Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Thousand Ten: December!

Will you look at that calendar - it's the last month of the year! Without futher ado, here is my calendar shot for the month:

It's San Francisco, at night, from Alcatraz Island. Last fall, I got to spend the night there with a group of 30 hardy souls. Fortunately for me and my not-so-great memory, I already wrote it up. The view from the island was magical, and I am so very grateful that it's been preserved for all of us to enjoy - though usually you can't spend the night there!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WIP: Calendar 2011

For the last three years I've created a wall calendar using my digital photos, and have used my creation as Christmas gifts. I keep a couple for myself, give copies to my immediate family and one local friend, and sometimes if I have spares I give one to one friend or another. Like anything handmade, it's a personal gift, and it feels a bit risky - I know I typically pick out my own decor, including calendars, and I don't want to force my nice-but-admittedly-amateur art on anyone. Plus, just because I like it doesn't mean they will, and if they obviously reject it (I admit it!), my feelings will be a little hurt.

It's been pure pleasure, however, to do a monthly post with that month's picture and the story behind it, and I will certainly continue the tradition next year. 

So it's again time to create a calendar and then agonize over how many to print. I am very good about getting my pictures tagged and uploaded, and as the year goes on I add the ones I really like to a particular group; right about this time of year, I start winnowing! I run slideshows so I can try to imagine what the picture will look like larger than onscreen. I arrange and rearrange the order of the pictures. I try to use images that are roughly congruent with the month during which they'll be showcased; it's hard, since I don't see snow too often, to get anything useful for winter!

This year I'm running into the interesting dilemma of having a consistent style. In other words, there are a couple of pictures I'm thinking of using that are very very similar to pictures I've used in the past...I think! Unfortunately I don't have an intact calendar from the past years - I recycle one, and rip the other apart to use as a rotating art display in my cube at work. (It's quite nice to have 36 photos to choose from - I tend to have three hung at a time.) Work has been a bit busy of late, but hopefully I'll have both time and inclination to look through my folder of ripped-out images, and see what I've used and how it compares to this year's candidates.

I've got it down to 14, so I'm nearly there. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fiscal fitness and raises!

A month ago, I vaguely alluded to the fact that there's a lot going on in my world around career and stuff. Oh, I could share several months' worth of agonizing, but the short and happy news is I recently received a raise. woot!

So now I don't know what to do with it. I'm out of debt, I already spend more than enough on travel, and I'm in reasonably good shape for retirement savings (and since I save a percentage of my income, that savings will be increased automatically). At this point I think I'm just going to save the difference toward unspecified future expenses like a house or car. I'm wondering if I should put something like 10% into a shorter-term account? There are many things I need/want/would like, but they're too big or expensive or recurring to receive as a gift.

We'll see!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WIP Wednesday: wintery goodness

This is coming out even better than I hoped.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Link love

I was going to send these to a friend, but thought I'd share with all my boggy-friends!

I don't know if this is a joke or not, but it's hilarious: Six takes at suave
and this is just something great to keep in mind. Nicely written: Being happy with what we have

Laugh, then ponder, and revisit the laugh if you want to!

(ps - got the reader down to 200 and am getting offline for the evening)

I like big bundts.. happy international bundt day!

Happy International Bundt Day! This critically important holiday has been brought to my attention two years running by Mary the Food Librarian.

Last year I invented the Quadruple-Ginger Pear Bundt (which sadly, after a depanning incident, became bread pudding). This year I used one of Mary's recipes, for Mexican Hot Chocolate bundt. I brought it to a party this weekend, where it was devoured!

Happy eating, all!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fiscal Fridays: misc budgeted spending

yeah, it's not Friday this time! I wound up taking Friday entirely away from a computer, so didn't get to this 'til the weekend. Still, the theme works for me.

In September I posted the complete diagram of my money flow. Today I'm going to finish talking about this chunk of it:

I've already discussed the travel and mad money accounts; that leaves the one so descriptively labeled "misc budgeted spending." This is yet another savings account (insert rave for USAA's banking interface here), and as with the rest of my accounts, I transfer money into it every time I get paid.

The real purpose of all this account-having is that I don't have to watch my daily expenditures too much, yet don't have so much money lying around that I spend it wantonly (fun though that may temporarily feel!). This account funds the catch-all spending that I do over the course of a year, but not necessarily on a weekly or monthly basis.

Here are some recent expenditures that were funded from that account:
 - oil change & tail-light replacement
 - yarn for the wedding finery
 - plants for the garden's winter crop
 - membership in a local walking/biking advocacy group
 - bicycle wheel replacement
 - new tires for my car
 - flowers for my sister's graduation
 - membership in my local public radio station

These expenses fall into different categories in my budget (transportation, hobby, charity, and gifts), can't be predicted in advance, yet always occur sooner or later. I don't have a perfect solution for allotting money for those types of expenses, but what has been working for me is this separate misc account.

So how did I figure out how much to stick in that account every paycheck? Like most things in life, it's part art, part science. I've been tracking my spending for 3 years or so; once I knew where my money was going every month, I could decide how I felt about it, and whether I wanted to change anything in particular. With a reasonably good handle on my average expense per year for all my budget categories, it was a matter of basic math to figure out how much per paycheck should go be allotted for each type of expense.

Now - I have 14 budget categories, and even though I love me some complicated banking, I wasn't about to make separate accounts for every single category! So, I lumped the irregular expenses into this account, and fund it monthly.

The balance is running unusually high right now, but I can even figure out why, thanks to my handy little notebook with my spending figures in it. I know what I plan to spend in each category per year, can add up what I've spent already, and can see where I'm over or under, and use that information to spend or save the money accordingly.

For two concrete examples: I think I'm a bit low in transportation and charity spending. I set a goal to meet for the latter, and it'll be enjoyable to figure out how to spend the last bit of money to meet that budgeted amount. As far as transportation goes - if I determine I did spend less than planned, I'll bring my car in for a tune-up before the year is over, rather than wait til' next year and risk messing up my 2011 numbers.

Finally - actually using the account works simply. I charge the expense and then transfer the money from the savings account to my credit card. Easy! 

Clear as mud? any questions?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WIP Wednesday!

Well, I've made some headway on this lace-knitting business. I had to completely rip it out once, and have since successfully completed the lacey bits. There's some extreme fudging going on in a few spots, but I intend to continuously swirl and twirl the finished product so no one gets a close look. How's that for a genius plan?!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Three hundred seventy-two

Sheesh, you go out of town for a week here, a long weekend there, and suddenly the ol' Reader account has a massive backlog!

I subscribe to lots of feeds using Google Reader - blogs of people I know and/or have found (give me your link if you blog and I'll add you if I don't have you!), personal finance and knitting blogs, and lots and lots of food blogs. It is the latter that is woefully backlogged: 201 of the unread posts are in one of my food feeds. Sigh.

Do I mark them all read and start over? Maybe I'll see if I get in any quality down time this weekend - I can probably plow through a bunch of them then!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Thousand Ten: November

Wow you guys, the year is drawing to a close. As was the case last month, this month's photo is from my Halloween weekend in Yosemite last year.

This was up above the valley floor in McGurk Meadow, along the road to Glacier Point. It was a crisp day, and there's actually a little ice floating in that water. The most exciting part of the hike was the pair of bears we saw - they seemed to be mother and teenager, from our perspective - and who happily ignored us. In fact they were so relaxed that I can now definitively answer the question: Does a bear poop in the woods? With a resounding YES.