Friday, December 29, 2006

Testing AGAIN

Blogger has been fighting with my ISP. I wonder if it is due to the cable problems under the China Sea after the Earthquake in Taiwan on 12/26/06. I hope this post goes through. If it does we are back in Business baby!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


My last post went into never never land, lets see if this one works.

Bad Blogger

So, things are really busy with work and personal life, but I wanted to post a picture of the toys the kids gave away on 12/24. These totally fit within the 7 things goal I have and I am sure we tossed probably 20+ of the "McDonald" type toys that the kids pick up, are given to them at Birthday parties in goody bags or other junk.

In the donation pile are

1. A toy "Sport" set carried with us from the States as a gift from Aunt Trudy. The kids played with this for a while but have more than outgrown it.

2. A Toddler wagon with Lego attachment on the back side. Came from taiwan and was still used, but it was time to share it with others.

3. A toddler bowling game from Christmas last year or year before.

4. A really cool Lamaze toy car that the kids still played with but wanted some other kids to have.

6. A toy we got for Declan that had fun little toys in side like a dog/bowl etc.

7. A similar toy given as a gift one christmas.

8. Other toys that just needed new homes!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A new Christmas tradition

so, the week before Christmas and for the second year in a row I was traveling. It sucked. I had to go to Shanghai last Saturday, turn around and return to Singapore Tuesday for a quick overnight and a 5am return to the airport for a 6:30 flight to KL. Got home on Friday, tired, coming down with a bit of a cold and a hurking cold sore on my lip. Ah, the stress of the holidays coupled with travel, what can get better than that? Well, almost everything.

But, we as a family started a new tradition today. The kids are just bursting with excitement about Christmas. First off, Santa hasn't even come and there are far too many presents under the tree. Jeff and I really only got two presents for each child and a few books and stocking stuffers. Next year, I plan on making the gifts and only getting one for each child, but that is not for this post.

This post I wanted to tell you how proud I was of my munchkins. Today, as I looked at the number of presents under the tree I told the kids that they were very lucky. They were lucky to have a mom and dad who both had jobs. They are lucky to have cousins and aunts and uncles who sent them gifts. They are lucky that they have grandparents who send gifts. I told them that other children in the world were not as lucky. Other children don't have all of these toys and that because Santa was coming tomorrow, we should go through our toys and give away the "baby" toys and the toys that they don't play with any more.

The kids came and sat down with me and we went through the toy boxes, getting rid of all the broken toys, and getting rid of toys they no longer play with. We donated two full bags of toys to the Salvation army this morning. The kids were fully active and proud to be giving toys to children who didn't have any. They were very excited to share-in part I know because they get more tomorrow- but I was excited because I was so very proud of them. They helped start a new tradition in our home. From today forward, every year, before Christmas the kids will review the toys they have, toss the broken ones and donate those that are still good to the children who need them more than we do.

It was a good day. I know that I am passing the right values one to my children. My children had joy in the act of giving. It is good, it is right, it is a joyous holiday.

Peace on Earth be with you all.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Far From Perfect

I read today on Consumer Disobediance about the struggles and the slippery slope of being on the "Compact". Ali slipped when she bought a coffee press. Subsisquent purchases, while few, were easier.

I think that is key. Once you break a promise or pledge, it is easier to rationalize the later purchases, it is easier to do it again. I was on a weight loss program, I felt pretty good about it, I lost almost 20 pounds, but when I started to travel-I went off the diet. I have not gained the weight back, but I haven't continued to loose either. When not on the diet, I find myself snacking on candy... not eating whole foods- I feel guilty about the first candy bar. The second, not so much.

So, in the area of scaling back, cutting out purchases, I have not been as good as I wish. I found that I did purchase a few items new- and I saw my husband purchase the kids Christmas gifts (even though they are only getting two gifts each)... I still consider that breaking the pledge.

What did I learn. First, I hate Christmas Shopping. Second, I have renewed goals to do better next year. I have the intent to move forward and NOT buy anything while traveling the next week. This is my big challenge for the rest of the week, not to buy any "gifts, trinkets or chochkies" while in Shanghai and KL next week.

I'll let you know how I do.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Gifts

Well, we went shopping for gifts for the kids. We have had the list for quite a while, and this is probably not an "authorized" purchase in my own personal compact pledge, but I am not going to beat my self up. The long story short is... I am starting in July next year and every member of the family will get something made or purchased second hand. I am not doing that again!

Declan and Kiera are getting 2 "presents" this year from us. Declan is getting a hot wheel track and battery train. Kiera is getting a new baby doll and a play kitchen. The family is getting some games we can all play together. The games I feel are totally within the Compact goals.

I have also gotten Kathy her last gift and if you are reading sis... it will be in the mail tomorrow :-)

So, now more in line with what I want my life to be, living simply, deliberatly and honestly... we are making gifts for our friends that are coming over for Christmas day and for our friends we hope to see on Boxing Day... For HH and Jen, a bottle of homemade Lemoncello. For Faye and Dean... well.. you may be reading this so lets just say I am grinding it...

I can see next years gifts already

1. Family History Pictures for Trish
2. A scrapbook of Mom's history for Mom
3. Recipes and foodstuff from SE Asia for Dad and Linda
4. Family Recipe Book for Kathy with our favorite foods from Growing up.

So not a surprise perhaps, but then again, I may change my mind. Just ideas for fun gifts from the heart, not from the pocket.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Update on Boxes

So, I went to the store... intending to buy 2 boxes, which would I think take care of the rest of the photos that have no home. The store did not have any yet... they are still on route from Australia. So, I walked out, went down to my favorite scrapbooking store to say hi to my friends and thought again about the boxes. So, I got home took a look at the photos I have and thought, you know. This is the excuse I need to get off my butt and scrapbook some of these pictures and get them out of the boxes!

I have lots of reasons to scrapbook and lots of pages that need to be done for my pending book. Maybe when I am done with the scrapbook pages I won't need those boxes after all!

Shopping averted and I feel good about it.

Photo Boxes

Ok, I am a scrapbooker and I want to keep pictures in an acid free and as humidity controled enviroment as possible. To that end I have already taken all of my pictures out of acid filed "magnetic" albums and scrapbook them when I can. But I have a class I really want to take this winter. I am going to ask Jeff for the class as my Christmas present. In the class you take 12 weeks to organize your photos (which would be a good thing as I have at least 5000-7000 hard copies and around 3000 digi pictures). One of the needed items in the class is photoboxes and "three" up albums. I already have about 6 boxes, but will really need 4-5 more to do this correctly. Acid Free photoboxes are not really something you can find "used" or free. Shoeboxes aren't acid free otherwise I would use those (And DID for years until I knew better). I looked for acid free boxes for about a month before I started the Compact, but could not find any...

SO here is my challenge. I am only on day 7 of the compact and I am considering purchasing something new. I can't really determine if this is a need or a want. Do I need to put these pictures away? Do I need to take the class? If I purge my pictures will I have enough room in the boxes I already have? Part of the class I want to take also talks about purging, which as you know dear readers, I have a problem with letting go. Even of the three copies of the same picture from my wedding of some guest I don't really know... You know, I might give that picture to a family member someday that wants it.

I love my scrapbooking hobby, it is in part a part-time job for me. I could come up with all sorts of rationalizations for why I need the boxes. They are finally available at the craft store again. They are on sale. So, what am I going to do?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stuff out the door.

Today I am purging more stuff. getting rid of a few things that have been sitting around our very small apartment.

Today, someone is going to come pick up the bed rail that we had for the kids. They are bigger now and don't need a bedrail. I am also listing my old artifical Christmas Tree on Freecycle. I imagine it will be picked up soon.

I need to also take a look at the Kids stuff and see what else can go. We have so much kids stuff... it is almost a shame to see stuff hardly worn, maybe I should try to sell some on Ebay Singapore... make a few dollars? Hum, it is a thought no? Get rid of some of the stuff I don't need and earn a few bukaroos on the side!

Declan is doing well with his new smile. He took his tooth fairy money and got himself a Thumper (from Thomas the train) at our "Good" toy store. While this is techincally a purchase, as I said from the start, the kids were not held to the same standard and this is money he he was given as a gift from the tooth fairy. In one way it is kind of fun to watch him look at this money and try to chose a train. He knew he had $10 but how to equate that to the toys on the wall he wasn't quite sure yet. Hey, he is only 5... but he would pick up two toys (the trains Ben and Bill) and I told him he didn't have enough money he could only get one. Either Bill or Ben. That made him think, the next train he picked up was a big engine with a coal car. Again, more than his budget by a long shot (Wooden toys are a bit spendy here) so we talked about the fact that the little trains would probably be cheaper and he could find one he liked. Well, once he found Thumper he was happy. He has wanted Thumper since this summer but the store did not carry it. They must have gotten a few in for Christmas, so this was a treat!

So, now it is back to normal around here, Mommy is adjusting to the fact that her son has a gap toothed smile, Declan is doing well without his teeth and I am working hard on books, Christmas gifts, organizing and all that my normal routine covers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A new day

So, it is better around here today. Declan got a visit from the tooth fairy and today he will get to chose a prize for his Tooth Fairy money. Probably about 2 years earlier than we wanted to go down this path, but I felt it was important to make a positive thing about losing your teeth. He did fine for most of the day, but at Dinner it was a bit tramatic when he realized he could not bite down on things with his "front" teeth. The good news, as my sister says, that at the age of 5 his classmates will start losing teeth soon too so he won't be totally out of place.

On the home front, DH is traveling again today. He was gone over the weekend for a company party in Bali. Now he is off to Taiwan for a 3 day business trip. I hope that he is able to catch up with some of his old pals while he is there. I will have to travel in 2 weeks to Shanghai. I may try to catch up with some buddies while there, but it means all of the Christmas plans must be in place and ready before I fly out. I only get back on the 22nd. That is really ok though as I think Christmas will just be family this year. Small gifts and small dinner. I am really just ok with that!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Today I feel

Like crap. That horrible parent type crap when something happens to your child that you can't control. Declan has been sick recently and it sucks because he is pretty much a trooper, but sometimes it just gets him down. Last weekend, when he said his face hurt we went through the "is it his teeth?" routine. (For those who don't know Declan has had major dental issues for a 5 year old that stems back to more bad parenting and bottle mouth, followed by knocking out part of his teeth) So, we looked in his mouth and didn't see anything, but he still had gunky eyes which and a stuffy nose which to me spelt sinuses.

So, we took him to the doctor, who also looked at his ears, eyes, and nose. He also looked in his mouth when I told him Declan said it was his face that hurt... but we didn't see anything wrong with his mouth. So, we got a weeks worth of antibiotics, eye drops, nose drops, anti-inflammatory and general sinus medicine to get rid of the gunky eyes and sinus problem. Last night after a week of antibiotics, I looked in his mouth and saw the tell tale signs of an abscessed tooth. Probably the antibiotics made it better, not worse, but the only option on a Sunday in Singapore is to pack up the kid and camp outside of a dentist's office until they open.

Suspicions confirmed a tooth, in fact both front teeth which we have worked so hard to save over the last 3 years were both loose and one was abscessed. The teeth were both dead already, but it is just so hard to look at my beautiful boy and know those teeth have to come out. Of course this goes right into my own personal issues with dentistry and my own issues with losing teeth....(LONG STORY). SO, out they came. I feel like such a failure as a mother. I know there is nothing we could do. We took him for regular checkups, he brushes 2 times a day and we are trying really hard to keep his teeth clean. But, I guess the damage was done long ago.

Declan was such a trooper though, hardly a cry when they pulled his teeth. But I am crying. I feel like I failed my boy. I know that is not the truth, he hardly seems worse for the wear, within a half hour he was back to normal watching a movie (Happy Feet), but I wonder as he grows, how I am going to deal with the other knocks, breaks and bruises he goes through.

hard day today.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

7 things for the week of 12-1-2006


So, here is a picture of a few of the "7" things that went out the door. What you don't see pictured is the 4 packages of file folders I listed on Freecycle... they are just plain folders folks... also two pairs of girls sandles that will go to the Phillipines in Nancy's next package for her Brother's baby girl.

What you do see is a sweater set. It got dyed a funny color last year and I don't ever wear it in Singapore...out the door it goes (why did it take me a year to do this???)

7 pairs of Childrens shoes that the kids have outgrown.
A shirt I bought that never fit right
A pair of my old glasses (circa 1995)
Another one of those "TI" notebooks that I keep finding around my house.

That brings this weeks total to 17. (NOT including the separate file folders....)

Total for 4 weeks... 43 things that have gone on to better homes. In one way I feel like I could clean out this whole house in one fell swoop, but it is kinda fun to do it bit by bit. And, frankly I am probably actually getting rid of more stuff this way.

Day two of the Compact

So, here it is day two and I sort of have a confession. Ok, it is a .79 cent confession. Today, Declan had a birthday party to attend, we ran out of ribbon for the package and while the gift was new (purchased pre-compact) it was the end of the wrapping paper. So, we cut and pasted and made it work. But no ribbon. Nada. And with the cut and paste job on the wrapping paper, we needed something. So, we bought a ribbon. .79 cents. Ah, but the thing is, I wondered to myself as I purchased the said ribbon (actually Nancy bought it... so my compact pledge is still honored....) What could we have used instead? I thought about the next birthday party we will attend and what could we use? Could we make our own wrapping paper. Would that be fun for the kids? Could we make due with the TONNES (spelled the proper British way) of yarn we have in the house? How about a fabric ribbon. What can we do next time rather than purchase a .79 ribbon for a package.

Off to compile my 7 things for the day, but know for sure that I am going to freecycle some file folders that I purchased. I can't return them, so someone else hopefully can use them. I am also going to get rid of some more clothing in my closet. Maybe some shoes I don't wear... Ah, ok, time to purge some more stuff.

I am also working on a Christmas journal. Taking 15 minutes (minimum) a day to record my feelings, hopes and dreams this holiday season. Last year I took it Way too serious and felt I had to try to compete.. do awesome art. This year, it is all for me. You can check out the pages here

Friday, December 01, 2006

Day One of the Compact

So, 365 days from now I can hopefully say that I have passed a year taking a serious step back from conspicous consumption and buying items that I "wanted" but perhaps did not need. I admitt the last few days have been spent well spending. Not more than ususal perhaps, but for sure I paid attention to it. I purchased most of the "christmas gifts" that family will get and while they were purchases, I tried very hard to think about the gifts I was giving. My parents and the inlaws will also get a handmade gift in time for Christmas as well. I plan on gifting handmade gifts to both of my sisters for birthdays.

So, today starts this path. Again, it is not going to be easy. I am sure that I will not "succeed" without a few misteps along the way, but there is no punishment for falling off the path. Only learning. And at the end of the year I hope that my experiment has left me fulfilled and happy, with more money in my pocket and less unneeded consumer goods in my house.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Manicure, 7 Things and Christmas Gifts

Feeling a bit bad about the sheer amount of paper that I threw away in my mad organization of our file cabinet and the fact that despite good intentions I did not get rid of 7 things over the weeknd, the stack is there, but they did not get out the door.

Here is the list of 7+ things for the week which brings the total up to 26 items out the door over the last 3 weeks.

1. Hanging vertical paper file
2. and 3. Accordian File (x2)
4. The Illustrated Discovery Journal (I got this 5-6 years ago and NEVER used it)
5. A maternity Swim Suit (I just don't think I will ever use it again)
6. and 7. Two nursing bras. (Again, as much as my heart wants another child, my head and husband aren't too interested)
8. A black clutch purse.
9. and 10. 2 small notebooks given to me by my office.
11. A child's sun hat
12. A nursing swim suit (again same reason as above).

I am still holding onto so much baby stuff. The pain of giving up a desire for that third child is just to great to give up those items yet. I have the crib and highchair slated for use by my freind Faye when she has her baby in the next few months, but I have the ability to get them back should I need it in the future. I figure that these are the first few steps of getting rid of the baby stuff maybe it will help me deal with the loss of that dream.

So, I was supposed to be on vacation today and yesterday but my friend got sick and the trip had to be cancelled. I suppose it is all for the best as I can stay home and work on the outline and try to get that done today.

As for getting prepared for my compact pledge, while personal services are not really excluded, I don't think Manicures and Pedicures really fit in with the whole idea of the pledge, so I splurged on what may be last manicure for a year. I am not totally stating that I won't ever do it during the year as I really do love the pampering a good manicure pedicure gives you, it just is really not really in line with the financial goals of my personal pledge. But, let me tell you I did enjoy it.

My last two days pre-pledge will be finishing up some Christmas shopping for my nephews and my sisters and my parents. While one of the gifts my parents will receive will be homemade, it will not be done in time for Christmas I think so I plan on getting them each a small gift. I also have talked to my sisters and while I have not told them I will be "forgoing gifts" I have told them that I want the gifts I give them this year to 1. Either be something they NEED or 2. Something that has personal value to them. I have good ideas of what each will get, now I just need to execute this before I take the pledge. (kinda cheating I know, but it is my pledge to cheat on- wink, wink). What I do think I am going to do though is to send some $ to my sisters and have them open a savings account for each of the boys (if possible). I would love to see each of the extended Harris Kid learn the time value of money saved and have a stash of funds available for them to use when they get older.

3 more days until I take the pledge. Am I ready? I don't know I guess we will see.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Dinner and 7 Things

I am late this week in getting my seven things out the door, I was dealing with heavy work schedules, canceled trips and sick kids.

First, a bad day for the budget when unexpectedly my trip to Phuket was cancelled. My girlfriend Jenn was very very ill and could not meet me there and everyone else (Jeff couldn't come because of work and my back up date also backed out) had already canceled. Did not seem right to fly to a vacation spot all by my self. So, we lost the airfare and one night hotel fee. Sucks to throw away that money. But, that is what you get by flying super cheap budget airlines and staying in hotels booked online. If your trip gets cancelled, you pay the fees.

So, I am going to work today part day and then take tomorrow off to work on the Book and finish the Chipboard designs for FFC.

So our Thanksgiving day dinner was last night and we invited a family over to celebrate with us. We had a great time and I cooked two new dishes-recipes to follow because they were both fabulous. Jeff did the turkey on the grill and it was awesome, we under estimated the size of the bird and have LOTS of leftovers this year (our normal method is to invite lots of people over, this year it was only one family). But we had a great time, had lots of great food and will have a great turkey carcass to make soup, then stock and then lots and lots of lunches for the next few weeks.

So, this years menu was

1. BBQ Turkey. Jeff takes fresh herbs and mixes them with butter and lets the butter harden in the fridge for a couple of hours. Right before popping the bird (unstuffed) on the BBQ he stretches the skin of the bird and stuffs the skin with the butter herb mix. As the bird cooks the butter infuses right into the meat. Yummy!

2. Mashed Potatoes.

3. Baked Butternut Squash. (Recipe to follow)

4. Wild Rice Stuffing (Recipe to follow)

5. Green Salad

7. Pumpkin pie

8. Apple Pie

9. Cranberry Sauce

10. Wine and Milk/water/juice for kids.

A good meal was had by all!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Buy Nothing Day and my Compact Pledge

I figured on Buy Nothing day it is fitting that I sit down and ink out my Compact pledge.

For those who don't know, the Compact was a group of people that started in San Fransisco a year ago and pledged to buy nothing NEW for a year. The word spread and now people all over the world are looking at taking the pledge or at least finding out what the group is talking about.

The groups has a blog and is also a Yahoo Group

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact).

The group has agreed to follow two principles (see exceptions etc. on the blog).#1 Don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)#2 Borrow, barter, or buy used.

Every person who is a member of the Compact has taken the pledge to mean different things for themselves and has established their own set of guidelines and specific "exceptions" to the rules. For some, craft supplies are allowable expenses and not against the pledge. For me, that can not be the case as I buy stuff I never use. Others agree that the purchase of new canning goods in order to can home grown produce is an acceptable deviation from the pledge as it is a matter of health and safety. All agree that basic human needs and health care are always an exception.

So first, time line I plan on taking the pledge for one year. I plan on starting 12-1-06 and ending 11-31-07. I won't beat myself up if I fail, but I am going to try my best to succeed. I am doing this for the following personal reasons.

1. I am a habitual consumer. I buy things that I don't need without second thoughts as to why I purchase it. I seldom go to shopping malls, because if I do, I buy stuff. I balk at buying things that cost more than $100, but will easily spend twice that on a combined purchase.

2. In contradiction to reason number 1, I really don't like shopping; I was never much of a mall rat.

3. I believe that Singapore and Singaporeans are both caught up in the Shopping for hobby, conspicuous consumption, branded label society that values the name on your jeans or the label on your purse more than the person who wears the jeans or carries the purse. I have found that I tend to look down at people who are not smartly dressed now and I want to change that behavior.

4. My children expect gifts, all the time. "Mommy, I want you to buy that for me." They get it from TV (although we don't watch lots of TV) and they get it from their friends and classmates.

5. Our world is finite. Our resources are finite. I travel as part of my career so I want to save resources elsewhere. I want to leave a better environment for my children. Oh, and I finally saw an Inconvenient Truth. Go see it. Then see it again and then go to the website. After you see the movie don't tell me if you don't think similar thoughts about our world.

6. I want to give my children and my family a healthier life. I want to prepare more homemade foods, less processed foods, more healthful whole foods. I can do that buy supporting local businesses and farms.

7. After 8 years in Asia, (on what was to be a 5 year plan) we can see the end of the tunnel. I want to save funds to pay off our burdensome student loan debt and be debt free (except the mortgage on the rental home in the US) in 3 years. In order to achieve this VERY ambitious goal we need to apply 35-40% of our salary to loans every month. And, once we are debt free I want to start a retirement account. Yes, I am 40 and my retirement account is well, not very much. That is the disadvantage of working as a "contractor" and overseas at that. So, it is time to build the nest egg.

So that is why.

Now, here are my personal guidelines for the year.

1. Don't buy anything I don't need!
2. Buy items that I need used, second hand or free at places like Freecycle.
3. Exceptions for basic clothing needs including our trip home to the US in January where we stock up on Children's and adult sock, underwear and basic clothing items like shirts and pants for work.
4. Purchase as much local produce and products made in Singapore as possible. If not made in Singapore, produced as close as possible (Malaysia being the closest choice).
5. Borrow or Barter when possible to reduce purchases (even those used)
6. Exemptions for health care items, personal care items must be only basics and do not include "designer makeup" and the like.
7. Eat as many meals at home as possible including taking lunches and making homemade versions of many convenience foods in order to be more frugal and healthy.
8. Continue to declutter my home and follow the 7 Things ring.
9. Exceptions for the home office will include basic office supplies, postage and papers but will not include "trinkets or gadgets".
10. Exceptions for craft supplies is linked directly to the publication of the Book and will not include personal scrapbooking supplies for one year.

As one fellow compacting blogger stated, the goal is not to deprive myself or my family, but rather to simplify my life and step away from my consumer behavior. I do not require my spouse to take part in the pledge, but will help him when I can to reduce his footprint.

So, last few days in preparation for my big step. I will tell you how it goes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful- A very personal post to my family.

Sometimes living overseas traditional holidays are just not quite the same. Thanksgiving is never on a Thursday for us as it is not a day off and taking vacation time just doesn't seem like a good use of the limited vacation days we have. But we do celebrate in our own way, just on the weekend. Marking the traditional holidays back in the States is often so automatic, it is done by the length of the day, the tempurature outside, the giggles and excitment of the people around us. Not so much the same here.

Halloween is just a day for young adults to dress up in Ghost or Blood Covered costumes and get drunk at a club, trick or treating really only happens up around the American School and with over 1500 kids wandering the streets my 3 and 5 year old are just not quite big enough this year. We did a small trick or treat here in the halls of the condo, but we were the only ones in our building that understood the practice and it wasn't quite the same.

Thankgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. Eating as a celebration. What a great idea. I love food, good food, more food it is all good. No expectations as to gifts, no feelings of discomfort over the gifts you got, or didn't get, the gifts you gave which weren't appriciated or understood. Thankgiving was simply a reason to get together with the family, play a good game of Trival Pursuit and eat good food.

This is the holiday where I miss my family the most. The joy we have of sharing and being thankful for what we have.

So, in honor of my family back home, this is for you.

I am thankful for my mom and dad. Thanks for raising me right for teaching me values that follow me to this day, for teaching me that my actions have consequences, both good and bad, and how to know the difference. Thank you for my college education. Thank you for the loans when times were tight. Thank you for understanding my less than ordinary path. Thank you for appriciating that my once in a lifetime experiences-be it Germany, China, Japan, or jumping out of an airplane have shaped me to the person I am now and thank you for only screaming internally when I hit you with my latest wild hair. Thanks for being there in my worst year when I was injured in a moped accident that would forever change my life and thanks just for raising me to be a good person.

Thank you to my Sisters. From our childhood until today, I am proud and honored to be your sister and I am thankful that for all my bullying as a child you didn't just pop me one in the kisser :-)

To Jeff- The man who became my partner, my friend, my life. Thank you for being that goof ball that you are, even if it means I have to occasionally peal my kids off the wall when you have gotten them riled up right before dinner.

To Jeff and Bonnie and Amy, Hasn't anyone ever told you people that I am supposed to be the evil daughter in law? The woman who stole your son and brother and moved him around the world? So why are you always so darn nice to me? I am thankful for having the luck of the draw that you are my spouses family. Thanks for allowing me to be part of your family too.

Linda- Thanks for making Dad happy, for wine tasting trips and sharing a love of old movies and Hollywood trivia. BUT NO THANK YOU for besting me on the American President movie trivia. I will never live down the shame.

Nancy, thank you for all you do around here. You have no idea how your quiet presence has enriched our lives.

And thanks to God, the Universe, The Earth, The Sun and all that surounds my life. Opportunities given to me, lessons learned, beauties seen and shared, life lived fully and to the edge. This is a great life and I am thankful for every minute.

Finally, thanks to the pookie and monkey boy. Because of you everything else is better.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Seven for the week.

A couple of days late, but I did get seven items out the door and to be "reused" by someone else. This weeks 7 all went to the Salvation Army as I was just too busy to get them onto freecycle.

Here they are:

1. A copy of Oprah What I know for sure. I think I got this free with a magazine I bought.

2.A blank book with colored papers. I know I bought this with the intention of it being a journal, or an altered item or something. I have had it for over 3 years and haven't used it yet so it was no loss to let it go.

3. A Ken Follett book that both Jeff and I have read.

4,5,6. TShirts that I don't wear any longer and need to be reused by someone else.

7. A skirt I don't wear anymore.

So, the other thing going on here is the continued clean up of my office/storage/craft/spare bed room. I should show you all a picture of the floor. But, it is probably better if I don't. But, you can check out the Far Flung Blog to see what I did with all of my scraps of craft paper. The file cabinet has all been sorted and now it is just putting it all away.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Eating-The food we eat and choices

So, Helene posted a question and while inherently I knew the answer it set me digging. The question is why is eating at home better for the environment?

Off the top of my head I could think of half a dozen reasons why I want to eat home meals more often.

Some are budgetary, some are based on ecological concerns.

Eating out for lunch every day costs my husband around 150 a month. Small beans for some-big beans (beans being the euphemism for $) for others. Eating out 2 days a week for lunch would save about $100. This assumes you are only spending between 7-8 per meal, it is very hard to find a lunch in downtown Singapore for less than $7.

Second, the types of food available inexpensively for lunch are at best semi-nutritious and at worst filled with trans-fats, sugars, un-heatlhy carbs and other goodies that the McD's of the world fill our stomachs with. Eating food prepared at home can be more nutritious by simply using fresh ingredients.

Third, the Chain type lunch restaurant has never been very good in terms of environmental practices. They buy the produce at the lowest cost-not the best produce. This often means using poor land by poor farmers using soil depleating farming methods that will burn through the soil in less than 5 years, or buying from the huge multi-corporate farm that is backed by the petrochemical fertilizer industry.

Chain type restaurants ship product around the world at enormous costs in terms of fuel consumption and environmental impact. Potatoes for example are shipped from Washington State to Singapore(and apologizes in advance to my friend who works for the Washington Potato Commission) it is not ALWAYs, and I say this from my Ag Econ degree earned 20+ years ago, healthier or more cost efficient to ship products around the world. Adam Smith was part right but not entirely.

Next, if you have eaten in a local hawker center you can see the amount of waste generated by eating out. People use napkins and leave them on the ground. People use plastic bags and at best toss them into a trashcan to be taken out to landfills in our oceans.

Eating out tends to promote eating higher on the food chain. Now I am an avowed omnivore. I love my meat, but I admit way too much meat is consumed and it is not always the healthiest types. While I don't always agree that the consumption of grains will automatically reduce our footprint (depending on the grains we consume and where we get them from...) it is true that a diet filled with more meat will tax the environment more than one filled with vegetables.

Eating at home also gives us the ability to eat organic. I can only count on one hand the number of organic restaurants in Singapore, and the few that exist are expensive.

So, those are my quick answers. Now- as a former aggie and an economist at that, I have always been fascinated in the production of food. I scream at my computer screen when I read people who write that selective breeding of crops and animals is the same as genetic engineering. NOT TRUE... but I digress.

I started a quick search on line today for resources and books that talk about the environment, politics and the food choices we make. Here are a few links. I am going to go down to the library and am going to re-read a few of these and reserve a few I have not yet read.

Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation

John Robbin's Diet for a New America- A classic must read. While it turns many over to vegetarianism- I still eat meat, it still is a very important read.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

Diet for a small planet- Another classic book.

Plus here are a few links about diet and our food choices.

Politics on our plate

A book review of the Ethics of what we Eat by Peter Singer

An interview with Michael Pollan, author of the omnivore's dilemma

Oh and PS to those Compactors reading the links to Amazon are for your reference only I am not advocating purchase of these books ;-)

Don't you love questions that get you spinning and make you want to learn more? I do!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Seven for the week of 11/10

So, I listed 7 things on Singapore Freecycle last night and by 9 am 5 of the 7 had been taken. Anything not out the door (at least reserved by midnight tonight) will be on its way to the Salvation Army tomorrow.

I feel liberated, I am glad I am going through stuff and getting rid of stuff. My office organization, while taking quite a bit of time is coming along and I am glad to be moving on with this.

So, here are the seven things that went out the door this week (actually I got rid of about 50 things on Tuesday, but that was before i found the 7things challenge...)

1. Making Designer Scrapbook Pages by Hot off the Press
2. Fibers and More- A book about using fibers in Scrapbooks
3. Award Winning Scrapbook Pages-by Creating Keepsakes
4. Watercolor Journeys, Create your own travel sketchbook by Richard Schilling5. Kwik Sew's Sewing for Toddlers (Includes Patterns)
6. Up the Back, Down the Front-Knitting Sweater Patterns with no shoulder seams.
7. Black Canvas Laptop Bag (from the INTA assoc.)

Seven Things

I am coming late to this party, but I love this idea. Giving away or clearing our house of 7 things a week. This really fits with my overall goals for the year, so I will give it a shot.

I have already signed up for Freecycle, I regularly give away to the Salvation Army here, and I am a champ at recycling... so now, it is a perfect seague into my comming year.

So, here are the basic priniciples from the seven things project. The below is cribbed from her site and is my own modifications.

She started on 7/7/06. Since I am joining late, I intend to get rid of 7 things a week until the project ends on 7.7.07.

The guidelines: I will sell, donate, give away, or recycle seven things every week.

Every Saturday, I will post the Saturday Seven, list of the seven things I got rid of that week (along with pictures when I can) and an explanation of how long I've had these things, why I continued to hold them and where they went.

So, I am making my stack of Seven things for tomorrow!

So, I am going to do it...

I have decided that December first will be the day. I am going to take the compact pledge and buy nothing new for one year.

A few things I need to figure out will be the exceptions as we return home in January for our annual trip/holiday and while undies and socks are often allowed expenses, the kids will also need new clothes. I am a big believer in recycled clothes, but we are going to be in LA and may not have the time to find good quality resale stores. I may except their yearly clothes shopping from my "Compact Pledge".

As for Christmas gifts, I am either going to give my sisters something I make, or try to "cheat" a bit and get the gifts (probably gift cards) purchased before my start date. It is very hard to get presents for siblings and family members anyway, but count the fact that we live overseas and it is even harder. I want to give my sisters a gift that means something to them, that won't just be crap/clutter, and something they can use. My Sister Trish is getting a new home, so maybe a gift certificate for Lowes or something, maybe a months worth of housecleaning for those crazy few weeks after she has to unpack. For Kathy, I don't know. I hope to talk to her this weekend to see what she wants'/needs. I have some birthday gift ideas for the two of them that will not require new purchases, so I hope I can pull that together.

Ah, so much to plan in the next 2 weeks....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What we do right...

I am thinking about what steps I take here that reduce my footprint, that allow me to get in touch with my simple life leanings and what I can do to further reach my goal of leaving the world a bit better than when I came.

1. We support candidates in the US that are pro-environment, pro-women's rights, peace supporting candidates, we vote in every election even as absentee voters. We feel strongly that as US citizens it is our duty to vote even if we are not currently in the US.

2. I work from home. I only go to the office once a week for meetings

3. For the last 7.5 years we have not owned a car and we rely on forms of public transportation to get us around.

4. We do not own a microwave, we wash dishes by hand, we line dry our clothes.

5. The children eat almost all of their meals cooked at home.

6. We buy local produce when ever possible.

7. We don't buy much convenience food, we prepare most of our meals at home.

8. We recycle our cans, plastics, glass and newspaper. My office paper is still an issue.

9. We live with 5 people in a small house.

10. We are not (Generally) consumers of junk for pleasure.

Where I think we (or I) can do better.

1. Take the bus to the office on the days when I have to be in town, rather than a taxi.

2. Stop purchasing magazines. This is my biggest weakness, the glossy finish (even those printed with soy on recycled paper) grabs me and I can't help but buy them.

3. Eat more meals at home (Jeff and I). While the kids eat 99% of their meals at home, Jeff and I tend to eat out more. Jeff eats lunch almost every day out and I tend to eat out when downtown. We do go out to dinner about 1 time a week. I can help Jeff by packing lunches for him.

4. Find a way to recycle my office papers and go paperless when ever possible.

5. Not buy scrapbook/craft stuff until I have used what I have. Make do or do without. (this may be an exception to the Compact pledge I am working on if the book deal goes through).

6. Buy more local produce and support the local organic farms here again.

7. Travel lightly when on business travel and try to make better choices about my business travel.

8. Find and source alternative goods in Singapore, like Dr. Bronners soap.

9. Drink less Diet Coke. Um, ok, this is just an overall health thing... we all drink too much pop in our home.

10. Come up with my guidelines for the Compact Pledge and a start date for the Pledge.

While this is no means an exhaustive list, this is just what I think I can do that will make a small impact.

The very hungry Caterpillar

Ok, the book by Eric Carle was one of the kids recent favorites and in the quest to get rid of a bunch of children's books that the kids no longer use, we gave a bunch to the Salvation Army here in Singapore. SOMEHOW, the Very Hungry Caterpillar was placed in the stack and according to Nancy it was sent along to the salvation army. So, here is my dilemma. Do I go back to re-purchase it at Borders (which I am not excited about as I think more and more about my consumption)... Do I try to find the actual copy of the book that got donated and re-purchase my copy from the very store I gave it to? Do I try to find other barter/used sources. The children's library near our house is not that great, but I could try to borrow it...

Argh, sometimes no good deed goes un-punished.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Living Room

  This is the new "reading nook" where we spend Saturday mornings reading the paper with the breeze from the porch.

  This is the living portion of the room, the bookshelfs moved from the opposite wall, the paint a nice off white with white celing.


The kids play area, organzied with a new place to store all of the Tomas/Brio Trains, crayons and play stuff
  Finally looking out towards the deck with new sheer curtains (the old ugly curtains tied back) clothes drying on the line outside, the breeze coming in the doors.

Small things perhaps, but I spend 80% of my day in the house, it is nice to have it look a bit better than a college dorm. Posted by Picasa

Peace...and finally some pictures

It is 9 am, I have had one conference call, about to start a second call, but it is quiet. I don't know how long the peace will last before the neighbors start hacking and jackhammering again, but for now... I will take it.

So, I wanted to show off some pictures of my new clean, repainted and reorganized living room.

This is what it looked like before we painted.

Not bad, just tired. Dirty walls-chipped paint, looks like a rental (which it is). So, we have decided to stay in our current apartment for at least one more year. To get debt paid down (student loans)build up a savings and look into purchasing a home in a few years. BUT, I was fed up with looking like we lived in a rental. I wanted to have some minor changes. I wanted some paint to make the walls look better.

So, the landlord agreed to paint the walls off white, it was like pulling teeth though as she thought the color would be too dark and would require to much rework when we moved out. I also went to Ikea and spent a bit of money on some candles, pillows, drapes and bookends. The biggest cost was for storage for the kids toys. It works so much better now. I didn't spend much about 250 US and I really feel good about the way the living room looks now. It works better, the kids have a place for toys, and the living room portion is more livable. The TV (only a 19 inch) has been moved closer to the door, but is only a small part of the room. I wish I could find a nice closed unit for the TV, but that will come later.

What the place looks like now in the next post

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Just sick of the hammering

It has been almost two days of hammering upstairs to remove the tile floors. They say they will be done before 4pm today. But, I work from home. I am tied (for better or worse to the internet for work). And, I can't work. ARGH.

Getting closer and closer to making some decisions about my footprint here on the earth, my desire for simplicity and my needs. More when it all gels.

Monday, November 06, 2006


So, today, I was going to write about how my house has been repainted and it looks really nice and clean. But, alas, I am sitting in my office with the loud sounds of my neighbors hacking out the tile. Not a nice experience and I have to make a call soon.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A bit about consumerism in my household

I an a consumer, a relucant one perhaps, one that does think about the items I purchase and Jeff and I have tracked every cent that goes out the door for over a year. We plan our big purchases, we try to buy everything now with cash, or on credit if we know we can pay it off in one month. We fit 5 people in a 1600 square foot apartment, and the apartment also serves as an office for my work as well as a storage center for the Far Flung Craft business stuff. That being said, I really don't buy lots of stuff cause we don't have any place to put it, OR SO I THOUGHT!

We renegotiated our lease this month and first a few oddities about the Singapore rental market.

1. Contrary to the US market, long term leases are NOT cheaper. We wanted to do a 2 year lease at our current rate, have some work done around the house and in return we would stay for two years. Um, no. Landlord wanted to increase the rent by 15%. We knew they would raise the rent that is why we asked for work to be done (painting mostly) but not 15%... so if we stay only one year, the do all the work and they only increase the rent by 11%. What ever...

2. Even when you try to save money by not getting an agent involved, the cheap landlords who want to increase the rent by 15% still call the agent and end up paying him 900 Sing dollars. Now, because we only signed a one year lease, if we stay they will pay it again. Um, lets see, or you could have let us stay at our current rent, paid to paint the apartment and pocketed 1800. As it pencils out now, you actually LOSE money. I am sure the repairs we asked for are more than the one year delta in rent increase-minus the agent fee. WHAT EVER...

So, back onto consumerism, I really think we try to watch what we buy, the kids have a couple of boxes of toys and that is all. Most of the toys are in the living room, because there is simply not enough room in the shared bedroom they have. My big weakness is craft stuff that I buy and then don't use... but that is an issue for another time and place. The biggest thing is BOOKS... We really only have two bookshelves in the living room, and two in the bedroom, but all of the books have to come off the shelves before they are moved so we can paint. YIKES, I through out my shoulder muscle... and it hurts btw, but cripes, we have a lot of books.

We also have a fair amount of just Junk. Stuff that accumulates over time- grimy build up on the stove- just like the build up of crap. Storage closet filled with stuff we don't use, including Jeff and my backpacks from our travels when we were young. Need to donate this stuff to the salvation army and hope someone else can use it. So, the point of this rant I guess is that being frugal, trying to reduce our footprint is something that takes constant work. It is easy to start gathering more.

I am seriously considering joining the Compact (well I mean taking the pledge). I don't know if Jeff will join me or not, and I will have to carve out a personal exeception as our once a year trip to the States to stock up on Kids clothes, shoes and our own personal items will be in February. But, could I do it? Could I only buy used or do without for a year? I am really thinking about it...

Peace yall.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wired Magazine October 2006

So, Wired has a couple of interesting articles this month. The first is just a one page article on the "green" choices. Now, everything has always taken a toll, but the paper vs. plastic debate has long gone on. So, rather than reproduce the entire page... here are Wired magazines' choices

1. Diapers-Cloth or Disposable? Go cloth if you wash at home, second choice is disposable last choice is a diaper service. Why? Look at not only the landfill use, but energy consumption to produce, dispose and launder diapers. And, draught prone areas should probably consider disposable.

2. Paper or Plastic? Paper takes more energy to produce, but are bio degradable, and take more room in landfills. Choice: Get your own cloth and reuse.

3. Coffee Cups? Ceramic may not be the best choice as it would take the equivalent of 294 paper or 1800 polystyrene cups to make just one ceramic cup. So, don't buy a new ceramic cup, use the one you have.

4. Hand wash dishes or dishwasher? Handwashing almost always uses more water. Go for the dishwasher.

The second big article is on biofuels. I need to finish this one and I will be back to post about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Chickens and Roads

just a little fun for your reading pleasure (from Tracy Roos' Blog)

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road...
DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on "THIS" side of the road before it goes after the problem on the "OTHER SIDE" of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his "CURRENT" problems before adding "NEW" problems.
OPRAH: Well I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls,which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
ANDERSON COOPER/CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.
JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am for it now, and will remain against it.
JUDGE JUDY: That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.
PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.
MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.
DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain. Alone.
JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's why they call it the "other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media white washes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side." That chicken should not be free to cross the road. It's as plain and simple as that!
GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.
BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.
JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together - in peace.
ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2006,which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet explorer is an integral part of eChicken. The Platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^( C \\\\..... reboot.
ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?
BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?
AL GORE: I invented the chicken!
COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Friday, October 06, 2006


Or a riff on why I really need to make this commitment to my choice of lifestyle. Why, even if my DH gets a raise today (which I hope) we continue to live consciously and not spend more because we can, not consume more because we have the money.

The air quality in Singapore over the last week has sucked. The PSI index has been in the 60s daily and upto 73 one day. OF course they tell you it is not unhealthy until it reaches the 100 range, yuk. The air is smoggy, the air smells like smoke-like destruction, like the forest fires and slash burning in Indonesia that is causing the haze. Every year Singapore and Malaysia are plagued with the haze that is blown over from fires in Indonesia. Some of the fires are accidental, but most are slash fires. Fires caused when thousands of acres of forest land are converted into "fields". This bothers me to no end. Why? Because I am a farmer by love. An ag economics major. The granddaughter of a cattle rancher, a dry land wheat farmer, who made his living working land the way it was supposed to be worked. Taking into consideration the seasons, taking into consideration the fact that they did not have irrigation, so you laid half of your land fallow every year, allowed it to rest. You didn't make the land into something it is not intended to be. Of course I am sure he used fertilizer, but not even close to the levels used today. He worked with the land, not against it.

I could go on a whole long riff about the failure of modern agriculture, but not today. Today, it is about why I want to leave the world a better place for my kids. Why I want to live in a society that values the old as well as the new, that values the trees more where they stand, than on the ground as lumber. Why I won't buy teak furniture, even though it is beautiful and inexpensive and traditional to this region, but because it is now over processed and forests are being logged bare for the inexpensive furniture. As much as you may read about sustainable Teak harvest... I can tell you it doesn't exist. The trees are cut without replanting, it is all about the immediate sale, not the future. Not that the logger is entirely to blame. He has been sold a bag of dreams that can only be filled when he has a big screen TV, just like those rich people in the US.

So, for now, I am happy with my 19" TV, without cable. I am happy with my used furniture, I am happy with my microwave free kitchen. I am happy that my kids have some toys but not as many as others and I am happy that my biggest monthly "purchase" is almost always books and not crap. Every day is a step, somedays are better than others. Somedays I buy because it is there, but when the day is done, I KNOW that the purchase was not the best, I learn and I move on.

I still wish I had a food processor though ;-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Things and consumerism.

I have said it before, this I know, but living in a consumer culture is always hard. Living in Singapore, where the consumerism is not only a way of life it is a hobby, is really hard.

How do you teach children not to expect new things every time a toy breaks. How do you teach them that a houseful of toys is still too many (even if they have less than friends?)

I just saw that the New Dream Org has posted a great brochure for free on their webpage about raising kids in a consumer culture.

You can download the brochure here.

For me it is a matter of reducing the amount of temptation-

1. No cable TV
2. No "Kids" magazines
3. Teaching family members about the types of gifts we want
4. Small family/close friend only birthday parties.

Then it is about teaching responsibility

1. While my kids are too young for allowance, they get "stars" when they do something like put away dishes. When the star sheet is full they get to buy one small present. (usually about 1 time every three months).
2. Teaching the kids that possessions need to be cared for and if it breaks you either fix it or do without.
3. Teaching values and honest money talk when the kids get older. I want to teach them about the time value of money and the ability to save. I wish I had learned this better as a kid-either it wasn't taught or I didn't get it.
4. I want them to save for college as soon as they are old enough to understand it.

This is way more important as we are paying for private school here in Singapore and our ability to save for college for them is well... not very high.

It is about choice. I choose to travel and spend my money on life experience, so when I don't have the big house or even a car, I need to remind myself this was my choice. I don't need to have a 5000 square foot house to be happy, my 1600 SQF 3 bedroom apartment should be enough.

Anyway, just some thoughts on consumerism today.

Now, the goal is to get to the grocery store and back today without buying more than just bacon and dried apricots.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I blew it :-(

I went shopping yesterday. I bought things I didn't need and frankly really didn't want. I had to get a new fan for the office. Living in Singapore is great, but it is hot. I try to spend the bulk of the day in my office without Aircon. But, I do need a fan. The old one (which was super cheap) lasted about 1.5 years longer than the 6 month warranty so I feel ok with that-but it wouldn't even turn on anymore. I also needed to get Declan a bigger backpack for school. That kinda ticked me off cause we got him a backpack just this summer that is still in great condition, but it is too small for his school books. Anyway, so I went to the store, and I got those.

Then, I went to my friend's store, the local scrapbook store in town. They have just opened up in thier new space, and it is all bright and shiney and flashy and I walked out with stuff I don't need. I have a scrapbook room filled with stuff I need to use, but when I see new stuff, I feel the need to buy it. Generally I just don't go down to the store very often, just to avoid tempation, but it was the grand opening you know-

Finally, I got a gelato. I spent 3 dollars on it and I took 2 bites. I realized I really didn't want it, it really wasn't that good and my butt is too big... so I trashed it. Bad waste of $ good health choice I think. So, I guess it is all about challenge eh?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sustainable Tourism in Beijing

Ok, first off. I did go shopping at Panjianyuan (The dirt market) in Beijing. I was pretty happy because I didn't feel the need to buy lots of stuff, I found a few items that I liked, were within my "budget" and would be great additions to the house for decor (as I plan on finally decorating my house soon after 7 years of living with "rented" furnishings. Anyway, I spent less than 50 US, ended up with 5 handbound silk cover photo albums with rice paper that will be Christmas gifts (ok family so you already know what it is... but what tell you see what I do with them!)

Plus, I got a leather covered box with a tray inside. This will eventually become a TV remote/TV guide box on my coffee table. Finally I got the most awesome Chairman Mao metal placard that will match my antique cultural revolution posters that I have been waiting to frame. I feel that was a pretty good score for $50.

But, let me tell you about this great thing happening at the great wall. Mr. James Spear, his wife Liang and their partner Fred He are doing good things. I really am very impressed. Jim, Fred and Liang have opened up an abandoned school house, turned it into a retreat/restaurant and will also have a glass blowing facility with a gift shop included. You can see some pictures of the facility here. It is the goal to provide work for the villagers of Mutianyu-other than selling trinkets and crap on the wall. The glass blowing facility (coupled with other plans that the group has for new facilities) will also be staff (waiters, groundskeeper, kitchen staff, Gift shop staff) all with village residents. I applaud the work of these great innovators. They want to spread by word of mouth and I will really try to tell all of the people I know about them.

So, if you are in Beijing and you want to visit the Great Wall of China, why not go to Mutianyu. Stop off at the Schoolhouse after your wall climb, grab a snack, visit the glass blowing facility and know that the money you spend will go towards a better more sustainable future for the residents of Mutianyu Village.

kudos Jim, Liang and Fred

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Needs Vs. Wants- Travel spending

I love travel. It is one of the things that really floats my boat. The ability to go to places and visit with people. The ability to see new things, meet new people, explore my world.

What I can't stand is the desire that I feel everytime to spend. When I was a backpack traveler, the desire to spend was not even there. If I bought a dress, it was handmade of batik fabric and cost 4 dollars. I wore the dress the rest of the trip. When I travel now for work, I find that the trinkets, the crap, the junk seems to be more attractive. I buy magazines at the newstand, I buy books (and while they are great reads) I don't need them.

I am traveling with the rest of the my co-workers and the shopping has been relentless. Every spare minute, they are off in the markets-shopping for stuff they don't need or really even want if they sat down and thought about it.

Declan and Kiera wanted a gift, so rather than more junk, I bought Declan and Chinese Kite and Kiera a wooden puzzle. I am going to the Dirt Market today, a famous Beijing Antique market- I am actually excited about this because I don't need anything. I want to see the antiques, dig through the stacks of stuff, all sold as a second hand flea market. And, should I buy something it is because I recognize that I want it.

More on Monday about a great sustainable tourist site I was at here in Beijing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Singapore History in Blogs

I must be getting old. Yep, it is a fact, history now interests me. Why is it that history only tends to be something that us "old" people are fascinated with? Anyway, I should get on with the story. (Old people tend to ramble too)

I have long been a reader of Good Morning Yesterday, a great blog about growing up in Singapore when the island nation was developing into a first world power. Now, I have found a great site, thanks to a new paper article, that features even more information about the Singapore that was.

The site, has personal stories, information and Vignettes about Singapore, as it was yesterday. Great site. Worth a read!

Also a fascinating look at pictures from the 1950-60's can be found on this website. some of the pictures are from Sussex Estate, which used to be down the road from here at the corner of Clementi and Dover. I can assure you, this doesn't exist anymore and it is all HDB flats.

Another bit of Singapore history that I indulged in recently was a viewing of the movie Saint Jack. Filmed by Peter Bogdonovich in Singapore in 1978, it captured a bunch of fast disappearing images of Singapore including the Old Bugis street and the Billie boys that frequented the street as well as images of a fast moving exotic Singapore that well, simply, doesn't exist anymore. A great book about the movie (and the original book by Paul Theroux) is called "Kinda Hot". Seeing the movie was great, reading the book and getting the back story about how a movie was filmed in Singapore in just over 2 months on a budget of around 2 million dollars was fascinating. I suggest, read the book Kinda Hot first and then the movie is even better.

Friday, September 15, 2006

What is important?

So post 9-11 a bit, there are lots of things going on in my life right now. I am working full time and work is very busy. I'm trying to get some new product off the ground for Far Flung Craft, trying to work on a book deal, spending time with the kids and Jeff and getting enough of that always elusive sleep.

Yesterday Kiera had a bit of an "asthma" attack. Not super bad, but her breath was labored and she had an elevated heart rate. We had been weaning her off her daily dose of medicine with the doctors advice, but ran out of one of her two puffers. So I ran to the doctor and got a refill. She spent the day on the couch pretty punky and a bit wheezy but while she is not 100% better today, she is much better. I spent a bit of time yesterday just loving her up and recognizing how very much these kids mean to me. I guess it is not a surprise the biology takes control and you become much more attentive to the kids when they are sick. You feel the need to care for them. but, my actions yesterday always come into play when I think of the normal day and how I interact with the kids.

I am blessed I work from home, but I still have to work normal work hours. I end up on the computer from around 7:30 until 6:30 or so everyday. Some of it is like now, posting on blogs/boards, but most is work. It is better than doing the same hours out of the office, but I still wonder... what is important? The family or the work?

I love my family-but you know I really do like my job. It is what I dreamed of my whole life. Living and working overseas. Practicing international law. Cool. I get to spend a couple of minutes of almost every hour with my daughter (excepting the few hours she is in preschool) and I got to share the same with my son before he started attending school full time. That is better than a lot of working moms get, I know, but am I selfish then when Jeff comes home to send the kids out with Nancy to play so that Jeff and I can eat dinner together and watch 35 minutes of TV before they come back in and go to bed? Sometimes I think so. Should I postpone that TV/dinner time until they go to bed at 8:30? Am I rambling? Do I make sense?

Anyway, in a post 9-11 world where gunmen kill students in Canada, where Singapore has disallowed the entry of 27 delegates to the IMF/World Bank seminar, where the US war on terror has created more of a mess than it has solved, what is important in my life? Should I continue to work my ass off to make those student loan payments or should I spend more time with the kids? Should I try to pay for Declan's tuition at the American School, or let him develop in Singapore schools (albeit more slowly). Nothing but rhetorical questions here. Nothing but random thoughts.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Struggles with frugality

I struggle every day with being frugal. I have the impulse shoppers disease. Which living in place like Singapore SUCKS. If I go out, I am bombarded with shopping options. Hells Bells, the library is even located in a shopping mall. I can't get to the door of the library to borrow a book without passing through a number of stores. For the most part I try to go to my local library at Bukit Panjang, so the shopping options are reduced due to the schlock at BPP, but the fact remains that Singapore is a consumer culture.

I am currently reading about a group calling themselves the Compact. The idea is no new spending (exceptions for work, food, toiletries and the like) for one year. Interesting principle. So, holidays are homemade (purchase of craft supplies are allowed, which for me is a big NONO as I spend but don't use). The compact says no travel for pleasure (ie vacations) but the idea won't really work for us at least not yet. BUT, what reading these posts do give me is inspiration as to how to fight the shopping beast. Travel more lightly on the world, buy used rather than new, buy quality products that will last, even if the cost is a bit more.

so, I got out my Tightwad gazette and I am enjoying reading it again. Lots of great ideas, some practical, some not...I will try to post here more often with what I am doing to fight this beast.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Interesting how life tends to be syncronistic. Or at least it appears that way, the thoughts that I have been having recently have been mirrored in a few ways. In the lastest issue of Money magazine was an article of an extreme frugal family. In many ways, I would love to be them. They save 50% of their monthly income, and they have 5 kids with one on the way. But, they are an extreme.

Over on the Honest Scrapbooker blog, there are ongoing discussions on the cult of shopping and our need as scrapbookers to consume the newest items, only to have them sit on a shelf. PERSONALLY VERY GUILTY HERE!

And, then as I enter our monthly expenses into the computer to track our spending (we don't budget per se, but track instead to determine savings patterns and needs) I noticed that we have started to spend again. A few items are required. Tuition for Declan, Tax bill that came due made August the biggest month of spending I think I have ever PERSONALLY paid, without loans. But, even with Jeff having taken some time off last year, we saved and paid cash for everything. Even so, as Jeff is now earning money again, our expenses have increased. Some, of course as would be expected are required expenses... transportation has increased. But so has dining out, some is Jeff and his lunches, and it seems silly to fuss over 6 sing a day for lunch, but it does add up. That is an increase of 140 Sing a month (figure 23 work days). That money could go onto our student loans and would pay off my student loan sooner. In fact that is about 90 US, so my high interest student loan would be paid off one and a half years earlier..simply by adding $90 a month.

What are we going to do? I don't know. Cut back again, stop getting magazines at the store every weekend, stop buying convience food for Declan's snack and instead feed him homemade food, stop purchasing coffee/muffins at starbucks (already better now that I have cut out milk)... but the point remains. Just because we have two incomes again, doesn't mean we need to spend it all.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Off to School

  Declan getting on the bus.

  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 10, 2006

No More Milk :-(

Yes, that is a frowny face. I have fought this for years. Denial is a good thing. I just can't drink milk. Cheeses seem to be ok, a small bit of milk with my cereal is ok, but no milk. I get sick. Don't need to tell you details, but it is just not fun.

So, I haven't been a glass of milk drinker for a long time, but I do like Mochas, Lattes.. ice blended drinks. Give me the shot of extra whip... cause it tastes so good. How will I survive? I had a soy Mocha yesterday at Starbucks. It was ok, but not quite the same. The only good is good for loosing weight. And, good for my pocket book. While Jeff and I always try to watch what we eat, and what we spend our money on... my weakness has always been that ice blended drink at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. 7 Sing dollars and a stomach ache later, I always feel bad (both in a literal and figurative sense) afterwards.

So, onto another healthy change. Feeling better, feeling a bit richer the tune of 7 dollars, but still feeling a bit sad for the loss of my favorite drinks.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scrappers Talk Radio

So had some fun this week posting my opinions over at Scrappers Talk Radio. In a nutshell, I have been asked to be the international expert and opine on the trends in international scrapbooking. I mean really where to start... the awesome aussies like Ngaire Barlam, Emily Falconbridge, Helen Williams? The amazine Celine Navarro from France? How about Shimelle Laine?

How about the awesome companies like Delish Designs? Urban Lily? New designs comming from France? Oh where to start?

So, I started with Far Flung Craft and my reason for starting the business. Next week I will get to talk about someone else. Can't wait!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cost of Living

So, we are paying our taxes this month in Singapore. It is a big bite, but only because we don't withhold. Jeff worked 9 months last year, I worked the whole year. Because I work from home as an independent contractor and have the Far Flung Craft business, we are able to deduct business expenses for the business, which does help reduce our overall taxable income. That being said, taxes in Singapore are low. Really low.

In the US, we would be in the higher tax bracket based on our jobs. So far we still don't pay any US Tax (don't even get me started on the fact that US Citizens are about the only ones in the world subject to double taxation on income earned overseas....) but let me tell you what we paid this year.

Our total tax bill...less than 5.5% of our income. Unbeleiveable.

For this, we get semi-socialized medicine. Jeff's total hospital bill for surgery on his foot and an overnight stay was $500 US. We were NOT insured. That is TOTAL cost.

We have a high standard of living with all of the things we could need.

We have an effective and clean public transportation system that is inexpensive

We have access to public education for our children, if we chose to use it, for little cost.

We have a safe and clean environment in which to raise our family.

Even when you add in the cost of my child's private education and you assume that we would not pay for that in the US, our "Tax" is still less than 19%. Big issue will come when Kiera attends the American school if we can still claim that the cost of living is better here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pictures from February 2006


I am thinking about a scrapbook layout, but saw these pictures from February in Singapore. A big rainstorm, lots of puddles... lots of laughs. This is really what life is all about people! Pictures taken at Anchorpoint condo at Thomas Forster's birthday party. Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

Feeling anything but simple

I am really struggling. Work is always there, lots to do, little if no motivation... business is struggling, trying to find a path with the business that is workable. Family is arguing over money. I need to go back and read YMOYL again. I know that the hours I spend really do cost me "money" in terms of my life energy. I sit on the couch at the end of the day and I can't feel like playing with them, I know I am in a down mood. Part of my own deal, I am probably borderline Manic Depressive. More Manic than Depressed, but this is a down mode for me. I hate it, I hate feeling so helpless. I hate having hundreds of ideas that I want to see go somewhere, but don't get further than just dreams.

Need to find a way to reconnect with my core. My values. Need to be able to spend some time with the kids-without yelling at them-or trying to avoid crying just because.

Need to get back into those things that make me uniquely me. Time to simplify-time to find what works for me and what doesn't... and time to post more often as I reconnect.

Friday, June 09, 2006

In a funk

So, I was going great the last few weeks. Feeling happy, creative juices flowing. In a groove with keeping on top of work, personal life. Jeff started his new job at Chemoil. Left the house... I was on top of the world. I have my office back to myself. I organized and cleaned my craft section of the room. I brainstormed some biz ideas...then put pen to paper, and while my goal with the biz extension was not to get rich, but rather, to promote my (and a few other awesome gals) products, I am not sure the $ pencils out. I am determined to move forward to find a way of making people aware of my awesome products, without spending my children's tuition money, but today I am in a funk.

It is raining here, really really raining, thunder and lighting strikes out my window. cold wet weather (ok yes it is "cold" for Singapore.) Probably adds to the overall funk. Which really it is too bad. I had a couple of great days. Hooked up with some old friends that I have let get away from me. Saw my best British friend, dear Steve from London, hooked up with my bestest pal from McMinnville, now in Fallon NV, talked with her for over an hour on the phone. Had a great lunch with Elvira.... so maybe it is a let down. So, I am cranking the black-eyed peas... if that doesn't work, I will rock out to some Foo... see if that works.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

JW Marriott-Phuket

The Main Pool
Originally uploaded by Farflungcraft.
Some great shots from our much needed vacation. I did nothing, went nowhere, did nothing but lay by the pool, read 3 books, and scrapbook.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Ok, with the last few weeks being in the shitter, I am glad that is all over, I am trying to get back on a positive mind wave. Generally, I think of myself as an upbeat-outgoing-positive person. This is hard to do when you are stressed out and under a lot of personal and professional pressure. I basically almost let my little craft business wither on the vine because the rest of life was being right up front in my face and pushing me on all sides.

Anyway, trying to get back on the optimistic train, so I started to read Iyanla Vanzant. Wow, that woman had a lot of crap on her plate before she got it together. Sometimes I wanted to reach through the page and just slap the woman for doing the same stupid things again and again, but then I think she writes it that way. She wants you to see that she, just like the rest of us, is full of day to day BS that pushes her in the direction that she needs to go, or towards a lesson she needs to learn. I am not sure where my lesson is in all of the last few months, but I am sure I will find it.

But, in her book Yesterday I Cried, I read a quote that is probably the most true thing I have ever read. I read it and said, YES, that is it! That is so absolutely right on the money. So, here is the quote:

"There is something magical that occurs when a woman turns forty. She becomes more attractive in a sensual and seductive way. It's not that her body gets better, but I think she becomes more comfortable with her body and knows how to maneuver it better. At forty a woman's eyes begin to sparkle. Not with lust or excitement, but with wisdom. She has seen some things, done some things, and learned some things that show through her eyes. At forty, although there are some things on a woman's body that lie down, at the same time, other things stand out. They become clear. A forty-year-old woman finds her voice, gets her vision and her footing. When I turned forty, I became too old to try to be somebody else, so I stopped trying.

As I thought about it, I realized that I didn't have any sense at all until I turned forty. At twenty three, I thought I had all of the answers. When I turned forty, I realized that I had no idea what the question was."

Here's to finding the question and celebrating my age.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Feeling better this week

So far, it is only Tuesday, but I am feeling much better this week. I am planning a weekend trip to Phuket. My co-worker bought a time share at the JW Marriott, and so he was able to "gift" us a three day package. We have to listen to the time share speil, but for the cost of airfare ($99Sing on Tiger air including taxes) we get three nights at a totally kick ass resort.

It appears Jeff will not be able to swim, so the pool lounging is all mine I say! Plus, I can go for a snorkel... and leave him on the beach. AGAIN, I RULE!

Here is the fancy website for the Marriott. Can't wait!

I checked out a few books from the library, you know, some good old life affirmation books, the ones where Iyanla Vanzant tells you what a crappy life she had, and now she is ok. I also pulled out my favorite Maya Angelou books. Coupled with a Julia Cameron, I AM FEELING BETTER. Jeff, of course doesn't get it, but I read these books and I feel better. I can focus again.

Now, in only 5 days I will be on the beach with a pina colada in hand and getting very very silly drunk!

Friday, April 28, 2006

An Essay on Hell

This week has been bad. It sucked. I don't ever want to have a week this bad ever again. Ever. My week, starting last Friday, began with the horrible day of putting my dog to sleep. It sucked, it was horrible, I hated it. As much as I know it was right to let her go, I still miss her. I miss having her tail me around the house, have her sit in the office... heck I even miss the noxious dog farts, cause it was all part and parcel of her.

I worked a good part of the weekend on a big big deal for TI. We just sold off our Sensors and Controls division to Bain Capital for 3 Billion bucks. Worked our asses off. I worked on both the Malaysia and Singapore sides and thank god that was it.

Monday, the escalator at Bukit Panjang Plaza argued with Jeff. Jeff lost, so we spent 3.5 hours in the hospital (while I was supposed to be working on the above closing) and Jeff got admitted to NUH for surgery. If he had a blog, he could tell you all about it, but I guess being in a Semi-private room with 3 others still sucks if you are placed in the renal ward.

I flew out early Tuesday morning to Taiwan for work, after only about 3 hours sleep Monday night. Didn't get to see Jeff he was still at the hospital. Worked all night Tuesday (all night) slept about 1 hour solid, the rest of the night would wake up every hour to check email.

Wednesday,all day on phone for closing, only to get urgent SMS from Jeff saying Kiera has now been admitted to hospital for Asthma. So, I cancel the rest of the trip to Taiwan and come back to Singapore. Life sucks. I really want it to be better next week. I guess the optimist would say it could have been worse, or it can only get better. I can only hope for the better next week.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Today, my beloved best friend quietly went to sleep while I held her head and cryed with her. She looked me straigt in the eye until she went to sleep. Her life was a great one, filled with adventures of all sorts. From hikes around the great State of Oregon, camping with friends and family. Running around like a mad dog on crack after eating a bag of chocolate covered espresso beans, to jumping 6 foot fences. To hording food for the "possums" under our porch, to burying Lisa's turkey bagel sandwitch. Flying around the world as a international traveler, to being a watch dog and protector of me, Jeff and the kids.

JD, the best dog. A good dog. A dog that was part of my family-my life-

Rest in peace.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

All Around the World

I have been thinking about how blessed Jeff and I have been in terms of the places we have visited.

I am going back through some older pictures and I will make a list of where we visited starting February 2002 and ending in March 2003.

First, we lived in Taiwan.
So, we traveled to Singapore in Feburary 2002 for Chinese New Year.
We went to Phuket Thailand in April 2002
Shanghai China, July 2002
Japan in October 2002
Hong Kong and Macau November 2002
Guam in February 2003

Then back to the States in May 2003 to introduce Kiera to the family.

So, in one of my next posts i think I will make a list of all the places I have been... and a list of where I want to go. Now, international travel may not be high on the list of most simple living enthusiasts, but we forgo a lot in order to indulge in our passion. We have a 19 inch TV (which belongs to the apartment) We don't own a car, we don't eat out or shop at high end grocery stores every week. We don't shop often (or frankly even enough) for new clothes... What we do instead is travel.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The view out my window.

I am involved, well involved loosely, in an ongoing art journal lead by Shimelle Laine from the UK. Each week she sends us prompts about life, and we then take these and put them into our journal. I have been a bit remiss in my journal, and I am sorry for that, because when I have time to art journal, I love it. I hate my overall results, see I am not much of an artist, but the process itself is awesome. Well, last weeks prompt, which arrived late, was about taking a look around. One of the challenges was to look out of each window in your house. Then, carry it further, take a picture of every window you pass. Well, I can't really do that, as I do have to work in an office with people today, but I brought my camera and I am doing almost the challenge.

The point is, I am looking at Singapore today. It is really an amazing city when you think about it. I saw a movie this past week, called ring of fury. It was filmed in Singapore 30 years ago. Most of Singapore was rural and undeveloped. I think of where Los Angeles was 30 years ago. Or where New York was, London? Amazing. So, today I am taking pictures of Singapore as I go by. Gives me a few different impressions.

I will post my pictures later to flickr.


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