Thursday, March 31, 2011

On My Mind Today...

Woodpiles and Autumn leaves

There is a distinctive chill in the air in the evenings and mornings. It won"t be long before we are lighting indoor fires every day. I am looking forward to the comforting cheer of crackling fires, read-aloud stories, basking dogs, mittens, steaming soup.

Thank you Rhonda for this "on your mind" Friday idea.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Counting the Cost of Elasticity.

Simple living, frugal living, saving, thrift, budget beating, economizing, penny-pinching, stretching resources...

To the great majority, these phrases are synonymous with cutting costs. Yes, but which costs?

Our resources are many, varied and specific to the individual. Money is a dominating one, perilous to ignore. Other resources are material goods, food, our gardens, homes, animals, vehicles, environment, faith, intellectual resources, knowledge, books, people even. The list could go on. But the slippery, unsympathetic resource that is critical to consider is TIME.

Cooking from scratch, a commendable practice, saves money and ensures excellent nutrition for our families, but it takes TIME. How far are you willing to go? Do you buy ready made pizza bases and make your own toppings, or do you make the dough too? How about the cheese? Do you grow the tomatoes used in the sauce? The comparison between take-away pizza delivered to your door and a fully hand made pizza is vast. Factors to consider are monetary cost (obviously), environmental cost - think of the transportation fumes, taste preferences, nutrition, and, now that we are aware of it, TIME. Does the satisfaction of eating homemade pizza warrant the time that it takes to make it from scratch? I cannot answer that question for you. Each and every one of us has different values and needs. Maybe it's near the end of the month and the basic pizza ingredients are in your pantry, but there is no more cash. That situation definitely warrants a home made pizza. Maybe you have been ill for a week and your husband is cooking for the family after a long day at work. That situation may very well warrant a take-away pizza. Which are you going to save, TIME or money?

I am privileged to live on a farm, educating my children from home. TIME is a resource that I have plenty of. So, often when it comes to stretching my resources, the one that is usually spent with more abandon than any other is my TIME.  Not too long ago, we lived at a slightly more frenzied pace in the city. Even then, I often spent my TIME in preference to money.

Saving money often costs time. 

Think of birthdays and holidays. A little girl's party is looming on the horizon. You can throw money at the problem and rush out to the nearest gift store for the latest cute kitty accessory, or  you can invest some love and TIME, and use up some spare yarn in knitting an even cuter beanie that takes a day to make. How are your sewing skills? I have sewn little soft toys for party gifts for children, made manicure kit holders and other nicknacks for Christmas presents. Would you rather give store bought chocolates, or a home made foodie gift like cookies or a jar of relish? For me there is no contest. Just last week I was given a delicious jar of apricot and ginger jam. Every time we taste it, we think of the giver with gratefulness.

Saving money usually costs time.

Sometimes it is the TIME needed to plan ahead that makes all the difference. A romantic evening for two need not cost a fortune, such as dinner out at an expensive restaurant. When pockets are pinched, how about a sunset picnic, a fireside massage, or a moonlit walk. Even babysitting need not cost anything at all. When our children were smaller, we had a once a month sleepover swop with friends of ours. We had their kiddo's for their date night,  and vice versa on our turn. The added bonus was the late, childless sleep-in the following morning. If grandparents or other relatives are nearby and willing, then allow them the precious time with your little ones while you strengthen your marriage.

TIME spent stretching resources, can be satisfying TIME, rewarding TIME, TIME shared with loved ones, rich TIME, creative TIME....

..... tick tock. Count the cost. Use it well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On My Mind Today... Blankets and Booties

A big little boy is soon to be born to my brother and his wife. He is due to arrive in around 5 weeks. I have, rather ambitiously, started knitting him a blanket. His mommy chose the wool - a delicious denim coloured bamboo/cotton blend. The blanket is knitted on circular needles. It contains 35 squares of different texture in the pattern of my design: cables, stripes, diamonds, lacy bits, but not to lacy for a boy. The squares are not knitted separately. I distinguish between them with bands of garter stitch. It is complicated, yet I enjoy the challenge. My only concern is that the blanket won't be complete in time for the arrival of this long awaited baby boy. You see, I am only just completing the first set of 5 squares. Thirty squares to go.

A hand made gift has love woven into it, and means far more than something that I just bought off the shelf. Every time his mamma wraps him in his blanket, they will know the love that went into making it is wrapping around him too.

The doctor says that he is a really big baby, about two weeks bigger than his gestational age. I have a feeling that the booties I knitted him might just be too tiny.

I am also desperately crocheting two granny stripe blankets. One each for my children. This one will be for my 15 year old daughter who adores all things colourful. My son says that the bright colours hurt his eyes, so his blanket is rather more conservative. I want them to feel my love wrapping around them too as they snuggle under them in the freezing winter here near the Lesotho Highlands. My children see the time and love that goes into each stitch of their blankets. I know that they will value these handmade labours of love.... when I eventually finish them.

Thank you Rhonda for this idea of sharing what it On My Mind today.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fun Fitness for Free

In a health conscious world of personal trainers, fitness centres and specialized sport, so many of us feel ill equipped and ignorant regarding our own exercise requirements. So we become dependent on the 'experts' to show us how to optimize our fitness. We book ourselves into expensive classes, or waste away the hours transporting our children back and forth to organized sporting activities. Dare I mention the vast sums of cash lying gathering dust in the form of accumulated, unused sports equipment, or flashing for favour out on the field.

What if the budget cannot stretch as far as fitness tuition?

What if instead of providing the stress release that we crave, the sports schedules drive us dilly as we drive our darlings to matches and classes?

What if being indoors in a sweaty gym with sweaty people just doesn't do it for you?

What if the majestic outdoors feeds your soul?

What if you can combine precious time with your little ones, or the love of your life, with time spent getting fit?

What if fitness can be found for free?

I concede that fitness can be a science, but face it, most of us are not top athletes in training. We just want a way to keep trim, healthy and strong. Here are a few of my favourite FREE FUN FITNESS ideas: 

My all time best is to head uphill, snack in a pack, loved ones around me. It could be a simple afternoon tea trip to the top of a local koppie (rocky outcrop in South Africa). How about a hard, butt-busting slog up the highest peak you can find? Mountain air exhilarates me. Nothing beats the view from the top, wherever that top may be.

The scents of mountain plants from childhood hikes are imprinted in my pleasant memory bank. If you want to build up strength in the process, then add a child to your shoulders, or a backpack to your back.

A brisk walk with a friend or loved one is a great way to get that heart pumping and those legs moving, whether it be through a forest, along a sandy shore, or even in the concrete jungle, if you have to.

Oh, and what about your furry best friend? Get that tail wagging with delight as you invest time in your precious pooch, and fix your physique at the same time.

A pair of running shoes is the only real expense for a faster form of fitness. Just take it slowly at first, or the physiotherapy bills will outweigh the benefits of the exercise. That was a hard lesson for me.

 Running at sunrise is my favourite way to greet the day. Now, as soon as my leg injury heals....a bit of too much too fast in my recent past. Running builds fitness quickly and fills your brain with happy hormones.

Remember those dust-covered bicycles in the shed? Make them work for a living. Find a nearby hill and get those legs pumping.

Feel the wind whooshing through your hair as you speed down the other side.

Scratch around in your home. If is is anything like ours, you will be sure to find bats and balls, roller-skates, skateboards or even a skipping rope. Instead of tossing them because they are gathering dust, grab a hubby or child and play with them. The best way to save money and get fit is to USE WHAT YOU HAVE. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from making your equipment work for its worth. Playing with your family builds laughter, fitness and memories. This is true FREE FUN FITNESS.

My senses are thrilled when I exercise in the midst of outdoor beauty, under big skies. My spirit lifts when I deeply breathe in crisp morning air.

 Today we are joining a Fun Walk / Run. Yes, there is a modest entry fee. It is a fundraiser for an orphanage in Lesotho, well worth every cent. I am eagerly anticipating joining with happy friends and family as we all sweat for a cause.

How can you exercise for free today? 

How can you have fun with your family today?

Friday, March 4, 2011

On My Mind

Today I am thinking of apples. The trees are laden. All I need to do is summon willing hands to pick, and then it will be apple juice, apple pie, apple muffins, baked apples...drizzled with honey... filled with raisins...served with homemade cinnamon ice-cream.

Autumn is creeping in with the morning chill. I need to seize the moment and reap the benefits of the harvest before winter steals it all away.

I love this idea of posting what's on my mind. Thank you Rhonda