Simplify Your Life: Clean Your Home and Lose the Clutter

Spring Clean and Clear, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy Spring, Northern Hemisphere (and Happy Autumn to the Southern Hemisphere)!  If the season has you looking for new, creative ways to make positive changes in your life and attitude, try a new approach: simplify.  Simplifying your life in small ways can have an enormous impact on your health and happiness.  Today I’d like to talk about how to simplify your life by reducing your wealth of material “stuff.”

Spring cleaning should not be limited to the dusty windows and the ceiling cobwebs.  Cleaning our homes can make us feel better by improving the quality of life in our living space.  Cleaning is also a great excuse to get up out of your chair and move around.  (Anyone who tries to say cleaning isn’t exercise has never properly scrubbed their bathroom.)

When you tackle your spring cleaning this year, I encourage you to get rid of some STUFF.  If you’re a pack rat, it’s easy to forget just how awesome it feels to downsize your materials things.  Take a look around your home: where do you see piles of “stuff” collecting?  What shelves, desks, drawers, corners, even rooms seem to be magnets for all things useless?  If you are in need of a lift, get rid of some stuff:

Donate – donate useable goods that you no longer use!  In the US I recommend The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation.  You can make an appointment and they’ll bring a truck right to your curb.  Visit their website for more details about items they will accept.

Freecycle – useable goods that cannot be donated are still useful!  I’ve been Freecycling happily for three years.  It’s easy to do, and you can truly make someone’s day by sharing an item you no longer need.

Recycle – items which are no longer useable should first be recycled or composted wherever possible.  Seriously: get in your filing cabinets and decide how much of that old paperwork you really need.  (Remember to properly shred ALL items with personal information).

Trash – do not try to donate or Freecycle your trash: if it’s trash, trash it.  If you’ve got a major load, call 1 800 GOT JUNK.  They’ll come out and give you a no-obligation estimate for your load of “stuff”, and haul it away without you so much as glancing at a transfer station.  (Of course, if you grew up enjoying trips to the dump with Dad, you might want to save the fun for yourself.  It’s incredibly good for the soul to heave items into the dump.  If you think I’m joking, you really need to try it out for yourself).

Once your house has reduced, reused, and recycled, it’s time to rethink: take a breath and feel the difference in your home.  Acknowledge the change in your mindset about what you really NEED in your life, and what really brings you happiness.  Apparently, it was not all that stuff!

Now that you have removed the first layer of stuff, you will be able to see the next layer of things-you-don’t-need cluttering up your living space.  Give yourself a week to bask in the awesomeness of your newly-cleared home, and then if you’re feeling brave: repeat.

Spring Clean and Clear, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

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Spring Sun Fuels the Cold Frame

Cold Frame, March 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone BlackwaterIt may be too cold to sow seeds in the garden, but it’s the perfect time to be sowing the cold frame.  As spring approaches, the sun’s path rises; this gives more warming light which the cold frame is built to capture.

While these pictures may not look pretty, they are actually very exciting (ok, at least for me).  [Remember you can click on pictures to enlarge.]  What you can see here are the lettuce, mustard, onion, chive, and cilantro plants which have grown slowly throughout the winter.  Scattered around them are open patches of earth which I used to sow radishes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions, and cilantro.  As soon as we have another warm day, I’ll open up and take some pictures so you can see how big the radish and spinach sprouts have become!  The carrots seem shy – it may be too cold for them to germinate just now.

Cold Frame, March 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone BlackwaterIn coming weeks I will remove the small, mature plants and place them out into the main garden where they can grow full-size.  Every time I pull out plants, I create open space in the cold frame.  Those new open spaces are where I sow the next succession of seeds.  This “succession planting” can continue every two weeks well into the summer, allowing me to have small, regularly maturing crops to feed us.

It’s taken me a while to get the hang of “succession planting.”  When I was first learning how to garden, I had no concept of succession planting, and happily unloaded entire seed packets into pots and garden spaces.  The result was a lot of wasted seed, and a whole bunch of plants that all matured at the same time.  Succession planting allows me to grow usable amounts of food that sustain us over the months.

We’ll be using a similar succession approach with the onions to keep a regular crop in stock.  Currently I’m germinating onions in the cold frame.  The seeds were sown close together in a small patch, and I expect to have slender onion sprouts in April or May.  At that point, the onions that overwintered in the garden will start to mature.  As I take out an onion or two for dinner each night, I’ll replace its empty seat with one of the young sprouts from the cold frame.

Cold Frame, March 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone BlackwaterAs you can see, life is busy in my garden, and it’s busy on my desk too.  I am the new Pennwriters Area 6 Representative for membership in southeastern Pennsylvania.  I will also be attending the Annual Pennwriters Conference this May in Lancaster, PA.  You will be able to find me blogging at AppleJade about once per week through March and April, and our focus will be in the garden.

Book Review: Not Just for Vegetarians

Not Just for Vegetarians, © Copyright 2008 Geraldine Hartman

Not Just for Vegetarians: Delicious Homestyle Cooking, the Meatless Way

by Geraldine Hartman

The book for today’s review was provided by: Geraldine Hartman, Veggies, Yarns and Tails

I write AppleJade because I honor the connection between kitchen, garden, and health.  Geraldine Hartman’s cookbook Not Just for Vegetarians extends the connection between vegetables and cooking to our relationships and traditions of friends and family, and our attitudes toward our food.  Healthy living incorporates more than the mere substance of our food, and Geraldine speaks to the soul of it.

Not Just for Vegetarians reads and functions with the friendliness of a neighbor or grandmother.  Indeed, Geraldine dedicates her book to members of her family, and there is a clear influence among her recipes of friends, traditions, and memories which help to sculpt each dish.  Geraldine tells us that in her journey to a vegetarian lifestyle she has found “that the vegetarian diet can be much more varied and interesting than the conventional ‘meat and potato’ menu.”

I began experimenting with Geraldine’s book by exploring the first segment: bread.  We enter her book as we enter our grandmother’s kitchen, with a warm loaf of bread cooling on the counter and filling the house with honeyed aromas.  I am still in the learning process with breads, but I had no trouble with her “Quickie Oatmeal Bread,” and I am slowly improving with “Grandmother Sabina’s Best Bread You’ve Ever Tasted!!!”

I wander her book like I wander my pantry, seeking out unexpected treasures tucked in the corners.  I do not look in the index for refried beans under “B” for beans; instead I find them under “M” for Main Dishes – “Homemade Refried Beans”.  The result is constant experimentation.  I need only to flip through the pages until I find something that sounds interesting, and I’m off to try something new.

Thus far, my attempts at all recipes have passed “The Yucky Test” in my home.  This says a lot for Geraldine’s down-to-earth, home-comfort style: anything which is too bland, too strangely textured, or too-rabbit-food will not pass muster on our table.  Geraldine’s recipes lend themselves to spicing and modification according to taste, and she offers numerous variation suggestions of her own within the pages.

Not Just for Vegetarians is more than a simple vegetarian cookbook.  Geraldine has crafted her book to be a friendly, helpful voice to inspire creativity and experimentation with healthy food.  Books like Not Just for Vegetarians help move us away from bland, packaged foods and back into the substance and soul of our kitchens.  Regardless of whether you live a vegetarian lifestyle, Geraldine’s Not Just for Vegetarians offers recipes that will delight everyone at your table.

Vegetarian Carnival #13 is now online at VeggieChic

Green Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

To those just joining us from the Vegetarian Carnival, Welcome to AppleJade!

This week Jul of VeggieChic hosts the Vegetarian Carnival #13.  The Vegetarian Carnival is held approximately twice a month featuring blog posts around various themes associated with a vegetarian lifestyle.

Jul was kind enough to include a link to our cold frame discussions here at AppleJade.  While I am not a strict vegetarian, I enjoy vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and adore growing my own fresh foods year-round.  At AppleJade you can expect ongoing discussions about organic gardening and cooking as a part of our greater discussion about healthy lifestyles and goals.

If you would like to submit to the Vegetarian Carnival or volunteer to host a future carnival, be sure to visit the Vegetarian Carnival information page for more details.

Projects and Planning

Sprouting Daffodils, Winter 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

While I am busy with my writing projects, hop over to see someone who is REALLY busy with garden planning: Jenny at Seeded has an ambitious planting schedule that will make you groan with envy (plus it’s a great source of ideas if you’re trying to decide what you want to plant in your garden this year).  In my gardens, the early spring bulbs are making their debut from the cold winter earth, teasing me with suggestions of gardening days to come.

Getting a Jump on Spring Planting

Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Today I awoke to a warm, humid sunrise.  It appears that my planting opportunity came sooner than I anticipated!  I just finished sowing onions, spinach, radishes, and carrots in the open spaces of my cold frame (a great way to enjoy a sunrise).  As you can see the cilantro, mizuna mustard, and assorted lettuce are all jamming, and today’s warmth (and opportunity to open the cold frame for fresh air) will give them a nice boost.  Salad is on tonight’s menu!

I like to garden by the moon, and while today’s moonsign (Aquarius) is not always ideal for planting, the new moon is a great time to get things started – be they new plants, or new projects.  I’m hoping that today’s warmth, breeze, thunder, rain, and the added energy of a solar eclipse will help get these seeds started.  In a couple of weeks, we’ll know if there’s been any success.  That is – if we can see through the snow into the cold frame!

Giving thanks

Some of us make a ritual of giving thanks daily.  Some of us remember to give thanks when something big comes our way, or when a particular holiday (Holy Day) occurs on the calendar.  No matter where we fall on that scale, we can all experience random moments of thankfulness.

Being thankful is an important part of personal health.  We have to give thanks for who we are, where we’re at, and where we’re going – regardless of our situation.  Everything is a matter of perspective, everything is relative, and everything is subject to change.  It’s important to ground ourselves from time to time by realizing just all the Universe has going for us – there is ALWAYS a lesson to be learned.

Today, I am thankful for a warm fireplace, and burrito fixings to reheat for lunch.  I’m thankful for a research contract to bring in a small paycheck, and a happy husky dog with whom to share my joy.  I’m thankful for my dearest friends and family.  I’m thankful for grey clouds in Philadelphia to remind me of my home in Seattle.

What are you thankful for?  Take a minute, step back, and “count your blessings.”  No matter what anvil the Universe dropped on your head today, there’s still room for gratitude.  If you can truly make breath for thankfulness, your mental, spiritual, and physical health can receive a bigger boost than any pill might ever deliver.