Mary Beth Writes

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.


1. I’ve spent hours lately working on two self-inflicted writing projects. One is about the Midwest in the 1600-1800’s. Why do I care? I don’t know but I’ve been working at it for a long time and I still am.

The other is a long short story. (That's what one calls a classical oxymoron.) Might get it done. Might not.  It feels important to tell the character’s story even though that’s what she is –a fictional character.

Being frugal is a strategy to have enough time and resources to do the Work That Is Ours to Do.

Life is short. Yes, we have jobs and families, homes and communities. But there’s also the “This Is My Work” thing in most of us that NEEDS to knit a hat, write a poem, read to kids, make music, hike/bike half the day soaking up sunshine or rain and come back home feeling whole. 

When I worked with jail inmates, the ones who endured jail best and were the most successful at staying out once they got there … were guys who liked to cook, or make music, or work on engines, etc.  Those guys had internal resources for when life was rough and unjust or maybe too just.  

2. There’s a part in The Shipping News (by Annie Proulx, best writer ever…) where her main character Quoyle (I think it was him) is eating curried seal flipper pie. He bemuses, “I bet I am the only person on earth eating curried seal flipper pie tonight.”

I get like that about oatmeal. Most mornings I put 1/3 cup of old-fashioned oats in a bowl. Then add ½ to 1 cup of “additives” such as mushed sweet potato, baked squash, shredded or minced carrots, halved grapes, chopped rhubarb, as well as the more normal stuff like dried fruit, chopped nuts, berries. Then I add 2/3 cup water (or leftover juice) and microwave this slurry for 2-3 minutes. Take it out, add a half teaspoon of cinnamon, and eat my sliced apple sprinkled with turmeric (anti-inflammatory) while the oatmeal cools.

Oatmeal is like the sunniest kid on the playground who will play with just about anyone. Oatmeal LIKEs to be leftovers' friend. 

3. We’re going away for a few days to see the return-migrating Sandhill cranes in Nebraska.  We’ve called the motel as well as the tour to the river flats  - to make sure they are there in the midst of Nebraska's terrible flooding. They are.

Says the woman who went on vacation with her family to a resort in Florida and ended up in a hurricane.

4. I bought two thrifted multi-pocketed duffle bags. We have (old but viable) suitcases, but they are either too big or too small. For a very small cash outlay we will see how these bags work.

5. We’ve wanted to see the massive Sandhills migration flocks for years. It’s frugal to strongly want things one can probably get.

For the Great Wall of China and an African Safari, we watch documentaries from the sofa while drinking store brand seltzer water.

6. It’s 40 degrees out right now but very sunny. Our front porch, with its no-tech 1970’s windows, is so warm we have the front door open to let hot porch air come into the house. Solar power is amazing. All one has to do is find a south facing window and believe in it.


Guess I know what u’ve been doing today. Oatmeal and cranes. A few of my favorite things.

I’m in awe of Sandhill Cranes and look forward to hearing about it and seeing pix. The one above is gorgeous.
Mary Beth's picture

Len took the photo of the cranes I used. I think it was from around Waukesha - when we lived in Racine but he worked in Waukesha. And yes, he is bringing the camera and tripod with on this trip. Taking photos at special places is like walking in fresh cement - you know you were there.

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Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

Mindful Chickens - Plastic & Hunger 12/20/2020

I went for a walk on Wednesday and saw this mitten on a sidewalk. When I was at the same spot on Friday, it was still there, so I brought it home because it is a hand-knitted kid mitten, ya know? Any knitters out there interested in making it a mate, so that we could give it to a kid in my community or your? It's 7" from top to ribbed bottom. 


The point of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money while being mindful of the environment and our human values. We can try, right?

Holy Mackerel! Mindful Chickens 12/12/2020

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.


I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

Who Let the Chickens Out?

Mindful Chickens i.e., being frugal and living by our values instead of by blithering consumerism is how this blog started. Yet I seldom post lists anymore about choices Len and I make that hit that marker because I can tell from who follows me that this is not why most of you are here.

But today I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Preparing the Light Posts takes me a long time so I am not going to do one – I do plan to be back at it Monday.

7-6-2020 Mindful QUARANTINED Chickens

(Thanks, KJR, for the funny fluffy chicken photo!) 

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

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