Another Culminating Year: 2014 Summarized

With winds of change blowing through my whole life and being, keeping track, and writing it all down has been on my mind fairly often. I've had thoughts of creating a new space for this, and I still can't say I've decided on or against it. For whatever reason, I'm not ready to let the dream I had for this space fall to the wayside because my essence has changed. Maybe this space will be reinvented, or maybe I'll bid adieu and let you know where to find me instead. I do feel, however, that MaeLiveFree is as good a place as any to summarize 2014 for those who have may be wondering what's been happening in my life.

As I mentioned the last time I checked in here, a year ago, we bought a house. A lot of stress has surrounded the commitment and the move. When we realized we were locked into a dwelling that couldn't bring us the comfort we'd hoped for, things just spiraled downwards. The first issue with the house was a plumbing nightmare. Within days of moving in there was sewage backed up into our bath tub and we were unable to run much of any water. It was the main line. A full days work for David, his wonderfully helpful supervisor from work, who is also an amazing human and great friend, and another co-worker/friend, and they managed to shop-vac out the clog, only to find issue with the connections of the plumbing, which was brand new but terribly assembled. They say to be prepared for this sort of thing when you buy a house, that everyone has a hard first year, but we were in completely over our heads.

Then there was the cost of heating the place which has been a joke up until a month ago. The house has a brand new electric central heating unit, but it isn't connected to half of the house, and it costs several dollars a day to run. The shock of our first utility bill here has still not worn off. We bought a used pellet stove to try to remedy our heating cost situation, but after a month of running it and having issues with it and still being cold, we opened it up to do a major cleaning and found much to my horror, that a good yearly cleaning had most likely never been done. Especially disgusting and frustrating considering that the stove was at least fifteen years old. So we sold that, and have been running zonal ceramic infrared heaters and keeping cozy for a cost that's still more than we're comfortable with, but better than the alternative.

Maybe out of frustration with the house, that needs a hundred fixes still, we decided that starting our roasting business would be a good investment. What better time than now, right? Wrong. I think we were desperate for some happiness, but this hasn't worked out as merrily as we fantasized either. We started after the deadline for farmer's markets, so we lost out on an entire season of where our best revenue would come from. We also sorely underestimated how hard it would be to obtain all the legal permits and such for a roasting operation. In some states the Cottage Food Act permits home roasted coffee as long as you sell under a certain volume, but Washington doesn't. That left us to obtain a straight up food processors permit, but there are so many hoops for that we would have to roast at someone else's facilities. Without the demand for our product being enough to justify a higher volume roaster and costs that would rob us of any profit, that was also out the window. So the business is stuck in some strange limbo right now. The good news is that we've learned a lot, and David is developing pretty solid roasting skills. Plus the experience really helped me get a good coffee job.

In September-ish, we decided that getting David a motorcycle so that I could have the car, mostly for business purposes, was a good idea. He bought a bike while taking his motorcycle endorsement course, before he knew if he could ride it, and it turned out that the bike he chose was too large of a beast for him. Instead of practicing reason, we decided to go ahead and get one that he could ride before selling the first. As we deserved for being so rash, both bikes stopped running. So we currently have two useless motorcycle's sitting in our garage sucking away precious monetary resources and not being sellable. As if that weren't enough of a strain on our finances, things got worse when David totalled our Focus, with no collision insurance. So, we ended up forking out for another vehicle.

This year we've been chasing down our dreams hard but it's been more of a nightmare than a dream in most regards. The good news is I think it has helped us re-evaluate our life, dreams, and goals in a more realistic light.

With all of the debt accrued we started thinking that maybe it was time for me to get back to work. This of course sparked discussion about what we're doing as far as Lorelei's care and education. We intended to homeschool her, and were pretty resistant to give up that dream. Especially since we are not keen on conventional schooling and the whole "teach to the test" public school mentality. Luckily I stumbled across Waldorf education, and I'm smitten with the ideals of whole child education they foster. It's exactly what I wanted to give her myself, only better because she'll be part of a community of other children, so I am very comforted in the fact that we can send her to one. As far as her care when I'm working and she's not at school, that has worked out well. My father is moving in with us to be her Nanny Papa. This should be an amazing opportunity for our whole family, as he starts the transition for my mother and youngest sister to move from Idaho to Washington too, and makes up for time lost since we moved away when she was just one.

All of the let downs aside, 2014 has been one of those years for growth. You can't do it without the pains right? There are some things that have gone right that should breath happiness and goodness into 2015.

Here are some of the little things that have kept 2014 from being totally glum.

  • Making friends and trying to carve out a little place for ourselves in our community.
  • Being forced to upgrade to a vehicle that we really love.
  • Seeing Ben Gibbard perform live (having an actual date)!
  • Getting my middle sister and her hubby to move from Cali to here.
  • Bringing Edie home!
  • Landing a fantastic job to start the new year with.
  • Making it through with everyone in one piece.
  • Learning some decent latte art skills.
  • New perspective and goals.
  • Delicious coffee always at our disposal.
With all of the excess and expenses we've taken a good hard look at what "things" in our life our necessary. We've been purging our belongings and old ideas that no longer fit. We're making more space for what matters, time spent with people we love, doing things that bring us health and vitality, forging new dreams that won't wreck us. Seeking out some zen. I can't say I will miss this year, but nonetheless I am grateful. Bring it on 2015.


2013 In Passing

I would say forgive me for my absense, but I'm not exactly apologizing. Since the last time I shared anything here life got intense! I fully meant to elaborate on what really brought about the change in my frequency here, when it became obvious but I was so wrapped up in it that I never did. You'll understand after I sum up the many ups and not so many downs of this year.

I suppose we'll start with the downs. At least what I can remember, which is not very much.

1. After too many complaints from neighbors of the noise coming from our apartment during our Thursday night grocery trips, we were forced to find a new home for our Miniature Schnauzer Edith, who was our first baby together. **This has an upside that will present later, in the goods part.**

2. At the very beginning of the year David's mom suffered major injuries from falling on ice at work and is STILL having surgeries to recover. **There is an upside to this too. Balance**

3. David's family's dog Obi went out to the backyard, fell asleep, and never woke up.

4. Someone who was very dear to our family and my grandmother in particular was taken from this earth.

Then there were all of these amazingly good things!

1. David's mama was able to quit smoking because of her stay in the hospital. She had been smoking for over thirty years, as I recall. She has also done a lot to get healthy, including eating mostly plant based food.

2.We went to Portland for our third anniversary, an epic first date without our child who was then just over two. This is when I weaned her as well.

3. David received a promotion at work which has made life a bit more comfortable (ie. not living paycheck to paycheck, being able to splurge on hobby stuff, the ability to throw out old holey sheets, etc.)

4. My dad started working a stable job with growth opportunities for Jackson's convenience stores. He's completed manager training and hopes to get a transfer and management position here in Washington sometime in 2014.

5. My sisters and I all got to see each other for Kitty's 20th birthday, in Idaho.

6. Lorelei became more or less potty trained. Accidents still happen every so often in the form of minor leaks and during the night, but she is a little rockstar!

7. My aunt and uncle opened a small family run business in Nampa, Idaho. This is something a lot of my dad's family always dreamed about.

8. We purchased an espresso machine and started our coffee business on the blogging/education/review side of the coffee industry. Our website Purista Coffee Co has been a really rewarding and fun project for us to do together. We've met the most exceptional people through it and feel great about it's future. In 2014 we plan to start selling our home roasted coffee!

9. Edith was taken in by David's dad who has always loved her and is a lonely long-haul truck driver. They are the best companions for each other we could have hoped for and they take such good care of each other as well. In fact, Edie saved his life one night while CO2 leaked into the cabin of his truck and he slept. The girl usually sleeps quietly through the night, but woke him urgently so that he could get them both out. He said when he woke up he had a horrible headache and felt the worst he ever had. We're so happy that she was there for him.

10. We started home roasting coffee, see #7. ;)

11. David's best friend moved into our apartment building (from Idaho) and started working with David as well.

12. My mom started working her dream job as a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital she works at. Next step midwifery, I hope.

13. David and Lorelei got to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker for the first time. It was MAGICAL!

14. We got health insurance!!!!!!!! To each their own opinion about the Affordable Care Act, but  we couldn't be more happy. No more worries about whether or not we're falling apart. We'll be choosing a naturopath as our primary care provider and are thrilled about our wellness checks. Weird?

15. We found a house! Closing should be any day now and I can't wait to share our homeownership adventures here.

16. Last night we adopted a four month old Ausky (Australian Shephard/Husky mix) as an early birthday and housewarming present. She's a little not so little dream come true. We're looking forward to playing in our yard, hiking, swimming, and doing all kinds of active stuff with her. Her name is Gesha (pronounced like Geisha, but it's a rare and delightful coffee varietal, not a courtesan).

17. I'm still growing my hair and bangs out, and no-pooing. I'm shocked, really.

18. We have made some great plans and goals for 2014. I'll be back soon to share those.

I hope that you all have a great time saying goodbye to 2013 and ringing in 2014. For Auld Lang Syne...


Thin Crust Cashew "Cheese" Vegan Pizza Mouthgasm

I promised all of my Facebook friends that I would post this recipe today. So whether they want to use it or not, I figured I could use some practice in following through.

I'm a little off the grid right now (or a lot) because I'm working on something pretty big and exciting. As I work on that, I'm trying to sort out some balance for when I don't need to put all of my time into it. I'm pretty excited about the whole thing, and some of you might be too. Hopefully I find some time for a real update before too long. I've got a queue of recipes to share, we went camping (okay we tried), and I want to talk about some other changes. Eventually....now I just need to get this recipe out there.

Last night I wanted to make a pizza. I've made quite a few homemade pizzas, some before we were vegan, lots of different dough and crust experiments, so I felt daring and confident enough to fly by the seat of my pants. Zero recipes, zero Pinterest reference pictures, just my surprisingly intuitive rationing skills. I was expecting it to be just good, but it turned out to be the best pizza I've made yet. High five! I use only whole wheat flour, so if you want to use white/all purpose you will need more. I've struggled with perfect thin wheat crust as long as I've been making pizza. Nailed it this time.

Starting at the beginning, with the sauce:

3 medium vine tomatoes
7 cloves garlic
2-3 tbsp EVOO
Sprinkle of sea salt and pepper.

Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 35 minutes, stirring once in the middle.

While that's roasting away start your dough:
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp sea salt (fine)
2 cups whole wheat flour.

Place the water in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with yeast and sugar, and whisk it together then let it activate for 5-10 minutes. Before you move on you should have a nice dense foam on top. While that activates prep/slice your preferred toppings. Don't go too heavy on them or you'll have a soggy pizza and your palate will be overloaded.

This is also when you can start quick soaking some cashews in hot water for the "cheese", in a bowl or something (not the blender because you'll need it for the sauce first).
1 cup hot water
1 1/2 cup raw cashews
Pinch of salt
Other seasonings ( I used 2 tbsp nooch and a few dry basil leaves)

Cover it and set aside.

Back to the dough... Add in the oil and salt and mix. Dump in your flour and go to town mixing until you have a completely combined, non sticking ball. Cover the bowl and let it rest about 10 minutes. After that you should mix  a little more and then knead it with a bread hook attachment on a mixer or with your hands until the ball becomes smooth and elastic. Flatten the ball between your hands and stretch from the center, evenly in all directions until it's about 6-8 inches in diameter, then set it on a lightly oiled pizza stone or pan and roll out thin to the edges.

Pull the roasting stuff out and scoop it into your blender or food processor.

Turn up the oven to 500 degrees.

Hydrate the tomatoes and add:
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
Pinch sea salt

Blend just slightly so it's equally smooth and chunky. Pour it on to the crust and smooth out evenly. Rinse your blender/processor and add soaking cashews with water to it. Blend until very smooth, and distribute like the sauce, with a light hand or it will be a orange mess.

Add your remaining toppings and bake for 9-14 minutes depending on how crisp you like your crust.

Purr a little, ooh and ah, and send me your thanks! Haha. Hope you try it sometime at least.
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