Airbnb virgins no more

We’ve avoided traveling in recent years because it can be complicated, expensive and tiring. We’ve opted for stay-cations instead. This year, we decided to try something new in the hope it would make traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Living in the Northwest where several locations in Canada are just a short drive away. We only wanted to go somewhere we could drive to to avoid the headaches of planes and rental vehicles. We chose Calgary because it’s less a tourist destination than Vancouver, Victoria, or Banff. Few people go there in summer, that coupled with the exchange rate in our favor made for an affordable choice that would leave us spoiled for choice of accomodation.

Using Airbnb were found  accommodation with free parking for only USD$45 per night in a cool, trendy suburb within easy walking distance of the city. The place was a new and immaculately clean townhouse with our own private bedroom and bathroom with use of the kitchen. The hosts provided us fantastic advice on local cafes and restaurants that were the hot spots for locals. We traveled with a very small duffle bag and one small backpack between us. Everything else we needed as far as toiletries, towels, hairdryer, etc. were provided.

I made a short video of our room (sans la salle de bains) ….. Check it out! Not bad for $45 per night, eh?  Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in the stereotypical Canadian “eh.”

 

This was our first time using Airbnb, and we were so glad we did. We never could have stayed so close to the city in a hotel of similar quality for anywhere near the same price. We were able to walk the beautiful Bow River trail along the edge of the city and take in the sights at our own pace. Having our vehicle with meant we could explore further afield and get around safely after dark. The only preparation needed in advance was to register with Airbnb, to book and pay for the room, then pack our bags and enter the destination in our GPS.

It wasn’t totally without complications. We ran into a bit of a hitch with Airbnb registration process. As they have grown, they’ve increased their security making all users provide sufficient verification of who you are. That’s fair enough. If I’m staying in a strangers home, they have every right to make sure I am who I say I am. It’s they means of proving who you are that posed a bit of a problem for us.

Because we live simply, we avoid using much social media, and a large part of the Airbnb verification process is giving them access to your social media contacts. Without that, we had to jump through a few hoops, but now that we are verified and have received positive feedback from our hosts, all future bookings should a snap.

 

 

Minimalist crafting with plarn

by Bella
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Minimalism and crafting do not normally go well together, until now.  Plarn turns unwanted items (plastic shopping bags) into useful items. All you need is used plastic shopping bags, a crochet hook, and scissors.

Normally, when you you get into crafting, and specifically, in my case, crocheting, you accumulate loads of supplies. When I have too much stuff, it takes over my life, so I do all that I can to avoid the clutter. This project allows me to make my yarn as I need it, and only as much as I need, so there are no left over scraps.

I was first introduced to crocheting with plarn earlier this year when I came across an old post on one of my favorite crafting blogs, Repeat Crafter Me. Sarah, the blogs creator and my crocheting superhero posted easy to follow directions on how to turn environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into  an environmentally friendly yarn alternative (click here). Then she shared a pattern of her own design for a tasteful, quick-to-make, durable, long lasting plarn tote bag (click here).

When I saw this, I thought, “how cool is it that you can make a bag from bags? ” More importantly, I realized that this tote bag makes a great reusable shopping bag. I can turn something bad for the environment into something that can do some good.

After making the bag from Sarah’s pattern, I want to share the results. It turned out even better than I expected.

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It has an amazing, natural and textured look.

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I was even able to use buttons salvaged from old worn-out clothing for the embellishment and used the plarn to sew them on, so this bag is from 100% re purposed materials.
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With a little bit of effort, it’s easy to find other patterns for everything from pot scrubbers to full size laundry baskets made from plarn. After scavenging enough used plastic shopping bags, I plan to experiment more using this minimalist friendly crafting supply.

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.

Screw minimalism! I gotta have this.

by Bella

With so many amazing new and inventive products on the market, how can I possibly resist my consumerist urges?

.Check out this awesome head massaging helmet called “Headtime.” Yes, you heard me right, it’s called “Headtime.”

This is an innovative product that you’ll be proud to be seen wearing, and not just at home.

Wear it when you go on a picnic with your girlfriend, and you’re sure to make an impression.

Just check out  this smooth operator and how excited his date is.
The “Headtime” scalp massager will have you so relaxed that you won’t even care that you look like a knob-head.

Wear it when you go on a picnic with your girlfriend, and you’re sure to make an impression.

Preparing for winter: knitting, crocheting and comfort foods -gluten-free vegan zucchini bread

by Bella

It’s that time of year again. I personally dread the long cold winters, because I don’t like piling on layers every time you go out nor do I enjoy the treacherous ice. But I do love autumn with the beautiful colors and cool breezes. At this time of year, like most people, I want to cozy up inside and eat hot and hearty foods. I also start to crochet and Bo, our daughter gets out her knitting needles.

At the moment, Bo’s knitting a new winter hat for herself. I’m more into crocheting, and I get into phases where I crank out loads of small items; I don’t have the patience for big projects. I enjoy making amigurumi toys and have spent the last 3 winters making dozens of them. Some I’ve given away. A few I’ve sold on Etsy, but most have just accumulated in a most hated place…..A BOX!  We want to be box free, so that just doesn’t cut it. I found a local shop that will sell them. It’s a little consignment shop that also carries hand-made unique items. Now my little amis are out of the box and on display where they should be. Hopefully, they will find homes where they will be appreciated.

Here are a few of the ami that we’ve made. They’re all crocheted except for the turtle which was knit by Bo.

Ami Frog – crocheted by Bella

Ami owl – crocheted by Bella

Ami squirrel – crocheted by Bella

Ami turtle – knit by Bo

Ami bear – crocheted by Bella

I get most of my amigurumi inspiration from a series of book by Ana Paula Rimoli. She makes the cutest ami. I usually adapt her patterns to my own creative vision. You can visit her blog here where there are links to each of her books.

While at the consignment shop, the owner asked if I’d like to make some small crochet accessories for the shop. Since it’s fall and I’m getting the itch to crochet, I jumped at the chance. At her request, I’m making headbands and boot cuffs and loving it! Not only can I do what I enjoy doing at this time of year, but I feel like there’s a purpose to it, and it’s more than just a hobby. If I can make a little bit of money, that will be a nice bonus.

I’ve got several pieces in the works at the moment. Here are a couple that I’ve finished so far.

Boot cuffs – crocheted by Bella

Periwinkle headband – crocheted by Bella

I may need that extra money for the extra yummy foods we consume in fall and winter. I love raw foods more in warm weather, but when the weather turns, I turn to more cooked foods that ease the chill. I try to use readily available local produce and make lots of chilis, curries, pastas, banana bread, and fruit crumbles. Of course every thing will be vegetarian, gluten-free and organic where possible.

Recently, I made my first  gluten-free vegan zucchini bread of the season with an organic zucchini from a friends garden. It was so soft and warm and comforting just like comfort foods should be.

Gluten-free vegan zucchini bread

Zucchini Bread (makes 2 loaves)

3 cups gluten-free flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 flax eggs (3 tbsp ground flax w/3 tbsp water)

1 cup coconut oil

2 1/4 cups coconut sugar

3 tsp vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Grease and flour two bread pans (I just used an 8 x 8 cake pan and cut it down the middle like 2 loaves). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift your dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl.

In a large beat the flax eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together.  Add the sifted, dry ingredients gradually and beat well. Stir in the zucchini and nuts then pour in to prepared pan.s.

Bake for about an hour. I like to cook it until the surface gets a little crispy and cracks. Let cool a little before digging in. It tastes best warm so make sure you’re good and hungry when it’s done. Slice and enjoy alone or topped with your favorite nut butter or some jam.

Just let it go: an email to my sister

by Bella

image source:http://churchofthefridge.com/blog/tag/letting-go/

I’m getting to know my big sister all over again. We’re 6 years apart in age but the only girls in a family of 5 kids, so we were very close growing up. Time, distance, responsibilities, and the modern world caused us to grow apart. Until a few months ago, we hadn’t had any contact since our grandmother’s funeral in 2000.

Recently, she initiated contact with me and we’re writing regular emails to catch up on all that we’ve missed. One thing I’ve noticed is that my sister, though she desperately wants to be happy, really dwells on the past. She and her husband have so many lifestyle related ailments, that I’ve lost track of them all. They don’t seem to make the connection between how they live, eat and think to how they feel.

She wants to know all about me and my family, not just what we do, but who we really are. I have been very honest with her in the hope that by sharing our journey with her, she and her husband will be inspired to make some life changes that will bring them the happiness they so desire. In fact she just told me today that they sold their 2000 sq ft home, got rid of much of their stuff and moved into an 885 sq ft place, and they feel a huge weight lifted off of them. What a great start.

This is an excerpt from one of my early emails to her. It clearly resonated with her, and I hope that it will cause others to reevaluate what makes them happy. It’s about letting go of not only things, but of bad habits and toxic emotions …

“I’m glad that you’re finding some peace in your life. Desire is the source
of all pain. Desiring love from <others>, desiring to be rid of the things
that haunt or upset you, they all cause pain. It’s easier said than done,

but you *can* just let it go.

I’ve been pretty good at that in recent years, with a few exceptions.
Unless someone intentionally does something to me or my family, I let it
go. When someone is evil, I write them off and move on. It bothers me for a
while, but eventually I get over it, however I don’t forget.

When you left, I missed you, but was never angry at you for leaving. I
understood.

The thing that created the most distance between me and the family and me
and old friends is everyone’s strong held (stubborn) beliefs. I don’t want
to tell others what to believe or how to live their lives. I respect
people’s right to live and think as they like. The problem is that I expect
the same in return. It’s the lack of the return part which creates the
problem. Therefore, knowing that my desire to have respect returned and not
getting it causes me pain, So I let it go and, for the most part, have
removed the sources of that pain from our lives. Essentially, it sounds as
if that’s what you were doing when you moved away. I’m just sorry that
other pains plagued you for so many years, but glad to know you’re moving on
and can see that it only hurts you to hold onto it.

So about us. We are minimalists and gluten free, dairy free vegetarians
(I’m mostly vegan),

We’ve spent many years shopping, shopping and shopping like we were trained
by corporate America and the government to do. It made us miserable. Having
to find a place for all the stuff made us even more miserable. Now we’re
paying the price. It took very little time to accumulate all the stuff.
It’s taking ages to get rid of it. We’ve been selling it off and giving
things away, while only buying what we truly need, for 5 years now, and we
still have stuff to get rid of. We’ve finally set a deadline <and we have a goal>

Anything that’s not of any real monetary value or use <has to go>.
DONE.
NO MORE STUFF.
The stuff and getting rid of the stuff has become all consuming. We’ve
been doing it for so long now that trying to get rid of it, is making us as
miserable as buying it and storing it did. If we don’t just let it go, it will devour
us.

The healthy, simple eating goes hand in hand with that way of thinking.
We’re cleansing our minds and our bodies. Eating healthy and exercising
gives us clarity of thought. It removes the brain fog, allowing us to
escape the hypnotic affects of the brain-washing that led us down the
consumerist path. It also creates space for new opportunities.”

 
I’m so proud of her for making changes in her life and really touched that she reached out to me. We’ve reconnected at a point in our lives where we want the same things, freedom and happiness. It’s wonderful to be able to support and encourage one another to achieve these goals.