A Tale of Two Kitchens

Three months ago, this was my kitchen:

The kitchen has a window into the living room.

 

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Notice the double sink with hot water, the dishwasher, the oven, and all the floor and cupboard space?  While the apartment kitchen was certainly small, it was an adjustment to move from that to this:

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You can imagine what an adjustment this was!

And around the same time that I moved, Lois from The Eco-Grandma moved from a 300 square foot apartment into a house.  This, too, was an adjustment.

As we settled into our new homes, I began to notice the changes that I was making in my kitchen, and I began to wonder what changes Lois was making.  What lessons had she learned from simplicity?  What luxuries was she choosing to indulge in, now that she can?

As a result of the changes we have made, Lois and I decided to co-ordinate our posts and invite you into our kitchens today.  I will show you how things work in my kitchen, and then you can head over to The Eco-Grandma to visit Lois’s kitchen.  (And we will both be sharing a recipe with you!)

Living in less than 200 square feet has been interesting, and our biggest adjustment has been the galley.  First off, the companionway, aka our DOOR, is right above the counter.  In fact, the countertop is a step that must be used in order to enter the cabin without falling down.  Below the counter is a small ladder, which we refer to as “the steps.”  Both Beanie and the cat like to perch on the steps, especially when I am cooking.

So where do I stand when I cook?  In a teeny, tiny corner, next to the steps!  Our kitchen is equipped with a single-basin RV sink.  While we have a knob for both hot and cold water, only the cold water knob will turn on the faucet.  The water temperature is quite cold in the winter, but hot in the summer.  This is due to the fact that we use shore water, which sits in an RV hose for great periods of time.

Our range is a luxury for a sailboat–it’s dual-powered.  We run it on electricity in our slip, but we can run it on alcohol when we’re anchored out.  We have a bottle Everclear for this purpose!  The range has a stainless cover that turns it into additional counter space when we’re not using it.

We also have a gas grill mounted on the stern rail–it doubles as our oven.  When we feel like picnicking, we have access to communal gas and charcoal grills.  We have a medium-sized dorm fridge and a small amount of cupboard space.

Having such a small kitchen has led me to learn to do without some amenities.  This hasn’t been a huge adjustment, since we were already living rather minimalistically.  We already had service for 3, 3 pans, no toaster, and limited appliances.  But what have we gotten rid of since we moved here?

  • Our blender.  Yes, I used to love making smoothies.  But it isn’t worth the effort to unstow the blender, and then to clean up afterwards.
  • Our plates.  This isn’t permanent, but they broke in the move.  After a month of using bowls, we missed them and bought some Thanksgiving-themed paper plates.  We will soon return to Goodwill and find some plates for our family!
  • Our pressure cooker.  It was too big to store, so it’s gone.  We’re on the lookout, eventually, for a higher-end unit that is small.  But for now, we do without.  We’re down to 2 pans.
  • Our popcorn popper.  All right, so we still have it!  And we’re going to use it next week, when we stay in a rental cottage.  But it takes up so much space that we have is stowed and never gets taken out.  And Rob is learning to pop corn in our saucepan.

And what unexpected luxuries have we kept?

  • Stemware.  Mason jars don’t cut it for us.  We keep this bit of elegance.  Of course, we’re constantly breaking glasses, so they never match.
  •  The slow cooker.  I love it.  It’s wonderful to set it, head to work, and have a lovely roast waiting when I get home!
  • A coffee maker.  We did the French press thing for awhile, but we drink too much coffee!  I love to set the coffee pot, then have it wake me up in the morning.
  • A tea kettle.  It boils water.  Fast.  And it doesn’t make it taste like anything else.

So what do we cook in my kitchen?  Normally, we eat very simple meals.  I’ll buy pre-cooked meat, which we’ll eat with a salad.  When it’s nice out, we have burgers and a salad.  When it’s cold, I cook.  When it’s not, we eat salad.  I make sure to eat a lot of protein, with a few carbs and lots of veggies.

But sometimes, we like to do something special.  Here is a fancy dinner we prepared in my kitchen:

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First up is this low-carb lasagna recipe I found.   I browned the beef on the stove, then assembled everything in the slow cooker.  Notice the door above me.

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While the slow cooker did its magic, I simmered the mulled wine on the stove.  In place of brandy, we used our homemade orange liquor.

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There was some zucchini left over, and Beanie decided this was her new favorite snack.  She is standing on the steps.

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It was a crazy, fun night for mother and daughter alike!

 

 

Lessons from the Journey

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During the time that I call Last Winter (the winter of 2012-13, spent living in the basement of our old house), I shared a great deal with you, about my journey and the challenges I faced.  I continued to share with you during our move and adjustment to our new life in Texas.

But what you don’t know is that the journey has continued since then.

I’ve been working very hard, for nearly two years now.  My journey began when one of my readers called me a Linchpin,and I would like to share with you the places it has taken me since then.

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Here are some things I’ve learned in my travels:

1. Reality is a very simple, painless thing.  If you’re experiencing anything other than that, it’s not reality.  When I read Linchpin, after being told that this term applied to me, it brought to light so many assumptions I had held about myself–so many limiting beliefs.  That was what started my journey.  I realized that I was not what I had thought I was.  I’ve since learned that anything that causes fear, anything that doesn’t “feel” good, is based on misunderstanding, not reality.

2.  Willpower is not the answer.  Like flowers turning toward the sun, we all are always turned toward the light.  We want to do what is “right,” and we are always trying our very best.  If we’re stuck in a “bad” habit, then there is a misunderstanding or a reason why.  We need to look deeply at that, and figure out what is preventing us from doing what we’re trying to do.  Forcing ourselves to do anything, ultimately won’t work.

3.  Your mind is likely stuck in a loop.  I had the same patterns coming up over and over again.  I thought I was unworthy.  I thought I couldn’t handle the intense fear I sometimes felt.  It was the same messages, over and over.  And the solution lie in redefining those messages.  Over and over.

4.  Never underestimate the power of a good teacher.  Learning to move beyond fear and to see reality is like learning to speak a new language, and it helps to have guidance from someone who has traveled the path already. While I had many mentors along the way, the smartest choice I made was to seek help professionally.  I ended up finding a counselor who works via e-mail and used a technique that I recognized as a variant on cognitive-behavioral therapy.  She worked closely with me and helped me learn methods for doing that repetitive redefining. After nearly two years of almost-daily contact, I am no longer experiencing those looping thoughts and am seeing a great deal of freedom from fear.  If you’re interested in pursuing a path in this direction, here is a good place to start.

5.  You are not what you think you are.  I have learned that I am more than the challenges I have faced, and I am certainly more than my reaction to fear.  We all face fear, and it manifests differently for each of us. Some people react with substance abuse, others become depressed or anxious, and others overeat or indulge in retail therapy.  These are all reactions to the same thing.  Don’t mistake your reaction for who you are.

6.  Self-love is always beautiful.  Early in my journey, my therapist said, “Your only obligation is to love yourself.”  I didn’t understand this at the time.  I thought caring for myself and turning inward was selfish.  But it is not–it is actually the opposite of selfishness.  It is through knowing, understanding, and loving our own minds, with their tendencies and misunderstandings, that we learn to understand and therefore love all of humanity.  If we misunderstand our tendencies, we are going to misunderstand the same tendencies in everyone else.

7.  Narcissism and martyrdom are the same thing.  Or, at least, they are manifestations of the same misunderstanding.  In both cases, the person sees themself as separate–from all of humanity and from God, the Universe, Love, etc.  Putting yourself before others and putting others before yourself are both based on the assumption that your “self” is separate from “others.”

8.  Nobody has an opinion of you.  We take what people claim to “think” of us as meaningful feedback about ourselves.   When people don’t really have opinions of us. They might misinterpret our fears and the way we act upon them, but that’s not a opinion of me. They might misinterpret our fear-based actions based on their own fears. But that’s not about us. And we’re probably not even seeing this window into their inner life. Because our minds are picking out bits of and pieces of their actions (which are based on their own fears, etc.) and using them as evidence for what it already believes. So “feedback” and “criticism” are just our mind’s way of proving itself right. The other person is just a messenger. 

9.  Labels are limited in their usefulness.  It would be easy to pick out labels from my experience.  “Anxiety” and “depression” stand out, amongst other things.  But how helpful is that?  These are all just names for manifestations of fear and misunderstanding.  We all face fear and misunderstand.  If it’s an “illness,” it’s one that EVERYBODY has.  That’s the journey through this life–seeing through the illusions.

10.  There is no past.  There is no accurate record of it, at all.  Everything I’ve told you, about my “back story” is just comprised of memories with meaning attached.  There is no way for anybody to know what REALLY happened.  It’s gone.  It doesn’t exist.  This moment–with all the baggage we carry to it–is all that we can ever have.

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I could go on with lessons, but I think this is a good starting point.  It’s been a very busy two years, and I look forward to growing–and resting–more in the years to come.

 What are some lessons that you’ve learned on your journey?

 

Holidays Without the “Humbug”

The pictures are from our  night of trick-or-treating in Clear Lake Shores!

The pictures are from our night of trick-or-treating in Clear Lake Shores!

The holidays–Christmas, in particular–seem to be doomed for failure.

We’re sold this image of a happy, idyllic family decorating the house as only Martha Stewart can do.  In the morning, the children wake up to a mountain of presents beneath the tree, and are delighted to find that they’ve received that toy they’ve been hoping for.  At dinner time, all of the extended family comes over for a visit (or they’re spending multiple days!) and is treated to a lovely spread that took hours to prepare.  And, most importantly, everybody gets along.

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And we all know that this ain’t reality.

And so, in our frustration, we get grouchy and stressed.  We become bitter, we complain, and we take up “causes” in an effort to change things.  And in doing so, we miss out on the joy and fun that this season really does have to offer.

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How can we bring the joy back to holidays without turning into a Scrooge?  Here are some tips:

1.  Let go of some of the expectations.  You’re not going to do it all.  So decide which traditions work for you, and create some low-stress traditions that work for your family.  Accept that it’s not going to be the Christmas you had as a child–change is inevitable.  We’ve ditched big dinners in lieu of pizza.  We draw names for gifts, or give only homemade food items. We make our own crazy decorations and keep the focus on having fun.

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2.  Stick with the traditions that you LOVE.  I’m crazy about Christmas music, pumpkin-flavored-everything, the smell of baking apples, and cheesy seasonal movies.  So we do a lot of those things.

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3. Plan for stress “hot spots.”  You know what stresses you out every year.  So plan a little extra self-care during those times.  Focus on delegating, get enough sleep, drinking lots of  water, and eating as healthy as you can.  For example, the trip to visit our relatives in Michigan can be stressful for me (although I do enjoy seeing everyone!).  So we stay at nice hotels on the way, make sure that there is a healthy choice at each meal, and make sure to focus on relaxing!

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4.  Be patient with the gift “issue.”  We used to be greeted with a mountain of gifts at every Christmas gathering we went to.  And a lot of these ended up eventually being donated.  We gently explained our lifestyle choices to our families, and the gifts slowly decreased in number (or included more edibles!).  Things improved even more as I began writing about minimalism (and we stuck with it for a couple years).  Since we’ve made the move to Texas, people mainly  give us money, memberships, and treats.  Change takes awhile, so be patient.  And remember that they are giving you the gifts because they care about you.

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5.  Be ready with gifts to suggest when they ask.  Your loved ones aren’t going to give you “nothing.”  So be ready with ideas.  Do you live near a children’s museum or zoo?  Would your child like a membership?  Are there any restaurants you love? People want to give you something, so it’s up to you to provide them with some non-material options.

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6.  Accept that it is what it is.  Christmas trees will come out in stores before Halloween. People will trample each other at Black Friday, and the sales will start on Thanksgiving.  There is no need to get angry or stress over this.  You get to choose whether to participate or not.  I have to confess, I was kind of excited to see the Christmas trees, although we haven’t decorated yet.  And Black Friday?  We’re going to spend Thanksgiving at a state park, camping in a cabin.  So I’ll probably be making s’mores.

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7.  Leave the politics behind.  When people are stressed, they get angry about silly things.  People celebrate for different reasons.  For some, Christmas is a deeply religious time, with midnight mass and “Silent Night” taking center stage.  For others, it has a more secular focus, with the emphasis on having fun with family and friends.  Some families celebrate Chaunakah and other families have incorporated ancient traditions from Solstice celebration.  It means different things to different people, and raising a fuss about whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” isn’t going to “convert” anyone to your way of doing things.  If there is anything that every faith can agree upon, it’s kindness.  So let’s remember to use that as a starting point.

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Begin with that retail worker who just wished you a happy holiday.  They’re not thinking about how great they want your holiday to be.  They are thinking about how stressed they are, at work during the most hectic season of the year.  Buy them a chocolate when you go through their line.

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A Warm Welcome!

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Two years ago, during the summer of 2012, I wrote a guest post for Francine’s blog at Miss Minimalist.  At that time we were in the beginning of our 91-day-cruise on Moonraker, anchored out in Thunder Bay.  We had no clue that it would be our last summer cruising on the Great Lakes and that Beanie–who was about to begin her second year in the inclusive Head Start class–would not start kindergarten in Michigan.  Or that two years later we would no longer live on land.

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Looking at all these changes, I decided it was high time to send Francine an update.

So if you’ve just found your way here from Miss Minimalist–welcome aboard!  I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half years.  If you’re interested in my posts from the earlier days, you will want to check out my Start Here page, which I update every March.

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Otherwise, here are some recent posts on the various topics I like to discuss here:

Blossom–My “coming out” post where I announce our plans to move from Michigan to Texas.

Breaking Tradition–My first post about the boat we now live on.  It needed a lot of work!

10 Surprises About Marina Life–About our daily live aboard Breaking Tradition.

Minimalism: A Beginner’s Guide–Interviews with minimalist bloggers about the beginnings of their adventures toward less.

35 Lessons in 35 Years–Lessons I’ve learned, with links to posts telling the story behind each.  An ongoing project and a great sampling of my philosophical posts.

Pancakes–Why I’m fine with being a “bad” mom.

This Isn’t Holland–On raising a kid with a disability.

First Day of School, Take II–My daughter’s school experience this year.

It Still Matters–Why I’ve continued to teach.

12 Years Ago–On marriage–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

New Year’s Eve: 1995 and 2000–A “spill your guts” post about my backstory.

I hope you enjoy exploring my blog.  Please feel free to comment–the discussion is what makes this such a great community, and I always do write a reply!  I am also on Facebook and Twitter.  I use social media sparingly, so there is no need to follow on more than one site.  But connecting on either of those–or following via e-mail–will guarantee that you don’t miss a post!

Red?!  I guess I got bored with aging gracefully...

Red?! I guess I got bored with aging gracefully…

Please also link to your blog in the comments.  I am very interested in reading about your adventures!

 

 

Snowball Fight in Adventure Field

Sometimes, we just have fun.

We’ve got a structured evening routine, here on Breaking Tradition, but it does leave room for fun and games.

For example, yesterday, I came home and read with Beanie while dinner cooked.  Then, after I ate, I got her started on “homework,” which meant writing a letter to a friend in Michigan. Then, after piano practice time, we played rhyme Dominoes.

After that, we had an hour until shower time.  What were a mother and daughter to do?

Well, we headed out to “Adventure Field.”  There are two good-sized grassy areas in the marina, and Beanie has named them Adventure Field and Chaos Field.  Last night, she wanted to go to Adventure Field.

We couldn’t find her ball, so we brought a bag of cloth “snowballs,” made by one of our friends in Michigan.   A fun (and funny!) evening ensued.

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I hope your October is treating you equally as well!

 

“House”work

I have written many times about my dislike of housework.  And I have often told you how much quicker housework is in a small space.

So, today I was feeling unmotivated when I surveyed the mess before me. I had been sick for a week, and Rob had been taking care of me, instead of cleaning the boat. So it was truly daunting.

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I had made Swedish meatballs the night before, in honor of “Swedish day” (we honor Rob’s heritage, instead of celebrating the Hallmark holiday, Sweetest Day).  And Beanie had been making batch after batch of her addictive “Critter Mix,” that she had learned to create at school on Friday.

And then an idea struck me.  I could do a blog post about the short amount of time I spend doing housework on our tiny boat.  I would take “before” pictures, and then update every 10 minutes.

The first 10 minutes went by smoothly, with the clock being stopped momentarily when Rob came in and wanted to play video games.  When I told him what I was up to, he offered to help.  Normally, I would have embraced this, but in the name of science (and of my blog post) I sent him out with a coffee to “walk around and talk to people.”

Here’s what I accomplished in the first 10:

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The kitchen was beautiful, and the dishes were clean!  Washing the dishes is a challenge, since we have lukewarm water only, from our shore hook-up, and our drain empties very slowly.  And Swedish meatballs certainly leave behind a mess!

The kitchen is the most difficult part, so I knew the main salon and quarter berth would go quickly.  However, my second 10 minutes were interrupted…

Our neighbors returned from their cruise.  Beanie enthusiastically found her Critter Mix ingredients and got to work…

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And Wanda, next door, was happy to see Beanie and even happier to enjoy her snack mix!

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The dogs next door were excited as well.

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So, on to the main salon.  As predicted, it cleaned up quite nicely, which Rob was busy discussing photography with Wanda.

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Next challenge–the head.  We don’t use the head itself, but the medicine cabinet was a mess after my recent illness.

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And here’s Beanie’s room.

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I got right to work, with only a few interruptions from Rob and various neighbors.  And here we are, 10 minutes later:

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So, now, all that is left is Beanie’s room.  Here’s the current status on that:

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She has too many toys, and it is a mess.  But no biggie.

However, the clock had to be stopped many times.

First, Beanie’s grandparents called to say the were on their way to pick her up.  So she had to make Critter Mix.  The we visited with them, and they visited with our other neighbors.

After they left, our other neighbors needed an update on Beanie, and I was informed that I needed to let Beanie know that she owed Deanne a Mario Kart-and-Critter Mix date on her boat  

I told Deanne about my blog post I was working on.  I let her know that cleaning the house took me 40  minutes total, on a “bad day.”  She agreed, “Yes, that’s the best thing about living on a boat!”

But then I added that, with everything else it’s taken me an hour and a half!

Beanie's clean room!

Beanie’s clean room!

Deanne laughed, and said, “You know, I think that’s why boats are always messy.  We just have better things to do.”

First Day of School,Take II

School has always been something Beanie has loved, even with the number of times she has been the “new kid.”  She has always gotten excited about going, and she has always chattered endlessly about her friends and about science class.

But this year, something changed.

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Beanie has always gotten into mischief, but she started getting bad reports daily.  And her behaviors went from “normal” trouble-maker limit-testing, to hitting and screaming.  Instead of talking about her friends, she made up a bunch of imaginary friends.  She still enjoyed doing her homework and going to piano lessons, but she began throwing tantrums when it was time for school.

With her ARD meeting coming up (those are called IEP meetings in the other 49 states), I had a lot of correspondence with her case manager.  I learned that Beanie was screaming in class nearly everyday, in spite of the added supports and sensory diet they had her on.  She was needing an aide 4 hours out of the day, instead of the 30 minutes she had needed before.  And the kids were less interested in hanging out with her, due to her screaming.  And all of this was affecting her academically–her reading level dropped from a level F to a level B.

I have to admit I was nervous.  I knew that this was not the best situation for my daughter, but what would be? She really wouldn’t benefit from a resource room, where she would go for smaller reading, writing, and math classes.  She’s not very far behind academically, and this wouldn’t solve the problem of The Rest of The Day.

And she really didn’t belong in a life skills program, which would be a special class just for kids with autism, where she would learn cooking and other independent living skills.  This wasn’t the place for a kid with above average intelligence.

And she certainly wasn’t going into a behavioral program, where she would copy the misbehaviors of her classmates.

Those were the three options I was familiar with.  And I knew that the resource room was the only  one I would be willing to entertain at all.

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So I was worried, but not surprised, when her principal called me.  She took a long time preparing me, which only increased my nervousness and defensiveness (which I suppressed quite well!).  So imagine my surprise when she told me about a program I had never heard of!  Their district has a self-contained classroom for kids who have severe speech and language disorders.  Beanie would be in a class with no more than 5 kids, would get lots of one-on-one time with her teacher, would learn her academics but really focus on getting caught up with her speech, and would be worked back into general education classes, until she would eventually be ready to return to her neighborhood school.

All of my defensiveness was replaced with the question, “How soon can we start?”

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Beanie was hesitant to visit the classroom, but once she saw the puppets in the “break” area and the stretchy therapy swing, she was sold.  Since Beanie is above grade level in math and science, she would be in a general education class, with support, for those subjects.  She would also go to P.E., music, and art with her general education class.  She would work on speech,  reading, writing, and social studies with her special education class.  The speech therapist would come into the room to work with her and the other students, and the class would visit the large motor lab on a regular basis.

Beanie met her special ed teacher, her aide, her general education teacher, and her speech therapist.  She then led everyone on a search to find and meet the principal.  And she charmed every one of them.

Beanie rides the bus to her new school, but it gets her home in time to make it to her piano lesson on her old school on Wednesdays.

So how did her first day of school go?  Beanie came home with a very good report and a smile on her face.  She couldn’t wait to tell us about her new friend in her class, and she was eager to go back.

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And thus, the charmed life of the Bean continues.