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Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sweet Poppyseed Dressing*

Spring is here! The growing season has started and our first CSA pickup was today.  It’s a little earlier than last year due to our mild winter, and that makes me a happy girl.  Kids eating fresh greens, scallions and radishes directly from our CSA bag.  Fresh salads every night with tasty dressings.  All our dressings are homemade, really easy and so delicious that the kids eat two, three and four servings of salad each night.  The picture above shows a strawberry spinach salad with sweet poppyseed dressing that was inspired by a new restaurant in our area, Vge Cafe.

Vge Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant, with an environmentally-conscious message.  All the food is fresh (never frozen or canned) and the trash can be composted.  I am a little particular about my salads when eating out; the salad greens need to be fresh and not processed and bagged (to me there is an unpleasant sweet flavor on bagged lettuces).  The salad greens at Vge Cafe were definitely fresh.

We ate a nice lunch:  gluten free & vegan mac and cheese (a sophisticated version that was full of flavor), cream of tomato soup (using cashews as the creamy base), lentil veggie burger (on a beautiful Le Bus whole grain artisan roll), Caesar salad, and strawberry spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.  After two little monkeys ate most of my spinach salad, I knew I had to remake my own version at home.

My salad (pictured above) was made with baby spinach, chopped strawberries, cucumbers, lightly roasted walnuts, and a sweet poppyseed dressing (from Feeding the Whole Family – a great cookbook for all ages).  The only thing I left out of the dressing recipe was the dill…because I really wanted to add fresh mint from my garden sprinkled on top! I just love strawberries and mint!

Speaking of our garden, I am sure I will post pictures soon, but we finally planted everything.  I’m sad it happened a little later than I wanted, but we’ve got a really nice amount of seeds in the ground:  beets, bush beans, carrots, kale, scallions, snap peas, snow peas.  And, we’ve already got strawberries, garlic, rosemary, mint, spinach and lettuce growing!

Peek into our first CSA share of the 2012 Season

For a while now, I’ve been purging.  Our living space is somewhat uncluttered, but the basement…that’s a whole other story.  It’s a holding cell for things we will need in the future, storage area for overflow of what we can’t fit in our kitchen, storage for almost every single outgrown child toy and children’s clothes from infancy, going back nearly seven years.  Sure, every family has needs and the more children the more acquired.  But, this is excess.

We have an extra washer and dryer. Yes, extra.  We added a laundry room on the first floor when we moved in this house and kept the old washer and dryer (which we still use on occasion to be uber productive with laundry).

We have a stand up freezer, a treadmill, a workbench, all our household paints, nostalgic items from our childhoods…

Maybe our basement space is not too different from yours?

For me, it’s a weight, though.  I walk into the basement and find piles and piles of things – some things are very neatly organized, but then there’s all the “stuff in transition”.  Stuff that needs to be fixed.  Stuff that needs to be opened and assembled.  Stuff that I’m saving for a friend, for goodwill, or stuff that I’m compiling for an upcoming yard sale.

We had plans to use the basement as a painting studio for the kids.  We also wanted it to be a place where they could use riding vehicles on stormy days.  We were on a great path organizing the space with shelving systems and bins, then fell off the wagon.

But, now I have a renewed sense of this mission to purge.  For the last couple years, I’ve been reading about minimalism.  Some of my favorite blogs include Becoming Minimalist, Be More with Less, Frugal Babe, Loving Simple Living, The Minimalist Mom, Miss Minimalist, and Zen Habits.

Potato, Rosemary and Olive Oil Pizza (inspired by Mark Bittman)*

For all of my life, I’ve been governed by things.

  • What things do I want to buy next?
  • Which is the best of those things?
  • I have some things that need to be fixed.

“Please don’t break my things.”  (to my three brothers and now my children)

While I will be the first to say that I value quality over quantity, the emphasis in my life on things has been damaging and stressful.  It’s time to make some changes.

Recently, I’ve had a challenging time with my children.  We are homeschooling and, therefore, home a lot of the time using toys, games, books, etc.  Staying on top of cleaning up can be tough.  So, after feeling a sense of defeat, I grabbed one of my all-time favorite parenting books, Simplicity Parenting, and reread the part about toys.  As a result, I removed about half of our toys/books/games.

Leftovers for the kids’ lunch – strawberry salad, quinoa, baked tofu and black plums

And, here’s the funny part.  The kids didn’t mind at all.  They actually handed me more things to take away.  And, they haven’t asked for them since they were removed.

They are playing better together.  They are more imaginative.

And, so my realization is that while games and toys can be fun, massive amounts of them (or even more than a few out at a time) are completely unnecessary.  (And, to me they are suffocating.)

Sure, things have a place in our lives.  They create convenience, delicious food, art, provide entertainment, teach us, etc.  But, what I’ve learned is that the emphasis should not be on the things, we need to have less of everything, and that my goal is to focus more on my relationships with people I love.

I’ve felt really inspired lately to share all of this with you.  If you stuck with me until the end, wow.  Thanks.  And, as always, please feel free to share your thoughts.

*If you get a chance, watch Mark Bittman’s video on making a potato pizza.  He shows how easily and quickly you can make homemade pizza dough.