Thursday, October 30, 2014

One Month Without - 3 Weeks In

Okay, so we're officially three weeks into our month of no purchases.  Since a month has slightly more than four weeks, we actually have 10 days left.  We're done on November 9th.  I'm trying hard to think of what to update on since week three was pretty similar to week two.  We did, however, make a tiny splurge when Nick was given a small cash tip at a wedding.  We decided we would use that to pick up a small bag of chips, some drinks, and some popsicles.  The amount of time that went into deciding what exactly we would spend that $20 on was humorous.  Other than that, we've been really good and haven't purchased anything other that business expenses.

I think what stands out the most to us is that we still think, "Oh let's go pick up...", almost daily when we go past a store.  It's interesting that the mere sight of a store almost instantly triggers us to shift into a consumerism mind-set.  We don't even NEED what we're thinking of picking up!  It's just stuff that would be nice.  I'm wondering how long we would have to go before we stopped doing that.  We've  also settled into a bit of a meal routine.  A big pot of beans, red sauce, and ground beef with random stuff thrown in is made once a week.  This usually serves us for multiple dinners and multiple lunches as I make a REALLY big batch at a time.  I wasn't a fan of week two's stew, but am loving week three's chili!

Another thing that stands out to me, personally, as the meal instigator is HOW MUCH FOOD we have in our house.  Seriously, we still have enough meat in the freezer to last months.  Literally.  We haven't even come close to using up our fresh produce.  Since we bought oranges and really hard apples, and have been keeping them in the fridge, they're doing just fine.  I'm also surprised at just WHAT I'm finding in the corners of our cupboards.  I meant to take the container of cookie dough out of the freezer to defrost and, instead, I realized the next day that I had taken out an identical container of sliced roast beef.  I didn't even know we had sliced roast beef in the freezer.  Next, I was lining up all our jams and preserves on a shelf to show Nick the ridiculous amount that we have, and suddenly discovered that one of them was pesto.  We LOVE pesto!  If we knew that was in there, it wouldn't have lasted this long.  I can't believe we live in society, in a community, in a house that has so much food that we forget even about really good stuff we have.  I kid you not - we could go another month easily without hurting.  We don't stock pile.  Heck, we don't usually even cook!  This is just the stuff that has accumulated over the weeks, months, and years.  I can tell you one thing - when our month is up, I have a very small grocery list of things we're missing (coffee, peanut butter, etc.).  However, I'm not going to run and stock up on everything.  My eyes have been opened to a lot of meal possibilities that I'm going to work on eating through first before I pick up too much else.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Photography 365 Project: (Days 287 - 296)

Tuesday, October 14th, I tried to shoot a bit more deliberately.  I've been preparing an application for the last half a year or so and had a friend review it for me before submission this month.  Turns out I have a bit more work to do, so I threw out a bunch of images and am starting to slowly replace them one at a time.  This is requiring me to think a little bit more before I fire off the shutter button - at least when I'm caring to.  Let's be honest, we're almost at day 300 of consecutive shooting and I could use a creativity break soon!

Wednesday, I fired a quick test shot through the car window on a rainy drive to Life Group, and I actually really liked it, and then couldn't duplicate it again when I tried as we were already moving away from that section of the street, so I just went with it :)

Thursday, I portioned out all the remaining fresh fruit into three bowls for the next three weeks since we were wrapping up week one of our One Month Without (buying anything).  So far, it's been working well and I don't think we're in any danger of running out of fresh produce soon!

Friday, I had a new friend coming over in the evening before teaching piano, so I made some cookies.  We were originally supposed to meet at Starbucks, but then I realized that wouldn't work with our month-long fast from consumerism.  Thus, I whipped together a quick recipe that was given to me as a wedding gift and is still my no. 1 go-to recipe (thanks, Jenna, if you're reading this!!).  I realized the eggs were already half gone, and it would be our turn to bring treats to Life Group before our buying ban was lifted, so I did a full batch and froze the extra cookie balls for a quick fix later in the month.

Saturday, you would think I'd have something more interesting for a daily since I was out at the church most of the afternoon.  Nick was at a wedding, but I was on the worship team, so we practiced from 2pm - 5pm, and then played for the Saturday night service.  Afterwards, I came home and sat on the bed in the empty house and didn't really move so much after that resulting in this uninspired shot :P

Sunday, we were up nice and early (for us on a weekend), and headed in to catch both the early service and the last service at church.  I was on piano, and Nick was filming the sermon, so while I was sitting down, he was up and vice versa.  

Nick had been feeling a bit sick all weekend and, as a result, neither of us had gotten any decent sleep.  So after church, I grabbed a quick nap before checking on the weather and heading out to do a family photo shoot.  You can check out more pics HERE, but this one was my personal favourite :).  We had a wonderful dinner and hang out with the family afterwards, but got home a bit late for a weeknight.  Sure enough, around midnight, I knew I had caught whatever it was that Nick had, and called in sick for the next day.

Monday, I woke up and realized that calling in sick was a very good decision as it had hit me full force by that point.  I promptly went back to sleep for the majority of the day.  In the evening, I received an email from a wedding client this Summer asking me if I had checked my mail lately.  I promptly did, and found a wonderful movie date for Nick and myself!  What a great surprise and how sweet are these clients?

Tuesday, I was not feeling any better and had, had a terrible sleep (less than 3 hours I think).  However, I really needed to be at work that day as we were going over a lot of new information, so I dragged myself downtown and huddled in a corner for the day to try to infect as few people as possible.  I also had a fairly heavy teaching load that night on top of it.  By the evening, I was looking for some homemade remedies and hitting the sack.  

Wednesday, I woke up around 3am, and called in sick again for the second time this week.  Wednesday was probably the roughest day.  In a 31-hour period I made myself be awake for 4 hours of it, but that's about it.  Nick brought me some lemon water and soup before heading off to Life Group solo.  I was sound asleep before they even began.  

Thursday, I was feeling on the mend again after so much rest, and headed into work with a jar of honey and bottle of lemon juice in my bag.  (No buying cough drops this month!).  I mostly stayed in my corner and away from people.  Thankfully it was a slower day to just pick away at emails and such as my coworker covered our one class.  I was feeling a bit sicker that evening again after another heavier load of teaching piano, but then decided to rest up.  We had a chicken in the crockpot all day, so we whipped up some mashed potatoes and asparagus (still left over from the anniversary dinner on the 10th!), and then watched a couple shows together.  I didn't get a ton of sleep, but enough that I can say I'm pretty sure the worst of this cold is over.  Or at least it should be since we have a pretty relaxing weekend ahead.  I needed to think of a photo, and my brain was still in a bit of a sick haze, so I grabbed a jacket and ran downstairs to take a picture of our neighbour's decorations as, even though I personally dislike Halloween, I think they're pretty cute.

69 more days to go!!  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lauwers Family Shoot

This past weekend, I had the privilege of capturing the Lauwers' family photos.  As it got closer to the end of little W's nap time, we kept a wary eye on the skies.  Thankfully, while it remained overcast, the rains were held at bay until we had just wrapped up the shoot!

This cute little guy had SO. MUCH. ENERGY.  He didn't have much time to look at the camera or even to hold still.  We let him have the run of it for the most part, and just captured him being him :).  He did, however, LOVE to look at my reflector, which is something I guess!  A few little tickles from daddy, got us one solid smiling photo right out of the gate, but he got wise to that trick pretty darn fast.

We walked him over to the park, and pretty much kept him moving the entire time (or rather, he kept US moving).  We would occasionally try for an "everyone smile and look at the camera together photo", but for the most part, he wasn't having it!

As the time for us to wrap the shoot drew near, he finally tuckered slightly and his energy levels waned.  We had booked an hour and a half to make sure we didn't force him to comply too much and ruin the natural shots, but then he just started being too cute to end it.  He stopped to admire flowers with mom for more than 5 seconds.  He even plopped himself down in the grass and happily made faces for almost 2 solid minutes!

We got mom and dad down with him, while he happily ripped up handful after handful of grass.  I told them to just keep looking at me and smiling because eventually little W would look up and I'd be ready.  It took a LOT of shots, but he finally glanced up for all of 1 second and I caught him in the act ;).  And then, for the last family "all together" shot on the steps, we resorted to bribing him with candy ;)

We grabbed a couple more candids to wrap up the shoot, and then headed inside where we all enjoyed a great dinner together and an evening of catching up :).  

Thanks to my wonderful husband for helping me out by carrying all my stuff, entertaining little W while I did some mom/dad shots, and also being a second camera to help me capture all the extra moments!

One Month Without - Half Way

So today marks almost the half-way point in our One Month Without (buying anything) challenge.  There's been a lot of reactions as people find out what we're doing.  I've had people question my motives, my resolve, and my sanity.  I've had people feel inspired and write to tell me how their lives were being impacted in small ways as well.  I've had people totally get it and people completely not get it at all.  I've been encouraged by responses, and I've been mortified at other reactions that indicate just how far removed our culture is from being able to distinguish between a need and a want.  (No, seriously, you don't NEED coffee every single day.  It is okay to run out and not immediately buy more.  And with our schedules, I think I might classify as an expert opinion on the topic of caffeine consumption).  But I didn't do any of this for anyone else.   I did it for me.  For us.  For my heart.

The first week we didn't feel a lack of anything.  We were fed Thanksgiving dinner by family.  We had stocked up on fresh produce, and enjoyed a nice anniversary steak dinner.  Week two was when the beginnings of that lack started to creep in.  We ran out of coffee.  We ate beans and rice for lunch three days in a row.  (Not because we didn't have better food, but because I'm mixing up "good" meals with less exciting ones to make sure we always have options).  I rationed our fresh fruit into three big bowls to make sure we didn't eat it all at once and neglect the canned/frozen stuff.  I made cookie dough to freeze for when it's our turn to bring snacks to Life Group at the end of the month because the eggs were more than half gone already.  (Thinking that far ahead in terms of food hurts my head).  We had a brief scare when we thought we were on our last bar of soap before I found two more hiding under the sink in a forgotten corner.  (Seriously, so many good things and blessings hiding out of my sight every day).  I got sick, and couldn't run out and buy cough drops, so instead made my own remedy with hot water, lemon juice, and honey.  Week two was when we actually had to be inconvenienced.  There was at least one occasion where Nick said to me, "Laura, don't you think that constitutes a need?"  And I replied with, "only in a first world country".   But we made it through the week and were only slightly inconvenienced.

Week two is also when I started to live in a daily, conscious awareness of the goodness we have as I watched it diminish more and more without instantly being replenished.  I'm not an overly emotional person (unless you count passion, because it takes very little to set me off on some cause or another), but week two is when I sat in my kitchen preparing a meal of beans and rice for the next day and subsequent lunches and it hit me.  As I made what Nick called "poor people food" or "big family food", I paused and looked around.  There were left over shrimp frying on the stove in butter from our anniversary dinner, and a marinaded steak awaiting the BBQ (also left over from our anniversary dinner) about to be cut in two to share.  There I was sitting researching good bean recipes on my Macbook while Nick stood in the corner of the kitchen surfing the internet on his iPad.  As we sat there with our name-brand electronics preparing an amazing dinner, I looked over at the pot of beans and rice I knew we would be eating for the next few days.  And it hit me.  I didn't cry, but I almost did.  How friggin' blessed are we?  How wonderful to be together, preparing a delicious meal, in our home.  Things I would have taken for granted or simply said, "Yes, of course I'm thankful for all this."  But that pot of beans and rice stood out in stark contrast begging me to really FEEL the thankfulness.

Maybe we are crazy.  Maybe it's silly to make yourself eat beans when you have better stuff in the freezer that you're saving for later simply because you refuse to purchase groceries.  But if this is crazy, then I like it.  I LIKE being truly thankful for my meals.   I like not taking for granted the fact that I can dig under the counter and find multiple bars of soap I didn't even know were there.  And maybe I'm also crazy for being a little sad that this fast from consumerism is already almost half done.  I don't want to go back to reality where I stop so acutely noticing God in the little things.

My perception is changing.  My prayer priorities are changing.  My heart is changing.  I pray that it continues to change over the next couple of weeks in a real, and deep, and permanent way.  God, may we never have so much that we stop regularly looking to You with hope and gratitude in our hearts.  May we never have so much that it owns our attention and steals it from You.  May we never have so much that we forget that we actually have much, much more than enough.



PS:  And lest you think I am mature or holy or any such silly notions for praying such a prayer, please know it scares the pants off of me to pray something like that.  But, some things have to be said, even if you're scared to say them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Photography 365 Project: (Days 280 - 286)

Tuesday, October 7th, I started a new project at work and we had two days of orientation.  I'll be working at a different location every Tuesday and Wednesday from this month onward until, at the very least, next Summer, helping test new software for the hospitals.  I'm excited for both the change in task and also in scenery.  

When I got home and finished teaching, I played with a little off-camera flash and the fish tank.  Yes, more new additions.  I'm really terrible at keeping fish alive!  Thankfully they're relatively cheap to keep replacing and you don't get too attached to them.  

Wednesday, was the second day of project orientation at work, after which I headed out to a nearby city to teach lessons as I do every other Wednesday of the month.  When I was finished, Nick picked me up and dropped me off at home to get ready for girls' Life Group while he ran to pick up some Sushi.  I was hoping to sneak out of Life Group early to spend some time with him, but unfortunately didn't get to until quite late.  But it was so good to finally come home and lay in bed and watch some t.v. together.  It was worth missing out on sleep for.  We were missing each other a lot this week - to the point that he actually drove me an hour into work and then drove himself an hour back home again this morning just so we could have that time in the car together.

Thursday, was our first official day of not spending any money (except on business expenses) for a month.  We decided to raid our fridge and freezer instead of just running out to purchase something easy.  We came up with potatoes, which Nick cut into fries, and we also found a ton of ground beef (like 27 pounds) in our deep freeze.  Google and a can of soup stock resulted in some gravy, and I'm not 100% the feta cheese was still good as it's been in the back of the fridge for months, but it tasted fine to us.  It took an entire hour to make dinner (unheard of in our household), but by the end we had some version of home-made poutine (kind of), and it was actually really good!  It also served a dual purpose as lunch the next day :)

Friday, was our 5-year anniversary.  This was the one allowance in our month of no spending that we made for ourselves.  We were allowed to go and pick up some treats to make our own dinner as well as get some fresh produce to start the month off right.  We picked up some steak, shrimp, and bread, as well as the ingredients to make stuffed mushrooms.  We were tempted to eat out, but realized that 1. we both miss being home together, and 2. we could save more money by purchasing the food ourselves and having leftovers to make other meals with.  It only took us an hour to whip together everything.  I started carving out the mushrooms and making the filling straight away, while Nick chopped up some veggies and got them roasting in the oven.  Last we threw the steaks on the BBQ and then attempted to open the bottle of wine we had from earlier in the Summer which we were saving.  We don't drink wine very often, and we forget every. single. time. that we buy it that we don't own a corkscrew.  Seriously, every time!!

We tried a screw driver.  We tried pliers.  Eventually, what worked was ramming the cork down into the bottle with a pair of scissors, and yes, it splashed everywhere.  We do, however, own a bottle topper (is there a proper name for those things?) that Nick picked up from a wedding he did earlier this Fall.

Once the food was in place, and the mattress had been dragged out into the middle of the living room floor, we were ready to settle down for a night of movie watching.  Rather than rent, we texted a few friends and found some that had the movies we wanted to see.  We swung by their place earlier when we were picking up food and also scored the weekend's entertainment :).  I think we lasted 2/3rds of a DVD before we fell asleep, sadly.  However, we had scheduled off most of the next day for ourselves to remedy that!


Saturday, we slept in which, coupled with the early night, meant almost 11 hours for us!  Shortly after getting up, we dragged the mattress back into the living room to continue our movie watching while munching on leftovers from the night before.  It had poured through the night, but was bright and sunny all day.  We enjoyed the lovely sunshine through our windows while tucked away in our pajamas and blankets, which is my favourite kind of weekend.  Nick had to go out for a while in the evening to help with the bread ministry at our church, but he came home with free goodies as a result of it, which was perfect.  Only a few days into our month of fasting from consumerism, and we're already so thankful for the gifts we receive!  A whole bunch of cinnamon buns (which we were JUST talking about wanting that morning), and four loaves of bread - one for each week of the next month!  There are always leftovers that aren't needed when Nick is on this ministry, but we're extra thankful for them this month :)

Sunday, we headed out to Abbotsford to spend Thanksgiving which Nick's family.  We were blessed with a full day of family, games, editing time (for me), and a wonderful dinner. 

"Grandpa, look at Grandma."

"WHAT?!"

"GRANDPA, LOOK AT GRANDMA."

"HUH?!"

"Steve, look at me!!"

"What do I gotta look at her for?  I know what she looks like.  I've been looking at her for over 50 years!"

Monday, was a holiday and my piano students that evening also cancelled their lessons due to some personal family commitments (They normally take lessons on the stats or else the Monday kids would miss way too many lessons throughout the year!).  Nick got up before me and drove out to Abbotsford to pick up his grandparents and was back to pick me up as well around 10:30am.  We took them on the scenic route to downtown and drove along the ocean for an hour or so up the coast  They wanted to take us out for lunch, so we stopped a couple hours away and enjoyed some Whitespot together before bringing them back home.  They, also unaware of our month-long fast from purchasing, gave us a basket of fresh apples, a few ziplock bags of dried fruit, and jars of canned peaches!  And so God continues to bless us even when we don't need it.  Amazing how many wonderful things that come into our lives almost daily that we take for granted most of the time.