Small Space Living

Tip 08 // Tiny Changes for Tiny Improvements

As a believer that nary an action is for naught, my life has been heavily founded on tiny improvement stacked upon tiny improvement. If it were not for my confidence in this belief, I think I would have already crumpled myself in despair, afraid to face the realities of a ruthlessly crushing world. So it follows that my home remodel, too, has progressed in increments.

As a person who becomes easily anxious over minutiae, I cannot possibly expect myself to land on something so big a challenge as remodeling a space very easily. In fact, my only hope for a mental survival lies in tiny gains, microscopic wins, and fractional chemical releases of feel-good juice. It is, for me, the only way I know how.

I am not the type to make grand decisions easily. When I do, it is usually in a rush to alleviate myself of the responsibility, ending in regretful tears as I sit with my deflated feeble shadow of a self.

I have always found the external world an overwhelming array of stimuli, Childhood parties too loud, classmates too talkative, movies too scary, life too busy … everything was just too. Hence my attraction for simple living.

When I speak of making a house a home, I refer to a slower pace of finding what feels right in a space. It’s been a year and a half since buying our home, but not a single corner feels 100% done. I mean, we’ve just only found a couch for the living room, after five years of living together. I haven’t even started looking for a coffee table.

Sometimes, it’ll feel right for a few weeks (months if I’m lucky), then it’s back to the drawing board. Curating takes a lot of time, patience takes a lot of effort. So if you are looking to vamp your own home, perhaps tiny changes are what’s right for now. I’ll take a gander overwhelm isn’t what we need, and we should probably be saving our dollars for emergencies and rainy days. So don’t shy away from the little things.

Here, a few of the things I’ve attended to whilst staying at home:

  • Organize a pantry. Jessie May is my inspiration for organizing the pantry and the fridge. I already had a ton of bulk products stashed in my pantry but a collection of jars did just the trick for making them actually look nice. Plus, we’ve found a way to make ingredients more visible by moving them to a shallow front-facing cabinet that happened to be at eye level. These ingredients used to reside in a long narrow pantry cabinet where they were easily forgotten and neglected.  We’ve since cleaned out said cabinet, and have started with a clean slate. Our new goal after this pantry clean out? Use the current ingredients before returning to the grocery store to buy more. We don’t hoard by normal standards, but this cabinet is already looking too “cluttered” for me.

DSC00586

  • Reupholster a sofa. We found the iconic and modular Ikea Soderhamn sectional on Craigslist and picked it up from a young couple newly moved into a apartment about a month ago. This is the most sustainable couch option we could find – one man’s trash is another woman’s new couch, or however the saying goes. We have just ordered a linen cover in Simply Grey, as well as natural wooden legs, from Bemz in order to make the couch more fitting for our space. We should be switching the covers around the end of April, remaking the living room space with  a lighter, Spring-ish vibe. In the meantime, we have actually fallen in love with the deep blues, and have decided to keep it as a cover for the cozy winter months in the following years to come, as shown in Coco Lapine’s own remodel. Which color do you prefer?

DSC00589

  • Rearrange furniture. We don’t have much furniture to move around. Except perhaps a side table in the living room that doubles as my work-desk, a coffee table, and a footstool. But I’ve been known to move furniture around none-the-less. The dining table has seen three configurations since we’ve moved in. The house has seen donated sectionals propped against windows, hand-me-down patio chairs used in the living room, and a college fold down couch which has doubled into a guest bed. Rearranging furniture is my favorite way to “remodel” a space for free. Erin Boyle of ReadingMyTeaLeaves has a practical approach to making a house a home, which you can find on either her blog or on the Skillshare course she made about ‘Everyday Minimalism’.

  • Find solutions to clutter. I love the saying, out of sight, out of mind. It applies especially well to the home and has become relevant now that homes have turned into schools and work spaces, too. The less clutter lying around, the more mental head space we’ve got to work with. As moms across the nation roll their eyes at my notion of having a clutter-free home, I have a suggestion that just might work for even them, too. I am not advocating the organization of ALL clutter into proper places at once. I’m just saying, keep them out of sight. My solution has always been to throw things that commonly get left out on the living room into a “junk drawer” per say. But instead of drawers, I prefer baskets. My house has Olliella baskets neatly tucked underneath shelves, next to the couch, and in the bathroom cabinets. Inside these baskets, however, is a hidden collection of random items that are not so neatly tucked, but are well-loved and oft grabbed. Which goes to show that solutions are neither perfect nor permanent nor neat. They’re simply solutions.

DSC04064

This post may seem absurdly short, considering the amount of time I’ve had at home. But of this I am immensely proud. I’ll just take it, as always, a little at a time.

Self-Check COVID-19

Hi there! Checking in on the community today. Calling friends and family. Writing a reminder on the calendar to follow up on a few peeps I haven’t seen in some while. I’m bad with this kind of stuff. I don’t do it often, mirroring my wish to be left alone onto others. But it’s been tough. So, how are you doing? (Mirroring, again.)

Have the kids driven you crazy yet?
Is the home stifling your creativity?
Does the rain and gloomy weather wear you down?
Are you and your hubby still friends?
Can you even look each other in the eye?

Questions no one else is asking. 

I get it. I’ve felt similarly, too.

It’s time for a self-check. Despite a world that tells us otherwise, attending to basic needs is part of a productive checklist, albeit an invisible part. Every little thing that makes this grand thing a tiny bit better is worth its weight in gold.

Today, I list a few things that are keeping me afloat (and surprisingly sane).

  • Morning yoga stretches with Adriene.
  • Mindful mugs of coffee with breakfast. You can take a few notes from Gina Stovall here.
  • Avoiding the news of impending doom.
  • Farmer’s Market finds, and the resulting treats.
  • Frequently picking up books, putting them down, picking up others. Currently.
  • Revamping the home, de-cluttering, re-organizing, and when all else fails, playing pretend.
  • Organizing plans, scheduling posts and jotting schemes, scheduling self-checks, etc.
  • This blog and the words I’ve written. Thank you for being here.

How about thyself? What have you found helpful? Is there anything I can do for you? What would be comforting to see? What would you like to learn? How can we lighten the morbidity? Or at least forget, for a few…

Lastly, a bit of transparency. 

This blog has become not only a haven for my ideas and thoughts, but also, a small business that profits mostly from its partnerships with certain brands. A curation of goods and services are shared in this space, sometimes in the form of affiliate marketing, interviews, features, or reviews. Regardless, all brands that I work with are well-aligned with who I am as a person. I am proud to be in partnership with these brands, and I am proud of the space we have created, hand-in-hand.

As the state of global affairs progress, I am sad to say that many of these small businesses, myself included but more importantly, those of my brand partners, have suffered tremendous loss. In an effort to support as many of my friends as possible, I will be adding a number of banners and reviews here in the coming days. Some may result in a small commission, shall you choose to support these companies or make a purchase.

For those who are interested in helping out, the best ways to support involve spreading the word. Share pages that you find helpful with your friends and family. Share courses that you think can improve the world with people in need. Share the names of brands doing good to create global change. With each other’s support, we can survive this. Or at least, stay afloat.

There are bloggers who have been recently asking for donations to keep their sites going during this slump. Instead, I’d rather request for Hello’s in the comments below. Make suggestions. Ask questions. Get to know one another. Foster a community. That is enough for me.

Once again, it means so much to me to have you here.


Dental Series: How to Stay Safe At Dental Appointments During COVID-19 Pandemic

Although I am a dental professional by trade, I hardly find the urge to wax poetic about teeth on this, here, blog. I would much rather write incessantly about improving the world via consumer choices, lifestyle habit-shifts, creating personal awareness and harboring mental space. However, once in a while, I do feel compelled to share a bit of news in the dental sphere, and the safety of patients and dental professionals vis-a-vis the COVID-19 epidemic seems a worthy pause from my usual ramblings regarding simple living.

As a dentist working the front-lines and seeing emergency cases, it has come to my attention that a few pointers and tips could be of use to the general public regarding dental visits at this time.

Government Recommendations

It has been highly recommended by the United States government that dental professionals halt the treatment of their patients with the exception of emergency treatment. Soon thereafter, as a result of the coaxings of dental professionals across the nation, it was clarified that the referred emergencies were to be “life-threatening“. The American Dental Association (ADA) posted this clarification of terms, separating what is considered life-threatening emergency from urgent dental care. Dental non-emergency procedures are to be put on hold until further notice.

Risk of Exposure

The dental profession has the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to our close proximity with patients and our dealings with the respiratory tract. The coronavirus is an airborne disease and the human airway is essentially our work office. This popularly circulating image portrays just how risky the COVID-19 epidemic is for dental professionals.

The Workers Who Face the Greatest Coronavirus Risk - The New York ...

Therefore, it behooves the general public to limit dental visits to only the direst of emergencies, firstly, to preserve personal protective equipment in order to supply hospitals first, and secondly, to reduce potential exposure to staff and patients alike.

Safety Tips for Patients

For the general public, I am sure there are a lot of questions regarding going to the dentist. During this time, I know that safety is your main concern. Therefore, here are a few tips for you and your loved ones.

  • Do not go to the dental office unless you have a life-threatening emergency or an urgent need (see ADA recommendations above). Initially, I was on board with the recommendation of life-threatening emergencies only, but with predicted return-to-normal dates as late as June (for example, in Oregon), I cannot say with confidence that urgent dental cases will not turn into a life-threatening emergency in the near future. With that in mind, I would prefer you see a dental professional for urgent dental needs (such as severe pain due to a rotting tooth) and let them determine whether it is best to nip the infection in the bud early on or whether it is worth risking a life-threatening emergency in the near future. Together, you guys can make a decision that is best for you.
  • Do not go to the dental office if you have had any of the following within the last two weeks: Recent travel, a cough, a cold, or a fever. Please. For the safety of those in your community, do NOT go to the dental office if you can manage. Most likely, they will turn you away if any of these apply to you.
  • Practice social distancing by staying six feet away from the front-desk ladies when checking in and sitting in a chair at least six feet away from another patient in the waiting room. If possible, opt to wait in your car until they are ready for you. Let the front desk know you would prefer to be alerted via text or phone call when your appointment is ready.
  • Limit the number of family members who go into the dental office. Like I said before, we want to flatten the curve. Do not take the entire family with you if only one member has to be seen. In most cases, a maximum of two people should suffice (if a child needs to be accompanied by an adult). The less people we expose, the better. Your family is safer at home.
  • Carry around a hand sanitizer with you. Sanitize your hands frequently and after any time you touch something (such as a doorknob to open a door).
  • Ask to rinse with an anti-microbial rinse such as Listerine before and after your appointment.
  • Ask the dentist if the infection can be managed with medicationOpt for the most minimally invasive treatment that will control or fix the problem for a decent amount of time. With stay-at-home mandates extended all the way to June in some states, the short-term solution or continual prescription of antibiotics may not be the best solution. I urge you to have a lengthy discussion with your dentist about the pros and cons of waiting on treatment.
  • Fill out new patient forms online. With most dental offices closed, you may need to go to a new office to seek emergency care. Fill out forms online to decrease the number of paperwork and pens you have to touch while in the office. Also, this will reduce your time in the waiting room significantly.
  • Do not read complimentary magazines or touch TV remotes. If there are magazines in the waiting room, do not read them. If there are TVs in the treatment rooms, ask the assistant to turn it on and turn to a channel that you prefer. Try to touch as few things as possible during your visit.

Safety Tips for Dentists

If you are a practicing dentist, it is highly likely that you do not need additional safety tips from me. I am sure you are aware of the situation and are practicing accordingly. However, for the general public, it may be helpful to see how dentists can practice in a safer environment. This list does not include the usual safety measures we take, such as sterilizing instruments and disposing of single-use items in the practice. These tips are specifically safety measures meant to combat COVID-19, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • Have patients fill out and sign a questionnaire confirming that they have not traveled recently or have had any flu symptoms in the past two weeks. Additionally, confirm that the patient has not had contact with any COVID+ persons. Add a statement saying you have a right to dismiss any patient that show symptoms of a flu.
  • Practice social distancing in the lobby.
  • Remove magazines and kid’s toys from the waiting area.
  • Ask patients to fill out forms online.
  • Have patient sanitize their hands prior to entering the back office.
  • Once the patient enters a treatment room, take their temperature first. Any patients with a fever must be dismissed.
  • If the patient has no fever, have them rinse for 30 seconds with an anti-microbial rinse.
  • All doctors, assistants, and treatment counselors should wear personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, protective eye wear, face shields, and full-length disposable gowns.
  • All health professionals must wash their hands before and after seeing a patient.
  • Opt for minimally invasive treatment that will give good results for a moderate period of time.
  • Only focus on the chief complaint.
  • Reduce the number of visits each patient must have. Opt for same-day treatment and treat multiple areas of concern instead of splitting the visits between multiple days. For example, avoid having separate appointments for the right side and one for the left side. Do both sides on the same day as the exam. The less exposure both patient and staff have, the safer everyone will be.
  • Use high-vaccuum suctions during all treatment, and absolutely no ultra-sonic scalers!
  • Have HEPA-filters in every room and in the waiting room.
  • Check the temperatures of every staff member when clocking in for the day or returning from lunch.
  • And of course, shower directly upon returning home and do not come in contact with many other friends and family members during this time, just in case you are a carrier of the virus.

The safety of the dental team is of utmost concern. A staff member testing positive for COVID would indicate the complete closure of the entire dental practice for two weeks. With most offices closed, those who are staying open must maintain their health. I work in Santa Ana and treat emergencies coming as far as Riverside. Very few offices have chosen to remain open at this time.

How Will This Affect Dentistry Moving Forward?

It’s still too early to tell but I would gander that this pandemic has, and will continue to, raise awareness as to the importance of protective measures for dentists against air-borne illnesses. Just as the AIDS movement in the early 1980s led to the use of gloves during dental treatment (I know of dentists who were of the glove-less generation…), this too would pave the future for N-95 masks and fever/flu triaging as the new norm. Tele-dentistry is also creeping into a few younger practices, and may become a new way to do examinations.

When the COVID restrictions are lifted, it is hard to say whether people will flock to the dental offices or if people will avoid the most easily-exposed professional work space.

One thing is for certain. The longer we avoid dental care, the more dental emergencies grow in number. During the first week of closure, we had one doctor working at our office to treat emergencies. In the following week, they added me as a second. The third week, there are three.

Dentistry relies heavily on preventative work. As we ignore treating dental caries that are asymptomatic, we start to see more and more cases that lead to facial swelling and severe pain. Options are slim these days, and I have never extracted more teeth in my life. Incision and drain is a continuous occurrence. We cannot continue in this way. A return to the old days of only seeing the dentist when pain arises will lead to many people losing their teeth. I think it would be catastrophic. I predict that emergency cases will exponentially rise the more we prolong regular dental care.

But for now, unfortunately, we must pick the lesser of two evils. Safety and flattening the curve is the main priority.

Following these tips can help. Make sure to call your dental provider prior to arriving at the office.

Stay safe.

XOXO

 

 

Property Ownership: Refinancing a Home

With the extra time on our hands these past few weeks, we’ve had time to mull through our current finances and see where improvements can be made. We are generally good at frugality (see how you can stretch frugal muscles here), we have mastered a budget (and I’ve written a free course walking you through the process here), and have been very good at paying back out student loans so far. However, this does not mean there aren’t places where we can improve.

Since Mike has been without a job since February and since the dental offices have been open only a few days a week, our income has undoubtedly diminished over the last few months. With the lowering interest rates of mortgages, we decided, perhaps now is the time to refinance our home.

Refinance Can Save $$$

We purchased our home in 2018 and was given a locked rate of 4.875% at the time. After shopping around, we found rates offered to us today to be as low as 3.625%. I was alerted by the drop in interest rates by a colleague who was refinancing her home, and another who was in the process of closing on his first house purchase. The latter also informed me that he knew of someone who has refinanced their home twice in the last two years.

At first I was skeptical as to the efficiency of refinancing a home. Of course, there are closing costs to consider, and is that offset by the monthly savings due to a lower interest rate? After running some numbers, we have decided that yes, it is worthwhile.

We were able to rope in our closing costs into the total cost of the loan which made the appraisal fee our only up-front cost. After calculating using the new loan amount (with the closing cost added in), we found our monthly payment reduced by $500+ a month. Multiplied over the course of 30 years, this saves us $180,000, assuming we do not pay off the home early.

How to Refinance

The process was fairly easy, since we were sticking with the same mortgage company and they already had our mortgage details. We simply filled out an application form and Docu-signed necessary documents. You may need to provide additional documents such as proof of income in the form of paystubs, which you’re lender will specifically ask for.

Of course, you can always shop around with other lenders. I would recommend asking for referrals from friends and family members until you find one you like. The closing costs can always be negotiated, and you can shop for some services on your own which may end up being cheaper than going with the lender’s recommended vendors. Do not be afraid to ask which services you are allowed to shop for. We did shop around and entertained two other lenders, however, all three options gave us a similar interest rate. Since we already like our current lender and we try to do all things in simple ways (simple does matter), we decided to stick with our current one.

Potential Problems

Of course, with the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19, you may run into a myriad of potential problems such as, but not limited to:

  • Delayed processing due to an influx of multiple home-owners also trying to reduce their monthly payments.
  • Volatile interest rates which are daily changing due to multiple people not being able to make their home payments, people losing their homes, and alternatively, people trying to buy homes at the low rate.
  • Delayed services such as appraisals due to social distancing and stay-at-home protocols currently in place.
  • Reduced income, depending on whether work-at-home is an available option for you, which can then affect your ability to refinance at all. If possible, keep your job so that you can prove that you have a solid income that can support the refinance.
  • Increasing debts as the jobless try to stay afloat. My advice is to try to keep debts at a minimum so that credit scores are not greatly affected by this recession to come.

Despite these potential problems, I would still prompt you to pursue refinancing your home. There will likely be a recession post COVID-19 and house prices may not stay at their current rates. In fact, we may see something similar to 2008 when house prices drop drastically and when that’s the case, refinance would be a difficult thing to swing. I would refinance while the value of your home can still be appraised highly, and while you can get in on these low interest rates.

Play Pretend: Hunkering Down

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Hunkering down in our homes isn’t really much of a game of pretend. Hopefully, you’ve settled quite nicely into a rhythm that works for you. Now that you have a routine for the kids, and a feel for separating work from home (if you are so lucky), I guess it’s time to accept the idea that staying at home will become the new norm. Who knows what will happen when this is all over? Perhaps companies will find work-from-home more efficient or productive. Perhaps mothers will decide that home-schooling has its benefits over private school. Perhaps those who are jobless create a niche for themselves as a small business owner. Perhaps we may remain, forevermore, at home.

I’ve been spending my own time reflecting on the functions of my home. I have been put-putting around the house reclaiming our space and making it the zen oasis that my lifestyle needs. A home is more than the house itself. It is a recluse from the outside world, a reflection of our personal self, and as such, should not be neglected or taken lightly. Therefore, my days have been spent remodeling our sustainable couch (more on that in a future post), and clearing the air of clutter and negative energy.

With the realization that parks and beaches may not be accessible to us in the near future, possibly even as far as the summer months, I have also decided to finally focus on our small city balcony. I will be remodeling that into a relaxing outdoor space that we can escape to, when sunlight basking and fresh air are what we need. I am a person who needs to have natural sunlight, be surrounded by nature, and breath in fresh air. Last summer, we religiously parked our bottoms on beach sand every single weekend, and it pains me to hear that beaches and parks are closing in response to COVID-19. In response to the response, I will be creating our own outdoors in this tiny home. I will also share that remodel in the coming months as we document it.

For now though, I traverse the dangerous road of having too much time on my hands. Making our house a home, a thing I haven’t had much time for since we made our measly renovations when we first bought the place, could lead to spending money in excess. I wrote previously about how property ownership does not have to be a dream home at the get-go and I am one who likes to take all things slow, including making purchasing decisions for creating a space dedicated to hunkering down.

I don’t have any rules persay as to the number of hours or days that I have to mull over a potential purchase, but I do prefer to wait. I like to absorb all the feelings, consider all the motives, peruse the alternatives occasionally if space in my heart allows. Sometimes, you just love a thing too much, you know? So in these cases where I feel a burning desire to tackle a project of reformation, I try to simply list my wants and play pretend. Let the fire simmer down, if you will, until my brain has had time to catch up with my heart.

Here, a few finds made to create a space for comfort. These are things that I think would help turn a home into an oasis worth settling in, from companies that I would love to support and see survive past this small-business drought. And with these items, a small anecdote on how I envision them in my own life.

+ A pair of Kygries slippers or these lighter linen alternatives from Fog Linen for walking around cool, clean cement floors while providing a cushion for the feet.

+ Kinto day-off tumbler or Kinto tea pots in the name of staying healthy and hydrated.

+ Fog Linen socks for lounging around on the couch or in bed, whether your space be in home-mode or work-mode.

+ Vitruvi Humidifier for refreshing the air cooped up at home. 

+ The Beauty of Everyday Things for reminding us that maybe we already have all that we need.

+ Citizenry Linen Throw Pillow Covers + Parachute Throw Pillows for sinking deeper into that couch or bed or floor, what-have-ye.

+ Notary Ceramics tray, reminiscent of TV dinners during childhood, to hold teapots and mugs of coffee on preferred soft surfaces. 

+ Cleaning supplies, for a bout of spring cleaning.

 

Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I am not the type of person who cleverly come up with recipes on my own. Perusing recipe books, pastry displays at coffee shops, and farmer’s market stalls are really how I get most of my inspiration. I will usually come across a base recipe that sounds good, but will have qualms over a few of the ingredients or will find substitutions necessary. When it comes to baked goods, I will usually swap flours, fruits, and toppings. When it comes to meals, I will typically throw in what I already have in the pantry to reduce waste, and add complexities such as spices, peppers, hints of lime or lemon, even brown sugar.

This lemon poppyseed loaf, however, comes as close to the original recipe published in Tartine Book No. 3. Of course, it was my husband who made it and not I. He came across it last week after eating dinner, sitting at the table perusing through the pages to look for bread recipes. Ironically, this cake was what caught his eye.

Instead of Kamut flour and pastry flour, we used einkorn flour, which I’ve had as a staple in the pantry since my fellow baker reported it as being his favorite bread flour, and all-purpose flour respectively. We did not use Kefir butter like the recipe asked, sticking with the more readily available unsalted butter during these barren times. I couldn’t justify splurging on such a frivolous ingredient as Kefir butter after the financial repercussions of COVID 19 (see how to battle those here in my recent post). This lemon poppyseed loaf (and all other home-baked goods thus far) has been the silver lining to this stay-at-home movement thus far.

DSC00490

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup Einkorn flour
  • 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Almond Meal
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold but pliable
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 2 T poppy seeds
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 2 lemons

DSC00485

The Process:

  1. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients listed from sugar to salt.
  2. Add the butter and, slowly increasing the speed to medium, mix until just combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before moving on to the next.
  4. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape along the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is included in the mix.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the poppy seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  6. Once combined, transfer the mixture into a tightly sealed container and refrigerate overnight.
  7. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 F and take out the container to allow the batter to come to room temperature.
  8. Spray coconut cooking spray into an 8.5 x 4 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Transfer the batter into the pan.
  9. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.
  10. Check for done-ness with a toothpick (hopefully if comes out clean!), adding a few additional minutes if the loaf isn’t ready.
  11. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. If you invert it too soon, the loaf may not come out nicely. Use a knife and run it along the sides of the loaf. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

DSC00476

We prefer to eat our slices with matcha lattes in the morning. We gave half of the loaf to our parents and kept half for ourselves. We love how the exterior of the loaf is a dark brown sugary glaze. This is my husband’s “favorite thing he ever baked”. For me, it’s a bit sweet, but I bet that increasing the almond meal and substituting a darker flour while reducing the amount of granulated sugar to less than a cup would really make this loaf sing.

Of course, I could never just leave the recipe be.

DSC00491

For those looking to discover the baker within, I highly recommend Tartine by Elizabeth Pruitt and Kinfolk Table. For a free way to learn how to cook, Skillshare has a few classes which you can access for two months FREE here

The plates are by East Fork Pottery, my favorite place to find tablewares from the heart.

Financial Advice to Battle COVID-19

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I think it has become apparent to all that the up-hill battle which we face against COVID-19 has only just begun and will not go away any time soon. When whispers of a lock-down first spread two weeks ago, I truly believed that it was a wave we were all going to ride out, and normalcy will once again return within a week, maybe two. But the summit still has not been reached, so I believe it is time to talk about planning for the long haul.

I originally published my Mastering a Budget course here for free when I first heard of people halting work in order to protect the majority. That course will continue to remain free, but apart from budgeting, there are a few other financial topics to be discussed. Advice, if you will.

As always, take it or leave it as it pertains to your particular situation. I do not claim to be a financial guru, neither do I believe in one solid path. However, for the general public, these are my thoughts.

Financial Advice to Battle COVID-19

  • Start saving, if possible. For some of you, this is beyond what’s possible. Many people have filed for unemployment insurance with the EDD(which I highly recommend if you have suddenly found yourself temporarily or permanently laid-off), and saving is a ship that has long sailed. I understand that. For those who are still fortunate enough to work, I would highly recommend saving every penny possible. Now is not the time to go on an online shopping spree. These are volatile days, and no one really knows what tomorrow holds. For those who are without work, you still can save the dollars you have. Just because you have more time doesn’t mean you should be scouring the internet for sales (there will be many, I would presume). And this advice doesn’t apply to saving just dollars. Start saving pantry items, start saving worn-out clothes, learn to mend your way through. My favorite blogger who writes about working with what you have is Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. Work with what you have, and save what you can. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Reduce spending. I am a strong advocate for frugality, and if there was ever a time to practice frugal muscles, well, now would be it. I have published a plethora of frugal challenges, as well as an Ever-growing List of Things I Have Given Up In the Name of Frugality (which happens to be my most viewed post!). Reducing spending is easy, once you get used to it. Like I said above, this is not the time to spend your days-off browsing the internet for sales and new clothes. This isn’t even the time to order delivery for fancy dinners at night. I know you already aren’t paying your cleaners (in the name of social distancing), and hopefully you stopped paying for gas and transportation now that you’re working from home. The stay-at-home mandate actually makes it easier to reduce spending if you are wise about it. Cut where you can, and put what you would normally spend into your savings.
  • Stop extra debt payments. This advice is what kills me most to say, but it is actually the smart thing to do if you are without work or find yourself with less income. If you continue to work like normal and earn the same amount as before the pandemic, maybe you can maintain extra debt payments. However, be sure you have enough in your savings first! You never know if tomorrow you will be so lucky to have the same job as today. Perhaps you will be without work, regretting spending what you thought was “extra money” on paying down debt that didn’t need to be paid. As many of you may well know, I derived my nickname “TheDebtist” after graduating with an astounding student debt – $575,000 to be exact – and deciding to pay it down aggressively. I am here to say that even I have decided to pause extra debt payments during this time of uncertainty. Currently, the President has mandated that federal student loans be waived their interest fee for the next sixty days after March 13, 2020. Therefore, deciding not to pay down the debt right now is a good move because I store that money as liquid cash, available for emergencies. We do not lose anything because the interest is waived and therefore the loan amount isn’t growing. When this is all over and the interest resumes, I can pay that lump sum that I haven’t been paying now towards loans and not prolong my trajectory towards freedom. This isn’t to say, “Don’t pay off debt and spend the money instead”, by the way. Overall, to me, stopping extra debt payments make sense. Now, this is different from not paying down credit cards in full every month. Barring severe emergencies or a shortage of funds, I think that credit card payments are not considered “extra” payments. They are actually the reflection of what you already spent. If cash is tight or if there is no interest rate, then I get it. But if possible, do pay off credit cards in full, otherwise you will simply be accruing debt and make life harder for your future self. Other areas where you may be aggressively paying down debt include but are not limited to: home mortgages, auto payments, and medical debt.
  • Use time wisely. I know, I know. I have been saying this past week that this time off is a much needed gift, something the world has been craving for ages. This is the time we need to take for ourselves. However, this does NOT mean “use this time to turn into a vegetable as you watch Netflix on the couch, scroll through Reddit or Instagram, constantly chat with your friends on Zoom or Skype, create dance videos on TikTok (twenty times over until it’s just right)”, et cetera. This time is meant to be used wisely. A time for self-discovery and introspection no doubt, but also, a time for growth. I shared an ability for my readers to access Skillshare for FREE for two months so that they could learn something new. Some of the skills on there can create a new job for you. If you are recently jobless, it would behoove you to discover what skills you have to share with the world. Create a business walking dogs on Rover. Or make money blogging (here’s how). Read plenty of books, some self-help to inspire you to create a new job position, some fiction to inspire creativity itself. Organize your home, thus organizing your mind, priorities, and the self. Take care of the paperwork you’ve been neglecting, or set yourself up for financial or professional success. Update your resume, or look into refinancing your home to get a lower rate. The world is yours for the taking.


  • Don’t touch long term investments. I cannot say this enough. Do NOT, DO NOT touch long term investments such as a 401K. Try all avenues before even thinking about doing this. The effects of touching these long-term investments are grand. It would make imaginary losses a reality. It would hurt any financial goals you’ve worked on building. Please, if you can, do not pull money out of these investments at all!
  • Create a budget. Off course, with the extra time on your hands, you can FINALLY sort out your budget. If you don’t have one, then I suggest making one ASAP. I personally use YNAB to budget (get your first 34 days FREE here), but if you take my free Mastering a Budget course, you will learn multiple other ways to budget without having to sign up for an online budgeting tool.
  • Stay Calm. Lastly, stay calm. Panic will lead you to rash decisions and regrets. Do not sell all your stocks at once. Do not hoard stuff because you are afraid. Do not sell the house or the car. Just. Stay. Calm. Think about the life you want after all of this is over. Then work backwards and think of how to make that happen using what you have today. Get help, if you must. I am here, for anyone who wants to talk.

Don’t know what in the world to do with student loans? Get help! Student Loan Planner is my number one recommendation for student loan help. Although this is an affiliate link, I am honest when I say that I would not recommend ANYTHING that I do not personally love or have not tried. Travis Hornsby saved us thousands of dollars! Scheduling a call today would be a very smart move. The financial frontier is daily changing, and you definitely need someone with the most up-to-date expertise to navigate through these waters.

Rye Strawberry Thyme Scones

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Strawberry season almost slipped past without my notice. Gone were the invitations to pick fruit from the farm, gone are the baskets of luscious berries that caught my eye at stands, gone are many more familiar indicators of seasons passing by. It wasn’t until a farmer’s market opened up in front of our door that I noticed and realized that strawberry season is here.

Rye and strawberry is one of my favorite flour and fruit combinations. I’m mighty peculiar in that way. I’ve got buckwheat and blueberry pancakes and einkorn and tomato pizzas, things that go like jam and jelly in my book, and so too with rye and strawb.

DSC00411

These scones are perfect with a light cup of coffee in the mornings. My dad had a habit of dunking bread-like brekkies directly into his mug, but I prefer to bite into this pastry creating a crumby mess on the plate. I personally do not like very sweet pastries – so we added thyme into these scones which make them more savory than normal. Because of that, I can easily eat two to three without walking away feeling heavy. It takes minutes to prepare and these were fresh out of the oven before our room mate even walked upstairs. If sleeping in is more your thing, make then mid-afternoon for a little work-at-home tea break.

This recipe was modified from Kinfolk Table, by far my favorite published recipe book for it’s unassuming simplicity and charm. If you can, support local and small bookstores such as Lido Village Bookstore, one of my SoCal faves.

DSC00378

DSC00379

DSC00391

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dark rye flour, freshly milled if possible
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1 cup dices strawberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus additional for brushing
  • 1/s tsp vanilla extract
  • Fresh or dried thyme

DSC00413

The Process:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and with thumb and pointy finger, flatten the butter, pinching floury bits into it. Alternatively, you can use two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles small peas.
  3. Stir in the strawberries.
  4.  Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl. Add heavy cream and vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk again until well mixed.
  5. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing until just combined. I l liken the end result to one big, shaggy mess.
  6. Lightly dust a clean work surface (I use a marble pastry slab, but a wooden surface works well too), with flour. Turn the dough onto this surface and knead until just combined.
  7. Shape the dough into a square (6 inch x 6 inch). Cut the dough into four 3-inch squares, then cut the smaller squares into triangles.
  8. Arrange the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with heavy cream using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the tops generously with sugar and thyme. Depending on the flavor profile you are aiming for, you can favor one topping over another.
  9. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Transfer the scones to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

DSC00424

These babies reheat real nicely in a toaster oven. I would store them in an air tight container on the counter for a few days. I reckon they won’t last long.

For those wondering, these cake plates are from East Fork Pottery in Eggshell.

DSC00425