Make Time Into Your Friend
All of us are given the same 24 hours a day
to manage. Those who are successful at living simply with
style handle their time allotment so they are seldom bored
The first notion of time we must accept and
practice in our lives is that it’s never too late.
We may have procrastinated in the past, but we can begin
to take action today. Want to write poetry? Jot down a rhyme.
Desire to lose weight? Change an eating habit over the next
couple of meals. Thinking about a computer? Devote some time
at a public library with a terminal. Have an unresolved conflict
with family or friends? Pick up the phone or pen now. Come
up with solutions to your usual excuses. Take advantage of
that special gift, a second chance.
The other aspect of time is to understand
how to hurry slowly. Savoring the moments, slowing down,
and spending half our hours in quiet and calm—all depict
a person who is living wisely. Some people are able to discover
this reflective pace by adjusting daily schedules. Others
need to allocate special days for these peaceful pleasures.
Treat yourself kindly.
When we find things we really want to do,
we’ll find the time to do them. This is one of life’s
difficult lessons: No matter what people claim their dreams
might be, their real dreams and values are expressed by how
they spend their time. We may not be able to instantly achieve
a dream, but if we’re serious, we can take the first
steps. If we truly desire to travel, we’ll make an
excursion, even if it’s to a nearby park rather than
around the world. If we have a passionate desire to read,
we’ll do it even if it requires reserving a small block
of time in our schedule. If you’re still struggling,
create a deadline or have a reward ready for taking action.
An eye-opening exercise is to discover how
you spend your days. If you’ve kept an appointment
calendar, you can look back over the past year and made a
list of things. Put them in two columns, fill one with the
less-than-wonderful experiences; in the other, list the rewarding
events. You may be surprised at how much time was squandered
on the trivial and how little on your passions. If you don’t
have the appointment calendar to review, start making notes
each day on how much time you allocate to each activity.
Naturally, the goal is to identify the times you’re
happiest and expand them, while noticing times when you’re
least happy and reduce them.
Be wary of common time leeches. Too much attention
focused on items such as TV, the news, gossip, complaints,
celebrities, social networking, etc. can drain much of your
energy with little positive to show for it. Put more effort
into choices that reward you emotionally, physically, or
Our lives blossom when we carefully nurture
how we use our time. When we balance our reflective moments
with our active ones, when our stated priorities coincide
with our usage of time, we find that time becomes our trusted
Editor’s Note: The Smiths have two
new websites for their two new books: www.endangeredthebook.com and www.winning-wines.com.
Both books are for sale at The Book Shelf in Tryon.
Relax! (And Lower Stress)
All of us know how to relax,
right? Perhaps not. There’s an immense difference between
effective relaxation and taking a nap or kicking back and
watching a movie. Relaxation involves a person concentrating
so well that the heart and breath rates slow, blood pressure
lowers, muscle tension and pain decrease, blood flow and
alpha brainwaves increase, and a sense of well-being floods
the body. As the stress releases, soothing feelings intensify.
Our concentration improves; our anger and frustration disappear;
our confidence is boosted.
From birth, some of us have more
of a tendency toward tension than others. We readily see
differences in temperament among small children. Among adults,
we hear of type A personalities and their tendency toward
heart attacks. Vividly, we recall our own moments of tension,
anger, and high stress. We’ve all experienced that
edge, the times when we’ve been acutely uncomfortable,
almost out-of-control. The good news is that even if we tend
toward a high-stress, high-tension profile, we can dramatically
lower those sensations with learned techniques.
Relaxation techniques have many names: meditation
or prayer; yoga, stretching, or breathing exercises; tai-chi;
sensitivity training and self-hypnosis; massage; communing
with nature. The underlying component of all of these is:
the individual’s inward focus is toward a calming state.
Let’s take a simple example — breathing. We all
know how to breathe; it’s automatic. When we focus
on the breath, however, we begin to sense a change. We feel
the breath; we shut out distractions.
Basically, there are two types of relaxation:
autogenic and progressive. Autogenic comes from within us.
Repeat a mantra or visualize a beautiful place. With progressive,
the focus is on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle
group, starting with your head and ending with your toes.
Other techniques include: looking for good
news, smells, and tastes. Reading a popular novel, listening
to music, smelling the coffee, and eating dark chocolate
can be beneficial, too. Related to reading is keeping a journal,
especially noting the best moments of a day. Another venue
is: getting out of town. Often, this change of perspective
can bring good feelings as well as good times.
It’s positive news that almost everyone
can learn to relax. If in the past you’ve had difficulty
relaxing, there are guided programs that can teach you the
process (search on-line for “learning relaxation techniques”).
In addition, there are musical and other sound recordings
as well as white noise machines, fountains, even, foot massagers.
All relaxation training helps us achieve a
calmer, centered state of being. With regular practice, relaxation
dramatically improves our health and our lives. It’s
used by athletes to enhance their performance. It’s
used by the devout to feel closer to their religion. It’s
used by the fearful to release their fears. It can be used
by all to simply feel better and more in control of their
What’s more is: People who engage in
regular relaxation improve their mental as well as physical
health. So, get out there – and practice relaxing!
Editor’s Note: This article is based
on one of Mara & Ford Smith’s 101 Secrets
for a Great Retirement. That book and others
by Mara and Ford are available at Tryon’s Book Shelf.
An essential part of living simply
with style is giving. You can give money, donate time, support
a cause, share your skills, even, leave a legacy.
The vast majority of Americans
(more than 70%) give money every year. Of course, you want
your money spent efficiently. A great source for investigating
various organizations is the web site: www.charitynavigator.org.
For almost ten years, this group has evaluated non-profits
both on overall as well as fund-raising efficiency.
If you want to provide funds for emergency
assistance, a local option might be Steps to Hope (countering
domestic violence). An effective national group, Feeding
America, provides most of the food used in food banks
such as Manna in Asheville and Thermal Belt Outreach in Polk
Perhaps you can give the gift of time. Organizations
such as Americorps, Peace Corps, Make a Wish Foundation,
Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and Hospice can effectively use
your skills. Also, you could tutor, deliver for Meals On
Wheels, perform roadside or creekside cleanup, or assist
with maintenance for a worthy cause.
You might want to contribute to groups that support others in a more
long-term manner. If you go to www.kiva.org,
you can participate in their microfinance effort. Kiva's mission is to
connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.
Another effort is Heifer International where
you can fund farm animals that allow the poor families to raise their
level of sustainability. Then, they help others by “Passing on
After the Haiti earthquake, one person’s
plan for long-range development gained some publicity. Abe
Valentin has created self-sufficient fish hatcheries that
are being deployed among the poorest villages, enabling them
to dramatically raise their meager cash flow. You can read
more at the Social Enterprise Fund’s web
Perhaps, you’ve heard of Craig Mortenson,
author of Three Cups of Tea, and his efforts to help Pakistanis
and Afghans build schools for their villages (especially
for girls). Pennies
for Peace, created by U.S. school students, has raised
thousands of dollars for the effort.
With a little research, you could discover
Ashoka, an ambitious organization that supports third-world
entrepreneurs. The success of its fellows over the last eleven
years is impressive. You can donate or volunteer.
Another way to give is by conserving land for
future generations. Sign a conservation easement or work
with the Pacolet Area Conservancy. Look at Walnut Creek Preserve
in northern Polk County. Visit nearby Hatcher Garden in Spartanburg
to learn what one couple created from farmed-out, red dirt
cotton fields — with minimum financial resources.
You can also donate goods to thrift stores
administered by various non-profits. You can even sell items
through Ebay’s Giving Works section and allocate all
or part of the proceeds to your favorite charity.
At some point, you might consider leaving a
long-lasting legacy. You could tell or write a story, create
a visual record, or learn to pay it forward. Consider Warren
Buffet’s example of pledging to have 95% of his fortune
given away to favorite causes after his death. Endow some
scholarships. Create a fund administered by the Polk County
We can choose to live simply, but learning
to give generously has style.
Editor’s Note: Mara & Ford Smith
hope to leave a legacy with their writing and photography.
Their books are available at The Book Shelf and their wine
list at La Bouteille. Their photographs can be seen at Kathleen’s
Gallery, The Purple Onion, and the Saluda Inn’s wine
cellar. This article and earlier ones can be found on their
web site at www.livesimplywithstyle.com.
A Great American Cookout
Cookouts have been happening
all over the world since man discovered how to create fire
on demand. Without refrigeration, meat had to be either cooked
and eaten quickly after slaughter or preserved by a spicing
or smoking process.
At cookouts, people gather around a fire or
grill to watch, smell, then eat. Like the fires of prehistory,
this is also the place to drink, sing songs, and tell stories.
The cooking can mean barbecuing meats or grilling vegetables,
breads, even, desserts!
Burgers have become an American summer tradition.
Whether you choose classic charcoal or easy gas, the aromas
and ambience of outdoor cooking create a wonderful, warm-weather
experience. In this column, let’s raise the taste levels
to new heights.
The menu starts with an appetizer featuring
fresh crudités. Choose from celery, jicama, peppers
(green, red, and yellow), broccoli florets, cauliflower,
zucchini, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes — cut as
needed to work as dippers. Prepare two wonderful dips that
are somewhat unusual but tasty, a smoked oyster-ripe olive
and a dill seed. (These recipes and the following ones are
free under Foods & Wines - Entertain on www.livesimplywithstyle.com)
The main dish features burgers — either
a blue-cheese hamburger or a spicy black-bean vegetarian
option. (Take a shortcut by purchasing the delicious Morning
Star Chipotle Black Bean Burgers.) For meaty hamburgers for
four, take basic ground chuck, add a few spices and a surprise
filling. This recipe is adapted from ones served at La Maison
Troisgros in Roanne, France and Club 21 in New York.
1 pound ground chuck, shaped into 8 patties
(about 6" diameter and ¼" thick)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
4 Tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
4 whole-wheat sourdough English muffins
2-4 leaves of romaine lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced into 4 slices
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
On one of the shaped patties, sprinkle a tablespoon
of blue cheese. Top with another patty and seal the edges
with your fingers. Continue, making three other "sandwiched" patties.
Dust the formed patties with salt, pepper, garlic, and dry
Cook the burgers outside on a grill, times
vary depending on which method you choose. As a guide, allow
10 minutes per side in a slow charcoal smoker or 5 minutes
per side on a hot charcoal/gas grill.
As the burgers are cooking, toast the muffins
on a baking sheet under the broiler. 1 or 2 minutes will
turn them golden brown.
Spread mayonnaise on each muffin half, put
on a burger and a dollop of mustard. Add lettuce leaf and,
finally, a tomato topped with caramelized onions. No matter
your preference (meat or vegetable), you’ll find the
topping of caramelized onions on a fresh tomato slice to
For a hot summer day, the perfect low-carb
side dish is a garlicky green bean salad. And, a beautiful
dessert course features Red, White & Blue Parfaits — sweetened
cream with ripe strawberries and blueberries. To quench your
thirst, serve luscious lemonade or a selection of domestic
Remember that all the recipes mentioned in this column (sized for 12
people) are free, available on-line at www.livesimplywithstyle.com.
When you enter your e-mail address, you’ll receive the shopping
list and be able to download the whole plan. Find more of Mara & Ford
Smith’s nonfiction works at Tryon’s Book Shelf.
Travel with a Focus
There are numerous ways to take a trip and
the travel industry will be happy to sell you a few. What
is often overlooked is how to travel simply with style.
Travel is all about time — and taking
time can lead to many broadening and fulfilling opportunities.
All your experiences will be firsthand — far richer
than what can be obtained from brochures, guide books, or
For example, a wonderful exercise is to buy
enough food supplies for a couple of weeks and then escape
to a remote, beautiful location without phones, newspapers,
radio, television, and the like. Take books, hiking shoes,
perhaps, a canoe for “entertainment.” Then, relax
and live day-to-day. Give yourself permission to enjoy the
natural world. When successful, this cold-turkey withdrawal
from modern society opens you up to how little is needed
for memorable moments.
Traveling with style implies having a purpose
other than gawking at the natives, touring all the museums,
or shopping for souvenirs. This focus might be finding Native
American rock art; visiting historic or archeological sites;
learning about wines or regional foods; walking among geological
wonders; hearing folk songs or stories; photographing events,
people, animals, landscapes, or flowers; trying to spot a
rare bird; touring scenic byways; following in the footsteps
of explorers; visiting places of “power.”
If you schedule your journey with extra time,
impromptu side-trips can provide long-lasting memories. You
may find a stone ledge overlooking the North Platte Valley
in Nebraska and watch hundreds of spiders ride gossamer threads
on the wind. Or, you could take an unplanned turn at a brown
sign to discover Sheep Creek Canyon, a geologic treasure
in Utah’s Ashley National Forest. Perhaps, an unsafe
bridge will make you detour down a seldom-used Mississippi
road through loess (from ancient dust storms) that’s
taller than your vehicle. Along the way, you’ll find
a Presbyterian Church with a Civil War cannonball in its
brickwork. The shot came from the Federal gunboat "Rattler" on
the Mississippi River.
You can plan exotic experiences, such as paddling
or rafting the Grand Canyon, bicycling Shark Valley in the
Everglades, walking across a volcano in Hawaii, taking the
Polar Bear Express train to James Bay on the Hudson Bay (hundreds
of miles from the nearest highway), sailing the Caribbean,
horseback riding in Monument Valley, snow skiing in the Grand
Tetons, or sea kayaking in Alaska’s Lynn Canal. And,
you can do all of this in North America, if you consider
Hawaii to be North American.
Of course, there are many places to stay, too:
campgrounds for tents and RVs, youth hostels or Ys, bed and
breakfasts, motels, hotels, resorts, cruise boats, institutes,
even, convents and abbeys.
Many people perform services or volunteer work
as a way to see the world while giving something back. Others
vacation for personal development or adventure. However you
travel, have a focus, keep it simple, and enjoy!
Editor’s Notes: Go to parody to
see the Smiths’ photo-parody of “How the West
Was Camped.” If you’d like to learn what the
Smiths have learned about wines in their travels, pick
up a copy of their “Winning Wines: Medal-Winners
for $12 or Less.” It’s at Tryon’s Book
Shelf, across from the Tryon Post Office.
Unclutter Your Home
Phyllis Diller wrote in her Housekeeping
Hints, “If your house is really a mess and a
stranger comes to the door, greet him with, ‘Who
could have done this? We have no enemies!’” That
may be amusing once or twice. In the long run, though,
it might be better to get organized.
When organizing your home, a good place to
start is to walk around with a pad and pencil. Ask yourself:
What is the purpose of this room? After deciding each room’s
role, remove items that do not belong. Perhaps you want your
bedroom to be a place of tranquility, using it only for sleeping
and dressing. If so, move out the television and the telephone.
Other rooms can be centers for multiple activities. The family
room can have the television, the stereo, the telephone,
the bookcases, the storage for giftwrap....
Also, it pays to have a system to handle everyday
clutter. How do you deal with mail? How do you manage recyclables?
How many stuffed animals or plastic toys does a child need?
How many objects do you need on your kitchen counter tops?
How many clocks do you want to reset when electrical power
For mail, sort it immediately, making stacks
such as bills to pay, newspaper or magazines to read, letters
and advertisements to consider, envelopes and other paper
Recycling is easy these days. Keep handy reusable
bins for paper and cardboard, plastic and glass bottles or
aluminum cans. Learn what materials can be recycled at your
local landfill and sort accordingly.
Too many toys or electric gadgets may be indicators
of a homeowner with more money than sense. Know when enough
If you feel as if you’re drowning in
stuff, edit! Pretend you are moving across the country. Would
you really want to take this item with you? Make four piles:
one to keep, one to repair, one to donate to a worthy cause,
one to trash. It’s a good opportunity to get rid of
no-longer-worn clothes; chipped dishes; unused small appliances,
baby equipment, sporting goods, and children’s playthings.
Go through the repair pile a second time. Is that article
really worth your effort or money? Some of it may need to
go into the trash pile, too.
Okay, you’ve purposed your rooms and
you’ve edited their contents. Now rethink storage.
Even if you have lots of closets, you may want to add shelves.
Containers such as covered boxes, bins, hampers, baskets,
bags, even, jars and other dishware can help you organize
necessary stuff. Hooks can be helpful too — for towels,
robes, jackets, scarves, umbrellas, hats, aprons. . . .
If there is more than one person living in
the same space, it’s a good idea to have agreed-upon
places for essentials. The hammer may be stored in the toolbox.
The emergency flashlight might be in the hall closet. Scissors
will be found in the miscellaneous drawer. Designated places
can save everyone a lot of time and frustration — almost
Editor’s Note: Mara & Ford Smith’s
non-fiction books are available at The Book Shelf. This
article and earlier ones can be found on their website
“It was the best of times; it was the
worst of times . . . ” to paraphrase Charles Dickens
in A Tale of Two Cities. When your life is relatively
free of crisis and worry is the best time to prepare, but
human nature appears to resist facing potential problems.
On a personal level, you know theft, fire,
sudden illness, harsh weather, an energy crisis, even, a
terrorist attack can occur at any moment. Do you have immediate
access to all your bank cards, medical information, and important
documents? It takes very little time to digitally photograph
or scan the front and back of all these items to store on
a USB flash drive or a CD. Another option is to simply print
copies and file them in a fireproof safe or safe deposit
box. Then, no matter what the catastrophe, you can retrieve
If you’re using a computer, the possibilities
of identify theft multiply. Insure you use a very personal
password (one you can remember but is extremely hard to break).
Perhaps you’ve chosen red tulip since that’s
your favorite flower. The password redtulip is reasonably
easy to break but rD&tUlp is far more difficult
(notice dropping two vowels, using unusual capitalization,
and adding at least one special character).
For medical emergencies, do you and your health
care provider have a copy of your medical durable power of
attorney? Forms for your state are generally available free
on-line or from a local hospital. Do you know what to do
if someone else is having an emergency? Basic first aid skills
and the latest CPR technique (from the Mayo Clinic) are easy
to learn and help you feel secure if you need to act. And,
don’t forget the mantra of healthy diet and regular
exercise to minimize future problems. Consider adding green
tea (steeped for ten minutes), 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3, and
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric as supplements to make it harder
for cancer cells to develop (from Anticancer:
A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber).
Turning to your home and your possessions,
analyze your “when things go wrong” plans. Are
all the critical files on your computer backed-up frequently
with a copy stored away from your home or office? When the
power fails, do you have alternate methods to cook, a way
to keep warm, means to prolong foods in the refrigerator,
and a source of drinking water? In case of traumatic events
such as theft, fire, wind, or water, do you have an updated home
inventory with images, video, or computer descriptions?
Do your smoke detectors work? And, especially for families,
do you have an emergency exit plan — and have you run
Your vehicle can use a few moments of your
consideration. Store a spare tire, a jack, extra fuses, water,
wrenches, screwdrivers, cord (can work as an emergency fan
belt), a quart of oil, and duct tape. In winter, add a sleeping
bag or space blanket.
Face the possibility of having your income
suddenly change (loss of job, vacant rental units, declining
stocks and investments). A rule of thumb is to hold in reserve
at least six months of cash at your current living standard.
If the shortfall looks more serious, cutting expenses can
prolong your reserves.
To help your partner and family, take time
to set up a will and living trust. It will significantly
smooth the settlement of your estate. If your situation is
reasonably straightforward, free on-line forms can handle
the situation. In the case of living trusts, remember, first,
you create the trust and, then, you change each account or
deed — for example, the Mary and John Doe Account becomes
the Mary and John Doe Trust Account.
Perhaps the single most important act you can
take to simplifying your preparedness for the future is to
de-clutter and rationally organize your life. Out of the
maelstrom come peace and serenity.
Editor’s Note: Mara & Ford Smith’s
non-fiction books are available at The Book Shelf. This
article and earlier ones can be found on their website
Garden for the joys in it.
In your landscape, whether you’re starting
a new garden or altering the design of an established one,
check out what grows well where you live. For example, in
western North Carolina, indigenous trees are redbuds and
dogwoods. Shrubs that thrive include azaleas and hydrangeas.
Some of the flowering plants that love the area are: black-eyed
Susans, purple coneflower, orange daylilies, yellow tickseed,
and multi-colored sweet William. Bulbs and tubers include
daffodils and irises. Broccoli, tomatoes, and watermelon
help make up the vegetable patch.
Take walks and drive around. Peer into other
gardens — maybe, take a few photographs to help you
identify what’s growing, blooming, and setting fruit.
Go to farmers’ markets. See what produce they’re
selling. Sometimes, there you can even score seedlings or
Look at plans for other gardens. Analyze what
you like and don’t like. Do you like shrubs growing
close to the house or do you prefer a feeling of expansiveness?
Perhaps, you love gentle curves and abhor straight lines.
There are many types of gardens: formal and informal, rock,
xeriscape (conserving water), woodland, cottage, vegetable....
Figure out the effect you want before you start planting.
Then, watch where the sun shines — and
doesn’t. Track its path during a day, during a season.
Too, watch where water runs in a rainstorm. Do you need to
remedy any drainage problems? Another element to pay attention
to is wind. Some plants such as gardenias and dill weed are
sensitive. For wind protection and, sometimes, for nosy neighbors,
you may want to add screening.
Of course, test your soil. Usually, that service
is free at the county agriculture extension service. When
you get the results, improve the soil as needed. Often, that
simply means compost (what you dig in) or mulch (what you
put on top).
At this point, you may feel you need help. There are many books at the
library, knowledgeable people at nurseries, classes at the community
college, master gardeners at the extension office. Of course, other gardeners
are great resources for information and, sometimes, free plants.
Now plot variety in heights, foliages, and
blossom colors. If buying perennials, buy one of each. Watch
what grows this year and what comes back next spring. Then,
buy more of what does well. Whatever you choose (annual,
perennial, or vegetable), make sure it will grow in your
hardiness zone. Then, follow directions: how much sun, how
much water, how far apart....
If gardening with poor soil or hungry critters,
think raised beds or containers with drought-tolerant plants.
Lots of herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, and peppers can be grown
in containers. You’ll enjoy the feeling of satisfaction,
even luxury, when harvesting and eating your own herbs or
Add paths for easy maintenance. One thing
is for sure: the weeds will grow and you’ll want to
be able to remove them without stomping your other plants.
Maybe you want a focal point such as an arbor, inviting guests to walk
through it and into your garden. Add a table and chairs for al fresco
dining, chaises for relaxing, perhaps, a bench in a secret spot. Too,
add the unexpected — a scented flower, a water feature, or a sculpture.
Make your outdoor space enjoyable!
Raised Beds at Monica Jones
and Terry Ackerman's garden
Editors Note: Many of Mara and Ford Smith’s
flower photos can be seen on their website, www.livesimplywithstyle.com,
and at Kathleen’s Gallery and The Book Shelf.
Are you looking for ways to keep
more money in your wallet and bank account?
Housing and housing expenses
such as utilities, maintenance, insurance, and taxes can
eat up 85% of your budget. Make your place as energy efficient
as possible. Take a home energy audit from your power company.
Buy a programable thermostat then program it warmer in summer
and cooler in winter. Drop some of those monthly fees off
your phone bill. Compare insurance packages and rates. Cut
your property taxes if you’re 65 or older with a limited
income, disabled with a limited income, or a disabled veteran.
Now learn to control the remaining
15% of your budget! Buy only what you need — not everything
you want. Rethink what is a “must-have” and learn
to recognize impulse buys.
On major purchases, do your research.
You can find ratings and reviews on-line or in magazines
such as Consumer Reports. Use all the internet and
library resources available to you to help you purchase quality
products that will last longer with fewer repairs.
Once you’ve decided on
any major purchase, compare options. When a local price is “in-
range,” buy it. Also, inquire if a nearby business
will match a nationally advertised price (for example, on
an appliance). Only when local alternatives are “out-of-range,” buy
through the internet or a “big box store,” if
multiple errands warrant the gasoline expense.
Watch your dollars! Refrain from
recreational shopping. (Try not looking at television ads
or circulars.) Pay bills promptly to avoid interest charges.
Brew your own coffee and carry a travel mug. Take your lunch
to work. When you’re too tired to cook, consider using
the microwave instead of the drive-thru at a fast-food chain.
Know prices of products – especially
those on your “Pantry List.” When going grocery
shopping, make a list. Buy fresh, in-season foods. Shop farmers’ markets,
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, and U-Pick sites.
When frequently used items are
on sale, stockpile if they store well. Use coupons and rebates.
Often you can find these in groceries, newspaper circulars,
or websites such as couponwinner.com.
Also, realize savings in generic brands.
Buy used articles at thrift stores
and garage sales. Children’s clothes that are outgrown
before worn out are especially good buys. In adult sizes,
classics are always in style. In home accessories, it’s
true that someone’s “trash” can be someone
else’s “treasure.” For exercise equipment,
buy only what you know you will use.
For recreation, check out the
library for books, magazines, CDs, DVDs. Enjoy games such
as cards as well as board games like chess, checkers, or
Clue. If you want to eat out, remember lunch will be cheaper
than dinner. Throw your own parties. When planning a vacation,
think close to home and consider camping.
For gifts, listen to what people
say they want. Imagine something outside the giftbox – for
example, fill a mug with teas. Around the holidays, devise
a plan and stay focused.
Run errands efficiently. First,
determine if you can walk there. If driving, implement a
3-destination rule and good gas mileage techniques: reduce
weight in the vehicle, increase tire pressure, keep rpms
low, and buy regular gasoline at best available price.
Avoid scams. Recognize these
by high pressure tactics, sob stories, vague descriptions,
and names similar to other people or organization names.
Enroll in the Do Not Call Registry. Not receiving unwanted
calls will save your time, frustration, and, perhaps, money.
These are a few ideas to help
you find additional funds in your budget. Enjoy the process
of learning how to live more simply – and with more
Will winter ever give way to spring? It’s
a good time to look for inspiration wherever you can find
In the natural world, take a different route
home — perhaps, even, “get lost!” Take
an hour or two for a hike — perhaps to a nearby waterfall
or mountain vista.
Catalogs, magazines, and books can suggest
ideas. Catalogs could be for seeds or for arts and craft
supplies. Magazines may present budget make-overs of various
rooms in your apartment or house. Books could be favorite
reads or new ones. A cookbook might offer new meal plans
and recipes to get you out of a rut. Maybe a how-to book
that could serve as your personal coach. Let publications
Of course, in your car, you can listen to
audiobooks. At home, you can give your attention to first-rate
performances on your stereo system and watch DVDs on your
Attend plays, concerts, lectures, and art
exhibits. You may see an internationally known performer
or your neighbor in a great performance. Lectures and art
exhibits may open you up to new concepts – ones you
might be able to incorporate into your own life.
Thinking about greatness, you could start
your own collection of meaningful quotes. You could include
memorable movie lines or book passages.
There can be a lot of inspiration in everyday
matters. An overheard snippet of conversation or a newspaper
article could become the basis for a poem or it could become
dialog in a short story, play, or novel.
Enroll in a class. That’s always a good
way to master a new skill. It could be a computer course,
a writing seminar, a photography workshop, an art exploration,
even, a fitness session.
Try a new endeavor or hobby. You may find
fulfillment in volunteer work for your community or a non-profit
organization. You could discover satisfaction in researching
a family tree or creating a scrapbook.
Spend a few minutes with younger people. Kids
still say the darndest (and funniest) things. Enjoy laughing
Too, you may find pleasure in helping mentor
a younger, inquisitive individual.
Explore websites of interest. Here you may
want to limit your session. Set a timer and see how many
substantive ideas you can find in one sitting.
Make a list of items you want to get done.
Categorize them: “Things I Really Want to Do” and “Things
I Don’t Really Want to Do.” If it’s practical,
forget those “Things I Really Don’t Want to Do.” Now
you may find that you need to create a category for “Things
I Don’t Really Want to Do — But I Have To Do.” Figure
out ways to do these tasks in as short a timeframe as possible.
This exercise may help you stop spinning your wheels and
start moving forward.
Most of all, look to inspire others. If you
smile, will others smile? If you’re cheerful, will
others respond accordingly? If you show a sincere interest
in others, will they reciprocate? Usually, the answer is
Editor’s Note: Mara & Ford Smith’s
next article will compile some of the best practical solutions
for saving money. If you have one you’d like to share,
e-mail it to: email@example.com.
Meanwhile, you can find more of Mara & Ford Smith’s
works at Tryon’s Book Shelf.
Your Money Work for You
Last fall, the news reported America's current
economic recession was "very likely over." Fast
forwarding to the present, however, a lot of Americans feel
they're not in such good financial shape. It's time to make
your money work for you, making your lifestyle fit your resources.
Here are some ideas collected from financial experts:
• Live on less than you make or receive
• Save 10% of your income, or if you're young, squirrel away 25%–50%
of each raise.
• Create a spending plan. Decide what's necessary and what's nice. For example,
necessities include food, clothing, shelter (rent or mortgage), utilities, transportation,
medicine, even, insurance. Look at what you've spent historically on these essential
items and allocate those dollars. Niceties (or nonessential expenses) include
entertainment costs such as cable or satellite television, newspapers and magazines,
movies, restaurants, alcohol, cigarettes, and club memberships. Eliminate or
cut back on these unnecessary expenses.
• Select a bank with good services, low fees, and convenient locations.
• Use credit and debit cards wisely.
• Accelerate the payoffs of any big debts such as an HELOC (Home Equity
Line of Credit).
• Sell your second car, if you have one.
• Realize it doesn't make sense to downsize your home until the real estate
• If you're considering converting your old gold into cash, know that you'll
receive about half its fair market value. That's how the exchange makes its profit.
Consider sentimental values before you act.
• Teach your children how to manage money. If you've been helping adult
children, explain that you can't do it anymore.
• If you've received an inheritance, a lump-sum payout from your ex-employer,
or a lottery prize, allocate it wisely. Put the money in a savings account. Take
no more than 4% of the lump sum per year to pay the bills. (If you use too much,
your savings will run out before you do.)
• Re-invest in stocks, mutual funds, or bonds only when your finances have
stabilized. Even then, know financial advisors often broker financial products
that provide them high commissions.
Most important is to set financial goals and
figure out how to meet them. Create a record of what money
comes in and what money goes out. You can use index cards,
a legal pad, a spreadsheet program, on-line services (mint.com or wesabe.com),
free software (Money
Manager Ex or Gnucash),
or commercial software (Quicken). However you elect to track
your money, pay attention. Calculate how to achieve a balance
between your income and your expenses. As you do this, you'll
realize time is money and you'll want to further simplify
your life. (In a follow-up column, practical advice will
be offered on how to help hold down your day-to-day expenses.)
Even if you weren't harmed by the recession, revisit your spending habits
and pay down any debt. The whole idea is to spend less. Build up your
savings for other economic emergencies or for niceties such as vacations.
Being debt-free means being worry-free!
Editor's Note: For additional tips on how
to live simply with style, check out Mara and Ford Smith's
Their autographed books are available at The Book Shelf
Valentine's Day Ideas for Couples
Thank goodness, Valentine's Day happens to
alleviate midwinter. Its bright reds are cheerful; its chubby
cupids are fun. And, as we all know, chocolate can be good!
We'd like to share a compendium of creative
Valentine's Day ideas we've collected to live simply with
style. Low cost ideas are especially important in an economic
In food, there are a number
of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ideas. For example, you can create
a red-&-white dinner. For a casual evening, make a white
clam pizza or prepare a Neapolitan
sauce with mozzarella over pasta. If you're looking for
a more special recipe, try shrimp with
Too, instead of buying high-carbohydrate, artery-clogging
chocolate for your love, make an easy, healthy chocolate.
Our recipe is called Nutty about Chocolate.
Photography also lends itself
to DIY projects. Schedule a photoshoot with your boyfriend,
girlfriend, or spouse. Turn the resulting photos into special
cards, magnets for home refrigerators or office file cabinets,
even, computer screensavers. Have the favorite image of the
two of you printed on two mugs for coffee or tea.
The Buy-&-Deliver-Yourself (BDY) ideas
are more numerous. There are wines, plants, candles, books,
CDs (or music downloads), DVDs, books, and lingerie to mention
a few ideas. Choose one or two options for minimal expense
and maximum enjoyment.
In wines, select an award-winning
wine that suits your tastebuds. Here are a few suggestions:
Bogle 2006 Merlot (approximately $9)
Lindemans Bin 90 2008 Pinot Noir (approximately $8)
Fetzer 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (approximately $9)
HRM Rex Goliath 2007 Pinot Grigio (approximately $9)
Ballatore Gran Spumante NV (approximately $8)
Barefoot Bubbly – Extra Dry NV (approximately $10)
In flowers, buy a blossoming
plant. In February, cyclamen bloom in shades of white with
red ruffles to hot pinks to reds. Another rewarding plant
is an amaryllis. Select one in a shade of red. Both of these
plants are pretty for weeks and, if you're lucky, they'll
bloom again next year.
Candles come in a wide array
of types, colors, scents, and holders. You may want tapers
for the dining table or tea lights for the bedroom. Select
a color that goes with your china or linens. If you select
a scent, make sure it's one that both of you like.
Perhaps, as a couple, you have a favorite song.
Research on-line may turn you onto a new-to-you music
CD with that song. Another idea is to download a
selection of love songs and create your own play list.
Now put it all together to set the mood for
a romantic evening: clean the house, place the flowering
plant, select the music, arrange the candles, maybe, set
a fire in the fireplace.
Another angle is to have ready a boy-meets-girl
movie that has been formatted into a DVD. For
a light-hearted one, consider "Mama Mia," "Sleepless
in Seattle," or "When Harry Met Sally."
If looking at playful books,
consider one on massage. On this one, think outside the gift
box and package it with a favorite scented oil. Another idea
is a book on cooking together in the kitchen. Wrap it up
in a new dishtowel.
And, of course, there's always underwear – for
him as well as for her. Buy something red!
Ford & Mara's complete wine list, Winning
Wines: Medal Winners for $12 or Less,
is available for purchase at The Book Shelf, 90 Pacolet Street (across
from the Tryon post office).
|The origins are obscure though the
Mystic Pizza Company may have created one of the first white
clam pizzas. This type of pie later garnered Esquire’s Best-in-the-US
prize. Our version is versatile, simple, and satisfying.
3 Tablespoons olive oil - split into two portions
1 Tablespoon flour
½ cup white wine
1 (6-ounce) can minced clams - drain and reserve juice
3 cloves garlic - minced
1 jalapeno - minced
8-ounces jack cheese (with or without peppers)
1 pizza crust or 2 low-carb tortillas or 2 pita pockets or half a French
Preheat oven to 425º.
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in skillet, add flour, stir and cook for 1 minute.
Slowly add the clam juice to the roux, constantly stirring to avoid lumps.
Stir in the white wine and continue cooking until sauce thickens.
Brush remaining oil on the bread of your choice. Scatter garlic and jalapeno
on it. Spoon sauce over all. Sprinkle minced clams onto sauce. Coat with
shredded Jack cheese.
Cook in oven for 10-15 minutes (tortillas and pita pockets take less time
than pizza crust or French bread).
Sauce with Mozzarella
|This simple red sauce is always a
surprise (perhaps due to the use of mozzarella instead of Parmesan).
Try it with or without the meat. Either way is surprisingly tasty.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ pound lean chopped beef (or 1 finely chopped onion)
3 tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
½ pound mozzarella (cut into small cubes)
4 ounces dried pasta
Heat olive oil in skillet, add beef (or onion) and cook until meat is colored
or onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).
Meanwhile start water to boil for pasta.
To skillet, add tomatoes and sauté another few minutes. Lower the
heat and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When pasta water is boiling, salt it, then add pasta. Cook 10 minutes.
Before serving, pepper the sauce, stir in the mozzarella cubes until they
begin to melt. Drain the pasta then serve with the sauce.
with Feta Cheese
|This shrimp dish with its rich tomato
sauce qualifies as a world champion. We've found versions in
several restaurants and cookbooks. Naturally, we've incorporated
all the best parts.
3 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 pound shrimp
1/2 to 1 cup onion (yellow or white) - chopped
1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes - including liquid
1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimento
1/3 cup fresh parsley - chopped (or 2 Tablespoons dried)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 dashes of hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups seashell pasta
1/2 pound Feta cheese - crumbled
Melt butter in a skillet. Sauté garlic and shrimp until shrimp are
pink (2 minutes per side). Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon.>
Next, adding more butter if needed, sauté the chopped onion several
minutes until limp and translucent.
Add the can of tomatoes and its juice, pimento, parsley, basil, oregano,
Tabasco, wine, and tomato paste. Slowly simmer the sauce, uncovered, for
at least 20 minutes. If it becomes too thick, add wine; too thin, more
When the timing is down to 10 minutes before serving, cook pasta in salted
water until al dente (slightly chewy).
As meal time approaches, add shrimp to tomato sauce and sprinkle the Feta
on top. Cover the skillet, allowing sauce to heat shrimp and soften the
Serve over pasta.
|Variation: Add a jar
of marinated artichokes (drained) for a smoother, richer taste.
|Delicious, though somewhat messy,
these easy, nutty chocolate drops satisfy the urge for a sweet
with incredibly few carbs.
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
⅓ cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
2 Tablespoons butter
⅓ cup ricotta
½ cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or almond extract)
Melt the chocolate, nut butter, and butter in the microwave. Stir well.
Blend the rest of the ingredients, and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper
(about 12 bite-size morsels). Chill in the refrigerator until firm (about