Still here: just keeping it simple

by Bella

Sometimes in order to live a simple life, you have to prioritize and let some things go my the wayside. This has been tough for me. I have so many things that I want to do in this life that I have a tendency to try to pack too much in to 24 hours and to complicate my life in the process.

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve been learning to stop myself from taking on too much, and to focus on doing fewer things, but doing them really well.  I’ve always needed a creative outlet. I used to draw, embroider, crochet, knit, weave, sew, and try to make everything I could learning every craft out there. Having so many creative outlets required having totes, boxes, and closets full of supplies and equipment. Not focusing on a single skill meant that I didn’t have the time to dedicate to giving my best to any one of them.

Now I focus on crocheting. I love making gifts for friends and co-workers, and because I have focused on elevating my crochet skills, I now create projects that are good enough to sell (I’m sharing some quick pics of my projects below). I could never have gotten to this point had I kept spreading myself so thin while drowning under totes, boxes and closets full of supplies.

I had to chose a specialization, to prioritize. I chose what was was most inspiring my creative side and didn’t look back. This allowed me to get rid of extra craft stuff, and this in turn cleared my mind allowing me to focus and improve my crochet skills.

Nearly everyday, I fight my nature to try everything and to take on more than I should. In late summer and this fall, I have felt and still feel the need to focus on time with friends and family, cooking, reading, and crocheting. These are my priorities and the things that are inspiring me at the moment, so they are my current focus and all other things have to take a back-seat, including blogging.

I have loads of ideas on things to blog about, and I will be back when my priorities shift. See you then.


Sorry the images are not to the highest standard.

Watermelon dress and Mary Janes


Ami Minions


Ami owls


Boot cuffs



A beautiful day

by Bella

The Northwest is covered in a cloud of smoke. It’s been a long, hot dry summer, but, even with the smoke, it’s still such a beautiful place.

We went hiking in the Idaho panhandle. It was so peaceful. It’ s a Monday, and I’m sure many are staying indoors to avoid breathing the smoke.

We decided to get out there despite a bit of risk smoke inhalation.

I wanted to share a couple of pics.




I hope the region sees some rain and gets the fires under control soon. It’s sad to think that so much of this amazing wilderness is aflame.

Raw organic curried nut pate

by Bella

I love easy and delicious healthy recipes. I whipped this up by just tossing things together and turning on the food processor. Super easy.

Tomorrow we’re going on a hike and then having a picnic. The weather’s been pretty hot here, so I needed something easy that doesn’t have to be kept cold while we hike.

I decided last night that I wanted nut pate to have with some gluten free crackers and carrot sticks, so I soaked some raw almonds overnight. It wasn’t until the nuts were rinsed and in the mini Cuisinart today, that the inspiration for the flavor came to me.

You can really do anything you want as far as flavor combos with a raw nut pate; so I just looked at what I had in my kitchen and grabbed the first thing that jumped out at me, curry powder.  I then I built upon the south Asian flavor with complimentary ingredients. I ended up with a slightly sweet coconut curry combo that  is hard to resist.

imageMaybe I should have waited until tomorrow to make it, because I have to resist it until the picnic. That’s the hardest thing about making stuff in advance. When it’s good, the wait is excruciating.

Without further ado, here’s the “recipe.”

It’s really just a list of ingredients. The quantities of each are up to you. Flavor to suit your taste and make as much as you need. I like it mildly sweet with a more intense spiciness and a savory bent.

Process the drained and rinsed soaked nuts with the seeds (peppercorn and sunflower) first to break them up and to get them to rough texture. Then add everything else and process until well mixed and it starts to clump together.

I think letting it sit in the fridge overnight, if you can wait,  will make the flavors more intense.

Soaked raw almonds
Nutritional yeast
Curry powder
Sunflower seeds
Spring onion
Shredded coconut
Crushed chili flakes                                                                                                                                                             Peppercorns

Our goals – 1 year later

by Bella

Where are we at one year after posting our goals? Adapting and changing. This is a family made up of individuals who are growing and changing all the time. In that process, we often have to change our path, though our end goal remains the same.

One constant is our desire to achieve voluntary simplicity. We just keep revising our ideas on what that is and how to get there.  As we learn more, and environmental factors impact us, we make the necessary adjustments.

The goals we set a year ago were our ultimate dreams. It’s great to have dreams and to strive to achieve them. The real world may have other plans for us. Keeping that in mind, here are those same nine goals and where we are today, one year later.

  1. to be free of boxes of stuff. If it’s not something we use on a daily basis and truly need or love, it’s got to go. Jack has done a fantastic job of selling our excess stuff. We don’t really have a lot left as he has made a huge dent.
  2. to eat only simple foods that are nutritious, organic, vegetarian/vegan whole foods that are easy to prepare. We strive everyday to find the best quality, healthy, but simple foods to eat and have become inventive with our recipes. Jack and Bo decided late last year to reintroduce some meats into their diets, but I have remained vegetarian and have avoided most animal products. We eat mostly whole natural foods, cooking vegetarian recipes, to which Jack and Bo often add a bit of meat. We did have to start a “meat box” in the fridge to keep it separate from the produce.
  3. to live in an environment where we can bike, walk or use public transport and be car free. We do live in an environment where this is technically possible provided we stay in our isolated small town for everything and forever. Because that’s not an appealing concept to us, we keep and use a vehicle. I do walk to work 95% of the time, John works from home and Bo studies from home, so our vehicle use is minimal.
  4. to be able to fit all of our possessions into one small bag each and only one small container of kitchen supplies. Not even close. We still have a long way to go on this. After a long talk with Bo when she expressed a strong desire to stay put until she finishes her high school education, we decided to keep a few comforts to make our place feel like a home. See numbers 5 through seven for more info.
  5. to travel, to live, to love life without the constraints of maintaining a home, having excess physical possessions or working at jobs we that don’t feed our spirits. Without the stuff, we don’t need the home, without the home, we don’t need the jobs. This is where the dream and reality conflict comes into play. Our daughter Bo doesn’t want to do this until she finishes school, and then she wants to go it alone like her older sister who lives in Australia. We raised very independent kids. When she told us this, we stalled our travel plans because we always put our kids and their happiness first. Since that time, financial reality has sunk in. We have the money to travel and explore, but not the location independent income source to be able to maintain that lifestyle for long. We are working on a revised goal that will temper the dream with the reality. It is a work in progress. We live in a month-to-month rental that is fairly stable and inexpensive. Because of this, if our situation were to change, we have the freedom to get back on track with our travel dreams.
  6. to generate an income from things that we enjoy. I like my job, but, as I said, it’s not location independent. In fact it’s very much tied to one building. Jack, though he works from home, and, as of yet,doesn’t earn enough to support all three of us. He likes what he does, and is looking for new ways to grow his business.
  7. to have the time and money to travel and explore our passions. See number 5 about financial reality.
  8. to post on this blog weekly to track our progress and hopefully help others. I now want to revise this to say, to post on this blog when I find inspiration and want to share it with the world. I have so many ideas that I want to share, and I want to do it with passion, so I plan to write when I’m excited or fired up about something. I also have so many things that I want to do. Blogging is just one of those things. IF I focus too much on blogging, I’ll burn-out; so I’ll try to maintain a balance. I hope to get Jack involved. He’s full of ideas that I’d know people would enjoy reading about.
  9. to start a YouTube channel about our adventures by the end of this year. I’m proud to say that I did start a YouTube channel where I posted a video and had fun doing it. The video wasn’t about adventure, but it was about something I’m passionate about, genetics and genealogy. I will most likely post more on a variety of topics in future.

So there you have it. We’re real people, sharing our journey. Voluntary simplicity remains our main focus, and we continue striving toward achieving our dreams. As we succeed and inevitably, sometimes fail, we will continue sharing our story.

Working toward my own Independence Day

by Bella Yesterday was the 4th of July. The day when millions of Americans celebrate the approval by the Continental Congress of “the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.”  It is typically seen as a celebration of freedom via independence from the British monarchy. In this modern world, freedom, to me, means something very different. This isn’t going to be political. I’ll save my thoughts on “freedom” in America for another time. This is about the only way to be truly free in the world today, by not having stuff that weighs you down and and imprisons you. So I guess this is about shunning shopping as a way of life, and striving to have only what you truly need. So what do we truly need? Food, clothing and shelter, right? If you really want to be the ultimate minimalist, well, I guess that would be the goal. In our modern society, achieving that isn’t really practical. You’d have to run off into the wilderness and survive off the land with no tools or weapons. Actually, there is an even more extreme example of true minimalism. The Greek philosopher Diogenes took voluntary simplicity far as you can go within a civilization. He lived in a barrel with only a cloak, a stick, and a breadbag. He had clothing in his cloak, shelter in his barrel, and food that he begged for and stored in his breadbag; so even he had a little luxury in keeping his stick as it provided none of the three true necessities. Still it would be hard to be more minimalist than that. Personally, I want to achieve something in between the extremes. I personally like some interaction with others, modern sanitation, a clean and safe place to live, comfortable clothing, access to a variety of foods, healthcare when I need it and, of course, technology. To have these these things, I have to participate in modern society, but it’s up to me how and to what extent I do that, and that’s where freedom comes in. Freedom, for me, is not being held back from doing the things I want to do. I don’t want societal norms to stop me, but more than that, I don’t want to be held back by useless possessions.  If I have money tied up in useless stuff that I then have to store somewhere, I am a prisoner to that stuff. A year ago, I wrote about our 9 goals on our journey to voluntary simplicity which sum up how we are working toward achieving a balance. We’ve made a great deal of progress, on several of these goals. I’ll give you a detailed update in the next post. We continue working toward the day that we can call our Independence Day. That day will be something to truly celebrate.

Split down the middle

by Bella

So it’s super cool what 23andMe does with your results when you link results with close family members. They were actually able to split my results down the middle, 50% from dad and 50% from mom. They also refined my results and some of the percentages changed.

So initially, I was going to just get my dad tested rather than myself, because we had scant info about his side of the family. By just testing myself, as a female, I would have only gotten the info from my 2 “X” chromosomes leaving big gaps regarding my paternal line. In the end, after researching and finding out that having both of us tested would yield split results, the decision was obvious. I had to get us both tested. It also helped that Jack was able to get the test kits on eBay at 25% off. Schweet!

In my last post, I shared my overall final results that further proved that I made the right decision getting myself tested. We got a bit of a surprise on my mom’s side that revealed that she had at least one ethnically Jewish grand-parent. No one in her family had a clue despite their extensive ancestry research and family tree that goes back to the 16th century.

Now I want to share the oh so cool split results.

I was able to link my dad’s results to my by going into my 23andMe account after both our our results were in and searching for and designating him as my father under the “Ancestry Overview,” “Paternal Line.” Once I’d done that, it took about a week and the revised overall results as well as the split results were available.

Not only did 23andMe split the maternal and paternal DNA, they also were able to refine the percentages of ancestral groups. For example my percentage of Ashkenazi went up from 12.8 to 13.2 percent. That’s not a huge difference, but it means that for every linked close family member who’s tested, your results become more refined.

An added bonus is that when my familial matches contact me through 23andMe to share their DNA, andI accept their invitation, I can compare their results to my father’s and instantly know if they’re related through my paternal or maternal line.

So what’s next? I’ve found a way to build an excellent quality detailed free family tree on line which also links my tree to others in their database. It’s Family Search. I created a free account and start putting in my info. Well I had only entered in about a dozen names before I got my first match. It turned out to be genuine and took one line of my family back 8 generations. Maybe I was just lucky, but, needless to say, I was pretty stoked with how easy it was to get a match.

Between the DNA test, and Family Search, I hope to continue learning about my family history. The DNA test has been the most insightful so far. I’ll use the results to try to find the ancestors who put all the different flavors in my genes.

If you know of any great, little-known sources that would be helpful in my search, please share them in the comments. I have yet to find any family members on ships records or in Europe. Any help or advice would be appreciated. I certainly hope that some of the information I’ve shared can help someone else.

I am a melting pot: my 23andMe results

by Bella

I still remember the first time that someone asked me if I was Jewish. I was only about 8 years old, and didn’t really know wha they meant. I went home and asked my mother. She explained it and said that, “No, we’re not Jewish we were British,”

It turns out that I was asked that question because of the way I look primarily because of my prominent nose. As it turns out, that nose is a more reliable indicator of my ethnicity than even my mother knew.

In recent history, previously isolated ethnic groups have spread throughout the globe and spread their genes in the process. The United States, an immigrant nation, became a melting pot long ago, and I am the result of that melting pot.

My mother and nearly all 12 of her siblings have dark hair, eyes and “tan” skin, so I have always been a bit dubious about their supposed British ancestry until one of my aunts went to tremendous lengths to track and record the family tree. Virtually every line led to England, Ireland and Scotland, so I put my questions to rest and focused my curiosity on my father’s side which held its own mysteries. That was until I got my 23andMe results.

Now that I’ve had my genetic ancestry tested, I know that my questions about my mother’s family origins were justified. According to the results, she is ethnically 1/4 Ashkenazi.

Bella’s ancestry composition. I blocked out my legal name, but it really is mine.

This knowledge has brought the “family tree” into question. Was someone adopted? Undocumented illegitimacy is another possible explanation.  We may never really know, but at least now I understand why I look a bit Jewish. This knowledge has unexpectedly made me proud of my prominent feature and has aroused a new found curiosity in that side of the family.

I had my father tested and 23andMe combined our results and refined my numbers. They also were able to split the results between my maternal and paternal lineages. For women having the autosomal DNA test done, this is very advantageous as we don’t carry a Y chromosome, so testing a male member of the family reveals much more.

In this case, it verified that the Ashkenazi was definitely inherited from mother’s line.

In my next post, I’ll share more about the split results and what I learned about my father’s side. I also ran the raw data through Genetic Genie. This revealed my genetic weaknesses so that I can take proactive steps to counter them. I’ll share that experience as well.

If you have questions about genetic testing, please view my other related posts for helpful links.