Payperiod 11/8 Payoff

I needed to see that we've made some progress. I don't like waiting a whole month to get some satisfaction out of our new journey. So, Sam helped me crunch the numbers (not really crunching as his spreadsheet is pretty much idiot proof) and took me on a tour  of the direct loans website and we put another $543.17 into our loans.

Awesome. Check out that new total on the banner.


Food, glorious, food.

Today was grocery day. Kedzie and I trek around town and head to 3 different grocery stores in order to keep costs down and just get what we need. I've learned what's cheapest where and have really brought our grocery costs down by visiting all 3 grocers. All this to say that our house is packed full of food. I've been craving making some bread, so the menu chosen for tonight's dinner included Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls from the cookbook "Simply in Season." This is a cookbook written by a Mennonite woman who cherishes local, sustainable food. The Mennonite philosophy is "to promote the understanding of how food choicer we make affect our lives and the lives of those who produce the food." I know you can purchase this cookbook at your local "Ten Thousand Villages" store, as that's where we purchased ours, but you can also get it here. OK, technically this book is not ours as we gifted it to Sam's mama a couple years ago. But, in an effort to be frugal, we stole it out of their kitchen on Thanksgiving. Sorry guys! (To my in-laws: We'll invite you over for dinner soon!)

I digress, the rolls were amazing. Fluffy, healthy, easy and delicious. I paired them with a simple spinach, tomato, gruyere quiche with hash brown crust. Sounds fancy, but super easy and most of the ingredients I got from Amazing Savings...which means, organic and cheap.

Here are the rolls before we got into them. Quiche in the background. I jazzed up the rolls by adding a sugary glaze on top. I think that put them over the edge. I know my sweet tooth. This soothed it. (I think they would also be delicious with butter.)

Here they are after. Yes, there were 8, now there's 3 1/2. Sooooo gooood.

I'm not sure this is legal, but Sam assures me that since I adapted the recipe a bit, I can post it. Here it is, if you're interested.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls
Yields 2 dozen (Mine yielded 16 b/c of how I cut them)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I used farro flour, because that's what we had)
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. active dry yeast
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. allspice

Combine in large bowl. (I put everything into the Kitchen Aid and gave it a quick stir)

1 Cup Sweet potato cooked and mashed (I cooked a whole sweet potato and gave Kedzie the leftovers for dinner)
1 Cup Milk
1/4 cup butter

Combine in saucepan, cook over medium until butter is melted and mixture is warm. Add to flour and beat with mixture set on low 1-2 minutes until everything is moist. (I did this in the Kitchen Aid)

1 large egg, beaten
Add and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

2 1/2 cups bread flour

Stir in enough flour by hand to make the dough easy to handle. (Once again, I did this all in the kitchen aid...I just watched for the dough to start to come together and not be so sticky on the sides...I used the dough hook) Place dough ball in a greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled. 

Our dough got to rise outside in the sun for a bit...It was beautiful today.

Punch down. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each 1/2 into a 12 inch circle. (I saved one ball and put it into the freezer for another time).

2 T. Butter melted

Brush each circle with 1 T. butter. Cut into 12 wedges (Like I said, I did 8). Tightly roll up each wedge wide end to point. Place rolls on cookie sheet point side down. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

I added the glaze after they came out of the oven. For 1/2 batch rolls I made a glaze by mixing 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 1/2 T. half and half. (You can use water, or cream or whatever you'd like)

I'd love to know if you make them...and if you have any suggestions!




When I ask most folks, Thanksgiving is the most common answer to the Favorite Holiday question. Occasionally, I'll get a 'Halloween' or an 'Arbor Day;' rarely do I get 'Christmas.' It's like the Flight or Invisibility question - we get a glimpse at the hearts of others with a simple query. I'm not sure if their answers show the person they are or the person they want to be.

For me, when I answer 'Thanksgiving,' it's both.

To be thankful I must look out. Sometimes, it's a natural, instinctual movement for me; other times, it can be a bit more difficult. For the past two months, thankfulness has been my theme. Like my faith, that theme has less to do with my choice and more to do with some inescapable pull into Mystery.

While my hope is to become a person who gives thanks in all things, I appreciate this day of focused, socially accepted gratitude. I am thankful...

  • for the inordinate amount of food cooking in our kitchen, for the healthy family who will help us eat it, and for the consistent electricity, running water and technological marvels that will make cleaning up a breeze. 
  • for a wife that has loved me, in spite of me, more every day for 8 years. She has changed me, and I am better for it.
  • for streets free of landmines, a government that lets me say what I will about it, neighbors who let me borrow what I need and the ability to walk outside without certain catastrophe. 
  • for a son who is developing his own personality with panache and grace, and who informs every decision I make.
  • For friends who abandon plans to pay for a local Turkey Trot, donate the money to the food bank instead, and chart a 5k course of their own to establish a new tradition.
Dave, Ann Lee and the rest of the motley crew post-trotting

The local 'sponsored' Turkey Trot, which we drove by on our way home. Needless to say, we did not have police escort.

Nicole's t-shirt logo, ironed on and ready to roll.

I am thankful.


Where'd my baby go?

The day is approaching quickly. My baby is not so much a baby anymore. Today, he didn't nurse at all. Not once. He's over me. As a matter of fact, this afternoon, he had the option of nursing or goat's milk from a bottle...he chose the goat. He's practical (he gets that from me)...he enjoys the portability. He's on the move. I get it.

I love him. Everything about him, but I'm going to miss our time.


Happy Anniversary.

Today marks 8 years for Sam and I. It's funny how fast time passes when you're all grown up. I think it's one of those things "you know you're an adult when...time passes so fast you can't keep up with it." Don't you remember being a kid and thinking a month was SOOOO LOOOONG. You couldn't possibly wait that long. A month in adult time, is more like a day. So fast.

All that rambling to say that these past 8 years have been the absolute best 8 years of my life. I love and am in love with my husband, our baby is ridiculously sweet, and we have the privilege to pay off debt, when most people are fighting to pay their rent. We are truly fortunate.

My mom sent this edible arrangement for our anniversary. Those are dark chocolate dipped pears...delicious. Thanks mom!

Other good news includes we finally saved up enough in our Savings envelope to purchase Jamie Oliver's new cookbook! Oh my, it is more beautiful than either of us ever imagined. His philosophy about food mirrors ours AND he's passionate about getting others to love good, natural, wholesome food. This book is all about getting non-cooks to begin cooking from scratch. There are about a billion pictures to ensure good results for each recipe. If you've been intimidated to begin your cooking adventure, invest in this book (or check it out from your local library)! You will not be disappointed. His writing style is super friendly and laid back.

The recipe from the book to make the menu this week is called:
Asian Chicken Noodle Broth. We'll let you know how it goes. I have to say, his recipes have NOT ONCE let us down.

One more thing, please, please, please, if you enjoy Christmas music go to pandora.com and type in "Blue Christmas" by Elvis and you'll get the most dreamy Christmas music station ever created. Awesome!

Happy Thanksgiving!


The Holidays are Here.

Hooray! Holidays are here. Hard to believe with our recent weather of sunshine and 70s, but it's upon us. Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Yesterday, Kedzie and I (Sam was at work) rang in the beginning of this season with Asheville's holiday parade. I haven't been to this parade for years...now that Kedzie's here, I have a good reason to get out there. It was sweet. It was packed with people. It was raining candy. It was the South once again.

Fairview Flyers (unicyclists)

Junior ROTC
(made me sad...and a bit nationalistic at the same time)

yes... a llama

Kedzie LOVED the marching bands.

This was the caboose. Santa's float with all the reindeer.
Santa was singing...pretty good voice, actually.

This was Kedzie for 1 1/2 hours. Eating pirate's booty and watching everything!

Yesterday evening we went to our good friends' house for Hot Turkey Party. It was duly named and created by Dave because his Thanksgiving usually consists of cold turkey cooked the day before. You see, his wife is vegetarian and doesn't do turkey so she could care less about the temperature of the turkey. Nevertheless, Hot Turkey Party was born a few years back. We missed last year because of the little man, but this year it was back in full swing. Dave and Ann Lee are the perpetual hosts, and this year was a delicious feasty potluck.

Kedzie couldn't hold back his hunger.

Turkey, dressing, gravy & vegetarian gravy, baked tofu, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with caramelized apples, green bean casserole, rolls and cranberry poundcake and apple pie with cinnamon whipped cream for dessert!

Dave helping Kedzie wash down his turkey with a porter.

Shelby and Jonah.

Right this minute we are thankful for a cozy home, full of heat and love and safety. I think it's our home that's on our mind mostly because it's 40 degrees and raining outside and inside we have a nice cozy fire. And, I think, we're both very conscious of our home as this morning we spent some time volunteering with our church and serving homeless men & women breakfast. I spent yesterday hard boiling eggs and buying juice boxes and today was spent pondering what life would be like if my circumstances were different. I am thankful...very, very thankful.

What are you thankful for?


Eat Less Meat.

Sounds ridiculous for Americans, doesn't it? Why would I eat less meat?

I'm glad you asked, let me tell you.
  • First, it is Tightwadian to eat a few vegetarian meals a week. Beans are definitely cheaper than meat. Even if you're buying the cheapest meat you can find, you can usually find beans cheaper. Especially if you're OK buying dry beans and soaking them overnight. MUCH, MUCH cheaper than canned.
  • There are some amazingly yummy vegetarian meals out there. This is one we made 2 nights ago for dinner. They were really easy, tasted a bit like falafal and had plenty leftover for all of us to eat them for lunch the next day.  They're called the Ultimate Veggie Burger. We served them with some sauteed kale and roasted sweet potatoes. 

Here's Kedzie chowing down the day after.

  • WARNING: I'M GOING TO GET ON MY SOAPBOX FOR THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH: Saving money on a few meals allows you to have more money for other meals. What I'm trying to say is, this allows one to perhaps spend a bit more on the meat they DO buy. It would allow you to buy local, free-range, organic meat vs. the conventional meat sold at ridiculously rock-bottom prices. Have you ever thought to yourself..."there's a lot of energy that goes into producing that pound of ground beef, how can they possible sell it for $.89/pound?" It's true. You know the farmer isn't seeing the bulk of that money. Why not pay $3/pound for delicious beef directly from your farmer? Every time we do this, we put money directly into a farmer's family and support sustainable animal husbandry. (I won't go into the details of how awful conventional animal rearing is...I think you probably already know). Plus, you'll notice a difference in fat content of the grass-fed beef vs. the grain-fed (cows were not made to eat corn!) Something we notice with the grass-fed beef is when we saute, say ground beef, we never have to drain the beef of grease...there just isn't any. Try it. Eating an animal that eats what it's supposed to and gets plenty of exercise=healthier you.
  • Another money saving tip is to buy local meat in bulk directly from the farmer. Usually farmers offer 1/4 cow and such at much lower prices. We buy our beef this way and split it with another family. The 1/4 side can be anywhere from 75-90 pounds. The benefit is that it only costs $5.50/pound for all of it. It includes steaks, roasts, ground, stew beef, etc.
So, that's my Tightwadian tip for the day. Eat less meat. Buy dry beans instead of canned. Buy local meat with the extra money. You won't regret it.



Our To-Do List

Today, I began a To-Do list. I know what you're thinking, "ugh, those make me think of being too busy, and having too much STUFF to do." Well, here's what I was thinking: "If I want to be a true tightwad, I need to be able to fit more things into my day." You see, do-it-yourself begets tightwadness. I'm trying to add more things to my day, but I would easily lose track of all I had to do. I thought, I'll make a list. I know myself, you see. I absolutely love crossing things off a list. Try it sometime, it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

Here is my To-Do list (I titled it Kick A@# List) for today:
  1. Blog
  2. Email...
  3. Make Pizza Dough for dinner
  4. Run 3 miles
  5. Laundry
  6. Make Menu for next week's dinner
  7. Clean Off Craft Area
  8. Sweep
  9. Empty & Fill Dishwasher
Look at all that STUFF crossed off my list. It's only 2:30!

(Making your own pizza dough and letting it rise by the fire=tightwad.)

Another tip from Ms. Tightwad was to keep your home tidy. This hit me hard. Our tiny house gets messy easily. Everything has a spot and if it's out of that spot, things spiral out of control quickly. If our house is tidy, I love it here. Loving it here is vital to accomplishing our goal of paying down debt. Along with a small home comes a small mortgage...allowing a greater percentage of income to go towards debt. Good advice. Also, I've noticed that when the kitchen is clean I'm much more excited about getting in there and cooking (cooking for yourself is definitely money-saving).

But really, I'm writing because I wanted to post these pics of Kedzie: he loves taking the mason jars of dried beans and grains and throwing them. Good thing mason jars are virtually indestructible...right?

Hope your day is full of things crossed off your list.

"The Tightwad Gazette"

First, let me start with this, as this is what I deal with everyday. Two Sams. Be still my beating heart.

Second, let me tell you what I've been learning. Our friend Sarah sent us the book "The Tightwad Gazette" after reading our desperate plea for help. While sometimes I feel the author is a bit out of touch when she says things like, "I can feed my family of 6 on $150 per month;" I have to remember the newsletters (later compiled into a book) were first written in the early 90s. Aside from the numbers, there are some great tidbits in there.

One thing we are already doing (thanks to my sister in law's inspiration), but it's nice to hear we're not the only crazies out there, is to re-use plastic zipper bags. We wash them out after each use (if it needs washing) and then hang to dry on our back porch where we've strung a little baggie line. I know this saves money over the long run, but it also helps keep junk out of the landfill. We don't re-use if the bag was carrying raw meat or anything else that might pose a health risk. Funnily enough, I've found the best bags to re-use are Target brand freezer bags. They last the longest. Bonus, they're cheaper.

Second inspirational idea from the tightwad, is to have birthday parties on an extreme budget. I decided to try that for Kedzie since he turns 1 on the 30th! Here's what I came up with: I made this little invitation to send via e-mail (FREE) and it's to be a potluck dinner.  (Just family (less craziness), since he's only turning 1).

The decorations are half made. I made this banner from Soulemama's inspiration in her new book "Handmade Home," and I may make some type of party hat for Kedzie.

(These pics are from the joint birthday party we had for all the babies in my mama group. It was a great time.)

Last idea I'm going to share with you all, is a Price List. This is something I've always wanted to do but figured it was a bit overboard. What Ms. Tightwad suggests is to go to the grocery stores you frequent and price check everything that is your regular. For us that includes things like: yogurt, milk, Pirate's Booty (Kedzie hearts their veggie booty), etc. I've updated her list and began making a price list for each store in my iPhone. I always have my phone handy, less paper, and I can compare all the prices right there. Genius. I'm sure this price list would work for other non-food items. Let me know what you come up with.

I'll continue updating as I glean other Tightwadian gems from the gazette.



Cheap date night

A new mama friend recently told me how she and her husband used to (perhaps still do when the baby allows) do Cheap Date Night. They give themselves a certain amount of money and then, go wherever the wind blew them. They did some really creative things. Sam and I had an hour or two to do something fun this past Sunday. We decided to head downtown and walk around with the little man. Here is what we did:

First, we headed to the chocolate lounge. (We have a hard time being downtown and not stopping in here!) We split a chewy gingerbread cookie dipped in dark chocolate and I got a peppermint latte with house-made peppermint syrup. I've been wanting a seasonal latte since the weather turned and "you know who" has all those delicious syrups. I wanted to support a local shop but no one seemed to have the seasonal syrup. What a lovely surprise! It was outstanding. Just the right amount of sweet and peppermint. Highly recommend if you're in Asheville.

We walked by the new fountain downtown. And made a trip around the new Pack Square. They're starting to make some progress! It's looking lovely.

Then we took a stroll down Wall Street. It's lovely and all the gingko leaves were bright golden yellow. Gingkos are nostalgic for Sam and I. I put them on our wedding invitations and programs. They bring me back whenever I see them. Very romantic. It'll be 8 years for Sam and I in just a couple weeks. I think it deserves a celebration.

Not a gingko, but a Sweetgum tree. Classic southern tree. The more Sam and I live in the south, in this town, in this community, the more we feel it's part of us. It's beautiful. Go out and take a walk through your community with the people you love. It's cheap, romantic, nostalgic and yummy!



Out thwarting the thwarters

I feel like an idiot.

The only thing I can figure is that after staring at this computer screen for so many hours so early on so many mornings, I neglected to catch onto the simple arithmetic of the the whole thing: three pay periods = more income. Or, more pressing, three pay periods = smaller amounts toward monthly fixed expenses.

To add vinegar to our already salted wound, we also discovered that the Federal Government, the same one that can process our taxes and track satellites and employ millions of people, cannot apply extra loan payments to specific disbursements. Forgive the boring explanation: our graduate loans, which are not consolidated, are a BUNCH of little-ish loans disbursed at different semesters as we slogged through PT school.  Our plan was to look at each disbursement as a separate loan, order them from smallest to largest and start ticking them off. Our first extra payment the other day, knocked out three of mine and a huge chunk of one of Nicole's. On our spreadsheet, we changed the balances to 0.00 and struck a big, beautiful red line through the account numbers. It was visually stunning; inspiring, really. A few days later, I received an email explaining that it doesn't work that way and would I please contact the nearest customer service representative to discuss. More Charlie Brown music in the background, more slumped heads.

Still, we are here.

After such a successful first month, we both started counting down calendars and planning a celebration for the specific day the last payment would be made. Now, we've returned to our original approach of looking past deadlines or timelines. More than anything, I think, more than debt reduction or simplification or pretty envelopes, this process is about faithfulness. I think Nicole will agree, we are not known for our tenacity. We are known for our passion and excitement and multiplicity. Unfortunately, those qualities are not naturally a part of a life of faithfulness. So, we've taken a deep breath, looked at our son, stared into each other's eyes, turned toward the most profound call either of us has ever heard, and taken the next first step.

Thanks for walking with us.


Reality Bites.

We are being thwarted.

October, you see, has three payperiods. Somehow Sam and I both overlooked that three payperiods = a lot more income than two payperiods. So in response to my earlier question of "where the h@$l did all that money go?" we now have an answer.

If you've seen Arrested Development you'll understand what I mean when I say we are currently hanging our heads while the depressing Charlie Brown music plays. We have not given up, but are figuring out how to fight back.

We are going to have to sacrifice...more than originally thought. This sacrifice is relative, as we're still richer than most Americans and nearly all of the world. Nevertheless, this debt hangs heavy around our necks.

Please, we would love to hear any suggestions you might have. We're open to anything that follows these rules: give more away and support our local community (especially with food).

All of this is for the little man. He's worth it.


Pretty Bird

This is not really a post about money. This is not even a post about esoteric, abstract longings for a changed life.

This is a post about food. Delicious, perfectly cooked, simple, fulfilling food.


Dinner last night: roasted chicken, sauteed kale and sweet potatoes wedges.

When we sat down to orient ourselves toward this financial overhaul, we committed to two things: giving away more money and continuing to eat as locally, seasonably and tastily as possible. The former is our attempt to resist the potentially suffocating self-centeredness of this endeavor. The latter is our attempt to resist the potentially community-destroying, health-destroying, and taste-bud destroying nature of eating poorly.  With the help of some friends (Jamie & Alice & Molly & Heidi & Martha), our resistance is strong.

A roasted chicken is a hymn to simple delights. Our preferred preparation, drawn from Alice Waters and perfected in the anatomy labs of graduate school, requires just a bit of forethought: remove the neck, loosen the skin along the breast and thighs and stuff in a load of chopped thyme and garlic, rub a generous amount of salt and pepper over, under and in the nooks and crannys, and let it sit in a bag in the fridge overnight. With a light glug of oil in a heavy pan just big enough for the bird, roast at 375 for 50ish minutes, flipping the chicken a couple times during its transformation. After shredding the meat we didn't devour and saving it for later, we introduced what was leftover (skin, bones, and all) to a quartered onion, some celery and a couple chopped carrots, covered them in water in our crockpot and let them think about things overnight on low. The strained stock is cooling outside; in a bit, I'll skim it and have a few quarts of delight for a tortilla soup (also ala Alice) on the menu later this week.

As I write this, I am overcome with gratitude. I am thankful for the farmers that raised the chicken, for our friends that produced the veggies, for the privilege that allows us to live like this. Simple food has become a sacrament for me. It is a physical reminder of a very Mysterious thing - the endless blessings that comprise my days. Second only to watching Kedzie unfold into life, and holding Nicole's hand just because I can,  planning, preparing, sharing and enjoying a meal takes my breath away with thanks.


Month 1: Results: UPDATE

I was a little bit off in my first calculations. I'm not the budget wizard like Sam. Excuses aside, our new total, which Sam already sent off to the appropriate student loan sharks, is: $1334.00. Awesome.

Thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement already. It means a lot to us.



Month 1: Results

In one month we were able to "gather" $1166.10 to put towards our debt.

I'm not sure you heard me. Allow me to spell it out: one thousand, one hundred sixty-six dollars and ten cents.


I know what you're thinking..."those two must be eating rice and beans and never having any fun." So not true. That's why I thought this blog would be a good visual of how full our life is even while trying to live more simply. That's what it really comes down to...living more simply. For me, this first month has been freeing. It's helped me to see that perhaps I don't have to give everything up for 5 years (or until this giant debt gets paid off). Sam and I have this overwhelming sense of calm because we're totally in control of all of our money. As Dave Ramsey says "make your money work for you." It's so true. It feels awesome. Where the h#*l has all that money been? What did we do with it before?

(On a more random note: Thank you to Ann Lee for the birthday gift of Barbara Kingsolver's new book - which was your entrance fee to her book tour event - you are so thoughtful!) Last night we went to the event put on through our local bookstore, Malaprops. Some of you might know, Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite author. She released a new fiction book yesterday called The Lacuna. Her first stop in her 2 week book tour was in Asheville. She was as lovely as I thought she would be. She read from her book for about 45 minutes and just chatted for the rest of the time. She has a very sweet, genuine laugh. I felt like a little kid at Mother Goose Time at our library. I'll just say, the book sounds very interesting...it's historical fiction; half of it taking place in Asheville. I love how poetically she writes. Her words produce beautiful images. Check it out, if you're so inclined.)

Please, let us know what you think about our first month!


I heart *exercise. (*the way exercise makes me feel)

Here's the envelope I was speaking of in the earlier post of unfinished business. It's an envelope to help me get back on track with my exercise. Before Kedzie came along, I was, apparently, in pretty good shape. If you would've asked me back then if I was a good runner I would've vehemently stated, "NO." As I look back, I was a good runner. Now, everything is SO hard. This envelope is for things like: yoga class, race fees, running paraphernalia, etc. Mostly, I need races to train for in order to get me out the door and pushing a 15 pound stroller with a 21 pound baby up (and down) our extremely hilly neighborhood. Here's a race I did pre-Kedzie that I'm think might end up being my first race post-Kedzie. It's a fundraiser for my niece's school, plus you get hot cocoa at the end. Do races get any better?

Also, as I recently turned 32, I've come to a realization: I need to challenge my body in order to stay in shape. Not even stay in shape, but just keep up my fitness level for my lungs and heart and joints. Yoga helps me do that. There's a great yoga studio up the street that I took prenatal classes from and loved every minute of it. A friend also recently told me about the mama-baby yoga they offer there. I think Kedzie would make a cute little yogi. It's only about a mile from our house, so I can bike or jog if I have more time.

Hilarious, right? This is Kedzie and his cousins yesterday. Ladybug, skeleton, black cat and monkey. Awesome night. I personally can't wait until Kedzie is actually panhandling. The girls were blissed out from having so much fun (and perhaps from ingesting so much sugar)!

Everyone watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" at the end of the night. So sweet.

Hope you all had a fun holiday.