July 30, 2011

Why I Am Not Buying Anything

First off, let me say that we do buy things. We do not live a self-sufficient lifestyle on a remote wilderness homestead. I wonder if it is even possible to live self-sufficiently, since we all rely on each other. But most of us could live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, supported by our local communities.

What we are not buying is extra stuff - we try to stick to the necessities of food, shelter, utilities, transportation, and health care. We do not spend much on clothes, as we just take good care of the clothes we own.

But in a world where virtually anything you can imagine you can buy, why not buy anything other than necessities? Here are just a few of our reasons:

  • we are satisfied with what we already have
  • the less we buy, the less we have to work
  • our current consumption is already more than our fair share of the planet's resources
  • we figure that one person changing their own behaviour is better than 100 people trying to get governments, the rich, or corporations to change theirs
  • it gives us a wonderful feeling that we are part of the solution
  • it feels like the right thing to do, and the right time to do it
  • buying less stuff means less hassle - stuff must be procured, paid for, stored securely to guard against theft, maintained, and disposed of eventually
  • with less stuff we can live in a smaller, more efficient home
  • by keeping our lives local we save money on travel, and get to really know our area and the people that live in it
  • low consumption lifestyles help create a more equitable world
  • none of the world's great teachers has said that acquiring lots of things will make us happy, quite the opposite in fact
  • more is like an anchor, less is like wings

Why are you buying less stuff? 

July 29, 2011

A Wake Up Call For Simplicity

Simple living is all about letting go of non-essentials so that you can joyfully embrace what's most important to you. Choosing simplicity involves clearing away clutter that detracts from the true purpose and beauty of life. There is a delightful range of choices for simplifying our lives.

All over the world people are yearning for balance. People are saying that they want simpler lifestyles more in line with their core values. Simplification is a leading trend of our times.

Sometimes it takes "wake up calls" to re-evaluate our lives. Lately we have had many such reminders that it is time. Economic turmoil, unemployment, global climate change, peak oil, famine, and revolution - how many more such calls to change and action do we need?

These calls are a reminder:
  • that life is precious
that we no longer have time for pettiness
that we have much to give, and
NOW is the time for doing what is important.
Surround yourself with beauty as you begin your quest to simplify your life. Begin paying more attention to aspects of everyday life that inspire you.

In your search for simple beauty, intuition simplifies your decision-making. Intuition is your sense of what is true or what is best to do. It will enable you to make better decisions that will enrich your life. Listen to your inner voice - it knows what is best for you, and will lead you toward making positive changes in your life.

Support yourself as you start to make these changes. For example, try writing a journal to record your progress and challenges while simplifying. Or exchange experiences and share support with like-minded people, including right here at NBA.

We would love to hear your stories of simplification. What was your wake up call?

July 27, 2011

Amazing Feats Of Simplicity: Shōichi Yokoi

Yokoi's Cave - 28 years in the jungles of Guam
Shōichi Yokoi became famous in 1972 for his amazing feats of simplicity and survival. The Japanese soldier was discovered living in the jungles of Guam, and had been there for 28 years, since the end of WWII. When found by hunters he was in remarkably good health, and still in hiding.

Yokoi had been living a life as austere as it can get since Americans liberated the island he was on almost three decades earlier. He and two other soldiers survived in the jungles by living with nature in extreme simplicity.

Yokoi lived by building a cave-like underground dwelling. A tailor in his civilian days before the war, he fashioned clothing in the jungle out of tree bark. He hunted small mammals at night, and ate a variety of jungle vegetation.

One can only imagine the struggle, fear, and loneliness that the soldier must have experienced at times. But perhaps there was something about this stripped down life that appealed to Yokoi. It is said that he knew for 20 years that the war was over, but preferred to stay in the jungle.

When Yokoi was finally discovered and taken home, he was walloped by major culture shock. He was vaulted from his extreme simplicity into a fast-paced, commercialized, and affluent Japanese society. Things had changed a great deal since he left at the beginning of the war. He found adjusting difficult.

To Yokoi, the material excesses he saw were alarming. He devoted himself to spreading the word on the value of a more austere life, something he would have been an expert on. He launched into a series of lectures on the topic.

I am not sure how his message was received by the Japanese, but I am definitely inspired by Yokoi, and people like him, who manage amazing feats of simplicity. They remind me that there is a lot of superfluous fluff that can be jettisoned in our quest for a simpler, more satisfying life.

July 25, 2011

No Rules Monday

Keep off the grass
Our carefree enjoyment of life is being suffocated under a big, soft pillow of rules, bylaws, ordinances, and signs. They are telling us, "Do this, don't do that - can't you read the sign?" Sometimes we need to question authority, obey rules selectively, and channel a bit of creative, harmless anarchy.

The problem is that when you create rules you create rule breakers. Saul Alinsky said, "I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying 'Keep off the grass.' Then I would stomp all over it." 

We can regain our freedom - obey rules selectively today. Many rules are unjust, excessive, and/or unnecessary. These can, and should, be broken indiscriminately. As long as no one gets hurt.

I wouldn't recommend stomping the grass, but I would definitely encourage anyone to lay on it and take a short nap.

July 23, 2011

Benches Invite Us To Stop For A While

A refuge from the noise and busyness of modern life
When Linda and I were moving from the big city, and seeking a new place to dwell, readily accessible natural beauty was high on our list of things we were looking for.

Southern Vancouver Island has natural beauty in abundance. One way I can tell we came to the right place is by the number of benches situated in stunning settings. They are a refuge from a fast-paced world.

The antique ocean-side bench above is one that I have recently discovered. It is a short bicycle ride from home along a 'rails to trails' multi-purpose path. In this area it hugs the shores of Sooke Basin for several kilometers before it turns inland to cross the forested farm lands and rolling hills of Metchosin.

View from bench
Benches invite us to do something we don't do often enough - stop. A bench is a perfect place to stop, just be, and quietly observe the spectacular beauty in front, behind, to either side, above and below.

There is beauty all around us. It is nice to take some time to find a bench, stop for a while, and notice nature.

July 21, 2011

Lao Tzu: Embrace Simplicity

"Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires."

— Lao Tzu

July 20, 2011

Alternatives To Coffee: Indian Chai Tea

A Delhi Chai Wallah serves up India's favourite hot beverage
As competition for increasingly scarce resources grows, and we continue to gorge on what is left of our ravaged planet, commodity prices are spiraling off their graphs. This includes the price of the world's favorite caffeine delivery system - coffee.

The price of coffee, although dropping a bit recently, is up 52% for the year. It is set to increase another 50% over the next 365 days. What is a thrifty hot beverage lover to do? How about an exotic, less expensive alternative?

Coffee price change over the past year

Since quitting coffee last year, one alternative in particular has found its way into my diet. Not only is it extremely yummy, but it also elicits wonderful memories of India.

Indian Chai Tea Recipe

While in India ten years ago, coffee was not common, so Chai Tea was the hot beverage of choice. I came to love it and all its unique, spicy goodness. Now, every time I have a steamy cup I am transported back to cafes, chai stalls, wandering sacred cows, and sunsets over the Arabian Sea. Tranquility soon follows.

There is no need to buy expensive pre-made chai mixes or syrups. To make a simple, delicious Chai Tea at home, this recipe will do the trick. I have been perfecting it as preparation for a future career as a Chai Wallah.

5 cups          water
5 bags          black tea
10                whole cardamom
5                  whole cloves (or 1 tsp powdered)
5                  black peppercorns 
1 tsp             cinnamon (or 1/2 stick)
1 tsp             nutmeg (grated or powdered)
1 tsp             ginger (powdered, or piece of fresh)
2 tsp             vanilla (optional)
to taste         sweetener (I use 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sugar)

Add water to a suitably sized pot and bring to a boil. As water comes to a boil add all the other ingredients. Simmer covered for about 5 minutes. Warning: your home will smell distinctly exotic during this process. Take off burner and set aside covered to steep for 15-20 minutes.

After steeping take the tea bags out. Mix (in cups or a separate pan) equal parts of chai tea mixture and milk. Be careful not to pour the spices in, too, although a cardamom pod gives your cup a nice touch. Heat for a minute or two in a microwave oven, or in a small sauce pan on the stove top. Enjoy.

Left over chai can be strained and poured into a glass jar to be refrigerated for later, and can be served with milk over ice for a spicy cool drink.

Who knew quitting coffee could be so good? Escape the high price of coffee, and try chai tea.

July 18, 2011

No Rush Monday

Heaven can be found in a flower
Living simply has benefits for the environment and for creating a more equitable world. But it also has benefits for us personally. Our quality of life improves as we move toward consuming less, working less, and getting to know our neighbours and community.

We can also get to know what slow feels like again. The faster we go, the less we see. By living more slowly and meaningfully, it is possible to see more. We can discover, as Erich Auerbach said, "nothing less than the wealth of reality and depth of life in every moment to which we surrender ourselves without prejudice."

William Blake mused about seeing "a World in a grain of sand, and a Heaven in a wild flower". Imagine what you could find in your own backyard or neighbourhood park. You do not need to go far to experience "infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour".

Life provides us with more than enough - right where we are at, every moment. We just have to slow down and take the time to notice it.

"One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that's a chair, that's a table, and yet at the same time, It's a miracle, it's an ecstasy." - Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

July 17, 2011

Inequality and Poverty in Canada

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.
— Plutarch (46-120 AD)  

Vast income inequality is not a good thing in the attainment of a happy, balanced society. That "the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer" has been observed often enough to make it a cliche. But just because something is cliche doesn't mean it isn't true.

Unfortunately the saying is as true today as it ever was, in Canada and many other parts of the world. To highlight this, I share the following Hennessy's Index, a monthly listing of numbers researched by the CCPA's Trish Hennessy. 

Inequality and Poverty in Canada - By The Numbers

$6.6 million
The average compensation of Canada’s best-paid 100 CEOs in 2009.

The average wage for Canadians working full-time, year-round.

155 times
How much the best-paid 100 CEOs earn more than average wage. 

The number of women among the best-paid 100 CEOs in Canada in 2009.

Canada ranks 20th, behind the U.S., in a global ranking of women’s equality.

Canada’s richest 1%
Doubled their income share between the late-1970s and 2007. 

Canada’s richest 0.01%
Quintupled their share of income during that same period.

Shrinking middle
The share of income for the bottom 80% of Canadian families with children is smaller today than it was a generation ago. 

6 out of 10 Canadians could be in trouble if their paycheque gets delayed.

Debt nation
Canadian consumer debt to financial assets ratio worst of 20 OECD nations. 

$1.41 trillion
Canadian household debt. 

Canada ranks 17 out of 24 OECD nations on children’s material well-being.

1 in 10
Canadian children live in poverty. 1 in 4 Aboriginal children live in poverty.

A solution
Shifting 1% of Canadians’ collective after-tax income to the 1 in 10 Canadians living in low income would eliminate poverty in Canada. 

We can eliminate poverty in Canada and across the world. We have the wealth, and the knowledge to ensure everyone has enough. To learn more about poverty issues in Canada see here.

July 15, 2011

Simple Surroundings Focus Us On More Important Things

Monk's cell similar to one of my favourite rooms
One of the favourite places I have laid down to sleep for a few nights (indoors that is) was Gillett House, of Chichester Theological College, England. It was 1992, and I was taking a summer semester course that took me overseas to study the British elementary school system. The class had been booked to stay in the student residence of the college to take advantage of its frugal accommodations.

The student residence we stayed in was built in the early 1960s. The architectural language used to describe the style of the three storey building today is 'New Brutalism'. It was basic and stark, but I found it truthful in its blatant, functional approach. As we walked up to the building some of my fellow students were not feeling as sure about it.

The interior of the building was just as interesting, and reflected both the severe exterior, and its intended purpose - housing students on a budget, and studying a spiritual tradition. Lacking ornamentation or decoration, it was plain, and basic by design. My room, not recommended for the claustrophobic, reminded me of a monk's cell, but I was intrigued.

The tiny, all white bedroom had sturdy built-in furniture, and a small cold water sink in the corner. There was a single bed with rough white linens, and a set of drawers at the end. Finishing off the basic furnishings - a study desk in an alcove with a single shelf above it, and a narrow skylight above that. When sitting at the desk the light would stream in like warm inspiration from above (cue Gregorian chants, or a choir here).

View from one of the rooftop terraces of the student residence

The opening window of my room had a ledge large enough to sit on comfortably. It allowed a view of lush lawns dotted with hedgehogs and giant, twisted deciduous trees. I felt strangely comfortable and tranquil right away.

I enjoyed the plain simplicity and stark beauty of this basic room. Meanwhile some of my fellow students were threatening to mutiny and seek out more luxurious digs elsewhere. After all, one person's monk cell is another person's prison.

The other students eventually calmed down enough to feel comfortable in our austere surroundings, and decided to stay. I was happy they did because far from feeling imprisoned, I felt liberated by the four white walls of my room.

I was beginning to focus on more important things as my simple surroundings worked their magic on me. We all ended up learning a lot more than about the British school system - we learned about ourselves and about our inflated expectations.

The week I spent in my 'monks cell' provided me with a new perspective on what was enough. Stripped of all unnecessary trappings, it helped me realize what a 'luxurious' life I had been leading up until that time. But what was it all for, when this was clearly enough?

July 13, 2011

This Is How We Do Austerity

Click to see larger version

I enjoy living a life without luxuries, and don't even mind severe simplicity from time to time. I don't view the concept of austerity as harshly as some people - I am all about austere living, but not if it is done as illustrated above.

My austerity is not an extreme or harsh form of self-denial, not that the world couldn't handle a bit more of that. Rather, it is a way of cutting costs and distractions, so as "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life", as Thoreau said.

Ultimately, I want my austerity to help make the world a better place. If ostentatious, excessively indulgent, extravagant living got our planet into the mess it is in right now, then self-control and simplicity is how we will get out of it. But this is a project we all need to work on together.

Austerity should be to help provide equality among all humans, heal the environment, and improve the quality of life for everyone. It should not be so that the rich can take an even greater share of the wealth while pressing global problems continue to be ignored.

July 11, 2011

No Violence, Not At All, No Where Monday

Gandhi stickers -‘No Violence / Not At All / No Where'
Gandhi spoke about using the anvil of truth, and hammer of nonviolence, to assess things. Those things that fell between anvil and hammer and failed the test were to be discarded. 

When my nephew, Sam, was 10 he decided to discard violent entertainment. For him it failed the test. If someone was watching a violent movie he would leave the room.

I admired how he took a stand on what would, and would not, enter his still-developing brain. It made me wonder, "Why does anyone wish to view violence?" It makes perfect sense to discard such negativity.

There is enough real violence in the world. Domestic violence, economic violence, class violence, sports violence, and violence against nature are all part of our daily existence. Do we really need to see fake violence in our entertainment pastimes?

I am with Samdhi - violence has no place in my life. That is one reason I have committed to living a small-footprint, sustainable lifestyle - I am trying to do the least amount of harm, the least amount of violence.


July 10, 2011

Is There An Enemy?

Corrupt political parties, greedy capitalists, and secret societies have all been fingered as the cause of the world's most pressing problems. There is a whole lot of blame leveled at such groups deemed "responsible" for the state of the planet. But if we are looking for the enemy, we might start by looking in the mirror.

Increasing wealth has been our Soma, and we have been asleep at the wheel for decades. While we have been distracted by shiny things everything seems to have been lurching toward a precipice we should have seen coming for years.

No one forced us to buy SUVs and 5000 sq ft houses. No one forced us to fly all over the place on exotic annual vacations that at one time not so long ago where once in a lifetime vacations. No one force fed us fast and processed GMO fake foods until our health was threatened. No, it is that face in the mirror that did all that.

Not that individual consumers can be blamed for everything. There are those that are pushing agendas of evil. But they can only succeed as long as we support them with our money and our silence.

Perhaps there is no enemy here, only crazy humans making mistakes. However, if so it is time to admit the mistakes, learn from them, and then work toward rectifying them. How do we do this?

We can start by looking in the mirror and asking about the mistakes we may be making in our own lives, perhaps without even realizing it. Once discovered, we can try to do the right thing and make changes accordingly.

And if we are all working together, there is no enemy.

July 8, 2011

Deflating Inflation

Prices increases seem to be coming at us like a buffalo stampede, and they are stomping all over our hard earned dollars. Inflation was last reported at 3.7 percent for Canada, slightly above the average from 1915 to 2010. However, it was the largest increase since March 2003.

The inflation rate refers to a general rise in prices measured against a standard level of purchasing power. An inflation calculator can be used to find that a basket of goods that cost $100 dollars in 1984 costs just over $200 dollars today, a 100% increase.

Canadian Price Increases, May 2011

    •    Energy prices advanced 16.6% during the 12 months to May, following a 17.1% increase in April.
    •    Gasoline prices rose 29.5%, the largest increase since September 2005. The latest year-over-year increase follows a 26.4% gain in April, and leaves the gasoline index just below the peak level reached in July 2008.
    •    Prices were also higher for fuel oil (+28.2%) and electricity (+0.9%), while they declined 5.3% for natural gas.
    •    Prices for groceries rose 4.2% in the 12 months to May, following a 3.7% gain in April. Prices increased for many staples, such as meat, bread and fresh milk.
    •    Prices for food purchased from restaurants increased 3.2%, following a 2.8% rise in April.

Combined with tough economic times and small or non-existent wage increases, inflation can have a major effect on household budgets. Making lifestyle changes can help mitigate the effects of inflation, and save you money.

Tips For Deflating Inflation

We can take steps to deflate the effects of inflation on our lives. The following are some tips that I have found useful:

Increasing energy prices are here to stay. Draft-proofing your home and possibly adding insulation will help you use less energy. So will keeping your home cooler (or warmer) and adjusting your clothing to maintain comfort. Try to get any passive solar gain you can by opening drapes and letting the sun in during cold weather.

Gasoline prices are reaching near-peak levels, and are unlikely to go down much in the future. We can respond to plus-$100 dollar a barrel oil by making fewer, more efficient trips, and by taking public transportation.

For about the price of one tank of gas a person can purchase a reasonable bicycle.

We can also save energy and money by keeping life local. It is fun to get to know your own neck of the woods.

As groceries get more expensive gardening becomes more attractive. My patio container garden is providing small amounts of fresh, nutritious herbs and vegetables.

Meat is expensive. Rising meat prices can be avoided by increasing alternative proteins in your diet. Look for less expensive protein sources such as beans, quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds, and tofu. Yum.

Making your own baked products can save a lot of money, and powdered milk is more convenient and less expensive than fresh.

Keep your pantry fully stocked - food in the pantry is better than cash in a bank account paying minuscule amounts of interest. Plus, with a full pantry you will be ready to ride out adverse weather events, disasters, or global economic collapse.

In the 1970's about 10% of the average food budget was spent in restaurants. Today that figure is closer to 50%
. The convenience of eating out is costly even without inflating prices.

I never leave home without a bag lunch, picnic, or snack of some sort. I bring water or juice in a reusable container. Once I am out and about there is no need to buy anything. Preparing your own food is less expensive, and can be much healthier. Good food is good medicine.

Making small lifestyle changes, and living more simply, can help reduce the effects of inflation, and allow us to live more efficiently.

July 6, 2011

Learning To Live By The Rhythm Of The Days

The Sun Salutation - a good way to start the day
Living the simple life allows one to redefine the meaning of time. The band Chicago asked in a popular song, "Does anybody really know what time it is?", and more importantly, "Does anybody really care?" It was while traveling overseas for a year that I came to love not knowing, or caring, what time it was.

Even better than letting go of the hours was losing track of the day of the week. Eventually, losing the month became a goal - one which was successfully met. I was learning to live with the rhythm of the days.

Since returning from traveling time has never been the same. All timepieces have been misplaced. Calenders have been known to get a month (or more) behind before they get flipped. Day Timers and Schedule Books are a thing of the anxious past. Now time is just time.

Contrary to the popular saying, time is not money, but we live as if it is. This causes us to try to do more stuff in less time, resulting in time AND money stress. Time is more important than money. Time is made of sequential precious moments, and slowing down to notice them is the route to health and well being.
Rubber Time

Try spending a day on Rubber Time. Let time stretch and bulge around you. Build your activities around the rhythms of the day. Forget clock-time, and simply respond to whatever the day presents you. 

Jim Morrison said, "No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn." I wonder if he was a birder? Either way, a good way to start the day is by greeting the rising sun.

The greatest symphony in the world happens as the sun comes up to the infinite varieties of bird song. Make time for it, and revel in the rising voice of the dawn. A new day is manifesting.

 Spend a moment to experience its unfolding.

Nature's rhythms, because they are our own deepest rhythms, can be the greatest healers. During Rubber Time get up when you feel rested. Eat when you feel hungry. Let yourself be spontaneous and go with the flow. If you feel tired allow yourself to lay down. Rest, sleep. Get up when you are ready.

 Let yourself be unencumbered by clock pressure or expectations.

Take a day, a few hours, or even a few minutes if that is all you can spare. Forget the clock. Do what feels natural and right.

 Reclaim your time. You may find it nice to live slowly and intentionally by the rhythm of the days.

July 4, 2011

No Dystopia Monday

Are we already living in a dystopian system?

Common Traits of Dystopias

The following is a list of traits familiar to dystopian literature, movies, or a present day society near you.
  • a hierarchical society where divisions between the upper, middle and lower class are definitive and unbending
  • a nation-state ruled by an upper class with few democratic ideals
  • state propaganda programs and educational systems that coerce most citizens into worshipping the state and its government, in an attempt to convince them into thinking that life under the regime is good and just
  • strict conformity among citizens and the general assumption that dissent and individuality are bad
  • a fictional state figurehead that people worship fanatically through a vast personality cult, such as 1984's Big Brother
  • a fear or disgust of the world outside the state
  • a penal system that lacks due process laws and often employs psychological or physical torture
  • constant surveillance by state police agencies
  • the banishment of the natural world from daily life
  • a back story of a natural disaster, war, revolution, uprising, spike in overpopulation or some other climactic event which resulted in dramatic changes to society
  • a standard of living among the lower and middle class that is generally poorer than in contemporary society (adapted from netcharles.com)
Wow. That sounds disturbingly familiar...
"War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent."  - George Orwell
"Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities."           - Aldous Huxley

July 3, 2011

Not Buying Anything Is Not Buying It

When I first started blogging I had several challenges in mind. The first was coming up with a suitable name that reflected my desire to live away from commerce as much as possible. I thought about "Not Buying It".

I discovered that New York author, Judith Levine, wrote a book by this very same name. Interested, I went to the public library to borrow a copy and returned home to see what Levine was up to.

In order to write the book, Levine and her husband gave up (some) shopping for one year. This sounded like a good start. However, the only good thing about the book - not shopping - was overshadowed by several other things:
  1. They stockpiled stuff prior to the no shopping start date.
  2. There was a lot of complaining about relatively minor things (what to do without cotton swabs).
  3. The family had two homes including a farm that didn't grow any food, and three cars.
  4. Friends were allowed to buy them stuff.
  5. I think she was intentionally hard on clothes - they were all wearing out by the end of the year. She is a writer, not a miner.
  6. The family did not give up things that many would consider luxuries, like expensive haircuts and subscriptions.
  7. The project was strictly for only one year, and at the end of the experiment it was celebration time, and not because they were free of consumerism.
  8. What she seems to have learned from her one year experiment is that it sucks to live without stuff when you desire stuff.

Levine's goal in writing her book was not to break free of the shopping habit. Rather, I think it was so she could enjoy shopping all the more after her one year experiment. The blog I was envisioning definitely was about reducing shopping and the financial and personal debt that accompanies it.

Then I thought of the name, "Not Buying Anything". I did a search for the words, and guess who was at the top of the page? That's right, Judith Levine and her anti-anti-shopping book.

And thus began one of my blogging challenges - to depose Judith Levine's, Not Buying It, from the top spot of a search for "not buying anything". I needed to make sure that people searching for real alternatives to a life of shopping were not side-tracked. I started writing.

After 2 1/2 years of blogging I am happy to announce that I have succeeded in knocking Not Buying It from the top spot of a 'not buying anything' search. Ahh, the internet - the great democratizer.

But my work here is not done. So many dissatisfied, tapped out consumers, so little time. Next challenge - get Judith to read my blog, see the light, and give up shopping for good.