinner and one of the kids piped up, “It’s so weird how a bunch of my friends will start talking about some toy that they all know about but I’ve never heard of it. It’s because they learn about all this stuff on commercials.”

The other of our older two children agreed to noticing the same thing.

Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought. They’re going to tell us that it bugs them how weird and different we are from everybody else.

“So, how do you feel about that?” I asked.

“It’s okay,” one said.

“Yeah, I don’t care,” said the other. “It’s just weird that they all know about the same things.”

Wow. I was not expecting them to be cool with that. I mean, I personally have never minded being different all my life. But I don’t know many other people who are cool with it.

So we talked about how much time they have to be creative and make things — which they do daily — and they said it’s a good trade.

We may be secularist, vegan, non-materialist, non-TV weirdo’s, but we’re a bit Leave It To Beaver, too.

The Desire for Stuff. Or, the Excess of Living Rooms

02.18.10

noell's_3rd_bday
My inner feisty-child is punching at the bricks today. Please excuse me while I release her for another rampage, this time regarding living rooms. And dining rooms.

Huh?

No, you read me right. Whenever I think about the idea of living rooms — the kind that take space in a home as an addition to a regular family room — I’m like, what the . . . ?

Far as I can tell, it’s mainly an American “need” to have a formal room that shows off fancier furniture that children aren’t allowed to touch unless there is company visiting. And how is that supposed to make for a hospitable visit, anyway, sitting guests straight-backed on the barely-touched formal floral sofa in a room that says, “Speak quietly because for some inexplicable reason this room is special?”

I think the message of that kind of room is supposed to be that the guest is special. But I’d rather my friends consider me their family.

The same goes for those houses that have spacious dining areas in or near the kitchen, plus a separate formal dining room to top it off. This extra room’s purpose is to host a handful of meals a year. Christmas, Thanksgiving. Sometimes Easter and New Year’s Eve. Maybe even a non-holiday meal or two with visitors, where, once again, the guests get to be special as they eat in the subdued and polite atmosphere of the special room.

I like hosting festive holiday meals, but I don’t need a separate room that exists only for that very occasional purpose. While we’re seeing it less with the current economy acting up (or down, rather), it’s interesting how prevalent these extra rooms are in the houses our builders design.

I have a lot of friends who transformed their formal living rooms into fun, casual party spots, filling the space with pool tables. I’m all for that. But if I’m going to buy a home with a space for periodic pool-playing parties, I want that room to be somewhere other than the area opposite my front door.

We’re so used to these extra rooms that few people question the need for them. I don’t blame homeowners. It’s a cultural practice that was handed to us as a common and unconscious display of excess. And there’s just something about the need to display excess that makes me want to barf all over it.

Okay, I have to reveal a little hypocrisy here and admit that I am not totally immune from the temptation for a bit of excess. I have a slightly excessive amount of super cute Victoria’s Secret panties. They do get regular use though. How many formal living rooms can say they get as much wear?

I’m just thinking about the extra costs for a barely used room: the land to make space for it, the resources to build it, the energy to heat and cool it, the furniture to fill it, the time to clean it. Y to the U to the C to the K. I prefer a cozy little house I’ve paid off, instead. The extra time and money could send me off-road cycling or out with my guy for some south Indian dosas. Maybe some of the extra can help fund the education of third world children or the entrepreneuralism of their parents whose living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms are one all-inclusive 5×5 foot space.