Category Archives: simplicity

a penny for you

collander by morning light, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.
~Annie Dillard, “Seeing,” Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

This still-life image is one I snapped in Brooke’s lovely home. The morning light made every angle of her kitchen beautiful.

Previous posts about simplicity.


Ready to roam the oceans!, originally uploaded by mind on fire.

John and I as we head out the door to a morning of outrigger canoeing. Do note the abundance of performance clothing to protect us from wet, sun, and wind. We never really know what type of weather will greet us when we get out on the water–so we have to be prepared for almost anything that might come our way.

[And building on the frugal theme with a wardrobe remix rundown: my vest is hand-me-down from my little sister, my tee is a Powell’s bookstore shirt gifted to me from my Portland bro, the glasses I got for $2 somewhere (drugstore?), and my pants & John’s shirts & the hats are from Nike discount store (yay for little brothers who work for Nike), John’s shorts are oldies from Tar-Jay and the crutches I use were $3 or so from the Goodwill. I think John’s shades were cheapies from a street vendor that he got for his Neo costume. All in all, a pretty eclectic get-up.]


the quilt

What am I the most frugal about?

Books and furniture. I see no reason to pay full price for either and will happily wait for a good deal. On the latter, I usually wait until I can find it free either by dumpster diving or freecycling.

Where do I typically pay full price?

Probably food–although I tend to shop at stores where I can buy the foodstuffs I want at reasonable prices. Also, I will opt to buy the ingredients to make my own foods rather than buy overpriced prepared foods, which saves.

Where do you go frugal and where do you splurge?

[Note: Picture above is of a quilt that I pieced and sewed for my kids’ school a few years ago. All of the fabrics were donated by the children and I assembled them in a collage fashion around some childrens’ drawings to make something that (IMO) turned out to be high energy and fun. I loved playing with all of the donated scraps of fabric and seeing the way they worked together–making patterns out of the randomness. The quilt cost very little to make, but seems worth far more because of each child’s contribution and because it has “character.”]

but own it not…

bright garden, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

I was reading a bit of Thoreau this morning (for a research proposal that I’m drafting) and came across this passage…

We have complicated our lives by seeking so much more than is needed: “From the cave we advanced to roofs of palm leaves, of bark and bough, of linen woven and stretched, of grass and straw, of boards and shingles, of stones and tiles. At last, we do not know what it is to live in the open air, and our lives are domestic in more senses than we think…We no longer camp as if for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven.”
The design of our “shelter” has become superfluously complex and so expensive that it bankrupts our very existence: “the cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it.” To Thoreau’s way of thinking, how much better it is not to own a house–only to be enslaved to its care and upkeep–but to feel “at home everywhere” and anywhere! “Rise free from care before the dawn and seek adventures. Let the noon find thee by other lakes, and the night overtake thee everywhere at home. . . .Enjoy the land, but own it not.”

one touch

bud, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

β€œOne touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

Some simple blessings for now:

**doing shoulder stand in yoga this morning and being able to hold both legs tall and straight

**a bagfull of persimmons from the Farmer’s Market

**some so-fun Christmas crafts that I’m dying to share, but can’t because my family reads my blog!

**thumbing through guide books for NYC and DC and dreaming about all of the places we will go.

**the heater of a gigantic Bobette-kitty that loves to snuggle under the covers on chilly nights.

**tripling the RAM on my laptop and she runs so speedily now

**wearing my Sara scarf all morning

go confidently

pale pink rose, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.

~Henry David Thoreau

Life can be so complex, so maniacally wearying. Every once in awhile it’s such a joy to step back from the maddening crowd for awhile and pursue one’s dreams and imaginings.

As I type this my heart is full of gratitude. For friends, for family, for this beautiful quiet late-night moment that I’m curled up on my couch with a silky kitty at my side, contemplating Thoreau. Remembering the first time I read his words, more than 20 years ago, and knew that they were true.

some simple pleasures


**chatting with a friend on her front porch

**getting an unexpected check in the mail–an award for a book review written several months ago

**meeting all of my dissertation goals for today

**turning the compost in the backporch bin (I try to remember to do this daily–the wormies do their best work when they get plenty of fresh air)

**GameBoy and Catgirl sitting at the kitchen table dutifully doing their homework. Until they break out into a boisterous debate about the merits of the overland Silk Road vs. the seatrade from Mecca to China

**the smell of fresh basil from my garden


My thoughts right now are focused on the art of simplicity. As I head into a rather busy time of year, I’m craving a simple approach to tasks, relationships, gifting, working, healthfulness, and so forth. I will be running several posts on this topic and I hope that you’ll each chime in with your thoughts and ideas, too. Some preliminary thoughts below…

Simple Food:
-Our annual holiday party will be potluck this year. To reduce the stress on me (and John) to cook a large meal by ourselves. I want to have the time to enjoy my friends instead of fussing in the kitchen.

-Muffins. Having them on hand makes great snacks, tea treats, breakfasts, and desserts. CatGirl has a favorite healthy recipe that she can make herself. But if you have a recipe to share, I’d love to feature it on the blog!

-CSA Veggie Box. Thanks to the efforts of a friend we get a weekly veggie box delivery each Wednesday (fresh-picked from a farm that’s just around the corner). Dinner on Wed, Thurs, and even through the weekend is determined by whatever foods are included in our delivery. I’ve found that soups, strata or quiche, and veggie pizza are wonderful ways to use this produce.

Simple Health:

-Exercise. I’ve been working out every morning for the past several weeks, with simple cardio or dumbbell exercises and yoga. My body is feeling better everyday even though some mornings it’s very difficult to get up extra early for a workout.

-Taking Vitamins.’Nuff said there πŸ™‚

Simple Holidays:
-Immediate Family. Rather than gift-giving, we are making memories by traveling together this year over the holiday season. We’ll be going to Washington D.C. and New York City. We can’t wait to share those places with our children!

-Extended Family. I will attempt home-made gifts again this year as I did last year. But this is all contingent on my wrists’ continued healing. If I can’t make gifts then I will purchase them from etsy crafters rather than buying from a large retailer.

Simple Faith:
-Quakers. My commitment to Friends continues as I have taken on some responsibilities in our Meeting. Yet I still aim to balance my activities with the needs of my family and my need to meditate alone and/or to spend time in my garden (my most sacred space).

-Ministry. I recently read a Quaker tract about Worship-sharing (being led to speak in Meeting). It suggested that some Friends feel the call to vocal ministry while others find that outlet through writing. I rarely speak in Meeting because I crave silence. But I feel that my blogging is my forum of ministry–it’s where I can best share thoughts and insights. However I am continuing to seek a balance between my ‘virtual’ communities and my ‘real-life’ ones. Recently I’ve decided to spend more time off-line and I’ve dropped many blogs from my GoogleReader.

Simple Consumption:
-FreecycleIrvine. I continue to moderate our local Freecycle group because this feels like a good way to facilitate the sharing of goods and to reduce landfill waste.

-Reuse. I am not as good as I could be at reusing household items. Because we live in such a small space, I feel I can’t stockpile items for later re-use. I am trying to do better at this, as I can. For example, I just learned that the farmer that we buy eggs from will let us bring back our carton and he will re-fill it rather than giving us a new one each week.

-Purchases. There are several companies that I like to patronize because I appreciate the quality of their goods. Lately I’ve found nearly-daily notices from these companies about sales, reduced shipping prices, etc. I’ve decided to create a filter for all of these emails so I will no longer see them in my inbox and be tempted to order items that I don’t yet need.


peach blossom, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.
~ Lao-tzu (604 BC – 531 BC), The Way of Lao-tzu

[I’ve posted this bit of poetry before, but it bears repeating]

The peach blossoms have been replaced by almond-sized green nubs, getting ever closer to peaches with each passing day. Yum!