Caraway Home’s Timeless and Minimalist Cookware Set

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Our home has always had its center around the kitchen. Cooking over a stove, arguing over a new recipe, or silently eating our dinners is how we spend time with each other. Every event we’ve hosted for friends and fam had people gathered around food and drink. Whether it’s croissants and coffee or dinner and wine, there was always Mike and I behind the stove whipping something up and listening to our guests carry on conversations. I prefer to watch them devour our hard work rather than partake with my personal anecdotes and opinions. My place isn’t at the center of the party, but rather, behind a pot, stirring something or other with a wooden spoon. A linen apron serves as my party outfit, and I am quite satisfied with that kind of life.

After five years of hosting every Friendsgiving event and celebratory milestone, it became decidedly noticeable that the pots and pans gifted to us on our wedding day were well-worn. All were Teflon pans advertised as non-stick but alas, everything eventually stuck thanks to my penchant for high heat. Their self-sacrifice did not go unnoticed.

The fry pan was the first to go. It didn’t even make it to year five. But it did do it’s time, patiently frying eggs and bacon, English muffins and grilled cheese. The wok was next, after a stir-fry gone wrong. Well, the stir-fry was fine but I let water simmer to remove the sticky sauce from the pan and one should never walk away from a stove with the flame on. Of course I forgot until the smell of smoke reached my nose while I sat on the bed, lost in a book.

Surprisingly, what still works is a Dutch oven bestowed unto me by my mum. It has been around for twenty-plus years, begging the question of degrading product quality control. We have a few other pans that, frankly, made it strictly because of their non-usefulness. A flat griddle I thought would make pancakes efficiently turned out to have just that singular purpose. A curved griddle that I thought would be useful for meats, burgers, and paninis was deemed non-essential. These things are biding their time. But the workhorses are long past their hay-day and needed some serious replacement.

As I belabored over options, I gathered a few requirements for our next cookware set. Over the past few years, I’ve developed an almost snobbish resistance to my Teflon pans. The reasoning behind it is hazy. Something about PTFE being carcinogenic and generally bad for our health. In fact, I’ve added a few cast irons to our kitchen arsenal (mostly for bread baking) since our wedding day in order to transition away from Teflon. However, the cast irons were too heavy for my taste. Close calls with sprained wrists made this particular dentist stray away from heavy options, despite being good alternatives.

I also required that the new cookware be minimalist. Classic pots and pans that would last the test of time are what I was after. I needed only a few essentials (forget the kitschy griddles and one-offs), and I needed them to store well. By now, we’ve honed in on how to manage a tiny space. We’ve also learned multiple techniques for preparing food, so that we didn’t require silly items such as ice-cream scoopers and garlic presses. No, the set I wanted would just be the mainstays of home cooking. After searching high and low, I finally found what I was hoping for in Caraway Home.

The Caraway Home Cookware Set is what we decided to embrace. It is free of PTFEs (like Teflon), PFOAs, and other PFAs such as lead, cadmium or other toxic metals. They also avoid hard anodization processes in its production. So what is it made of? It has an aluminum core coated in a non-stick ceramic with stainless steel handles and hardware. Meaning, it’s not as heavy as a rock. Yes the steel handles get hot, but I happily trade wearing oven mitts to lift the lids in exchange for ingesting carcinogenic metals any day.

In terms of quality, it stands the test. The pots and pans can withstand up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven. It is stovetop agnostic, compatible with induction, gas, and electric stoves. The bottom of the pans are metal, making me wish for one of those posh electric stoves popular in Scandinavian kitchen these days. Since we have metal grates, I have to make a mental note not to drag them across the surface. The pans heat up efficiently enough on low to medium heat. This time, I’ve made a promise to avoid high heat as they shorten the life span of any pan.

If you were wondering whether non-stick ceramic works well, I can attest that it does. Minimal oil and butter is needed, and the foods simply slide around the pans and pots! We’ve made a switch to using only wooden spoons and silicone tongs and spatulas. I have a fear that metal cooking utensils would scar the beautiful cooking surfaces. Plus they are so easy to clean. Mike and I are babying them, as we wash them with a soft sponge (no rough sponges or metal scrubbers please!) and dry them right away.

But the selling point that really got to my minimalist heart was the storage system that the cookware set comes with. It was the deciding factor, and honestly, the thing that most millennials would value the most. As more of us turn to tiny homes, apartment living, and nomadic van lives, the adage “less is more” has never been more appropriate. The entire cookware set stores well in half of a single shelf of my pantry. Magnetic pot holders stack them vertically as a beautiful canvas hangs on the pantry door storing the three lids. The storage system mimics Marie Kondo’s vertical folding of clothes, giving you easy access to whichever pot or pan you need. Visually, you can see all four at once. Gone are the days of shuffling through a stack of pans to get to the wok you need.

If you’re less of a home cook, but are planning to get married, move homes, upgrade your kitchen, or go off to college, I still think Caraway Home’s cookware set is worth taking a gander. In case you need very little, they have a minis duo set that 18-year-old-me could’ve made do with cooking for one. At the current discount price of buying a set, the cost of upgrading your cookware is quite affordable. And we really do love them.

Now I have my heart set on replacing our bakeware. If I said we cooked a lot, you should see my baking trays. They used to be silver, but now, coated in butter and grease and left in ovens a smidge too long, they are unrecognizably black. Copper-colored rust coat the edges of the rims. I just can’t bear to bake another batch of croissants on them. Caraway’s bakeware set has an aluminum core with stainless steel handles which I hope don’t rust. And the storage system is drool-worthy as mine are shoved haphazardly inside the pantry. There’s just no way to horizontally stack circles, rectangles and muffin tins, I swear!

The multiple color options speak to multiple styles, but I’ve got my eyes set on the navy for the bakeware set. I chose a cream color for the cookware and have some slight regrets on not being outgoing. However, I wanted the cookware to be timeless for both Mike and I. The bakeware set is mostly for me, leaving room to take a chance on color.

Our Minimalist Scandi Inspired Dining Room

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After a year of living in this ‘new’ home, we finally have ourselves a dining table! We’ve made do thus far with a flimsy fold-out table that was my computer desk in middle school. It still had a mouse pad permanently glued onto one end. Rickety screws fell from the underside if you knocked it just right. I was constantly worried our meals would collapse onto my beige rug, or that the dogs would swing the legs out from underneath. Now that a dining table sits center-stage, I can finally find peace in our minimalist Scandi inspired dining room.

I originally had my sights set on Menu Space’s Snaregade Rectangular Table in Black Oak Veneer. But after eleven months of delays, I decided to give up on it. To which my mom replied, “What took you so long?”. As I called to cancel our order, the customer service rep informed me it should ship out in two weeks. Fool me ten times, shame on me.

However, providence has a way of working, as we ended up finding an alternative within a week of cancellation. A neighbor happened to be selling their one-year-old Hay Copenhague Deux 210 Dining Table in perfect condition. I got really lucky, as my requirements for the dining table were Scandinavian in brand, with a stream-lined silhouette in the color black. Frugal me also caught a break, as we were able to purchase it “used” at a mere $600! Or as Mikey would call it, “Ikea prices”. This ended up saving us over $1,000 from our original table choice.

Without risking sounding a bit woo-woo, I truly believe that saying no can lead to better yeses. I had my doubts about the original table from the get-go, having painfully labored through pros and cons when I first ordered it. None of the cards ever did line up. Luckily, my minimalist forte lies in the fact that I can make do with what we’ve got for a long period of time. That table ended up acting as a stand-in for something better. It’s been four years of homeownership and almost six years of marriage and we’ve just now bought a REAL dining table.

I was already familiar with many of the Scandi brands: Menu Space, Skagerak, Frama, Hay and Muuto. So when this Hay table showed up on my radar, it was quite a quick (and easy) decision. It was completely aligned with my values: minimalist, functional, beautiful, and affordable. Designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, you can find Hay’s dining table at Design Within Reach. We happened to find ours listed on Craigslist, which is also where we bought our Ikea couch.

I am ecstatic about it, as our dining space is the center of our home. We love to entertain people by way of drink and food. Gathering around a meal gabbing the night away is exactly how we prefer to socialize. I also adore it as I do a lot of my writing and work on the dining table. It has been such a joy laying out my plans for the week or typing away into my laptop at this new station. A new laminate based on nanotechnology makes up the surface of Hay’s Copenhague Table. It has an ultra-matte surface with a soft touch that is anti-finger-print and easy to clean. I’m considering getting rid of my WFH desk altogether and just working from the dining space!

Shop Our Scandi Inspired Dining Room

dining table | dining chairs | rug | pendant lighting | mirror

10 Cozy Fall Scented Candles

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I’m not the type to buy seasonal decor. There are many reasons why. I don’t like to store them, spend money on them, and swap them out every season. I know some look forward to these transitions, but as you can tell from this post, I’ve gone and missed most of autumn and am just now posting about cozy fall scented candles. However, in lieu of pumpkin throw pillows and orange wreaths, I do like to still pay tribute to the changing seasons. I just prefer to it by way of scented candles.

I like candles because they are consumable goods. They don’t add clutter to my home, yet they imbue the feeling that I need. They aren’t an eyesore and take up little real estate. Yet the smell of the best scented candles can make one feel fuzzy with emotion inside. Nostalgia rolls in as scents of pumpkin spice inspire me to bake something sweet.

My obsession with candles run year-round. Guests often comment on how nice the house smells, which brings me so much joy. To be honest, I would run candles all day if I could. I save the really nice ones for hosting or special events, but the good thing about candles is that there are many affordable options out there too. This list contains a mix of both splurge options and savings options. As the nights run longer, I’ll be bound to light them more frequently. There is nothing cozier than writing and reading by candle light.

10 Cozy Fall Scented Candles

  1. Jenni Kayne’s Musk Glass Candle *aff – notes of spicy cardamom, amber, sandalwood and orchid $65
  2. Public Goods Cedar and Suede – a soy candle option that doesn’t break the bank $8
  3. Le Labo’s Palo Santo 14 – energizing freshness without the overwhelming smoke – $82
  4. Hearth and Hand’s Harvest Spice – clove, vanilla, chestnut and amber
  5. Magnolia’s Gathering Candle – coffee, pumpkin, and nutmeg – pumpkin spice in candle form $28
  6. Noa’s Fall Festival Candle – toffee, apple, caramel and vanilla – all the sweet stuff $48
  7. Homesick’s Autumn Hayride – just like it sounds, the smell of hay, amber, clove, birch and oakmoss $38
  8. By Redo’s Safran Candle *aff – a complex 6-hour candle that smells of black pepper, saffron, dark amber and vanilla – among other notes $90
  9. Aesop’s Ptolemy Aromatique Candle *aff – woody and earthy, this candle gives off scents of cyper, cedar, and vetiver $110
  10. Brooklyn Candle’s Italian Escapist – cardamon, clove, orange blossom, vanilla and incense $38

Photo by Storiès on Unsplash

Easy Cheesy Lasagna

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I can’t believe I have never posted my easy cheesy lasagna recipe on the blog. This is the recipe I have been serving the boys (aka Mike’s friends) since the beginning of our college days. It’s the only recipe that I still pull up during Friendsgiving dinners as a nostalgic piece – the kind that takes us back to when we were living crammed in a dusty, run-down home because it was the cheapest rent we could find. I also used to make this recipe to feed 14 boys at the Santa Ana Boys and Girls Club when I used to cook family meals for them once a month!

Having learned it in college, it is obviously simple to make. It’s perfect for a quick weeknight family meal. It takes only a handful of inexpensive ingredients, and hardly any time and effort. But it’s delicious, and one of my favorite recipes during the colder months. It was still a hit at last years Friendsgiving, even after we’ve all moved on from instant ramen and canned meat! And if it’s a hit with college boys, I’m sure it’ll be welcomed by little ones as well! Serve it with freshly made sourdough bread and you’ll be the star of the show.

Easy Cheesy Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

Please note: these ingredients are for a 9″x13″ baking dish with a bit of depth (think aluminum trays that they sell at the grocery store). It will yield a fairly tall lasagna, which I like. It will also serve a large party of 6 people or more.

If you have a smaller family (1-2 people), I would recommend using a 9″x13″ baking dish that’s shallow and cutting the ingredients in half. When I cook for just Mike and I, I use our glass pyrex baking dish. It yields a fairly flat lasagna, but then I take two lasagna squares and stack them on top of each other to make it taller when serving. This works for us, as we don’t want lasagna for an entire week!

Serves 6+ people. For a family of 1-2, cut the ingredients in half.

  • Lasagna noodles (1 box is more than enough. Depending on your baking dish, there may be extra).
  • Sour cream (16 oz, depending on your baking dish)
  • Tomato Sauce (2 jars, depending on your baking dish)
  • Provolone Cheese (2 packets of circular cheese slices)
  • Mozzarella Cheese (for sprinkling on top.)
  • Oregano (for sprinkling on top). We use the Evermill’s oregano along with their other spices. I truly believe quality spices make a difference. Some store-bought spices are so “weak” that they hardly taste like anything at all. But I stand by Evermill’s products. I have told friends and family that their spice rack is the best wedding gift anyone could ask for. I wrote a thorough review of it here, along with a coupon code WELCOME30 to give TheDebtist audience $30 OFF their counter-top spice rack.

The Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Boil water in a large pot. I like to use our cream dutch oven from Caraway Home. We have their entire cookware set and it’s a minimalist’s dream. They are beautiful and honestly the only pots and pans you would need in order to do all your cooking.
  3. Cook lasagna noodles until al dente per the box’s instructions. If you make homemade pasta noodles like we sometimes do, then it should only take 1-2 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta noodles in a colander and run them under cold water to prevent sticking.
  5. Start layering your lasagna! Place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the 9″x13″ baking dish.
  6. Layer pasta noodles (which happen to be about 13″) over the sauce. It takes about 3 noodles vertically placed.
  7. Place about 5 slices of provolone cheese on top of the pasta.
  8. Spread sour cream on top of the provolone cheese.
  9. Layer on some pasta, and start the process over. Moving forward the order goes: pasta, sauce, provolone cheese, sour cream; pasta, sauce, provolone cheese, sour cream.
  10. If you are using a whole box of pasta noodles, then it will create 5-6 layers. Make sure to ration out the other ingredients.
  11. On the final layer, end with pasta and a generous amount of tomato sauce on top. I then liberally sprinkle oregano and mozzarella cheese.
  12. Cover your creation with tin foil and place in the oven to bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.
  13. Remove the tin foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
  14. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

In case you were wondering, this batch was the shallower version stacked on top of each other. Our platters are from East Fork Pottery, a company that I’ve been in partnership now for years. We use their beautiful dishware EVERYDAY in our household. They are not only sturdy, functional, and dish-washer safe, they are also gosh darn gorgeous! Recently they launched a BLUE and BLACK colorway and I am drooling over them. Thankfully, they were added to the core collection and are yours for the taking.

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Shop Our Living Room

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The winter light is coming back around to the living room side of the house. This is the beginning of my favorite time of the year. Cold weather, foggy mornings, warm blankets, cozy snuggles, and more. It’s what I love most about living in our mountain home.

This morning, I spent time re-arranging the furniture. Changing the lay of the land makes it feel like I’ve upgraded the house when I really haven’t done much. Compared to what this space looked like when we moved in a year ago, we really didn’t add by way of decor or furniture. It’s mostly the same old. Part of what I do with intentional living is keep the minimum amount of stuff, and use it to create fluid environments. Sparking creativity by moving things around rather than buying more STUFF is kind of my forte … and the means by which we are able to tackle my massive student debt.

Today, it was swapping the sectional to be an L-shape against the other side of the living. This opened up space for opening our balcony door to allow the Fall air inside the home. Yesterday, we acquired a neighbor’s cute dog bed, which was kindly gifted to Theo after their doodle outgrew it. It deserved a lovely corner space in our living room and inspired the mirror swap. The Drink Morning espresso machine remains within easy reach, in case coffee is of the essence as I read in my Menu Space lounge chairs. It is my favorite way to make the perfect cup of coffee stress-free. You can read my review of it here.

The couch is the Insta-famous Soderhamn from Ikea. We bought most of the sectional from Craigslist, then added the ottoman and an extra chair. Ikea furniture is cheap enough, but Craigslist saved us a few hundred bucks. We then remodeled the couch with Bemz covers from Germany. You can read about the project here. This couch, when coupled with Bemz, is so modular that it’s timeless! We’ve had this couch since our last space, along with the Ikea media console, and the Menu Space lounge chairs.

You can also see our bare white walls. I wrote about this choice way back when we lived in a live/work loft. My thoughts haven’t strayed much from it. Occasionally, I argue with myself about the possibility of hanging our best travel photos with Artifact Uprising’s beautiful frames. But the hassle of choosing favorite places has really kept this project at bay. Instead, I chose a shaggy rug from Nordic Knots that acts equally as a form of art. When I read how this Stockholm-based company collaborated with Danish artist Carsten Beck Nielsen, I just knew it was a piece I wanted to add.

“It’s fascinating to see how different an artwork is experienced when it’s on the floor rather than on the wall.”

Carsten Beck Nielsen

We also opted to go with the 65″ Frame TV so that we may throw up some artwork on there with the changing seasons. We are so happy to have chosen it. I have never been a TV person growing up, preferring paper and books over screens. However, if I am being honest, watching 30-45 minutes of TV with each other in the evenings is a really nice way to spend time with each other and unwind. It’s become part of our routine, and I can finally see the relaxing benefits of it. I also really love that it can act as artwork when people are over. I wrote a really thorough review of the Frame TV here, because I know it’s a big purchase decision. If you’ve been on the fence for a while, check out the pros and cons first!

Since our living room items never really change, I figure I’d type up a style post about the stuff I do keep. If you wish to shop our living room, here’s what we’ve got.

Shop Our Living Room

couch | lounge chairs | couch covers | media console | Frame TV | striped throw pillows | shaggy rug | planter | diffuser | espresso machine | checkered box | off white throw pillows

Peach and Nutmeg Scones with Honey-Vanilla Icing

There are certain recipes that resonate with me, scones being one of them. This rote recipe is a favorite in our household. Often, I would experimentally trade out ingredients based on what lies at hand. This is an especially useful trick of the trade, as I like to bake seasonably. This week, it happened to be that peaches were on sale, and fall weather was present in my mind. I reached for the nutmeg on my minimalist spice rack from Evermill (the only one a person needs), and decided to add something sweet, cozy honey-vanilla icing on top. The scones ended up feeling like a warm hug, as my husband and I devoured one straight out of the the oven. Might I suggest pairing with a chai latte, or your favorite PSL? Light a candle to amp up the hygge.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting.
  • 3 tbsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1 cup diced peaches
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream plus extra for brushing.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon for sprinkling

Useful Baking Tools

The Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F with a rack in the center.
  2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg 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 peaches.
  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. If the dough is too wet, add more flour to get the right consistency. It should be a bit crumbly.
  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 cinnamon.
  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.

Honey-Vanilla Icing (optional)

I learned my icing recipe working midnight shifts as an early morning baker for Rye Goods. It’s a straight-forward base recipe of confectioner’s sugar, flavoring, and a form of liquid. I like to eyeball for consistency but for my beginner bakers, this recipe works in our situation.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

The Process:

  1. Place all ingredients in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
  2. Whisk at setting 4 until the consistency is runny, like melted sour cream.
  3. Use a spatula, spoon, or knife to drizzle over your cooled scones. If you want to get particular, use a pipette.

In this recipe, I chose nutmeg and cinnamon but you can definitely make this your own. Ginger or cardamom would also make great alternatives for peaches. Likewise, you could choose apple or apricots. My favorite thing about scones is that the recipe is so easy to change. Definitely check out my other scone recipes:

I hope you enjoyed this! And for the curious, the bowl is from East Fork Pottery, an affiliate that I’ve been boasting about forever and ever.

The Anti Anxiety Therapy Notebook That Rewires Negative Thinking

I waited more than a month to write about Therapy Notebook’s Anti Anxiety Notebook. I felt it was important I give it a proper review. Now, I can affirm that this is, without a doubt, the most useful tool I have used to date to rewire my negative thinking. I can’t wait to delve into the positive aspects of this book. It is a revolutionary way of addressing mental health, especially for those who don’t have the financial means, time, or space to seek out a therapist in person.

Let me start by saying I have no background in psychology. Although both of my sisters specialized on the subject, I personally have very few tools to improve my own thinking. I have a history with mental health, having experienced depression in my 20’s and anxiety in my 30’s. It took half a decade to figure out how to heal from depression, and it is taking just as long with anxiety. But the fact that I did move on from depression really proves that there are ways to undo harmful thinking. This book has empowered me in ways I didn’t know it could.

Before delving into the anti anxiety notebook, here are a few related post on mental health:

Related Posts:

How the Anti-Anxiety Notebook Works

The Anti Anxiety Therapy Notebook applies the science of cognitive behavioral therapy. An introduction in the book walks one through separating the objective facts of what happens in our lives from the subjective narratives we attach to those events. We attach narratives in an instant – most of them are thought processes ingrained in us from childhood or our formative years. Deconstructing reality from our perceptions is a thinking process that takes practice. It starts with awareness. Properly asking yourself, what happened (physically) without judgement or bias requires effort.

Identifying Emotional Responses

Once you’ve separated what actually happened from what you perceived happened, it is time to address your feelings around the event and your thoughts. A feelings wheel in the appendix illustrates the emotions that can we can feel. I was surprised to learn that some emotions I thought I was feeling are actually a misdiagnosis of another, more accurate emotion. For example, when I felt nervous, I realized that the nervousness was rooted in fear, a fear of disappointing others or letting them down. Likewise, when I feel anger, sometimes it’s really because of embarrassment or shame. I used to think I got angry at people when really, I was most angry with myself. The feelings wheel really helped me narrow in on the most accurate emotion.

We tend to name an emotion and land on it, but reflecting on what other emotions are leading us there is crucial to our understanding. Emotions, like narratives, are reactive in nature. Usually, it is a repeat response to similar situations from our past. Analyzing those responses and peeling back the layers requires patience. All of this takes time. The journal has helped me to sit down with my emotions and identify them properly.

Cognitive Distortions

Once your emotional state is identified, the journal asks you to question the thought patterns that brought you there. Before this book, I didn’t know what thought patterns were. They are actually referred to as cognitive distortions, because of their inaccuracy and reinforcement of negative thinking and emotions. These lead us to think things that are unhelpful and untrue. There are 12 distortions described in the book:

  • All or Nothing Thinking
  • Blaming Others
  • Catastrophizing
  • Emotional Reasoning
  • Fortune Telling
  • Labeling
  • Magnifying the Negative
  • Mind Reading
  • Minimizing the Positive
  • Overgeneralization
  • Self-Blaming
  • Should Statements

When I first started using the book, I made assumptions on my thinking tendencies. I thought the patterns that I fell into were Magnifying the Negative, Self-Blaming, and All or Nothing Thinking. I was surprised to learn that the traps I usually fell into were Catastrophizing and Fortune Telling. This makes sense now as my mind tends to lie in the future tense. A lot of my anxiety and negative emotions come from my fears that project out what I think could happen in the future. I realize that more often than not, my predictions are wildly dramatic and unlikely to ever happen.

Rewiring Negative Thinking

The last section challenges our brains to rewire and think in a new way. It begs the question, how can you think about the situation differently. I use this section to brainstorm all the different interpretations available, the possible outcomes, and the alternative emotional responses. This part of the process is cathartic for me. I imagine living in a multi-verse, where a different version of myself will think and choose to act in a more positive way. Then I choose which version of myself I want to be. This gives me more control of the situation’s end result. For me, that bit of control releases my anxiety.

How This Journal Helped Me

After using this journal for a month, I am less anxious about the things that once worried me. For one, it has shifted my attitude towards gratitude. It has increased my ability to be kind and to forgive. It has also increased confidence in my abilities, and removed some of the stresses of “What-Ifs”. Now I know that even in the worst case scenarios, there will also be a silver lining. I can’t stress enough how much improvement this book has given me in one month! If you wish to start your journey, I really do recommend this book. And if this is any indication as to the healing effects therapy provides, then it really is worth a try, for those who have been debating about it for a while.

What’s In the Journal

The Anti Anxiety Notebook starts with a few key points on how cognitive behavior therapy works. Interspersed throughout the pages are quotes to reflect on, as well as 5 coping mechanisms: Changing Mindsets, Mindfulness, Sleep, Positive Relationships, and Distraction. There are also empty pages scattered between journal entries, with enough room for a brain dump. I use this space for reflection, doodling, venting, and more. At the end of the book are 3 very useful appendices: CBT Basics, Cognitive Distortions, and The Feelings Wheel (my favorite resource!).

As for the journaling portion, the book includes dated pages where I was able to jot down events that caused anxiety. Questions I was forced to ask myself were:

  • What happened? (describe the situation)
  • What is going through your mind? (describe your thoughts)
  • What emotions are you feeling?
  • What were the levels of intensity of those feelings?
  • What thought patterns do you recognize? (more on that below!)
  • How can you think about the situation differently? (challenge your thoughts)

Is this book for you?

I have no experience in receiving therapy in person. But I know this to be true: Therapy Notebooks provided a way to map out my thought patterns and cognitive biases in my own space and my own time. Although it is made by therapists, it isn’t a replacement for therapists (if that is what you need). However, it does bridge the gap between those who can and cannot afford therapy sessions. The notebook lowers the barrier to getting help, when perhaps you don’t have the means to pay for it or the ability to leave work or home for a proper chat.

If you do end up trying it, I am curious to see how it serves you.

This post was written in partnership with Therapy Notebooks, a company looking to empower people with tools that improve mental health. My anti anxiety notebook was gifted to me by the company to try. As a practicing dentist, I experience anxiety every time I go into work. I also experience daily anxiety at a much lower level, because my thoughts tend to lie in the future, which is unknown. Part of my suffering is caused by a longing to control my environment and outcomes. That coupled with a culturally ingrained need to get along with everyone and avoid causing ripples in the proverbial water. The thoughts, opinions, and experience noted here are of my own.

Where We Are At With Our $575,000+ Student Loan: An Update

Hi there! If you are new to the space, welcome! As you may or may not know, my name is Samantha Tillapaugh and I am known as The Debtist. I graduated from dental school at 26 years old in 2016 with more than $575,000 of student debt. Upon graduation, I was told by multiple financial professionals that the smart thing to do was to wait 20-25 years for student loan forgiveness (see options here). But the decision didn’t sit well with me. The debt was a psychological burden that caused me a lot of angst, anxiety, and made me depressed. I searched for a financial planner until I found one that listened to my desire to pay back debt and supported my decision. Since then, I have never turned back. Here is my personal student loan update.

Where We Started

In 2018, I first shared my personal story with Choose FI. I then learned that there were others who struggled with the psychology of having debt. So I dedicated my spare time writing about shifting mindsets around finance, and using lifestyle choices to reach financial independence. I surprised myself in 2020 when I reached independence BEFORE I paid back my loan. At the time, I quit a job that I struggled with, even when my husband was also without work during a pandemic which we knew nothing about. But for the first time in my life, money did not dictate what I did. I followed what I knew in my gut to be right, and it was the most liberating feeling I have ever felt.

My Money Story

Money psychology is deeply rooted in the narratives around money that we were told growing up. A lot of my fear of debt came from financial traumas as a youth. In choosing to face that fear head on and tackle the debt that I was afraid of, I gained not only financial literacy, but also a confidence and understanding of money that allowed me to have more control of it. Instead of being reactive to money, I know view money as a tool to get to where we want to go financially.

An Update on Student Loan Repayment

Today, I wanted to give you my student loan update and talk about where we are at with my student loans. I just released a second podcast episode with ChooseFI which details some of the things we have done since 2018. The Ever Growing List of Things I Have Done to Get Out of a Student Debt can be found here. We started at over $575,000 when I graduated from dental school. When the pandemic hit, I stopped making my aggressive payments since we didn’t know what would happen! My husband was without a job for the rest of 2020, and I quit my job November 2020 using the FU money we saved. At the time, we were somewhere between $430,00 to $440,000. Instead of spending the money, I continued to set it aside as if we were still making payments to our debt. Student loan repayment is set to resume January 1, 2023. At that time, we plan to make one lump sum payment that would bring our debt down to $200,000!

How We Got Here

To be honest, the first step was finding a financial planner who supports your loan repayment strategy, whatever you choose. I recommend Travis Hornsby from Student Loan Planner, not just for his expertise but also because he was one of the people who paid back a massive student loan aggressively. He had to deal with student debt personally, and can speak from experience and knowledge. My consultation with him saved me thousands of dollars, just by helping us choose the appropriate repayment plan. (We were on the wrong one!)

The second thing we did was cut our spending. Raising earning is fine and all, but lifestyle inflation is real. We learned how to use a budget for the first time with YNAB. To this day, my husband and I have budgeting dates and use YNAB to keep track of where our money goes. I highly recommend the YNAB app to all new budgeters because it is intuitive and easy! This step was so crucial to our journey that I even wrote an entire course on How to Master a Budget. It’s free and available on my blog.

Third, I changed my mindset to a positive one! I first found gratitude towards my debt and money story. This is a debt that is my privilege to own. I then approached life with a growth mindset. After realizing I had a lot of learning to do around money, I poured over books and binged podcasts. I also tried to find ways to make money doing the things I love. This led me down a rabbit hole of side-hustles which include being an early morning baker, opening my own bakery, being a wholesale director, creating a dog-sitting business, monetizing the blog, and more. My love for learning hasn’t stopped. Currently I am taking a teacher training course at CorePower Yoga to get my yoga teacher license.

Our ultimate goal was this:

To be free from student loan debt enslavement by facing my fear around money head-on without allowing money to dictate our life’s happiness. We wanted to focus on our goal of financial independence, while maintaining autonomy over the present moment. We wanted to built a life around freedom, both from debt but also from job dependency. At it’s core, we wanted to be free to do what made us both happy.

My only hope with sharing my story is to help others do the same.

Thank you for being here.

XOXO

The Debtist