"Fresh" the Movie Review

The Mr. and I are both big fans of documentary style films. Real life is scary enough for me. No fiction needed. For us to be able to watch a documentary film in our rural community it means that we must wait until it comes out on Netflix. However, last week we were pleasantly surprised to find out that there would be a local screening of the new movie "FRESH".

The movie "Fresh" is about the American food system. What is working, what is not, and what we can do about it. It was a wonderful film that did not paint the farmer as the bad person nor the uneducated shopper. It did paint a very accurate picture as to what is going on.

This is a must see film for anyone who eats food. There are many myths spread by the industrialized farming industry, and this movie exposes the truth. It shows you were your food is coming from which might not be suitable for children as it did show some gross (but very common) food production scenes. Maybe it should shock you. Even if you are not an "environmentalist" type the film teaches you without lecturing you about where your food really comes from.

Besides the content, the quality of the movie is excellent. It has a nice visual style, great editing, and a nice flow start to finish. It honestly could have gone on for another hour without complaint.

I guarantee you will never think of food the same after watching this film. To see the other movie trailers and find a screening location visit Fresh the Movie.

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Mystery Plant

I'm stumped... I've lots of volunteer veggies in my garden this year since I added some only half composted compost to a few of the new beds. There if one plant that really has me stumped as to what it is. At first I thought that they were mutated yellow squash. I cut one open to find that they were not yellow squash. Then they started turning an orange-ish color, but they don't really look like pumpkins.

What do I have here?

This is the first time that I've ever really been 100% stumped by a volunteer plant after it bears fruit. Please take a good look and let me know what you think it is in the comments section.

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Today's Harvest

I pick yummy fresh goodness from my garden almost every day. Usually an hour before dinner time. Today was a little different. We were gone over the weekend and I have not picked anything out of the garden for 4 days.

Here is what I found:

  • 5 Zucchini
  • 3 Yellow Squash
  • 4 Roma Tomatoes
  • 1 Sweet Red Pepper
  • A Hand Full of Peas
  • About 2 Quarts of Green Beans
  • Lots of almost ready produce
  • One Neighbor (when you garden is in your front yard you always have visitors)
  • 3 Zucchinis sent home with the neighbor

What have you been harvesting from your garden? Add a link with McKLinky or in a comment below.

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Seasonal Recipe: Sweet Cherries

Sweet Cherries are in season up here in Michigan. Just like sweet corn our favorite way to eat sweet cherries are fresh with nothing extra. BUT... that doesn't make for much of a recipe to share now does it? So I thought that I would share with you one of our summertime drink favorites.

Fresh squeezed lemonade with sweet cherries. Now I could lie to you and tell you about how this is a family recipe passed down from my grandmother. But that would be a lie. It's actually a Martha Stewart recipe that was perfect the way it was. Why mess with perfection?

What do you like to do with fresh sweet cherries?

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And the Winner Is...

The Millionaire Next Door Book Giveaway has a winner. Drum roll please.... The winner is comment number 14, Beth "I'd love to read this book. Thanks for the chance!".

Well Beth, you know have the chance.

Thanks to everyone who entered. If you are not a winner check with your local library to see if they have this great read.

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Carnivals / Festivals

Last week we took part in two carnivals - both posts were from our FPU series. If you missed a couple weeks or the entire thing, then check out our wrap-up post with links to all 13 lessons.

Carnival of Personal Finance - was hosted last week by Stephanie at Poorer Than You. I was totally impressed by her US Presients theme. Check us out as FRD with our FPU Week 11 post.

Christian Carnival - Micey hosts the 286th edition over at Thoughts and Confessions... She was kind enough to include our FPU Week 13 post about the Great Miunderstanding.
read more tags

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PF Advice from Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Many of you are likely saying, "Rabbi Who?!"

Read on.

Some time ago, the Mrs and I were taking a rather lengthy road trip to a friend's wedding. Knowing it would be a long and tedious drive, I loaded up a stockpile of Dave Ramsey Show podcasts for the trip. The podcasts are typically the first hour of broadcast, and the theme hours including guest speakers are typically in the second hour - which sucks for cheapskates like me, who are unwilling to pay for all 3 hours.

One show in particular did not fit that mold. Dave was doing a full three-hour show with Rabbi Daniel Lapin as his guest. The fun part about Dave's show is that that he's more financial guru than radio host as he originally introduced him as "Daniel 'Rabbi' Lapin" as though he were some kind of boxer. What's even better is that Dave can laugh at himself and correct his own error.

In the show they discussed the Rabbi's book, Thou Shalt Prosper, as well as took calls with both giving responses. It was quite entertaining to hear the two perspectives on each topic. The Rabbi gave a brief synopsis of his book and discussed a few of the concepts covered in it. The book examines:

• Why Jews throughout the ages flourish economically
• How you can benefit from this Jewish wisdom
• What "being in business" means, whether you're flipping burgers, a professional or a CEO
• Why you should never retire

The Rabbi himself described it as the only time in history when the removal of a small piece of skin could turn bigotry into science. I could tell that I was going to like this guy, and needed to find out more. I knew that I needed to read his book (still on my list!)

One of the concepts from the book that he discussed was Candles vs Cake. He described how some folks view money as if it were like cake at a party: There's only so much of it, and if one person gets too large a slice, then others, by definition, will get less or none. In personal finance, this works to their detriment, holding them back from even believing success is possible. Others, more correctly, see money as if it were the candles on the cake. Like the flame on one candle, money can be spread around to benefit many. One candle with a large flame does not imply that others will go unlit.

This is an amazing analogy once you realize how right he is. Take today's economy. Shopping at a local retailer, means that shop owner has more money to buy a new sign out front, which gives work to the local sign maker, which mean he is buying more materials from the paint supplier and lumber yard, who can now afford that part-time help.... and on down the line. None of them are harmed by the transfer of money from one to another, but rather all benefit little by little.

Anyone read
Thou Shalt Prosper? What did you think?

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FPU: In Review

Looking back, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a very successful FPU class.

I have to say: The students in our class were awesome.

Every week, we saw improvement. Every week, the victory stories increased in quantity and quality. Every week, a few more cards would go through the shredder. They blew us away. 13 weeks is a long commitment and out of the 37 families that started, 25 qualified for 'graduation' (missing no more than 2 classes). Of the other 12, I would only list 5 as "dropped out". That's ok - it's not always the right time for everybody.

But for the naysayers. For the goobers who are down on Dave. For the folks who think this stuff can't really work and have a better plan - I'll offer a few more stats.

  • $1.1 Million. Our class started out with a whopping $1.1M in debt. One point one million dollars. That's a big number. Averaged out across the 26 families who had non-mortgage debt and could give numbers, that came to~$43,000 per family. Which is pretty well in line with what Dave quotes as 'average' in North America. Collectively, a staggering amount.
  • -21%. At the end of our class, the families in attendance reported that they had collectively paid off $230,000 in debt - a reduction of 21%. During one of the worst economic climates in decades.
  • $90,000. Our class also reported a positive affect on their savings accounts - to the collective tune of $90k. Money in the bank that they never thought possible.
  • 179. The total number of credit cards shredded during our 13 weeks. We filled a 1/2 gallon mason jar with the remnants of the cards and presented it to our priest as a token of our appreciation for supporting this ministry. He was thrilled.
  • 6. The number of families already signed up to take FPU with us next time without a formal announcement.
  • 6. Also the number of families who prepared and signed their wills during the class.
Both averages - debt paid off and money saved per family - were above what Dave quotes as typical for families taking FPU. This during a recession and in the state of Michigan. These guys absolutely killed it and after listening to what they got out of the class, I know that they will continue to do so.

I would be a bit remiss if I didn't give some love to our co-coordinators and our nursery workers. None of this would have been as successful or gone as smooth without them. We were truly blessed by there presence and assistance - week after week.

If you missed them:
  1. Super Savers
  2. Relating with Money
  3. Cash Flow Planning
  4. Dumping Debt
  5. Credit Sharks in Suits
  6. Buyer Beware
  7. Clause an Effect
  8. That's Not Good Enough!
  9. Of Mice and Mutual Funds
  10. From Fruition to Tuition
  11. Working in Your Strengths
  12. Real Estate and Mortgages
  13. The Great Misunderstanding
Whether you are struggling or succeeding, there is something here for you.

Why haven't you taken FPU?

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Seasonal Recipe: Green Beans

I have always had a green thumb when it comes to green beans. They seem to be easy to grow and deer are not crazy about them. Luckily, we are! There are lots of things to do with green beans, but my favorite recipe for freshly picked is as simple as growing them.

Seasoned Green Beans

Green Beans (enough to feed your family)
Olive Oil
Grey Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

In a sauce pan put in enough water to just cover your beans. Bring the beans and water to a slow boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the beans. Add just enough olive oil to your hot sauce pan to lightly coat your beans, usually around a tablespoon. Next add a little sea salt and pepper for flavoring. Then return the beans to the hot sauce pan and coat with the oil mixture.

It's just that simple. With only about 10 minutes you can make a tasty healthy side dish that will not break the bank.

What is you favorite green bean recipe for garden fresh beans? Feel free to link back to your blog with the new McKlinky we are testing.

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The Millionaire Next Door Book GiveAway!

Ever wonder how millionaires made and saved their money? The Millionaire Next Door will answer that question along with giving you lots of great factual information on who wins and loses with money. Some of the answers might surprise you too. It's an easy read full of helpful info.

Want to win a hard copy of The Millionaire Nest Door? Then enter our giveaway below.

The Rules:
There are several ways to enter to win the giveaway. Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry. You can enter four ways, but use each method once per giveaway. So you can have up to a total of four entries per giveaway.

  1. Simply leave your name and email address in a comment below.
  2. Stumble two of our other posts, then comment saying which posts, and your stumble username.
  3. Add us to your blogroll and let us know in the comments.
  4. Blog about the giveaway with a link back to the giveaway post in the comments.

This contest ends on July 28th at 5:00pm EST. The randomly selected winner will be announced on Wednesday July 29rd. An email will be sent to the winner. They will have 48 hours to provide a valid mailing address. The prize will only be mailed to U.S. and Canadian addresses.

Thanks for checking out our giveaway!

This giveaway was not sponsored by the author or the publisher. If you would like to sponsor a giveaway we are open to sponsors. Please email us for details.

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Oh Deer!

Oh Dear, oh deer! We have deer, again. Deer love to visit our garden. Between them and the bunnies we lose a lot of our harvest. Last year I lost over 50 tomato plants when we went away for the 4th of July. I came home to find them mowed down to the ground and deer tracks surrounding the plot. Talk about heart wrenching. I did a lot of crying that night as I witnessed what was left of all my hard work. I vowed to never let them get my garden again. Well, so much for that. I literally go outside almost every single night to chase them out of my garden. They ate half of my tomato plants the night I planted them. After that I had them encased in netting. They have however been feasting on my peas. This was a new one for me because they had never ate them before. Oh well. I will keep working on finding the right combination of to prevent them from dinning on MY buffet line.

Other then that my garden is looking great. We are still eating the lettuce almost everyday. The peas and green beans will be ready soon. The squashes and some melons are blooming. The tomatoes, pepper, carrots, potatoes and eggplant are growing really well. We have been harvesting some onions too. So yummy. I did have to re-seed most of my herbs. They were really spotty. I did use older left over herb seed this year instead of buying new seed. I waited until last week when I could find seed on sale locally to buy some for reseeding. We will have to wait to see how well it fills in.

So that is my lovely garden update. How is your garden growing?

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FPU Week 13: The Great Misunderstanding

Well, this is it. Week 13 of 13. It's been an incredibly challenging 13 weeks for us, and we weren't even trying to get out of debt during that time!

Despite all the trials, all the difficulties for anyone leaning and applying this material, week 13 will really rock your world.

I was in the car with a couple of co-workers the other day - one listens to Dave's show occasionally, the other had never heard of him. The listener and I had got to talking and he was 'quizzing' me on the Baby steps - "Baby step 1 is....?" "$1,000 in the bank." "Baby step 2 is...?" "Debt snowball.....". And so on. My other co-worker was listening to all of this. "Baby step 7 is....?" "Build wealth and give a bunch of it away!"

My other co-worker finally piped up, "What!?!" I think it was the second part that got him.

The point of all this material is not to be greedy or hoard money. If you think the end game is just a bunch of numbers in a bank account then you've misunderstood.

You see, none of its ours. It's all His.

The first part of beginning to unravel this is to understand the ownership we have mistakenly applied to money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills - and He owns the hills too. As Christians, the Bible explains that we are not the owners - we are not the Lord of the realm. But rather the steward for the Lord - we are His managers. He has simply entrusted His money with us. And it doesn't take much Bible study to get that He has not entrusted it with us solely for our own gain.

Now that's just a small bit of this lesson. And I know that there are a lot of you who totally tuned out of the 'God stuff' and are still parsing this post for the personal finance part. Well this is it, baby. Until you have your spiritual life in order, you'll never truly understand financial peace.

This is a powerful, powerful lesson. So much so that a former priest asked us to edit it down to 20 minutes so that he could show it in place of a sermon. This is one not to miss.

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Price My Space: Living Room

Over at the Nesting Place the Nester challenged us to join her in pricing out a room or wall in our homes to show how easy it is to decorate on a budget. Of course who am I to turn down the chance to brag about my good deals? I thought that I would start with our living room.

  1. Our queen sized sleeper sofa was bought for $750 but originally was $1899! Here are the details of that sweat deal. We just bought it a couple weeks ago.
  2. The Lazyboy recliner was actually the Mr.'s parents. When they bought new chairs for their living room they offered to give us this one for free. We have had it for 11 years.
  3. The lamps were purchased at Home Depot on clearance for $7 two years ago.
  4. I bought this set of Ethan Allen end tables at an auction back in college and refinished them.
  5. The curtain rod and tie backs we found at Lowes last year on clearance. The rod was damaged so were able to get it for $2!!! The best part is that no one can even see the damage because it is facing the wall. I sewed the curtains myself using fabric I bought at JoAnn's for half price.
  6. The lovely mirror was a fun and frugal project. I found the frame at a thrift shop for $3. It had an ugly dated green color where the gold is now. I took some left over acrylic gold paint and painted over the green. Then I was able to have a custom mirror cut for about $10-15 at a local glass and mirror shop. It was the perfect size to fit over our old couch in our first apartment 8 years ago.
  7. These beautiful 1950's tv cabinet was carefully refinished and made into a storage cabinet. We purchased it on Craig's list for $85. It now houses all of our games, puzzles and movies.
  8. This fun 1960's stereo cabinet came with this house when we bought it. It the record player is broke so the plan is to gut the cabinet and use it to hide all our modern day tv tech stuff in it. It is hard to tell when we will get to it but I would guess that it is at least a year away.
  9. Who would throw away an Eames chair? Well, someone did. The Mr. fished this one out of trash pile destined for a landfill. It took a little glue but the base and shell are now one again.
  10. This blush faux leather chair and ottoman were also in our house when we bought it.
As you can tell we don't spend a lot of money on furnishing and decorating our home. As we find the right items for the right price we pick them up. It takes time and patience. If you can be content with what you already own you can make it happen on a budget. Not all of our furnishing match perfectly or are all one style. The walls are not painted and we are still constantly trying to reconfigure the space to work for us with our current furniture. Once the rest of our major remodeling projects are completed we will be able to focus on completing the details of each room. Until then we just enjoy what little down time we have in the living room.

Join us for the next Price my Space to learn about other great deals in our home.

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Roofing Update

For those who are wondering... We did get the two old layers of shingles removed yesterday and had to completely remove the flat roof section (about 10x8 ft) over the entryway. It had rotted through from water damage. It looks like we will be rebuilding the flat roof almost from scratch today as well as clean up the roof and lay the underlayment stuff as well as rebuild the valleys.

Our biggest concern is the chance of rain/ storms starting at noon. Please pray or send good wishes our way for the rain to hold off until Monday. We have a wide open roof at the moment.

More updates to come as we progress.

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Seasonal Recipe: Lettuce

This year the weather has been perfect for our lettuce. We have been enjoying it for weeks now. There is lots to do with lettuce.

Ways to use Lettuce:

  • Salads- We have been enjoying cranberry walnut salads, ceasar chicken salads, taco salad, and small side salads
  • Tacos- We have been loading our tacos with lettuce to make them a little healthier
  • Burgers- We have been adding lettuce to our hamburgers and porkburgers
I'm sure there are tons more ways to use all the yummy healthy lettuce. What are some of the ways you use your fresh garden lettuce?

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Our Cup Runneth Over

Roofing day is almost here. As we make our final preparations - meals, materials, tools, work assignments - I have to give a bit of pause. As I put my girls to bed tonight, we went through the usual routine including our bedtime prayer. During the prayer, I asked God to help us remember to count our many blessings. Sometimes, despite our failings, we forget how truly blessed we are.

As we approach this project, I see that our cup runneth over, in more ways than one.

  1. Finances - You may have noticed that our 'Full Disclosure' progress bar for the roof fund has burst through the levees. Not only did we hit our goal, but we kept going. we knew that some materials would need to be purchased once we were through the tear-off. Fearing an under estimation, we kept going.
  2. Skills - While I am far from an experienced roofer, we have a family friend who is. We've enlisted his help for the long weekend. While I'm leery of leaning on him too heavily, I've been told that once he starts shingling, to just stay out of his way - he is that fast.
  3. Helping Hands - When planning meals, we realized what an out-pouring of support we had. 10-14 just doing the actual labor. We have others watching the kids, others preparing meals, other still offering to help as they hear about the project.
  4. Time off - We scheduled these vacation days some time ago, hedging our bets that it would be a 'good time' for it. I always say, in terns of work, there's never a 'good time' to take vacation - there is always something going on. You just have to take it and not look back. This actually looks to be a 'good time', with a slight lul in projects and other efforts winding down, it's a great time when compared to the past two months of crazy work schedules.
  5. Weather - I'm not going to worry about the weather. I'm not going to worry about the weather. I'm not going to worry about the weather. Seriously, Lord, it's in your hands.
Try this little exercise sometime. Tomorrow, next week... they don't have to be big things, in fact it's the little things sometimes that matter most.

Right now - count three blessings. What are they?

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FPU Week 12: Real Estate and Mortgages

"....Keeping the American dream from becoming a nightmare".

Now, Dave is all about you paying off your debt. He can't wait for you to be investing. But if you really want to see him get fired up, then watch this lesson on real estate. He's been in this business nearly all of his life. As you might expect, he has a lot to say in this lesson and way more than I could review here - How to sell, How to buy, What to buy, What not to buy, financing....

What I will do is focus on Baby Step 6 and why this is an awesome thing to do.

Baby Step 6 is: Pay off your home early.

If you are on this step, then congratulations - you've come a long way. I never imagined that this step would be or could be challenged. I mean really, why would you want a house payment???

But alas, there's always a few "sophisticates" out there with some fuzzy math.

Bogus excuse 1. With a low interest rate on my mortgage, I can invest that money instead of paying down my house and get better returns. Well not really. A good rate on a mortgage today is ~5%. Let's say you went nuts and invested those extra principal payments in good mutual funds and got something crazy like 12% returns. With the cost of your money at 5%, taxes and inflation clipping you at another 4-6%, that gives you weak at best returns of 3%. I'd rather continue to invest into my retirement as in Baby Step 4, pay off the house early, and then invest without the 5% handicap.

Bogus excuse 2. Paying off your house early means losing a big tax deduction. That's not a bad thing. Deductions are for money spent. Child care, charitable giving, mortgage interest all qualify for deductions on your taxable income. If you made $70,000 last year and payed $10,000 in mortgage interest, then the deduction means that you now pay taxes on $60k rather than $70k because of that $10k that you sent to the bank. That income would put you in the 25% tax bracket (assuming Married, filing jointly in 2009). The difference in taxes for having a mortgage vs. not is the difference between $70k of taxable income vs. $60k. 25% of the $10k difference is $2500. Meaning that you think it's better to pay $10,000 to a bank to keep from pay $2500 to the government. And people say Dave Ramsey can't do math!

Imagine you've gone through the Baby Steps - emergency funds, paid off all debt, invested for retirement and college, and now paid off the house. Wow. Imagine not owing anything to anyone. Imagine what you could do once your monthly expenses were little more than food, utilities and .... whatever.

What would you do?

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Garden MakeOver Update

We have been making a lot of head way on our garden remodeling project and the planted beds are looking and tasting great! There was a lot on my dream plan and not a lot in my not so dreamy budget. Come take a look at the progress.

My dream plans included:
  • A cute fence around the garden
  • Deer proof flower/ herb border on the outside of the fence
  • Raised beds w/ mulched walking paths
  • Adding 4 chickens
  • A half shed/ half chicken coop
  • Chicken pen for the new hens
  • A chicken moat around the garden just inside the cute fence
That was my final "dream" plan as of the beginning of April. It's now July and the paper plans are coming to life.

Project Updates:
  • The raised beds with mulched walking paths was the first thing we did. We built 8 of the nine beds so far. The last one will be completed in the fall after the crops are harvested out of that area. The beds are 4 ft x 18 ft x 8 inches deep. We were able to fill the beds with open bag specials at local stores. Most bags didn't have anything missing out of them and we spent $1.50 per bag. Not a bad deal, but it does add up when you consider the shear amount that we needed.
  • As you know, we do have the four chickens. We all love the hens and are enjoying them in the backyard at the moment. The coop is completed, but we have not built the pens in the garden area yet. Once we do that we will move them to the garden until then they will be enjoying free range of the backyard and the ravine.
  • The cute fence I dream of should become a reality slowly over the next month. We have gathered beautiful cedar boards and treated 4x4's from Craig's List sources. We just need to get the long runners for between the posts and we will have all the material to build a beautiful picket fence.
  • The chicken moat to go around the garden area was abandoned because of the cost.
  • The deer proof flower/ herb border for the outside of the fence has not been started because the fence is not in place. I'm still planning on getting the plants for free or bartering for them. For plants that I can not obtain that way I will try to start from seed over this coming winter to help save money that way.

For more details on how we built our raised beds and our coop stay tuned!

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