Hygge-lism

The Year of Less

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”

“The Year of Less”, was written by Cait Flanders, is a story of self discovery brought on by a self-imposed challenge to simplify her life and live with less by going on a shopping ban for one year.

This is not a how-to or a log of how her year went, but more of a tale of experiences and discovery.  The actual challenge of not buying anything for a year takes a back seat to the story of how and what she learned about herself and how she lived her life during that year.

It was incredibly entertaining, well written and motivational.  The writing is relaxed, honest and almost conversational.  She shares both the highs and lows that she experienced during this challenge, just as amazed as the readers as to how the challenge forced her to look at herself in a different light and from a different angle.

Her experiences are relatable and it is easy to put yourself in her position while you read the book, even when she refers back to past challenges that she has overcome from relationships come and gone, to drug and physical abuse and sharing the experience of the impending divorce of her parents with her siblings.

AudiobooksNow - Digital Audiobooks for Less

It is a great look into priorities, and a deeper look into the ways of life that have been adopted by most of society due to advertising, social media and trying to achieve the ideal unachievable lifestyle force fed to us on a daily basis.  It challenges the status quo and questions our feelings that we need “this” to get “that” and be a certain “type” of person. 

Nomatic

I thoroughly recommend that anyone read this book and then take a look around their living space to contemplate what they own and why.  Did they buy certain items for themselves or for the themselves that want to portray.  How much of other people’s perceptions influenced your spending habits and feelings of need.

Borrow this book from your local library, read it and reevaluate yourself and your habits for the better.  

Join 143 other followers

Moselle River

Family Bike Ride

Another perfect weather weekend calls for another family outing.  A short drive from our current house lies the Moselle river, and what we found to be the perfect length biking loop.

Being along the river the route is mostly flat and paved, an easy ride that the whole family is able to enjoy.  Located among the towns of Bernkastel and Kues is a 10 mile loop that traverses down either side of the river.

This easy ride afforded us lots of opportunities to venture into the towns and explore a little further off of the beaten path.  It is also an excellent trail for any of those wine lovers out there as the mountains on either side of the river are covered in vineyards.  Riding down one side of the river we pass a new winery every few hundred yards it seems. 

On the Kues side of the river we are even able to ride our bikes directly up to the front doors of Schloss Lieser, Schloss is similar to our word for mansion.  This enormous mansion and accompanying winery and restaurant has a very gothic look to it.  Built in the 19th century, this historic castle has been fully restored and renovated into a luxury hotel.

After exploring Kues a little bit, we continue our loop down the river and cross over to the Bernkastel side, pedaling back up the river is a much more relaxed path.  While the Kues side ran along between the river and the town, the Bernkastel side ran between the river and vineyards.  Traffic is lighter, both car and bike, and the pace is relaxed.

728x90 EMS Lifestyle Image

Returning to our starting point, we lock our bikes back up to our bike rack and take a walk through the town.  The old cobblestone streets and timber built houses never seem to get old.  We stop at a corner pizza shop where we can sit in the window and people watch while we enjoy an early dinner, followed up by some ice cream at an outdoor cafe with live music.

Tired from the day’s ride, but happy for the change of scenery we head home.  Another day out and about, well spent.

Join 143 other followers

The Imperfect Environmentalist

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”

“The Imperfect Environmentalist” written by Sara Gilbert is a coffee table book full of environmentally conscious alternatives to daily activities.

I am not one that would typically promote a book written by a celebrity, a non-author celebrity that is.  I find that celebrities typically view things from a privileged, oftentimes, unrelatable or un-achievable point of view.  That is not the case with Sara Gilbert and “The Imperfect Environmentalist” though.  This book was a quick read, entertaining collection of environmentally friendly tips and tricks that I found really interesting.

I do definitely consider it as a coffee table book in every sense of the word though.  To read this from cover to cover is repetitive and tedious.  Because each topic is meant to stand alone, each entry will often remind you of the same points.  GMO for instance is a Genetically Modified Organism and VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds and I will never forget it since I read about those on every other page.

AudiobooksNow - Digital Audiobooks for Less

Seriously though, Sara Gilbert has put together a very well written collection of thoroughly researched and relatable situations in which you can improve your environmentalism.  Divided into easy to reference sections such as food, cleaning, transportation and parenting, you will find yourself flipping through the pages again and again.  

Even adopting one or two small changes can make a big difference.  If each of us just changed one thing to improve our impact on the environment, we would live in a different world than we do today.

Sustainable bamboo sunglasses by WearPanda

I typically recommend that your first place to turn for a new book to read is your local library, but on this occasion I would recommend having a copy of this book on hand to be able to reference from time to time.  Just seeing it around the house could be enough to flip that switch in your brain reminding you to pay attention to your impact, or recenter your intentions. 

Join 143 other followers

One Less Car on the Road

Committing to Commuting

Whether it was our choice or not to take the leap and make the plunge, it is done.  We have removed one more exhaust spewing, chemical dripping, money pit from the road. 

Like most families that I know we were a two car family, and it made sense for us once upon a time.  My wife and I both worked full time and we lived in an area that did not have public transportation readily available and also was not bike friendly.  So when we moved, we automatically defaulted to the two car situation that we were so accustomed to.

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

As time went on and we settled into our new situation we started to reassess the need for multiple cars.  My wife is not working while we are abroad, besides her side hustle, that is (check it out here), and the public transportation and bicycle infrastructure in our area is well established.  The more we looked at it, it was actually my full time work schedule in the same office, at the same time, five days a week that was less demanding of having a car on location than her side hustle was.

I recently completed a bike build as well, where I took an early 2000s Mongoose Wal-Mart bike, stripped it down to its frame and rebuilt it back up into a respectable cruiser style bike (check it out here). Just to add another little nudge, our house is less than one kilometer from a train station.

Still I dragged my feet, the hardest part about making the change would be to change our routines and our convenient, comfortable yet wasteful habits.  As if the powers that be were alerted to my hesitation, the decision was made for us.

My car went from never giving us a problem, not even an inkling that something was amiss, to suddenly broken down on the side of the road and two days later pronounced D.O.A. Dead On Arrival by the garage mechanics.

Built Bar

We could have ignored all of these ever so subtle hints, ran out and threw a bucket of cash into another convenient conveyance, or we could adopt change and step out of our comfort zone for the betterment of ourselves and the environment.  As if the title didn’t give it away, we chose the latter.

Nevertheless, we still weighed the pro’s and con’s of being a one car family and commuting.

Pros 

  • Commuting is better for the environment, and reduces our carbon footprint. 
  • Bike riding is a healthy form of exercise.
  • Vehicles are a drain on your finances.
  • We could save around $700 a year on car insurance, $1000 a year on fuel and roughly $200-$300 estimated per year on maintenance and that is probably a low estimate.
  • Train commuting is safer than driving, trains don’t often run into other trains because the driver was texting his buddy.
  • Bike commuting is safer than driving, yeah accidents happen involving bicycles but nowhere in the realm of car on car accidents.

Cons

  • If our one car breaks down, then we have no car.  This is bound to happen eventually.
  • Cold, rainy and snowy days are not fun days to ride a bike to work.
  • I would have to get up a little earlier and I would get home a little later.
  • Dependent on the trains running on time. (Who am I kidding, this is Germany the trains are always running on time).
  • I would need to buy a commuter train pass for around $800 for the year.
  • I would not be readily available during work hours in case of an emergency.

So there it was, all laid out on a piece of paper in front of me.  The benefits were clear benefits and there was no disputing them.  I found myself explaining away some of the con’s.  Yes, cars break down and if we only have one then we would have none.  On the rare occasion that this does happen though, you are typically stranded no matter how many cars you own, also a few forced days at home while the mechanic repairs it or while you are on the market for another car doesn’t seem so bad when trains and walking are so readily available.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The commuter train pass costs $800 a year, but I am saving at least $2000 a year by not having a car, so that is a no brainer.

Not being available in case of an emergency is the only one that really gave me pause.  As I sat back and thought about it though, I couldn’t come up with a single instance when I needed to get somewhere instantly.  I was commuting, I wasn’t stuck, I was just at the mercy of the train schedule, I may not be able to get somewhere as fast as if I had a car, but I wouldn’t be too far behind it.  Between the trains and my bike I could literally get anywhere if I had to.  Also, unless the emergency involved my wife, we did have another car and my wife was likely to be near it.

So it’s settled.  I have committed to commuting.  I will let you know how it goes.

Join 143 other followers

Up to 70% Off Clearance Items at Eastern Mountain Sports

Rhine River – Ring Ticket

Still staying within the confines of the Covid lock down, we have managed a few day trips for a change of scenery.

We are lucky enough to live within driving distance of the Rhine river here in Germany and a lot of the touristy attractions have begun to open up.  One of which caught our eye is the Rhine River Ring Ticket.  An afternoon tour that runs through three towns located on the coast of the Rhine river; Bingen; Assmannshausen and Rudesheim.

Push Pin Travel Maps

Joined by some friends of ours, we started our day tour in the town of Bingen with a short walk on the bank of the river to the boat dock.  Medium sized cruise boats make continuous loops between the three towns that I listed and all you have to do is catch one of them at your port.

We took our first cruise boat from Bingen to Assmannshausen, a short 20 to 30 minute ride at an interior deck table, enjoying the views from the river.  The upper, open air deck was full due to only half the seating being open in order to maintain social distancing standards.

Nomatic

Hopping off the boat, we explored the small town of Assmannshausen and wandered the old country cobbled streets and took photos of the timber built houses lining our way.  Stopping at an outdoor cafe, we enjoyed a quick, relaxing, delicious lunch before following signs to the next leg of our tour.

In order to climb to the top of the hills lining the riverbanks we boarded a sesselbahn, a ski-lift as we would call it.  At the top of the hill we followed a nature path with incredible views to the Niederwalddenkmal, an enormous monument constructed to commemorate the founding of the German Empire in 1871.  The kids enjoyed the view, posed for pictures and climbed on the foundation a little bit.  Continuing down the trail we stopped at another conveniently placed cafe with a view for some refreshments and ice cream.

At the end of the nature trail was a kabinen-seilbahn, an enclosed gondola, that we rode down the hill into the town of Rudesheim.  The lift leads us right into the Altstadt, or old city section of Rudesheim where we are surrounded by some more timber built and “Harry Potter-esqe” cobbled streets.  Here we find some more sweet snacks as we wander along winding our way through the streets towards the port.

At the port we find our boat waiting and this time we are able to find seats on the top deck.  There we are served some drinks as we soak in the beautiful afternoon, the castles along the riverbank and rest our legs.  The boat pulls into port right back where we started.

As we walk a little further down the coast in Bingen we arrive at a biergarten, and decide to have an early dinner before heading back home.

All in all, a relaxing day out and about and a well needed change of scenery with good friends.

Join 143 other followers

Financial Freedom Update #5

June – 5 Months

5 months in and we are still kicking!  Markets are fluctuating, but we are holding strong and still earning some passive income.  This month we put some more money into our high interest savings, something that we can let sit and compound.  We also put a couple extra thousand into our investment account as well.  You’ve got to get it while it is on sale as they say.  When the markets dip is the best time to buy.

Without further ado, on to our account and performance update:

Betterment High Interest Savings and Investments:

Actual Investments to date: $29,010.39

Passive Income Earned to date: $71.90

Current Balance: $29,610.88

Performance to date: +$600.49

All of the losses from the original market drop at the beginning of the COVID epidemic have now recovered and we are seeing our accounts on the plus side for the first time. Very exciting!

Supplementary Retirement Accounts:

Thrift Savings Plan: $113,778.06 (+$2,558.00 from last month)

Vanguard 401K: $14.939.71 (+$375.92 from last month)

With the markets rising, so too are our supplementary retirement accounts.  The TSP is still being contributed to bi-weekly, but the 401K is just riding along at a steady investment amount, pluses and minuses solely based on market performance.

F.I.R.E. Account Balance

$158,328.65

This is an increase of $11,975.66 from last month ($8,000 physical investment, $3,975.66 account performance increase).

Join 143 other followers

Nomatic

Elder-Flower Cordial

‘Tis the Season

The Elder-flower Cordial is a sweet, flavorful drink that can be made by just about anybody.  Elder-flowers are the prerequisite to the, you guessed it, elderberry.  Now is the season for the flower, and a delicious, sweet Spring/Summer time drink.  Once the berries form, the opportunity for a stronger, adult drink is available.

For now though, we will start with the recipe and process for the sweet drink that everybody can drink.  Elder-flower is in season roughly from late May through July and a medium sized plant can yield nearly a hundred large flower heads.  

Enough with the small talk, let’s get to the ingredients:

15 elder-flower heads (yields just over 1 gallon (4 liters) depending on dilution ratio)

4 cups (500g) white granulated sugar

4 tablespoons honey

2  large lemons

4 ⅓ cups (1 liter) water

1. Clip 15 elder-flower heads at the main stem, just below where all the smaller flower stems join together and above the leaves.  Take your time, to be sure to clear out any bugs or dead flower heads, but don’t rinse the heads in water or shake them upside down.  The pollen of the flowers is where most of the flavor is found.

2. Combine the sugar, honey and 1 liter of water in a large saucepan over a medium heat, as the sugar begins to dissolve increase the heat until it just begins to boil lightly.  Once it starts to boil, remove the syrup from the heat.

3. Grate in the lemon peel zest from the 2 large lemons. Then cut 1 lemon in half, and the other into slices.

4. Add the 15 elder-flower heads, stem up so that the flower heads are all submerged.

5. Squeeze the juice from the lemon you cut in half into the syrup. Place the slices from the other lemon on top of the flower heads.

Place a lid on the saucepan and let the mixture infuse for the next 24 hours.

Once 24 hours have passed, strain the liquid into a container by placing a tea towel or fine cloth inside of your strainer and pouring the mixture through it. (Bonus: The remaining flower heads and lemon slices are excellent for your compost.)

**Note** This will create a super sweet concentrated cordial, and should be diluted to taste.  I recommend 1 part cordial to 3 parts water, but everyone has different tastes.

Sit back on a warm evening and enjoy!  

Join 143 other followers

Family Bike Ride – Lautertal Radweg

A Covid Compliant Adventure

Restrictions are beginning to ease, but we are still largely home bound.  Time for a Covid compliant adventure, our traveling perimeter has widened and Germany is riddled with biking trails.  We have explored just about everything within the immediate vicinity, so we decided to pack up a lunch, load up the bike rack and do something a little further out.

Our boys are still young, so an easy family friendly path with little climbing is preferred.  Nearby is a well traveled mainly flat biking path that we could take anywhere from 2 kilometers to 30 if we felt up to it.

The youngest is excited to try his new (to him) mountain bike out on a real trail, and the older one is excited to “show him how it’s done”.  With my bike finally done being built, my wife has regained full control over her bike, and is ready to take it for a spin.

The Lautertal Radweg (Radweg = Bike Path or Bike way to be precise) runs from Kaiserslautern, Germany up to Lauterecken, some 35 or so kilometers away.  I knew we wouldn’t make it that far with an 8 and 6 year old, but who knows.

The trail is scenic as it wanders along between the train tracks and stream.  Just on the other side of the tracks we cruise on by small, quaint little towns.  Lots of bikers had the same idea that we had so we are forced to stay in a single file line or as the boys yell out when someone is spotted heading our way “Snake Formation!”.  Departing Kaiserslautern we pass by Erfenbach and decide to stop for the lunch that we brought with us.  After a quick meal it’s on to Otterbach and Sembach.  As we continue into Katzweiler our little one is showing signs of fatigue.  Not too bad considering we are about 9 kilometers in.

Turning around in Katzweiler, our youngest is not too enthused to find out that he now has to pedal back the entire way that he just came.  We mosey back the way we came, stopping plenty for photos and to check out the stream.  Each time that we remount the bikes, we egg him on with a reminder that there will be a surprise at the end of the ride.  Not knowing what the surprise is going to be just about drives the older one insane.

Pedaling back into K-Town we pass by the car and keep going, leading them just to the end of the parking lot fence.  An outdoor restaurant, just recently allowed to open up outdoor seating is situated in the middle of a plaza with a fountain.  Other bikes are parked all over the plaza, we add ours to the mix and sit outside the restaurant for…Beer and Ice Cream!  Beer for the wife not the kids, just in case you were wondering.  

PROST!!!!

Join 143 other followers

Bamboo Toothbrushes

A “Flirting With Zero Waste” Tip

I have raved about the sustainable qualities of bamboo in the past, and still stand by it.  Yet another typically plastic product that can quickly and easily be eliminated from production and replaced by bamboo is the toothbrush.

Not a whole lot of thought is really invested into these wonderfully convenient and completely essential scrubbing sticks by consumers.  A whole lot of time, and advertising, is invested in their design and marketing though.  Where they fail, is in their manufacturing.  Time and effort is put into making sure that each little bristle can reach the most hard to reach areas, and a lot of money is invested into telling us about where those bristles can reach.  Very little time or money is invested into the holder of those bristles.  

Sustainable bamboo sunglasses by WearPanda

Plastic is cheap, easy to work with and will last for quite literally FOREVER.  Whether we like it or not every toothbrush handle ever manufactured out of plastic in the history of plastic toothbrush handles, still exists in one form or another and will for longer than the person’s teeth that it was designed to brush will.  Sure a nicely shaped handle with soft cushiony grips in vibrant colors is nice to look at for its 4 to 6 month lifespan, or until the dentist gives you a new one, whichever comes first.  Now all we have to do is pretend we don’t see them piling up in landfills and floating in the ocean for the next few hundred years…that 4 to 6 months sure was nice though.  I especially enjoy that each new plastic toothbrush comes gift wrapped with yet another layer of, you guessed it, plastic.  After all, plastic is really good at protecting plastic.

Now for the alternative.  Bamboo toothbrushes are equally aesthetically pleasing in my opinion, 4 to 6 months of a nice wood grain on display near my sink.  Alas, you will have to forego that soft cushiony handle, if only we had soft cushiony areas conveniently placed on our hands in just those locations required to hold a toothbrush.  Wouldn’t that be convenient?  But how are you going to be able to tell which toothbrush is yours if you can’t all get different colors or shapes?  This seems like a silly question, but there really is some validity here.  Have you ever realized you were using the wrong toothbrush halfway though a good scrubbing?  I have, it’s disturbing.  Well fret no more, bamboo toothbrushes have a remarkable ability to be branded.  In fact, the manufacturers actually provide this service already, in a wide variety of options; symbols; letters; numbers; whatever you like.  You could even purchase them tinted in various colors.

Individually branded for easy reference, these even came with a bamboo travel case.

After that 4 to 6 months of usefulness is where this really gets interesting.  Bamboo is biodegradable, it will completely decompose and return itself to the soil anywhere from a few months to a few years maximum, in fact enriching the soil rather than contaminating it.  Not just biodegradable but compostable!  Pro tip for all you gardeners out there, you can break the head off your old bamboo toothbrush and throw the handle into your compost bin where it will aid in growing the same food that you used it to remove from your teeth after you last ate.

There are over 6 billion people in the world, and yes I know they don’t all own a toothbrush, but let’s say they do.  2 to 3 toothbrushes a year per person for let’s say 60 years.  That’s a nice round average number of toothbrush use, pre-dentures. So between 120 to 180 toothbrushes per person – split the difference 150 toothbrushes.  Multiply that by 6 billion = 900 billion toothbrushes will be used in the next 60 years if the population does not continue to grow.  If we only use plastic toothbrushes, those same 900 billion toothbrushes will still exist somewhere in the environment 3, 4, 5, hundred years from now.  If we only used bamboo toothbrushes – ZERO will remain, they will have returned to the soil and contributed to the growth of more plants, trees, food, more bamboo etc.

It’s a tough decision, I will let you think about it.

Join 143 other followers

Mirror rirroM – Three

STOP! Did you miss chapter two? Check it out here.

3

The weekend came and went; Seth was happy to get back to school and get a break from work.  He had made more than enough money for the moped; they had been busier than expected.  The last thing that he wanted to do was look at another slab of cheese and dough, luckily, he had most of the week off.  At school, Seth met up with his two best friends Chris Fitch and Brian Lee.

“Where you been all weekend bro, we didn’t hear a peep from you?” Chris asked.

“Just working, it was a rough weekend, nothing but flour and dough up to my elbows.” Seth answered.  “What did you guys do?”

Brian took this one, “Just wait until you hear, we went to the midnight showing of Star Trek.  You should have seen some of the costumes these fools were wearing.”

“These fools?” Seth answered, “You guys were there too, you know.”

“Well…yeah” Brian said, “but we didn’t have costumes or anything, so it was different.”

“Yeah, and you should have seen some of the chicks in there tight Trekkie uni’s…real nice I say!” Chris added.

“And there you two were, standing there staring at ‘em the whole time I bet,” Seth laughed, “They probably thought you guys were on a date!”

“No way, you’re crazy Seth.” Chris said.

“I bet you even shared popcorn, oh that’s funny.” Seth joked.

“So…popcorn is stupid expensive at the mall.” Brian said defensively.

“Wait, you really did share popcorn, you guys are ridiculous, that’s awesome.” Seth was really laughing hard now.

The warning bell sounded, and the trio started to go their separate ways.

“Hey, I’ll come by and see you guys after school, I’m going to get that moped this afternoon!” Seth called out as he backed away towards home room.

“Nice! See you later, man” Chris called back.

Seth hustled off to history class hoping to see Jessica; maybe break the ice with a “What happened to you this weekend” type of line.  Only, she wasn’t in class again that day.  Strange, he thought to himself, maybe she really came down with something bad.  He overheard her friends talking in the corner of the classroom.

“No, I didn’t talk to her all weekend, did you?” he heard one of them say.

“I called her house, her mom said that she hasn’t been around all weekend, and if I see her to give them a call.  She didn’t even know where she was, and she sounded worried.” Another one said.

“Well that’s strange, why would she just disappear like that?”.

Seth had heard enough, his intuitions were apparently right, something really was up with her. Did she run off with some guy? Seth had never heard her talking about a boyfriend or anything before.  Just then he heard something from the corner that really caught his attention.

“My dad said that the cops were at her house, like all Sunday morning!” one of the girls said.

Wait a minute Seth thought, the cops now this could be something serious.  Is she in jail, a runaway, kidnapped?  Seth’s imagination was starting to run away on him a little bit.  Wait, wait, slow it down here he thought, I’m just jumping to conclusions here.  It’s probably nothing, something totally unrelated I bet.  Seth tried to put it out of his mind for now, but between thinking about Jessica, and his soon to be moped, the day dragged.  

“Slowest day, ever!” Seth said to his buddy Chris in passing.

“Tell me about it!” Chris answered.  Apparently, he was having a long day himself.

Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss what comes next!

Join 143 other followers