Friday, May 31, 2019

Birthday Adventures: Seattle's Capitol HIll

Once upon a time, when my daughters were young, birthdays were all about the parties. Plans sprung forth from the pages of Family Fun or American Girl magazines - water sprinkler games! bear claw cupcakes! handmade piñatas! tie dye crafts! - and with a round-up of eight or ten other little girls, we had some pretty good times. Of course, I could bet the ranch that the birthday girl would be in tears at some point during the day. All of the anticipation and emotion was just too much for any reasonable child to bear. But there was joy in the chaos, and I happily planned and presided over my daughters' birthday parties for many years until finally, my daughters decided enough.

Now the birthday tradition tables have turned, and my adult daughters have perfected the art of the birthday adventure. On any given Streicher birthday afternoon, you will find us traveling, touring, inspecting, and exploring the world, according to an itinerary set by the birthday girl. And this, too, is a joyful way to spend these special days. 

* * * * *

Yesterday was my eldest's birthday and to celebrate, she planned an adventure around Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

^ Let's be honest. The brand new Glossier pop-up store idrove the day's agenda. Open just a week now, our visit slides perfectly into place after the first few days of opening madness. Rather than waiting in line for an hour, we walk up to an open door and find a chill staff and a laid back crowd exploring the gorgeousness that is Glossier.

^ Glossier, if you don't know, is an online purveyor of skincare products and cosmetics that emphasize natural beauty and good vibes. Case in point: as I took my first step into the highly stimulating visual space, I was met with this soothing white oasis of zen. A water bottle styled with a darling floral logo for sale, with five dollars of the proceeds from each bottle going to support Mary's Place, a shelter for homeless women and children. Yes, I'll take one. And I already feel good about my visit to Glossier. 

^ Well, now that I've got a humanitarian good deed under my belt, let's check out the merchandise. Honestly, I fall under the spell of these sleek white display vignettes and perfectly spaced products, and can barely focus on what I might want to buy. Luckily, my daughters understand the nuances of the Glossier product line, and skillfully guide me through the maze of products, steering me toward their most highly recommended purchases. 

^ I do want to purchase a few products, partly for my own enjoyment but also to support the Glossier movement. In these troubled times for brick and mortar retailers, I believe that the pop up is an idea perfectly designed to give shoppers a valuable, hands-on experience with products that need to be smelled, touched, tried on, to be truly appreciated, while at the same time minimizing their financial risk. Pop ups are a fun, innovative, creative way to bring products and people together, and I'm glad to back up my beliefs with my dollars.

^ Now, the artistry of the store decor wins my full attention. Mounds of mosses and heaps of real plants create rolling meadows of flowers amist the sleek displays. Bold graphics in Glossier's signature pink and occasional touches of industrial design play off the natural green and send my imagination reeling. 

^ Here's evidence of Glossier's nuanced eye for design. When I look at the pink graphic from one angle (see previous photo), I see waterfalls of green flowing over large ruffled green leaves, punctuated by a spray of magenta flowers up above. But if I take one step to my right and look again (this photo), the graphic looks more or less the same but the kaleidoscope of plantings shifts, the foreground now filled with clumps of mosses, creeping greenery, and low mounds of light and medium pink daisies. 

^ As much as I appreciate the dreamy green decor, I'd say that the vast majority of shoppers are more interested in testing every flavor of Balm Dotcom before making their final selection. Which leaves more room for lurking for me. 

^ Glossier uses an ingenious strategy to design this retail space. Because their product line is relatively small compared to their floor space and the crowds they attract, the products appear on multiple display stands throughout the store. That way, if one customer is struggling to ascertain which shade of Stretch Concealer is best for her skin tones, other customers can find that same product line on two or three other displays around the store. Clever, right?

^ I have no idea if this sturdy-looking column serves a purpose here, but the juxtaposition of architecture to horticulture makes my heart sing. 

^ The floors are also worthy of note, all curvy and wooden and properly thumpy to walk on. 

^ Alright, one last look at a display stand and I'm ready to place my order:

a water bottle. available only at the Seattle pop-up.

^ A pink-jump-suited rep takes my order on her iPad, and in the blink of an eye, another lady in pink pops out from this door with my selections bagged up in a canvas Glossier tote bearing my name on a wildflower seed-infused card.  My Glossier appetite is now thoroughly sated and along with my daughters, I'm ready to move on. 

* * * * *

^ Food. We need food. Hiking to a pizza place that my daughter has in mind, we pass by construction in this spirited walk way. I'm inspired.

^ And when we pull up to the pizza place, I'm intrigued. Though I'm not one to say no to an on-trend hipster bistro, I am a huge fan of the marginally tacky, probably past its prime style of restaurant too. 

^ Big Mario's seems to be a mash-up of hipster and marginally tacky, much like its Capitol Hill surroundings. Ah, anything goes in this quirky part of town, so we skip over any judgments and get right to placing our order. 

^ One subtle sign of good food: stanchions designed to keep order among heavy crowds at lunchtime. Lucky for us, we arrive long after the normal midday rush, 

^ Within moments, we are seated outside with some lovely big wedges of warm, crispy pizza, around $3.50 each. We quench our considerable thirst with a shared can of root beer and a bottle of "still" (as opposed to bubbly) water. Lordy, don't we just call it plain water?

^ I could have devoured three more pieces of that amazing pizza but we are saving room for dessert. Another half block walk lands us at Cupcake Royale where the plan is to eat ice cream.

The birthday girl chooses a strawberry waffle cone, so I follow suit with the strawberry in a cup. The other two sisters opt to share a lemon drop cupcake, and we all sit quietly and eat.

^ That's how you can always tell when everyone loves their food. People don't waste time talking
when they are busy eating something delicious.

And so we sit, the four of us, eating steadily and silently, in a quiet restaurant filled with dappled sunlight and the scent of baking cupcakes.

When we finish eating, we are all satisfied and ready to go home. 

 ^ Outside, as we double back on our steps, we find one more surprise. A riotous rainbow of color, better than any shower of candy streaming from a birthday party piñata, and a perfect ending to a delightful birthday adventure. 

* * * * *

Quick links to our birthday adventure destinations:

* * * * *

Want to read about all my Glossier adventures 
and see more pics of their adorable stores? Try these:

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Keeping Score

Settings (L to R): sunny, partly sunny, cloudy. Cloudy wins.

Whenever I go to a baseball game, I keep score.

Though I used to spend a buck per game to buy the official scorecard, I grew impatient with the ridiculously tiny squares and hard-to-write-on paper they offer. So now I carry my own scoring book around, which looks pretty impressive when I take my seat and whip out that score pad and a fine tip marker.

I tend to attract attention, mostly from nearby ushers, who either greet me with a comment like, "Ohhhh, you're one of those..." or sometimes just straight ask me why I keep score. 

And usually I give them a vague answer about how I just think it's fun.

Which is true.

But the full truth of the matter is that if I don't do something to rivet my attention to the game, my mind will wander all over the place. 

Tonight, for example, at Texas Rangers v. Seattle Mariners, I was struck by a sudden impulse to test the light settings on my Instax camera. Once minute, I'm calmly logging balls and strikes to Nomar Mazara, and the next I'm digging through my bag to pull out my camera, taking test shots on each setting, and then holding the photos in my hand like a deck of cards as the images develop before my eyes. 

Trust me, I did not peel off three Hamiltons to sit in a plastic seat and squint at overexposed photos while the crowd roars and I'm lost in my own crazy daydreams.

Better that I focus on filling out my scorecard, obsessively noting every ball and strike; every pop fly, double play, and RBI in rapt attention, allowing nothing to come between me and a flawless record of the game.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I keep score at baseball games. 

* * * * *

P.S. In the top of the fourth, Ranger right fielder Mazara hit a home run into the batter's eye, next door to our section. A few innings later, a season-ticket-holding old timer seated nearby finagled that home run ball away from stadium personnel and presented it to my fourth-born, a loud and proud Ranger fan. A kind gesture from a stranger, and a special night for my daughter.

* * * * *

To watch the highlight reel of tonight's game, including Mazara's home run, go here.

* * * * *

More stories about my Instax photos:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Armed And Dangerous

"When I prepare, I am not messing around." -Conor McGregor

In my garage, I keep a kit of painting supplies.

Because, as much as I like to plan out my home improvement projects, I know that there will be times when the urge to paint a room or a door or a piece of furniture will be so overwhelming that I will skip the planning phase and simply leap in with both feet.

It's happened before. It'll happen again.

So I figure I might as well be prepared. 

Last weekend, I noticed that my kit had become a bit untidy and depleted. What a perfect opportunity for a soul-cleansing cleaning and organizing project.

First, I: 

took all the rubble out of the drawers, 
sorted through, 
threw out the old and worn bits, and 
made a list of new items to purchase.

No worries - my shopping ban allows me to replace household maintenance items as necessary so these purchases were allowable.

Next, I dragged the empty drawers and the frame of the cart into my sunny front yard, and hosed the royal heck out of them.

My neighbors must be so entertained. My house is situated right at the front of this neighborhood of dead-end cul-de-sac streets, so for thirty or forty families, the only way in or out is right past my front door and my never-ending parade of crazy projects.  

With my newly refreshed stack of supplies and clean-as-a-whistle plastic cart, I joyfully sorted out my painting gear into the drawers as follows:

^ Paint stirrers and paint chips. 

I keep track of the paint colors for all my rooms by saving the chips, jotting down the room where each one is used, and clipping the samples together. I used to keep my old paint stirrers and write the name of the room on the handle, but that system actually requires more work. I still have a few holdover stirrers from the old days but I like my new book of paint chips much better.

^ Masking tape, paint hardener, scraping tools, wood filler.

I used to hate prep work with a bloody passion, but as I have matured as a painter and a human being, I now remind myself of the many virtues of planning and the fact that haste makes waste, and encourage myself to take time to start each painting job properly. 

No matter how many times I tell myself that, I still bloody hate prep work. But I force myself to do it and appreciate the results.

P.S. My husband keeps my spackle with his tools so I lift it out of his kit when I need it. 

^ Big rollers, little rollers and a couple extra mini handsets.

My mother trained me to wash my roller after each project, dutifully scrubbing and rinsing out the vestiges of each paint color so that the roller could be reused for the next. 

I used to do that.

But those days are gone, baby, gone. I keep plenty of extras on hand and pitch the old ones at the end of each project. 

Several years ago, when I discovered these small size paint rollers, I fell quickly and madly in love. I keep a good stash of both large and small hand rollers near my paint inventory, and a few extra small size newbies in the drawer. Super handy when you're trying to convince someone - say a daughter or two - to paint with you. Offering up a brand spanking new mini roller, I have found, is an effective way to gain cooperation. 

And then there's my very most favorite large roller handle but that I keep in a different drawer. Stay tuned. 

^ Brushes!

I know this sounds a little weird, but I get a special thrill when I use a paintbrush for the first time. 

Opening the Velcro fastener on paper sleeve, unfolding it and slipping it off to run my fingertips through the soft, silky bristles, vowing to myself that THIS TIME after I use it, I will clean it to perfection so that no one could ever tell that the brush has been used. 

Oh, the fantasies that run through my mind. 

My two little one-inch brushes on the far left have seen me through several projects each and are still looking good. 

The middle brush...oh wait! I just remembered that the middle brush is sitting out in my garage at this very moment, where I left it after today's project, wrapped in a plastic Target shopping bag between coats. As soon as I finish writing this sentence, I'm running off to clean it. 

Ok, I'm back. Good news. The bag did its job of keeping the bristles from drying out, and the soap and water clean-up was successful. Yay. 

On the far right are some used but well-maintained exterior bad boys, who will be getting another workout on my garage doors in the next few weeks. Brushes at my house are never bored. 

^Drop cloths, plastic bags, roller pan liners and my favorite yellow roller handle.

 This bottom drawer is at least twice as deep as the other four, so it's here that I stash larger and bulkier items:

several unused plastic drop clothes as well as one lightly-used model folded up and hiding underneath,

a black plastic trash bag cut with arm-and neck-holes that serves as my stylish and highly effective painting poncho when I'm going hard on a messy project,

a couple small size roller pan liners (the large liners are stored with the paint) and

my most super favorite thirty-year-old yellow roller handle, complete with splishes and splashes of paints I've used over the years. This may not be the most slick or well-designed or even tidy product available to painting enthusiasts such as myself, but I love it madly and will never give it up.

* * * * *

So there it is, my painting kit, all gussied up and decked out for who knows what painting projects that may come my way. I'm armed and dangerous and most definitely ready to paint.

* * * * *

Wanna read a classic story about my passion for painting? 

A few years back, on the last Saturday before Christmas, I was struck by an overwhelming and eventually irresistible urge to paint my dining room. 

For all the details and plenty of photos, go here

* * * * *

As I mentioned, I'm on a year-long shopping ban though my rules definitely allow for painting supplies.

Read more about my journey to mindful consumption:

Monday, May 27, 2019

My Homemade Potato Salad

One sunny Saturday each summer, my mom would toss the four of us kids into the car and haul us off to the annual family reunion. Along the way, we would get firm reminders of what polite behavior looked like, and some general threats - no, I would call them promises - of the malice that would fall to us if we scrapped or sulked in front of the relatives. 

She didn't need to worry. Presiding over the reunions were my four German great-uncles who were truly giants among men. The shortest of the group checked in around 6'2", and as a child, I remember my knees knocking together as I gazed up, up, up to look at them. Funny that I was frightened though - they were a kindly lot. Very short on words, but always smiling around the cigars clenched between their teeth at the fine youngsters swimming at the shallow end of their gene pool. 

No child with an ounce of sense would misbehave in their midst. 

^ My grandmother and her nine siblings grew up on a farm in Lapeer County, Michigan. Two of her brothers, my great-uncles, farmed all their lives - Uncle Pat on the original family land and Uncle Mickey on the acreage across the road and down a way. 

Our family reunions usually landed in one of their back yards, and one year, I believe at Mickey's place, we discovered an old bulldozer sitting off in a distant field. My elder brother put on his best simulated driving performance and I was his enthusiastic audience. 

For what it's worth, those are my father's legs.

But let me backtrack. As my mom was loading us up into the car, she also set a casserole or serving dish of some sort onto one of our laps and firmly instructed, "Make sure this stays safe."

Our family reunions were potlucks, and my mom went all out on preparing a crowd-pleasing side dish.

My mom's favorite dish to bring to family reunions was her seven-bean salad. Green, kidney, navy, black - I can't recall which all she mixed together in her large green casserole dish, and left to marinate in a vinaigrette dressing overnight. She loved that concoction but I must admit, it was too tangy and, well, bean-y for me. 

I much preferred her potato salad. Now this was not a German potato salad, as this German family considered typical. My mom's fairly generic potato salad featured potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, celery, and mayo; in other words, it was a perfect blend of basic flavors that felt safe and familiar to our childish palates. 

In other words, I loved it. 

Decades have rolled by. My dear grand uncles and their sisters, including my grandmother, Clara, have long since passed, and the reunions have slipped into history.

But I promise you, my mom's potato salad lives on.

For every picnic holiday - Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day - all through my daughters' lives, I've whipped up a big batch of these simple, tried and true flavors. Even my husband, good German that he is, used to suggest that my recipe would be improved by some vinegar or at least for heaven's sake some yellow mustard, has given up and given in to my brand of basic. 

Oh, the sacrifices we must make for harmony in the family.

* * * * *

Now to be totally honest, this is the kind of dish best made from memory and gut instinct, rather than a particular recipe.

Normally, a few hours before dinner, I start the cooking process by deciding whether or not I want leftovers, and then choosing either my large or medium sized cooking pot.

Cooking a small pot of potato salad is a language I don't speak.

^ Today I decided to use my large pan: 15 fairly small potatoes, 6 eggs (I might have used 8 but we only had 6), a cup of mayonnaise, a half cup of milk, and celery. This is definitely not enough celery so I sent my husband to the store to buy more. 

Once I decide on the pot size, I gather my ingredients and start adding ingredients based on proportions. 

^ Let's be honest. As I'm cooking, my potato pot almost always overflows. But as long as the water level stays above the potatoes and eggs - and I can always add more if needed - there is no harm done. 

Scrub and cube enough unpeeled red potatoes to fill about 3/4 of the pan.

Tuck in some eggs. I cook my eggs along with the potatoes, and I just eyeball the proportion of egg to potato. 

Once the pan is boiling along on medium high, I chop up some celery. Sometimes, if I'm feeling crazy, I add some sweet onion too.

^ True confession. After completing this step, I momentarily turned my back on this bowl to put the milk and mayo back in the fridge. Gracie, who had been politely lying nearby, suddenly lost control.  In a flash, she bolted across the room, leaped paws up onto the counter in front of the bowl and got in one or two good licks before I turned around and caught her in the act. So I dumped this bowl of dressing out and started over. 

Whisk the half cup of milk, give or take, into the cup of mayonnaise, more or less, to create a creamy dressing that will spread easily and evenly over the salad. If I want to make my husband happy, I might add a little yellow mustard or white vinegar to the dressing at this point. 

But that's a mighty big if.

Set the dressing in the fridge to bide its time. 

^ Don't worry if the potatoes are a bit crumbly. All those little bits are going to get stirred up with the dressing and the eggs and the celery, and the end result is going to be creamy heaven. 

After about ten minutes, when the potatoes are fork tender, drain the contents of the pot into a colander and run under cool water. Rinse the pan out with cool water too. Submerge the eggs in a bowl of cold water. Hard boiled eggs peel much more easily if they sit in cold water for a spell, immediately after cooking. 

Once the potatoes are cooled off and well drained, load the pan back up with first the potatoes, 

My husband is still at the store fetching the rest of the celery. I'll add it later. 

next the celery,

^ And don't worry about the eggs looking messy either. Once they are chopped and stirred in, they will be adored for their taste rather than their handsome appearance. 

and finally peel the eggs and toss them in on the top. 

Now tuck the pan into the fridge and tell it to cool its heels till dinnertime. 

* * * * *

Just before serving, pull the pan of potatoes and friends as well as the dressing from the fridge.

Fish out the eggs, dice them into bite-size bits and drop back into the pan. 

Pour the dressing into the salad and stir. When the salad looks appropriately well-dressed, stop. If it still looks dry after using all the dressing, mix up another small batch and keep adding till the salad looks good. 

Transfer the potato salad or a portion thereof to a serving dish.

If you have time for one more step, snip some fresh chive and present it either on the side or sprinkled over the top.

Serve to small children in the presence of towering uncles and if possible, wink at them and smile as they clean their plates. 

* * * * *

Ready for more stories about my most dearly beloved, tried-and-true homemade meals?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Leaving Walla Walla And Heading For Home

"True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils." - Baltasar Gracian

^ Leaving Walla Walla and heading for home, the scenery along the bucolic two-lane highway rolls with the gentle hills of the palouse and glimpses of the Blue Mountains stretching low and lean beyond. 

^ Tidy postmodern vineyards spring up between the traditional wheat fields, and picturesque old barns still stand.

^ Where nature roams unchecked, the land is dry and dotted with scrub grasses. 

^ As the highway bends north toward the Tri Cities, rail cars sit along a track, offering their graffiti-covered sides for the entertainment of those passing by. 

^ Depending on which way the wind is blowing, pulp mill operations often assault the nose with a stink like fermented cabbage before the factory comes into view. Who knew cardboard could smell so bad. 

^ This is the place where the Snake River, legend of Hells Canyon and Oregon Trail navigational fame, feeds into the might Columbia on her way to the sea. And this is also the place where the little highway from Walla Walla meets the interstate in the Tri Cities, and the mood of the trip toward home is changed. 

* * * * *

Leaving Walla Walla and heading for home, I reflect on the time just spent with a friend.

He is kind.
He is thoughtful.
He is wise.

He works every day to better himself.
He seeks out opportunities to stretch and grow.
He finds ways to turn problems into positives.

His faith in God is constant and true.
He shines with the light of God's love.

The fact that he lives behind the walls of a prison has nothing to do with the state of his soul.

He soars.

And every time I leave Walla Walla and head for home, I think how fortunate I am to have such an inspiring friend.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Macrame Home For My Spider Plant Family

Once upon a time I bought a spider plant.

She was a tiny young thing yet I had big dreams for her life.

I envisioned her growing into a grand lady, lush and luxuriant with her green and white striped leaves. And gathered around her in a cloud of tiny green and white clusters, I saw in my mind's eye dozens of baby spider plants.

Oh, how I looked forward to those slender stems shooting out from the plant base, yellow and firm, and then ever so gently, the buds forming on the end of the stems and leaves slowly bursting forth. My heart ached for those spider plant babies and I could not wait for them to grow.

I waited.

And waited.

I watered and fertilized and positioned my spider plant in ideal light.

In fact, I took absolutely precious care of my spider plant, and while her fountain of perfect leaves left me ever hopeful, there were no babies anywhere in sight.

A year passed.
Then two years passed.
Five years came and went, and still no sign of any baby spiders.

I was starting to get annoyed.

* * * * *

Last spring, I did what we all do when life has us frustrated. I turned to Google for insight and direction.

And here is what I learned. In terms of proper care, I was doing everything right. But several experts noted that spider plants often produce babies when they are, well, to be blunt, ignored.

Yes. Apparently my spider lady was too spoiled and lazy to produce shoots and grow children.

I was, in a word, outraged.

So I went upstairs, yanked the princess from her coveted spot in my bedroom, and tossed her outside.

Truth be told, I was going to ask my husband to pitch her into the compost bin.

Yep. I was that mad.

But instead, I just shoved her behind a chair on my front porch and mostly forgot about her.

* * * * *

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened next.

Yeah. My spider plant finally had babies. Dozen of happy, green and white striped infants, dancing around their mother on long, yellow stems. Every single one of my spider plant dreams came true.

My heart softened. I brought her out from behind the chair and set her on a table of honor. She continued to thrive outdoors until last October, when I brought her inside for the winter.

* * * * *

This spring, though the babies are still plentiful and adorable, I have to say that mama has suffered. Only a few faded strands remain of her original glory; every mother of toddlers could relate to her faded glamour.

But I still have great hopes for my faithful lady. I've taken her back out to the front patio for the summer, but alas, with all those babies hanging below her now, she needs a new place to perch.

So today, I whipped up a macrame hanger for the family. Exhausted mama spider plant lives safely cradled in the nest, and her babies hang happily in the safe space down below.

With just the right amount of love and care, I'm hoping that the whole family will be thriving soon.

^ First things first. Gracie would like to assert that she was my head assistant and quality control engineer on this macrame project. Also, she mostly slept. 

^ Like any macrame project worth its salt, this one began with me tripping over coils of untamed string/cord/hemp and muttering, "Seriously, I must have measured wrong because this is just ridiculously long." But it all worked out in the end.

^ Tying macrame knots is a lot like riding a bike, roller skating, or skiing moguls. Even if many years have passed since you last tried it, chances are good that your muscle memory is still there and you will be sailing along in no time. Though with macrame, there is far less risk of broken bones.

Spiral knots in the top pic; square knots in the bottom two photos. Thanks to well-written instructions and lucid tutorials, I sustained no knot-tying injuries whatsoever.

^ I wasn't kidding when I said that motherhood really took it out of my spider mama. She needs to send the kids to Grandma's house for a long weekend and get some serious sleep. But sadly, that is not an option for our poor girl.

  ^ But those babies. Aren't they too perfect? Just like human babies, they make all the craziness worthwhile. I only hope they don't grow up too soon. 

* * * * *

More macrame projects to light your fire:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Setting Myself Free

My daughter pulled me aside and looked me hard in the eye. "A shopping ban? You're doing a year-long shopping ban? Do you really think you have a problem with shopping?"

Well. I mean, not exactly a problem. 

My husband has been a bit puzzled about my shopping ban too. He's one frugal dude, but I can't remember a time he has ever complained about the way I spend money or asked me to cut back.

But isn't it always a good idea to cut back on purchases?

At least a year and a half ago, I bought this letter board and hung it in my garage, next to the door that we all pass through twenty times a day. My plan was to post not inspirational quotes or wacky sayings, but a list of the beverages we keep on hand in the mini fridge that sits just to the right of the sign.

I've been turning this question over and over in my mind, twisting it this way and that like a uncooperative Rubik's Cube. I've asked myself to be totally honest about why I took on this shopping ban in the first place, and what I hope to gain from it. 

Originally, I got the idea from reading The Year Of Less, and drawing inspiration from a twenty-something personal finance blogger's journey of finding herself by buying less.

Honestly, I enjoy denying myself small pleasures in the moment and working for long-term goals.
I like putting rules and limits on my behavior and seeing what that feels like. Though surely there would be other benefits too, the shopping ban just sounded like fun. 

But I soon discovered a problem. The board came with a gazillion letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, which was great. But the manufacturer's idea of a good storage arrangement was a pair of small cotton drawstring bags. Yeah, right. 

My letter board hung on the wall for an easy eighteen months with the same, strategically useless message of "HELLO" while I pondered my options. Eventually I sussed out an ideal acrylic letter case on Amazon, but for one reason or another, never got around to actually purchasing it. 

But then I read this article: Just buy the f**king latte.

Let me give you the gist of the piece:

According to this financial adviser, our society sends women the patronizing message that we are bad with finances, that we waste money on frivolous things like lattes and shoes, 

and subtly teaches women that we should be ashamed of the ways we earn, invest, and spend our money,

all the while ignoring the deeply established gender gap in wages and benefits, and implying that men are skilled at earning and investing money but women should focus on pinching pennies. 

Oh, snap. 

Instantly, I felt a truth bomb explode in my toes and zip up my body to my gasping brain.

Immediately I saw myself in those words. 

And I was assaulted with new insights about just how messed up my game of financial self-denial might be.

This month, I grew tired of my nonsensical deadlock. 
So, in violation of my shopping ban, I broke down and spent thirty bucks on the organizer, 

In light of this epiphany, here's what I've decided.

I'm still keeping my original commitment to my shopping ban.

Twelve months of extremely limited purchases, according to the rules I set out for myself. 

neurotically trimmed each symbol from the fiddly plastic racks, 

But. When I recognize the need for something that will bring value to my life,

something I have thought long and hard about buying,

something I can't make do with an item found among my existing possessions,

I am going to buy it. 

and tidily sorted them into their proper new homes. 
Angels sang and the sun shone all around and I now feel very happy and accomplished. 

No guilt.

No shame.

No regrets.

And I'll share here about whatever it is that I decide to buy. 

Best of all, I took my letter case in hand and marched out to the garage where I updated my letter board to serve its intended purpose. With my beverage inventory posted for all to see; my friends and family no longer need to kneel down on all fours to peer into the depths of the dark mini fridge, and the asterisks help me keep track of which supply is running low. 

Sirius was a bit worried about me lurking around the open garage door with a camera. But as you can see, his concerns weren't enough to knock him off his feedbag.

Because my shopping ban, 

 my rules in life,

should never be designed to bind me up, but always to set me free. 

* * * * *

Read more about my journey to mindful consumption: