Friday, November 29, 2013


One of my favorite daydreams for our future life is to have a little house on a big lot, with chickens, fruit trees, and a huge garden. I'm apparently a very well paid writer in this daydream, so I have a lot of time to just putter around the house and make jams, jellies, pickles, and preserves. Right.

So in order for this to come true, one of the things I need to learn is how to pickle. In pursuit of this skill, I spent a morning with our friend and neighbor, S., who is experienced in pickling, canning, and also happens to be a trained chef. She gave me all sorts of tips, recipes, and spices, loaned me her processing pot, can lifters and other utensils, and sent me off with her best wishes. 

My good friend B. is always willing to join me in any sort of homesteading endeavor. She came over with her own pickling supplies, and we proceeded on our first pickling adventure. 

5 hours later, voila! We have homemade pickles. A couple pretty labels and decorations and these would make cute gifts. It was fun and easy. I can't wait til next summer, when cucumbers come back in season (we used some SoCal seasonal produce, like green beans and carrots, but cucumbers are out of season, even here). 

How much does this really save you? Well, I guess it depends how much you like pickles, and if you have produce you want to save. If you're saving your bounty from your garden, or taking advantage of seasonal produce at the market, then this is a great preserving alternative to freezing, canning, or dehydrating. Produce is cheap, in season. In theory, you could make a whole lot of side dishes and add a lot of variety to your diet this way, and it would cost you less than $1.00/jar, if you'd already invested in jars and spices and such.

For my costs: I got all my spices from my friend S., already had jars, and vinegar costs $3.50/gallon. I did have to buy new lids because you have to use new ones each time, but that was like $2.50/12 lids. Plus vegetables (which vary in cost, depending on where you live and where you get them). All in all, a very cheap enterprise, indeed!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Joshua Tree

A few weeks ago, we decided to up and head to Joshua Tree for a quick, two night camping trip. Because of our awesome work schedules, we could leave early Thursday morning and pretty much be guaranteed a spot at one of the prime, first come, first served, $10 spots in the middle of the park. 

Joshua Tree National Park is one of our favorite places to camp, and not just because it's super cheap. It's only a couple hours from Los Angeles, but it's far enough to allow for the most amazing stargazing, and they have lots of fun hikes - think rock scrambling and palm oases a la Arabian Nights. Also, cell phones don't work in the middle of the park, and sometimes, we just need to be forced to slow down.

Joshua Tree has these amazing rock formations from a bazillion years ago (that's an official term) when the whole area was covered in water. They're stunning, to say the least. 

They also provide perfect platforms to lie back and just stare at the night sky. Just grab a yoga mat, a blanket, and you'll be so comfortable you could sleep out there. We always see shooting stars, which really, everyone should have an opportunity to experience. There is something really breathtaking and humbling about how large the sky is, and how small the earth is. And then something from space falls into our atmosphere and flares for just a brief second, sometimes longer if you're lucky, and is gone. We always shout out. You can't help it - it's something you want to share.

I wish that was my picture but I'm too lazy and inexperienced to set up my camera to take an awesome shot like that. But I can definitely vouch that it's just that beautiful!

We did a great little hike to this slot canyon, which opened up to a secret little spot with an old, gnarled tree. To geek out for a minute, it felt like something out of Lord of the Rings. The sun was winding down and the light in the canyon was cool and filtered. It was a quiet little space with an expansive blue sky overhead, guarded by ancient rocks. It's little moments like this that make you so happy to just be

We headed home on Saturday and got back to Los Angeles by noon. We had the whole afternoon and evening, plus all of Sunday, left to enjoy. A wonderfully relaxing weekend. And how much did it cost?

$20.00 - two nights at Jumbo Rock campground
$40.00 - one tank of gas (it actually took less than one tank to get there and back)
$25.00 - sandwich fixings, homemade soup and tamales for dinners
$40.00 - breakfasts Friday and Saturday mornings at diners
= $125.00 total for two people, two nights and 3 days

Pretty cheap vacay if I do say so myself!

Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Beginning

Every time I tell someone about my new three day work week and my goal of "figuring it out," they tell me I should keep a blog. I actually LOVE writing, but keeping up a blog is a huge commitment. 

I do think it's important, however, to document this journey because it seems like so many others are struggling with the same things I am. I was tired of the corporate world, tired of customer service and asshole customers, sick of my commute, and sick of feeling like the weekend was just too short. 

I would keep telling myself to look around and be grateful for the things I had - that I should appreciate every moment. I tried taking yoga classes. I tried working out. I tried doing the things I loved, like cooking, and hanging out with friends, and going to concerts. But in the end, all I really wanted was more time - more time to do the things I loved and more time for yoga and working out and all sorts of other things, like learning a new language or crocheting, or even just watching TV and hanging out with our pets. 

But money! We needed money to pay bills, and feed our pets, and feed ourselves, and damn, I loved nice restaurants and good food, and my cute work outfits and decorating our home. But somewhere, somehow, I had to find a compromise. I spent eight years in an office, getting more and more miserable, until finally, I just said, let's try it. Let's try to cut back, live on less, and have more time.

The process really took a few years. First thing we did was, we got rid of cable TV. Just like quitting any habit, the first few weeks were devastating and really hard. I felt out of the loop, couldn't contribute any longer to TV show discussions at work, and even though we could watch the shows online, we were weeks behind everyone since they don't post shows right away. But you know what? We got over it. We filled our days with other things and other shows (we still watch TV online, for free). And now it's been 6 years without cable.

The next major things we cut out were vacations and eating out. Now, everyone still needs vacations, but we stopped planning huge trips to far flung destinations. We started going to local spots, hiking, and checking out national parks, cute cities like Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, and going camping. 


Not going out to eat was another major way to cut back on costs, but it was a big sacrifice. Luckily, I love to cook, so I just started cooking more and prepping weekly meals on Sundays. We eat a lot less meat, since it's expensive. We go to the farmer's market for veggies and fruit, and buy in season. I've discovered the wonderful world of whole grains and legumes - cheap and nutritious! It's amazing what you can do when you have some extra time. Mike cooks on other days or we just eat sandwiches. 

We stopped buying clothes and furniture on a whim, and stopped purchasing toys for the pets. It turns out I actually have a lot of clothes in my closet. And since I was working less, I didn't really need as many clothes as I had. Furniture? Sure, we want a new couch. But it's been a couple years and we're still using the hand me down couch, which no one holds against us. And the cats seem to prefer free toys, like boxes or a shoelace. They're actually just glad to see us 2 extra days a week, and anyone who has cats knows they just sleep most of the time, anyway.

It's been a long slow road, but now we enjoy a life that is, more than half the time, composed of doing what we love and what we want. We work less than half the week, and we're not suffering. We still eat organic, watch TV, and take vacations. We just do it differently. And I can't help thinking, isn't this how it's supposed to be? At this point, we can't imagine going back to a traditional 9-5 (or 8-6, as it is in most cases). 

So welcome to our life - our new life - and our adventures. We hope you are inspired to find what type of life *you* want to live, as others have inspired us!