Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Awesome Budgeting Challenge AKA: more money for fun things, less for sauerkraut...

With the New Year here I am seeing a lot of the blogs I follow talk about budgeting.
The first one I read: Yeah, budgeting. I should do a better job of that, but I don't really spend to excess. I mean I don't even have television or internet. I don't go shopping recreationally. I keep my thermostat on 60 in the winter and 80 in the summer. I practically live like an Amish! Pah.

The third one I read: Hmm, the difference between wanting something and really needing it. I should do a better job of that... I justify a lot of stuff that I probably don't need after all *Cough*Gurney's flower order*Cough*

The seventh or eighth one I read: Hold the phone! Don't spend anything for a month?! What is this lady? Crazy? A spending reset? Nope. Nope. Nope. How would you LIVE? But my grocery shopping! I can't give up my grocery shopping!

Well, you can guess which one I am going to attempt... Yup. No spending on anything other than house payments, insurance, utilities, fuel, prescriptions, and pet care for a month. That still seems like a pretty big list, but I can't exactly cut those things out comfortably. A nice thing about budgeting when I don't *have* to is that I can leave myself a little bit of room. This isn't quite as bad as my graduate school $500 a month spending freeze where I literally only had that much to work with. Since I got paid on the 15th, that is when this little challenge officially began.

I have kept track of my spending for the last two years in an Excel sheet and I have noticed that with the exceptions of things like gifts around the holidays or remodeling expenses, the majority of my charges go to the grocery store of all things. Go figure. So that is where I am focusing my energies the hardest. 

But I might starve! Haha. 

I'm going to have to eat tuna for like a month.
Not because there aren't other choices mind you.
I apparently just horde tuna. And sauerkraut.
That just, does not sound appetizing at all. Ech.

I figure what the heck. It can't hurt to give myself a jump start on 2015 savings (I've got trips and other exciting things to save for by golly!) Besides, I am hoping to be moving into my new house soon and if I make myself eat my pantry clean there will be that much less I have to move. Win-win, right?

Let's just pray that the Pinetree Seed Catalog doesn't roll in until after February 15th...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Love will find a way... or a hill, which is like the same thing.

Captain America lives about an hour and a half away from me. So, on nights that I stay at our "Missouri Farm" I have a good chunk of time in the morning to pray, get my mind clear, and well, appreciate all the cows.

Look, some people get distracted by pretty girls or guys walking down the street. I almost run off the shoulder trying to get a better view of the new calf that I glimpsed. You have your morning routine, and I have mine. Coffee, check. Affirm that I am going to be a better and more patient/understanding/loving/selfless/etc. person today than yesterday, check. Nearly kill myself cow watching while driving, check, check, check. Don't judge!

Anyway, there is a farm I drive by that has this big ole' Hereford Angus cross (black cow with a white face) I watched her have the cutest little calf last year, and then I saw the tiny little bull they put in with her. Seriously, he was short. Well, guess who calved last night? Yup. That's right. Love found a way.

It reminded me of last summer when CA and I turned out our bull, Sampson, who is admittedly still a youngster and growing into his role of herd sire. He was at least a good six inches shorter than his lady friends, but he is resourceful by golly. Love will always find a way, and in his case the way love found was to stand his lady in a hole. Yes, that's right. He has a "love hill." I had heard of it happening with little donkeys and big mares, but never with cows before. Who knew? That's problem solving right there!

It is a testament to the tenacity and resourcefulness that we put into relationships and life that no obstacle is insurmountable, even when it looks like it is. Oh, well, and "spring fever" helps I guess. But seriously, I mean if a cow or donkey can beat a 2 foot height difference, really? You can do anything! All it takes is a change of perspective and a can do attitude and you can move mountains, or build love hills. Whatever you're in the mood for.

That cute little white faced blob by her momma's legs was the first glimpse of spring and the new year for me. My heart leapt, my car swerved just a little bit, and my faith was restored.

It's a new year. Anything is possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Loaded Sweet Potatoes, Two ways!

I am on a sweet potato kick. I do not apologize for this behavior, but seeing as I have eaten them exclusively for the last three meals and two other days this week I thought I should share it with you. You know, for transparency. Or in case I turn orange. Seriously, that happened to my cousin once. She ate so many carrots that she literally turned orange.

I will keep you posted about the Oompa Loompa angle.

Oompa, Loompa, Doopa dee do.
I've got some delicious ideas for you.

Oh God, it has started...

I threw six sweet potatoes, washed and stabbed mercilessly with a fork, into a covered Dutch oven and baked them for about an hour and a half (until they were soft) on 350. I like to bake them in a covered dish rather than in foil because it feels wasteful. They steam, so they are a little softer, but it also makes the skins nice and soft and since I eat the skins too it works for me. Long story short, you need to bake the sweet potatoes. You could even *shudder* microwave them if that is what floats your boat.

From there you can always go classic - topping them with cinnamon sugar and butter. Since I have been trying to cut back on the refined sugars and dairy I dreamt up a different way of turning them into a breakfast sensation. Maple bacon sweet potatoes.

Yes. It is every bit as amazing as it sounds. No I didn't take a picture. I'm sorry. Not only did I not have my wits about me this morning (no coffee), I ate it too quickly.

I fried bacon, crumbled it and loaded my potato with about two strips worth and then tossed a couple walnuts and a drizzle of real maple syrup (Okay, yes, it is still sugar but a half tablespoon makes all the difference in taste to me. I'm trying to cut back, but balance is everything people!) and a dash of cinnamon. OMG. I'm not even hungry yet but I am still drooling.

Even better? You can make these ahead and heat and eat quickly on a busy morning. It is a great way to cut out gluten and dairy, and you could even use Agave or honey if you wanted less sugar. The complex carbohydrates and protein from the bacon and walnuts really go a long way towards feeling satisfied until my lunch break at one. For once it is 11:30 and I am not scavenging the office for popcorn or snacks; ready to eat my own arm...

And you know what is on my lunch break at one? Another sweet potato. Yes. A loaded sweet potato with black beans and kale. Yes, it is more delicious than it sounds. I admit, I was skeptical. I admit, I was wrong to doubt. I will let Kara Lydon give you the recipe from her blog - where I found it. http://karalydon.com/recipes/main-course/vegan-loaded-sweet-potato/ Don't let the vegan title scare you off. You won't even miss the meat. I promise! I made this bowl of yum last night (sans the dressing) and let me just say: it was heaven. I've never had black beans or steamed kale before, but I am quickly becoming quite passionate about the combo. It was the killer combination: tasted great, nutritious, and quick!

The only change I made was sautéing the kale without garlic and added 1/4tsp dried minced garlic right before I added the water. I had no fresh garlic on hand, and I can't say as though the substitution lacked flavor.

Here's to the noble sweet potato, and hopefully a better year for growing them than last year!

Otherwise I'm actually going to have to buy them by the 20lb bag to keep up with my habit. Not cool yo. Not cool at all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Consumerism is the Trifecta: Hurting the planet, the critters, and the people.

How's about this for a reason to garden and buy local? Slavery.

Slavery isn't something I think about often. The word brings to mind images of cotton fields, or maybe indentured Irish servants. Okay and the movie Taken and the sex slave parlors. Sadly, I think that many Americans share my narrow view of where slavery transpire(s/d). It isn't something that a lot of us think about.

I was shocked today when I stumbled upon this gem. http://slaveryfootprint.org/. I took the quiz. Sixty slaves. That's my footprint. Talk about an eye opening experience. I was astonished to learn that some of my favorite produce and shellfish products are huge contributors to modern slavery, often called bonded labor. Everything from my cellphone to my coffee supports practices that, well, frankly I don't support and want to cease supporting. Immediately.

I'm not talking hold off on replacing that cell for a few years because of the environmental impact, though I think that IS hella important too, but our mass consumerism is hurting other people. Not just animals. Not just the planet. Other PEOPLE. Even those who can snub their noses at the thought of global warming or cows having feelings can't deny that there is something wrong with blood rubies (That's right kids! They don't just come in diamonds anymore!) and kids working 20 hour days.

Take the survey. What's your impact?

I know that I am going to work my butt off to get a better grip on where my products are coming from, are you?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hug a cow in 2015!

Happy New Year!

Sorry for the delay in posting. Things get kinda crazy around here during the holidays.

My friend Rachel said it perfectly when she described getting ready for them thusly: "Two weeks of constant cleaning and arranging so you look like you just rented the house for the day, and that no one actually lives there. Then when everyone is sitting down to dinner you realize that you have no clue where you hid the pepper shaker. That's Christmas." That pretty much sums up the holidays round here. With mom hosting holidays and having a sanctuary for unadoptable Chihuahuas, well, it can take a lot of last minute touch ups. Let's just say there are some memories from my younger days that I get to relive - Cinderelly, Cinderelly / Night and day it's Cinderelly / Make the fire, fix the breakfast / Wash the dishes, do the mopping.

Just kidding, I actually enjoy being able to help mom out. It reminds me of when I still lived there and we would spend every Saturday cleaning. Maybe I'm scarred or something, but vacuuming that house makes me nostalgic!

Last year CA and I spent Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas with mine. We continued that schedule this year, and it seems to work fairly well. I'm really looking forward to having the house I bought finished though. I can't wait to start hosting holidays!

Speaking of the house, I'm not sure I have mentioned it before. I purchased my neighbor's house last March: a 1948 three bedroom and one bath. I had thought it would be great to remodel the bath and add a half bath upstairs. Things were going swimmingly - when I pulled up the carpets the house's original floors looked great. Until we had to cut a bunch of holes in them because the house had the original wiring and it had arced. And smoked. And I was ready to burn it down, but fortunately CA and my dad stepped up. I am happy to say that as of yesterday we are one weekend away from having all the wiring finished! Hallelujah!  At this rate I might move in before the one year mark! And that would be great because then I can sell my nicely remodeled trailer and dad can build a fantastic shed in its current location. Then he can move his things out of my grandpa's barn and we can start repairing buildings there in earnest. Then, after CA has his home remodel done, we build all of our fences on the hill (grandpa's farm), and we have the buildings finished we can turn our sights on remodeling grandpa's house. Whew. I tell you, I don't know what I am going to do with all my free time ten years from now...

But I can tell you how to install outlets and one-way switches, how to fix walls, and I can lay some pretty sweet quarter round. So, it hasn't been for nothing, right?

Last year around this time I decided not to make a resolution, but to give myself a yearlong to-do list:

-Self Love February -basically spend time doing the things I enjoy like sketching, reading, cooking that I fail to do so often.
-Paint vanity in bathroom
-Fill wood holes in quarter round on trailer
-Fix and electrify Pearl's pen
-Feed sacks clean out all the old feed sacks from both barns
-Clean Old Barn
-Rosetta Stone
-Finish edits on my book
-Exercise more
*Finish Old Barn pen
*Fix corner post
*Trim fence
*Replace/fix white boards
*Can enough tomatoes & potatoes that I don't have to buy any
*Basement #1, mom's
*Basement #2, CA's
*CA's house remodel

Yeah. Clearly that didn't happen. I didn't do so well with "Self Love February" since my grandpa died and I spent most of it wallowing in various stages of grief. I didn't fix Pearl's pen because another mare went blind in the pen next door and decided to play ping pong with the vinyl boards every time the wind blew hard. So, until the blind ones either pass on or get moved it is fairly pointless. I almost cleaned out all the feed sacks and the old barn, but then I got distracted by the fact that the barn was falling down and never finished. I never used my canner this year, but I froze the tomatoes and potatoes; that sorta counts, right? I didn't work much on mom's or CA's basement, and I took down some wallpaper as my contribution to CA's house remodel. I did however buy him a spare set of high thread count sheets so I did improve his quality of life somewhat.

Don't get me wrong, I accomplished a ton last year. I am almost into Evelyn's house. We have cleaned some of grandpa's sheds. I grew SO MUCH squash. I got a milk cow, courtesy of CA (:)). I didn't finish editing my book, but I started writing another. I took time to get pedicures, like three or four times.  I kept hay in front of the cows. I learned how to jack up a falling down barn. I learned how to run a mile. I bought my own trimmer and kind of kept my yard trimmed in addition to the fences. I took three amazing trips. I made memories with my loved ones, and so much more.

So this year I am going to change it up a little bit. For one thing I am going to actually share my to-do list with CA and my parents and see what they think and feel about things.

2015 To-Do List:
-Look better going into 28 years and 730 days old than I did at 20. That's right. Size ten jeans and a trip to the salon here I come.
                -Keep exercising more
                -Keep working on cutting out processed foods, GMOs, dairy, sugar, and gluten
                -Shank CA when he brings me ice cream, do not eat ice cream for supper dammit. Okay, maybe just once or twice...
-Move into Evelyn's house, and try to sell the trailer.
-Help CA remodel his house in whatever way I can.
-Plant flowers and vegetables. I may cease weeding by July, but by God it makes me happy. Heck, try to make more time for the Zen of Weeding.
-Stop. Breathe. Enjoy Life. Slow down and weed, pet the milk cow, pick cherries, watch a sunset, or paint. Learn from 2014. All those chores will still be there later, or even next year. Clean the barn on a gorgeous day when it makes my heart sing to be outside, but not because I have to.
-Help people more. Whether that is mom and dad cleaning the basement, or volunteering somewhere.
-Spend more quality time with friends, family, and critters.
-Take time to be creative: edit the book, work on the new book, learn Italian, daydream, meditate, learn to make cheese, bake more breads, learn to distill essential oil, ANYTHING.
-Try to not get overwhelmed as often by everything that I feel like I have to do.

That last one is the big one. It is so easy to get caught up in the rush of day to day living. I spend so much time rushing from one job to the next, and spending the time in between jobs strategizing how to do them more efficiently. It is going to take some conscious effort, but I am really going to try to slow down.

How about you? Want to keep me accountable in 2015? Want to share your goals? 

Want to hug a cow?
Of course you do. Hug a cow in '15!