I Made You This Mixed CD

Photo courtesy of Stacy Wagoner

I love mixed CDs. I love making them, and I love-love-love receiving them.  While burning an entire cd has its copyright complications, I believe that mixed cds are one of the best ways to introduce new music and create die-hard fans of new bands.  Mixed CDs are responsible for introducing me to many of my musical loves: David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, They Might Be Giants, and the Weakerthans.  These bands are the ones I seek out in concert, the bands for which I own multiple cds, and the bands that I include in the mixes I make for others.

A well planned mixed CD has a haunting ability to move you from one deep emotion to another, or tell a deep story about the mental development of the compiler from beginning to end.  I just participated in a massive CD Exchange with a dozen or so of my friends.  The playlist for my contribution is below. I titled this compilation “Struggle Makes Us True” and included the following insert with the CD:

What we fight for.
How we respond to hardship.
Where we turn for help.

These are the things that define our identity. It takes suffering to build character, and it also takes hard times to reveal who’s true, and who’s just a fair weather poser. These songs are about people who are true through and through, who stick it out and see it to the end, and who develop into stronger, brighter, deeper people in spite of their struggles.

^_^ And there are some songs that just go really well with the other songs.

Enjoy!
Erin Wetzel

PLAYLIST:
Breakable by Ingrid Michaelson
End of the Movie by Cake
Parentheses by The Blow
First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes
Queen Bitch by David Bowie
The Freest Man by Tilly and the Wall
Anyone Else But You by The Moldy Peaches
If the Stars Were Mine by Melody Gardot
Naturally by Middle Distance Runner
Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel
Homesick by Kings of Convenience
Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes by Beck
Ahead of the Curve by Monsters of Folk
Watermark by The Weakerthans
Writer’s Block by Peter Bjorn and John
Objects of my Affection by Peter Bjorn and John
Revolution by Grandaddy
Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra
New Day by Kate Havnevik

[On a personal note, I know I took a long break from blogging. My apologies!  I have been sick with the flu.  But, I am all better now.  Halleluia!]

By ekwetzel
2010-03-16

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Budgeting 103: Be Faithful

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

Some additional guidelines to help you stick with your budget…

Find Balance. Once or Twice a month, balance your accounts with bank records.  Go through your bank record and credit card statement and mark off the entries in your Budget Binder.  I like to make a note of the date each time I do this task and use a different color highlighter to make the section stand out.  Doing this check will help you make sure you don’t forget payments for auto-withdrawals or lost receipts.

Pay Off the Cards. If you have a revolving balance on a credit card, don’t use your card to pay for things until you have paid off your revolving balance.  This will force you to use the money in your checking account and remove the temptation of accessing the entire available balance on your card.  This habit is key to getting and staying out of debt.  Don’t spend what you don’t have.  You only will end up paying for it more in the long run.

If you find yourself tempted to spend on credit, step back and ask yourself why you want to purchase the thing in question.  Will you be fine without it?  If you need to, call a friend or partner before making the purchase so that they will hold you accountable.

Cut the Cards. As you pay off your cards, simplify your financial life and get rid of extra credit cards.  Mr. Wetzel and I only have 2 credit cards (one in each of our names, so that we’re both gaining a positive credit history), 1 store credit card and a debit card.

Cash counts! Never treat cash like its money already spent.  Cash always counts.  If you buy something with cash, make sure to save the receipt or note the purchase in your Budget Binder as soon as possible.  Save your change, as well.  If you put all your spare change in a jar, you’d be surprised how handy it can be on a rainy day.

Wish Lists & Shopping Lists. The best way to thwart impulse spending is to set goals for the things you want to purchase and then save up for them.  If you have an attractive goal ahead of you, you are less likely to blow your money on something you don’t really care about.  Currently, I have an ice cream maker on my wish list.

Shopping lists are handy on a day-to-day basis because they keep you from small impulse buys at the store.  If you see something at the store that isn’t on your list, consider writing it down for the next shopping trip.

Accountability. Tell someone what your budget goals are and ask them to check on your progress.  If you are budgeting with a partner, your companion doesn’t count!  As a couple, you need another couple or another individual to hold you accountable.  Telling others what your goals are also helps clear the air of needless spending; if you and your friends are both trying to get out of debt, you can think of cheaper ways to spend time together and it will help all of you out in the long run, whereas lack of communication too often serves only Mr. Visa, Madam AmEx and Master Card.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-04

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Budgeting 102: Set Your Course

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

What spending categories do you have?  How much do you need to budget in each area? Think of these categories separately instead of lumping them together with all of your earnings and spendings.

The Budget Binder & Individual Account Pages. Once you know how much you are bringing in and how much you are spending, you can sit down and face your spending habits.  Find a way to balance your budget by continually re-examining your needs and your wants.  Decide on a goal to spend for each category: groceries, car payment, rent, etc.  Finally, create a Budget Binder to help you keep track of your spending on a day-to –day basis.

The Budget Binder works in the same way that a checkbook does, except the Budget Binder has a page for each spending category.  We call these “individual account pages.”  Before learning this trick, Mr. Wetzel and I would have spending goals for different areas of our life; however, it was impossible to keep track of our actual spending and to hold ourselves accountable to our goals until we used the individual account pages.

Sample Individual Account Pages: download from Google Documents. These are some sample pages that we have found useful.  Adapt the pages to your own needs, adding or subtracting categories as needed: View on Google Documents

How It Works. When you get paid, disperse the funds available for each of your accounts onto each of the individual account pages.  When you spend money, subtract the funds from each of those pages.  Let’s use Amy as an example:

Amy earns $100. First she notes +100 on her “Earnings and Disbursements” page.  She disperses $50 to grocery, $25 to household and $25 to fun, noting +50, +25 and +25 on each page.  She then goes back to the “Earnings and Disbursements” page and notes -100 for a final balance of zero.

As Amy spends money, she subtracts the amount she spends from each of the individual account pages.  She tries to keep aware of how much money is left in each area of her budget.  It is easy for her to quickly check the funds for her budget because each category has an individual balance, instead of being lumped together into a total sum in her checkbook or online account balance.  If she doesn’t spend all the money in a given fund, she sets it aside and lets it accrue. You never know when you’re going to need a little extra dough, after all.

For example, Amy knew that a blockbuster hit was coming out on February 10th and that she’d want to go see it on opening night with her friends. So, she made sure to keep enough in her “Fun” fund so that she could go out to the theatre and catch a bite to eat from concessions.  In order to have enough money available, she skipped a few lattes during the week, but she reminded herself, “I don’t need a latte.  I don’t need to go to the movies, either…but I’d get much more pleasure out of going to the movies than drinking a few lattes.”

Remember: this is a Tool, not Torture! The whole point of budgeting is to be a good steward of your finances.  Create your first budget plan, and if you find that your spending habits continually break the budget, re-examine the budget.  Sometimes you’ll need to crack down on your spending habits, but sometimes you’ll need to change your budget to suit your needs.  Everyone has different desires, habits and goals, so everyone has a different budget as well.  The important thing is to find a budget that works for you, and then stick to it.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-03

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Budgeting 101: Know Thyself

Some people can get by without a budget.  I am not one of those people.  This is part of a three-blog arc on how Mr. Wetzel and I have been able to successfully budget for the last year: Know Thyself, Set Your Course and Be Faithful.

You must be aware of where you start from.  Assess your current spending habits, as well as the attitudes you have about spending.

Keep track of all spending and earnings for 1 month. The easiest way to do this is to save all your receipts and all your pay stubs.  If you buy something that doesn’t have a receipt, or if you tip beyond what’s noted in the receipt, just write it down on a slip of paper, date it, and put it with the rest of your receipts.

Mr. Wetzel and I put all our receipts on a big glass plate by the front door until they are checked into our budget book (see Budgeting 102).  We have also been known to keep them in shoe boxes, tucked in our wallets or purses, or jammed into the pockets of a three ring binder.  Once we are through recording the receipts, we toss the ones for gas receipts and grocery trips, and save the important ones in a box.  We also hold onto all our monthly statements from credit cards or other accounts, as well as our pay stubs.

Don’t be materialistic. You are more than your possessions.  You do not need to be defined by what you have or what you buy.

One reason I like to watch the TV show Survivor is that it’s interesting to see Westerners come to realize the difference between needs and wants.  We need food, for example; but, we do not need a take-out pizza.  A baked potato (or plantain) will do.  Sometimes we use the things we buy or the act of shopping as a distraction to keep us from confronting things about ourselves or our lives.

Mr. Wetzel and I pray over our finances and try to grow in spirit, instead of growing in debt.  We have learned a lot about ourselves as we have given up things that we think we need.  By trusting God more and believing more in ourselves and our relationship, we spend less money yet find ourselves even richer than before.

By ekwetzel
2010-02-01

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Umbra Banana Split Banana Holder

The Umbra Banana Split Banana Holder is designed by Umbra Ltd.

[rating:5/5]

Form follows function follows form with this design!  I first saw this banana holder in the pages of Dwell magazine.  It is easy to use and easy to store.  I love the witty design, with the banana holder being reminiscent of the banana itself.   The design is unique and playful, without being kitschy.  It is made out of wood, which makes it feel more authentically crafted.

When I logged onto Umbra’s site (Nov 2009) to purchase this snazzy find, I was surprised to find an estimated $17.95 shipping on a $16.00 item.  So, I shopped around.  Amazon was selling it for 12.99, and the product qualified for super-saver shipping.  With such a witty design, I prefer to buy direct from the designer, but not at these prices!  Recommendation: shop around!

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

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Hello Cupcake

Hello Cupcake is a bakery that specializes in gourmet cupcakes.

[rating:5/5]


Red Velvet cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting

1740 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA
(253) 383-7772‎
www.hello-cupcake.com

Hello Cupcake is a quaint and delicate shop tucked into the downtown Tacoma strip across from the History Museum and Union Station. The only thing this bakery makes is cupcakes, and they do so expertly. The buttercream frostings and springy cakes are baked fresh daily, and each dessert has its own signature design on it, the most notable of which is the red velvet cupcake with the chocolate design wedged into its frosting.

The excellent sweetness of the desserts are nearly surpassed by the cuteness of the shop itself: the shop girls wear frilly aprons, the cupcakes sit on elegant little platters, and the furniture is quaint enough to make to feel like you are standing in an over-sized dollhouse. We sat in the window booths, kibitzing over our crumbs and watching as the rain weeped over the pavement and Union Station’s tall dark windows. Inside Hello Cupcake, everything was sweet and cheerful, like a dream between a late night and early morning.

Menu:

Vanilla with vanilla
Vanilla with chocolate
Chocolate with chocolate
Choclate with vanilla
Red Velvet
Carrot
Coconut
Mocha
+ Seasonal varieties (contact store for details)

Prices:

Single cupcake, $2.25
Dozen cupcakes, $25

Hours:

Sunday to Monday, 11am to 6pm
Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm

Across from the History Museum, in downtown Tacoma

Quaint and Tasty, what more could one ask for?!

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

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Homemade Yogurt

Adapted from Michael Reeps’s recipe.  Michael has a lot of helpful pictures, facts and tips about the yogurt making process that I have not included here.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 Half gallon of milk
  • 2-3 Tbs of plain yogurt (as a starter)
  • 1 8-10 Qt stock pot
  • 1 4-5 Qt pot with lid
  • 1 Metal or plastic spoon
  • 1 Dial thermometer with clip
  • 1 Heating pad

Instructions:

  1. Create a Water Jacket. Place larger pot in sink. Place smaller pot inside it. Fill larger pot until water line goes about half way up the side of smaller pot.
  2. Sterilize Equipment. Place your thermometer and spoon in the large pot of water. Place smaller pot upside down over larger pot. Heat water until boiling.
  3. Add Your Milk. Carefully pour your milk into the smaller pot. Clip your thermometer to the rim of the smaller pot.
  4. Heat to 185°F, stirring frequently.
  5. Cool to 110°F. Carefully place pot of milk in cold water bath. Stir occasionally.
  6. Pitch Your Yogurt. Pour your 2-3 Tbs of yogurt into your 110°F milk.
  7. Stir, Cover & Warm. Stir milk well to distribute yogurt you just pitched. Cover with lid. Set heating pad to medium and place on a cutting board. Place pot of pitched milk on top. Cover with a dish towel.
  8. Wait Seven Hours. *Michael recommends waiting 7 hours…I would wait 10 hours as I prefer thicker yogurt.
  9. Remove from heating pad and uncover yogurt. Use a spatula to see that milk has curdled. Stir vigorously to mix curds in with liquid.
  10. Pour into Containers. Chill Overnight.
  11. Be sure to reserve 2-3 Tbs of your yogurt for you next batch!

Related Posts:

Making Yogurt Make Itself

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“Whatever” Wall Clock

The “Whatever” Wall Clock is designed by Our Name is Mud.

[rating:5/5]

There are no “whatever”s in this design.  You can tell just from looking at the picture that this clock is funny.  What you cannot tell is how good it feels when you take it out of the box for the first time and hold it in your hands.  This clock was made with intelligent design and is high in quality.  The wood frame is not shabby, but sheik.  The tile face is heavy (but not too heavy), and the lettering is distinct.

I bought this clock as a surprise gift for Mr. Wetzel who loved it when he saw it in a magazine.  I figured we’d get sick of it quickly and sell it at a garage sale, but every time I see it on the wall, I am very pleased with the purchase.  It is – of course – better as a source of humor than time, but it fulfills its purpose elegantly: to mock the clock and make us smile!  I don’t believe we’ll be getting rid of it for a while.  In the meantime, perhaps we will learn the nuances of the positions of the arms so that we can better ascertain the time on any clock face regardless of the presence or absence of distinct numerology.  Or not.  Whatever.

By ekwetzel
2010-01-28

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Raw Milk in Tacoma

One of Three Jersey Cows at Meadowwood Organics

UPDATE: 4/3/2014

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I can’t believe how often I meet people in real life who tell me they did a search for “raw milk in Tacoma” and stumbled across this post! The raw milk scene has changed since I first wrote this post, and I’d love to share with you my NEW INFORMATION.

First of all, the Tacoma Food Coop is now open for business. They have EXCELLENT dairy options, including several different raw milk options for both cow milk and goat milk. Next time I visit, I will take a ton of pictures and create a new post dedicated to the Tacoma Coop’s current dairy options. Our favorite milk they carry is Blackjack Valley Farm’s raw cow milk, based out of Port Orchard, WA, which goes for approximately $5/half-gallon or $8/gallon.

In addition, Marlene’s has much better dairy options right now for both cow and goat raw milk.

I will try to keep this post up-to-date, but for the latest updates on raw milk sources, be sure to check out the newest comments below! And feel free to ask me any questions you may have!!

Thank you!

ORIGINAL POST:

Raw milk is milk that has been neither pasteurized nor homogenized.  Mr. Wetzel and I want to drink raw milk from a local dairy for several reasons.  We want milk from healthy cows that are well cared for.  We want to support the local economy.  We want fresh, tasty milk.  We want the health benefits of drinking milk in its purest form.

For more technical information on raw milk, or to find leads on a dairy in your area, check out: Realmilk.com .

It is difficult to find a place to buy raw milk.  Most small farmers who offer it don’t advertise very broadly, if at all.  In order to find the farm where we now buy our milk, I asked around a lot until a lady who works at the CSA where we pick up our local veggies gave me the contact information for Meadowwood, LLC. This option works for us because it is only a 20 minute drive from where we meet for church on Sundays.  Here are the options for milk I have found in my explorations for alternative milk options in the Tacoma, WA area:

MEADOWWOOD, LLC
http://meadowwoodorganics.com

20228 SE 400th St.
Enumclaw, WA  98022

Milk is sold in reusable glass jars.  This is where Mr. Wetzel and I are now buying our milk.  They offer a cowshare program which brings down the cost of the milk.

SEA BREEZE FARM
http://www.seabreezefarm.net/

17635 100th Ave SW
Vashon, WA 98070

Sea Breeze Farm has delicious milk.  The biggest problem for Tacoma residents?  They are on Vashon Island, a ferry ride away.  If you live in King county, you can buy from Sea Breeze Farm at a handful of farmers markets in the Seattle area.

Cows from Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island

CHRISTIPAUL FARM, LLC
in Gig Harbor

Contact Chris Schlicht at (253) 884 7840

I have yet to visit this farm, but I earnestly want to.  ChristiPaul Farm’s greatest attraction for me is the fact that whenever you buy milk, you receive milk from only one cow.  Their milks are not mixed.  This is an overwhelmingly idealistic thought for me, taking real milk to another level.

MARLENE’S NATURAL FOODS
http://www.marlenesmarket-deli.com/

2951 S. 38th St.
Tacoma, WA 98409

Marlene’s carries two raw milk options: cow milk from the Dungeness Valley Creamery and goat milk from the St. John Creamery, both in Washington.  While Marlene’s is the closest retail spot, the milk is noticeably less fresh and flavorful than the milks we have purchased directly from the farm.  Given the choice between Marlene’s raw milk and Golden Glen Creamery’s, I opt for the latter.

GOLDEN GLEN CREAMERY
http://www.goldenglencreamery.com/

Available at Top Foods in Tacoma, or through Spud Seattle’s delivery system.

Milk from the Golden Glen Creamery is pasteurized, but it is not homogenized.  They make a variety of dairy products, including cheeses, butter and cream top milk.  We save our glass bottles from Golden Glen because they are easier to pour from than the glass jars our milk comes in from Meadowwood, LLC.

Photo courtesy of Golden Glen’s Facebook Page

Do you have a raw milk testimonial?  What resources for locating raw milk do you have to share?

By ekwetzel
2010-01-26

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Green Cleaning: 10 Simple Habits

Friendships are defined not by what you buy for the other person, but by how you act towards them.  Therefore, it stands to reason that being environmentally friendly has more to do with our attitudes and habits of environmental stewardship than it has to do with the Seventh Generation or Method products we choose to purchase.  Here are 10 simple green cleaning habits that have made a difference in my home life:

Shoes Off – Take your shoes off at the door.  Your shoes track in dust, dirt, puddle drops and a host of potential carpet stains.  If you and your family get in the habit of taking your shoes off at the door, you will reduce the amount of dirtiness that you track into the house, so you will need to clean your floors less often.  In our apartment, we don’t ask our guests to remove their shoes, but we have a basket of fuzzy socks and slippers at the front door, and most guests slip into something more comfortable without even asking.

Use a Broom – Looking for the cheapest way to pick that dust and dirt off the floor?  Sell that Swiffer at the next garage sale, and stick to your handy broom, the original picker-upper.  A dust pan has one-time packaging (if any) and creates no ongoing trash or bills.  Those convenient one-time-use Swiffer cloths can’t claim the same.

Get Essential – Freshen the air each time you go to the bathroom, with this handy trick.  When you get out a new roll of toilet paper, place a few drops of your favorite essential oil in the cardboard tube of the toilet paper.  This will release the scent of the oil each time the paper is used.  You can purchase essential oils online and from many grocery stores or specialty markets.  We purchase our oils from blossomfarm.com. *

Hang it Out to Dry – Overusing your dryer can be one of the biggest culprits of a high energy bill.  Get into the habit of using a clothes drying rack, and in the summer consider hanging all your clean clothes and towels outside to dry.  Here is one of my favorite how-tos from Instructables.com on how to streamline your line-drying experience.

Re-use Bath Towels – Let your bath towels dry between showers and use them several times, instead of washing them after each use.  You’re clean when you get out of the shower, so your towels never get all that dirty; they just need a chance to dry.  If you have limited towel rods, install hooks on the back of your bathroom door.

Use Cloth Napkins – Not only to cloth napkins last longer than paper ones, they look and feel much nicer.  When dinner guests come over for the first time, I sometimes catch them picking up their napkin with a smile that says, “Wow! I thought only fancy people used these.”  Not so, my friend!  Cloth napkins are cheap and easy to find, and there are all kinds of styles available to suit any table arrangement.  We freshen the napkins when guests are over, but when it’s just the two of us, we re-use the same napkins for several days, something I would never do with paper napkins.  Mr. Wetzel and I prefer color plaids that we picked up from World Market, but I have also found many great options on Etsy.  Shop around and see what you can find.

Rags Are Riches – Do you have old T-shirts and socks?  Do you wonder what you’ll do with those tattered sheets and towels?  Turn them into rags, and leave your paper towels in the dust.  I find that cloth absorbs spills better than paper, anyways; and not only does this give you a use for otherwise useless items, you’ll save a bountiful bundle on cleaning supplies.

Scrape Those Plates – Most of the water and energy I have wasted on dish cleaning happens when food has been allowed to crust on the plate or bowl in question.  After dinner, if you don’t have time to run the dishwasher or fill a sink with suds, at least scrape the plates into the trash and wipe the food off your pots and pans.  This will save you a lot of elbow grease in the long run.  In the event that you forget, soak that crummy dish instead of throwing your shoulder out trying to get it spotless.

Grocery Trash Bags – We all have the best of intentions when it comes to remembering our reusable grocery bags, and we all fall short.  Save your paper or plastic bags, and use them at home as trash bags in the bathrooms and bedrooms.  We stock our recycling in a paper bag under the sink, and we use the largest plastic bags for dumping the kitty litter.

Reuse Ziploc Bags – Buy a sharpie.  Keep it in the kitchen.  When you pull out a ziploc bag or other storage bag, write “Cheese” or “Muffins” or whatever you are using it for on the bag.  When you’re done, run some soapy water through it and rinse it, then keep the old bags in a drawer.  Next time you need a bag, reuse the old ones first.  There’s no need to toss most of these handy containers.

What green cleaning habits do you have to share?

By ekwetzel
2010-01-24

* I found this tip in The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier.  Here is a link to Karyn’s blog.

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