January 30, 2012

Pie-troversy

Cherry Pie

For our weekend game group, I volunteered to bring dessert. Originally I had been planning on brownies, but SB reminded me of the door county cherries in our freezer and suddenly cherry pie sounded perfect. I’ve got my pie crust, a la Deborah Madison, down perfect, so pie is no longer daunting. I used Smitten Kitchen’s cherry pie filling. In honor of valentine’s day, I decorated it with two hearts. Ta Da! I had pie to share.

Only, when it came time to slice the pie, of the six people at game group, only three wanted pie. Two of the non-pie eaters claim to like other fruit pies, just not cherry. One has decided to take a strong stand on the pie vs cake controversy and she chose cake, thanks to this guy. All the controversy meant left-over pie for me. Still, I’ve never had such a luke-warm response to dessert.

The web is full of pie or cake discussions. To provide the counter-point to the pro-cake camp, I give you this illustrated post. Personally, I enjoy cake AND pie. Good thing I don’t have to choose.

Monthly Music Challenge:
January Music: Polica at High Noon, part of the FRZN Festival
Bonus Event: Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? with Ed Begley Jr.

January 22, 2012

Biodynamic Weekend

Hanging Bicycle

I spent last weekend in San Francisco, visiting my sister, eating good food, drinking great wine and enjoying a little milder weather, before spending the week working in San Jose. One of the things I love about San Francisco is the enthusiasm and dedication to micro-trends from design to food.

Everyday I was in SF, I saw people waiting in line for bread. The bread line went around the block and started forming hours before the bakery opened. Now, these were not people desperate for a little nourishment, this was a line of trendy youngsters waiting outside the french bakery, Tartine. How could bread be worth it? I didn’t brave the line, so I can’t say, though this video is persuasive: http://www.tartinebread.com/

Besides bread I learned a new food concept, biodynamic. As best I understand, it is half the science of extreme sustainability and half a kind of earth religion. Reading the website, it actually started in the 1920s but seems to be gaining popularity recently. I’m sure I’ll be hearing and learning more about it, as their national conference this year is here in Madison. Whatever it may be, it sure produced some wonderful California wines.

Finally, I visited the garden center, Flora Grubb, whose photos had inspired me to start a new succulent arrangement and where I captured the planted bicycle pictured above. The store was every bit as inspiring as the photos had me believe. It made me long to live in a climate where I could grow giant cactus, palms and waxy leafed beauties.

I couldn’t have asked for a better mini-vacation, or as some call it, weekend. Thank you to my lovely hostess.

January 9, 2012

Frugality

Paper Whites

When we decided to move back to Wisconsin from Atlanta, I knew that there would be some financial hardship. We were jumping off the cliff of any financial planning we had during our time in Atlanta and had no solid plan for the future. There were setbacks and uncertainty in the years that followed. What I didn’t realize was how long and difficult the recovery would be or how much the challenge would teach me about personal finance.

In the three years since the move, I have developed and refined a household budget, set financial goals and with literal enjoyment, regularly review my progress. SB says this new-found love for personal finance comes from my passion for checking things off the list. I have long been a list maker. I love the satisfaction of a good check-off and have learned to make lists that contain steps to a larger goal, so little achievements can be checked along the way. I am terrible at remembering accomplishments once they have been checked off, but that is a topic for another post.

To aide me in my list making, I have a stack of pocket/reporter notebooks. These are spiral bound, 4 x 8 inch, lined, notebooks and contain lists and notes, to-dos and measurements. They are the foundation of my tool set. During the big move, when it became obvious we needed serious budget control, I started using Google Docs, as a shared repository for budget documents. Since the documents are accessible to both SB and I, we can both refer and edit, making the budget a living plan. The notebook and the spreadsheet have gotten me through the past few years.

Recently, I started reading a new financial blog, Mr. Money Moustache (Mr. MM) – Putting the cash in your ‘stash. This blog has reminded me that I need to start thinking longer term and bigger. It isn’t enough to have a monthly balanced budget, I need to think about the future, creating a reality where retirement is possible. If you have talked with me recently, there is a good chance you’ve heard me mention this blog. One of my friends, on hearing about Mr. MM, said, “Isn’t he just re-stating things you already know? Guys like that are just trying to make money off stating the obvious.” The sub-text being, “I’m smart enough that I don’t need to read a blog like that”.

While that may be true for my friend, I find the Mr. MM blog energizing. What he writes is not new to me, but is like a big dose of a frugality vitamin. I do want to retire some day. I do want to see every dollar helping me reach for financial independence. His blog has made me realize it is possible and worth striving towards a more independent future. In recent years I have scoffed at the mere mention of retirement, “Not in my lifetime.” Now I have hope that I can actually make it happen.

To help me make a check list for a richer future, I just started using Mint. The nice thing about Mint, so far, is that it tracks my retirement accounts and stock, in addition to the more day-to-day finances. This gives me a bigger picture of my finances than I’ve had before and will help me set some new, longer term goals. I’m excited about my financial plan for 2012 and hope to keep learning new tricks that will set me up for a great today and tomorrow.

January 3, 2012

A Year of Music

Logo

A year ago I set a goal of seeing one live show a month. A live show could be music or a play or any other live performance. Those were the only rules. So how did I do? I missed two months, June and December. I did see a total of 14 shows and it kept me looking for new bands to see and checking the local listings. I found some new-to-me music, bought some great cds and brought more music back into my life. Overall, it was a huge success, even if I didn’t make my goal. Here’s what I saw:

– December: None
– November: The Sweetback Sisters at High Noon Saloon
– October: Sh*tty Barn Party including Group of the Altos and Control
– September: The Gentle Guest at Sh*tty Barn and Ani D’Franco at Barrymore
– August: The Pines at Sh*tty Barn
– July: The Old 97’s at Summer Fest and Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble at Sh*tty Barn
– June: None
– May: Romi Mayes at High Noon
– April: The Old 97’s at The Barrymore and Jonathan Coulton with Paul and Storm at Majestic
– March: Momix at Overture and Portland Cello Project at High Noon
– February: Tennis at High Noon
– January: Ben Folds at Overture

Favorite concert of the year: Caravan Gypsy Swing Ensemble at The Sh*tty Barn as much for the venue as for the band. It was our introduction to the Spring Green music scene and had us coming back again and again this year.

Favorite album of the year: Parov Stellar an Austrian DJ whose two disc album Coco, produced in 2009, saw the most action on our playlist this year.

For next year the “rules” of this challenge need a little fine tuning. There were many questions around whether seeing the same band more than once counted. In 2012 it will not. Also, the definition of “live performance” is going to be limited to just music, since that is what it naturally became. Happy listening.

January 2, 2012

2011 in Review

Seed Pods

2011 in numbers:
– 1,275 visitors to this blog. July 13th had the most visits, Lola Swims
– 329 photos uploaded to Flickr
– 42 tweets
– 33 blog entries posted
– 20 books read (3 non-fiction, 17 fiction)
– 14 yarn projects completed (4 crochet, 10 knit)
– 14 concerts attended
– 7 cities visited Las Vegas, Sparta, Orem (x2), Chicago (x2), Cable, Atlanta and Portland
– 1 wedding attended

2011 was the year of the house and yard. The year started with tearing out trees and shrubs and planting new gardens in the front and back. SB hand dug a 30 foot drainage ditch and installed a french drain system, to keep our basement dry year round. We also resided and painted the garage and organized the inside of the garage, including lining the inside with peg board. I sharpened my trim skills installing chair rail, door trim and baseboard in the dining room. SB became an expert plumber, installing a new outdoor faucet and under counter dishwasher. We also painted the stairwell and continued organizing and donating stuff.

What am I looking forward to in 2012?
– House: Installing crown molding and picture rail throughout, painting the bedrooms, re-doing our upstairs bathroom, finishing the kitchen, which includes building some custom cabinets and putting in a privacy fence in the back yard. Now that the garage is coming together, trim and cabinet making will be much easier.
– Music: The monthly concert goal will continue. It really motivated us to see some great live shows and we are are looking forward to even more this year.
– Travel: I think we need to travel more this year, or at least more vacation travel adventures. Destinations to be determined.

The self-betterment wishlist includes yoga, fiscal responsibility and more personal blog writing. More on these goals soon. Happy New Year!




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