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Redefining Wealth

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Reposting something I wrote in December 2011, because I need to be reminded:

I’ve realized I need to take a more radical approach than just a spending fast (although that is itself kind of radical, at least to me). Hippie alert: I have to attempt to completely reject consumer culture. What I mean is that — it’s hard to say but I’ll try to start. In some ways, I was raised to think it’s good to have money and a nice house and nice things. It’s not that I was taught to be blatantly materialistic, but in subtle ways, things were ingrained in me, like: money is good, money is important, shopping is fun. I think those might be lessons many of us learn directly or indirectly from our parents who maybe were children of immigrants and made lives for themselves and their families that were “better than” what they had, with “better than” being equal to “richer.”

Trying to reject better than = richer and having more and/or better things might be one of the big struggles of Generation X. For me (and I’m still working on it) this involves completely redefining my understanding of wealth.

Here’s the thing. I often fall into the trap of comparing myself to other people. Usually, those other people are more well-off financially than I am. So I get bummed out because I don’t have a super-cool place in a super-cool neighborhood and I don’t take exciting, exotic vacations and I don’t go out to dinner all the time and I don’t have every new Apple product the day it’s released. It took me a long time to get over that feeling of being “less than” and realize I have other things, things that aren’t as easy to, well, show off. I have time, lots of time, because I don’t work long hours. I have a husband who doesn’t work long hours. We have low-stress jobs we generally enjoy. We have a good enough house with a low mortgage payment in a good enough neighborhood that’s close to everything we do. We have a good amount of time and a good amount of positive, non-stressed-out energy to spend with our kid and each other.

I’ve always valued time more than money, which is why I never went to work for a big law firm. I am absolutely unwilling to work long hours or be overly stressed about my work. What I’m getting at here (finally!) is that for me and my family, “wealth” doesn’t mean money — it means time. And I know there are some very lucky people who have both, but more often than not, I think most of us get one or the other. I’d rather be on the poor side than work 60 hours a week (or more!) or have a husband who’s always at the office. Time isn’t really something you can put on Pinterest and have people gush over how beautiful it is, but for me, it’s what really matters. And realizing that makes me realize it’s time to stop spending money on, well, anything that isn’t necessary or at least very important. Necessary or important might be new glasses or an iPhone every two or three years, but it’s probably never another handbag or a sequined shirt or pair of fancy heels.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a smug hippie, or that if it does, it’s understandable because it’s been hard enough for me to realize I need to change my way of thinking about wealth and it’s going to be even harder to really put it into practice in everyday life when I’d really like to buy some more shit from Etsy. Money doesn’t buy happiness and things don’t equal happiness. Duh. Did I really need this many years to figure that out?

Written by Tracy

April 23rd, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Posted in and life

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Dogs & Cats & Ice Cream Idea

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"The dog will be the teacher."

Today Soren busted out my Fisher Price schoolhouse from the 70s. He set up the dog like so and declared, “The dog will be the teacher.” I’m pretty sure that’s the best idea anybody has had in a while.

Later, I took a nap with someone I will argue is the prettiest cat ever.

UntitledUntitledArguably, this is the prettiest cat ever.

As you might infer from the (lack of) content here lately, I’m in a funk. I’ve been grumpy and kind of sad and short-tempered for a few weeks now. My theory is that it’s because of the goddamn shittastic weather we’ve been having and that when the weather gets better, which it’s bound to do any time now because there’s only so many 20-something-degree, snowy days you can really have in April, things will start looking up. I hope, anyway.

Oh, one other thing! I made tofu satay with peanut sauce for dinner again tonight and I realized something. As I’ve been sort of fumbling toward quasi-veganism (the quasi being because at this point, I think it might be realistic for me to become vegan but I don’t see the point of not eating the eggs from my own chickens because that’s just silly), one of my biggest concerns has been peanut butter ice cream, which is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I tried making vegan chocolate ice cream once and didn’t like it, mostly because of the coconut milk factor. I like coconut milk in spicy Thai food, but not in dessert items (for the record, I am firmly anti-Samoas and think they are a crime against cookies). So I was down on vegan ice cream until I realized that coconut milk actually works with peanut butter and, in fact, I’d like to make vegan ice cream that tastes exactly like a sweeter version of the peanut sauce that goes with tofu satay, red curry and lemon juice and all. Someone has probably already done this but I don’t even care. It’s my next dessert mission. I guess the fact that I have a dessert mission means I can’t be in all that much of a funk after all.

Written by Tracy

April 23rd, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Posted in and life,Animals

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A New Tree

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Our new tree!

I didn’t get to really enjoy the nice weather this weekend because I’ve been sick. It’s a horrible cold, although the good news is I haven’t (yet) had the hacking up-all-night cough Ben experienced. The worst part for me has been the awful cold/hot extremes at the same time. All day Saturday, my head felt hot and my body was freezing so much I was constantly covered in goosebumps and the feel of clothes on my skin was painful. By far the most enjoyable portion of the weekend was the time spent eating spicy red curry. The sitting-on-my-ass portion wasn’t too bad, either.

In cheerier news, we got a new tree (to replace the one destroyed when the neighbors’ tree fell on it last summer). I tried to make it look as majestic as possible in the photo but it’s teeny tiny. It’s an Autumn Gold Ginkgo. Ginkgo trees are the shit, even though I try to spell “Ginkgo” wrong every time I write it. They remind me of Oak Park.

Also, it’s snowing right now. Snowing! Again! And it’s gloomy as hell outside. This winter weather in late April can bite me!

Written by Tracy

April 22nd, 2013 at 11:58 am

Posted in and life,Yard & Garden

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Soren calls this the “woof woof song” and is politely requesting that I play it over and over and over. There are definitely worse things.

Written by Tracy

April 18th, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Posted in and life,Music

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Thai Sloppy Joes

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This doesn't look like much

Here is another crappy iPhone photo of my dinner. The brown plate really adds an extra something special here, I think. Appearances aside, this meal was awesome.

As you may know, Ben does most of the cooking, but once or twice a week, I make dinner. I’ve been feeling like I’m in a dinner rut lately, so I picked up an issue of Vegetarian Times and decided I’d make something that seemed good and different from the kind of thing we usually make. (I tend to make Asian stuff with lots of veggies and Ben would be happy to eat nothing but burritos and pizza until the end of time.) I found a recipe for “Thai Sloppy Joes.” That sounded just weird enough to be interesting.

I did add a bit of tamari (I like my salt) but other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. Holy shit, they were really good — so good I’m writing this lame-ass post where I didn’t even bother to come up with my own recipe just to tell you that you should make these because they’re awesome. I’ve never really even liked tempeh — it always seems too dry, but the sauce in this really eliminated any dryness. And do put some arugula on top. (I prefer open-faced sandwiches because the organic buns we’ve been getting tend to be a bit much; when everything falls off I just use a fork.)

Serve with a side of kale chips. You probably already know how to make those, but if you don’t, here’s how I do it. Tear the leaves by hand, removing the big stem/veins and then tearing into bite-sized pieces. Wash in a salad spinner and then toss with olive oil and salt (I use sea salt from a sea salt grinder, ground on the smallest setting, and Ben uses regular salt) (when in doubt, err on the side of adding less oil and salt than you think you need). Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so, stirring and redistributing kale chips halfway through baking time. Enjoy!

As for what I’ve been up to, I spend almost all my internet time lately perusing the chicken coops section of backyardchickens.com. We have a pile of supplies (including the prettiest paint color I think I’ve ever seen) and a rough plan and hope the weather stops sucking so we can start construction soon. Gertrude and Josephine will be 5 weeks old tomorrow (Margarita is a week younger) and the thing about chicken coops is that building one always costs twice as much and takes twice as long as you think it will, so we need to get on that. Today I learned all about chicken coop ventilation. Hot damn my life is exciting.

Written by Tracy

April 16th, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Posted in and life,Food

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Bad Weather & The Drought

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We Coloradans never object to the perpetuation of the misconception that it’s always cold and snowy here, because it’s generally understood to be the only reason everybody in the world doesn’t move to our glorious state. But now this shit is happening. I’m not even complaining about the rain, because we need it. But what’s up with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? Shit, that’s what.

No. This shit makes me feel kind of depressed and then angry, the kind of angry normally reserved for people who drive like assholes. Hey 25-degree Wednesday in mid April! How about you use your goddamn turn signal?!

I like winter, more or less, when it actually is winter.  But now it’s spring and we had a few nice, sit-outside-with-no-jacket-well-into-the-evening days but apparently those were just a tease and now it’s back to winter and covering up the poor little vegetables who have had the misfortune to start growing already. (Let’s not even talk about the poor little vegetables still inside or the gigantic edamame beanstalk that’s about to take over the house.) My skin is so dry my hands have those awful cuts you get when your skin is way too dry despite copious lotioning and I just want to be outside, enjoying life. I want to be outside! I want it to be nice! This unreasonably cold weather has gone on for too long! I’m sad like Margarita from The Master and Margarita (currently re-reading, which is why I’m obsessed) before she applied the cream and became a naked witch, flying on her broom in the moonlight outside Moscow.

Speaking of needing rain, we’re in a Stage 2 drought and there’s going to be some pretty hard-core enforcement of watering restrictions this summer. (More info. here.) (FYI: It’s okay to water annuals and vegetables any time with a hand-held hose or drip irrigation.) Can I be blunt? I’m already judging everybody who lives in the area and has a green lawn this summer. If you want a green lawn, you probably shouldn’t live in Colorado. It’s such a waste of water and I hope green lawns become totally unfashionable and widely regarded as a symbol of the kind of me-first-screw-everybody-else mentality good and enlightened people hope to avoid. Xeriscape! Grow food not lawns! I’m gonna have to write a Wesley Willis style song about conserving water! Rock over London! Rock on Chicago!

Written by Tracy

April 12th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Acid Arab

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Holy shit you guys have you heard of Acid Arab yet? Ben just introduced me to this and I feel like I’ve been wandering around a desert looking for water for days and I finally found it and this is it. So good, and so unlike anything I’ve been listening to lately (mostly reggae). It’s a little Middle Eastern and has a nice industrial edge. Oh man. Ben says he has more stuff coming out soon, so keep an ear out.

In other news, I’d really like to go to Coachella. Instead I’ll try to make do by wearing gigantic earrings and listening to whatever other awesome new music I can discover.

FYI there’s a Soundcloud widget that doesn’t show up in Google Reader, if you’re still using Google Reader, which I am because I haven’t been able to get used to any of the new options, which all seem a bit much for my ADHD, which likes things to be exceptionally plain and simple.

Written by Tracy

April 11th, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Posted in and life,Music

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