Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Slippers, continued

Before felting:

During felting/shaping/drying (the wool is still wet and - I assure you - very icky-feeling):

Not assembled quite yet:

I'd thought I might have them done in time for this post, and indeed they're dry and I have picked out buttons (and wasn't THAT agonizing). But.. I haven't quite stitched 'em up and am rapidly running out of time, as they must be done by Thursday of this week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fiscal Fridays: charts

I realized that with last week's inaugural Fiscal Friday post, I got WAY ahead of myself. It will probably be more useful for me to explain how I route my money, and then break down each account in turn.

Also, let me preface this by saying: some people like things simple, but apparently I don't! The important thing, of course, is that this works for me. Anyway, thanks to the good folks at bubbl, I've created this work of art:

I fear it's not very legible, but hopefully the colors will help. Here's the deal:
I get paid regularly (paycheck square, top center). A chunk comes out pre-tax into my 401(k) - just enough to get the full company match.

The rest of my paycheck gets dropped into the account I call day-to-day spending (red block, center), and I route more than 85% of the cash right back out again. It goes into the following accounts, all linked and easy to work with:
  • bright green block on left: short-term savings 
  • three light green blocks in the lower middle: travel, misc budgeted spending, mad money
  • right-hand dark red block: bills
The gold boxes in the top left represent my retirement accounts, one of which is orphaned and is the last loose end for streamlining my old 401(k)s. I rolled two old accounts into one IRA and doing this last one will feel GREAT (when I get around to it!).

I'll talk about these more in-depth as I touch on the various accounts, but I found that it's a really interesting exercise to chart out all the accounts in my life. I first did it in 2007 and this is the first time I've tried it since. I highly recommend doing it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WIP Wednesday: slippers!

I realized recently that the last time I was away from work for a full weekend-to-weekend chunk of time was last December. I can't quite express how ready I am for a break! I'm going on a road trip with a friend in a couple of weeks, spending a day & a bit in Portland (still my favorite place, stupid stupid city...with any luck the weather will be crap) before heading west and spending several days driving down the coast of Oregon & into California. In 1995, I think, I drove up the entire coast of California with a friend, and I've visited the northern Oregon coast many times. So, I'm most extremely excited to see the legendarily beautiful and hard-to-reach Southern Oregon coast!

I decided to knit some cute little slippers for the trip, so my friend and I have something cute for our hotel rooms and a fun souvenir. The Yarn Harlot popularized some felted slippers (good examples here and here) and I decided to give them a go. I had limited yarn options and picked a bluey-green that is hopefully somewhat reflective of the colors of the Oregon coast, but realistically that color would be more piney and brown and gray. Still, pretty, right?

The crazy thing about felting is that you make the object so HUGE - then shrink it. So here are the two pairs of slippers, pre-felting (the toe strap and button get added later):
For some perspective - they are quite big right now!

My astute readers will note that the bottom of the slippers contains some black yarn - I had some leftover from my first felting project, this bag that I never carry:
And thank goodness I did use the extra yarn. If you go back to the picture of the nearly-completed slippers, see those two little lumps of yarn to their left? Yep, that's all that's left of the skeins! woot, no stashing for me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The great plastic experiment

I've got some great travel coming up next year - Honduras, Greece, and maybe I'll tack a little something onto Greece as long as I'm there (OR try to explore the country thoroughly.. tough to say just yet). Of course the less I spend on airfare, the easier it'll be to enjoy the rest of the trip. I've never gotten into the whole airline mileage thing, but I think I'm going to take the plunge, with the help of a friend.

The goal: free flight to Greece without paying any annual fees or interest on the charges.
The timeline: I'll be there in June 2011
The process: So far I've signed up for one Visa that gives miles on American. I have to spend $1500 in the next six months to get 75k miles. If I also sign up for their Amex, that'll be a commitment of $3,000 spending in six months to get 150k miles, which would be PLENTY for the trip - if I can successfully use them to book the travel. 

I hereby dub this the Great Plastic Experiment (GPE for short. I do love me an acronym).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiscal Friday: Feed me, Seymour

Welcome to Fiscal Friday! This post was inspired by a blog post by librarian friend of mine. She was lamenting that going out to eat can be a little pricey, and given that half of her household is in school, that makes it a little tough.

I totally sympathize, and it's where my Mad Money spending account came from. I live in a big-time foodie part of the world, and I really do want to experience some of its amazing offerings. But I can't just scrape up $100+ at a moment's notice to go to the fancy-pants restaurants! (to give some context, I try to keep my eating-out expenses under $200/month)

One of my friends mentioned that she sets aside $20 a month in cash into an envelope, and intends to use it for an annual Amazing Dinner Out (we're talking $200+ to eat at the restaurant she mentioned). I don't do well with cash sitting around - somehow I dip into it for other spending - but I loved her idea. So, with my lovely bank USAA, I opened a separate savings account, labeled it Mad Money, and started saving a little bit of money every paycheck. I started small, just $10/month, but then I paid off the last of my debt and bumped it up to $25/paycheck. I don't miss it, and I know it's there if I really DO need it, but mostly it just adds up.

So far I've used Mad Money this summer to eat at Prospect, a new restaurant in San Francisco where a coworker's partner is the pastry chef. I used Mad Money in January to take advantage of Dine About Town, where I squeezed TWO fancy meals out of the account: at Le Central, a French bistro that's been open since the 1970s, and at Chaya Brasserie, a Japanese-American fusion restaurant.

Next up? I think I'll see if I can find anyone who wants to eat at a local-to-me honest-to-goodness-Michelin-starred restaurant. I think if you do the tasting course and paired wines it's something like $90 per person - not something to be undertaken lightly, but certainly something I can save for with my Mad Money account!

As a side note, I'm so glad I track my spending - it was the only way I could locate the names of the restaurants I ate in 9 months ago!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New feature: Fiscal Fridays

I decided to run a new semi-regular post called (as you see in the subject) Fiscal Fridays. I read a lot of personal finance blogs, the best of which is Get Rich Slowly. I have no intention of becoming a personal finance blogger, but I do want to share thoughts with y'all.

So stay tuned!

WIP Wednesday: Leafy socks

I think I was inspired by the Yarn Harlot's post earlier this year about knitting green goodness. I bought some similarly-green yarn way back in February, and have finally started turning them into some leafy green socks.

I've got one sock done, and one foot about half-completed.
Pattern: Interlocking leaves, available at Knitty.

Of course it's possible that I've recently been distracted by some other pattern... I might've cast on these super-cute slippers. Maybe.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Go go gadget!

It was my birthday recently, and I received an unexpected gift from my parents.. a pineapple corer! But on closer inspection I found out it is *awesome* and I highly recommend getting one.

First, choose your victims carefully. Apparently you want pineapples that are more golden than green, and give a little when you poke 'em.
Good old Berkeley Bowl had lots of great pineapples - I don't know if they happen to be in season, or what, but these were amazing. First, you cut off the top, then line up the gadget with the central core area:
Twist the gadget, coring and slicing a lovely spiral of delectability as you go:
Pull said spiral of goodness out of the pineapple. You have to tug a little.
Pop off the handle of the gadget, so you can overturn it and remove the spiral of deliciousness in one long piece. Two pineapples' worth:
It leaves a hollowed-out core that apparently some people use to hold fruit salad, rum, or pineapple fried rice. So many options!
I wound up not using it for anything... but I'm certain I'll be coring pineapples again soon!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Something in the air

Last weekend I actually had all three days off - usually I am either traveling, or sign up to work (so I can save the vacation time for later). It was so nice I wish I could always have three-day weekends (or all weekends, no work!).

I made bread from this recipe even though his writing style makes me nuts. It came out purty:

but I'm not a huge fan of the flavor. Do any of you have good/easy/tasty recipes? Right now I'm reading a book on baking: 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust - but his recipe looks harder than I want to do (and calls for a sourdough-ish starter). Help a baker out!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Two Thousand Ten: September

Can we take a minute, folks, to catch our collective breath? September?! Really?? I don't think I'm ready. Okay, thanks. 

September's picture is a cheat - I didn't take it in 2009. But these are my self-imposed rules, and we all know that self-imposed rules are made to be broken.

I took this picture in October 2007, on my first post-California-move tent camping trip. (It took over a year to get back into tent camping, but I'd already been to Yosemite not once but twice, lucky me!).
 Big Sur is about 2 1/2 hours south of me, and after two days of extremely vigorous hikes, my camping buddy and I were happy to take a meandering wandering walk through Lime Kiln State Park. Sun-dappled rocks, gorgeous yellowed leaf - the picture practically took itself.