Some Things

Chez Soi, Une odyssée de l'espace domestique, by Mona Chollet

Something I’ve just finished reading. A good friend recommended it (thank you!), and I spent the first days of the year devouring it, shouting with enthusiasm at pretty much every page.

Something – plenty of things – to please the eyes, the hearts and the stomachs, on a beautiful blog I recently discovered through the Weekly Photo Challenge.

Something simple, but worth saying.

Something you can perhaps help me with: its seems that the image galleries on my illustration page don’t appear on some browsers/devices. If you’re unable to see them, I’d be very grateful if you could tell me.

Have a lovely weekend!


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Frugal Wintertime Habits: This Year’s Progress

wintertime-bymarion-text

With spring coming next week, I thought it would be nice to recap all the frugal wintertime habits we put into practice this year. Most of them were inspired by other bloggers I have been reading these past few years, for example here, here, here or here. Even though I don’t believe that individual actions alone can change the world (I think we need some serious thinking, political debate and action too), I have found it very useful and inspiring to read about other people’s progress toward a greener and simpler life. It has helped me realize there were many changes I could make in my everyday life that would benefit both planet and people. Last year, inspired by zero waste ideas, I stopped buying tea bags and started using handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues. It wasn’t difficult, it was a change of perspective. And it saved me some money, too. For me personally, every new penny-saving habit is precious because it gives me time I can spend away from a job that made me unhappy, building something I find more meaningful instead. Here’s the progress we made this winter to save even more energy, labor, and money:

We’ve stopped buying canned beans and peas. We cook dried ones instead. We found that it’s not so time-consuming if you’re well organized: we make a big batch every two weeks or so. We soak them overnight, cook them on the wood stove (which is also our main heating source), and freeze then in small glass jars. It’s very quick to thaw them as we need them by filling the jar with boiling water. This way we have plenty of balanced, delicious and quickly prepared vegetarian meals. Whenever we run out of homemade houmous, for example, we grab a jar of chickpeas in the freezer and make some more. We also save the broth when cooking kidney beans. It makes delicious minestrone soup.

Last fall I wrote about being a vegetable freak and learning to love winter vegetables. I’m happy to say that the love affair has gone quite well all winter long, and we’ve almost completely replaced arugula and lettuce by carrots, parsnip, cabbage and celery.

There’s nothing like a good cup of tea to keep warm or fight a cold (in the event of which I use the handkerchiefs I sewed last year!). We’ve stopped buying tea bags when we realized that using a infuser was just as good and generated less waste. Last year’s harvest of peppermint and nettles made delicious tea for several months. I hope to harvest enough plants and herbs this year again to make tea all winter long.

Whenever we use the oven, we try to bake several things in a row. We often bake a cake after we’ve made a loaf of bread. If we don’t eat it straight away, we slice it and freeze it so that we always have something ready in case someone turns out for fika.

Our fridge/freezer is old and it’s noisy when it goes off. But since it works ok, we’re reluctant to throw it away and get a newer one. Luckily, we live in a cold climate. Everything we need to freeze cools down (often even freezes) outside before going into the freezer. Whenever it’s below zero, we also rotate a couple of water bottles or ice packs so that there’s always one freezing outside and one in the fridge to help it a little. We might be over-optimistic, but we’re pretty sure it goes off less often when we’re doing this.

Before we finished installing the wood stove, hot water bottles were a must. We simply repurposed empty glass bottles. We still use them whenever it’s really cold. We sleep much better in a cool room, but we’re not (that) crazy either!

As our neighbors recommended, after the big snowfall in January, we piled the snow against the walls of the house. We really noticed a difference in terms of insulation, especially on windy days.

We don’t have a tumble drier. But in the cold season, we don’t miss it at all. When it’s below zero, the air is very dry, and laundry dries quickly. We hang it outside in the sun, or next to the wood stove (keeping fire safety in mind, of course!). Our drying rack is a repurposed metal bed frame.

repurposed headboard drying rack

I’ve learned a lot more about knitting this winter. Thanks to very helpful YouTube videos and my grandma’s detailed explanations, I learned how to make hats, cowls, mittens, and socks. I’m really happy to be able to make these myself.

And, last but not least:pillows-bymarion-text

Making pillow cases from old shirts is really fun. Spring or not spring, I’m looking for more fabric to practice. If you have old shirts you don’t use, email me! I’ll be happy to make you a pillow case.

Finally, I must say that everything on this list felt much more like a satisfying change of perspective than like a painful sacrifice.

Now for frugal spring plans: we will take advantage of sunnier and warmer days to complete our pallet furniture projects, and prepare our first vegetable garden around our tiny red house.

How about you? What new frugal habits did you form this winter? What frugal plans do you have for spring?


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On cooking dried beans and driving to work everyday

dried red beans

It gave me a chock when, a couple of years ago, I started calculating how much it cost me to be working full time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not greedy. As far as I can remember, I’ve never dreamed of making a lot of money. I have dreamed, however, of doing a job that made me happy. Around the time my academic-physicist happiness started fading away at the speed of light, I found myself doing this kind of petty cost calculation:

Take beans. Perhaps I should mention here that I eat very little meat. Being, as you may know, a vegetable freak, I’m happy with eating only organic meat from time to time. I also eat moose whenever one of my neighbors kills one, but most of the time I eat cereal and beans for protein, feeling very self-satisfied about my reduced grocery budget and my efforts to save the environment.

So, beans. It obviously takes ages to cook them. I’m not even speaking about those times when you forget to put them to soak overnight. Luckily for people who work full time, you can buy them cooked and canned. If you’re happy with your job, then, everything is fine. As for me, I kept repeating that I would quit if I could, so I calculated on.

A kilogram of lead and a kilogram of feathers certainly weight the same, but they don’t cost the same. I’ll spare you the math, but dried beans, including the water and energy to cook them, are still much, much cheaper than canned ones. They also come with less packaging, and you can even control how much salt or what spices and herbs you put in. In fact, you can prepare them exactly the way you want them.

And I started asking myself: isn’t it funny that we’re so prone to consider spending two hours cooking dried beans a waste of time, while we never question the fact that it’s also the time it takes us to drive to and from work everyday?