the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life


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Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake

We’ve been getting tons of blueberries from the farm through our CSA. I’ve made muffins, biscuits, and smoothies with them, and was starting to run out of ideas. I was perusing Colleen’s badass blog Grow Forage Cook Ferment and came across this recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake from Quinn Veon of Reformation Acres‘s book Cake Stand. Seeing as Andrew handed down a household dictum a few nights prior to start baking more in the cast iron, I knew I had to try it.

Now, I don’t like to bake. I do bread, but that’s about it. I don’t like eating sweet foods, especially anything with refined sugars and flours. Baking makes a mess. And I generally don’t have the patience required to measure everything out and do all the steps in perfect order.

This must have been the perfect recipe for me because damn, that is by far the prettiest thing I have ever baked in my entire life. I often forget that half the fight is finding nutritious ways to put up the harvest. To make this baking project healthier, I used whole wheat flour and left out the white sugar, adding some extra raw honey to compensate. I also used 0% Fage greek yogurt for a big protein boost. I whipped this thing up in 15 minutes and cleaned up in 5. I’m so proud, I had to share it on my blog!

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Natarajasana

I think I finally have dancer, or natarajasana down.

My yoga practice is not something I talk about. Not on the internet, not with friends or family, not even with Andrew. In fact, I go into my room and shut the door to practice alone. I practice in my office with the door closed on my lunch breaks. It all kinda feels like a big secret. I guess I don’t want people to think I’m some pretentious yoga nut. But my practice couldn’t be more integral to my life. It is the one thing I make sure I find time for every single day. The garden might not get watered, I might miss a little sleep, but I never forgo my yoga practice. I bring my mat on vacation and at least find the time for a forward fold and some moments of meditation.

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30K Trail Run in the Books

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We did it!

We ran the Cradle to the Grace 30K Trail Race and every part of my body aches including my head. Who cares, we did it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could, and I’m quite proud of the race and all that I’ve accomplished in the last four months.

That’s the thing. Compared to the four months of training, the race felt anticlimactic. I didn’t stick to my original training plan, but I did run faithfully 3-4 times per week despite all the life shit that hit me during these sixteen weeks: moving, building a garden from the ground up in three weeks, traveling twice for work, and driving back to Ohio for my grandma’s passing. Despite the sadness, anxiety, and depression, I laced up my shoes and hit the trails or pavement anyways. And every single time I felt better for it. I can honestly say the hardest part of every single run was walking out the door, and race day was no different.

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Fitness News and Training Update

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Bad news first. I hurt my knee shortly after my halfway post on the trail run training. Boo. I had to scale back a bit, but I’m feeling better and running 6-10 miles with no pain. The minor injury was a great learning experience for me about my training plan. I’m a lifelong math-nerd, and I like neatness. Consistency in numbers. Structure. Naturally, when I wrote my training plan, it was very tidy and had me training most days, adding a mile or two per week in a nifty little pattern. I admit – there where days I pushed myself too hard because I wanted to meet my numbers and not “screw up” my training plan. I was SO worried about falling off the wagon and losing the endurance I was working so hard to build. Bad idea. Since I was hurt, I’ve been taking it easier and have noticed my endurance levels are exactly the same. My marker is 6 miles – I can still run 6 miles and not feel winded. My legs get tired way before my lungs, which is even further evidence that cross training to build strength is vitally important.

Good news next. Some of you may know that I have lost a considerable amount of weight over the last three years. I was formally overweight, and due to a chronic health condition completely shifted my mental and physically fitness routines. I think it’s safe to say that three years in, this is no longer a phase – I’ve made a lasting impact on my life. My health is so important to me now, it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

Last April, I had my first hydrostatic body fat test done. It was a pretty neat experience – you go underwater and you fat-to-lean body mass ratio is tested. This is a much better metric for determining healthy weight than BMI, which is based solely on weight and height. A bodybuilder could have a BMI indicating obese because she has so much muscle, which weighs more than fat. Anyways, I’m not a huge fan of measuring your body against numbers, because I believe the best indicator of health is how you feel in your body on a day to day basis. But since we don’t even own a scale, this once a year testing is a cool way for me to check my progress. The testing is offered for free through my job.

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Sunday Thoughts: Some Life Design Chatter

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Some quiet mornings, when I’m alone drinking coffee, I listen to my music and reflect on all the ideas that have been floating through my mind over the last couple days. The people I’ve talked to, the podcasts I’ve listened to, the articles and books I’ve read, and most importantly, the lessons I’ve learned with my hands and feet. It never ceases to amaze me how much mental “stuff” I consume over the course of just a few days. I love these mornings. I feel inspired. It can be overwhelming.

The more I learn about permaculture, I am drawn to the life design element. This is the idea that we have the power to create a life that aligns with our goals, values, and beliefs. A lifestyle can be actively designed to meet all these existential/ intellectual needs, and this lifestyle can be functional, efficient, and fulfilling. This differs from the traditional view that there’s a designated path we must follow – go to school, get a job, have a family, go to the gym three times a week, take vacations, retire at 65. Cue Fitter Happier.

Having the power to design my own life isn’t what drew me to the early retirement community, but it is the idea that flung me full force into the path of financial independence. The FIRE community talks a lot about anti-consumption and retirement as the ultimate freedom – things that are core parts of my being – but I  feel that holistic life design is often missing from the conversation. It’s so enticing to fixate on the idea of retiring early that you get caught up in the work hard, save hard mentality and don’t take the time to consider the life you are currently living. I’m guilty of this – I often feel that I am head down, grinding through the days to save that money and get where I want to be. But I have at least 10 years left until early retirement, and I don’t want to spend those 10 years in this miserable, unfulfilling grind.

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Training for a 30K Trail Run: Halfway

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I’m roughly halfway through my training for the 30K trail run. I began slow training in late January, and official training in February, so I’m counting this first day of spring as the official halfway point. Like anything, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, and life getting in the way, but I’m amazed at how strong I feel and the level of endurance I’ve built up in eight short weeks. Case in point:

Last year, I trained for the 12K version of the same race, having never run more than 3 miles (at once) in my life. Our first long run was at a nearby park, and it was 4 miles. I mentally prepared for the run all week, psyching myself up. It was so brutal. Breathing hurt, my legs were heavy, and my mind was a mess. All I could do was whisper encouragement to myself every step and shuffle along. I made it all four miles without stopping, and afterwards I almost collapsed, half in pain, half in glory. I was so proud of myself – running 4 whole miles seemed like an unthinkable task, even for an experienced hiker like myself.

Today headed to the same nearby park for my long run – 12 miles. The first four miles blew by, as I glided through the forest, taking in all the plants and blue sky. My mind was clear as I called out the names of all my friends as I passed them by – painted buckeye, yucca, moss, lichen, christmas fern, sweet gum, loblolly, muscadine, elm, RIVER CANE! My thoughts were pleasant and breathing felt no different than when walking. I mused about how far away that first 4 mile run seems, yet it was less than one year ago.

I don’t think running is for everyone – truthfully, I don’t even think it’s for me. My knees ache all the time. After the race, I know I won’t run again until fall. And I’m ok with that. The training is about more than the running. It’s about how testing your limits can transform your mind. When I used to run, all I could think about was it being over, how much longer, how much it sucked. Now when I run my mind is open, curious. That’s the attitude I hope to carry through the rest of my training.

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Moving Hell


Three more days, I keep telling myself. We are in the thick of moving hell. I’m a giant ball of anxiety and have had a number of small panic attacks. But things are coming together. I spent all last night deep cleaning our new bathroom and it looks and smells amazing. I used a number of recipes from this zine, using mostly lavender and tea tree oils. At first I felt stressed and overwhelmed, but eventually I let myself enjoy the nesting process. Mixing my own cleaners in the sink. Washing and ringing out rags. Sponging down the walls, scrubbing the tub, and mopping the floors. When I finished it felt like a work of art. Non-toxic, old fashioned clean. One room down, three to go. The kitchen is next.

Uprooting is difficult. I always become regretful, and lament how much easier it would have been to just stay put. Due to some of my compulsive issues, I haven’t been able to sleep, eat, or drink much this week. I miss real food, but all my body wants is plain, bready carbs and junk food. Which in turn makes me feel even worse. I know this will pass – it always does – and before I know it our new home will be buzzing with our energy.

All this mess is a reminder that the good life takes hard work. Even in the thick of moving hell, I’m finding moments that remind me why we did this. This morning I walked to work, a balmy 60 degrees after a night of rain. The town was quiet, and the air clear. The birds were so loud and all the old, colorful mill houses had daffodils sprouting in their yards. I sipped my coffee and strolled leisurely, filled with peace. Felt about ten thousand times better than commuting to work in a car, frustrating by traffic and droning along with the morning news. My head’s such a nightmare, I had to say our loud, “this is what living feels like.” So I could relish in the moment, so I could remember that stress is only temporary.