Blog Changes

May 13, 2014

We’ve been hard at work. Or rather, my husband Charlie and our friend Louie in the Philippines have been hard at work on our blog.

We’re trying to make it easier for everyone to find us. And once people find us, we’re trying to make it easier to understand who we are, what we’re up to and how you as readers can make a difference. We thought it would make sense to merge the blog and the webstore so that our soap and the story behind our soap are together.

As these things often go when you’re patching them together in your off hours from a long-hours-kind-of-job, the migration didn’t go exactly as planned. I’ll spare you all the details. For those who want to, you can now find both the blog and the webstore over at If you get e-mail updates, those have been transferred over and nothing will change for you. For those who subscribed through WordPress, if you want to continue following the blog, you will need to resubscribe. Sorry for the inconvenience. There is a subscription button at the bottom of the page. Click here to find that.

Again, my apologies for the way this rolled out.  Our intention was for you to know before the migration.  But, onward we go, and we hope that you will come with us.


This is the blog article that I’ve been wanting to read for so long. While our family has made an ongoing attempt to reduce our waste, my awesome friend Jacki puts us to shame. Check out what she does to reduce her waste. My challenge to you is to pick one thing. Does one of these seem like something you could implement? If so, give it a try. It’s small habits over time that can make a big difference.

Post-Consumer Life


One of the catalysts to shifting our thinking about our consumerism was an eye-opening tour of our local waste transfer facility.

Since then, we’ve been working toward zero waste to varying degrees. By setting up some simple systems and without a whole lot of effort other than some habit changes, we were able to reduce our garbage output to one small gallon bin once per week. And even then, we were far from getting to where we wanted to be. Unlike the Zero Waste Home, which puts all of us to shame. For real inspiration, be sure to check them out.

Once we moved from our suburban home to the sticks, we had an increase in our garbage output out of sheer overwhelm at all the work that everything took, so we fell back to the convenience of package-wrapped food. We had ordered garbage service out here for…

View original post 783 more words

Love this blog post from Fair Trade Winds on the distinction between free trade and fair trade. I hope you’ll check it out, along with the video from the Fair World Project. The fair trade movement brings enormous potential to address global poverty one person at a time. And if you’re in the Seattle area, you should check out Fair Trade Winds. Such a great store owned by wonderful people.

Check out what these guys in Portland are doing to interrupt sex trafficking.  Trafficking is so complex, and there are so many pieces to the problem.  Ways and spaces to engage.  I love it that these eleven men have decided to spend their time interrupting demand.

Henri Nouwen on Poverty

March 18, 2014


Loving this from Henri Nouwen this morning.

There are many forms of poverty:  economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty.  As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community.  Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts.  Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

An appreciation for my own poverty has been powerful as I seek to engage in helping others out of poverty. It brings me to a place where I’m not coming to help with my own house completely in order. It brings me as a co-sojourner. It brings a humility that says “You and I are both poor- just in different ways. Let’s learn from each other.”


Our favorite olive oil company is having a sale, and we wanted to make sure you knew about it.   Their products are all super yummy.  Certified organic and fair trade, their olive oil is some of the best out there.


Right now, their infused oils are 50% off as they clear out space for new flavors.  Our favorites are the garlic and pepper infused oils, but you won’t be disappointed in whatever you buy. 

While Canaan Fair Trade is our olive oil vendor, we have no financial benefit from promoting them.  We just truly love their products- and we think that you will, too!

Our $200 Christmas

December 12, 2013


We have a $200 Christmas budget this year.  I feel neither sad nor deprived about this.  We’ve been leaning into simplicity over the last few years in order to focus on what’s important.  This is just an extension of our goals around voluntary simplicity or frugality.  How did we get to the $200 amount?  It’s the amount that we have in our virtual Christmas envelope.  Let me back up a few steps.  Charlie and I have been fundamentally pro-budget since we’ve been married.  Over the years, as Charlie’s income has gone up, our spending to the budget has declined.  We would do a budget, track our spending, but then mostly use it as a tool to look back and see how we did.  We had considered going to a total cash budget, but we were both enthusiastic about travel hacking and maximizing airline miles on credit cards.  Thus, we put off the cash budget.

We have periodic budget meetings.  Over the last few years, they’ve been (roughly) quarterly and mostly grim.  In other words, we spent more than we wanted to.  We were continually frustrated with ourselves.  I usually brought up the cash budget, and Charlie usually wanted to continue to try to get our acts together financially and optimize airline miles.  Over and over again, we seemed not to be getting ahead.  Not saving as aggressively as we wanted to, although we knew that we should be able to with Charlie’s income.  In early autumn, Charlie did some detailed analysis for our spending over the last year.  What he found made us both get a catch in the gut.  We were actually spending more than Charlie’s salary.  I know.  Rookie problem.  The reason we were able to keep going and not go into debt is that we were making ends meet using his bonuses.  Our lifestyle didn’t seem over the top to us.  It just seemed sort of normal. Normal for Menlo Park.  Which is to say normal here is different from “normal” in other areas.  Menlo Park is the hub of venture capital.  So, there’s a lot of money here.  People have a lot of cool stuff.  Really big, nice houses.  Cool cars.  Which is all fine, except that it can distort your sense of what is actually normal.

This is where my being involved with poverty alleviation gives me a bit of perspective.  Being involved with issues surrounding poverty helps me remember what’s true.  What’s true is that most people on the planet live in a space the size of my dining room.  What’s true is that access to clean water is considered a clean water source less than a mile away.  With that definition, 345,000,000 people still don’t have access to clean water.  What’s true is that if your family earns $35,000 a year, you’re in the top 1% of global income earners.  So, I can look at Menlo Park and set my norms based on that.  Or, I can learn about what is actually normal for the majority of the world and re-set my norms based on what I know to be true.

This has led our family to an attitude of abundance.  I recently took an on-line class from Brene Brown.  It was wonderful for so many reasons.  One of them was that there was a ton of emphasis on practicing gratitude.  Practicing gratitude is different from “trying to be grateful”.  Practicing gratitude is like practicing yoga.  You actually have to make yourself slow down and be grateful.  There is a mindfulness and an intentionality.  Sit down and write about those things for which you are grateful.  Write them down.  Look at your list.  Ponder it and add to it.  Once you start down the rabbit hole, you find an unending list.  I know where my next 365 meals are coming from.  My kids never go to bed hungry.  I have shelter every single night.  I have central heat.  My kids have access to a great education.  I’m married to a man who I deeply love and respect- and who feels the same way about me.  We live in a safe neighborhood.  I have five places in my house where you can turn on a tap and get fresh, drinkable water .  We have access to hot water whenever we want it.  I don’t even have to heat it myself.  If my kids are sick, I take them to the doctor without even thinking about it.  Which is to say, we are rich.  There is plenty.  There is more than enough.

This attitude of abundance was incredibly helpful when I looked at the $200 in our Christmas envelope.  Knowing how good we already have it, I can look at our $200 budget and realize how rich that is.  Because we started our new budget on November 1, we only had two months to save for Christmas.  Thus, $200.  Next year we’ll likely have more money to spend.  That being said, I like our Christmases to be quiet and peaceful.  There is so much to gaining white space in your Christmas.  I’d love to hear from you in the comments on how you’re slowing down or spending less during this holiday season.

Click on my other posts below on slowing down during the holidays.

Christmas with White Space

The Gift of Nothing

Hundred Dollar Holiday

Advent Conspiracy