It’s been over five years since we moved from Pittsburgh to our little lake here in the middle of nowhere. Before moving, I speculated about what I would miss about living in the city. I thought I would miss having close neighbors, certain noises of the city, restaurants and cultural events such as concerts, the symphony, etc. And I suppose I miss a couple of those things, but living here may have saved my life. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I really believe it to be true.

As the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, my days were filled with stress, long hours, and a great deal of worry. I usually dealt with that stress by either eating or drinking, and eating was often at a restaurant. I had no time to cook, or go for a walk, no time to read for pleasure, and certainly no time for just enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. Being able to retire and move here has made my stress nearly non-existent. I am so fortunate that my husband is able to continue to work as a software engineer for a company in California from our basement. I look forward to the day when he will be able to stop working, and we can spend entire days together, but I love being able to get up in the morning, share a cup of coffee, and choose to do whatever suits me that morning. We always have lunch together, and if I need him, he is only thirteen steps away.

Having fewer obligations means it is up to me to structure my day, and form my own routines. I find that there are days when I have enough energy to spend hours on household tasks, and then there are others when I just feel like enjoying the space that we have created here. People who see pictures, and then visit our home often refer to our place as “paradise”. And it is. Not in the sense of being ostentatious, or formal, but just by its sheer beauty. The lake and woods surrounding it are so incredible. The woman who sold us this house told me, “Every day is beautiful on this lake”. She was right. Every day of every season.

As the environment has changed, so have I. I enjoy staying at home more than anything else. I have learned to cook differently, using nearly all local ingredients including fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs. I love thinking of new ways to prepare common things. I especially love buying food from our local farmers and then challenging myself to use every single thing that we buy. Now that I am no longer working, I have the luxury of time. If a dish requires all day preparation, I can give it that time. And I enjoy it. It fits me really well.

Like many, my husband and I would like to lose some weight, so we have decided to try an experiment. Growing up, my mother stayed at home and my father worked at a company about ten minutes away by car. My elementary school dismissed the children for lunch, so they could go home and eat with their families, and then return to school after lunch. My father would also come home for lunch, so often our “lunch” was more like a dinner, and dinner became what we called “supper”, as it was either leftovers from earlier, or a simple (and usually small) meal that could be prepared quickly. This meant we were able to spend the evenings together, and there was no need to spend a lot of time on clean up. We have decided to try to implement this schedule for a few weeks and see how it goes. This turns my days upside down, but it doesn’t matter. Not having daily work allows the flexibility to make changes with very little effort. So today, at noon, we had braised pork, roasted carrots and couscous. For our “supper” tonight, we will have a simple caprese salad and hard boiled eggs. I have the week’s menu planned, using ingredients we already have for the most part. The local grocery store is very nice, but it is small. In order to purchase many items, I have to travel about 30 minutes away to a larger city, and I try to do that only once a week if possible. Thus, my Sunday evenings will be spent figuring out what to prepare for meals the following week. By writing it down, it feels more like a commitment, and I am more likely to follow it and not procrastinate decisions on meals. It will be an interesting experiment. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out.

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