The Frugal Catholic: “You Can Change Your Life with Just 15 Minutes a Day”–author unknown 1989–by Martha Wild King M.Ed–May 2017.

One of the fun parts about writing is rediscovering saved articles. The following piece is one I recently uncovered, and I’ve decided to employ the principal by learning to play the mountain dulcimer–an unused gift of 15 years ago.

What’s on your “life list” that still needs accomplishment?  An important item to realize is that whatever your “bucket list” goal,  your desire is  God’s desire too.  As it says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.”

So take this 15 minute a day challenge with something you want to achieve, and let TFC (me) know how you did. My email is: martha@thefrugalcatholic.com

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          You Can Change Your Life with Just 15 Minutes a Day

Tinker Smoke Signals March 1989—Author unknown –The Briefing/ March 1994

What is the biggest dream of your life? How important is it? How much would you give to make it happen? Let me pass along to you the most powerful , creative fact that anyone ever taught me, and it is astoundingly true. YOU CAN DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO…IF YOU SPEND JUST 15 MINUTES A DAY AT IT!!!

CONSIDER THIS: In 3 years, you can become an expert on any subject you care to study: Chinese art, computer programming, cooking, chess, bridge, bricklaying, anything …IF YOU WORK AT IT 15 MINUTES A DAY! In just 1 year or less, you can accomplish some tremendous tasks by investing just 15 minutes a day. For example, you could: (1) Read the entire Bible; (2) Plant and keep up a small garden; (3) Become physically fit; (4) Learn to play a musical instrument; (5) Paint a house; (6) Learn a foreign language; (7) Write a book!

Read the entire Bible

Remembering the day I discovered the magic of 15 minutes still makes me smile. My husband and I had driven to a small town in the country that hot summer Saturday to call on a friend who was the town’s only doctor and an ardent do-it-yourselfer. He’d recently bought a sprawling Victorian home, and we discovered him sitting in the middle of a room surrounded by paint cans and a clutter of tools, gazing toward the ceiling and muttering, “That thing’s gotta come down!” We thought he’d flipped… especially when we learned that George intended to repair, repaint, and refurnish every room in that 3-story monstrosity by himself. How long would it take? Where would he find the time? How unrealistic could he get?

A quick tour of the already-completed rooms, however, aroused our interest and excitement. I admired a charming “new” bathroom in which George had lowered the ceiling, installed and painted new storage cabinets, hung wallpaper, changed light fixtures, and even provided heated towel bars! “I work 15 minutes at a time, but never stop before my time is up,” George explained. “That’s the secret! Work 15 minutes a day, without fail.” Still I was skeptical. I couldn’t believe such a simple plan could possibly help me. I decided to “give it a try.” That was more than 20 years ago, and since then, I’ve had great fun with those magic chunks of time.

Plant and keep up a small garden
Learn a foreign language

My first project was to tackle a badly neglected flower garden which was choked with weeds. Every time I looked out the dining room window, I fretted; because I thought I had not time to try to redeem that impossible garden. That’s when I learned how many weeds I could pull in 15 minutes! It took just one week, snatching a quarter hour here, another there, to get that flower border tidy and ready for new transplants.

The beauty of 15 minutes a day is that it helps me to stop postponing those things I really want or need to do and get them underway. It banishes discouragement and halts procrastination. The method works on any job or goal that matters to me, whether it’s writing a book, or cleaning all the kitchen cupboards. Many grim little jobs really don’t deserve more than 15 minutes a day, anyhow. Done all at once, they’d be too much of a bad thing! Doing part of that sort of a task, however, makes an enjoyable break from other duties. Large goals, some pleasant, others less so, can be accomplished 15 minutes a day.

What can you do 15 minutes at a time? Answers to that question range from the sublime (time to pamper yourself) to the ridiculous (clean out the refrigerator)! Whatever your goals or ideals, remember that IDEAS MOVE LIFE FORWARD! They strengthen purpose. They establish habits of industry.

TAKE 15 MINUTES RIGHT NOW ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS: WHAT IS MY BIGGEST DREAM? HOW CAN I MAKE IT BEGIN TO HAPPEN? WHAT IF I WORKED AT THE IMPORTANT GOAL, EVERY DAY FOR JUST 15 MINUTES? DO IT FOR ONE WEEK…. YOU WILL BE SURPRISED AT WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THOSE 15 MINUTES.

The Frugal Catholic: “Retire Without Fear” by Martha Wild King–April 2017

My Father-in-law, Captain David L.G. King, USN, Retired, used to say that life had three stages. The first is when you are a child and attend school, the second is when you have a job, marry and have a family, and the third is retirement. I always liked that thought because since I had passed through the first two, I could only imagine what that long stretch of uninterrupted free time looked like.

But now that my husband Captain Michael King , USN Retired, and I are both in that third stage, it is far more exciting and wonderful than I had envisioned. This time, however, has not just arrived without faith and planning, and just as my father-in-law shared his wisdom about life, I would like to pass on a few pointers my husband and I have gleaned regarding retirement.

The first tip is to financially plan well for this stage by living under your budget.  Kerry Daly of Saint Cecilia Parish said, “ I saved money continuously during my working years: if you start early it adds up tremendously.” Like Kerry we too lived way below our income for 12 years. I cut the family’s hair, planned monthly meals, rarely ate out, purchased used clothes and goods, kept vacations frugal by camping and using our time share, and did our own house and car repairs by watching U Tube. And since Michael utilized his employer’s matching funds Thrift Savings Plan, the money just kept on growing, for we never saw it. That living beneath our income helped us get on a good financial footing.  And that budget and the savings accumulated enabled Michael to leave his place of employment at age 61 and permanently unplug his old faithful alarm clock.

Susan and Bob Kuebler also of Saint Cecilia’s added, a similar thought.  “We prepared for retirement by putting our pensions and savings into low risk, well-balanced mutual funds and by talking to a financial advisor and friends.”

Since March 2015, we have been on a constant vacation but not one free from work, for this time has allowed us to more faithfully attend to our Catholic Church’s needs, our family, and friends. The Kueblers now have daily prayer time. Sue adds,” We love Bible Study class and daily reading Utmost for His Highest and Jesus Calling and praying together out loud before we go to bed.” For Kerry, complete retirement enabled her to attend daily Mass and cull out uninterrupted prayer time.

Also this retirement time has allowed us to “be on call” to our grandchildren and given us time to jointly attend our Saint Cecilia Bible study, volunteer for Super Suppers and The Welcome Committee, and serve on The Funeral Reception Committee. This period has freed us to more fully serve our parish and grow in our love for His Church. Susan further added, “We are busier than when we were working so be prepared to examine and prioritize because you probably will have to let some things go. You’ll still have to decide what’s TRULY important.”

So if you are anxious about your retirement days, fear not. Lay out your budgeted plan, stick to it for one to two years BEFORE retirement  and take the leap. We may be on our way out out of this earth, but we sure are enjoying the joy of doing it fully for Jesus and His church.

The Frugal Catholic: “Minimalizing from More to Less” by Courtney Cotton and Martha Wild King–February 2017

 

Dear Frugal Catholic readers. I had the priviledge of interviewing Courtney Cotton regarding her minimalist lifestyle.  Her mom, Kathy, is one of my oldest friends, and I was able to stay with Kathy and see Cortney and her husband in the month of  October 2016 when I went to Nashville TN to help Kathy after her knee replacement surgery.  What Courtney has to say about minimalism will fascinate and hopefully challenge you.   Enjoy!  If you have questions for Courtney, please email them to me at martha@thefrugalcatholic.com

Do you consider yourself a minimalist?

I’ll first explain what minimalism is. Minimalism isn’t simply living in a small space, setting a strict budget or embracing a contemporary design style. It’s truly a way of life and requires embracing a mindset that encompasses every facet of one’s day to day. This mindset necessitates thoughtful discrimination against the noise of the world and dedication to leaving less of a footprint than the average American counterpart. The practice of being mindful is the cause; the effects are such things as living in a small space, being sparing with a budget and preferring simplistic design styles that creates a refuge for thought. And yes, I am proud to call myself a minimalist.

 

Have you always been this way, or what was the impetus for starting this lifestyle?

I was in a nasty relationship and marriage for seven years, where I’d escape the emotional pain by being a consumer; whether that was mindlessly surfing the internet, purchasing the next gadget or new wardrobe, binge-watching the most popular tv show or filling the house with new furniture. When I finally decided to walk away from the relationship, I was able to stay at my sister’s condo while she traveled abroad for a few months. While I used to think her apartment was sparse and overly simplistic, there was something fascinatingly peaceful and inviting about her space. Everything always seemed clean and in order, and I was able to think clearly each time I was there. It was during those few months that I realized that no amount of excessive purchasing, surfing and binge-watching would add more value to my life, and that life is too short to spend on things that don’t matter.

Do you see this as a permanent lifestyle choice or a fad?

I’ve never turned back from those days at my sister’s condo. As I mentioned earlier, it’s absolutely a lifestyle choice and my husband and I could never see it any other way. As a side note, if you’ve ever watched tiny house shows on HGTV or DIY, there’s no doubt that these homeowners have adopted a minimalist lifestyle; however I’m not sure how long the tiny house movement will last due to increasingly strict regulations about dwellings and land usage.

What are the benefits and what are the downsides of this lifestyle choice?

I’ll start with benefits. Here’s one that everyone can identify with – less to clean! Less stuff means less to clean, less to maintain and less to organize. This in turn means more time, more money and more clarity.

A result of practicing minimalism is the ability to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts and your physical state. Because minimalism allows us to have clarity in our surroundings, it is easier to practice mindfulness. I believe the two are incredibly interrelated.

Downsides – not many! In previous years, I filled my closet with trend-focused pieces from stores like Target and Old Navy, leaving me with items that fell apart after one wash. I’ve now adopted what’s referred to as a “capsule wardrobe.” A capsule wardrobe is a term coined in  1970s London that refers to a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion – and are well made – such as skirts, trousers and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal, trendy pieces. There are times when I am somewhat self conscious that I only own a few pairs of shoes, especially by other women for my “I-own-less-than-100-pairs-of-shoes” mentality, but I’m happy to report that because of this, I have money to spend on things that actually matter, like travel, experiences, education and living in a safe neighborhood.

Secondly, one might ask about living in a small space and having parties or many friends over. This isn’t really a downside, but a challenge to address. Thankfully there are so many retailers that provide modular furniture for a party of 2 or 20 – such as Resource Furniture, Expand Furniture and Structube. Additionally, outdoor heaters and fire pits allow us to have groups of people over in colder weather – who doesn’t love a good s’more?

How do you decide what material things will be in your life?

Generally speaking, we have a minimum 6-month plan for fairly large material purchases that are aside from basic necessities for our home. Purchases such as these could include travel, experiences or things that contribute to experiences, such as a camera, hammock or bicycle. It all comes down to being usable, memorable and well-made.

Read this staggering statistic: In 2009, the Self Storage Association reported that with more than seven square feet for every man, woman and child, it’s now physically possible that every American could stand – all at the same time – under the total canopy of self-storage roofing (New York Times). The most popular response I hear when discussing the absurdity of storage units (this goes for packed garages and attics too) is “But I might need it one day!” Stop kidding yourself. If you haven’t used it in 12 months, it needs to go. It’s selfish to hold on to items that we never use – especially clothing, blankets or basic necessities that could be donated to those in need.

Even now in our minimalist home, we have a designated Tupperware bin in which we deposit items that we haven’t used in a few months, such as items of clothing that may not fit well anymore or a kitchen tool we may no longer need. When the bin is full, we donate it. We’ve found that once something goes into the bin, we completely forget about its existence; further validation that the item truly isn’t needed or missed.

Challenge yourself by asking why you’re a consumer. Are you seeking approval from others by having new clothes, a new phone or new furniture? Are you obsessed with the hunt and pursuit of a particular item? Are you falsely filing a void with the constant noise of consumerism and the immediate gratification of buying? Overall, the benefit of embracing this lifestyle is being able to spend your time, energy, and resources on things that truly matter.

Do others judge you?  What type of reaction do you get from friends and family?

Just recently I moved from a cubicle to an office at work and had the opportunity to recycle the heavy, broken furniture that was nearly four decades old. Rather than buying a new desk, I saved money by instead purchasing a discounted dining table to use as my workspace. To freshen up the space, I spent $25 on new paint, hung up some posters on the wall, recycled an old frame that a colleague had left behind and picked up a $12 orchid at my local grocery store along with a few other items.

My co-workers popped in to see my new space, some of whom were impressed by my clutter-free zone, and others who scoffed at how “sparse and stark” my space was. Yes, I agree – clutter doesn’t really do it for me! “Where is all of your stuff?” they asked. I am able to think clearly and therefore work more efficiently because I don’t have stacks of old papers, enough pens for a small army and dozens of tchotchkes stuffed into bookshelves that have nothing to do with work productivity.

Friends are encouraging of this lifestyle and often declare intentions of adopting similar habits. My mother is a different story (sorry Kathy). Surrounded by items in her home that haven’t been picked up or looked at – in some cases, in half a century – she claims that they are sentimental so therefore should be kept. I do not understand how something can be important to you yet hasn’t been interacted with in decades. We don’t have children, but if we did, we wouldn’t want them to be saddled with combing through excessive amounts of items after we passed on.

Socializing with friends in expensive settings, like a new restaurant or bar, can also be challenging. There hasn’t been a time we’ve gone out to dinner and my sweet husband hasn’t said, “This was fun, but we just spent four times what we would have had we stayed at home, and your cooking is a million times better anyway.” Eating meals at home or packing lunches is usually better than mass-cooked restaurant meals, always less expensive, always healthier and definitely more personable and intimate. If you can read, you can cook, and if you can’t read a recipe, there are literally millions of YouTube videos that demonstrate everything from how to boil water to how to prepare sea urchin. We love having people over to our house for meals – and we’re never rushed by a server.

Do you feel minimalism and frugality are the same?  Explain.

Embracing a minimalist lifestyle allows one to be mindful of a budget. Spending less on unnecessary items frees up both time and resources; minimalism and frugality are clearly interrelated.

Please share your “put an egg on the top of it” recipe.

Eggs are an inexpensive and delicious source of high quality protein, vitamins B2, B6 and B12, selenium, vitamin D, zinc, iron and copper. In our house we’ve put eggs on just about everything – from wild-caught trout to macaroni and cheese to vegetable soup. Sounds crazy, but trust me!

As with any meal, it’s ideal to have a grain, vegetable or fruit and a protein source for breakfast. Most evenings I will end up cooking a little bit too much rice or pasta, and may have a little bit of leftover vegetables that we couldn’t quite finish. Depending on the leftovers, we either freeze them to use later in soups or stocks, or save them for breakfast – simply by reheating in the frying pan and cracking an egg over the top.
Last night I made chicken, rice pilaf and broccoli – and ended up making too much rice pilaf. I had some leftover tomatoes, so I just dumped it all together and threw a fried egg on top. A drizzle of good olive oil over the top adds even more flavor and sustenance – and it ends up being no more than $0.60 per serving!  

Courtney Cotton lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband.  They work together in downtown Nashville and enjoy cooking, spending time outdoors and traveling in their free time.

 

The Frugal Catholic: “Couponing” by guest author– Robin Steele–January 2017

Happy New Year!!! The holidays are finally over, congratulations you’ve survived 😊, and things are back to normal–whatever that may be. As we are beginning to settle into the new year, I am sure you’ve all made resolutions that you are “going to keep” including working out more, eating healthier, keeping in touch with family and friends, and last but not least–spending less and saving more.

But the problem is that  after the holidays when we are looking at our accounts like 😐😩, we might find ourselves hoping and praying that the credit card bills get lost in the mail, or that we hit the lottery to solve all of our money woes (all it takes is a dollar and a dream). Yes, after the holidays, reality sets in and we realize that none of that is going to happen.  So it’s time to take a look at the budget.

After reviewing and cutting the unnecessary spending from your budget, you know you can save more, but how and where? You are already bringing lunch to work, and cutting back those happy hours (who needs those empty calories anyway 😩), but you still can’t figure out why your grocery bill is so high.  Now you can reduce that food bill with coupons, and I will show you how I did it.

When most people think about coupons they think Sunday paper inserts, suburban housewives, or it’s not worth the time; all of those are a myth. Over the last 5 years or so couponing has become a lifestyle for some and survival plan for others. The secret of couponing was brought to light with the show extreme couponing. Below is a clip of how someone’s grocery bill went from over $1902.63 to $103.72– all with coupons.

Extreme Couponing (TLC)

I know after watching a few things popped in your head:

1. Excitement (me too).

2. I wanna save money just like she did. 

3. And where did they get all those coupons from? They seldom share that part. But you’re in luck, for I’ve learned a few tricks and I’m will share.

To get the coupons you don’t have buy 10 Sunday newspapers, jump into dumpsters, or steal your neighbor’s paper before he or she wakes up.  Simply thank God for the internet. You can now buy coupons or get them for free by printing them at home.  Here are a few sites to get FREE COUPONS, but you will need access to a printer.

1Coupon.com 

2. Walmart coupons

3.P&G Everyday 

4. Redblum

And here are the sites to purchase coupons (I have personally ordered from these sites).

1. klip2save 2. thecouponclippers  3. weclipusave.

When you first start couponing, it can be a bit overwhelming in learning the language (and yes there is one),  understanding the store policy on coupons, or in recognizing what the coupon means. Below are a few links that helped me in the beginning of my journey as well as YouTube, Instagram pages, Facebook groups, and Pinterest.  Believe it or not couponing folks are  a community, and if you give it a try, soon you will be able to spot a fellow couponer in the store, just like you.

Happy Shopping and God Bless in 2017

Robin L. Steele

Robin L. Steele is a Christian mother of a teenage son and works at the Pentagon in Washington DC.

The Frugal Catholic: “Blessed to be a Blessing” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.–December 2016

Years ago when I was active in our Protestant church, the minister would always start the service by saying, “We are blessed to be a blessing.” In Matthew 5, Christ shows us the many ways God blesses us:

The Beatitudes

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Sometimes blessings come in other ways too. They can come from a smile or a word given as a gift from one person to another. And what we often will never know is the effect of our blessing on another person’s life. As my pastor said, “We are blessed to be a blessing” and by passing on blessings to others we make the world a much better place.

Have a Blessed Day”blessings2

David Kremer, Jr. of Nashville TN is a father of three children ages 17, 9, and 7 and the husband of Sarah Kremer. He works at Centennial Hospital in Nashville at “That Good Coffee Place.” Dave serves up anything from drip coffees to custom created lattes. And he does it with a special promise. To each and every customer he attempts to say, “Have a blessed day.” David says he verbalizes this because, “I have been so blessed, and you never know what some one is dealing with in their life. If I can get one person to see God’s glory, then I will have succeeded.”

You see, David’s life, in itself, is a miracle because he is a survivor of brain cancer. “I have shared a short version of my testimony with probably a few dozen customers and all have agreed and have given me confirmation that I am a miracle and that God is in control.” He adds, “God’s great commission tells us to ‘go and evangelize and spread my word to all of the earth.’” Dave says, “ I am attempting to do this one customer at a time.” And as Dave also added, his pastor told him it takes nine contacts with a non-believer to open their eyes. Dave’s daily blessing is adding to that number.

My Secret Blessing Zapper  blessings-5

Catholic author, speaker, and founder of http://DynamicCatholic.com  Matthew Kelly, distributes a small plasticized card labeled “he Prayer Process.” In it he encourages the faithful to lift up seven different needs in prayer: the sixth one to “ask God to bless and guide others.” This is what I call My Secret Blessing Zapper.

Suppose I was carrying a large squirt gun (the type kids use in the summer), and I could aim it at anyone and zap them with blessing and guidance. I can, and do that daily (only you can’t see My Secret Blessing Zapper because it is in the form of a silent prayer.) When I see anyone, I ask God to “bless and guide” them as they pass by me on the sidewalk, in a store, or on the road. Blessing others puts me in a better place, for instead of judging, I am offering a blessing. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will bless and guide that person; because God says so.

Genesis 12:2   Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[a]

 

Also I have another reason for extending a blessing because when a family member was dying from cancer about twenty years ago, he didn’t want to give me his blessing, and it hurt greatly. From that time on, I decided that I was going to pass on my blessings to as many people as I could. By doing so, I expect God’s good to occur in ways I can’t see.

Make Your Own Zapper

Need a good place to start? Well in this busy Advent Season, start with an attitude “of wishing to bless.” Ask God to bless and guide those who pass your way with your Secret Blessing Zapper. Give them that zapp of blessing and guidance through a simple prayer, and watch how blessed you will become.  Or try saying David Kremer’s verbal “Have a blessed day.” After all, “we are blessed to be a blessing,” and what greater gift could we bestow?

The Frugal Catholic: “Tip #2–Cream Rinse Rules” by Martha Wild King M.Ed.–October 2016

tfc-cream-rinse-3OK,  we discussed frozen candles several months ago as The Frugal Catholic  Tip #1, but today I have another great frugal handy helper for you, CREAM RINSE or conditioner– the kind which you use after shampooing.  What many extra things it can do!

SHAVING CREAM–Since my hair is really long,  I only wash it once a week, and of course, the final rinse is with “cream rinse.”  What I discovered though is I can take my long hair covered with conditioner  and rub it on my legs, then shave them.  Of course, you can use just plain cream rinse in your hands and put it on your face or legs too for the same effect, but by using the leftovers from my hair, I get a free shave.

STAINLESS STEEL POLISH–This idea is particularly helpful if you get several of those free bottles found in hotels.  No need to use really good stuff.  Just dab it on a wet towel and move in a circular motion across your appliance.  Doesn’t leave a harsh smell like some stainless steel cleaners.tfc-cream-rinse-5

GOOP  GONNER– Have some goop in your life that needs bleeping?  Well instead of finger nail polish remover, use hair conditioner.  Rub some over the sticky spot, such as a label, and then gently rub off.  Conditioner doesn’t damage plastic like finger nail polish often can.

SHOWER POWER CLEANER– Notice the shower needs scrubbing.  then put some conditioner on a rag and go for it, even while showering.  It seems to cut the scum and mold in a quick manner.

CHECK OUT YOUR CONDITIONER– Ever wondered what  exactly is in the products you use on your skin, teeth, and hair.  Well then hike yourself over to your computer and go to tfc-cream-rinse-1 http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/    (The Environmental Working Group).  Their mission is to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.”  You can type in any brand of cream rinse or conditioner you use (or any other cosmetic product)  and find out its safety rating–something truly worth knowing since many products we use on our hair or skin contains deadly carcinogens.

Of course this thought isn’t Biblical, but it is a practical saying from The Great Depression era:  “Make it do.  Do without.  Use it up, and wear it out,” is  a  four-pronged saying worth following because it lets us understand that one item can sometimes do many things.  So cream rinse away and save money at the same time.  It is definitely worth a try.

The Frugal Catholic: “Build a Better Brain for Yourself” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.–August 2016

Imagine you could carry your brain as it is now– sharp, focused, and wanting to learn– and arrive in your 60’s and beyond thinking well. What would it take on your part to ensure you hit that age mark with minimum “brain drain”? Well, you have it totally within your power (and God’s help) to do just that.brain health 2--good tips

My older sibling had been having basic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and felt it was worsening.  So when she came out to Seattle this summer for a visit we took her to see a specialist.     What I learned  from her clinical neuropsychologist, Kristoffer W. Rhoads PhD, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of dementia and neurodegenerative disorders with UW Medicine at Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA can help you too and those you love.brain health 1--weight lifter

Physical Exercise— High intensity aerobic exercise for 45 minutes four times a week such as walking, running, and swimming is more effective than any brain drug out there according to “a glut of new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International brain health 3--exercise chartConference in July….” (Time, August 22, 2016) Of course, weight lifting is important, but it doesn’t count in this case because increased heart rate equals increased blood flow to the brain.

Classical Music— Listening to classical music in the background of your day is again a brain grower. And it needs to be classical.

Learning–TV watcher? Well Dr. Rhoads shared that television is passive; so to make the brain grow, play cards, learn a language, pick up a musical instrument, do cross-word puzzles, play Scrabble, get a new hobby, read a book. Learn and keep learning.

Society—Having social ties is imperative. That means opening your life to old and new friendships with whom you meet regularly. That also means volunteering, serving in your Parish, and reaching out the hand of fellowship. Sirach 9:10 RSVCE says, “Forsake not an old friend, for a new one does not compare with him. A new friend is like new wine; when it has aged you will drink it with pleasure.” That’s because friends challenge us to be the best versions of ourselves, brain and all.

Organizational Lists –If you aren’t writing your day down already then begin to. Use either  a paper calendar or your smart phone. Then  transfer what is undone to the next day.  The act of “writing it down” helps with the organizational strategies of our mind. And when thinking about organizing, work your mind with space retrieval too. Meet someone new? Say their name to yourself 5 seconds later, then 20 seconds later, then 1 ½ minutes later. Space retrieval provides targeted brain training.brain health 4--parts of brain

Other Helps –As I was working on this piece, Time August 12, 2016 published “Untangling Alzheimer’s,” which further cataloged the following:

  1. Shore Up Your Heart…reducing the risk of heart disease has the strongest evidence of benefits for the brain.
  2. Emphasize Exercise—Aerobic exercise has been shown to grow the volume of certain brain regions that tend to shrink during aging.
  3. Learn New Things…writing letters and reading has been linked in brain autopsies to better cognitive health in old age.
  4. Be Social—Loneliness…is connected with poorer brain health.
  5. Treat Depression—Depression…is linked to twice the risk of cognitive decline, though it’s not clear if that’s a cause or an effect.
  6. Sleep Well—Improving poor sleep appears to reduce these risks. [for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s]

Wisdom 4: 8-9 perhaps states best the simple life changes all of us should heed. It says, “For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age”brain health 6--slogan for food

The Frugal Catholic: “15 Thrifty Ways to Date Your Mate” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.– July 2016

In September of 2015, my husband of 35 years and I embarked on a new phase of our married life, retirement! We took off together in our little 19 foot trailer and lived there together for six months within its confines while we renovated our first son’s mobile home. During that time, we rediscovered what it meant to “date your mate,” and we reaffirmed what Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly says we must incorporate into our lives—a monthly day of carefree timelessness. From that period we experienced the knowledge that marriage is indeed one of our seven Catholic sacraments, but monthly dating helps keep it sacred. So if you want to add some romantic spark to your sacramental union, give a few of the following a try. The only thing you will need is a journal to write down your thoughts and the knowledge that each date will only draw you closer.date your mate #3

  1. Dream Together— Check out some travel videos from your library like Rick Steeves. Imagine together.
  2. Get Season Tickets— Invest in season tickets to whatever activity you both enjoy. We have been going to the Seattle Symphony for twenty years now and sitting in the cheapest seats. It is our six-times-a-year dating insurance.
  3. Unplug the Drug— Turn off the TV for an evening and together brainstorm for one fun activity to do. Try one of your kid’s games or cards, or give each other a leg massage or a hair brushing and talk as you go.
  4. Celebrate Sabbath Rest— Really take Sunday off, after Mass of course. Go for a stroll or enjoy an activity together like gardening. And have an easy breakfast meal for Sunday dinner.
  5. Create Your Own Wine Tasting— Purchase two or three wines (or beers), and from the comfort of your home savor and describe and journal them. No need to worry about driving home!
  6. Enjoy the Music— Music sets the mood for love so share the songs you both enjoy and discuss why.
  7. Go Family Camping— That’s right. Dust off the  tent and bring the crew. Your date time begins around the campfire when you get the kids to bed.date your mate #4
  8. Try a Round of Miniature Golf— It is still as much fun as it was when you were a kid.
  9. Do a MU— Take each other to a museum like Seattle Art Museum (SAM) then visit the museum gift shop and choose a small item together as a remembrance.
  10. Enjoy It Conjointly— Experience something together like ping pong, Frisbee, hiking or Sunday walks.
  11. Plan a Picnic— Pack it up and go to your local park for a meal. Kids really enjoy this too.
  12. Remember— Pull out the wedding album and reminisce. What would you keep the same? What would you have done date your mate #5differently?
  13. Read a Book— Get The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman out of the library and read it together. Take the test to determine your love language and begin employing it. This has really helped our marriage.
  14. Be a Tourist for a Day— Together visit your town like a tourist would. See places you’ve always wanted to explore but haven’t taken the time to do so.
  15. Lunch on Love— Meet your spouse for lunch. It is less expensive than dinner and often more enjoyable.

Marriage is a sacramental gift, and with any sacrament, it has the power to change us. So make some changes in your schedules and reschedule in marital dating. You’ll be glad you did.date your mate #1

 

The Frugal Catholic: “Frugal Tip #1–Frozen Candles” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.–June 2016

You want to have a lovely dinner, something magical.   What is one of the easiest ways to create magic?   Candles of course.  small candle in open hands lit #5 But what do candles, especially frugal candles purchased at The Dollar Store usually do?   Well, they drip like crazy and get wax all over the table. And when you blow them out, more wax ensues.   What to do? Try this simple old trick for Frugal Tip #1– store them in your freezer!

Yes, to get drip-less expensive candles from tapered candles (long ones)  out of Dollar Store ones, simply put them in the freezer for a few days.   No need to remove them from their packaging.   Then after they are thoroughly frozen, put them unopened back into your candle drawer, and enjoy them when you want to produce a romantic or magical dinner.   You will be thrilled that messy drips are a thing of the past.

I first learned of this tip from my older sister, Marjorie, who lives in Mississippi where she has hosted her share of lovely dinners.candle and pretty table #4  It seemed a bit odd, but after dealing with so much candle wax on my nice dining room table, I felt it was worth a try.   So I took my dollar candles (two for a dollar), threw them in my freezer, and left them there for several days.   Evidently, freezing them does something to the wax which prevents dripping.   And you don’t have to re-freeze them again either.   One freezing does it all, and then you use the candles as you normally would.   Freezing seems to curb “the drips.”

So go ahead and create magic, flickering and all.  candle and cross #2 And do it at a much cheaper price than expensive drip-less ones.   And don’t forget too, that a lighted candle is a wonderful reminder any time you say the Rosary, read Sacred Scripture, or pray that God’s light overcomes the darkness and His light and love are always with us so that we can pass that light on as Matthew 5: 14-16  (NRSV) tells us:

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.lighted candle #3

 

The Frugal Catholic “Living Small: Part I Food” by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.—April 2016

   Truthfully,  I don’t know when I decided to embark on a smaller existence.  It must have been a night I was in an adventuresome mood and recommended to my husband that we investigate purchasing a 19 foot trailer or “caravan” as they say in Europe.  He had dreamed of owning an American-made design called an Airstream, which is made from shiny aluminum. He now describes it as bear food because it looks like a large can of green beans. But the “silver bullet” became ours after much comparison-shopping. We purchased an older model and had our tiny house.

   It took about four more years until (after Michael’s retirement) our lives were in a position to pack up and go where we wanted in our Airstream. That is where this “Living Small Part I” adventure starts.  Because living in a 19 square-foot home for six months taught me much about downsizing.

   The transition from our 3000 square foot house to around 120 square feet in our trailer (and that includes beds and built in tables AND about 24 square feet of actual walking space) began in October 2015 when I left our home in Washington (WA) state and traveled to Bellingham, WA to live with Michael who had moved there with the Airstream to do renovations on our first son’s newly purchased used mobile home.  I would be there to help Michael; and although I had never done construction before, Michael, an expert in renovations, was going to teach me his passion. Not only did I learn how to use power tools and conquer black mold and dry-rot, but living in our Airstream provided me with a glimpse of how so many in the world live everyday—in simplicity and smallness versus in consumption and possessions. So with that background in mind, I want to share in Part I what I have learned about “Living Small—Food.

the frugal catholic tiny homes kitchen space
My tiny kitchen space

   Our Airstream has a kitchen with a stove, an oven, one small sink and refrigerator. My total kitchen counter space amounts to approximately two inches, and I am not exaggerating. That is not a lot different than most people around the world. The normal kitchen size of most North American homes is often large: not so for the food preparation space of many others in this  world. Thus, food downsizing became a constant theme, for there was really no place to prepare victuals, and after preparation, one needed to store leftovers, and that was my biggest challenge. So each trip to the supermarket came with much forethought.

   I had to learn to think “Small, Rich, and Real” (somewhat like last month’s blog entry). Small because the refrigerator and freezer space were tiny. Rich because there wasn’t room for choices of 1%, 2%, or 3% milk but just one container of milk or cream so we went “full-fat.” And Real because when you are living with less space, you want to eat wholesomely even if that nutrition means beans, rice, and corn tortillas. One wants to use his/her money wisely, for food becomes not just what you live to eat, but it assumes the natural position for which God intended: Food becomes what we eat to live.

An interior view of our living space. Note refrigerator on right.
An interior view of our living space. Note refrigerator on right.

   Frugal dinners looked like a three-point picture. We consumed meat, often within a casserole type meal; vegetables, usually within a salad or canned vegetables; and a starch, generally incorporated within the casserole. The freezer/ refrigerator space negated ice cream or generally any kind of dessert so fresh fruit and nuts were our desserts. Leftovers were carefully packaged in small, clear, containers and all stacked cautiously on top of each other for maximum storage. But what I noticed from this three point presentation is that I gave much more thought to utilizing everything in the refrigerator—a concept which one doesn’t need to do when one has more refrigerator storage space because when food is out of sight,  it usually is out of mind, and will go bad. Thus, I was much more economical in our food consumption because I was completely aware of what the refrigerator held. That is good!

   And not only did we need to monitor the refrigerator space, but every item in our cabinets also became subject to scrutiny. Did I need two types of rice when one would do? What about keeping the dry foods in jars or containers so they would be easier to store and stack on top of one another? Everything had a place and a space for that place, or it didn’t deserve to be in our tiny home.

   Another concept which became very important was to NOT buy the biggest size of an item, but the smallest. For example, instead of purchasing a COSTCO size jar of mayonnaise, I now shopped the Dollar Store to get tiny versions of my favorite products, and I found that they were often a better deal than their super-sized counterparts.

   One area in which I became quite adroit was in using up leftovers. If you think about it, God is a master of knowing what He has, for scripture says that not one sparrow falls to the ground which He doesn’t know about so why couldn’t I be that prudent? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matthew 10:29 NRSVCE    Once, for example, I had to feed six people (we always had someone over for dinner) by using one and one-half chicken breasts. In the past in my bigger-house kitchen, I would have used six breasts. Now I had to stretch the one and one-half into six portions by using vegetables, pasta, and cheese. It was a success for everyone became members of the “clean plate club.”

   So what did this six months of living small with food teach me when we came back to our elder house?

airstream size outside
An exterior view of our tiny house.

   Well for starters, we let our old freezer in the garage go to Habitat for Humanity. I wasn’t going to go back to buying in bulk and having things in the freezer expire for lack of use. And simultaneously our outside older  refrigerator died too leaving me with one normal sized refrigerator inside of the kitchen. From these letting go’s, I am now not buying less food, and I am really using up everything which we have. I even look in the refrigerator with each meal to see what might be going bad and how I could incorporate it into the evening’s dinner. Last night for example, I put dying home-made blue cheese dressing on my steak and old jam in the canned corn for a zippier flavor. It was wonderful and “very frugal.”

   So the moral to this Blog is that truly LESS IS MORE. That applies to not only food, but to possessions, which I will cover in “Living Small—Part II—Possessions.” Stay tuned for May.

The Frugal Catholic Stretched Casserole                                          by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.

Leftover meat                       

leftover starch like rice or potatoes

leftover vegetables

a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

canned vegetables if needed

a cup of grated cheese or any old shredded cheese 

bread crumbs

Combine the above and cover with cheese and bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45–60  minutes. Serve with the candles lit, some boxed wine, and heated  bread spread with butter. Delicious!!

 

 

Equals Living Under Your Means with Wise Fianancial Planning and Discovering the Joys of Good Stewardship