Valentine’s Day — Can’t Buy Me Love

Posted by Marko on February 14, 2019 in Off Topic |

I have mixed emotions about Valentine’s Day. On the one hand, I love doing a little something special for my husband and children on February 14th. On the other hand, I’m repulsed by the over-commercialization and pressure to overspend on a holiday that should have nothing to do with buying expensive jewelry.

My friend Robert from Untitled Minimalism absolutely nailed it in his post The Secret to Experience Gifts, Valentine’s Edition.

In his post, Robert explains the goal of all gift giving perfectly. As Robert suggests, we all want to present a gift that will create a memory for the recipient. I laughed out loud reading about Robert’s comparison to giving a teddy bear as a gift versus dressing up as a teddy bear and singing “Teddy Bear” by Elvis. Read more…


Found Money Staring Us in the Face

Posted by Marko on December 27, 2018 in Off Topic |

I’m not sure why we waited so long, but Kirk and I finally refinanced our mortgage to secure a lower interest rate. We have been trying to figure out how to pay off our mortgage sooner, but we didn’t want to lower our retirement contributions to get there.

Refinancing our mortgage allowed us to reduce our interest rate by 1.375%. We went with a 30-year fixed rate loan again, however, we’ll be paying the same amount we were paying before refinancing – even though our new mortgage payment is lower. Read more…


Do Work You Love

Posted by Marko on December 13, 2018 in Off Topic |

Round and round and back again. It’s been a long time coming, but I finally feel that I’m in a place where I can choose work based on my interests rather than the income. I always dreamed of this place and thought it to be a distant fantasy rather than a reality for me.

Simplifying my life and finances has opened up the opportunity to do any kind of work I want. It’s been both liberating and overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to do something because you have to. Read more…


Unconventional Christmas

Posted by Marko on December 2, 2018 in Off Topic |

I love Christmas. I love the family gatherings, the cookies, the lights and most of all — I love the magic glimmer in children’s eyes as they anticipate the excitement of the holiday season.

When I think back to my favorite Christmas memories from years past, a few things stick out. Like the years my dad would get off from work early on Christmas Eve to take me to feed the animals at a live manger scene. Or listening to my older brother shake jingle bells while screaming, “Ho, ho, ho!” after I’d gone to bed on Christmas Eve night.

I was the youngest of four, so the entire family tried to keep the magic of Santa alive for me as long as possible. For their sake, I pretended to still believe years after I knew the truth.

It’s hard for me to remember many of the gifts that I received. In fact, only two really stick out. The first was the red bed tent my brother gave me for Christmas when I was seven. I was always afraid to sleep at night and that bed tent made me feel so protected.

The second gift I remember receiving was a Swatch Phone for my room when I was 13. It had two receivers, which allowed me and one friend to talk to the same person at the same time. It was yellowish green, transparent and sleek. My remaining teenage years would have been much different without that stylish miracle that connected me to my friends.

My dad went absolutely crazy on Christmas. He had a Christmas savings account to which he would contribute all year. On Christmas morning, we could barely get into the family room to open our gifts. It was exciting and magical.

But other than the two gifts mentioned above, I honestly don’t remember much of the “stuff” that I received for Christmas. By contrast, I fondly remember every single family trip we ever took (from the age of five or so on).

This year, Kirk and I are trying something a little different for Christmas. For our kids, I want to keep the magic and excitement alive that I experienced as a child — but I want to package it a little differently. We’re still going to buy a couple of gifts for our sons, but we’re going to primarily focus on experience – rather than material — gifts this year.

For example, we’re surprising our seven-year old with the soccer lessons he’s been asking for.

And remember back in August when I mentioned that we were going to try and plan a budget trip to a beach with the best seashells? We’ve decided to skip our emergency fund deposit this month and instead surprise the kids with early spring plane tickets to Sanibel Island, Florida.

Sure, we aren’t actually taking the trip until March, but the anticipation of a pending beach mini-vacation is one of the best ways to get through a blustery Ohio winter!

We’re excited to wrap up a paper airplane with mock plane tickets for the kids to open Christmas morning. I’m hoping it will be more memorable than any plastic thingamajiggers we could find to stuff their stockings.

We’ll also be trying to instill in our kids the importance of giving by participating in a few charitable programs such as the adopt-a-family program through my son’s Cub Scout Den. And the kids always love decorating homemade sugar cookies to give away as gifts to teachers and grandparents.

I’m not suggesting that you need to jet set off to an island to create an experience your kids will remember this Christmas. There are plenty of less expensive ways to give them a cherished experience that will only appreciate over time.

Heck, even if it turns out horribly, those are the memories that always seems to get funnier over time.

As an example, my parents and I still laugh about the time I convinced them to take me to see the movie “Gremlins” when I was eight. The move grossed me out so much that I ended up…well, tossing my cookies in the popcorn. We had to leave in the middle of the movie, but the story of me “puking in the popcorn” gets funnier each time it’s told!


Below are a few free or inexpensive experiences that your kids may enjoy:

  • If you have snow where you live, go sledding.
  • Build a snowman (again, only if you have snow!).
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights while sipping hot cocoa.
  • Attend the Christmas Eve children’s service at your church.
  • Go for a winter hike.
  • Sign your child up for sports/music/dance/drama lessons.
  • Wrap up family movie tickets with a few candy snacks (to sneak into the theater). Put the names of the movies the kids want to see in a hat and draw the winning movie.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Go caroling.

Again, these are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. No one knows your kids better than you!

How are you planning to celebrate the holidays with your family this year? Are you planning to minimize material gifts this year? If so, what are you planning instead?


The Most Dreaded Clutter Purge

Posted by Marko on November 26, 2018 in Off Topic |

I have a dirty little secret. There is a room in our home that escaped the rampage of purging and downsizing undertaken over the past two years. It’s a room with sentimental clutter, outdated files and memories of a past I wasn’t ready to let go.

The home office.

We’ve decided to turn the space into a media room for our two sons since we no longer use the room. Deciding to repurpose the space has meant that everything now occupying the space needs cleared out. Everything. Wow. Read more…


Enrichment Activities on a Dime

Posted by Marko on November 15, 2018 in Off Topic |

In the city where I live, there are practically limitless opportunities for children to participate in enrichment activities. There are opportunities to partake in sports of every kind, music lessons, scouting, writing workshops, martial arts training, art classes, science classes, dance lessons, math enrichment and even manners training.

Allowing our children to try all of the things that interest them can get overwhelming pretty quickly.

Have you experienced activity overload? It can get exhausting (and expensive!) taking our son to soccer practices, Taekwondo training and Cub Scout meetings and events. Now he’s begging to take classes on LEGO robotics and computer programming. Read more…


Thankful for A Perfectly Flawed Life

Posted by Marko on November 6, 2018 in Off Topic |

I’ve never been a fan of white clothes. Not only do they lose their brilliance after several washes in our hard water, but wearing a crisp white shirt always makes me uneasy. White is unforgiving. Unrelenting even.

Like my clothes, I prefer a life enveloped in more forgiving shades of grey as well. It’s better to allow for some lenience as we blaze through our life journey.

Circumstances and people disappoint me far less often when I lower my expectations, practice unconditional acceptance and remain tolerant of differing perspectives and opinions. Expecting perfection will always lead to an illusion of lack. Read more…


A Change in Daily Routines

Posted by Marko on October 29, 2018 in Off Topic |

It’s been about two months since I quit my full-time job. During this time I’ve been trying to balance freelance projects with a newfound freedom.

When I go though a big change to my daily routine, it typically takes me a few months to reorganize and focus my time. I tend to get overwhelmed when my days dramatically shift.

While I don’t miss working full-time, I do miss the predictability of my days. Read more…


Tratament pentru copaci

Posted by Marko on October 27, 2018 in Off Topic |

Ingrijirea corecta si regulata a copacilor asigura nu numai o crestere a randamentului, ci, prelungeste si viata copacilor, sustinand aspectul atractiv si sanatatea lor. Pentru acest lucru exista  tratament pentru copaci care este atat de necesar pentru sanatatea gradinii. Mentinerea trunchiului de copac si a ramurilor scheletice principale intr-o stare sanatoasa, asigura longevitatea copacului. Copacii care au trunchiuri deteriorate si ramurile scheletice, sunt mai putin rezistente la inghet, la infrangerea diferitelor boli si daunatori, in timp ce randamentul este redus. Read more…


This is All Temporary

Posted by Marko on October 20, 2018 in Off Topic |

For some time now, I’ve felt a strong push (or pull?) to move. I dream about living in a condo where someone else would take care of yard work and there would be less rooms to clean. Or a sustainable home that generates its own energy and distributes grey water to the gardens.

I’ve even fantasized about living in another country like Denmark. They always rank so high in happiness ratings, afterall. Of course I don’t speak any Danish, so that might be a problem.

But mostly, I imagine an extended period of time where I would be able to shed most of my material burdens and focus on my family. Where we could all enjoy each other’s company rather than play paper-scissors-rock to decide who gets to weed the flower beds this week. Read more…

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