Tag Archives: books

Children’s Books Featuring Simple Living

Here at Striving Stewardess, we talk a great deal about books for adults that feature simple living, minimalism, financial knowledge, and even books on chickens.

We haven’t really discussed books that are good reads for kids that encourage these ideas (though I haven’t yet learned of a good chicken book for kids!), but that does not mean such books do not exist!  Quite the contrary, children’s books that feature topics such as simple living are numerous, and serve as a great teaching tool for the littles in your life.  Here are a few to start with:

511mhgnbxwl-_sx367_bo1204203200_The American Girl Series/Anne of Green Gables/Little House books. Although each of these are a very different book series, all three encompass the “historical fiction” genre, and discuss encounters with simple living, minimalism, and even thrift.  I first became acquainted with the “Kirsten” character from American Girls as a first grader, and came to love the simple life lessons found in each book of the series.  Anne and Little House soon followed.  These would probably be best suited for those in elementary school, or older (as in the case of the Anne of Green Gables series).

51ugghaxdal-_sx370_bo1204203200_The Clown of God.  In this retelling of an old legend, Tomie dePaola reaches out to the picture book crowd, helping to teach youngsters that what matters are the gifts of yourself and your talents, not the fancier, earthly things.  This books seems especially well-suited for preschool age children and older.  Our son loves the illustrations in this book, and I love the religious undertones of the story as well.

The Bible (and many other religious texts).  I find it interesting that the common theme found among many religious books is the theme of simplicity (Jesus encouraging the rich man to give away his possessions, for starters). The great thing about books of faith is that there are different ways to present the material, from children’s Bibles, to religious instruction, that can be presented in an age-appropriate way.

I would love to hear what children’s books you know of that encourage simple living!

 

 

Learning for Free

notebooksI love to learn. As a kid, I remember how hard it was to sleep the day before a new school year because I was too excited. I anticipated starting school as much (or more) than my birthday or Christmas.

In college, I loved the first day of class when you would receive the syllabus. It was so much fun to read over what we would be studying and reading!

When I worked at Walmart, I loved ringing up school supplies. Almost as fun as buying them myself, though I was making money instead of spending it. Plus, my items rung per hour would go really high during August with all those small items.

Given how excited I’ve always been about school, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out I have a history degree as well as a graduate degree from a seminary. When I finished formal education almost 8 years ago, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Would life without studying turn out to be dull?

Turns out, it hasn’t been. While I’m no longer reading for credit, I read just as much now as I ever did as a student. (Bonus: I get to pick out the subjects I’m studying!)

Despite my own education background, I now value the education that can be found outside the classroom more than what I got in class. There are plenty of valid reasons to get a formal education, but I don’t think it’s the only way to learn.

Here are a few ways to learn for free:

1. MOOC it up. MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses. There are many places where you can take free online courses. Some formal institutions are offering them these days, or you can go through a site like Coursera, like I have done. All the benefits of an online class you’re paying for, without the cost.

2. Hit up the library. Think of a subject you’re interested in learning more about and find a book on the subject. Search for a good one online or take advantage of your local library’s research librarian. Even if your local library doesn’t have it, they can request if for you through inter-library loan.

The only problem is that you’re bound to think of related topic you want to explore more thoroughly so be prepared to have to repeat the process.

3. Apprentice yourself to someone doing what you want to do. If you have a skill you want to learn, ask to learn from someone who already has it. Cooking, gardening, carpentry, sewing…so many possibilities.

4. Listen while you work. Find a podcast or audiobook on a subject that interests you and listen to it while you do another task. I listen to hours of content a day this way. Even if you can’t listen at your job, you probably can listen in the car, while doing dishes or while mindlessly surfing the Internet. (And no need to pay for audiobooks: your local library probably has many available, on CD or in electronic format).

5. Make friends with someone whose first language is one you want to learn better. Practice your conversational language skills with them while getting to know them.

So even if you aren’t going back to school formally this fall, take some time during this season to renew your desire to learn!

Photo by Kitty Ireland

Joint Book Review: Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

51QtHln5c0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This month’s joint book review is Locally Laid:  How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm-from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen.  Detailing the process of how the Amundsen family created and developed their vision of a humane and healthy chicken farm, Locally Laid also provides information on the industry, and demonstrates the importance of local businesses with both humor and passion.

Amanda’s Take

I picked up this book because it came highly recommended for being both informative and humorous.  That’s a win for me!

This book did turn out to be both informative and very funny.  It also had the added effect of inspiring me to never raise chickens–at least not on the scale of the Amundsen farm, Locally Laid.  I would rather spend my time and energy on something I am a little more motivated to work on; the closest I have ever come to chicken-raising is watching a friend’s small flock for a weekend, and while educational, it is also laborious and, well, dirty.

A more subtle theme in the book is what it takes to start a business from the ground up–and not surprisingly, it entails a lot.  I really admire the courage it took for the Amundsen family to leave all they had known and take the leap of faith in starting a chicken farm.  They started out not knowing a great deal about the birds, but they followed their passion (or, in the case of the author, her husband’s passion) and learned a lot along the way.

Check out this book for more insight into what it takes to start a business–especially one involving animals–and for a lot of laughs along the way.

Ronnica’s Take

Reading Locally Laid gave me a much more realistic view of what it would be like to raise my own chickens. I don’t know that I ever will, but it’s something that I consider when I dream of growing most of my own food. I’ve always been more comfortable with plants than animals, but I think it would be a good thing to stretch myself in this area…if I get some first-hand experience first.

I enjoyed this book as it was one example of someone seeing a problem in our food system and taking action. I buy the cheap eggs (when I buy them, which isn’t that often), but I can see the merits of supporting businesses like Locally Laid. I’ll be honest, knowing more about where my food comes from is something about which I’ve willing stayed ignorant, sadly.

How I Began to Read More

Goodreads to readDisclaimer: This post is meant to encourage you if you feel you should be reading more. Everyone does not read at the same pace nor has the same amount of free time. While I believe that everyone should regularly be reading books in some form, how much and how fast will vary, and that’s okay.

I love to read. Always have. In the past decade, I’ve averaged finishing 95 books a year, including re-reads.

It would seem that I wouldn’t struggle finding time to read?

However, in the first 3 months of the year, I had only finished 3 books. One was for this blog, and the other two were read while I was flying cross-country. This was a continuation of a pattern I had been in since I stopped regularly using public transportation in late 2014.

I knew I had to find time to read in my schedule, and I knew where it was.

I was able to regularly watch 3 shows/day on a work day, and more on the weekends. I would justify to myself that it was often just on in the background, but it would still distract from reading.

Since my life plan helped me reduce how much I was saving on my DVR, I started wanting to watch less. I realized I could just watch one episode (instead of two) in the evening, then end my day spending 30-45 minutes reading a novel.

While this started out as a bit of an experiment, it has been successful. I realized that a good novel fulfills that desire for a good story that I had been filling with TV or movies. Adding on the extra reading time I have on weekends, I have been able to finish a novel a week.

After I did that, I decided to try to work in reading for spiritual growth and non-fiction, too. I get these done in the morning, either waking up early naturally for extra time in my schedule or instead of watching TV while I’m drinking my morning smoothie.

Yes, I naturally wake up 30 minutes before my alarm almost every morning. This is new for me, and almost certainly a result of eating better, being active during the day, and falling asleep faster as I’ve cut screens out of the end of the day.

When I add in my 2 hours of audiobook listening a day, I now read 3-4 books a week. At that rate I could finish my Goodreads TBR list in 3.5 years. Of course, I’d have to stop adding to it…

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

Joint Book Review: Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

gratitude diariesIn Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan takes a time of personal uncertainty after a loss of a job and decides to focus on gratitude in her own life. She focuses on gratitude for an entire calendar year, with different emphases each month.

You know how Amanda and I love a good “year of _______” book.

Amanda’s Take

It should come as no surprise that this book appealed to me before I even cracked it open; as noted above, I thoroughly enjoy a “year of” book.

Upon finishing, this book served as a catalyst for implementing my own version of a gratitude journal.  When I am faithful about intentionally noting what I am grateful for–even if it doesn’t seem as though I have much to count among my blessings–I notice a spillover effect in the rest of my life.  I tend to be more positive overall.

Kaplan’s book was an entertaining and enlightening read for me.   I recommend it, especially for those like myself, who may need a nudge in the gratitude direction.

Ronnica’s Take

I wish I could say that gratitude is something that I was good at. Unfortunately, I spend way too much time focusing on all the things that I wish I had or wished were different.

I needed this reminder to be grateful for what I have and where I am. Truly, I have so much to be grateful for.

I enjoyed reading Kaplan’s journey through gratitude, especially how sad she was to see the year be over. We truly can change so much in our world by changing our attitude towards it.

While I think that gratitude is important, I want to focus more on who I should be grateful to. I’m not sure I would find much solace in gratitude as a concept without having an understanding of who is behind it all.

Joint Book Review: Affluenza by John De Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor

51kepAY4UfL._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_Affluenza:  The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graff, David Wann, and Thomas H.  Naylor gives an in-depth analysis of America’s consumption issue, and provides solutions for how best to address the problems such rampant consumption causes.

Amanda’s Take

I enjoyed reading Affluenza–it was equal parts disturbing and motivating to me.  The tidbits about society’s obsession with over-consumption and how that impacts the environment were particularly striking to me, and made me want to strive to be more cognizant of my environmental impact.  Since I place family in high importance, I was also struck by how much of a (negative) impact our current level of consumption have on American family life.

I read the second edition (as did Ronnica), but despite the dated information, I doubt the overall trend has changed.  The biggest takeaway for me was that we as a society consume far more than is healthy.

In an unusual twist, this book came out after two documentaries of similar names and content.  Since I enjoyed the book so much, I hope to check out the films in the near future.

Ronnica’s Take

Reading the 2005 edition of Affluenza makes me realize that this disease of over-consumption has been with us much too long.

I love the issues this book raised, but to be honest, I struggled through the book. I found the framing concept of the “affluenza” disease clever, but a bit cumbersome. I kept wanting the book to go deeper, but that’s just not what it was.

Still, Affluenza does a good job of linking together the disparate symptoms of our over-consumption and how it is harming us.

We can all benefit from examining our consumption, taking a step back and simply being thankful for what we already have.

Writing a Life Plan

If I asked you to sit down and write out a 7-page plan for your life, could you do it?

livingforwardBefore I read Living Forward by Michael S. Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, I can definitely tell you that I could not. Yet that is exactly what I did after reading it.

It has been a long time since I have been as motivated by a book as I have been by Living Forward. It is practical, straight-forward and helps you to make a plan for your life that meets your desires for your life, not theirs.

But enough about the book, because that’s not what this post is about. Really, the post is about writing my life plan.

I’ve frequently considered older women in my life who I want to be like and consider what I need to do now to be like them when I am their age. Writing my life plan allowed me to imagine who I could be in 50 years, and then making a practical plan to become that person.

By writing my life plan, it helped me put on paper (or should I say on a screen?) my priorities, making clear the reasoning behind some decisions I have made, even though I was unable to voice them at the time.

Writing the plan was relatively easy. Putting into action will require continual dedication. Yet I hope to use my life plan (reevaluated occasionally) to help steer myself in the right direction.

I thought about sharing a part of my life plan, but to be honest, it’s way too personal than I feel about placing in a public forum. However, I will likely be posting about some progress I’ve made by implementing my life plan. It’s only been a month, but I have seen progress already. Now for the hard work…

Joint Book Review: How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan

how to be aliveIn How to Be Alive, Colin Beavan helps his readers to live their lives in accordance with their professed beliefs, with a goal of having a better life and a better world.

Amanda’s Take

I first became interested in this book because of my familiarity with Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man project.  Because I really enjoyed both the No Impact book and movie, I was excited to delve into a more recent project of his.

Much of what Beavan notes within the text is common sense, but certainly bears repeating, such as how small steps can and do make a difference in improving one’s quality of life.  I appreciated that the book went beyond the typical self-help realm, and actually tackled some bigger picture/beneficial-to-humanity topics, including social justice and service.

Although a bit on the lengthy side, How to Be Alive is a great book for those readers wanting more than the usual self-help fare.

Ronnica’s Take

I found a lot to like in this book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t read it right on the heels of Living Forward, a book on the same subject that I found much more straightforward and inspiring (review to come).

Back to the book at hand. How to Be Alive almost felt like two books: one talking about living your values and another about how to live his values.

I really like the idea of practically working through what it would mean to live in accordance with your beliefs. This is something that I’m always circling back to. To that end, I think that this book is helpful. I also didn’t mind the values that Beavan was encouraging, and he has good suggestions. I just found the two combined to be a bit muddy. (But to be fair, I read the first third of this book while staying up all night traveling).

I did find this book inspiring in my journey to live true to the purpose I have been given.

“The question is not whether you can make a difference to the world and build a wonderful life for yourself while doing so. The question is, do you want to be the type of person who tries?” – p. 78

Joint Book Review: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

51KRmbqxakL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Arguably one of the most important books on environmentalism, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a driving force in eliminating the use of the pesticide DDT, and was critical in spurring other environmental reforms.

Amanda’s Take

Having first read this book in a biology class in college over  decade ago, I was glad to have the opportunity to revisit this text.

Once again, I was struck by how relevant her words (written over fifty years ago) are to us still in 2016.  While DDT is no longer in use, a great many other abuses are done to the environment (both chemical and otherwise).  The need to solve problems in a sustainable fashion rings just as true now as it did in the mid-twentieth century.

What I appreciate most about this text is the fact that Carson backed up her poetic assertions with proof; she doesn’t just “allege.” I also appreciate that, because of this work, enough people began to question what they had been told, and so change became inevitable.  Why can’t change be spurred the same way, in 2016?

Silent Spring is a must-read for anyone with an investment in the environment…which, I would argue, is all of us.

Ronnica’s Take

I was so glad when Amanda suggested we read Silent Spring. I love to read books that have made an impact on history, and of course this one fits the bill. I’m really not sure why I had never read it before.

For this being a foundational book in the environmentalism movement, I expected that it would be more broad. However, it makes sense that a book about a specific problem with hard numbers and targeted examples. After all, it’s much easier to get people to demand action when you make it very clear to them what it will cost them if they do not.

I’m thankful for Carson and the work she did raising awareness about DDT. Her work isn’t done: we all have a part to play in leaving this world as better place than when we arrived.