Saturday, January 13, 2007


You can upgrade every aspect of your life without a lot of money
and with no more time than you're spending now.
Start... with the simplest of discernments,
choosing something that's just a bit delightful
over something that isn't.
-Victoria Moran

Today dawned with a rumble. After an overnight front, Freeman House is sitting on soggy, dreary, and chilly ground. (Guess my boots and rooted hydrangeas will have to wait for another day to play outside.) With an indoor Saturday in my future, I found I had some time to wander around. As I did, I realized: I love upgrades.

It's funny... we tend to think of upgrades as new cars and newer computers and plasma TVs, don't we? Upgrading usually means going from off-the-rack to designer duds. From college futons to showroom furniture. From public library to pricey book cafes. But please. I'm not sure about you, but my bank account is limited. Very limited. So before you go hollering, "Upgrades!? I can barely afford the standard grades!", hear me out. Upgrade in small areas, and you'll find a sweeter, happier quality of life almost instantaneously. I know I did.

A year ago, I read Moran's book, Creating a Charmed Life. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it changed my life in a noticeable way. Why? Because Victoria Moran is onto something, and as I began to look for small ways to upgrade my daily life, I noticed big changes. SMALL. WAYS. It works.

Case in point: I usually pick up a bouquet of grocery store flowers for myself on Valentine's Day. Seemed to help, I guess. But Valentine's Day 2005, I decided to shake things up. In the spirit of upgrading, instead of spending $17.99 on droopy, slimy, cut flowers, I bought 3 roses bushes. Cost the same. Only last summer, those rose bushes took off, and by late summer I had powdery pink and creamy white roses bathing in vases all over the house. Small upgrade? Yes. Big difference? You betcha!

Or... how about this? Instead of tossing out some pretty cotton nightgowns that have seen a few too many nights, I cut them up and began piecing together a quilt. (I did have to add in additional fabric, but still...) In another few weeks, I'll have a pretty, handmade quilt to use and later pass down, and I have a neater pajama drawer. Cost? About $7 and several cozy evenings in front of the TV.

Don't sew? I bet you eat! If you ask me, the easiest way to upgrade your life is by upgrading your food. Seriously. And no, I don't mean eating out. On the contrary, I'm suggesting giving the drive-thrus and local waiters a break and trying your own hand in the kitchen. Worked for me. Toss out the pudding cups and make your own pudding. Skip the packaged cookies and make your own, for heaven's sake. You miss them warm from the oven anyway, don't you? Try homemade soups - they're more delicious and healthy than canned. Make your own bread. Roast your own chicken. If, however, you are badly pressed for time or culinary skills, try this: next time you need a quick lunch, make my...

2 slices bread - whatever kind you have on hand
4 slices cheese - again, whatever kind you have on hand
(I used Muenster and American, but that's me.)
1/4 c. mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip if you insist)
Herbs, olives, carmelized onions, roasted red peppers... whatever
Squeeze lemon juice
Olive oil
1. Cut crust off bread and cut slices in half, creating 2 smaller sandwiches.
2. Coat non-stick skillet with olive oil. Place over medium high heat.
3. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise with any herb, olive, or vegetable of your choice. (Today I used kalamata olives and thyme. I was in a olive/thyme mood.)
Next, squeeze or squirt in a teaspoon or so of lemon juice. Refrigerate to combine flavors, or if you're starved, go ahead and slather it on slices of bread.
4. Stack cheese on mayonnaised bread and assemble sandwich.
5. Place sandwiches in hot oil, pressing them down with a spatula or the bottom of another pan.
6. Cook 1-3 minutes per side.
7. Revel in your upgraded, grilled cheese genius.

Seriously, upgrading is easy. Buy yummy soaps and exotic toothpastes. Skip the movies and take in a play. Turn off the workout tape and take a walk. Replace one weekly shower with a bath. Turn off the TV and read. Get up and go to church.

I'm not sure how good your life is today, but have a hunch it could be even better. Heck... try it and let me know. Who couldn't stand a few necessary upgrades in 2007?


Anonymous said...

that sandwich looks soooo good! i think i'll make it today minus the olives. i think your idea is great and super fitting for new years. andrea

Ann said...

Love the new layout! And your recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches sounds delicious. Grilled cheese sandwiches are definitely a favorite. I like your taste in foods (kalamata olives, olive oil, etc). I like your idea of upgrading the simple things in life. I'll have to try it out...

Anonymous said...

I do love the way you write. I found you through firefly's blog. Nice photography too. Great job; keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

hmmm...for some reason my name didn't become a link.

My blog: