Since You’ve Been Gone

Hi Readers! Phew, I’ve certainly had a long absence from the inter webs this year.  Sorry for that!  The 2014-2015 school year really gave me a run for my money.  I worked three jobs throughout the school year and then resigned from my post in June. More on those topics another time.  Yet, even though things were so incredibly busy, like “that girl is so annoying, all she does is talk about how busy she is” kind of busy, the year was still filled with so many great moments.

Let’s get reacquainted with one another while I share this happy moment with you!  My friend Jayme asked me to be take photos at the birth of her first child.  Her perfect daughter Olivia Ruth.

birth photography

At first, I was a little skeeved out.  I mean, you want me to take pictures of…that?  Isn’t it going to be sort of gross?  I didn’t feel like I had any skills to accomplish this mission, but like you do when a friends asks for your help, I said yes.  Then I got busy Pinteresting and asking my husband for tutorials.  (Mr. Grassroofs is a much better photographer than me).

baby 16b

When I got the hospital, you’ll never guess what I forgot.  Did you guess “Camera”?  Because that’s the right answer.  That’s right, I forgot the camera in all my anxiousness to get to the hospital.  Guys, I had one job! What the $%^&?!  Luckily Mr. Grassroofs is a saint and so he drove the camera to the hospital.  I know Jayme wasn’t thrilled to have labored so long, but I secretly was very grateful!
baby 17When I finally went into the delivery room, I was really surprised at how relaxing the whole environment was.  I had expected harsh lights and men in masks shouting “PUSH”.  Instead, the room as dimly lit with low level lighting, soft music was playing, and everybody was filled with positive support for Jayme and the almost-ready-for-the-world baby. Photography became easy because everybody was just smiley and tender and sweet.

baby 18

In the interest of full disclosure (because who would I be without that), there was harsh lighting and men in masks there at the very end.  And there was gross stuff at the very very end.  But by that time we were all so distracted by this new little gal.  So many tears of joy, most of them mine I’m sure. I tried not to gross cry, but I can’t promise I didn’t. baby 20

Jaime gave birth to this precious, perfect, tiny footed, melon head.  She was such  badass.  I mean seriously, delivering a baby?! How f*^&ing amazing can you get?

baby 22And look at this baby, who is ready to turn the world upside down by filling it with goodness and a little sassiness too. I mean, com’on!

baby 23

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Fall Flowers

Oh man! It is fall.  Lots of people love fall because of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and boots with scarves and vests. Some love it for the hay bales and jack-o-lanterns.  Others for the apple butter and plaid blankets.

I love those things too.  I sure do.  But I also love fall for another reason.

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I just love fall flowers.  They push their way up toward the sun for one last bloom before settling in for a long winter’s night.fall Flowers 2

I love the attitude of my fall flowers.  There are only one or two, but mostly one, of them at a time.  And I respect their I’m-doing-this-because-it-is-beautiful-and-right-so-there approach to the world.  You bloom, flowers!fall flowers 4

Some of our fall lovelies have popped up in the strangest of places.  Places we didn’t even know we had flowers planted. They just popped up, all full of look at me, I only need water and sun to be awesome.fall flowers1PS- does anybody know what that flower is (above)?

 

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.

Paleo Chocolate-Banana Muffins

Hello Strangers! Mr. Grassroofs and I have been a little off grid recently.  Being new land lords, coupled with back-to-school has made us busy old people.  You know, the kind who say things like “I just need to get off my feet” and “Is it 9 yet?”

Despite our crotchety ridiculousness, we have a great new recipe to share with you.  This recipe arose from a Spending Freeze we recently put upon ourselves.  More of that later.  One of the big tenants of the freeze, though, is to figure out how to make use of what you have.  In that spirit, I found myself needing a good home for some over ripe bananas.  I found some great recipes, but settled on this one because it needed the fewest alterations based on the ingredients I had. paleo banana muffins

While the oven is preheating, mash the bananas. banana muff 2

A couple awesome things to talk about here: First, I once got Mr. G a really lovely stand mixer…but then we went Paleo and hardly ever use it.  I’m using it here which was gloriously satisfying.

Also, I’m using the portrait lens Mr. G got me for my birthday! Huxley is unimpressed, but I think he looks great in all his hipster disinterest.banana muff 3

Fitzgerald was equally uninterested in muffins after a long morning at the beach and a lost frisbee to show for it.  Thank goodness for the random sleeping bag we laid on the floor for lounging.paleo banana muffins

Anyway, back to muffins!  Once the bananas are good and mashed, add all the wet ingredients.paleo banana muffins

Then I added all the dry ingredients.  If you use the original recipe, it calls for leaving out the chocolate chips; but I substituted chocolate chips for walnuts.  Oh, and also, sometimes I don’t read very closely- whoops! Cat’s out of the bag now.paleo banana muffins

Next comes the spooning in of the batter.  If you’re the amazing type of person who will willingly make two batches, then you can follow conventional wisdom to only fill the cups half-full.  I hate making two batches if I can help it, so I overfilled mine.  It didn’t really cause any problems though.
paleo banana muffins

The dogs were still uninterested in my baking skills, or lack thereof, after the muffins were in the oven.  I couldn’t get them to bite on the subtle vignetting of the photos either.  They are picky, I guess.paleo banana muffins

The muffins came out like this, so I was really glad I had “over filled” them.  They were especially delicious warm, with a fudgey gooeyness that was perfect for a Sunday afternoon.paleo banana muffins

Original Recipe, with my alterations shown in red

 

  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil or melted butter
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 dropper of liquid stevia* (or 2 additional Tablespoons honey) I used the honey, would recommend it.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup almond meal  I didn’t have quite a whole cup of almond meal, so I finished it up with Coconut flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (if you don’t have coconut flour, you can sub 2/3 cup whole wheat or gf flour)
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus 1 tablespoon, divided I used a 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts which gave the muffin a nice texture

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners.
  2. Place peeled bananas in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until well mashed.
  3. Add oil, honey, stevia, egg, and vanilla, and continue to beat on medium until well combined. Add almond meal, coconut flour, cacao, baking soda, and baking powder and beat on low until well combined. Stir in ¼ cup of chocolate chips. Scoop batter into the prepared muffin liners. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.
  4. Bake 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. These muffins are best served warm. I ended up having to cook mine for about 24 minutes.

 

5 Reasons Family Vacation is Awesome

5 reasons family vacation is awesomeMr. Grassroofs and I recently got back from a family trip to Cape Cod with my side of the family.  Super Fitz went with us- have you read about his adventures?  But so did my mom, brother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, two cousins, another aunt, and a second cousin.  Phew! It was a lot of people to coordinate- getting out the door was always a multi-step process.  But we had a fantastic time and I wouldn’t give up family vacations for the world (of course, I do think they should part of a well-balanced travel diet).

Here are five reasons why my family vacations are so great:

1. You go to places you’d never think to go-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

Mr. G and I probably wouldn’t have chosen to travel to Cape Cod if we were traveling alone.  As two young people with no children, we are always attracted to international travel.  Remember the honeymoon/funnymoon?  So, we would have written Cape Cod off and maybe never have gotten there in our whole lives! We are so glad we ended up there, though, because Cape Cod was awesome!  We loved noticing the similarities each small town had to our little beach community, while appreciating the nuanced differences too. We went lighthousing. We went wine tasting.  We went beer tasting.  And kayaking. And ate ice cream almost every day. So, basically, a hundred awesome things that we would have missed if we hadn’t gone on family vacation.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

2. But you still get time to be normal-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I always need to be going, to be doing something.  Otherwise I feel as though I’m not doing my destination justice, as though I may never be back so I better drink it all in.  Family vacation is a good reminder that there is as much beauty in doing nothing as there is in doing something.  Some of the greatest moments of week came from sitting around the dinner table watching a cousin douse his food in Mr. G’s white barbecue sauce or listening to my bro groan over a lost life in Call of Modern Duty Fare.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

3. You get time to appreciate one another-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

During the Rat Race that is 9 to 5 life, keeping all the plates spinning can get tricky.  Two jobs. Ducks. Chickens. Renters. Dogs. Friends. Husbands. Blogs. Oh yeah, and family.  Not that it is right, (and is certainly something I’m working on) but keeping in touch with far away loved ones can accidentally fall to the bottom of the to-do list.  Then, when we do speak, we are trying to make up for so much time that the chat ends up sounding more like a reading of a dossier than like a real conversation. Family vacation is great because if removes so many of those spinning plates.  My brother and I aren’t particularly good at talking on the phone, so I was thrilled to spend the week with him.  He is kind and patient and is a just-plain awesome SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL!  When did that even happen?! Okay, freak out over.

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

4. You may get different amenities-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

I know this one sounds strange, but go with me.  Because there were so many people traveling to Cape Cod, we ended up renting a house which helped alleviate the cost of booking hotel rooms for 11 people for 7 nights. Plus, the addition of a kitchen cut down on the cost of meals we had to eat out.  The house was beautiful, of course- colonial and historic and decorated with blue tinted Mason jars. If Mr. G and I had been traveling alone, we would have stayed in a hotel and wouldn’t have had access to laundry facilities. Can I just say that it is lovely to travel home with a suit case of clean clothes.  But the biggest, best, most fantastic amenity that arose from renting a house instead of a hotel room is that we could bring SUPER FITZ!  It was simply perfect being on vacation with our pup and our family.

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5. Your Good-Byes are sweeter-

5 reasons family vacation is awesome

When you’re visiting a place, leaving the place can be a little sad. I am sometimes left with that feeling I mentioned before of not feeling like I did enough to appreciate that place or that I may never make it back.  But when you are traveling with family, the location is secondary to the company, so the good-byes are different.  If you have to say good-bye to family that you won’t see again for a while, for whatever reason, what a gift it is to have spent so much time celebrating with them.  All of my extended family lives across the country, so I’m really glad that when we had to say our good-byes I had a whole week’s arsenal of fantastic memories shored up to take home too.

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The World According to Fitz: Super Fitz in Cape Cod

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

Oh hey!  The humans let me write again. Well, sort of.  I don’t have thumbs.  I wish I had thumbs.  Thumbs seem awesome.

 

Speaking of awesome. FRISBEE!  This frisbee is awesome! See it?  It is red and rubber and you can bite it. Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

After we took the groaning metal people-and-animal mover for a gazilllllion hours, we got to this place with a yard. I soon came to realize that in this new yard I had to protect my frisbee.  The humans kept trying to grab it! You can’t trust humans.

Just kidding, I love humans. Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

I loved being in this place with the new yard; I think they called it Cape Cod. I loved it because there were lots of new humans to play with.  The girl human was related to them all some how.  Like they were from her old pack or something. It was very confusing.

Sometimes the new humans would get my frisbee.  Which unleashed….

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

SUPER FITZ!

Faster than a speeding bullet.

Stronger than a lion.

Cleverer than a…clever thing.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

I mean, seriously, look at those ninja moves! HI-YAH!

Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

And always, despite the human’s best efforts, peace and balance were restored to the new yard; I recovered the frisbee and sat down to protect it again.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

Watch out, humans, Super Fitz is not gone.  He’s merely lying in wait until his frisbee needs him next.Dog Diaries: Fitz in Cape Cod

 

Side bar: Do you know how fun it is to chase rocks that have been thrown into the ocean?! You should try it.

A Good Old Fashioned Barn Raising

For those of you who have been following our career for a while, you’ll understand how much of an accomplishment Mr. Grassroofs and I are celebrating.  For those of you who don’t, here’s a little back story: When we bought our little homestead about 2 1/2 years ago we were drunk off the “potential” of the place.  We knew it was going to need some renovations, but we thought it was worth it for the character of the place.  Then we moved in…and everything got awful.  We learned that our task was so much bigger than originally planned that we pulled back into one of our “houses” and left everything else untouched because we just couldn’t tackle it.Great Guest House Renovations

One of the “potential”-s we saw when we first bought the place, was to fancy up the in-law’s quarters in the back of our property to rent out.  We loved that it was built into an old barn and just had a rustic atmosphere in general.

Well, that potential is finally becoming realized.  Two of our mostly lovely friends approached us about it a few months ago.  Mr. G and I talked it over and decided that this would be the push we needed to accomplish this dream.

Great Guest House Renovations

So we got in there and had a good old fashioned barn raising.  The friends came and helped us demo this staunch, hardy “cabinet”.  I began work on laying laminate flooring, which I affectionately referred to as puzzle time.Great Guest House Renovations

Mr. Grassroofs and our two friends, Neal and Wes, were fantastic during the whole experience.  Neal used humor to ease all the tedium of say…not having square walls or level floors. And Wes never faulted us for our negligence at some things and complete lack of knowledge at others. Great Guest House Renovations

But at the end of the day and then two more weeks, the place was repainted.  It had an AC unit.Great Guest House Renovations

We had put in laminate floors that beautifully masqueraded as real wood. We had installed new cabinets with a natural unfinished look.Great Guest House Renovations

We even put counter tops on those cabinets- I know, blows your mind!  We had installed new dry wall in several places.Great Guest House Renovations

Our wonderful construction dogs helped to hang new base boards.  Just kidding, they mostly sat around with tongues hanging out. Great Guest House Renovations

And by the end of it all, we were so pleased to call the place a real home.Great Guest House RenovationsDont get us wrong- we still have to finish the great room and install new doors and paint a handful of things.  But let’s not talk about that right now.  Let’s sit back, crack open a beer and celebrate the beauty of accomplishing a major goal!

guest house reno final

I love you readers, and would love to hear about things you’ve accomplished that you never thought you would.

guest house reno final