5 Things I Learned From A Spending Freeze

This post is about to get honest, real honest.  Are you prepared for that? If not, stop reading.

I can’t do it all.  I can’t.  I want, desperately even, to be the perfect teacher-blogger-wife-homesteader-finacier.  Maybe you have a similar wish with different words between the hyphens.  But the simple fact is that with a finite number of hours in the day, I can either do all of these things poorly or I can ask for help.  Today, I’m asking for help from you dear bloggy readers- Rather than feeling badly about not blogging three times a week like I always intend to, I’m going to cut back to once a week so that I can be successful.  I’m recommitting to you to publish every Wednesday.

With that said, here’s a post Mr. G. and I have been working on for a little while:

We went on a Spending Freeze for the month of September. We’ve been reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and then I stumbled across the 31 Day No Spending Challenge*.  Mr. Grassroofs loved the challenge element of it all.  So we sat down and made our ground rules for what we would would and would not live without for a month.

First we decided to buy all our meat and non-perishable goods for the month.  We went to Costco and bought what we thought to be thirty days worth of meat and snacks and olive oil (we finished the months with loads of food to spare).  Then we went home and Mr. Grassroofs went crazy with the vacuum sealer.  We did set aside some money each week for fresh produce and dairy products, because a Paleo lifestyle and a shelf-stable lifestyle aren’t always compatible.  Even though we had money budgeted for grocery items each week, we didn’t want to let ourselves off the hook too much; so we added a clause that said we could only go to the store once per week to buy our agreed upon fresh food items.

Two more exceptions kept us from being completely spending-free.  We knew we had a wedding to go to in early September, so we set aside some money for that.  However, we budgeted everything on the low side of a travel expense so as not to use that weekend as some sort of “cheat” weekend.  Finally, we have renters living in our guest house and we knew that we had an obligation to them.  After all, would you want your land lord to say, “Sorry we can’t fix the air until October, we’re doin’ a challenge thing.”

After the ground rules were set, we settled in for a long winter’s night.  Just kidding, we settled in for a month of free Netflix and books and resourceful cooking.  It was a fantastic experience.  Here are some things we learned:

1. We were losing a lot of money to hobby cooking. As I write this one, I can hear very responsible people telling me that there is software that can help you to see where your money is going.  To them, I say, you’re right! However, when Mr. Grassroofs would swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items so he could try out a new recipe, the software lumped that into the food category.  Thus, those purchases were made to seem like a necessity, but in reality they aren’t.

Silver lining: Mr. Grassroofs had a great time concocting new recipes using the ingredients we had on hand! And he made some pretty delicious stuff too.

2. I can live without coffee. I know, I know. I can hear those responsible people again, saying of course you can live without coffee. Purchased, produced, comes-with-a-cardboard-sleeve coffee was my favorite treat- a great way to take the edge off an early morning faculty meeting or a reward for getting to Friday.  Plus it seemed like an inexpensive alternative to date-night.  Even when we did Whole 30, I was still able to get the coffee-shop experience by getting iced coffee; so I had made myself believe that going twice during the week and twice on the weekend was reasonable.  Giving it up for a month was a refreshing reminder that nobody needs to buy coffee four times a week.

Silver lining: I was on time for work everyday that month, and we are learning how to use the beautiful French Press we got for our wedding.

3. I should drink more water. I already told you about the coffee addiction, so you know I have vices which is good for this upcoming section.  Mr. G and I (but mostly I) were drinking away our dollars.  On top of coffee, I didn’t realize how much juice I was drinking.  I mentioned the small amount allotted for fresh produce each week- well, juice was on the list of “if we can squeeze it in that week” items. Most of the weeks we couldn’t, so we did without.  I really had no idea how much juice I was drinking!  Additionally, we drank a lot less alcohol.  We were never over-drinkers in the first place, but because our portions were rationed, we became very aware that we were drinking less than normal and that maybe we should keep that up after the freeze.

Silver lining: I drank a lot of water and my skin looked great!

4. We have great friends. Depending on who your friends are, when you tell them you are on a spending freeze, they may incorrectly assume you are destitute.  Or they may be angry that you can’t “do anything fun” for a month.  But not our best friends!  They were so utterly supportive.  We could not have been received better.  One friend helped me get water when we went to coffee shop, so that I could avoid the 25 cent cup charge.  All the friends pitched in to orchestrate a surprise party that was humble and AWESOME (there was jousting)!  Mr. Grassroofs and I had sort of prepared to be a little isolated for a month, but nothing at all was interrupted by the freeze.  Friends came over and shared meals, we walked around downtown, we went to the beach, and did basically all the things we normally do.

Silver lining: We have great friends.

5. Conversations about money are hard, but worthwhile. Money is a very tricky subject, especially for us Millennials who grew up during the “great phase out” of cash and the rise of online payment; plus, lots of us didn’t overhear conversations about money.  Depending on where we grew up, we may have had some in-school financial education, but then again, maybe not.  All that means that getting on the same page about money, and I mean in a real-nitty-gritty way, requires some discomfort and some vulnerability.  But once you are moving in the same direction at the same time toward the same goal, the conversations are easier and the motivation is higher and the path is clearer.

Silver lining: After the discomfort and vulnerability comes closeness and progress on financial goals.

* We loved this blogger’s 30 Days of Living Well and Spending Less; but in full disclosure, we did not strictly follow her guidelines.  We read most of the literature, but didn’t do most of the activities, like cleaning out our closets because we just ran out of time in the day.  I don’t want to do any disservice to her great work by claiming that we  strictly followed her procedure.

Advertisements

Predator Cams

This is a post to celebrate Mr. Grassroofs.  He really is an incredible man.  He indulges almost my every whim. Very nearly 100% of them.  Whimsy is what brought us to be chicken and duck owners. And though Mr. G doesn’t find the little boogers nearly as fascinating as I do, when we lost our flock to a predator in late April, he was determined to find out what vicious killer had done the deed.

What he found was indescribable.  Indescribable, but I will try…

A strange predator

He set up the predator cam  in the evening.  You can see above our great tree house and pretty messy tool shed area.  We aren’t a very tidy people, the Pattons. But we have other good qualities that make us lovable.  For instance, I’m really good at eating cookies.

When he came back the next day from a big formal meeting, we found this picture stored on the chip.

A strange predator

I knew it!  I knew that a broad fox, dressed as a bi-pedal man in a striped shirt was after our chickens.  I mean, I really knew that a cross-species dressing coyote had ill will toward my pipsqueak hens but also wanted to be sure to express his professionality.

Thank goodness Mr. G is so indulgent.  Otherwise, he may not appreciate this teasing.

 

 

Best To Do in Cali Round-Up

Cali Round Up title

So you’re going to Northern California, but you only have a few days to do it?  Sounds familiar.  Mr. Grassroofs and I were visiting family and thus were dividing our time between visiting with them and being tourists (with some hope for simple down time thrown in the mix too).

We recommend staying in Sacramento.  It is a lovely town in it’s own right, but has the added benefit of being about an hour and a half from ALL the THINGS!  I won’t write about Tahoe and other adventures farther inland, but Sacramento is a great place to stay if you have an interest in exploring those too.

Here is the two day itinerary we recommend:

napa title

Day 1: Napa

– Begin your day with a drive through the rolling hills of the Napa Valley, pop some folk music into you rental car stereo and cruise through the lovely country side.

– Stop at a vineyard and have a tasting and tour. We liked William Hill Estates. But you will surely have success at most of the vineyards in the area.

– Perhaps your first tasting location will give you a half-off coupon for another tasting room (William Hill did!). In which case, you should go to the second tasting room.  This is some of the best wine in the country, so take full advantage of it!

– Stop by The Farmstead restaurant for appetizers and drinks. Be sure to try the local bourbon, Hooker’s House. Mr. Grassroofs claims it is the best ever. If they have the cheesecake that comes in a mason jar, then you MUST get it.  Next to my mom’s this is probably the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.

– Enjoy some more driving through the country- it is exquisite, after all.  Make your way toward downtown Napa.

– Eat some more snacks at Oxbow Public Market.  Enjoy the weird juxtaposition of bustling energy and relaxed appreciation of the world.  Try Ritual Coffee and top everything off with an ice cream from Three Twins.

Ferry Terminal Title

Day 2: San Francisco

– Begin your day at the Sutro Baths at Land’s End.  Enjoy the murkiness and pen the next great mystery novel.  You can do it!  Take lots of photos and hike around on some of the trails to enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Take water and maybe a snack, because there are only two restaurants near-by and they both tend to be overpriced, one is even cash only.

– Grab an Über or a cab across town to the Ferry Terminal.  Eat your way through the building (using our handy dandy eating guide), drink coffee, celebrate local artistry and enjoy even more views of bridges,  this time the Bay Bridge.

– Take a cable car from the Ferry Terminal to the end of the line and walk off some of your delicious foody fullness before making your way to Ghirardelli Square for a look at some old-fangled chocolate making machinery.  Share (or don’t share) an ice cream sundae, revel in the soda shoppe environment, maybe get serenaded.

– Walk through the pier area.  As you walk off all that sugar, take the time to appreciate all the trick skaters and people painted as gold statues.  The National Park Service’s boat restoration exhibit is worth a glance.

– If you get hungry again, we recommend Scoma’s for a bowl of clam chowder and a setting that convinces you that you are actually on a boat.

– Driving?  This would be a perfect time to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and mill around.  We loved the Barrel House, which had sodas made in-house and infused with things like rosemary for a pleasant surprise.

 

And that’s it.  We know there are several thousand more wonderful things to do in either town.  But if you do these things, we think you’ll have a perfect time and will feel very satisfied with your visit.  Are you an avid Bay Area Aficionado?  What would you add to or remove from this list?

Best To Do in Cali: Sutro Baths

Image

Are you ready for more San Francisco tales?  This is the last of our stops that I simply must write about.  I’ll work on a Fab Five post here shortly to sum up our trip to The Golden State. 

The Sutro Baths is a must see in my book if you have the time.  There couldn’t be a more perfect place to take photos, take a break, or just take it all in.  

These are the incredibly interesting ruins of what used to be a public bath house (a.k.a. a swimming-pool-community-center extravaganza) owned and paid for by self-made millionaire, Adolph Sutro.  What would you do if you were a millionaire?  Open a community swimming center?

But I digress. Anyway, after many years, the family was no longer able to retain the financial load.  But a fire destroyed the baths before the family had to sell it.

Now they are there for you to enjoy!  Great views.  A Nice hike.  Plenty of things to climb on.
Image

Mr. Grassroofs took the erie, Jekyll and Hyde fogginess as an opportunity to take “staring of into he distance” photos.

Image

Don’t I look pensive?

Image

The Baths were constructed in such a way that they capitalized on the rise and fall of tides to cut down the resources needed to operate such a massive pool.  We think the picture above was part of that intake system.  But we are not swimming pool experts, so don’t take our word for it.

Image

If you are very lucky, you’ll get to see the hilarious spectacle that is a pair of ducks propagating their species. Image

You will probably also see a well-meaning sign that asks you to be careful even though it would be awfully fun to jump off the cliff.  

Best to do in Cali: Ghirardelli

Are you tired of hearing about the food that Mr. Grassroofs and I ate in California?  Well, if you are, this is not the post for you. After we ate our way through the Ferry Terminal, we worked our way over to Ghirardelli Square.  During your visit to San Francisco, it is worth stopping there for a sundae and a cup of coffee (not drip coffee this time).Image

Before going, I had childhood memories of a factory tour where Oompa Loompas lead you through a tunnel magically lit with rainbows and glitter.  Okay, maybe not the part about the glitter.  But definitely the rainbows.  Seriously, I did remember there being a guided tour.

Image

There is no guided tour, and probably never was.  However, the old fashioned soda shoppe has a full set of machinery in the back.  Things grind and churn and stir and roll.Image

The atmosphere of old advertisements on tin, parlor chairs, and striped barber poles just makes you want to don a poodle skirt and saddle shoes.  The restaurant serves a zillion (approximately) different sundaes, but I enjoyed simple vanilla with chocolate sauce.  Ghirardelli is known for the chocolate after all.

Image

If you are very polite, a lovely man in a silly hat may take your picture and sing Sweet Caroline to you.  This happened to us and we loved every minute of it.

Image

Mr. Grassroofs found the experience finger-lickin’ good.Image

Best To Do in Cali: Ferry Terminal

Mr. Grassroofs and I love to eat.  Like, seriously.  People write sitcoms about eaters like us.  So this next post is dedicated to our best day in San Francisco.  We ate our way through an entire building, and here’s how we recommend you do it!

Ferry Terminal Title

    1. Get a Chili Dog from Panther Ranch Meat Company– I know, I know. A chili dog? In this veritable treasure trove of deliciosity?! Well, you’re pacing yourself, and this is only the first stop- remember this a marathon, not a sprint. While you wait, read all the great literature they have about their happy cows who led healthy lives not too far from where you are standing.Ferry Terminal 8
    2. Get a Meat Cone from Boccalone– notable for their “Tasty Salted Pig Parts” this little gem serves a variety of…you guessed it, salted meat.  They sell loads of perfect salami sandwiches and prosciutto panini, but this paleo duo just wanted meat in a cup. That’s what we got and we loved every second of it.Ferry Terminal 6
    3. By now you’re probably relatively full…or at least satisfied.  So take some time to look at all of the homemade goods, revel in the textures.  Talk to the people who are so happy to share their craft with you.  Read tags that show you which rural towns all over the world will be benefited by your purchase.Ferry Terminal 5Ferry Terminal 4Ferry Terminal 3
    4. Make your way over to Cowgirl Creamery to check out a cheese plate, complete with local cheeses, almonds, and pears.  Enjoy even more happy cow literature and the wooded, rustic feel of the whole place.  They also make a great Arnold Palmer!Ferry Terminal 7
    5. Top off your visit to the Ferry Terminal with a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee. I got another drip coffee- you can’t believe how much I enjoyed having somebody prepare my coffee only at the moment when I ordered it.  Or you can be like Mr. Grassroofs and order an espresso with milk (cappuccino? cafe au lait? I can’t remember).  The team of baristas will make sure it looks too good to drink.
Ferry Building 1
  1. Being summarily satisfied, we suggest you take a nearby trolley to the end of the piers and walk back- reflecting on your post-eatery bliss all the while.  Ferry Terminal 2

Best To Do in Cali: Oxbow Public Market

Oxbow Title Collage

Okay Okay! So I know that yesterday I blogged about Napa as a whole and now I’m about to rave about Oxbow Public Market, which is in Napa.  But trust me,  this place deserves its own accolades.

Oxbow collage 1

If you’ve ever been to the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco, this place is awesome little brother of that megahouse of deliciousness (that blog is coming soon). A large warehouse building, fitted with little food stands, Oxbow Public Market was everything we ever wanted from a late evening snack.

Oxbow Collage 2

Remember how I mentioned Farmstead in my last post?  Well, as decadent as it was, we only ate appetizers and dessert.  So we were good and hungry for “real food” when we finally decided to head home.

This isn't the drip coffee I mention below.  It is the piece of art Mr. Grassroofs called a latte.

This isn’t the drip coffee I mention below. It is the piece of art Mr. Grassroofs called a latte.

Ritual Coffee was a refreshing experience.  As I approached, I thought they were going make me answer for my political beliefs before serving me.  But everybody was friendly, and the barista made me a drip coffee.  Nobody has ever made me drip coffee before.  Did you know that drip coffee is more delectable than other coffee simply by the virtue that somebody made it by hand?  Truth.

oxbow tacos

We ate duck tacos.  And bison burritos.  It was the best weird mexican food I’d ever had.  Goat cheese on a taco?  Yes, please.

Are you going to Northern California?  Stop at Oxbow! Been to Oxbow?  What do you love about it?

Oxbow Portrait