Monday, April 21, 2014

Busted...Caught Overspending

I've been busted. Hubby caught me in the act with an overdraft notice.

The truth is that lately the buying bug has caught me. It started on our spring break vacation, which was an expense in itself. We were buying lattes and pastries, and generally enjoying ourselves along our travels.

There's nothing wrong with that if you have the money. The problem is that we don't at the moment. We only have one income, which thankfully is enough to pay the mortgage, utilities, and general bills. However, it's not enough to pay for the "extras" that we are still frankly accustomed to buying.

I am a spender by nature (as opposed to Hubby and my Twin Sis who are definitely savers). If I have money, I will find a way to spend it. My father was this way. As a tree planter for most of his life, he barely made ends meet. Yet, every time he was paid for a contract, he was suddenly flush and ready to make up for the lost time spent scrimping.  

My intentions are good, and my justifications are many. But if I'm honest with myself, I have gone overboard lately. Here's a list from our credit card balance:
  • Jeanne Verger Necklace - $71 (An early Mother's Day present)
  • Foster & Dobbs - $4.89 (coffee and croissant)
  • Laurelwood Public House - $52.65 (unplanned dinner out after b-ball game)
  • Jr Rock Star Camp - $440 (for two kids - plus we've signed up for two other camps)
  • Little Big Burger - $7.50 (lunch by was delicious but we had leftovers)
  • Bridges Cafe - $19 (Treating Kieran to lunch after a Dr. appointment)
  • Overstock - $649 (3 rugs for bedrooms)
  • McMenamins' Yoga + Michael Franti/Brett Dennen Concert- $134 (B-day tix with Twin Sis)
  • Garden Fever - $153 (Plants for patio and hanging baskets)
  • Books for coaching - $61 (I could only get two from the library)
  • Bill Sullivan books - $38.90 (present for Hubby and book for cabins)
  • Multnomah County - $21.45 (months of overdue fines...dreaded missing books) 
So, I obviously need to stop overspending. Today.

I've agreed with Hubby to start tracking my spending, and to stop spending on things we don't really need. Even though I love earning miles on my credit card, I've also decided to spot buying with the card for at least the next two months. Even though we pay it off at the end of every month, obviously this past month we overspent and this next payment will be coming out of savings. That hurts. None of my spending is worth the stable nest egg that we've built to keep us out of debt.

So, here are the things I committing to doing publicly (please hold me accountable!)
  1. Track my daily/weekly/monthly spending using a simple tally system.
  2. Not spend beyond my $50 monthly allowance (save toward summer spending)
  3. Only use my debit card (no card until at least July 1st)
  4. Plant our garden seeds...harvesting kale and spinach now!
  5. Water my business seeds and start to earn an income.
Lastly, I'm committing to blogging regularly again. I've actually been in the process of drafting several blog posts and have been brainstorming ways to really relaunch this blog, but the key is to post regularly. So, that's my first step, writing two posts per week. One will be a finance heart-to-heart and the other something that is inspiring me, and hopefully will inspire you too. :-)

Have you ever overspent? 
What did you to get back on track?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My New Title: Mother/Blogger/Coach/Small Business Adventurer

I finally did it. I quit my “day job.”

The writing had been on the wall for the past year and a half, after I made the first tiny leap by sharing the seeds of my new dream, and then proceeded to plant them. It took many months to convince Hubby, and my Sugar Daddy Scenario helped him see that I wasn’t going to send our family off a personal fiscal cliff.

So, after taking my full unpaid maternity leave, I sent my farewell email to coworkers, which included a quote that I had posted on a vision board my cube:

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. - Steve Jobs

I had a very sweet outpouring of replies from coworkers, but this one is a quote that I will keep forever as a reminder of why I am taking this leap of faith to pursue my dreams:

Please do not stop being part of something bigger. Your kids are clearly your joy and you are a wonderful mommy and earth friend. Sharing those parts of yourself really helps those of us totally clueless to find little bits and pieces we can start changing to be better.

Take care and bless you for making the choice right for you. I hope it is everything you wanted and is a lifetime of joy.

This came from a coworker who is on leave battling cancer, another reminder of how we only have this one life.

So, I am embracing a new title: Mother/Blogger/Small Business Adventurer

And while I haven’t earned a penny yet, I feel more abundant than ever before.

I hope to finally have the time and energy to bring this blog to the next level, and would love ideas from my few faithful readers.

What’s your personal title? What quotes inspire you?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

50th Kiva Loan!!!!!

My total Kiva "investment"
My Kiva Experiment is working...I'm excited to share that I just lent out my 50th loan through Kiva.

As you can see in the image to right, my initial deposit of just over $1k has been relent over and over to total $4,550 in that's what I like to call return on your investment! 

I've now lent money to 50 groups of people in 26 countries. Eventually I would love to give loans to people in all 73 Kiva Countries, but the truth is that I'm called to lend more in some areas of the world, especially Africa. I've also decided to be rather random and spontaneous in my selection process, so it often depends on who happens to be featured first. If it's a vocation/place that I would like to support, I'll often lend to the first one on the list, like I did this time.

However, I do take enough time to read through the lending details, since I would rather give to lenders who have loan terms of more than 18 months. If I can find a loan that six-months, then it means that money can be lent twice in a year. That's not my only criteria, but my aim is to keep the average loan length under a year.

When I started my experiment, I also decided to only lend out in increments of $100 dollars. I figure that keeps ten loans going at any one time, and that's plenty to keep tabs on.

Lastly, giving this last loan really made me smile. It was a loan to the Hodari Group in the Congo. The groups buys second hand clothing in large bales that has been shipped from around the world. When I visit sis in the Peace Corps in Ghana, we went to the second hand markets...the direct translation was "Dead White Guy Market," since they figure the person must have died to give away such nice clothes! My Twin Sis has also worked a great deal in the Congo and I have an inspiring friend in my Rotary club, so I've made several loans to the Congolese. It's such a beautiful war-torn place...if you really want to help there, you can donate to my friend's EduCongo project to build schools.

Have you started lending with Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Introducing Teagan & Announcing Darcy's Utopia

Hello beloved Sustainable Family Finances readers,

I've been busy making babies lately. 

Teagan Brenna Cronin - 5 weeks old
This belated post is to share the exciting news that I have a new baby girl, Teagan. She's already given me the best birth story imaginable and more joy than I even anticipated. 

My second baby is a new blog and business optimistically entitled Darcy's Utopia. The blog will reflect on my experiences implementing Simplicity Parenting (while leading new workshops in Portland, beginning in January). I'm very excited about these new endeavors, and would love for you to follow along as my family grows.

Yet, even though I haven't written regularly on this Sustainable Family Finances blog lately, I've decided after a great deal of thought that I'm not ready to abandon it. In fact, given that we are currently down to a single "Sugar Daddy" salary, I've been forced to focus more on my finances lately. Plus, I'm still passionate about all things earthy and green, so I'm certainly not ready to give up writing about my family's efforts to-do-as-little-harm-as-we-can-manage. I only hope that I will be able to take the time to reflect more regularly.

Thanks again for your time and support!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sugar Daddy Budget Comparison

Long-time readers and friends may recall that when my Hubby was faced with a very potential layoff a few years back, I got busy creating a Sugar Mama Scenario

So, when I set my sights on working for myself part-time from home after baby #3 arrives, it meant reviving the old budget and creating a comparison with our current/anticipated finances. This was partly to validate my own assumptions about our budget, but more to convince Hubby that I'm not going to put our family in financial jeopardy by pursuing my dream of blogging and being a Simplicity Parenting Group Leader (more on those plans soon...)

Thankfully, our financial circumstances have improved significantly in the past few years. We no longer have my student loans and we own our Swagger Wagon. These two line items used to be nearly $700 of our monthly expenses. We have also been diligent about saving for a rainy day, and have enough savings to live on no income for several months if we ever faced that hardship.

Childcare has been our biggest monthly expense for some time now, even with our Big Guy now in grade school and only needing after school care and summer camps. Adding another childcare tab would bring our budget way out of balance: a full 3/4 of my income would need to pay for childcare. This was the most convincing aspect of the whole budget comparison, but once Hubby could see that we could still be in the black each month on his income, he was able to understand my perspective on our finances.

Honestly, since I became pregnant (now 27 weeks), Hubby has been a bit panicked about our finances. The idea of one more mouth to feed terrifies him. It's also because I've been quite seriously "threatening" to leave my financial secure career for a part-time pursuit of my passions. For me, the dream of having a third child came at the same moment as wanting a complete shift in my life and creating an independent career.

So, I was relieved that our recent Money Honey check-in went so well, especially given the level of changes we are planning for with a growing family. Hubby's fears haven't gone away entirely, but his confidence is growing. Through this process I've reflected more deeply on our divergent views on scarcityIn my mind, abundance and wealth is all about your perspective. 

Has your family made the shift to a single steady income?
What were the challenges and advantages?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Planting Seeds for the Future

Yes, I realize "Snowdrops" are bulbs, but they are my favorite :-)
It may be freezing out, but I'm ready to start planting seeds for my family. While I've been thinking about my permaculture design lately, it really goes much deeper. I'm ready to take some leaps of faith this year, but even that requires a great deal of preparation.

I just purchased the Right-Brain Business Plan book and accompanying online course. I'm excited about getting my creative juices flowing and continue baby steps toward creating my dreams.
It's hard to believe that I started writing this blog three years ago now. And while I haven't written nearly as often in the last year, I'm finally feeling ready to write again. For so long I felt unmotivated, but I'm feeling inspired to express myself again. I know that this is how I grow and learn, and hopefully how I manifest dreams into reality.

Part of my challenge has been feeling stifled by the blog's focus on Finances, which I know is rather silly and of my own doing. For the first year and a half, this focus really suited my needs and helped me grow in ways I never completely believed possible. We reached our family goal of traveling to Denmark, and I owe this blog to that dream come true. Yet, I've felt hemmed-in by feeling like I need to have a financial bent on every post to satisfy. And I've honestly felt hypocritical by my loosely monitored personal finances.

Add the fact that we received a personally significant inheritance, and it made me feel even less compelled to write. I couldn't bring myself to write about how my financial dilemmas included whether or not to upgrade to stainless steel appliances on our new beach cabins. While still being the same down-to-earth mama, I felt distanced from  readers who maybe wouldn't relate anymore.

Now that virtually all of our net worth has been plunged into building our beach cabins, I feel as though I'm back to square one as far as our finances go, only now I have to worry about paying two sets of bills. Plus, I'm just barely coming up for air after a year of tiresome work on the venture, and I dream of the day where my beach cabin to-do list is merely maintenance level tasks.   

In short, I'm ready for bigger and better dreams. Although they are truly more simplified and sustainable. My dreams are about creating my own personal utopia, Darcy's Utopia. And by the next time I write, the blog will go by the new title.

So, while my seeds may feel very tiny in this moment, and my dream even still a little unclear, I am excited about this new phase of my blog/life.

What seeds are you ready to plant?


Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping Some Fun in a Parent’s Schedule

It’s easy to become so wrapped up in the worlds of work and family that you lose touch with the hobbies and activities that used to make you tick. Though life gets busy as a parent, and this drastically reduces your free time, the reason for neglecting these hobbies altogether is usually forgetfulness — we forget to make room for the things we love.

Though the effects of going a long time without these favorite activities may not be noticeable on the surface, there is a certain kind of healthy fulfillment they bring that we may be missing without them. So how do we reclaim these hobbies when our schedules aren’t getting any easier?

Begin by accepting that making time for these activities is deserved and worthwhile. Parents of young children often feel that their own interests have to be put on hold, and while this may be true in a general sense, it does not mean that they can never make time for the things they enjoy doing.

There are two ways to go about including these activities in your schedule. The first is to determine whether you can involve your children in any of them. If you love gardening, for instance, consider making time for you and your children to establish a garden in the spring. The second way is to hire a babysitter from time to time, or plan to go to the ballgame when family will be in town and can take care of your kids for an evening.

There are many ways to ensure that you maintain some hobbies when you have kids, even if you only indulge in them sporadically. It’s an important way to keep some fun and relaxation in your life, even when times are getting hectic, and it shouldn’t be hard to keep the occasional indulgence within budget.

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Accepting the Unexpected With Gratitude

It's hard to express how joyfully abundant my life feels at this very moment. Yet, in very surreal ways. It has everything to do with accepting the unexpected and being grateful for the endless blessings in my life, especially my friends and family. I just love you all to the core, and would do anything for you (pure strangers and blog readers too ;-). 

Hubby has stepped up the most, and continues to be the steadfast glue in our partnership. He's served the role of a "Single Dad" with all the household cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, chores, errands, kid drop offs/pick-ups, soccer coaching, caring for exuberant children, consoling a healing wife, not to mention excelling professionally. Thank you, Kevin, from the bottom of my heart. 

Even though this has been an exceptionally turbulent year, I can't help but feel completely in awe of how my life is playing out. Most importantly, how utterly loved I feel by everyone in my life. There's nothing like a setback or three to attract the most generous and helpful of friends and family. Without the support from everyone around us, I don't think I could possibly feel this grateful for my life exactly as it is. In fact, I'm able to see all the positives that have come from the negatives. Now that's gratitude.

I'm not saying that it's been without stress or uncertainty, but somehow I still feel a deep trust in that my life is turning out exactly as I need it to unfold. My personal roots are deepening and shoots quickening, and my family is certainly becoming resilient. I feel so proud of who our kids are becoming, and Kevin and I continue to strengthen our partnership despite the chaotic nature that defines parenting/life. We're able to define our dreams and create our intentions. I feel like Brett Dennen's "little cosmic girl."

Lately I've felt physically and emotionally exhausted from the effort that's required to re-enter the "work world" after six weeks of being laid up. Yet, my recovery feels very positive, and despite intractable personality conflicts with my manager (or maybe because of them...), I'm experiencing a crystallization of answers to questions I've been reflecting upon for weeks...and believe me, I had a lot of time to think while I was on total bed rest. For the pure pain of it, I would never wish to repeat this past year, but I still believe faithfully that the universe gives you exactly what you need.

Not to give away all the details just yet, but this evening I had a series of mini-revelations about some pretty significant direction changes in my nearer and longer term. I have to say that it excites me. I can't help but feel like the Comeback Kid.

And on top of everything else going on my life, I'm going with my family (minus Hubby who is enjoying a much deserved break by spending the holiday with his beloved family back East) to do the final set up of our Camp Cabins. I get elated just thinking about the places. Even though I will be more than pleased to wrap up the final preparations and transactions, I'm grateful for the whole creative process of building/creating our dream beach cabins. In total, it's really been a fun time and we've loved working with the Olivia Beach team. Thank you to everyone who has played a role in making this nearly unimaginable dream come true, especially my Twin Sis and Aunt CarolThe cabins have turned out more beautiful than I ever could have imagined...more on this topic very soon...

Another catalyst for my recent personal insights and deep gratitude has been by participating in Deepak Chopra's 21 Day Meditation Challenge. I plan to share more once I've completed this friendly personal challenge, but suffice it to say that it has felt deeply significant. I'm grateful for being at the right place in my life to receive Deepak's wisdom and begin to transform my life through the power of abundance consciousness.

Lastly, by being open to the many changes and accepting them without resistance or fear, I'm able to ride the waves of flow and continually redirect my own destiny. Gratitude is like the guiding force.

Happy Thanksgiving...may you feel the full grace and joy of this day.


Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Imagining career options...then creating them...

Since my last post voicing my desire reinvent a new path as a micro-entrepreneur, I've honestly been second guessing myself a lot. I was actually on heavy pain meds at the time I posted it, and really wondered what I had done once I sobered up.

I've continued to consider my career options, but I realized that I've been spending more energy trying to talk myself out of it than on actually doing anything. It feels out of reach, and hard to believe.

So, I decided that I needed to at least start by writing down my higher goals:

  • Create better balance between career and family
  • Work approximately half time
  • Create community - build community capacity and create networks
  • Support fellow moms and families
  • Educate and inspire
  • Write, reflect and learn
  • Reduce climate change
  • Inspire simplicity
  • Grow friendships
  • Find/share resources
  • Hone public speaking skills
Yet, even once I typed up this list (copied from my written journal) it seems more like a wish list than a career plan.

One of the options I've been considering for over a year now is to become a Simplicity Parenting leader. This feels like it could truly fulfill all of goals, but it's hard to know how much of a market there is for such services. There's a thousand dollar training just to start-up, and even though it's nothing compared to grad school, I wonder how long it would take to recoup, plus all the time/energy.

I've also been thinking about growing succulents to supply the local ecoroof movement (in high school I had a green house where I grew/sold veggie and flower starts, and I love being in the dirt.) Both of these options could fulfill my goals, but it's hard to know which way to move first. So, today, I've finally decided that I need to stop questioning myself and start acting. I'm going to start with a few informational interviews in the hope that they may give me more insight, motivation, and inspiration.

Wish me luck!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reinventing The Future

First, I must say, my how priorities change.

Despite my best intentions to navigate my life, health hiccups are defining this year for me. I'm laid up with a broken ankle for the second out of three weeks of complete bed rest, and another four weeks without being able to walk. I've been too out of it to write much beyond the occasional FB update and respond to selective emails.

I was coming online to finally post an update about the beach houses, when I glanced at the statistics: 50,000 pageviews! Even though I haven't been writing frequently in months, the site is still averaging over 3,000 hits each month. And this post is the 450th that I've written since . I was originally inspired by my twin sister's DINKs Finance Blog (which she recently bought back...), which is now has 1,000,000 hits. So even though my blog stats still feel puny, I feel it's important for me to celebrate this blogging milestone

Regardless of my health circumstances, I haven't had a will to write prolifically since our family trip to Denmark. I haven't been motivated to truly define my/our new goals (on top of a becoming beach house owners and a busy pdx family.) I've been frustrated at work, and needed to reconsider my career goals lately, and I've honestly been fantasizing about not working lately. And no, it's not because I'm enjoying being laid up, it's more like a seed that keeps growing inside. When I think about my priorities, it's really about spending time raising my children/family, creating my personal community, writing, volunteers, and contributing to society in meaningful ways. 

"Not working" really doesn't categorize how I imagine spending my days. Rather like my current "days off," I rarely sit down the whole day, and when I do, it's with a to-do list in hand

Yet, fantasizing is very different that committing to, such as my good friend Kim who is blogging around the worldI've had a great deal of my identity wound around being a working mom, as has my family. I don't even know if Hubby could get his head around the idea being the only breadwinner, regardless how relatively close that aspiration might be if we really made it our goal. I've been reading The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future. It's very inspiring to make me just want to go for a variety of ventures, without putting all my eggs in a heap.

So, I'm still in the research mode about what exactly might lure me away from devoting myself as a public servant, but I'm pretty certain that I'm ready to make the transition to entrepreneur. I'm ready to make my own hours, take time to write, be with my family, and take care of my body/soul.  

I know this transition will take a mental leap, but I'm feeling like risking it. For now I don't have any big reveal about my plans, though it feels refreshing just dream out loud. Regardless of my eventual direction, the only way I'm going to reach the goal of reducing my hours and/or becoming an entrepreneur is to get my financial ducks in a row and write about the actions I take on this blog. With baby steps in mind, I'll work to get a renewed view of our current finances, while defining what our lifestyle requires financially, as well as how we can living more simply through our values.

Wish me luck...both with my aching ankle and my fledgling dreams! 


Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Takes a Village to Throw a Wedding

When I first started this blog two and half years ago, I brainstormed at least fifty topics that I wanted to write about related to trying to raise a family with sustainable values. I came up with ideas that both immediate and more long term. One was the desire to share a special thank you on our 10th anniversary, and I've had this post scheduled for over a year now.

Any guest will tell you, our wedding was unique, just like us. It was an organic blend of East coast meets West coast. My tribe of family friends outnumbered Hubby's closest family visiting "Or-re-gon" for the first time by a 5-to-1 ratio. Yet, every mingled joyfulness, and it made for an entertaining evening :-)

When hubby and I married, we were already committed to living our sustainable family values, just minus kids. We wanted our wedding to be as eco-friendly as possible, but we also needed to be frugal. We wanted an all-out party complete with an eight piece swing band, but we didn't have a bank to break.

As shared a bit before, I was raised by hippie parents and communal giving second nature. So when it came time to plan our wedding I didn't hesitate to ask family and friends for favors, and by the time our wedding day came, we were both totally blown away by how many wonderful people were a part of making our day so special.

My mother did all the flowers, including an amazing bridal bouquet, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Many of the centerpiece flowers were given to her by neighbors, including buckets blooming hydrangeas. My mom also coordinated all the decorations exactly according to my vision of "simple and elegant." My mom also bought my wedding gown, which I had fallen in love with on day-one of shopping (then drug one of my bride's maids around for a second day of shopping, continuing to tell her about the dress I found on the first day, and at the last shop of the day, they pulled out "my" dress after I gave them a description of what I wanted :-)

My father, Wally, really wanted it to be a party and insisted on paying for an eight-piece swing band, the Easy Valley Eight. Most of the band members were over 70, but they were classic and truly authentic. Wally also wanted to buy the beer, and we all enjoyed local Caldera Brewing. I knew one of the brewers, so that made it even better.

My parents splurged for the venue, the Schoolhouse Retreat and Cultural Center, located just outside the City of Talent (where Hubby was the city planner). It's beautiful little school house from 1929 with Wagner Creek flowing through the grounds, in the valley below Wagner Butte. The grounds were perfectly manicured, and we loved it at first site.

Our catering was very personal and delicious: when our parents got married their reception was located at the Tiller Tavern, and the owners put on a big spread. They later moved back to the Boston area, and started a catering business (Jimmy and Betsy are now a real estate team). But they never forgot their beloved Oregon and every summer they would come back for a few weeks, and often cater a big party for friends. So my mom wondered if they might be interested in catering our wedding, and to my amazement family friends who I didn't even really know as an adult put their hearts into creating an amazing menu, some of the dishes from recipes that I picked out. I naturally had to do a lot of coordinating to put on a dinner for 150 people with caterers from out of town, but it turned out to be fun picking up all the food from the local farmers' market. I managed to buy the free-range chicken and wild salmon from a friend's restaurant at cost. Our friend, Javelin, who owns Promise Natural Foods in Canyonville baked the bread and prepped the salmon. Long time friends and organic farmers, Susie and Robbie Lee, contributed fresh melons and peppers.

Our wedding cake was a homemade gift from a dear family friend, Susanna. When my sister and I had our seven birthday, she made us the most amazing carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and we both begged her to make our wedding cakes. It turned out that she really honed her decorating skills. Before the wedding, she asked me to send her an image of what I wanted the cake to look like. To my amazement, our cake was an exact replica, only I'm sure much tastier :-) Susanna also went on to make my Twin Sis' wedding cake too :-) :-)

Our pastor was my 4th-5th-6th grade teacher, "Mr. A" who had taken up ministering to prison inmate as his form of community service.

Our music and wedding helpers were more close family friends, Mike and Ruth, my grade school music teacher and librarian/Sunday school teacher/college prep adviser.

Our photographer was the school's sports photographer, Shelly, who was trying to build her portfolio, and who charged us just $200 for her amazing services, including the negatives.

Our rehearsal dinner was hosted by my beloved in-laws, Mary Ellen and Neil, at the beautiful Ashland Springs Hotel, where they also put us up for our wedding night.

Our honeymoon was a gift too, a work associate of Hubby's offers us her rustic cabin on Lopez Island for a week, and we cherished every minute.

Everyone truly pitched in, and I want to give a special thanks to my Twin Sis, Miel, who worked to make everything perfect (including decorating our Subaru :-) We teased that "it takes a village to throw a wedding!"

Lastly, we were also passionate about keeping it local, so we had Valley View Pinot Gris, King Estate Pinot Noir, BJ's ice cream, and Endangered Species chocolate as wedding favors.  

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped out in our wedding, especially by celebrating with us!

Here's a link to a "top 10" slideshow of photos!


Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Berry Abundant - Edible Landscape Design

Abundant garden strawberries
As the 4th of July approaches, I'm always reminded to take stake of what matters.

To me, that means berries.

In July 2000, when Hubby and I first moved in together in a converted three-bay garage on Ladd's Circle, our landlords happened to be going out of town for the holiday weekend. So, they offered us the chance to forage blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries from their amazing back yard. We had berries with breakfast each morning and berries with ice cream each evening. The brilliant mix of red, white, and blue felt as patriot as you could get. When I lived in Denmark, my host family would harvest a bowl of strawberries every day for be served with cream and a dash of sugar. I've always aspired to these two berry-benchmarks.

So, when we hired Alissa and Dreya at Seed Garden Designs to create a landscape design for us, creating an abundant edible landscape was my top priority. Their plan indeed does include all our favorite berries, plus several columnar apple trees.

While we haven't implemented the whole plan yet (we're on a 3-5 schedule), we have already started to reap the benefits of the the plan. Over the spring, we used the Seed Garden Design plan to remove multiple small trees and shrubs. This included a Camellia shaded the raspberry row that was trying it's best to grow the neighbors fence, and it dumped wilted flowers into the strawberry bench. As a result, neither our strawberry or raspberry harvest were much to speak of it. I'm happy to report that we've now been harvesting bowls and bowls of berries.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for our blueberry harvest. It's still minimal at best, and we're planning to try to revive the soil in the fall and/or replace them with new plants by next season. Life is too short for blueberry plants that don't produce. In the mean time, we're looking forward to a trip to our family friend's organic blueberry farm on the McKenzie, Mohawk River Blueberries. They are plump and delicious, and will fill our freezer for the next year...yum!

On a side note, 
I was naturally intrigued by the recent Oregonian Home and Gardens article on the top eleven books on edible gardening.

Does your garden focus on edible berries?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Update on Kiva Experiment

Faith Group from Tanzania
In January, I shared about a new experiment of mine: loaning $1,000 in micro-loans through Kiva. I've continued to relend the money, and in less than six months I've almost doubled the amount of loans, lending out another $900 with the original seed money.

I started lending money through Kiva two years ago when I gave a $25 loan to my Dad and Father. While I started pretty small, I've been able to relend and relend the money over and over again. At this point I only relend $100 at a time, and I've now provided 23 micro-loans, totaling $1850. I've experience 0% default and 0% delinquency. Six of the loans have been repaid in full, and remainder are still repaying them.

I've funded people in Bolivia, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Palestine, and even the United States. I lent the most in Africa, since I have a soft heart for my sister's work there, and the most has gone to Kenya and The DRC. The group above is my most recent loan, I loved the photo with the nursing mom!

Have you started lending with Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Missing Rings = Insurance Claim

Pumpkin carving 2010, rare photo showing both rings...
Close friends of mine know that earlier this spring, my wedding rings disappeared after an emergency surgery. My platinum wedding ring and 20's era heirloom diamond engagement ring, and another heirloom ring that was made from a spoon by a Great Aunt during the depression were inexplicably lost at the surgery center.

After I got over the grief of loosing these irreplaceable items (which took a good month), I finally took everyone's advice and went through the steps of reporting them as stolen and filing an insurance claim. In the process, Traveler's naturally wanted proof that these jewels existed...this was surprisingly difficult.

At one point many years ago I took up-close photos of my rings for insurance purposes, but somehow after switching laptops several times and loosing some photos in a melted motherboard, I wasn't able to locate any close-up photos. The best photos I had were distant shots of me signing our wedding certificate and another of me in a family photo in Denmark. Note to readers: take a photo of your valuables today!

I also needed to find a receipt, and deep in our old filing cabinet, I discovered that we do in fact still have copies of checks and financial records from 10 years ago! I need to write another post on this, because it was fascinating to see what our financial life was like just ten years ago. I had almost completely forgotten that for two years of working temporary/part-time/hostessing I barely brought in enough to pay my minimal bills...

Back to the rings, I told myself ages ago that I would get an appraisal for the heirloom jewelry, but I never did. I know they were more valuable the covered by our basic insurance. While I'm somewhat satisfied to have gotten our maximum of $1500, the truth is that I still bring myself to purchase any "replacement" rings. Our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up in August, so I'm hoping to feel inspired to get a new ring. Until then, my hands will feel naked and I'll always wonder what really happened to my rings...

Have you ever had stolen/missing jewelry?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Woman with a Garden Plan

Dreya and Alissa, permaculture designers extraordinaire
My favorite season has a officially begun; the season of eating outdoors whenever possible. This evening we had salmon burgers on our patio's red picnic table, and it felt like our little private paradise. It's hard to not feel madly in love with my yard this time of year. I spend as much time as physically possible there, and seem to savor the exhaustion at the end of the day. I love watching our kids' rake and dig and play, washing off their mud at the end of the day.

And yet, even though in my estimation our yard is maybe 80% close to being complete, I obsess about the final 20%. After three full years of puttering around with various design ideas, I finally decided that it was time to hire some professional landscape designers. While I'm already fairly educated, having taken a permaculture design course in graduate school, the truth is that I could never seem to develop a wholistic design. I've wanted to clear out several bushes and holly tree, and Hubby always wanted a definitive "plan" before doing so (at our old place I did make a full permaculture plan, so I could never seem to find/make the time, plus there were some problematic areas where I really needed a second/third opinion). More importantly, without this illusive plan, I could never get Hubby's buy off to purchase more than about a $100 of plants at a time. So, when we finally had some extra cash, I new a garden design was at the very top of my wish list.

I searched for permaculture designers, and was excited to find a small company of two women about my age doing landscape design and installation. Seed Garden Design has a philosophy that I aspire to as well, and just from checking out their beautiful before/after photos, I had a strong feeling that I had found the right duo to fulfill my garden dreams. They were truly a pleasure to work with, and they met with Hubby and I to gain a deeper understanding of how we want to use the outdoor space and what we view as beautiful.

Throughout the design process we met three times: first to determine the scope of the design, second to discuss likes/dislikes, and third to reveal the final design. We also had a bit of homework between sessions to help them assess our likes/dislikes better. I ended up deciding to do the full design for our front and back yards, which is a larger lot than most in Portland. The design cost $1550, and I feel it was worth it.  

I love having a full vision for my yard/garden. I can finally see its full potential, and can hardly wait to see it come into reality. We most want our yard to be kid-friendly and ready to entertain/enjoy. Plus, we want to produce more and more veggies/fruit from our garden. I also have a dream of having our yard in some type of local garden tour, so we have high hopes for our little paradise. 

We plan to pace ourselves though, and it will probably take 4-5 years to implement the full design. I bought $120 of native plants at Audubon's native plant sale this weekend, and it felt so great to have my plant list in hand, knowing each plant had a destined place. I felt like a women on a mission...

Since I'm admittedly more inspired by plants than our finances lately, I'll soon share some specifics of the design...which really rocks, by the way! I've also stared a new "permaculture garden" tag to help you find other related posts in the future.

Does your yard/garden have a plan?
How much is your yard/garden worth investing to you?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Olivia Beach Camp Cabins

I haven't written much this year, and I have two goods reason. We've been working swiftly toward our dream of owning a beach rental...we're actually building two camp cabins at Olivia Beach! So, we've been really busy setting up deal, and I didn't want to jinx us by writing anything before a contract was signed and our 10% down.

But before I get into the recent details, I'd like to share the back story of how this became our dream...

Not long after Hubby and I met, he shared his dream of wanting to own a beach house by age 50. It sounded like a great dream, but I was skeptical that we'd be able to pull it off in that time frame. He was still in graduate school, without a solid career, and I was piling up college loans. Regardless, I happily agreed to the goal, and have been secretly dreaming of our beach house ever since.

Early on Hubby also shared with me his passion for New Urbanism, and the concept of designing communities around people, not cars, really appealed to me. I was pretty sure that I could never see myself living in suburbia, but a New Urbanism community would be a different story altogether.

Then, a few years ago, Hubby heard about some New Urbanism communities being developed on the Oregon and Washington coast. We visited Bella Beach and Olivia Beach when they were breaking ground, even though we weren't actually anticipating ever being able to purchase...we were secretly a little jealous.

So, when we received our family inheritance, I couldn't help but think back to our deepest seeded dream of owning a beach house. I also knew that we still couldn't afford it on our own, so I proposed to my Twin Sis and our Aunt that we go in on a venture together. After visiting Olivia Beach, and weighing between buying a single house or two small cabins, we eventually settled on the "camp cabins." It turned out that our timing couldn't have been better, and they had just proposed the option of building small 1 bedroom/1 loft cottages.

There were lots of factors that swayed us toward the cabin option (even though two was a bigger investment than a single 2 bedroom house), and one of the reasons is that there are only planned to be four cabins. Therefore, our cabins will be the most affordable rentals in the whole development. Plus, we really like the "small is beautiful" aesthetic.

We just met with the builder/realtor team this morning, and I'm still pinching myself that we'll soon be picking out paint colors and will likely be able to stay there for our 10th anniversary this August. Setting up the business, furnishing the places, and marketing them is going to take a lot of my time in the coming months, but I do hope to write more this spring (we've also been working on a permaculture garden design!)

What's your deepest dream?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simplicity Parenting - Bunk Beds

January always feels like a very long month in our home, particularly this year. It's partly because I'm always gearing up for the year ahead and setting our goals in motion. It's also because we are still celebrating...we have 3 birthdays in January (Hubby turned 42, Girly turned 3, and our Big Guy turns 6 today!). Our goals and celebrations seem to have merged very fluidly lately with us working together to further our "simplicity parenting" process.

Even though I hadn't yet read Simplicity Parenting last year, I spent a post writing about how simple I tried to be in birthday gift giving (previously about our family gift policy). In hindsight, I realize that I didn't even need to purchase as much as we did...the flashcard puzzles were barely touched, and I haven't seen the soccer ball in almost a year.

This year we took it down another notch, and gave the kids a bunk bed. It wasn't itself a cheap gift, but it did turn out to force us to really refocus on simplifying their bedrooms. Our Big Guy had asked for bunk beds since I was pregnant with Girly, but during Thanksgiving he got booted into his little sister's room for our family guests...but then he didn't want to go back to sleeping in his own room. They continued to room together so well that we soon agreed that if they could keep it up until their birthdays, we would buy them bunk beds.

Now Girly's old bedroom only has a toy tower, bookcase, and dress up chest (we plan to set it up as a guest room soon...). The new shared "kids' room" has their dressers, lamp, kids' CD player, alarm clock and a closet with games in it.

Admittedly, even after two weekends of gutting their rooms (and another putting together the bunk-beds), I know that I still have work left going through the toys in the tower...most of which they haven't played with in months! I purged many of our board books, but I still   need to take another look to cull more unread is emotional to let go of those original baby books, and I plan to hold on to a few... 

Our kids really didn't balk at getting rid of anything, there were naturally a few items they became temporarily enamored with again, but I just let them play until they were done and then scooped it into the give-away.

The kids were thrilled when we finished assembling the bunk beds. It kind of feels like a new era for our family, and we're all happy to have simplified living space.

Otherwise, the only gifts we gave this year were a few really beautifully illustrated Irish/Faery tales to replace the classic board books. They got some needed sneakers/cleats. They also got a world/U.S. map to decorate their new room. Plus, Girly got to pick out sheets for her new bed. 

Have you simplified your child's space?
Do your kids bunk together?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maybe Baby...

It may seem strange, but after the initial shock of my father's passing softened, I suddenly had the urge to have another baby. It wasn't in sorrow, but in tears of joy. I felt like my heart had been broken open and I needed a place to give my extra love. Suddenly, deciding to only have two children based on environmental ethics felt like I was limiting myself.

Admittedly, the logistics of it had to do with money. Knowing that I would be passed down family money, I contemplated what I could do to satisfy a legacy. My grandmother would have loved for me to have more children...she always joked, "You know, they are cheaper by the dozen!" She had three children herself, but came from a well-off family with seven children. My grandmother was proud of me for going to college and getting Master's (and she always pushed that in this day/age that I should be able to support myself, just in case), but she also thought I work too long of hours. She worked long hours herself until she had a family (and remembered her hourly wage for every job she worked until she passed away at 94), but she  lived in a different era, and shook her head at the idea of getting two little ones dressed and out the door by 7 every morning. 

So, back to the baby decision...

Well, when I brought up the idea to Hubby he was less than enthusiastic. While he had pressed me for a third just a year earlier (which I thought was way too soon), he suddenly felt he was too old (he just turned 42). Or maybe he thought I was just making an emotional decision (which I was...). At any rate, we've come to a place of peace with our equally balanced household.

But I still can't help but think that if I lived in different economic era that I would be quite happy with more kids. Finances simply does play into our family planning these days, whether families want to admit it or not. Even if we had decided to have a third, we had only ever talked about the possibility in the context of having at least our older in grade school so we could afford expensive child care.I know an acquaintance, whose husband owns a small bike shop, who decided to not have another child based on the fact that they felt they couldn't afford it while his shop was getting off the ground and she was staying home to take care of their son and assist on the business. 

How much has your family finances played a role in your family planning?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.