August 14th

Nice melons

A television station in Japan contacted me this week to see about an interview for how a typical American is changing her lifestyle since the great economic nonsense of 2008. Raised in a frugal, creative home — I’d say I’m lucky to have learned early not to buy what I cannot afford, to give back whenever possible and to save as much as you can as long as you can still go on vacation. We may have eaten generic cereal, but next to the box in the pantry was a giant glass jar where the family change was collected. Each year, we put those pennies to great use at the fish taco stands in San Diego. My parents did much with little and taught us both how to live a life of spiritual luxury.  Having a fancy swimming suit for the beach wasn’t my mother’s priority. Making sure the waffle maker was packed so she could afford to feed us breakfast in the hotel room before we hit the beach each morning was.

Reasons I’m loving this time of life, recession or not:

Planted: July 25, 2009

– I tore up a bunch of ugly bushes and turned the small plot into a happy, crazy garden. For less than $50, I’ve got more than 3 dozen pumpkins, squash, tomatillos, rosemary, basil and even a hearty watermelon going wild. I didn’t let a tiny space (or lack of funding for a house with a proper yard) deter the desire for a garden. I now firmly believe you can garden with just about any space available. If I can do this, so can a trained monkey. Shoebox on the kitchen counter? Just make sure it gets enough light.  Acre of church property? Find a friend with a tractor. With a little land, a few friends to provide seed and a good bit of patience — you can feed hungry folk in your community for very little.


– I learned to can. Again, for less than $50, I took a class at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and purchased the necessary supplies. Now I know how to make jam from cactus. And yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but you haven’t tasted the fuchsia deliciousness.  Soon enough, I’ll have that yard and the giant garden and I’ll be canning tomatoes and fruit like Finny to be put away for the winter. Eventually, both the gardening and the preserving will lead to a more sustainable life that allows a wide variety of eating without putting demand on the earth to bring fresh peaches to the desert in January. I’ll just open my own jar, thankyouverymuch.

Knitting Night

– I got over a social fear of “real life” vs. “Internet” friends. This year I’ve met some pretty amazing women through blogging and the local interwebs community. It is fun to share ideas and encouragement from behind the computer screen. It is way more fun when you meet those friendly faces in person and the friendship blossoms into an entirely new bouquet.  Really, the quilt of sincere, kind and thoughtful folks I call friends is precious. I’m keeping myself wrapped tight.

Pizza for knitting dinner

– I learned to feed many with very little. The community dinners of 2007-2008 is turning into a cookbook — a guide for how to invite friends, neighbors and — gasp! — even strangers over to enjoy a good meal. Cooking basic meals that require no stress but much laughter is one of life’s sweetest joys. Recipes for chicken enchiwawas and turkey lasagna are done, and  this veggie pizza recipe has been blogged time and time again.

Squaretop Mountain

– And while I have so many things I am still trying to change about myself and learn, I’m just so incredibly happy with less. Where I once dreamed of flying to Paris, instead I drove to Wyoming. I spent two weeks on the road on a spiritual and healing journey that cost less than $400 for the whole darn thing. I’m shopping at thrift stores and finding gorgeous retro dresses I’m making my own with a few alterations. The librarians in town are some of my newest heroes. Plus, the roommate regularly does house repair, cooks meals and serves as the head trash/recycling King. (Yep, that’s a title around our castle)

My car has dents. My jeans have holes. My dishes are chipped. My hair hasn’t been cut in months. My soul is happier than it is has been in a very long time.

And so, Japan, this is my new American dream — living within my means and doing so joyfully.


Posted in
Community, Domestic Art, Goals, Happy Hippie
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20 Responses

  1. Bub and I are so excited to have our own garden one day. (I’ll share with you why I don’t currently grow anything…) Great message and wonderful photos.

  2. Just wonderful Kelli…so many Americans can learn a thing or two from you. What a wonderful gift your parents gave you when they taught you how to live within your means. My husband and I are trying to pass this on to our 15, 13 and 8 year old. It’s hard when they see so much excess. We really are trying though….I believe they will be better off and much better prepared for the future if we instill these values in them. Looking forward to your t-shirts…I’d be proud to wear one!!


  3. Great post! It seems that those of us that live within our means for the most part all along are the ones that are least affected by the whole “recession”.

  4. What a great, inspirational reminder 🙂

  5. Yay!! It is awesome to see you being recognized for your great ideas and enthusiasm. I’m excited to see all the blessings you’ve been given. Peace! Katy

  6. You’re going to be a legend!! That’s so cool. 🙂

  7. Beautifully written! I know I am certainly feeling lucky for my frugal ways (including obsessive tinkering with my auto-deducting ING savings account) now that we have a big, unexpected kitchen remodel project to tackle.

  8. I love you, Kelli…seriously–you are so inspiring. I wish I could say it more eloquently, but that is it—you inspire me. Period.

  9. Now you can say, “I’m big in Japan.”

  10. bravo. after this coming weekend’s jaunt to the outlet mall, i will be swearing off clothing purchases for a while. which is HUGE for me…now if only i had space to grow a garden!

  11. Tina in Duluth August 14, 2009

    I love this post! 🙂

  12. How exciting!!

  13. You are my hero.

  14. Amy Rufkahr August 15, 2009

    Beautifully stated Kelli! You’ve inspired me today!

  15. Way to go! It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have! Just a year ago we lived in the city with about 4 sq ft of gardening space, but I landscaped it meticulously – we grew tomatoes, mint, chives, and some awesomely big cucumbers. Now I have more space to garden and I can really appreciate it!

  16. You go girl!!!!!

  17. Excellent post, Kelli. This would suffice I think in answering the question from Japan.

  18. Absolutely beautifully written … and from the heart, that is obvious. You are an inspiration.

  19. Great post! I love the cookbook idea. Of course, I think your jeans are supposed to have holes – isn’t that the cool thing?

  20. Kicking ass, as always, Donk.

    And, to relate, I’m always happier to pick something from my garden than I am to buy it at a store.

    And you KNOW how much I like to shop. So that’s saying something.