Happy Halloween!

This isn't a post about money. Strictly about crafting. I know some of you appreciate that part of the blog so I thought I would keep up with it, mainly because I really love hearing what you have to say and it's nice to have someone to share these things with. Around here lately, as you know, we've been really busy. Part of that busyness involves a LOT of unfinished craft projects. I never know which one to pick up when I have some time. It's almost overwhelming. First up:

This is going to be a "happy birthday kedzie" banner. For those of you who might already know this, I'm a bit obsessed with a blog called soulemama. She is full of amazingly crafty ideas, photography is lovely and, someday, I hope to be a homeschooling mama of four children. Check her out, she's inspiring. Anyway, I recently acquired her new book Handmade Home. It's full of awesome ideas. This first one is her banner idea. I found an old wool blanket at our goodwill clearance store, for probably $1.50/pound. Awesome. I'm slowly appliqueing each letter of happy birthday kedzie onto the little rectangles I cut out of the blanket. Slow going, but I absolutely love sitting around and hand appliqueing. I think I'd like to try hand stitching a quilt someday. I'm hoping to be finished by November 15th, when my mama group and I are having a joint birthday party for all the babes. 8 babies. Tons of fun!


a new envelope in the works. I'll explain more once I finish it!

a quilted advent calendar. You can download the instructions here. (You can also buy amazingly beautiful Christmas/Holiday fabric from her website: Sew, Mama, Sew.) I altered it a bit, because I didn't like the busyness of the original pattern, so I have way less fabric choices and I hand appliqued on each number. Sam helped with one number...it takes him a bit longer than myself. No judgement, just observation.

Last, in the spirit of Halloween:

the doll of the undead I mean, unfinished. Not too much about her, as she's going to be a gift and I don't want too much of the beans spilled. Here's the pattern, called Poppy Doll. (That bunny pattern might get purchased for some Christmas presents!) I did purchase the pdf...she's not a freebie. So far though, worth the bucks.

That's all of my crafting in a nutshell. Here's hoping something gets finished soon, as our house looks like a Martha Stewart whirlwind. Fun, but hard to get an 11 month old from grabbing needles, scissors and pins. He's fast!

Love, nicole.



This has been a very busy two weeks. I don't like it. I've picked up a few extra shifts at work...gazelle intensity as Dave Ramsey would so lovingly put it. Because we work pretty hard to live off of mainly Sam's salary, any extra shift I pick up will go straight to our debt bomb. Sam has also picked up a couple extra 1/2 shifts a week at an outpatient clinic. Basically covering for a friend of a friend. "Debt bomb" we tell ourselves over and over. I was created to be a stay at home mama. I am a homebody and I adore puttering around the house and creating, loving on my baby, cleaning, designing, whatever. I love my home. (Not to say I don't enjoy my job, I do actually. I enjoy it more when I'm not there very often). Anyway, the week is almost over and Sam only has one more week of extra shifts. Thank goodness.

Kedzie found Bosha's floppy ears. I have to say those are some soft, super floppy ears. Really fun to play with!

Here are a few little goodies I created last week. There are two women we work with that are due about the same time. There was a work baby shower, so I sent these goodies in with Sam. (I wanted to go, but I was not about to cart Kedzie off to a major hospital which is not allowing kids under 18 to visit...H1N1 outbreak!) I love making baby gifts. These were especially fun as I think I'm perfecting my appliques.

B is for Boone (cute name, right?)

Easiest burp cloths ever.

No money was spent in the creation of these gifts. I had gotten the onesies a few weeks back at Baby Gap. Every few months they clear out their organics for a new shipment and everything goes at ridiculous prices. I think I got these for $4 each. I used fabric and felt that I had lying around the house and the cloth diapers were here also. Easy peasy.

There has been a recent addition to a friend's family. He's just a few days old now. I'll have to get to work creating him his own specialty onesie. I've got a few ideas in mind.

Hope you're all well. Leave us a comment if you have a chance.

P.S. We recently hit a new payperiod. When we have the numbers crunched, we'll update you on our total.


First Fire of Fall

A couple days ago was our first fire of the season in our wood stove. It feels good to have the warmth fill the house again. It also feels good to be a bit chilly and be able to cozy up with a sweater, some tea and the wood stove.

It was a rager.

We took the opportunity to clean out our files and get rid of unwanted papers. Burning all those old credit card statements (why did we keep them for so long?) felt like unloading a huge burden. It felt good to just clean out some clutter, (We have to do this periodically to keep our 762 square foot house from feeling like the walls are closing in on you.) but, mostly, it felt like the last step to committing to this journey we've embarked on.

We are committed and loving every minute of it.

love, n.

P.S. I've been at work the past couple of days and found out a couple of co-workers are also on the Dave Ramsey plan. It's like we're in the Secret Money Club and we have these pow-wows about how awesome it feels to have control over your money. They've been on the plan much longer and still love it. Still feel like they're not being deprived. Good to hear.

P.P.S. If I may add to my wife's excellent summary.... In an act of serendipitous wonder, the fires lately have done more than turn the physical reminders of our crediting ways to ash; they have given us a miraculous, accidental joy - Slow Food Popcorn. Simply: Let a heavy, lidded pot with a healthy dose of olive oil and a single-layer depth of kernels sit on a raging stove for about 10 minutes. Unless you're burning jet fuel, it's unlikely that your stove will be putting out enough radiant energy to convince the kernels to blossom. It will, however, heat the oil enough to roast the seeds. Once they're a rich mahogany, with the oil popping, transfer to a Med-High stove top, shake and vent the steam as the corn dances to life, and enjoy a well-earned delight.


Family Fun Day @ Carrier Park

To celebrate the first real chilly day of fall, Kedzie and I walked down to Carrier Park with our friends Marissa (baby Eloise) and Robin (baby Asa). They had Family Fun Day going on.  A few vendors, dancing life-size Elmo, a bouncy castle and hot chocolate for the mamas; what more could we want? Enjoy the pics.

Kedzie was not that big of a fan of the baby bouncy castle.

He did enjoy his swinging.

The City Market

In case you haven't noticed, I'm digging the blogging. I've been an avid reader of mostly craft/mama blogs for some time now but didn't think I would ever get into this as much as I have. Mostly, it gives me a reason to put my thoughts into words and get out into the world and take pictures. Photography has been a passion that has gone to the wayside a bit. It's coming back. It's good for my soul.

Yesterday, Kedzie and I made our weekly trek to the Asheville City Market. There's many markets in Asheville, but this is the one that's closest to us and also the one our farmers (the farm we bought a CSA - community supported agriculture - share from this year) are at every week. Their produce is always so lovely and absolutely delicious. We've been quite pleased with them, plus Kedzie just loves seeing Christina every Saturday morning!

In case you can't see everything: kale, lettuce, sweet potato, radishes, carrots (red & yellow), fingerling potatoes, apples(lots of orchards around here), fresh hand-made porcini gnocchi and pasture raised bacon. (Free Range Eggs are not pictured)

So, our weekly ritual is Friday night make a menu, Saturday head to the City Market first and buy all the ingredients we can, then head to the grocery store to pick up the rest of our needs off the list. This is a very time saving, money saving way to do things. You never wonder what's for dinner because it's all planned out and all the ingredients are in the fridge waiting to be made into a feast.

Here's the menu for this week:
  • Hamburgers with sweet potato fries and sauteed kale
  • Omelets with fingerling potatoes hash and bacon
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Kale and Potato Soup with white beans
  • Gnocchi with gorgonzola dolce sauce and side salad
  • Mushroom Casserole
This is what I mean when I say we eat like kings.

This is my half eaten breakfast I picked up at the Market. I had to save half for Sam because I knew he would swoon. This picture is horrid, but the Jimmy Nardello roasted pepper and butternut squash croissant was divine. The absolute best croissant I have ever had. Hands down. Sam agrees.
(If you have time make sure you click on the link for Asheville City Market, there are some gorgeous pictures taken by a local photographer. AMAZING!)

Market aside, here are some pictures of the deck in progress. Sam and Charlie (our awesome designer/constructioner) are currently working on decking. Totally house changing.


We'd love to know how  y'all  keep down costs but still eat healthy meals. Please share!


"Empty Bowls feeds empty stomachs"

Yesterday we did something fun. We went to a fundraiser called "Empty Bowls."  It's a national fundraiser held on World Food Day that our local food bank (MANNA) has participated in for years. After our stint with AmeriCorps, Sam worked at Manna  for a while. We both volunteered there while in AmeriCorps, so it's quite dear to both of us. The whole organization is lovely and addresses a huge need in our community.  The need for healthy, free food has gotten larger since the economic downturn. We are so thankful for Manna and everything they do for our community.

Now, with our giving pouch in hand, we headed down to Empty Bowls to pick up some tickets. Every dollar donated in the purchase of tickets goes directly to MANNA. The way this can happen is through many, many donations! Amazing local restaurants, such as Table, 12 Bones & Corner Kitchen (some of our faves - just an aside, come visit us and we'll take you to these fine establishments!) donate huge vats of amazing soups. Soups like creamy sweet potato with bacon and creamy smoked tomato(seriously!). Local bakeries donate bread and homemade cookies. Local potters donate hundreds of their hand-thrown bowls.

The way the whole thing works is, you buy your ticket (whatever you'd like to donate with a minimum of $20), you get a hand-thrown bowl made by a local potter, then choose your soup and enjoy. It's lovely.

Sam's favorite: creamy smoked tomato from 12 Bones.

The bowls we both chose. Beautiful aren't they?
How generous for an artist to donate their crafts.

I just wanted to take a moment to be thankful that we can contribute to this organization in even a small way. It's been interesting, in just these two weeks of keeping solid track of all of our money we've been able to give away MUCH more than we have been and still have almost $300 to put towards debt bomb. We live a blessed life and we are constantly thankful for it. What are you thankful for?


I took a few minutes while Kedzie was napping and created our 18th money pouch. I wanted a pouch to save for items that won't take months to save for but may take a couple payperiods. I thought it deserved a pretty pouch.

I'm thinking the first thing we're going to save up for is the new Jamie Oliver cookbook. We have 2 of his other cookbooks and they have both been absolutely outstanding. They help us to eat like we're in our favorite restaurant, Table, every night. He's got very simple, but always delicious flavors. He's big into sustainable, local food. Both are very easy to find in Asheville. I think I'll post more on that tomorrow!

Anyway, if you like to cook, Jamie is the man for you. Outstanding!

The Numbers

Today is the day we go to the bank and get out our cash for the next two weeks. I love this part. It feels a bit awkward and a bit wrong all rolled up together. I'm sure bank tellers deal with this all the time, but I can truly say, I have never gone into a bank and taken out this much money in CASH...and asked for it all in small bills. "You sure you don't want any large bills?" pleads the teller. Um, sorry, no. I walk out with a small baby and a huge wad of cash. I feel like I'm going to be mugged on the walk from the bank lobby to my car.

Anyway, I wanted to update everyone on our progress towards crushing that dastardly debt. In just two weeks we managed to save $294.78 to put towards our "debt bomb" as we've so lovingly nicknamed it. My initial reaction was "that's it!" But then Sam reminded me that this was just a two week period. My second reaction was "where was that money going before?!" How can we possibly have almost $300 to put toward debt in just two weeks. I never felt like I was an over spender. Apparently, that was a lie I told myself to continue my spending habits.

(Kedzie hearts watching Blue's Clues. We don't have TV, but we have Netflix and you can watch Blue's Clues instantly. He loves it. I hate to say it, but I think it's adorable. He gets soooo excited.)

I just want to qualify this $294.78 for you. This does not include any excess from the cash envelopes. Our envelopes have a roll-over system so that if you want to save up for a nice outfit per say (just an example), you can save over a few pay-period's time and voila, money for a nice outfit! This money is completely excess. This is on top of the normal payment we make each month to our student loan sharks. Awesome.

Lastly, let me say, I'm not sure how it happened. I don't feel like we sacrificed at all. We're eating like kings (literally, it's ridiculous); we're clothed well; we have a sweet house...really, the only thing I wanted for this week was some wine with dinner. I ran out of grocery money a few days ago. Today, I will celebrate. Wine anyone?


The Privilege of Choice

I have started this posting several times now. Each time, it quickly turned into drama and angst and unanswerable musings on the mysteries of life. That, though, is not the point of this...all of this: this blog, this commitment, this new life. I have spent a long time stuck in hyperbole. 

I choose to change.

The problem, though, is the very real existence of my seemingly exaggerated examples. There really are people cooking their dinners over cow-crap fueled fires. There really are single dads staring into empty cabinets wondering how to help their kids feel a little better. That cough, after all, has been keeping them up for a month now, shouldn't it be nearly finished? There really are people ducking bullets, ducking militia, and ducking under the overpass to sleep tonight. How can I do anything like this, this self-centered act of correcting my poorly made financial decision, when there are people who can't do anything at all? 

Even now, as I type this, I am on the verge of defeat and paralysis. 

O, I am made of multitudes. You see, I am not about to sell all I have and give it to the poor. As long as I'm being honest, I'm not sure I even want to take the time write a letter for an Amnesty Campaign, or, may God forgive me, to my Compassion kid. I think I suffer from a poorly prescribed cocktail of fashionable woe, politically correct dread, good old fashioned selfish ambition, and a profound, undeniable calling to a simple life of compassion, justice and love. It's not pretty. And, unfortunately, the intellectual, social-climbing  argonaut in me, the one who likes to talk about how rotten the world can be, the one who likes to wax poetic about injustice abroad (while rarely working to correct injustice down the street), the one who likes, yes, likes, to be paralyzed by the enormity of the sufferings of strangers, has guided this ship for a long, long time.  

I choose to change. 

My privilege - my white, male, middle-class, educated, American, heterosexual, healthy, loved privilege - can be a weight dragging my into the depths of despair, or it can act as a boost toward something new. I am struggling to mute the argonaut - "of course it can boost you, you're standing on the shoulders and heads and bones of the oppressed." And, the argonaut is right. But, I don't think we are intended right now to commit our lives to radical displacement. I don't think. I know, however, that we are intended to change the way we deal with our finances. I know we are intended to restructure our priorities. I know we are intended to live with our eyes clear, our ears open and our hearts full so that we can be, if only for a moment, undivided. 

It requires privilege to make so many choices. It is a privilege to make this one. 

I choose to change.


Lessons from everyday life.

Today is payday. Not technically, but it is the day that our electronic paychecks get sent to our e-mail accounts to let us know how much our paychecks are going to be. So, today is the day that I work on the budget for the next two weeks. I have to say, this hasn't been so bad. I definitely like doing a new budget for every paycheck vs. monthly. I can add/subtract money as needed. One realization I had is  that we need a bit more money in the entertainment pouch. The other day I made Sam really nervous by saying "this isn't sustainable!" in reference to the empty entertainment pouch. He thought I meant in reference to this whole Dave Ramsey escapade. Needless to say, I wish I would've gotten his face on camera for you all to see.

I won't go into numbers. I'll leave that for Sam. I think he's planning on updating the total we owe, monthly. What I  wanted to share was a couple lessons from everyday life. Those things you randomly notice about your life that you love and hopefully thank God (or whomever you choose to thank) immediately for them. Those things that just make you feel like this is what you're supposed to be doing.

There's nothing better than cloth diapers on the line. Except maybe baby clothes (so cute).

First, if you don't have one already, I highly recommend a clothesline. Frugalista says: this is definitely cheaper than using your dryer (which I did learn is sometimes the #1 household appliance for guzzling electricity). Mostly though, it's calming. I love the way I feel when I'm hanging up laundry. It's quiet, simple, smells of crisp fall air are everywhere. It's a multi-sensory experience. It just feels right. It's a nice change from the mechanization of life. Everything we do seems to involve a "device." (Not to say this is all bad. I do love my iphone.) Just saying, it's nice. (An added bonus, sunlight helps fade stains and is a natural white brightener... especially important with cloth diapers!)

Second, we're building a deck. Those of you that know Dave Ramsey's philosophy, you know that the first step is taking your savings (except a small emergency fund) and putting it into that darned debt. We decided to put some into a house renovation and then put the rest into the darned debt. This was decided for a couple reasons:

  1. Our house is currently 762 square feet. The deck will add about 450 square feet. We believe this will help us reach our goal by giving the illusion that our living space is larger than it is.
  2. It was previously a muddy mess. It needed some type of solution.
  3. Decks are nice in the south. You can pretty much be outside on them 9 months out of the year. It WILL get used.

Lastly, I just wanted to share some pictures of a hike we went on a couple days ago. Not really a hike, just a chance to be outside and enjoy the weather and changing colors.

I just love the way this moss was blanketing this log. Lovely.

What have you learned from living lately?


Frugalista Rants.

Hello friends,

I'm not sure why I'm so surprised. I should have had more faith in you. The support we've received from you all (or ya'll, as we so lovingly say it now) has been monumental. Everyone, literally everyone, who wrote regarding our blog's unveiling, was ridiculously supportive. It has been lovely to hear the "heck yeahs" and the "we're so proud of you(s)." We will forever come back to those e-mails and comments to help us continue on our path. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have to say, so far, so good. Granted nothing huge has come out of the woodwork to tempt me off my path. I'm currently thinking about the next house renovation (only small ones) that I want to SAVE for. It's been a good lesson in patience for me. I didn't realize what an instant gratification girl I am was.

I thought, perhaps, this would be a good time to share one way I'm attempting to be more frugal. To be a frugalista, if you will. My first tip is, if you're at all handy/crafty, make your own gifts. Awesome fun. And people usually appreciate them more. Even kids. Taking it a step further, make those gifts from repurposed materials. Currently I have been working on some baby onesies for all the new babes being born around me: plain onesies (usually found on clearance) with appliques made from a pair of old jeans, some felt and fabric scraps. LOVELY. Parents love them. You wouldn't believe the sense of satisfaction you can get from creating something new from something old. Apparently, when money was scarce in times past, this is what people did.

I already gave the gifted onesies away, but here's one I made for Kedzie for his first birthday which is coming up Nov 30th!

There's a goodwill clearance store in our neighborhood where you can buy gadgets and clothes by the pound. It's ridiculous, like $1.50/pound. I have a fellow frugalista who scours the place for cashmere sweaters which she quickly repurposes into adorable hats, crafts, whatever. Genius.

Now for some pictures for your enjoyment. We walked to the park yesterday for some free entertainment. I have never seen a child have so much fun in a swing. No joke, Kedzie was  belly laughing while he was swinging. My heart was full.

This is Kedzie signing "more". I'm not sure he can smile and sign at the same time yet.

Thank ya'll for your support. It means more than we can express with words.


We Are Embarked

Something must change.

That number up there...the really, really, frighteningly large, nearly six-figure number...that is not some abstract or fictional representation of the crushing load debt might play on a family's life. It is the painfully real, straight from the source sum of our student loans. Well, as long as we're being honest, it also includes a few thousand dollars of interest-free balance we owe the hospital from Nicole's emergency appendectomy when we were without health insurance a few years back. Regardless, it is the bottom line of a spreadsheet's column on our computer.

We've been ignoring it for a few years now. Making our payments silently through auto-deduct. We don't even get statements in the mail any more. The mantra of America has supported us - school loans are good debt...school loans are good debt. Finally, early last month, we looked at each other, the hypnotic glaze lifted from our eyes, and we decided to stop, to change. The impetus was a discussion with our friends, Brian and Angela, about their decision to go cash-only. They had been inspired (or convicted) by reading a book by Dave Ramsey, the AM radio prophet of budgets and debt reduction. After that conversation, we borrowed their copy of one of Ramsey's books and set in motion a reorganization of our finances.

While we had rationalized our all credit, all the time ("we pay it off every month... and we get the miles... and it's easier than cash") money had become only a concept, a notion. I can't help but wonder if that's the hope of the banks - wield our plastic widely and without regard, please. Our budget was broken every month. We weren't paying down our loans, we weren't saving, we sure weren't giving away anything more than our automatic payments to Compassion. We were comfortable and stuck.

Ramsey's plan is not really his plan at all, and he's the first to admit it. He just packages the scheme in language that appeals to common sense. In short: use cash. If you don't have any cash left, don't buy anything. Live on less than you make and use the rest to dig out of the damn hole you jumped into. Change. Now.

So, we did. We cut up our credit cards. Even though none had balances we called and yelled at the automated systems: "CANCEL CAAAARRRDDD." Once, I even had an opportunity to explain to a living being why we would cancel after so many years of valued "membership."

We made a budget. We have tried different budgeting programs, but we're always left feeling a bit blighted; too much of somethings, with not enough of what we seem to need. So, with some overzealous panache, I (Sam) spent what seemed to be too many hours relearning spreadsheet software to create a dynamic, realistic budgeting tool. It's really quite cool (even Nicole thinks so).

With less overzealousness, but with much more panache, Nicole set about to make envelopes. Envelope, actually, may a bit limiting. "If we're doing this," she said with her characteristic pragmatism, "it needs to be beautiful." Every day for a week, I came home from work to find our supply of original, stunning cash sachets growing into the requisite 17 for our out-on-the town needs.

Which brings us to today. October 1 also happens to be the first day of the federal government's fiscal year. We both (the government and us) have a history of making short-sighted financial decisions. Tomorrow, after all, is always tomorrow. We've both had questionable priorities that, when the wool is lifted, are more self-serving than community based. Our hope, our prayer, is that by changing our family's approach to money, maybe there's hope our nation can too?

Today also, however, brings into stark relief, the privilege of our situation. We have stable jobs, good health coverage, a secure and manageable mortgage, and really very little threat of any of that changing. We aren't ducking sniper bullets or roadside bombs. We aren't losing sleep over our baby's health. Our fridge is full of food, we have allocated some money for entertainment and cable internet and two cell phones and our car is sound and without liens. On Maslow's hierarchy, we are very much near the top. Still, we feel called into this. Whether that call is from the Mysterious God, or from the very concrete reality of wanting our family to be so much more than indentured to the Direct Loan Servicing Center, is unclear. Probably, they're the same thing. Regardless, we are called. We are embarked.

Now, dear friends, we need your help. That is the purpose of this little diary. Walk with us, cheer us, heckle us, do what it takes to help us hold the course. Right now, we're excited. It is good to follow a call - it feels full and true. Later, I'm quite sure, we will be disheveled and frustrated. That number up there - that real, embarrassing number - is huge. It won't be quick or quiet in going. It will be years. But, it will be. It will go.

After no fewer than 3 other failed attempts at blogging, we are keeping our plans for this blog reasonable. We want to post monthly updates, quick snapshots. By retelling our stories to our far-flung community, we hope to remain centered in the joy of living rather than the frustrations of perceptions. Thanks for walking beside us.

Nicole, Sam & Kedzie