Simplicity: “Absence of Luxury”

simplicity

 

Absence of luxury. That was one of the definitions of “simplicity” when I looked it up this week, looking for inspiration for my post. The idea really spoke to me.

An absence of luxury.

What a novel concept, especially in America. Do any (well, many) of us really “deny” ourselves luxury? Probably not. At least not long term.

Sure, our teens participate in the 30-hour famine, but they don’t have to live a life of hunger every day.

We may fast for religious purposes, but we don’t really know what it’s like to deny ourselves much of anything for any significant length of time.

There’s “screen-free week” that a lot of people participate in each spring. But that’s only a week. Does it really change your life in the long term?

I’m not sure. But I’m thinking probably not.

I’m sure those aren’t the only examples of what we “first-worlders” do to try to show that we’re “living simple lives” or “empathizing with the rest of the world” either. I just can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

Now, I don’t want this post to be a total downer, so let’s look for ways that phrase, absence of luxury, can be something good in our lives.

I suppose the best place to start would be to define “luxury.” This will be different for each one of us. For me, I’d have to say that luxury means having a lot of really nice stuff, lots of money to always be able to do or buy what you want, and a comfy cozy house.

I have part of that list, but not the whole thing. I live in an American house, which by its very nature is going to be more luxurious than a mud hut in Africa or Asia. But I’ve chosen to live without other things that a lot of people consider “necessities.” I don’t have a stand mixer, for example. Owning one would make my life a lot easier. But I don’t feel the need to go out and buy one.

Absence of luxury.

For about four years, we didn’t have a clothes dryer.  It wasn’t ideal, but we made it work with air drying our clothes and utilizing the laundromat dryers. (Some friends from church recently got a new one, even though their old one was working just fine, and gifted said old one to us.)

Absence of luxury.

I’ve never had a food processor, and my blender broke a few months ago. I just figure out ways to work around not having those items. Sometimes it means we can’t try a certain recipe. Sometimes it just means I chop things by hand. Either way . . .

Absence of luxury.

I think denying ourselves things can be a good exercise in self discipline. It’s easy to just get whatever you want (and believe me, I’ve been guilty of doing just that before). But is it healthy? I don’t think so, and it doesn’t matter whether you live a minimalist – or aspiring minimalist – lifestyle or not. Showing control over your desires is a very good thing, no matter who you are or what your station in life is.

I hope I’ve offered something to think about today.

What are your absences of luxury?

Blessings,

Wendy

 

Wednesday Chat #4

chatsonthefarmhouseporch

Hello, friends. I’m not sure what to write about simplicity this week. I’ll keep brainstorming, but if you have thoughts/requests, let me know. In the meantime, here’s this week’s Wednesday Chat, as always inspired by Everyday Ruralty.

What are you doing for Easter?

We’ll go to church in the morning, then come home for a little while. Seahawk has a surprise for us that he’s set up with my mom. In the late afternoon and into the evening, we’ll be going to my sister-in-law’s for dinner. Our contribution is fruit salad :).

How many spring flowers have you noticed in the past week or so?

Lots and lots of daffodils. I love daffodils. Other than carnations, they’re my favorite flowers. I wish we had more of them in our yard; I’d bring some inside if we did.

What was your favorite thing in an Easter basket, or as dessert at Easter dinner?

I don’t remember the last time a I got an Easter basket . . . As for springtime desserts, Strawberry Pie is my favorite. Yum!

If you were a dog, what kind would you be?

No. Just no. Don’t hate me for this, but I really, really dislike dogs. All of them. Even yours (no offense). So I’m not going to answer this one.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

There are so many! I typically get the “Abby’s Special” from our local pizzeria (Abby’s – imagine that). It has salami, pepperoni, beef, mushrooms, olives, and tomatoes. I also really like Hawaiian plus green bell peppers. The peppers really freshen the feel of the pizza and make the other flavors pop.

Thanks for joining me for a lovely chat, friends. Now it’s your turn . . . Answer one or more of the questions for me in the comments?

Blessings,

Wendy

Product Review: Curiosity Quest

What are you curious about?

Curiosity Quest Review

That’s the question asked in each episode of the family-friendly, fun program Curiosity Quest. My family received two DVDs for review: DVD Combo Pack – Produce and DVD Combo Pack – Swimmers of the Sea. Each of these DVDs has three episodes on it and retails for $24.95.

Before this came up for review, I’d never heard of the program, but it’s on PBS stations around the country. (We don’t have a TV.) My kids, like most others, are naturally curious about the things all around them, though, so I knew this would be a good fit for our family. (In case you’re wondering, we watched them on the computer.)

Before I dive into the individual episodes, let me explain a bit what Curiosity Quest. It’s an educational television show hosted by Joel Greene wherein he takes viewers’ emails (hence the “What are you curious about?”) and tries to find out all the information he can on a given subject. He does this by going on site to various locations around the country (possibly around the world, but I’m not sure; the episodes we watched were just in America) and talking to experts in the field. But it’s not a boring interview. He actually becomes an employee for the day (kind of) at the different places. Joel’s learning right along with the viewers! It’s very cool and fun.

I let the boys pick which disc they wanted to watch first, and not surprisingly they chose Swimmers of the Sea. We just watched one episode at a time – there’s a reason we don’t have a TV, and educational or not, I don’t want them watching loads of shows all the time.

Curiosity Quest Review

First up was Penguins. We’d done a unit study on penguins last year (based on the novel Mr. Popper’s Penguins), so there wasn’t a whole lot that the boys learned from this episode, but they did learn a little bit – and loved watching it despite the fact that they already knew a lot of the information. For example, did you know that penguins have roughly 1,000 feathers per square inch of their bodies? This makes them incredibly soft, and more importantly, helps keep them warm in the cold Antarctic waters. Also, even though we’ve seen penguins in real life at the zoo and the aquarium, it’s been a long time since we’ve been either place, so when asked the question “What sound do penguins make?” they couldn’t come up with anything. They really liked hearing a real penguin, even if it was just over the speakers.

Next we watched the episode on Sea Turtles. This one was neat because it takes place in a sea turtle rehabilitation hospital in Florida. It was really cool to see and learn not just about sea turtles, but about the dangers they go through every day and how this veterinary clinic was taking in sick wild turtles and healing them so they could survive in the sea again.

Finally was salmon. My kids were especially interested in this one because salmon is one of their favorite fishes to eat! Joel visited a salmon hatchery in Alaska to learn all kinds of cool things. They taught us how they train their fish to come back to their specific hatchery to spawn (by keeping them in huge nets while they acclimate to the scent of the bay). It was really interesting to find out that salmon don’t spawn every year. Maybe this is “common knowledge,” but I didn’t know it. After this hatchery sets the fish free, the fish are wild for 3-7 years, depending on the variety of the salmon it is, and then comes back to spawn once they’re mature. Then they die. I had no idea salmon only got one chance to lay eggs.

The Produce combo DVD was just as fun as the Swimmers of the Sea one. It taught us all about Cranberries, Oranges, and Mushrooms.

Curiosity Quest Review

Did you know cranberries don’t need the bog they’re famous for to grow? That’s a harvesting technique; because the berries are essentially hollow, farmers flood the fields to make the berries float, therefore making harvesting easier.

Despite all the technological advances of our time, there’s still no machine that can harvest oranges without damaging them, so every single orange is harvested by hand.

Mushrooms are harvested by hand, too, but in a kind of “factory” rather than an orchard.

Each episode also takes a moment, several times throughout, to ask kids a question about what they’re about to learn. That takes the show from strictly passive, like most TV, to a bit more engaging. It was during one of these moments that my boys realized they didn’t know what a penguin sounded like. I always paused the video during these and made the kids try to come up with some sort of answer to the question being asked.

My kids really enjoyed these episodes. They learned a lot of things about all six of the subjects that they didn’t already know, including but not limited to what I shared in this post. This show would make a fabulous addition to a unit study. And the six I’ve talked about are not nearly all of them! Animals and food aren’t even the only topics covered. Curiosity Quest has done episodes on everything from horseback riding to cheerleading, movie animatronics to bike building. There is quite literally something for everyone. Even though the “ideal age range” of the show is 7-14, I think it could easily appeal to kids both younger and older – after all, I’m 32, and I learned a lot from them too!

So again I ask: What are you curious about? Find yourself a Curiosity Quest episode and learn about it. And better yet, use that episode to springboard into further learning. You won’t regret it!

Blessings,

Wendy

P.S. You can connect with Curiosity Quest on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Picture of the Week: Brushing My Teeth

I know I already made a post today, but it’s been a couple of weeks since I did a picture of the week, and I wanted to do one today. This is just too cute not to share!

brushing teeth

Small Fry loves having his teeth brushed. But  he loves doing it himself even more!

Have a great weekend everyone :).

Blessings,

Wendy

Around the World: Italian Chicken Cacciatore (Recipe)

chicken cacciatore collage

 

Buongiorno! Benvenuti in Italia! (Good morning! Welcome to Italy!)

This is the final recipe I have for you this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and that you’ll try out some of these delicious recipes! They’re way cheaper than a plane ticket to all these exotic locations :).

One day a few weeks ago, Will wanted Italian food, but “not pasta.” So I went in search of something that fit the bill, and Chicken Cacciatore was what I came up with. All of the recipes seemed complex and/or took hours and hours to cook, so I adapted this one from Giada De Laurentiis to fit our needs. Enjoy your trip!

(Oh, also, I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, that’s why I’ve made a collage to showcase the sauce and chicken separately today.)

Ingredients

Chicken thighs – enough for your family

Salt and Pepper

Flour, for dredging

Oil, for frying

1 bell pepper, any color, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (28 oz) or 2 (14 oz) can(s) diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Italian seasonings of your choice (oregano, basil, thyme, etc)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. While you’re doing this, heat the oil in a large skillet. Sear the chicken, skin side down first, until brown and crispy. Move to a baking dish. Do this in two stages if you have to.

In the same skillet, saute the onion, garlic, and bell pepper until they start to soften. Add in the tomatoes, broth, vinegar, and spices. Simmer for just a few minutes to combine the flavors. Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 45-55 minutes to finish cooking the chicken through. Serve over egg noodles and/or with a nice loaf of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Yum!

Thank you for joining me on my trip around the world this week! It’s been fabulous. And please, if you try any (or all) of these recipes, let me know. I’d love to hear how they turned out for you.

Blessings,

Wendy

Make sure to visit my friends and their five day series, too! And for even more five-day fun, click the banner at the end of the post.

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop

Around the World: U.S. Chicken Fried Steak (Recipe)

Happy Thursday, friends! We’re over halfway through the week :). I hope you’ve enjoyed these recipes as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing them with you.

Today, we’re in my home country, the United States, and making one of my all-time favorite meals (who am I kidding? All of the meals this week are high on my list!): Chicken Fried Steak!

This one’s quite a bit more complex than the others have been up to now, but totally worth the effort.

Here we go!

cfs final

For the steak, you’ll need:

Steak (any kind will do, even a cheap cut)

2 eggs, beaten

1-2 packets of Shake-n-Bake for chicken

Oil for frying

Cut the steak into smallish pieces. You don’t want nuggets, but you want each piece to have plenty of breading, so you don’t want them as big as if you’d be grilling the steak.

Crack the eggs into a dish and beat. Pour the shake-n-bake into another dish.

While you’re dipping the steak, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat.

Dip the steak first into the egg, then into the shake-n-bake. Fry in the hot oil until cooked to your preferences. It doesn’t take more than 5 minutes a side or so for medium-well.

Once you’ve cooked all the steak, pour off all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil. Add in enough flour to make a roux, then stir in milk and/or chicken broth to make a gravy. For 2 tablespoons of milk/flour, you’ll want about a cup and a half of liquid.

Serve with mashed potatoes and the gravy and some corn for a truly American meal!

Blessings,

Wendy

Don’t forget to hit these other great blogs for fabulous five-day series!

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop

Around the World: Moroccan Rice Pilaf (Recipe)

Good morning, everyone! I have a super simple recipe for you today – even easier than the Bulgogi from Monday, if that’s even possible.

I don’t know for absolutely certain that this is an authentic Moroccan dish, but I recall years and years ago reading a recipe somewhere that was something very similar to this that claimed to be Moroccan, so it’s close enough! And good golly, this is amazingly delicious! Even Munchkin, who is my pickiest eater BY FAR, had seconds of this dish, so you know it’s good!

Morroccan rice pilaf

 

 

 Ingredients:

1 box Rice-a-Roni Rice Pilaf flavor (or your favorite from-scratch rice pilaf) – for our family, I need one of the double size boxes or two regular size ones

1 pound ground beef

2 cans garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas)

a sprinkle of cumin

Directions:

Brown the ground beef and drain the fat off (use a colander). Leave the beef in the colander while you cook the rice according to the package directions in the same skillet. When it’s time to add the seasoning packet and water, add the beef back in, as well as the beans and cumin. Cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes. The exact amount of time you need will depend on how much rice you’ve cooked.

I love this meal because it practically cooks itself once the beef and rice are browned. 7-10 minutes of hands on time, 20 minutes of hands off. Perfect for busy moms!

Blessings,

Wendy

P.S. As always, make sure to visit these other great blog series this week!

Ellen @ Grace Tells Another Story ~ Making Homeschooling Fun!
Marcy @ Ben and Me ~ Helping Children in Uganda
Melanie @ FinchNWren ~ Finchnwren’s Fabulous Family Movies
Sarah  @ Delivering Grace ~  learning about England
Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart ~  Connecting with the Creator through Nature Study
Joanie @ Simple Living Mama ~ 5 Days of Charlotte Mason Preschool
Gwen @ Tolivers to Texas ~ A Happy, Peaceful Home
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses ~ Homeschooling 4 FREE resources

April Blog Hop