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.
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