Citizen Muscle Boot Camp: Purpose Statement

Afer reading about it online, this weekend I signed up for the Citizen Muscle Boot Camp a.k.a the Story of Stuff Project. Over the past year and a half I’ve learned a lot about being greener individual in my day-to-day life, but it may be time to branch out and see if I can influence others also. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog, but there are surely ways I can be more effective.

Week one of the four-week camp is about definining your purpose.

“After all, you’re not doing this because you ought to, you’re doing it because you have to. It’s your purpose.”

The first practice to gain insight into my purpose was to fill in the blanks for the following statements.

  • I frequently have friends say to me: You are SO… smart
  • If I could work for free, I would spend my time: sharing real food
  • If I made a how-to video on YouTube it would be on: upcycling projects
  • When my friends need help, I am their go-to person for:  foosball
  • If I submitted myself in a talent contest, it would be for: organizing
  • Growing up, I dreamed I would be: a writer
  • I totally lose track of time (in a good way) when I am: reading

You can definitely see how unfocused I am. There isn’t really anything I could think of to answer those questions as standing out and defining who I am. So the rest of this week’s training was super helpful as section-by-section it helped narrow down what’s really important to me.

There was one other question that made me think, though.

Question: You were just given law-making powers and can instantly pass one piece of national legislation. What kind of law would you create?

Answer: I would create a national soda tax.

I didn’t have to think to come up with an answer. What made me think was just the fact that I came up with the answer so quickly, like it had already been on the tip of my tongue. A soda tax has little to do with my environmental concerns (other than that soda is wasteful since it doesn’t provide nutritional value and they are frequently served in single-use disposable bottles or cups). However, it’s very concerning that soda is the beverage of choice for many people during meals. It’s harmful to people’s health, and one of the big reasons it’s so prevalent in our society is that soda is so damn cheap.

Anyhow, in the end after weighing many of the things that are important to me I came up with the following purpose statement.

My purpose is to use my organization and writing skills to conserve our resources by reinforcing people’s natural inclinations for thrift and promoting less-waste alternatives.

It could still use a bit of work, but it feels good to have a single statement to center me and help direct my energy.

Are you also interested in creating change? Take the quiz to find out what kind of a changemaker you are, and then sign up for the online training at the Story of Stuff Project.

The Story of the Not New Apples

Once upon the time, four little apples experienced their first Christmas. They sat on a counter for days wondering which of these great people they would end up providing nourishment for. But day after day, they were passed over for Christmas cookies and chocolates. The days turned to weeks and the apples started to become sad not just in spirit but in body also.

Four aging apples

At the end of the holiday season, someone took sympathy on these little sweeties and brought them my way. But then also, they were accompanied by cookies and chocolates as well as more exotic fruit like bananas and oranges. So for several days more they waited and the soft spots on them grew more plentiful.

Finally I also took sympathy on them and decided to salvage them before they could age any further. No, they weren’t appetizing enough to eat as is anymore, but I peeled them and cut off the areas that were too far gone.


The peels and innards of the apples overflowed my already nearly full small compost bowl. The apple flesh itself was quartered and sliced and piled into my sauce pan. With a little water to get it started, I simmered the slices until they mushed easily with a spoon, and ta-da!

Finished applesauce

Delicious applesauce headed to the freezer where it’ll stay good until ready to be eaten or used in baked goods. No apples in the trash bin this time!


January 9 Food Haul

I forgot to get a picture, but yesterday my husband harvested his first oyster mushroom crop from the grow-your-own kit I got him for Christmas. Unfortunately, they had gotten a little dried out and thus weren’t the most appealing (of course he ate them all at once anyway), but a new batch is in the works now and we know what to look for as the previous day the mushrooms were super plump. The carrots in the garden are still pencil sized and there’s nothing whatsoever harvestable out there, so I stocked up at the markets as usual.

First stop: Wheatsville Co-op

  • IMG_20160109_105946Roma tomato, 0.38 pounds: $0.76
  • Onion, 0.58 pounds: $1.15
  • Carrots, ?? pounds: $2.99 (wrong item on receipt)
  • Red bell pepper, 0.32 pounds: $0.96
  • Green bell pepper, 0.32 pounds: $0.80
  • Garlic, 0.14 pounds: $0.81
  • English muffins, 6 pack: $3.24
  • Toilet paper, x1: $0.79
  • Wild rice blend, 0.78 pounds: $4.67
  • Coconut milk, half gallon: $2.69
  • Rainbow quinoa, 0.65 pounds: $4.87
  • 9-grain bread, 1 loaf, $4.99

  • Flax seed, 0.27 pounds: $0.75
  • Pinto bean, 1.23 pounds: $3.06
  • Green lentils, 1.76 pounds: $5.26
  • Tofurkey, 4 sausages: $3.24

Total: $41.10

I was a bit surprised the bill came out to so much this morning, but I did get a lot of food. The fancy rice / quinoa plus the packaged bread did me in. Next weekend I’ll probably start making my own bread again. Time to waste several hours browsing recipes on the internet!

I’m not even sure what the English muffins are for. I just needed a week off from corn tortillas and grabbed something else off the shelf that looked edible. Maybe I should start making my own tortillas too. Then I’d never have enough to get tired of them.

Next Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160109_104715

    IMG_20160109_105341Mushrooms, $2.49

  • Brocolli: $3.00
  • Butternut squash; $4.00
  • Rainbow chard: $3.00
  • Kale, 1 bunch: $3.00
  • Tomatoes, 1 basket: $5.00
  • Fennel: $3.00
  • Meyer lemons, x2: $2.00

Total: $25.49

The butternut squash is on my new-to-me list. I was fortunate to find these cuties at just 4 for $4. I’m not sure if you can tell (because that fennel is ginormous) but they’re the smallest butternut squashes I’ve ever seen. The perfect size for someone still nervous about trying new things.

On my way out of the market I still had a couple of dollars left in my hand. And on the edge of the last booth nearest the exit of the market, there were plump radiant Meyer lemons with a sign that said “$1 each”. How could I resist? They went into another bag and so got missed in the main picture, but here they are in their full glory. I’m trying to grow a couple of Meyer lemon trees of my own, but it’s the same old story. They’re only a year old now and it’ll be years before they’re recognizable as lemon trees.

New Years Resolutions – 2016

I didn’t have any explicit resolutions last year, but I love making lists and tracking things so this year I’ve picked five of my top goals to resolve to in 2016.

Buy Nothing New

I’ll declare 2015 a success for BNN. I did buy a few things new like a tea ball, a sink drain basket, and a new faucet to replace one that was leaking and in worse shape than expected, but it averaged out to much less than once per month. Last year, though, I took this as a call to buy more used stuff. I learned my lesson and will be staying away from the thrift stores this year unless there’s something I explicitly need.

To keep the household happy, my husband’s purchases are exempt from this rule. And I’ve already promised him that he can buy a new tv set after we get our house, which reminds me…

Buy a house

Many simple living people are content with renting a home, but it has long been my dream to have one of my own. I want to be able to build the soil in my yard into healthy soil. I want to be able to put in a water collection system or experiment with grey water. And I’m totally not minimalist in this sense, that I want a place to call my own (in the inclusive sense meaning belonging to my husband and myself both, of course).

I was actually hoping to find a house last year, but in Austin’s market with the limitations of budget, desired neighborhoods, and scorning any square footage over 1000, good houses don’t come on the market that often. There was one house I really wanted in late October but unfortunately was out of town and it was under contract before I could act. 😦

Getting a house may raise some new challenges, but since I already have all the furniture I’ll need and have never been too stylish, it should be limited to what’s essential only.

Eat less meat & dairy

Since reading The China Study over Thanksgiving break and a couple of other books more recently, I’ve been motivated to do this for my health. But it’s for environmental reasons too. Reducing the amount of meat and dairy I consume will reduce my water, energy, and methane footprint, and I’ll have to worry less frequently over what to do with the icky plastic bags that meat comes in covered with bacteria.

My husband’s on board with going totally meat and dairy free for the first two weeks of this year. This will give us a jumpstart in learning how to prepare and eat vegan fare that otherwise might be harder to ease into.

Try at least one new food every month

This worked really well in 2015, so it’s definitely time to try it again and see if I can expand my horizons further. You can see from the lists below that there’s way more foods that I tried and liked than tried and grimaced. Having more options at the farmers market will also help me to spend less in the future.

Foods I tried last year and really enjoyed: kale / persimmon / canary melon / watermelon radish / lentils / black bean (burgers) / chard / fennel / barley / collards / cabbage / pomegranate / grapefruit

Foods I was less taken with: parsnip / beets / dates / baby bella mushroom / sweet potato

Reupholster the couch

Last year was mostly about learning how to use discarded tshirts as a resource with tshirt yarn, but I also made a throw pillow and a pieced slipcover for my ottoman from discarded jeans. Those projects were both in preparation for this much larger project of reupholstering the couch in repurposed denim. The couch is made up of some kind of fake leather that’s been flaking all over the place, and we need some comfy and attractive seating for our new house.

I have no illusions about this being a weekend project. Before I even get started, I need to get some sewing machine oil and figure out how to get my sewing machine cleaned and in peak condition. I’m targeting February just for completing the first seat cushion. Just like the tshirt yarn projects though, it will all be done with discarded jeans salvaged from the Really, Really Free Market.


The following didn’t quite make the list, but they’re still things I’ll be working on in 2016.

  • No more soda. I quit over half a year ago but have still been drinking on special occasions. It doesn’t even taste good to me anymore, time to quit.
  • Reduce eating out to once per week. Lately I’ve been going out for lunch with some of the work crew twice a week, and it’s usually not healthy fare and sometimes even comes on a foam plate.
  • Continue striving towards zero waste. Maybe learn to make my own milk alternatives for my husband.
  • Keep a daily journal of food consumption and exercise with how my body feels each day, so I can learn what works well for me.
  • Go to the park once a month.
  • Grow more food. I already have some planted but this may be the year to try tomatoes also.

January 2 Food Haul

First shopping trip of the new year! One of my resolutions for 2016 is to spend more on produce at the farmers market than grocery stores, and this first week is a success in that respect–about 10 bucks spent at the Co-op and 16 at the farmers market. It’s a good way to encourage me to try new things.

First stop: Wheatsville Co-op

  • IMG_20160102_120833Tomato, 0.47 pounds: $0.94
  • Orange, 0.47 pounds: $1.03
  • Fuji apples, 3.00 pounds: $5.97
  • Carrots, 1.21 pounds: $1.80
  • Popcorn, 1.35 pounds: $2.69
  • Barley, 0.71 pounds: $1.27
  • Brown rice, 1.29 pounds: $3.60
  • Quinoa, 0.66 pounds: $3.95
  • Almond milk, 1 quart: $2.39
  • Toilet paper x2: $1.38

Total: $25.35

The apples are for apple sauce so I made sure to pick some of the less pretty speckled ones.

I thought this shopping trip would be pretty light because of my mid-week visit, but what I ended up getting was actually heavier than usual and was weighing me down when I stopped in at the library afterwards. Always good to stock up on the basics, though.

Next Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160102_121439Cauliflower: $2.25
  • Spaghetti squash: $4.00
  • Kale, 1 bunch: $3.00
  • Grape tomatoes, 1 basket: $4.00
  • Mushrooms: $3.50

Total: $16.75

There are still fewer booths than usual at the downtown farmers market. I hope it picks up next week with the holidays over, and I’m so hoping that one of them is great at growing spinach. I’ve been craving it and have a couple of spinach plants out back but they’re tiny, possibly because it’s been so unseasonably warm until lately.

This may seem a strange thing to say but the grape tomatoes are new to me. I’ve always had a distaste for tomatoes in general (although I eat tomato sauce in many different dishes), but it just might be time to change that. The green cauliflower is also new to me, though it likely tastes just the same as the white.