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

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Umbra Banana Split Banana Holder

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


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

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Hello Cupcake

Hello Cupcake is a bakery that specializes in gourmet cupcakes.


Red Velvet cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting

1740 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA
(253) 383-7772‎

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.


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


Single cupcake, $2.25
Dozen cupcakes, $25


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

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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


  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.


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

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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!


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:


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.


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

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.


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.


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

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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

* 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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Thinking Inside the Box

December is the coldest month of the year in Tacoma, and we wanted to heat our apartment as efficiently as possible.

Since we are renting, there are many things Mr. Wetzel and I cannot change about our apartment that would shave money off our heating bill, such as installing double pane windows or replacing our inefficient baseboard heaters.  We put some simple ideas into practice this fall; and, when we received our heating bill for the month of December, we saw that the ideas paid off.

Chart of Electricty Usage, Dec 2008 through Dec 2009

The chart above is from our power bill. As you can see, we used 590 fewer kilowatt hours, cutting our bill down 67%.

We’ve gone through the usual rigmarole every year: turning lights off in unattended rooms, installing energy efficient bulbs, turning the heat off at night or when we’re away, and wearing sweaters and slippers.  In addition, we were thinking “inside the box,” being creative about the space that we are in and channeling its strengths to work for us.

The layout of our apartment is very open concept, with the kitchen, eating area, living room and entry all part of one big room.  In the summer, this area is airy and cool.  In the winter, it is a very hard room to heat because it is so large.

When Washington gets rainy and dark outside, Mr. Wetzel and I spend a lot of time indoors, watching TV, playing videogames, surfing the net or reading.  Last December, our television was set up in the open living area, but this year we moved the TV into the smallest room of the apartment, one that we used as an office.  This TV room is at the end of a hall, along with our bedroom.  We purchased a two-panel curtain set ($30 from World Market) and extension rod (a few bucks from Home Depot), and positioned the curtains in the hallway, just outside the entry to the two rooms.  This helped to insulate the heat in the rooms, while allowing our cat to roam freely throughout the apartment.

On warmer days, we wear sweaters and let the heat of the electronics warm the rooms.  Yes: we play videogames and watch TV to stay warm.  It makes me chuckle!  On cooler days, we turn the heat on for a while; once the rooms are warm, we shut it off.  The curtains help to seal in the warm air, and since the space is small, the warmth doesn’t have many places to escape to.  On the coldest days, we leave the heat on, and the rooms stay noticeably warmer than the rest of the apartment.

Without the television in the main living area, we now have the sofa and chairs in our main room set up to face each other.  When we have guests over, the TV no longer gets haphazardly turned on.  Instead, we sit around chatting and getting to know our friends and neighbors more intimately.  That too brings more warmth into our lives…590 kilowatts of “friendship” warmth a month, to be exact.

Mr. Wetzel and I support green power through the City of Tacoma.  Here is more information about Tacoma Public Utilities Evergreen Options .  For homeowners and renters, you can support green energy at the Frog, Salmon, Otter or Orca levels (more info here).

By ekwetzel

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Making Yogurt Make Itself

The first time I experienced homemade yogurt was in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. It was around 1993, I was in middle school and my parents were in missionaries in the former Soviet Block country. We were in the Kotsakovi home, and my future sister-in-law’s mother pulled a bowl off the top of the fridge, removed the towel that covered it, and poured the lumpy white liquid into jars that went into the fridge. I remember eating long meals at the Kotsakovi house, filled with colorful conversation and dishes. Yogurt came out towards the end of the meal; we would add jam made from wild strawberries or blueberries to it as a dessert. The yogurt was tangy, fresh, and alive.

In America, a typical cup of yogurt pales in comparison. In our home, we have typically eaten Trader Joe’s Greek style yogurt or FAGE yogurt, and we use this thick yogurt also as sour cream. This week, I tried my hand as making my own yogurt at home, using FAGE as a starter & this recipe, courtesy of Michael Reeps. While Michael recommends waiting 7 hours, I waited 8.5 hours and the yogurt was still not thick enough for me. Next time I am going to try waiting 10 hours.

I tried blending a banana/vanilla yogurt for Mr. Wetzel, similar to the Banilla yogurt at Trader Joes that he likes. I blended a pint of yogurt with 2 bananas and a vanilla bean in my blender, after the yogurt had chilled in the fridge overnight. The yogurt came out watery and the flavor proportions were off; next time I will try to blend it before chilling in the fridge, and I will use 1 banana and vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean.

Recipe for Homemade Yogurt

By ekwetzel

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