April 11, 2015

Economics of Zero Waste

As a frugal seminary student trying to get through seminary dept-free, I am keeping an eye on my finances and pinching pennies. When starting my real transition to a zero waste lifestyle, I had a fear that Zero Waste might put a strain on my frugal lifestyle. However, that's proven not to be the case in a lot of ways! I did the math this morning on the hygiene products that I have made for myself. 

Before going zero waste these are the products that I would buy every couple months:
Face Wash
Body Wash 

I have turned to homemade, zero waste alternatives for all of these and did the math to prove I'm saving money! 

Main Ingredients
Coconut Oil (14oz) = $9
Baking Soda (16oz) = $1
Cornstarch (16oz) = $1.40
Apple Cider Vinegar (32oz) = $5.50

Packaged Price = $1.64 (6.4oz)
Zero Waste Price= $0.67 
Savings = $0.97

Face Wash
Packaged Price = $5.69 (5oz) or $2.99 off-brand
Zero Waste Price = $2.12 (6 oz)
Savings = $3.57

Packaged Price = $2.49 (2.6 oz)
Zero Waste Price = $1.98 (8oz)
Savings = $0.51

Shampoo & Conditioner 
Packaged Price =  $11 (5.50 each; 25.04oz)
Zero Waste Price = Soap @ $3.00 + ACV @ $2.88 = 7.88
Savings = $3.12

These aren't hard and fast numbers, but averages based on how I move through these products. For each product I did the prices based on about the length of time it would take to use up each one. For things like deodorant and toothpaste the savings don't seem like that much--but $3.00 on face wash and shampoo/conditioner will definitely add up! Also, I can avoid PLASTIC! :) 

April 4, 2015

Zero Waste Lent: Self-Sufficiency + Creativity

“It’s about self-sufficiency and creativity,” I think as I swipe some homemade toothpaste out of my glass jar and onto my toothbrush. My pursuits of a zero waste lifestyle are young and fledgling. My time is spent searching for homemade recipes for products that come in plastic and squirming as someone hands me a piece of plastic and I don’t refuse out of fear. Yet, I’m slowly learning what this lifestyle is about and how it’s contributing to my wholeness as a person, while seeking the wholeness of the planet.

This Lent I’ve learned how to make toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, hair rinse, and sauerkraut. The first few things were essential—the sauerkraut was just for fun! I’ve set aside a sack of t-shirts to make into a rug. Not only have I avoided marketed products in plastic—I’ve learned new skills! Namely, coconut oil and baking soda can be used for everything!

I haven’t run out of my first batch of toothpaste or deodorant, but I when the time comes I will turn to my kitchen instead of the aisles of branded body products. Going to the store, I get down seeing the aisles and aisles of plastic wrapped products. I didn’t pay too much attention to marketing before, but I would pour over the bottles and read the labels to see which product would be best for me. Who knew my hair would be just fine with a bar of soap and Apple Cider Vinegar to be healthy and happy?

My clothes tend to get holey pretty easily, perhaps that’s the poor quality of clothing these days or my hard wear and tear on them? Anyway, I’ve learned to darn and mend my clothes. This is something that I did before starting this Lenten experiment, but while watching one documentary I mended: one pair of running pants and a sweater. It’s fulfilling to put on a piece of clothing after it is resurrected from the “to-mend.” My clothing gets a second life—saving my budget and boosting my self-sufficiency ego.

Pursuing a zero waste lifestyle encourages creativity. Looking through my cabinets and cupboards—my mind starts to wonder, “Where could I get this zero waste? Or how could I make my own? What alternatives exist? How are other people doing this?”

The toothpaste or deodorant marketed to me are out of my control. I don’t control the ingredients or packaging. But those things that I make myself, I see the ingredients and I get to re-use the packaging. But if I didn’t know that other ways exist or if I didn’t wrestle with the plastic in my house—I wouldn’t know to make my own! Creativity stems from seeing the world as it is and imagining that other ways are possible. A third way is possible.

A large part of this journey has stemmed from my faith formation and my Christian beliefs about the way the world should be. I believe that God created the world and named it “good” and I believe that being created in God’s image gifts us with God’s creative energy. The ability to create and imagine anew. I don’t have to be stuck in the rut of consuming only what society tells me to consume, but I have the creative power to say “No! I’m gonna make my own toothpaste (without microbeads to boot!).”

March 17, 2015

Trash: Week Three and Four

The past two seminary weeks were a bit insane! Weekend intensives + Papers due = Perfect Storm! Needless to say, I am beyond pumped to be enjoying Day Four of Spring Break and happy to be catching up on some blogging. I kept photographing my trash--even though I didn't have a chance to blog about it yet.

Week Three
- Brown Sugar Bag
- EmergenC packets (2)
- Biscoff cookie wrapper
- Contact foil tops
- Contact lenses
- Sticker from Pizza Box
- Butter wrapper
- Zip tie
- Apple Sticker
- Pad wrappers

Week Four
- Two butter wrappers (lots of baking!)
- Popcorn bag & wrapper (last one!)
- Fruit stickers
- Covering from self-sealing envelope
- Dried out bar of soap (not sure what to do with it!)
- Piece of floss
- Car tag from auto shop

Ultimate Sin
Father, forgive me for I have sinned. 
Yeah, this is literally the worst offense I could ever have done. Ugh. After church last week, we went to a Mexican restaurant to eat and I hadn't brought any leftover containers to re-use. With half my meal leftover, Tim and I shared a styrafoam container. I didn't include it in the trash picture because I am hoping to recycle it...even though in my former life it would have just gone in the trash.

Trash evaded--something to celebrate!
Feminine Hygiene Products: Last week, I kept a couple pads and a few tampons from venturing into landfills. I invested in a MoonCup and a few re-usable pads from Sckoon.
Shower Supplies: Last week, I finished up my face wash, body wash, and conditioner and replaced them with homemade face wash (honey, baking soda, and coconut oil), a bar of soap, and ACV. I am finishing up my shampoo and won't be buying plastic products for the shower again. Next up is finishing my plastic tube of toothpaste!
More Popcorn Bags: I finished up my bags of microwavable popcorn this week and have been using popcorn kernels that I bough in bulk.
Peanut Butter Jars: I am addicted to peanut butter and eat it almost every day--so I can move through a couple plastic jars in a month. First, I filled a glass jar with peanut butter from Whole Foods, but last week, I bought some peanuts, made my own, and saved money!

March 12, 2015

Letting Go

About a week before Lent, I went through my wardrobe and pulled out all of the clothes that I didn't LOVE or hadn't worn in months or years. I wrestled with some of them. "This rainbow tie-dye skirt is ME!" but I couldn't remember the last time I had worn the sacred thing. The clothes sat in bags on my floor for a few weeks until last week when I pulled them all out and looked at them one final time.
Letting Go. Detachment. 

I enjoy shopping second hand (and the occasional clearance rack). I shop second hand because it's thrifty and it doesn't support the commercialized, capitalized, ever-changing fashion industry. I also love dressing in unexpected ways, i.e. tie-dye rainbow skirts. As much as I want to say I am a child of God not defined by my clothes, my clothes say something about me to the wider world. For the most part, I have enjoyed ditching half of my wardrobe to focus more energy on the clothes that I love.

However, a little doubt crept in after I posted this picture on Instagram and mentioned I was getting rid of some clothes. They were all sad about the rainbow tie-dye skirt. One friend, was sad to see it go. Another friend, said "that rainbow skirt was YOU." Regret. Had I done the right thing? Had I been too brash? No, I had done the right thing. I was not that rainbow tie-dye skirt. I am Katie and creative clothing choices is just one of the fun-loving, carefree things about me. My clothes are not the only thing that speak for me. If my whole house burned down, I am still Katie, without all of my things.

So far, Lent has been a good practice in letting go. It's hard to let go of clothes that I might wear or are cute or have sentimental value--but it's cathartic to let go, knowing I will have a happier life and so will another person in that rainbow tie-dye skirt. It had more gyspy life in it and I needed to share the love. I dropped off three bags of clothes to the "Free Store" at Earlham--hopefully, they will find new life on the hipster, grandma, 80s, college style of the Earlham students.

Don't worry, I kept the pink overalls.

Benefits of Donating Half My Wardrobe
Less Clutter, More Options. The past couple weeks, I have loved not having to pour through my drawers to find something to wear. My drawers and less full and so is my closet. It's easier to find things and what is in my drawers--I love. Why would I keep something that I don't feel awesome in?
Rewear Clothes, Less Laundry. I am awful at doing laundry. I would wait until I had nothing left to wear and then have about 3 loads of laundry to do every week and a half. Also, I'm in seminary and really only had enough focus and time to do one solid load of laundry. I've taken to re-wearing an item of clothing 3-4 times (I do the smell and stain test!) before I wash it. The past three weeks, I have had one small load of laundry to do at the end of each week.
Feel Good, Stress Less. Clothes were often a sense of stress for me--figuring out what to wear, letting dirty clothes pile up on the floor, having things that I didn't love but took up space. Now that I am re-wearing my clothes between washings--I roll them back up and put them in my drawers so that they don't end up on my floor. Plus, I know exactly what is in my drawers and what goes with what.

March 1, 2015

Trash: Week Two

Each Sunday in the season of Lent I am going to post how much trash I have created in the previous week. This was my first full week of trash.
This week I trashed: 
- a "Wacky Mac" pasta bag
- the film top from a tofu container
- a straw I didn't have a chance to refuse
- apple cider vinegar top and freshness seal
- piece of tape from chili leftovers
- Klondike Bar wrapper
- two pieces of gum
- gum wrapper
- piece of floss
- plastic popcorn bag wrapper
- popcorn bag
- cereal bag
- two Emergen-C packs
- PET film of a Chipotle bowl

Things I avoided: 
Honestly, this week felt indulgent. I have a plenty of plastic and non-compostables or recyclables that are in the house that I have yet to use up. However, while I am using up these things...I don't have to go back to them. I can make new choices that won't produce the same trash.

Here are the Zero Waste alternatives to the waste I created this week:
- a "Wacky Mac" pasta bag: I can buy this bulk from a local co-op. 
- the film top from a tofu container: In theory, I should be able to get this bulk, but I haven't found a place, yet.
- a straw I didn't have a chance to refuse: Mention I don't want a straw when I place my order and don't open the straws set out on the table. 
- apple cider vinegar top and freshness seal: I can buy Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar at Whole Foods.
- piece of tape from chili leftovers: I don't have to mark my leftovers, or I could use a dry-erase marker.
- Klondike Bar wrapper: Refuse!
- two pieces of gum: Stop chewing gum!
- gum wrapper: No, really, stop chewing gum! 
- piece of floss: Invest in a gum stimulator
- plastic popcorn bag wrapper: Buy popcorn kernels in bulk! 
- popcorn bag: Bulk popcorn kernels! 
- cereal bag: Buy oatmeal, granola or cereal in bulk. 
- two Emergen-C packs: Eat lots of vegetables and take pill vitamins? I'm doing more research into this!
- PET film of a Chipotle bowl: Don't eat out! 

Transitions I made: 
- I finished my bagged popcorn and bought bulk popcorn kernels, so that I can make Zero Waste popcorn!
- I bought some bulk peanut butter from Whole Foods!

Things I learned this week: 
- How to pop Zero Waste Popcorn...in a microwave!
- Chipotle bowls can be composted, if you remove the inside liner!
- I should mention I don't want a straw when I place my drink order.
- Zero Waste eating out...is darn near impossible.

February 26, 2015

Zero Waste Roadtrip & Reflections on Cheap, Fast Food

I know what you're probably thinking--that's an oxymoron! How do you have a zero waste roadtrip when driving emits so many carbon emissions? Right. You're absolutely right. You can't, but you can try to pack and prepare in such a way that you're eliminating trashcan waste along the way.
Tim and I were traveling to Pennsylvania last weekend--he was providing leadership at a retreat and I went to see my Best Fried Marian. I packed some homemade bread that we had made, 3 apples, carrots, and peanut butter. The apples and carrots were both bought in bulk and I only had to deal with produce stickers on the apples. The peanut butter was purchased pre-Lent and I am finishing it up. I am also transitioning to zero waste containers. The plastic bag is being re-used--it has already been used a couple times and washed out. And my roommate and I save all of our plastic containers for leftovers.
 My family is full of awesome, committed canners. I hope to be just like them some day! I packed some craisins in a jar, and for giggles I packed some pickles, and beets. I ate the craisins, but never had a chance to open up the beets or pickles. They probably weren't the best roadtrip food, unless we were going to stop out and have a picnic, which I have done on numerous occasions in the summer!
 I packed everything in re-usable cloth bags. I also packed some silverware (in the wrapped napkin) and some cloth napkins to use along the way.
 Tim and I did stop to eat at Panera, because they are pretty fast and minimal waste. I didn't have a chance to refuse the napkin and forgot that my sandwich comes on a little piece of cardboard. I inspected them both and figured I should be able to compost the cardboard and the napkins.

I also packed my mason jar and lid for water, so that I could refill it for free at gas stations along the way. Tim stopped in at a Subway for one of his meals and I was going to fill up my jar, but they didn't have water in the drink machine. WHAT? I looked and looked and nope, no water in the drink machine. I would have filled it up in the bathroom if we had a lot more to travel, but we were pretty close to Tim's destination, so I waited until we got there.

As we passed fast food upon fast food place, I kept thinking about the burgers in cardboard boxes, the fries in little bags, the sodas in disposable cups, and the individually wrapped straws. Fast food is fast...and cheap. It's hard for me to find fault with those who rely on cheap (often bad and unhealthy food) to feed their families or themselves.
Disposable Fast Food found on Living Responsibly

Part of my trip, I was alone and listened to a podcast called Homegrown Christianity, that was focusing on eco-theology. They had four hour long podcasts with those practicing and advocating for eco-theology: Matthew Sleeth, Jen Butler, Randy Woodley, and Leah Kostamo. They asked each participant the same rapid-fire questions at the end of the podcast and one was: "Should Christians buy cage-free eggs?" The answers varied. Sleeth responded, "Yes, and they should have had a massage and at least a third grade education." However, Woodley and Butler were quick to say, "Yes and No" pointing out the financial disparities among Christians and the availability of this kind of food. I agreed with them. Yes, I want to advocate for healthy chickens and healthy people, but I realize that all of this is a journey and a process...and I can't fault a Mama for buying the eggs that are $2 cheaper and nestled in styrafoam. It's ugly and hypocritical for me to do so.
Happy Chickens from Minimac Farm

I'm doing this Lenten project because I want to see how I can make Zero Waste sustainable in my own life, which means taking into account accessibility and financial costs. I want to be Zero Waste, but I also want to pay my rent! We live in a cheap, fast, disposable world and I want that to change. Let's make this possible and accessible for all.

February 22, 2015

Trash: Week One

Each Sunday in the season of Lent I am going to post how much trash I have created in the previous week. This is my first Sunday and it's really only half a week!

This week I trashed: 
- A dove dark chocolate wrapper
- Produce stickers
- A plastic tie

Things I avoided: 
Paper towels in the bathroom -- I shook it off!, used my pants, or a washcloth I brought with me.
- Disposable roadtrip snacks -- I packed my own!
- The front desk candy jar.

Transitions I made: 
I started using a mason jar with a lid as a water bottle. My plastic water bottles are washed and ready to be donated.
- I bought silk bulk and cotton produce bags for grocery shopping next week.

Things I learned this week: 
Cupcake wrappers and pizza boxes are compostable.
- Almost all unwrapped produce comes with stickers. Le sigh.
- My lifestyle uses about 390% of the world resources--if everyone lived like me.

Weekend Compost!
As a bonus, here is the compost that I accumulated from my weekend trip (save for some food peels left in my friend's compost!). It holds a number of things that I would have just trashed before--like cupcake wrappers and the little cardboard sandwich tray from Panera Bread. There are also some napkins that were served to me that I didn't have time to refuse.
I decided to carry a jar with me so I could bring home any compostable waste back to the neighborhood compost bins. All of this is compostable, but to help it break down more easily I am going to cut it all up into little pieces so the compost has an easier time breaking down. 

February 21, 2015

How many Earths does it take to support your lifestyle?

Do you know how many Earths it takes to power your lifestyle? 
Currently, humanity is living off of 1.5 Earths to produce what we use and absorb our waste. The quiz calculates how many Planet Earths it would take to support your lifestyle...if everyone was able to live like you. It also calculates how many global acres you consume. The average American consumes about 30.5. If everyone on Earth lived like the average American we would need 7 Earths to provide for us. 

Average American Consumption 
Katie's Ecological Footprint: 3.9 planets
Being a vegetarian might reduce a significant amount of impact, but my food still comes from far away. I do have a car. I might fly once a year. I live in a house with running water and electricity. I think electricity is the big kicker here that contributes to much of my consumption. I am going to do another post exploring the ways that I can get creative about reducing my electricity consumption.
Katie's Consumption
Calculate your own ecological footprint.
The Global Footprint Network created a handy quiz to rate the impact of your lifestyle on the planet. It looks at food, waste production, travel, electricity, and our households. The quiz is great and allows you to adjust different parts of the quiz to see how that might lower or increase your footprint. I took the test three times--for myself, for an average american, and an eco-conscious person.

My score was 3.9 Earths, Average American 6.9, and Eco-Conscious person 2.8. For kicks, I also took this quiz as if I was in India and answered the questions as if I were still a student there. Indian student impact? 0.6 Earths.

Further Reading:
Footprint Network | Calculator
New Community Project  

February 18, 2015

Zero Waste Lent: Dust to Dust

"From dust you were created, and to dust you shall return." 

These sacred words spoken at an Ash Wednesday service, as I received ashes, are continuing to echo in my soul. With the ashes of my confessions and others confessions marked on my hand, I am reminded of my own earthen quality and my un-earthen lifestyle. I look around my room and I am surrounded by things that are made from dust (or chemicals). Even if I live to be 100, my earthen body will fully decay before the things that fill my room have wasted away. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

I live a fairly simple life, but confess that I have earthly treasures to which I cling and take delight. I have a simple apartment, but confess to filling all of it's available spaces anyway. I don't buy much for myself, but I confess to saying "yes" to more possessions instead of refusing them. I don't want to create unsustainable waste, but confess to giving in to easy temptations wrapped in plastic. 

In this Lenten season, may I unclench my fists and release the possessions to which I cling. May I loosen my grip on easy and remember that it is not easy to return plastic to dust. May a creative, intentional spirit be stirred within me, that I would find new, meaningful ways to satisfy my basic needs, without harming creation. 

From dust I was created, and to dust I shall return. May it be so.  

February 17, 2015

It's a plastic world

As if I needed more inspiration to radically starting transforming my lifestyle to one of Zero Waste, this little video popped up in my Snapchat. Snapchat is the only social media that I keep on my phone and I'm glad I did--otherwise I might have missed this video.

Plastic travels all around the world--some ends up in landfills, some is shipped to "third world" or Global South, very little is recycled, and whats left is floating around our oceans and waterways. Plastics and trash are huge pollutants of water and damaging to our health and the health of our planet. When I was traveling abroad in India, I crossed two rivers on my way to my Social Work placement. The rivers are/were an important part of the vitality of India--now they are black. Literally sickly, black rivers leprosed with bits of white trash. The smell as we crossed them was putrid.
Photo from Transparent Chennai
It is a plastic world. I have given up things like single-use plastic bottles, but from where I'm typing on a computer made of plastic, looking at plastic office supplies, and just popped a piece of gum out of a plastic container--I have a long way to go, too. 

February 16, 2015

Zero Waste Lent:The Start of a Long Journey

Inspiration: Mama Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com
Every year for Lent I try to do something meaningful. Something that will improve my relationship with God, my life, the lives of those around me. This has manifested itself in very different ways throughout the years--wearing a prayer covering, giving up abbreviated words, or journaling everyday. These different practices help me critically analyze my life and help me take a step back from the "ordinary time." I don't necessarily stick with the practice that I try for Lent. I still abbreviate words (sometimes). I haven't chosen to continue wearing a prayer covering. Journaling is still very important to me and is part of my New Years Resolution--journaling every day for a year! However, I want this year to be different.

For Lent, I am starting a Zero Waste journey. That's right, I am journeying towards a life of drastically lowering the amount of waste that I create to...zero.

Is that even possible? 
Well, probably not. It's definitely not going to happen in 46 days and even after that it will take me a long time to use up the plastic products that I already have in my home. I am committed to using up all of the products that I have before having to send them "away."

How are you going to do it? 
Over the next six and half weeks, I am going to be tracking my waste. First, I want to know about how much waste I create from day to day. What are the little bits of waste that I create without thinking about them? I am hoping to become even more aware of my consumption of "one time use" items that have a more sustainable alternative. Second, I am going to be focusing on a different area of my life for each week of Lent. I will be focusing on Grocery Shopping & Kitchen, Wardrobe & Bedroom, Hygiene & Bathroom, School work & Desk, Time & Social Media, and Spirituality. Third, it's a long journey and I'm just getting started. It will take me a long time to transition from the plastics and disposable products that I have now to Zero Waste alternatives. It might take a couple years, but I am humbly and intentionally starting the transition now.

Why are you doing this? 
I am doing this because I believe that a Zero Waste (or little waste) life is possible. I have been so inspired by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. Bea and Lauren each live in highly populated cities in California and New York. I live in a medium size town in Indiana. I want to become more aware of the resources available around me. How far do I have to travel to find a co-op? What about the farmers markets? I'm also in seminary and my time is limited--how can I make a Zero Waste lifestyle work for me?
Inspiration: 20 something Lauren Singer of trashisfortossers.com
My faith is a huge piece of why I am doing this, hence starting intentionally for Lent. My faith journey has led me to take small steps to reduce my impact on the planet: vegetarian diet, using reusable grocery bags, etc. Transforming to a Zero Waste lifestyle is another step on a long journey to living in better harmony with the Earth, which as a Christian, is what God calls me to. I know that I can do more to limit my impact on the planet and I want to pursue that radically and intentionally.

I will be blogging about my experiences and what I learn along the way. I am humbly embarking on this journey knowing that I am not going to get there in 46 days, but it's my hope that I will learn so much and be 46 days closer to a Zero Waste Life.

February 8, 2015

Simple Living | Making my own deodorant

Yesterday, I ran out of deodorant. Instead of running to the store to buy more, I decided to try my hand at making my own. Making my own deodorant is something that I have wanted to do for a long time, but I had doubts. Would I smell okay? I had used natural store-bought deodorants like Tom's before, but ended up smelling a little too organic at the end of the day. What about how much I sweat anyway? I think I sweat more than the normal person. In high school, I was always self-conscious about raising my hands too high for fear of exposing my way too wet underarms!
With those fears in mind, I googled "fool-proof homemade deodorant" and then decided to make a deodorant based on what I already had at home.

My ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil 
  • 4 Tbsp of cornstarch 
Other variations, add essential oils, use arrowroot powder (instead of cornstarch), and add shea butter or other things. There are a TON of variations! I had the baking soda, coconut oil, and cornstarch so that is what I used! 

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a little glass jar and it made about 8-9 oz. Then to use it, I put a small bit on my fingers and rubbed it into my armpits. I had read that it's good to put it on and let it soak in before putting a top on, so there is less of a chance of it getting onto my clothes. 
I have used it for a day and at the end of the day--I didn't smell anything! There was no BO and there was no extra deodorant smell (like ocean breeze  or cool mist). If I added essential oils or something, there might be an extra smell from that, but without those there was no smell at all! I even took my shirt off to smell it--nothing! As for sweating, I did a bit. I tend to sweat no matter what deodorant I try and that's okay. A little sweat never hurt anybody. 

January 30, 2015

Katie + Tim: Breakfast Engagement

When Tim and I announced to our families at Christmas time that we were planning to get engaged in the New Year, we were also mulling over ideas about what we wanted to do for our engagement. Every the egalitarians (and yet, the romantics), we wanted something special, intentional, and something that honored our values. It was important to Tim and me that we both asked each other and we set about to figure out what else it would entail. Since we both love cooking meals together and breakfast is our favorite, we decided to cook breakfast together and then spend the rest of the day calling friends and family.
We decided to make waffles, of course! Tim received Blueberry syrup and Blueberry waffle/pancake mix for Christmas. From the picture above it looks as if Tim did the cooking...and he did. I set the table, snapped a few pictures, and stirred the waffle mix. Before beginning to make breakfast, we hadn't decided who was going to ask first or at what time in our breakfast prep or eating someone would propose--we just went with it!
Once our meal was ready, we sat down to eat. A few minutes into our breakfast, our Land Lady and Maintenance Man rang the doorbell. They wanted to let us know that they were updating the lighting in the backyard. A representative from the local power company was going to come by soon, if we wanted to come out and chat with them after breakfast! We thanked them for the invite and they left to continue surveying the backyard.
Once we returned to the table after that fun interlude, I turned to Tim, took his hands and asked him if he would marry me. He said, "Yes!" Then, asked me if I would marry him. And I said, "Yes, gladly!"
And here's an engagement photo for good measure! My talented sister, Lillie, took engagement photos for us in Staunton during Christmas break. I wanted Lillie to take our pictures, but knew she wouldn't be able to come to Richmond and we don't have many opportunities to see each other. It was a really special, chilly afternoon running around with two of my favorite people!

January 13, 2015

Plant Babies

I love fresh food. I love eating food right out of the garden--that I picked myself! It just tastes better! Now that Winter has hit (and Winter in Indiana has hit full blast!) having an outdoor garden is a bit difficult. But...an indoor garden IS possible! 

This fall, I was walking through Meijer, grocery shopping, when I stumbled upon little mint and basil plants right next to the organic potatoes. I had been wanting an indoor plant for a long time. I wanted some form of life in the house. I picked them up and studied them. "Could I care for an indoor plant?" I wondered. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were from a nursery called "Shenandoah Growers." SHENANDOAH!? Like Shenandoah Valley!? These plants were grown in the very valley that I am missing so much right now!? Yep. They were grown in Harrisonburg, VA. Plus they were organic! Excited Katie? Understatement. 
Then this past weekend, I spotted a cilantro plant and had to scoop it up and add it to our herb table! My little herb plants live by our bay windows to optimize sun time. They have been so resilient, easy to care for, and so delicious! I have enjoyed fresh mint tea, fresh basil in pasta sauce, and now garnishing my lentil soup with fresh cilantro! 
These little plants have added so much life to our kitchen and to our taste buds! For organic plants, I thought they were inexpensive, too! Only about $2.50 per plant! Once warmer weather hits, I am debating planting them outside or leaving them inside. They are thriving and growing bigger too! I will have to get some pots for them to live in. 

Now that I have kept these precious herb plants alive, I am hoping to add another plant or two to my bedroom. It faces East and has four windows. I don't think I'll add herbs this time--any suggestions or favorite indoor plants?

January 11, 2015

I am still here.

Well, a whole semester has gone by without so much as a little post to this blog! I have been longing to update it!

The first semester of seminary was rough. Honestly, I think the first season after coordinating NYC would have been rough anywhere. Coordinating NYC was likely one of the greatest things I'll do in my lifetime. I believe, God-willing, that I still have many adventures ahead, but that was a unique, grand blessing on my life. How do you follow that? I wasn't trying to follow it up, but transition in any season is hard. This one was particularly hard.

This season of moving, starting seminary, starting a part-time job, and learning how to survive (is that over-dramatic, I don't think so) was intense. I cried every week of the fall semester. Every. Week. It was an anomaly if I went 7 days straight without crying. Why was I crying all of the time? I was learning how to be just  Katie. I was learning how to be a good seminary student. I was navigating a new city. I was working a new emotionally demanding job. I was figuring out a new relationship. The rawness of the new grated against me month after month as leaf upon leaf fell from the trees outside my window. Seminary is where I am supposed to be, I reassured myself. I knew that much at least, even if I couldn't remember if I took 9th street or 11th street to get to Aldi. (Aldi: an exceptionally inexpensive, grocery store.)

Planning worship for the seminary community was one thing that kept me going this semester. It was the Patterns of Worship class that reassured me that this is where I am supposed to be, where my passion lies. It required the most from me, but it was also the class that made my heart dance listening to lectures about the liturgical calendar and hospitality in worship. It was in writing prayers for this class, that I found myself uplifting prayers for what I was struggling with (patience for trying children, a swift end to the violence in Nigeria.) It gave voice to what my heart couldn't speak eloquently to herself.
I am still here. If all goes according to plan, I am 1/6th of the way through seminary. A new season of seminary is starting: my second semester. With this semester, comes choosing my year-long placement, another history of Christianity class, securing a summer job, and hopefully a chapel service for which I'll worship lead. I am here. My purpose for being here is not yet completely clear to me. In a broad sense, intentional preparation for ministry, but what form will that take is not clear to me, yet. I can now easily find my way to Aldi: may the path before me become more familiar with each step I take.