I have some random thoughts running through my head…so thought I’d just do a chatty type post and see where we end up!


simple cakes are my favorite

Today was my birthday! It’s a little too close to Christmas, but I still enjoy each new year with a certain kind of proprietary feeling. This year I didn’t make a cake; instead Michael and I went out for coffee and each got a pastry. So much better than having a cake sitting around taunting us. And I love coffee dates and Michael rarely wants to do that, so that part was lovely, too. I extracted a promise that part of his birthday gift to me could actually be MORE coffee dates throughout the year. We’ll see. 😉 We had planned to go hiking this morning, but it was rainy and just dreary and chilly all day so that never materialized. We’ll try to go next weekend, I think. And on Tuesday we’re going to the movies to see Rogue One, assuming it’s still there. I like having my birthday treats spread out. Oh, and tomorrow there will be yummy steaks for dinner. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying these simple, beautiful cakes. I thought I’d share some of my favorites here!


I made Hearty Lentil Stew for dinner this evening, which is my new recipe for the week. I’m always skeptical about lentil soup recipes because they are always so bland when I taste them during the cooking process. And of course, either my skepticism is rewarded and the soup is bland and lentil-y and I understand why people don’t like lentils OR it’s totally knock your socks off amazing and I want to share it with everyone. Oddly enough, there are rarely many ingredient changes between the soups/stews that are bland and those that are amazing. Anyway, I now have two lentil soup/stew recipes that I really like. This was one of them, hooray!


Cooking the stew tonight I was thinking about how I tend to approach recipes as guidelines not set in stone mandates. And then one of the cooking blogs I follow posted on the same topic. I love both David Lebovitz and Jacques Pepin, so this post is a lovely gem for me. But I also think it’s a really good reminder for when the cake you’re baking takes twice as long (or worse…burns before you think to check it) as the recipe indicates or your onions don’t seem to soften in the time the cookbook says they should. As someone who is capable but slapdash (or at least…flexible with instructions), it is nice to think of this trait as inherently good for cooking and not, say, lazy or lackadaisical.


I’m also thinking about the Compact and just how often I experience the impulse to purchase things before thinking about other solutions to the problem or need. I had this idea that the first week of January would be pretty much no spend, but that didn’t happen. I had to buy books for classes and I both needed and wanted some fresh produce. I got gas for the car and we went out for coffee today. Among other things. But even among all of that, there were still many times when I thought…oh, I can just get that at Target/Kohls/Amazon/Publix before checking myself and asking — do I really need it and do I maybe have that exact item here and just don’t feel like putting in the effort to find it? Embarrassingly, the answer was often yes. And I think that I have actually become so thoughtful over the past few years about purchases and checking impulses! I’ve also been thinking about those items that I foresee that I will actually need this year…and how comfortable am I, really, with the idea of buying a used version of that item? In theory I have no problem with and even enjoy Goodwill and other thrift stores. Other times I am impatient and slightly skeeved out. Not because things are used, but because even though thrift stores are a way to limit over consumption, they are also such a testament to the massive over-consumption in our society AND I am reminded of all the things in my own home that I don’t need and actually plan to donate to just such a store. It can all make me want to crawl under a rock and just blindly shop online. Anyway, I’ll talk more about my specific purchases in my goal accountability post tomorrow, but these are some of the thoughts going through my head.


Birthday freebies. Do you guys sign up for these? I have signed up for I think almost every single program out there. I do NOT use all of them, as making a special trip across town for a BOGO milkshake or whatever is actually not all that smart, but I do like to take advantage of these when I can. Still, when they all start coming in…I get slightly overwhelmed and also get a bit greedy and want to use them ALL. One of the things that I think I get caught up in is thinking that I just “deserve a treat.” But deserve is not a word I particularly like (for a number of reasons, the biggest being that I think this attitude is in no small part responsible for…hmmm…a general trend toward massive self-centeredness and entitlement in the world) and so then I get annoyed with myself for getting caught up in that trap. Also…while I appreciate that these programs are meant to entice you into the establishment and hopefully buy MORE than just the free item, I feel weird about visiting a business solely for their free product if I don’t at other times during the year also patronize that business. I don’t think it’s ethically wrong to do so and obviously if the program hurts their bottom line, the business will either change their program (and I’ve noticed that many have) or…not survive. But I think this is all tied in to my feelings about my own contribution to over consumption and so on. I’m not quite sure where I totally fall on this, just kicking these thoughts around, I guess. Because tomorrow morning I am definitely going to get a free doughnut from Krispy Kreme! 😉



8 thoughts on “Chatty

  1. First and foremost Happy Birthday to you! Hope your day was happy and delightful. A few years ago we started getting a cupcake for each of us on our birthdays. Yes I know it is more expensive than making a cake, but we never need entire cakes around here, especially since we call cakes that last 2 days here a bad cake.

    This year for Christmas I made it a point to mainly give gifts that were useful everyday/consumable/ experiential. Every single person I know has too much stuff, me included. And even after saying those words I have recently found myself longing for a bread maker. Why? I can and do make bread without one. And if I do get one do I buy it new or used? I am just unsure. And do I even need one? No, but the wanting part of me is wrestling with that no and is trying very hard to pin it to the ground. I also need a new set of sheets for my bed. (I am down to one set now and hate not having an extra set.) But I wonder who gives perfectly good sheets to Goodwill plus I am very funny about having only off white 500 count cotton sheets (I can’t sleep in dark colors and the cotton is a tactile thing) Do I search until I find what I want/need or just go to the January white sales. Like you I am in a conundrum.

    1. We have same system for rating cookies and cakes, I see. 😉 This is my thought on the individual pastries/cupcake, and truly I don’t mind the expense. I like supporting bakeries and if we had planned better I would have made it a point to get something from a local place we haven’t yet tried. But. Sometimes I miss baking so I need to figure out how to get my baking fix on without overloading the two of us with unneeded calories.

      We did very similar type gifts in my family. And I think this is a trend that will continue for us. It’s hard mostly with the kids, but I also don’t want them or their parents to feel overloaded with stuff. I do wish we lived closer so that I could do more experiential gifts with them. When they are older it will be easier to understand and we can plan fun things for when we visit.

      It’s been so interesting for me belong to and read the posts in the NCA facebook group. I am so not that far into my non-consumer journey! And I don’t know if I ever will be for some things. I’m pretty ok with buying facial tissues and feel the same about sheets. More power to people who are comfortable doing things differently! I’m guessing I will come to an understanding about myself and our needs during the course of this challenge, but right now I am feeling through everything a day at a time!

  2. Happy birthday, Laura. May this be a wonderful year of joy and good health. I like how you plan to spread your celebration over several days.

    I enjoyed reading your chatty post. Lots of things to think about. I don’t buy a lot of things anymore, but when I do, I tend to buy new, when they go on sale.

    1. Thanks Bless! I also tend to buy what I need on sale. The thing I am noticing (and this in just seven day, argh) is that when I need/want something I want it RIGHT NOW. And that is the impulse I am trying to curb. 🙂

  3. Happy belated Birthday! How lovely that you were able to drag your husband to a coffee date (ah! I’m only saying that because I’d have to do the same with Greg although he will come quite willingly to a lunch or dinner out but he doesn’t do coffee shops) AND extract a promise of more coffee dates throughout the year!

    Lots of thoughts and lots of cakes in your post. I admit the cakes were very distracting because 1) I love cakes and 2) I’ve been on a d-i-e-t so now I’m hungry for cake. Thanks. And how do they manage to make the sprinkles look like they’re dripping upwards?! I so do not have the patience to decorate even those “simple” cakes as you put it. They don’t look so simple to me! But delicious, yes. Hmm, caaaaaaake!

    I think it’s normal for anyone to struggle with doubts and want to “rewrite the rules” when you embark on something as restrictive as “the compact”. You’ve lived your life in a culture of consumerism all those years and it’s very hard to try to escape it, especially when it’s so darn convenient to be able to buy something at any time, pretty much, and it’s almost a given in this country that we have cars and the stores aren’t all that far (not for everyone but I think for a large majority of us). I found myself so frustrated when I went back to France several years ago because the stores were closed on Sundays, were closed for 2 hours at lunch time, were closed on Mondays or Tuesdays if the shopkeeper had opened on Saturdays, and closed at 5:30 to 6 p.m. at night during the week. Here, I used to get frustrated that I couldn’t buy Greg’s beer if I went shopping on Sunday mornings because my county doesn’t allow beer and wine sales until 11 a.m. on Sundays. So you kind of have to take all the assumptions that you’ve lived with all your life and try to ignore them and reaaaaaally examine whether you need the thing that you were about to purchase or if you can wait. Or not get it at all. Or buy it used at a later date if you come across it.

    I’m not a minimalist so I have no problem buying multiple copies of the same thing. For instance, I have something like 9 silicone spatulas and 4 spreaders. To me having the right tools and in the correct quantity for my lifestyle is far more important than not buying 8 of the spatulas because I hate having to look for what I need while I’m cooking or baking.

    On the other end, I’m almost fanatic about keeping things that I could be reusing in some ways. I have way too many plastic and glass jars (will be working on whittling now my stock this year), I keep empty spray bottles to reuse them, rubber bands, plastic bags of all kinds (I use reusable bags when I go shopping but the rest of my family doesn’t and then there are the bags that come with the newspaper, that Greg bring back from the gym, the bread bags, etc…). I keep buttons from items of clothing that will be discarded because they can’t be donated. I agonize about keeping zippers (I don’t sew so I would never be in a position to reuse that!), metal buckles, parts that I think we might need. I keep all screws, nuts and doohickies that I come across.

    I don’t have a problem with thrift stores. For one, I rarely donate cash to organizations. I donate 99% of the items that I purge from our house to a couple of thrift stores in town even though we can’t take the tax deduction because we can’t itemize our return. I like that they provide volunteering opportunities for people who want/need to feel helpful, raise funds for causes that are important (to me), let people reuse items that would end up in a landfill otherwise, and allow me to purchase items for pennies on the dollar that will be useful to me. I love my breadmaker that I bought for under $10. I don’t use it all that often right now (diet!), but it’s a great appliance and it works just as well as a shiny new one from Walmart or Target or Amazon. I have many appliances from thrift stores. A lot of our furniture also came from thrift stores. A lot of my clothes as well. When the kids were little, a lot of their toys. I don’t think that thrift stores encourage consumerism at all, on the contrary. I think they allow people like me who want to be frugal to reuse “resources” and people who can’t afford a microwave but need one to purchase one for just $6.99.

    I could put much more thought into buying things used, I do buy an awful lot of things new. So this year I’m going to try to put more effort into resisting the impulse of getting new things. I keep an ongoing thriftstore wishlist on my phone that I check before I enter any thrift store so I focus on trying to find those items instead of randomly picking up things just because they’re cheap and used.

    I understand your point about being uncomfortable when redeeming a freebie offered by a business you wouldn’t frequent anyway. I love freebies so any of my moral high ground goes right out of the window when someone offers me one. Like you, I won’t drive across town to get that BOGO milkshake, but if I can put the business on my shopping rotation on a day when I happen to be driving by, I will stop and get it. For my birthday, I never did redeem the free food or beverage item from Starbucks because their window to redeem it is ridiculously short (2 days!) and it didn’t include a Wednesday, which is when I could be close to a Starbucks. As a matter of fact, there are several birthday freebies that I never did redeem (Auntie Anne’s pretzel, McAllister $5 off a meal…) However, I do redeem the Murphy USA freebies that are available at the station in town, even though I don’t get my gas there (I used to, though!) and I redeem those from Wawa even though I don’t get my gas there (but I have $5 invested in their app AND I do spend money there occasionally when my BFF and I meet for a cheap coffee date there). I don’t think I “deserve” anything and I hate that word as well. It’s so smug, the word “deserve”, I really should try to stop using it altogether. I won’t “scam” businesses out of a freebie but if they offer it, I will take them up on it. If you stop accepting freebies from businesses that you don’t normally frequent, I will applaud you while thinking “more for ME!”, hahaha. Just kidding.

    Sorry my comment is so rambling, I guess I got chatty on a cold Sunday morning as well 🙂 I think that like the recipes that you like to tweak, you will find the right “recipe” for this Compact experiment that works for you as the year unfolds. You don’t need to be perfect or an ascetic or even a minimalist. Just find what works for your lifestyle and experiment to see if your theoretical philosophy about shopping, consumerism, etc. is rewarding and fulfilling to you when you try to implement it or if it just causes you more stress. As time goes by, you will find the right balance for your own way of thinking and lifestyle.

    1. Chatty indeed! 🙂 Hmm…I suppose the cakes are simple in presentation, if not in execution for the decorator. Michael is also totally fine with going out to eat for a “real meal” but for whatever reason could care less about coffee shops or similar. I’m going to hold him to more of these in this year, though!

      You’re completely right that I am having to re-think a lot of what I have just ingested as someone totally immersed in consumer culture. I’m not a minimalist, either; I like having multiples of things I use frequently and thinks its silly to get rid of things that have a purpose IF I can see an actual fit for that purpose in our home. Which is the crux for my decluttering, of course. I don’t think thrift stores contribute to consumer culture, more I think that their contents are a huge testament to the consumer culture in which we live.
      The freebie thing…is just something I waffle on when I have the sudden smorgasbord of free treats and have to make decisions. I did use my Starbucks drink this year, although I think the two day thing is silly. There are some others with time limits that just don’t work for me and so on. I don’t think I’m scamming anyone, either, like I said they wouldn’t offer these rewards if they didn’t see some kind of perk to their bottom line. And I did totally enjoy my hot Krispy Kreme doughnut today! 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement!!

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