The Hardest Part is Starting

Sage West Logo

I did a thing the other day: I opened an Etsy shop! (The morbs, if you’re interested, are not entirely shaken – the heat REALLY doesn’t help – but the worst of it sets in toward the evening. That leaves my mornings free to be productive before I start crying for no reason. Anyway.) This is something that has been on my goals/to-do list for a good long while now, and yesterday I finally thought “fuck it, let’s go.” The hardest part of any endeavor is starting, and I couldn’t keep waiting for the perfect moment. My logo is literally an ink drawing I did by hand, photographed, dropped into Word, and then screenshotted. I’m sure I’ll eventually have to get some professional help with that, should the shop ever take off (I’m gonna be, like, SO internet famous), but I actually really like what I whipped up; the drawing is based off a photo I took of a jackrabbit in Utah, where I would wake up early while camping, make some coffee, and go for a walk at dawn to watch the rabbits running around the desert. Makes me dang happy just thinking about it.

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If you’re interested, my shop is called Sage/West Designs, and I make malas and jewelry (mostly earrings at the moment) from natural materials like stone and wood beads. I love the look of these natural elements, and I find making the malas in particular a meditative practice; although I’m not religious, Buddhist philosophy has been a guiding and grounding force in my life, and hand-tying the malas can be a nice opportunity to reflect on a lot of these principles. I’m sure posts on Buddhist ideas (and Stoicism – they compliment each other nicely) will surface on this blog before long. Considering I have no real end goal with this platform, I’m going to fill it with things I enjoy, I suppose. Maybe someone will find it useful or interesting?

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On that note, it’s interesting how I’ve already begun thinking of this Etsy shop as a brand. I know it’s important, especially since I actually have a brand and a product to sell, but I just keep thinking of all those insufferable articles geared toward aspiring Instagram influencers about developing a “personal brand.” Insert eyeroll here. But, truth be told, I already combed through my Pinterest page and made it into a Sage/West platform instead of a personal one (thankfully there’s really not a difference between me and the “brand;” I’m being authentic. That’s another post I want to write: originality vs. authenticity. I need to write this down. What do they call them, ed cals?).

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So we’ll see where this goes! If you’re interested, stop by the shop, check things out, and let me know what you think. I’m still adding inventory, but again, you have to start somewhere! I honestly do appreciate feedback, too, since I’ve never done anything like this before.

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Okay, that’s it for now! I’ll keep you posted!

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The Morbs

Did you know a Victorian-era term for being depressed was “having the morbs” (as in morbid)? I think that’s hilarious and it takes some of the edge off when I’m weepy for no reason and feeling completely unmotivated and inadequate and not sure if I’ll ever achieve my goals. Saying “I have the morbs right now” immediately cheers me up a bit. Depression is such a fickle, terrible thing, so whatever gets you through I suppose. Also cat pictures:

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My little pudger-fluff having a go at her bath.

Blogging will resume shortly once the morbiest morb has passed. Cheers.

Uber Frugal Month Challenge

Now that we’re almost a week into July, it seems like the perfect time to present a challenge I started at the first of the month. Because why would I do anything on time?

You didn’t know this about me (because you don’t know much about me), but my dream in life is to own a homestead. I have a master’s degree and all I want to do is grow shit (not to imply that farmers and homesteaders are not well-educated; quite the contrary. Just that I paid for this career path when in reality…it’s not my passion).  Things have been messy, figuring out how to make this a reality, and in the end it comes down to money above all else. The husband and I have always been relatively frugal, but we’re also prone to that lifestyle inflation phenomenon where we begin to spend money in accordance with our income – never spending more than we have, and always (always!) contributing to our savings, but also doing that thing where you have enough money that an extra drink or a run to Chipotle doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it is a big deal when every burrito is putting you $7 further from your goal. It’s the opposite of movement; it’s stagnation.

So, for my birthday this year I asked the husband to do a no-spend challenge with me, where we buy only the essentials this month – NO exceptions. And, as luck would have it, my birthday request coincided with The Frugalwoods’ biannual Uber Frugal Month Challenge. I had just finished Meet the Frugalwoods (checked out from my local library, of course), in which Elizabeth recounts her family’s journey into frugal living in service of the same dream I have: to own a homestead, and it was naturally very inspiring. The challenge is a bit different than a no-spend month; it’s geared more toward folks new to the frugality game, and focuses a lot on reassessing your finances and lifestyle, although there are many returning challenge-goers and the daily challenges can be adapted for any savings level. But, as I said, the husband and I are really going for complete austerity this month, kind of like a diet cleanse (which are horrible from a financial and nutritional standpoint, and I’ll talk about this at some point, but you get the analogy) – we’ll see what we need to add back in a the end of the month, and what we don’t miss at all. One “unnecessary” expense we’re keeping in, however, is spending on gas to get us to hiking destinations – although I would argue this is absolutely a necessary expense for at least my physical and mental health.

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Exhibit A (Gem Lake, RMNP)

So, I want to keep you up to date on the challenge, give you a little insight into our frugal lifestyle, and pass along some tips for living your own frugal life. I actually started to write out everything we do to save money and cut costs in each of our budget categories, but it began turning into a beast of a post, so I’m going to split it up over the month. This will just be an overview; I want to expand on this content quite a bit on the long run, and continue to share new ideas and tips as I go (including recipes!). The posts, to start, will probably look like this:

  1. Savings and debt
  2. Housing, utilities, and household expenditures
  3. Transportation
  4. Food (a big one!)
  5. Entertainment and recreation (another big one!)
  6. Annnnd something else. There are miscellaneous things that might all get thrown in here.

Keep in mind, we’re renters so I won’t be speaking at all to home repairs, maintenance, or anything real estate related. We’ve also never invested outside of our jobs’ retirement accounts (and tip #1, if you don’t contribute to whatever your employer is offering, you need to start), so I have absolutely no advice or insight on this; in fact, if YOU have advice or insight on this, please share. I am great at saving and terrible at investing, but I have reached out to a financial counselor to get the ball rolling, which is a good first step for me! If you want information on this sort of thing, The FrugalwoodsMr. Money Mustache, and JL Collins are excellent resources.

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Definitely necessary. (Black Lake, RMNP)

Also, I am clearly not an expert. I have no financial training and I am offering you no concrete financial advice – I’m just letting you know what works for us and some ways you might also save money, if it works for you. Some of this advice you might have read before, especially if it’s just common sense, some is unique to where we live, and some is based in my own philosophy or philosophical influences. Take from it what you need.

And finally, we are two privileged individuals and some of this advice stems from or is unique to this privilege. While neither the husband nor I came from affluent families, and are both children of divorce, we are white, hetero, cis, able-bodied, and American, and we are both graduate-educated and employed (the latter two being earned but also facilitated by privilege). Not everyone has or has had our advantages, and this changes why and how you might apply the concept of “frugality.” We are able to be frugal by choice, and I recognize this is not the case for many people. I hope some of the things I share will be helpful regardless, and I also realize that some of the things I share are still privileged opportunities to save money.

This post is plenty long enough, so I’ll save the “real” start of the content for another time. I hope you join me, and I invite you to share as well!

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Access to the outdoors is a major privilege. (Mills Lake, RMNP)

 

A Smoothie Recipe in Three Easy Steps

  1. Choose your blending vessel
  2. Gather things you want in your smoothie
  3. Blend them together
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My smoothies: weird-colored and not really photogenic. At least I put it in a mason jar!

Here’s the thing about me and food blogging: I’m kind of bad at it, because I rarely use full recipes, I never write things down, and I’m not dedicated enough to actually measure ingredients and report back to you. So you won’t find any real recipes, per se, on this blog – more like inspiration, general ideas, and tips and tricks for cooking. I trust you to use your best judgment, and if you really need help on “cream butter and sugar” or “add pepper to taste,” you might want to start elsewhere. But do you want inspiration for cheap vegan meals? Are you tinkering with your cookie game? Are you intrigued by watching someone else test seventeenth-century recipes? You’ve come to the right place.

So in that spirit, I’m starting with a smoothie recipe. Except it’s not a smoothie recipe. Why do you need a recipe for blending things? Literally just put some stuff in your Ninja/Magic Bullet/whatever and hit the button. I posted a smoothie recipe on my old blog years ago – it involved measured portions of various fruits, and a ratio of spinach to kale, and many other ingredients. Looking back, I can’t imagine what I was thinking. Smoothies are mostly about good judgment: will peanut butter really go well with orange juice? Will kiwis blend well with banana? Should I be adding that much kale? Some of these things are intuitive (no, yes, no), but others require a bit of trial and error. So what? Have at it!

I do, however, have some tips for you if you’re completely lost on the whole smoothie thing, as well as a snapshot of what a typical breakfast smoothie looks like for me. I will warn you, I do not make beautiful, deep purple acai bowls decorated with tiny exotic flowers and stripes of cocoa nibs. I make utilitarian drinks that usually come out some shade of brownish-gray due to the fact that I often add spinach – and they’re delicious.

Tips and Tricks for a Dang Good Smoothie

1. My general smoothie ingredients consist of mostly fruit, a handful of spinach, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a splash of almond milk. I don’t measure this, I just base it on what my blending vessel can hold and proportions that feel right, usually something like 4 parts fruit : 1 part greens : 1 part protein, then the splash of liquid based on how thick you like your smoothies and what your blender needs to function properly. I like adding spinach and I really don’t think you can taste it in a smoothie at all, if you don’t totally overwhelm it (kale, on the other hand, is a different story). And don’t shy away from the fruit; despite what fad diets would have you believe, fruit is our friend. (I’m planning a post on diets and nutrition for the future, stay tuned.)

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My usual ingredients, plus almond milk. Sometimes other berries instead of peaches.

2. Use frozen fruit instead of ice. I like my smoothies thick, because I typically prefer eating them this a spoon instead of drinking them. I also like to pack flavor and nutrients into my drink, so I really hate watering it down with ice (plus it’s hard on your blender). I especially like frozen bananas as a thickener – just make sure you cut them up beforehand.

3. In a similar vein: buy fruit in bulk and freeze it. Buying fruit either in bulk or pre-frozen can be a huge money saver, and again, it makes for a better smoothie texture IMHO. Oftentimes I’ll eat the fruit fresh until it starts to turn, then I’ll chop it and freeze it – just cut the fruit into whatever size your blender can handle, spread it on a cookie sheet so it doesn’t stick together, and once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag. I do this a lot with Costco produce (and not just fruit – many veggies freeze well and are great to have on hand for soups, stir fries, etc.). This is also a great idea for farmer’s markets leftovers, ie the fruit that’s not perfect and therefore unsold at the end of the day – a lot of farmers are willing to sell this in bulk at a discounted rate rather than toss it. (ANOTHER post I want to do concerning food is America’s fear of imperfect, blemished, or “old” food, and how to get over this. You’re excited, I can tell.)

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Not sponsored (in no small part because I have no readers), but I’m really enjoying my new Magic Bullet.

4. Stay away from too much juice. You know how Jamba Juice was hailed as a healthy option in the early aughts, until everyone realized their smoothies are full of refined sugar? That’s what happens when you drown your whole, healthy fruits in processed juice. Yes, fruit contains a lot of sugar on its own, but it also contains a lot of fiber and micronutrients that are extremely good for you – and that are lost when you juice it down. If you really love your OJ or that flavor is essential to your smoothie, have at it, but keep it to a minimum.

5. Experiment. Again, this is how we learn. If you’re looking for inspiration or you’re unsure if something will taste good together in a smoothie, think about what you eat together normally. Coffee and limes? Probably not. Ginger and apples? That sounds good – we eat those flavors in pie! Blueberries and peanut butter…Maybe? We do eat PB&J, after all. Give it a shot and report back. For me personally, I find bananas and strawberries to be a simple and affordable base for most smoothies I make, then I add from there, but really the sky’s the limit.

6. And when your experiments fail…I really hate food waste, but sometimes things are so gross you just have to chuck it and cut your losses. It’s a part of learning. If it’s not quite that bad, try to tinker with the proportions a bit and eat it anyway if you can. Or, you might try refrigerating it and adding a bit to your new smoothies for the next couple of days to lessen the flavor (ie, tomorrow combine half your reject smoothie with some extra fruit or whatever else it needed).

And that’s about it, I think. Despite what Instagram and all the newest juice bars would have you believe, smoothies do not require a certain color palette or tiny flower garnishes. Throw that shit together and enjoy!

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Mmmm, greenish sludge. Delish.

Going Somewhere

I wrote this post in 2016, and I wrote ONLY this post in 2016, and then, as I so often do, I abandoned this blog for two years. Can you even call it a blog if it only has one post? I abandoned this one lonely post for two years.

But now I’m back! From outer space! I just walked in to find you there with that sad…just kidding, no one’s reading this. Anyway that’s not how the song goes.

I was re-reading a blog I actually wrote on six years ago, and was encouraged to discover that my old writing was actually kind of sort of fairly good-ish. What I liked most was how un-self-conscious I was back then, at a mere 24 years old, so I thought I’d wade back into the overcrowded pool of internet blogging once again with that same approach. For fun. Keep your expectations low (no expectations, no disappointments). We’ll see where this goes.

Which brings me to the title of the blog: Moving in a Direction. This isn’t to imply aimlessness, but rather it’s meant to reflect the idea that things are ever-changing and unpredictable and we might often course-correct, but the key is to keep moving. Much like evolution, there is no end goal, there’s only adaptation. So with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite (abridged) quotes that I often remember when I’m feeling stuck, whether due to inertia or attachment:

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”        -Megginson/Darwin (basically)