A Birthday Tradition Revisited

In this day and age, it seems that traditions are receiving a bad press.  Many traditions provide a sense of comfort and stability in a world that is filled with chaos. The tradition I started for my wife’s birthday is now over a decade old, and it is a tradition that is now rooted in our family.  Hopefully, this is a tradition our son will carry with him into his marriage, and it will become generational.  What traditions have you started in your family? What have you been doing for years?  What stability have you brought to you and your family’s lives through your traditions?

The following video… I filmed last year, but I was finally able to edit it the way I envisioned these past few weeks.  I hope you enjoy our continued tradition to celebrate the most important person in our household.  After the video, I included the first post I made about this birthday tradition 3 years ago.  Enjoy the flashback.

For the past eight or so years, I started a tradition for my wife’s birthday.  Before this epiphany, I would ask my wife what she would like for her birthday cake?  I would then, like most husbands, go hunt down the desired cake and purchase it from a bakery or sometimes an ice cream parlor.  One year my wife said, she didn’t feel like having a cake or anything.  She was reading about how unhealthy processed cakes were due to all the additives and processed ingredients.  I don’t blame her; I am not a fan of food coloring in my food either.  But, I didn’t have a problem;  she always made my cake from scratch.

My wife knew I was not a good baker, but I felt the gauntlet had been cast down, the challenge had been made, and I needed to step up as a husband and respond in the only dignified way I could and that was to don an apron and start a bake’n. Thus, a new tradition was born.

It is a Woman's World... I love this cook book from 1939.

It is a Woman’s World… I love this cook book from 1939.

I found a book with the most natural ingredients I could find at a Robert’s Bookshop selling used books in Lincoln City, Oregon.  The cook book is pre-WWII, and I figured the war was a definite trigger for over processed foods in our diet as the military rations found commercial labels and entered our grocery stores soon after.

I began searching through the cake recipes and I tried several for my wife over the years.  The first cake I made  was almost a brick, and from then on I got much better.  The cakes from this cook book are not fluffy, light cakes.  They are dense, rich, thick cakes that stick to the roof of your mouth and to your ribs.  They truly are good.  However, three years ago I made Krista the Zesty, Orange Cake, and now I am not allowed to bake a different type of cake or change recipes.  This is the birthday cake that has won my wife’s heart, and so  I have dedicated the past few years to perfecting the recipe and the cake’s presentation.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it's all good... Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it’s all good… Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

When it rains, it pours… The week of my wife’s birthday this year; I had meetings scheduled every night after school, the snow plow truck broke down, and the propane stove and oven quit working.  At least the wood cook stove, was available to make the cake without any problems.  In fact, I prefer the wood cook stove to the propane one when baking.

The icing on the cake... I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake so it has time to chill.

The icing on the cake… I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake, so it has time to chill.

I usually make Krista’s zesty, orange cake in stages.  On the eve before making the cake, I make the orange icing.  After I grated the peel for the orange flavor, I squeeze the fresh orange for the half cup of orange juice needed.  I also grate a lemon for the icing and add the juice of the freshly squeezed lemon for a little more zing.  Once the icing is cooked and thickened, I set it out to cool before placing it in the fridge overnight.

The apprentice... My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The apprentice… My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The next day,  which was luckily the weekend, I began making Krista’s cake.  This year I had help from my son.  He did an excellent job cracking the eggs and adding the ingredients to the mixer to make the cake batter.  He also learned how to juice the oranges and lemon for the batter as well.

In this next shot is our Juice King, which is our citrus juice squeezer.  Krista found it at an antique sale, and it has worked great ever since we brought it home.  I require the use the juicer three different times.  Once for the icing, then for the cake batter, and last for the frosting.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze... Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze… Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

When the batter is ready for the cake pans, I have the wood cook stove revving up to cooking temperature.  The key is to not overheat the oven because waiting for it to cool is time consuming.  I close the flue and open the oven vent.  I also open up the ash tray drawer below the fire box and when it approaches the 350 degrees required, I shut everything down except the oven vent.  I tend the firebox making sure it has enough fuel to cover the baking time of 25 – 35 minutes.  Once I have the fuel and the temperature needed, I place the cake pans into the oven on the same rack.  The oven temperature was so even and the cook time so short, I didn’t need to re-position the cake pans once they were in the oven.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man... I could not help but to feel rush a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, "Bake me a cake as fast as you can."

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man… I could not help but to feel rushed a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, “Bake me a cake as fast as you can.”

The finished product this year was great, except I hate to waste anything, so I added way to much orange icing to the center between the layers of the cake.  I must remember when it comes to presentation, less is more.  However, when it comes to flavor and taste, I still tend to get carried away and put as much frosting and icing on the cake beyond surface allowance.  Good thing I’m not an architect.

Almost finished... All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.

Almost finished… All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.  The toothpicks held the top layer in place to add the frosting.  I placed way too much icing in between the 2 layers, but it was worth it.

Here is Krista’s beautiful, zesty, orange, double layer cake made with orange, lemon zest icing between the layers and drizzled on top of the orange and vanilla butter cream frosting.  Now, my wife has to wait another 366 days for her birthday cake; it’s a leap year.  Unless, our son or I request it as well.

 

 

A Birthday Challenge Turned Tradition: Zesty, Orange, Double Layer, Birthday Cake

For the past eight or so years, I started a tradition for my wife’s birthday.  Before this epiphany, I would ask my wife what she would like for her birthday cake?  I would then, like most husbands, go hunt down the desired cake and purchase it from a bakery or sometimes an ice cream parlor.  One year my wife said, she didn’t feel like having a cake or anything.  She was reading about how unhealthy processed cakes were due to all the additives and processed ingredients.  I don’t blame her; I am not a fan of food coloring in my food either.  But, I didn’t have a problem;  she always made my cake from scratch.

My wife knew I was not a good baker, but I felt the gauntlet had been cast down, the challenge had been made, and I needed to step up as a husband and respond in the only dignified way I could and that was to don an apron and start a bake’n. Thus, a new tradition was born.

It is a Woman's World... I love this cook book from 1939.

It is a Woman’s World… I love this cook book from 1939.

I found a book with the most natural ingredients I could find at a Robert’s Bookshop selling used books in Lincoln City, Oregon.  The cook book is pre-WWII, and I figured the war was a definite trigger for over processed foods in our diet as the military rations found commercial labels and entered our grocery stores soon after.

I began searching through the cake recipes and I tried several for my wife over the years.  The first cake I made  was almost a brick, and from then on I got much better.  The cakes from this cook book are not fluffy, light cakes.  They are dense, rich, thick cakes that stick to the roof of your mouth and to your ribs.  They truly are good.  However, three years ago I made Krista the Zesty, Orange Cake, and now I am not allowed to bake a different type of cake or change recipes.  This is the birthday cake that has won my wife’s heart, and so  I have dedicated the past few years to perfecting the recipe and the cake’s presentation.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it's all good... Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it’s all good… Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

When it rains, it pours… The week of my wife’s birthday this year; I had meetings scheduled every night after school, the snow plow truck broke down, and the propane stove and oven quit working.  At least the wood cook stove, was available to make the cake without any problems.  In fact, I prefer the wood cook stove to the propane one when baking.

The icing on the cake... I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake so it has time to chill.

The icing on the cake… I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake, so it has time to chill.

I usually make Krista’s zesty, orange cake in stages.  On the eve before making the cake, I make the orange icing.  After I grated the peel for the orange flavor, I squeeze the fresh orange for the half cup of orange juice needed.  I also grate a lemon for the icing and add the juice of the freshly squeezed lemon for a little more zing.  Once the icing is cooked and thickened, I set it out to cool before placing it in the fridge overnight.

The apprentice... My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The apprentice… My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The next day,  which was luckily the weekend, I began making Krista’s cake.  This year I had help from my son.  He did an excellent job cracking the eggs and adding the ingredients to the mixer to make the cake batter.  He also learned how to juice the oranges and lemon for the batter as well.

In this next shot is our Juice King, which is our citrus juice squeezer.  Krista found it at an antique sale, and it has worked great ever since we brought it home.  I require the use the juicer three different times.  Once for the icing, then for the cake batter, and last for the frosting.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze... Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze… Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

When the batter is ready for the cake pans, I have the wood cook stove revving up to cooking temperature.  The key is to not overheat the oven because waiting for it to cool is time consuming.  I close the flue and open the oven vent.  I also open up the ash tray drawer below the fire box and when it approaches the 350 degrees required, I shut everything down except the oven vent.  I tend the firebox making sure it has enough fuel to cover the baking time of 25 – 35 minutes.  Once I have the fuel and the temperature needed, I place the cake pans into the oven on the same rack.  The oven temperature was so even and the cook time so short, I didn’t need to re-position the cake pans once they were in the oven.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man... I could not help but to feel rush a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, "Bake me a cake as fast as you can."

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man… I could not help but to feel rushed a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, “Bake me a cake as fast as you can.”

The finished product this year was great, except I hate to waste anything, so I added way to much orange icing to the center between the layers of the cake.  I must remember when it comes to presentation, less is more.  However, when it comes to flavor and taste, I still tend to get carried away and put as much frosting and icing on the cake beyond surface allowance.  Good thing I’m not an architect.

Almost finished... All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.

Almost finished… All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.  The toothpicks held the top layer in place to add the frosting.  I placed way too much icing in between the 2 layers, but it was worth it.

Here is Krista’s beautiful, zesty, orange, double layer cake made with orange, lemon zest icing between the layers and drizzled on top of the orange and vanilla butter cream frosting.  Now, my wife has to wait another 366 days for her birthday cake; it’s a leap year.  Unless, our son or I request it as well.

 

 

What goes up, must come down: a raise in interest rates will bring the economy down

Oh,oh, the Bank Base Rate has flat-lined again... The last time the federal funds rate was at an artificial low for this long was during the Great Depression. What is the economists, politicians, and banking cartel not telling us?

Oh,oh, the Bank Base Rate has flat-lined again… The last time the federal funds rate was at an artificial low for this long was during the Great Depression. What is the economists, politicians, and banking cartel not telling us?

This past week the Federal Reserve was meeting to determine if they would raise interest rates indirectly by raising the federal funds rate.  The FED has not raised the federal funds rate for almost a decade.  If the federal funds rate is raised, it will impact the banks’ interest rates on all loans.  Banks will not lend money at a lower rate than they borrow it from the FED, that just isn’t good business.   However, if banks raise the interest rates too high, no one could afford to borrow it into existence.  This higher interest rate on loans will cause borrowing of new money to stall.

Living in the 80's... I remember the 80's very well. It was a time when jobs dried up in the smaller communities in the Pacific Northwest and people migrated to where the jobs were such as Portland, Seattle, or Southern California. I am unsure where people will migrate for work in this scenario today. The FED promises not to raise rates this quickly, but we are being prepped by the media for an increase in the federal funds rates.

Living in the 80’s… I remember the 80’s very well. It was a time when jobs dried up in the smaller communities in the Pacific Northwest and people migrated to where the jobs were such as Portland, Seattle, or Southern California. I am unsure where people will migrate for work in this scenario today. The FED promises not to raise rates this quickly, but we are being prepped by the media for an increase in the federal funds rates.

Once consumers stop borrowing money into existence, our economy will begin to shrink.  This tactic done by the FED is used to control inflation.  If no new money is being borrowed, no new construction will begin.  Very few people will purchase homes at over  10% interest for a 30 year fixed loan.  Construction jobs will begin to dry up.  Real estate agents  will be competing for few buyers, and sellers won’t be able to find a buyer for their property.  But that, is just the housing market.

Another market that will be adversely effected will be the automobile industry.  Most people will not buy a new car at 10% or higher for an automotive loan.  People will find they can’t afford to make the large interest payment and not purchase a new car, but will end up fixing their older cars or buying used.  The automotive industry will feel the pinch and produce less cars, and layoffs will occur.  On the positive side, automotive technicians who fix and service vehicles will find themselves busy as people tend to fix their vehicles instead of purchasing new ones.

As money becomes less scarce as the buying power once available with low interest loans dissipate, the entertainment business will begin to see a fall in profits.  People will begin to spend their money on necessities versus entertainment.  Eating out which may have been common place will become a luxury as fewer people can afford to do it.   Restaurants that do not have a regular established clientele may see themselves in financial jeopardy.  All forms of entertainment will begin to feel the pinch.  Once these businesses start to close. The owners and employees’ spending power in the community will also be lost to other merchants.   Unfortunately, fast food restaurants will remain, the least healthy of food sources, because it will be what the majority of people can afford with the hope of retaining the “luxury” of eating out.

The FED will most likely postpone once again raising interest rates this close to Christmas.  At the latest, they will raise rates by the following March.  The FED is promising they will begin to raise interest rates incrementally over the next few years.      If you are planning to purchase a home the time is now before rates increase again.  If you are planning to sell your home the time is also now, since buyers are shopping before the door on low interest rates are closed for an unspecified period of time.

As of this week, the FED has postponed interest rate hikes for now, but they meet again in December to announce their next decision to raise the federal funds rates. After reading several articles the American public is being prepped by the media to expect rising interest rates.  The increase will happen.  If a person has any variable interest rate loans such as second mortgages, car loans, mortgages with adjustable arms, credit cards; it is best to pay them off right now while interest rates are still low.  A variable interest rate loan  fluctuates with the federal fund rates.  Once the Federal Reserve raises rates these loan payments will rise too.  If a person is on a tight budget already, these variable interest rate loans could cause a person to not make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck and the things they hoped to purchase from these loans will eventually be lost anyways.  If a person does not have the finances to pay them off; it would be wise for a person to refinance their home now and wrap some of these payments into a 30 year fixed low interest loan while the fixed interest rate is still low.  It makes sense to wrap larger variable interest loans into a smaller fixed interest one.  This is definitely not the time to be thinking about taking out large variable interest loans, but we should see banks pushing them hard these next few months before Christmas since they are projecting interest rates to rise as well as their profits.

As a person who teaches high school economics, this to me is like watching football for the rabid sports fan.  We live in exciting economic times, and they are about to get a whole lot more exciting.  I am warning my students to prepare to see these interest rate increases also in student loans as they should take advantage of the dual enrollment  / college credits they can earn while they are still in high school.   They can save the cost of two years tuition at most liberal arts universities if they take advantage of the program and take their studies seriously.

So, how does this post relate to living sustainably?  For interest rates not to effect us, we need to live outside the monetary system just enough so that a rise in interest rates does not affect us and our ability to provide for our families.  Living sustainably is about living within one’s means and trying to utilize the natural resources around us, like growing our own food and harvesting our own electricity.  My wife and I aren’t even close to what we want to do to live sustainably.  I must still work a job and bring home a paycheck like the majority of people.  However, we still have a dream of being sustainable, and we continue to strive for it, getting closer each and every day.

The Back Story…

A slight winter dusting before spring.

A slight winter dusting before spring, 2015.

During the summer of 1994, my wife and I decided to join in holy matrimony.  Our marriage brought two college students together that desired to live a life that was debt free and sustainable.  However, we were debt-ridden at the time with college student loans.  We decided to snowball our debt and within fifteen years of frugal living, we were debt free except for a home mortgage.  As a teacher who never made above thirty-five thousand dollars in his life, this was a huge accomplishment.

Our last obstacle was the sale of our home on the Oregon Coast.  We took the profit we made and bought a small ten acre parcel in Idaho.  We established our off the grid home within a year of purchasing the property and through stages we added key systems to help us live more efficiently and sustainably.

This blog is a record of our journey through our marriage, sustainable lifestyle, and our future adoption.  We hope you enjoy what you find here as we explain several key systems we added to our home over the years, but also our philosophy, and faith that brought us here.