Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on 2015

My goodness, 2015 went SO quickly! I am surprised I did as many as 18 blog posts this year! Let's see, what can I recall off the top of my head?


  • I stayed healthy! Not something to take lightly! (I did get my first cold in 2 years at the end of the year, and it sucked, but big-picture - I'm pleased)
  • I kept running. I ran about 220 miles this year, I don't know the exact amount but I was slightly below my goal of doing 250. I participated in some organized runs! I did a 5k in March, another one in August, and a 10k in October. I didn't run the whole 10k but I averaged 12-minute miles which is my regular pace, so I was faster than usual when I was running, and did run the vast majority overall. 
  • I also hiked a lot! I did more than 100 miles of hiking while training to do Mount Saint Helens with friends - and we did it, and it was epic. 
  • I biked some but not a lot. I walked a lot. 
  • I'm about to hit 3 years of home ownership. It's still so great. I joined the board of my neighborhood association, I joined a gardening group (where we meet to talk about our gardens and share information and tour some people's yards) and got to meet a handful of neighbors, and just last month a new neighborhood knit night started up, and I've gone to three of those. 
  • I started a new job in April. It's kicked my butt but it was a good change to make. I still work remotely and would like to have in-person coworkers, but the flexibility is pretty terrific. 
  • I got a raise with my job, and continued to save one mortgage payment per quarter in a stock fund. My mortgage rate is super low (3.5%) so prepaying the mortgage doesn't seem like the absolute best return on investment - my theory is that putting the money in the stock market will be worth more after a few years, and barring any catastrophes, will let me pay off my house many years sooner than the bank plans for me to. This year hasn't been all that great for the stock market though, so we'll see how it goes. 
  • I'm still saving aggressively for retirement: 18% before taxes and 5% after. 
  • Giving back: needs improvement. I did find a cause near and dear to my heart that I was able to contribute to this year (a small family that is so great and can use support), but I can do more. 
  • It was a big busy year! I spent a week in Puerto Rico on the island of Culebra. I spent a week in Paris. I spent two weeks in Canada - one week in Toronto & one a couple hours north at a cottage with friends. I also went to San Francisco at least four times - for work and for play. And I went to Ashland twice, and to RI for Christmas, and to Walla Walla for a long weekend for a friend's big birthday, and to Hood River for a weekend with my book group, and to Hartstine Island with friends, and I even got to spend an unexpected 2 days in Boston with my former roommate when I couldn't get home as planned after Christmas.
  • I have a boyfriend now, for the first time in a super long time, and that's been a nice adjustment - but an adjustment nonetheless! 
  • I have a niece now, who is the absolute cutest and best and squishiest two-month-old you ever did see. I got to meet her over Christmas and it made any travel hassles (which were rather epic, actually) so worthwhile and forgettable. 
  • I got crazy and joined a THIRD book group - we'll see if I can sustain that pace! 
  • Like last year, I slacked off on running in December (even more this year than last) but I see that I was back to running 3x/week in January - that's something to live up to! 
  • I want to focus on connecting better with the people already in my life. I have to figure out how and where to wedge that in, but I think social dinners will be a good starting point - I've already promised to set something up with a long-time friend and his girlfriend, so I'll start small and will see what I can accomplish. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Niecey goodness

I have a niece! She's a month old now and I can't wait to meet her at Christmas. She's super expressive in all the photos I've seen, and looks like she's got a lot of opinions - definitely one of us!

So I've been getting my craft on a bit for her. In addition to the blanket and burp cloths I made, I've also been in Hat Mode. I made a very cute small hat:
But, alas, it was TOO small (though the picture of it wedged on her head is classic and makes me laugh). Fortunately I'd made a second, larger hat, which is a bit too big but will at least go on her head. But now I'm making a bigger version of the above hat, and perhaps a little sweater to go with it. It's December 1st! I gotta get on it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Onion jam update!

A couple of people have asked how the onion jam turned out, and how the swap was.

The jam was SO SO GOOD. I highly recommend making a batch. Make sure you really cook the onions for a long time - you want them soft and brown and sweet. There's no need to process the jam - I'd say after adding all of the post-caramelizing ingredients, stir a lot for maybe 20 minutes, fish out the rosemary if it's still intact, and put the jam in a container in the fridge. It will probably keep fine for about three weeks and would be amazing on turkey sandwiches, or dolloped on pork chops.

The swap was a fun success! There were 10 people there, and I brought 7 jars to swap. Everyone had an open container of their goodies so people could sample, and then the selection process began. We were each assigned a number from one to ten and took turns choosing what we wanted to take home; the selection process went from 1-10 and then backwards from 10-1, and was repeated until we were all done. The first two choosers chose my jam!

There's an honor system in place - since I brought 7 items, I got to choose a total of 7 things, but no one was tracking me. I took home a great haul: beer, limoncello, that quince paste called membrillo that you get on cheese plates sometimes, German mustard pickles, tomato jam, and TWO jars of a BBQ sauce I really really liked.

I liked that some people thought outside the box in terms of offering size - the beer was actually 3 bottles of a homemade IPA; one couple brought small containers of three different things and if a person chose their items, they could have two items count as one selection

All in all it was really fun and well-organized. It was over in an hour, and I'm looking forward to the next one in about six months... and I'm already pondering what I might make!

Crafty goodness

I know, I've been on a bloggy tear. Don't worry, it won't last!

My brother & sister-in-law are expecting a daughter very soon - the family betting pool spans October 30-November 10. I knit her a couple of hats, but they live in a warm place so it's hard to know how much use she'll get out of anything else. I will probably do a sweater at some point, but I'm not in a huge rush.

I DID want to get her some crafty goodness, though, so I asked some super-crafty friends for very (VERY!!!) easy sewing projects I could do. I was counseled to do a very simple blanket, and some burp cloths.

Blanket directions:
1. Cut two squares of fabric of the same size
2. Line them up face to face
3. Sew them together, leaving a four-inch gap in the stitching
4. Turn the bundle inside-out through that gap
5. Hand-sew that hole closed
6. Do another round of stitches around the whole thing
7. Do some stitching in random spots in the center area of the blanket so the two sides stay attached to each other.

This took me a LOT longer than it should have, but I got it done and am pleased with the results. The cloudy side is flannel and the pink side is cotton; I thought I pretty cleverly made the stitching-down bits look like rain.

Burp cloth directions:
1. Cut a skinny strip of fabric the approximate length & width of the center of a cloth diaper
2. Hem the strip all around
3. Sew it to the center of the diaper

This was faster, and not really as satisfying. Maybe I need EVEN CUTER fabric if I do this again. (See that? I'm already forgetting the teeth-gnashing involved in this project...)

I mailed the crafty goodness off to the expecting couple and they were quite pleased. These were their first burp cloths, so they promptly draped them all over their shoulders as a test run. We were on a Skype video chat and it was quite fun to watch!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Onion math

I'm going to a food swap next weekend - organized by some foodie people (women, I assume, but I don't know for sure!) and so of course I wanted to make something delicious, not too hard, not too common, not too expensive... which wasn't an easy task!

In the end I decided to make Caramelized Onion Jam using a recipe I found online. Then I doubled it - and it's a good thing! Onions get very very small when you cook them!

Take 12 onions, chop them and saute until they soften then put over low heat, stirring regularly, for a few hours. I think mine took about 3 hours to fully caramelize.

12 onions - in two pots!

12 onions, 3 hours later, consolidated in one large skillet

Add brandy, vinegar, honey, sugar, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In the end you'll get six 8-ounce jars. That's two onions per jar! 

The way the swap will work, we'll let everyone sample what we bring, then we draw numbers and take turns picking what we want to bring home. If you bring six items, you'll go home with six, in theory. 

I made another smaller batch of the jam, so I have a total of nine jars. One will be for sampling, one I may hold back, and that means I'll bring 7 to the swap.. I think. We'll see!

Want to know how the jam came out? Check out this later post

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pomegranate goodness!

I know, I've been HORRIBLY lax! It's been a super busy year - I got a new job that requires a lot more focus and brainpower than my last one did: I traveled less and worked more and cooked less and all in all - not a lot of blog-fodder.

But, I was going to a ladies' dessert & drinks night this past weekend, and I was trying to think of something seasonal, and appealing, and easy, and not too dish-intensive. (what has become of me? so sad!)

Out of nowhere I recalled that I'd seen pomegranates at the grocery store, and I wondered if anyone had put them in brownies before? I turned to the internet and indeed they had.

Very easy recipe:
A. melt together: 170g dark chocolate, 70% and 1/2 cup butter
B. while that cools, whisk together: 3 eggs, 1 cup white sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. salt
C. stir A into B, then stir in 1/2 cup all purpose flour
D. Finally, stir in MOST of the seeds from 1 pomegranate - reserve about 1/4 c  (see note below about seeding a pomegranate). Then you sprinkle the rest of the seeds on top and push them in a little. I should have been more careful about where I sprinkled mine, but oh well!

Put the batter into a prepared pan (sprayed or parchment paper-lined or greased/floured) and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Mine came out more fudgey than cakey and I possibly should have baked them a bit longer, but oh well. I'd done a 9-inch square pan and thought since they were skinny they might be getting dry inside... nope!

I had a bunch of the brownies left over, unfortunately - mine were among three other brownie-type dishes brought to the event. Next time I will be more creative!

Note: While I was at that internet searching business, I watched a video about how to seed pomegranates. I find it really annoying that so many blogs are turning to video content (I just want to read!!!) but I did watch a video for this technique, and then I tried it. It works! You cut the pom in half, pull the edges apart to loosen up the pith a bit, turn the half upside down over a bowl, and smack it repeatedly with a large wooden spoon. This seems to shake the seeds loose from the pith without making a giant splattery mess.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I've got sunshine...

...on a cloudy day!

It's been a long, hot, sticky summer and I for one am excited to welcome fall, and hopefully some rainy weather. Today it didn't get any warmer than 60, and even though I have almost no food in the house, I managed to throw together a little something on my stovetop.

Rainy day lentils
1) Mince four garlic cloves and an inch-long piece of ginger. Saute in olive oil. Add 4 ounces of red lentils and a can of light coconut milk; let simmer.

2) In a separate pot, make some sort of rice or mixed grain. I have a nine-grain blend I got from an Asian supermarket in California. I added soup base to the water to give it a bit more flavor.

Combine and enjoy a rainy-day treat!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - to the summit!

After seven months of training and over 100 miles on the trails, I was as ready as I was going to be for Mount Saint Helens. My friend Julie got ten permits (100 people per day get to go for the summit in the summer time) and there were six of us from Portland and four from Seattle.

Every hiking party has to sign in and out, so they know if they have to come looking for you.

I'd hiked with each person on Team Portland at least once, and it seemed like my pace was a good mesh with at least a couple other hikers. The other three were faster, but didn't seem to mind regrouping regularly, so we planned to just stick together for the most part.

View of Mount Adams

The MSH trail is an out and back, on a route called Monitor Ridge. It's under 5 miles one-way, and I knew that the trail was broken up like so:
 - 1/3 slight elevation climb along a forested trail
 - 1/3 "trail" in a boulder-strewn wall, with a ton of elevation gain
 - 1/3 trudge/scramble/two steps forward, one step back along an ashy slope.
The entire elevation gain is 4665 feet, with the peak at an elevation of 8280 feet. The vast majority of the climbing occurs in about 3 miles.

An idea of the terrain we had to climb - for hours.

The hike was super tough, both physically and psychologically. One person in our group has done the hike many times, but never in summer - only when there is lots of snow on the mountain. Then, he said, all the boulder field is covered by snow, so you just snowshoe on up! Of course, you also have to start a couple miles further away from the trailhead...

Fortunately I'd read a recommendation somewhere online to bring sturdy work gloves. I used my hands a LOT on the scramble up and down, and would have shredded my palms and fingers without my trusty leather gardening gloves.
View from lunch - we'd come a long way! 

We got lucky with the weather - it was warm but not hot, and we had cloud cover much of the time. We got one wind/rain squall, right after we cleared the boulder field on the way up, but it abated pretty quickly and I didn't even bring out my warm jacket, though I did put on a hat and long-sleeve layer for a while. We all had plenty of food and water - in all I drank nearly all the 5 liters of water I brought, but I didn't run out!
We still had a very long-looking way to go - that lighter brown is the rim, and there are people up there. 
It took us about 90 more minutes of uphill hiking to get there. 

I was most despairing when we stopped for lunch. We started hiking at 7am, and at 12:40 the top still looked impossibly far away. We (I, anyway!) had a tentative plan to turn around at 2pm - my logic was that we'd have been hiking 7 hours by then, and could spend nearly that long coming down, and I didn't want to get caught out in the dark if I could help it. Others on my group wanted to go for the summit no matter what, and I was nervous about the possible consequences.
It was a relief to get out of the boulder field, though the going was by no means easy!

At 2pm we weren't at the summit, and it still seemed a ways away, but at least we were out of the boulders and onto the steep rocky/ashy slope. We decided to go for it (summit fever is real!) and I made the summit at 2:10. Woooooo!
Dramatic summiting shot. 

One of my friends stopped about 20 minutes short of the summit, just feeling too maxed out. But she was close enough that she could hear our voices, and after some reflection and regrouping, she decided to go for it after all. Fortunately I spotted her attempt to join us, just before she was obscured by a rise in the ground. One of the fitter members of our group went down to confirm she was in fact making an attempt for the top, and kept her company on the way back up. I was grateful he was able to be so nice, because I did NOT want to cover any bonus ground myself!
Looking down into the crater. It was hard to get a decent shot!

We hung out at the rim for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the moment. Then, however, we had to face the fact that we were only halfway done with our hike! Going down was still super hard, and I was so so tired already... I didn't take a single picture of the descent!
Triumphant group shot (of most of us)

The last two miles of trail (the wooded, gradual grade) felt like they took forever...but I officially signed us off the trail at 7:21 - for a total of 12:21 hiking. What an accomplishment!!!! My body is still sore four days later, but I'm slowly getting back to normal.
This is how we all felt! 

I'm actually toying with doing South Sister next year... we'll see!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - training hikes!

Earlier this year a friend came up with an audacious-feeling goal: summiting Mount Saint Helens on August 2nd. I guess it was a bucket list item for her, but it never was something I ever considered doing. However, I'm not one to back away from a challenge, and I do better with fitness activities if I'm terrified of some event I'm committed to doing, so I agreed to join!

Multnomah Falls - a classic for a reason

I'm so glad I had this event in front of me because it got me out on the trails way more than ever before. Ever since I moved to Oregon in 1996 I wanted to do more hiking (I told myself) but somehow I rarely did more than one or two hikes per year.

Springtime on Hamilton Mountain

This year I did a ton of hiking - at least 107 miles! I started in January hiking in Forest Park with friends, but then we started hitting the Gorge and got some real classics in:
Wahkeena Falls, Angel's Rest (twice), Cape Horn, Herman Creek Trailhead, Hamilton Mountain (twice), Dog Mountain, Herman Creek & Nick Eaton Trail, Multnomah Falls to Nesika Lodge, Forest Park (starting outside Linnton), Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls, Algonquin Park (in Canada), Mt. Defiance, and Eagle Creek.

Dog Mountain in wildflower season

My favorite was Dog Mountain - it's legendary for its beauty during wildflower season, and we went in May, on Mother's Day. I was stunned at the flowers - SO beautiful! I've been hearing about that hike since I moved here and I now know it's worth the effort.

Part of the trail on Mount Defiance

Mount Defiance is a legend amongst hikers - some joke that you summit Mount Hood to train for Defiance! It IS a beast - 12 miles round-trip, 4800 feet of climbing, relentlessly UP or DOWN, and the last couple of miles of trail were actually scary, they were so steep, slippery, and eroding. But, we persevered and felt like we were as ready as we were going to be to tackle Mount Saint Helens.

On the way down on Defiance. This part of the trail was super scary. 

Next post: Mount Saint Helens!!! (spoiler alert: we survived!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Travel & revelations

So, I've been crazy busy this spring - in a span of six weeks I hosted my parents, went to Puerto Rico, went to Seattle for a weekend with my parents & sister, worked the last week of a nearly nine-year job, went to San Francisco & started a new job, went to Paris, and had friends in town. And I didn't get sick!

It's been great. Paris was nothing short of amazing; I have ten billion pictures but will have some restraint here...
Suffice to say, my friend and I spent at least 10-12 hours on the go every day. He had a very long and ambitious list of things for us to see & do, and we hit almost every single item!
Sometimes when I travel I have something of an epiphany. Three years ago I was in Amsterdam and the thought crossed my mind, "I don't want to figure out how to travel constantly; I want to figure out how to get back to Portland!" And lo, shortly after my return from that trip I started the process that got me where I wanted to be just a few months later.

I don't know that I had any major revelations this time (except that I am hopelessly NOT chic, though I faked it reasonably well for a few days). I was waiting for the train with my friend and he joked "If you were a runner, this trip would have had an entirely different to-do list!" and without thinking about it, I shot back "But I AM a runner!"

So, maybe that's the thing I've learned this time. I've become a runner, much to my shock. I didn't run in Paris - I was focused on traveling light - but I picked up where I left off on my return. I lost some of my conditioning, and I still don't have a clue about setting and maintaining a pace, but I've run nearly 100 miles this year, and it's time for me to get some new shoes. I've managed to squish the weekday runs into my new-work-training schedule, which hasn't been easy but has felt really necessary.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Last day!

I've been at my current company for 8 years and 9 months. I've had several different positions there, and even made the switch to being a remote employee 2 1/2 years ago. So now that I'm wrapping it up, it's ending with a whimper instead of a bang.

My colleagues have had a LOT of changes over the last few years, including lots of departures. Typically everyone in the department goes out to a local bar for a send-off; I've felt sad I couldn't participate in those for the last couple of years I've been working from home. And today, there will be no send-off for me! I feel a little bummed and mostly pretty glad, because I would likely be a little emotional, and also because I feel a little guilty at being so happy to escape.

My new job starts Monday and I think it's going to kick my butt for quite a while. I'm nervous about it, but excited to work for a company that is SO highly rated by its employees.

It's weird to leave libraryland - I spent 4 years and 9 months in a public library, and now 8 years 9 months at a company that works with libraries, and that's 13 1/2 years in one world! But, it's not a surprise, either - when I started library school my plan was to focus on information architecture and knowledge management, and no one was as surprised as I was when I actually became a professional librarian for a while! Moving back to a purely software company job was pretty obviously going to happen at some point, and now that day has arrived.

I'll be sure to buy myself a beer this afternoon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

All the good things

So, I'm ramping up for five weeks of total madness. Tonight I leave for a week in a warm place with friends, and 12 hours after I get back home I turn around and go to Seattle for 24 hours. Then I'll be home for almost a week before heading to San Francisco to start my new! job with five days at HQ. And I'll be home from that for four days before heading to Paris to visit a friend, and as soon as I'm back from THAT I'll have friends coming to stay for the weekend.

It's daunting, I admit it. I'm loading up on vitamins to try to stay healthy, and I'll do my best to get lots of sleep. Well - I'll go to bed in a timely fashion. Staying asleep has not been my strong point lately, and the 2am hour is all-too-familiar at this point.

It'll probably be good for me to have a little less vacation time at my new job - sad, but good. I tend to say YES to absolutely everything and then run myself ragged. Weirdly, I don't get much sympathy!

So Paris will be my last hurrah for a while, in terms of big trips. I negotiated taking the time off without pay since I won't have earned any time yet. I actually wanted to start working in May but they were eager to get me going, so this is the compromise situation.

It's going to be great - all of it - but I sure hope I can sleep on the plane tonight.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The game is afoot

So, I've accepted a new job. It's kinda crazy - my current gig has introduced me to SO many really great people, and I'm happy I've been able to maintain some level of friendship with them even when I moved away from the office to become a remote employee.

Now I'm going to start a gig as a remote worker, so it'll be interesting to see if and how I make good connections with my new coworkers. I hope so!

I wasn't super unhappy with my current job, but I was open to making a change, and it came together very quickly in the last 3 weeks - I actually applied to the job I've accepted exactly three weeks ago today. That's lightspeed in corporate America!

I already mourn the amazing vacation benefits I'm leaving behind. I AM getting a good raise, and I think this job will give me some new, very marketable skills. But mostly I feel half excited, half scared. It's going to be a whirlwind!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring fever

While the rest of the country is buried under snow and packed in icy air, the Pacific NW is blooming. The cherry and magnolia trees are budding, I've got 20+ daffodils cut and arranged inside my house, and I've now learned to identify the beauty that is the quince flower!

I've been doing some hiking with local friends, and I also want to try to find a club to go with - my friends' lives are much busier than mine, so I could go longer/do more but they're not up for it. In an ideal world I'd find some hiking buddies for long challenging Saturday hikes, and could do recovery hikes on Sunday. Even if I had a car I'd be reluctant to hike solo - not so much from concern for my personal safety, but I'd be worried about turning an ankle or something and needing help to get out of the woods. I'm sure I'll muddle through, and perhaps I'll even make some bonus hiking friends!
On top of all that, I started my garden. As usual I'll likely get tired of it and not give it the attention it merits.. but MAYBE this year is my year.
I'm definitely feeling the urge to do new things and get out and move around a lot. We'll see how I do if (when) the rain returns!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

scary exciting plan

A friend proposed that she try to get a number of us permits to hike to the top of Mount St. Helens sometime this year. I accepted, she got into the lottery (i.e. hit the site first thing when permits were available), and we're in! We're going to summit Mount St. Helens on Sunday August 2nd. EEk!

We've bitten off quite a challenge - it's 10.5 miles round trip, 4450 feet of elevation gain, and it's rated Very Difficult; gloves are recommended for climbing around all the boulders covered with ash! You have to carry your own water, and the training recommendation one friend found is that you plan to carry about 30 pounds (mostly water). Wow.

It will be interesting to see how this goes. Of the 8 permits we are using, one person has done this before and is very fit/experienced with training for tough events. Two of us did Cycle Oregon last year, so we have recent experience in setting a tough goal and hitting it. Two of us have done tough things in the distant past (marathon, Cycle Oregon), but have had a few years of not being so good about following through on challenging fitness plans. Three are wild cards that are probably pretty reliable.

I know that things happen and life throws changes at us, so who knows, maybe I'll be one of the people who bails on the event! Every single year since I moved here in the 90s I've wanted to have a year with lots of hiking, so this may be it! My lack of car will be a hindrance in that, however...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still running

So far I've managed to keep running this winter. Sure, it's only January, but I was really worried I'd return to my lazy/inert days of yore and stop exercising. That hasn't happened, but it HAS been a bit of a struggle lately to get myself out there.

I think if I step back from my feelings and look at the facts, I'm actually doing okay:
  • In December I only ran once/week.  Certainly not awesome, but given two different trips, weather,  holidays - I'll take it.
  • So far this month I've run nine times -  I took a week off after a (non-running) injury, but have gotten out three times/week otherwise, and am on track to do so this week, too.
  • My distances have not been awesome - my shortest (when I was limited for time) was 1.66 miles, and my other runs have ranged from 2.2 to 2.5 miles.
  • When it's not a running day, I'm walking a good bit - Sunday I walked a whopping nine miles!!! - but I'm not doing any purposeful cross-training.
  • My running buddies aren't running at all. I used to get an ego boost out of running more and better than they were, but this is getting ridiculous. We're signed up for a 5k in March and it'll be interesting to see if they participate! (One has a very busy life and the other...has no good reasons and is struggling a lot.)
  • While my distances aren't great, my pace is improving. I'm consistently hitting between 11:30 and 12-minute miles, whereas in October my runs were more typically 12:30 and even 12:45. Wow, I've shaved a minute off my time in many cases! 
Okay, that really did help. Yeah, I'm tired, and yeah, I have been running out of energy/motivation/willpower mid-run. I think I need to change up some of my fueling choices, and I also need to be patient - that I'm running at all in these chilly days is huge. High five, me! (And keep it up - that 5k looms!)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Easy come, easy go?

I've had money on my mind lately.

A friend volunteered to cut her hours to halftime, but only after the fact did she crunch the numbers and realize that means she's now running in the red by a few hundred dollars every month. I haven't seen the numbers she used - I hope and assume there's some room for belt-tightening to make it work, but I don't want to stress her by asking. I may broach it in a few weeks, very very gently.

However, her situation inspired some number-crunching, and I'm  happy to say I feel absolutely certain that I could get by on half my income, but it wouldn't be fun or pretty. I've also got enough in savings that I could support myself for eight months, which is a good solid feeling to have.

AND - there's lots of room for improvement in my fiscal life. I just looked at all my spending and saving last year. I saved 16% pre-tax for retirement, and saved 19.5% post-tax. Not bad, you say? Well, it's true but I could do a lot better. Most of my post-tax saving was from various bonuses, contract work, my tax return, and other non-work income. If I just look at what I earned vs what I spent each month, I saved 5.6% - meaning 14% of my savings came from sources of income I can't count on next year!

Travel was what killed me (and thrilled me!) the most last year - 16% of my post-tax income went to that. So... I guess that's the biggest place to focus for savings this year! Here's how my numbers broke out:

Category Percent of income Notes
Eating out 6.96% 10-12 times per month on average
Groceries 4.92% That's about 75-80 meals/month
Coffee out 0.20% 2015 will include all at-home coffee expenses
Bills 42.71% That's all mortgage principle/interest/insurance/taxes; plus water, gas, elec, trash, cell, internet, driver's insurance...very little to trim here. In a pinch I'd get a roommate to offset this.
Entertainment 1.64 Netflix, NYTimes, movies, the occasional play or concert in town.
Gifts 1.20%
Charity 1.72% I'd like to double this for 2015, and ideally hit 5% annually.
Travel 16.41% wow! 2015 travel should be half or a third that amount. Good thing nine of my 2014 flights were practically free.
Transportation 1.41% No idea how the car thing will affect this
Clothes 3.05% If my weight stays down I'm going to have to get a few more items, but I'm slowly buying clothes.
Household 1.84% Cleaning supplies, decor, small furniture expenses, etc.
Upkeep/Health 2.64% Haircuts, doctor copays, vitamins, etc.
Hobby 2.71% Knitting, biking, sewing class - bought a number of biking items pre-Cycle Oregon last year.
Misc .15% Glad this is so tiny - means my categories are good.
Booze 1.49% wine, beer for home. Toning this down this year.
House 1.25% Things like a ladder, a couch.
Big ticket 4.02% Big irregular expenses like glasses and other $$ outlays. New-to-me car will go here.

Some of my categories have crossover: is running gear for health or for hobby or for clothing? Is a framed picture household or house? How about a ladder? I just try to be consistent - the art is household (since I'd have paid for it whether or not I owned a house) but the ladder is house (as a renter I wouldn't own one). So far I've slotted running gear into clothing, but as I buy extras that are beyond the bare minimum, I'll probably put them into hobby spending. Registration fees for 5k events will be hobby for sure. If I needed physical therapy, it would be health/upkeep.

The best spots for trimming spending and boosting saving are travel (16%!) and food (when I combine eating out + grocery I see I spent nearly 12% of my income there). Funny that they are the fun ones. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Two years

I just realized that tomorrow is two years exactly since I moved into my house! Saturday was two years exactly since I wired a whole lot of money and signed a whole lot of papers. I'm so glad that process is behind me, and that my house continues to be delightful. It's more than enough room, is great for hosting visitors, and is so quiet and light-filled and there's very little about it I would change (I would add a half-bathroom and make the bedrooms a bit bigger..but there are no deal-breakers).

I've even done a few projects lately - I fixed a paint job (I'd used the not-quite-right color when doing a patch job), and I added key and bike storage!

Key storage was easy, and I did it all on my own. I wanted to sort out the thicket of spare keys that lived in my junk drawer: 7 keys to four different bike locks, three keys & a remote to my sister's car & apartment, a key to a friend's house, a spare key to my back door, and my front door key. Crazy!

I spent a little time looking for key organizers, and then decided that the answer was staring me in the face - the inside door of my broom closet + sticker-hooks. Voila!
Yeah, they're crooked, and yeah, I meant for them to line up better. Oh well. I'm still happy with the decision!

The other project required help from friends. I'm providing long-term bike storage for a couple of friends, and those bikes were IN THE WAY. Though getting rid of my car did help clear a lot of space in the garage.. but still. My friends installed one ceiling-mounted bike hanger as a surprise over Christmas, and we added a second one yesterday. It looks so so great:
I can walk under the bikes without hitting my head, they'll still be out of the way when I have a car in the garage, and we also did some other little garage projects: put some boxes up out of the way, tightened the punch-code remote that triggers the garage door from outside, and installed hooks to hang my hoses. Goodness, it was so awesome!

There are lots of other non-pressing items on my house list. My yard is an extremely slow-motion project, without a master plan. I want to have a deck built and am saving slowly for that - at my current pace I will have the money in another 2-and-a-bit years. That's not so bad, really: it could be completed by the time I've been in here 5 years. I'd like to remove/possibly replace the front chain link fence; the wood fence around the back is rickety and will have to be fixed eventually. When the deck goes in I'll have to move two of my three garden beds (to the back where there is a LOT of direct sun). I want to print and hang more of my photos, and change the light fixtures, and swap out the kitchen sink, and gut and refurnish my office ..

So yeah. Happy two years, house! No wonder the time has been flying!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking back

No doubt about it, 2014 was a great year! I was midway through being 42, and everyone knows that year is considered the answer to the life, the universe, and everything. I felt empowered & ready to make some changes, like fixing a cosmetic dental issue that had been bugging me for years, getting fitter, and dropping some weight. Pictures are a much more pleasant experience now!

I work from home and I took advantage of that flexibility to spend a couple weeks in Toronto visiting my best friend - sure, February in Toronto is COLD but we also drove a couple hours' north to spend a weekend with a bunch of friends crammed into a three-bedroom house playing games, eating food, and hanging out. This fall I worked remotely for a week from my brother's place in Hawaii - it was nice that he and his wife could work, and I could work, and then we could socialize on the nights and weekends. I also did a combo work/play trip to Detroit/Toronto in the spring.

Me and my siblings at the wedding.

I did a lot of non-work travel, too: I spent two weeks in Hawaii in the early summer for my brother's (awesome) wedding AND I spent a week biking in September AND I spent a week in the Dominican Republic AND I went to plays in Ashland on two different weekends. But that's not all! I also spent a long weekend at a friend's epic birthday party, and a quick weekend in Nashville at a family reunion, AND went to the Bay Area three times (twice for work, once for play) AND spent ten days in Rhode Island for Christmas (two days of which I worked).
Sunrise in Hawaii, while I was working.

Sunrise in the Dominican Republic - strictly play, this time.

Fortunately, I only paid full price for the holiday travel - three of my trips were work-related, and the six other flights were all paid for with miles and points. High five! However - for those counting, that's 10 flights this year, three road trips, and one bike trip. WHEW.

On the first day of Cycle Oregon.

I also had several house guests (and one came to visit three times - oh, the charms of my fair city - but is a very good guest so that wasn't a problem), maintained membership in two book groups, ran 116 miles, biked 1641, and ...did not track my walking. As far as I can recall I have not been sick a single time this year - that is largely due to working at home, I suspect - and I mostly feel really great.

Career-wise I've sort of plateaued lately, though I was handed some new responsibilities at the end of the year which are pushing me a little outside my comfort zone and are giving me resume fodder.

Hobby-wise I kept knitting, obviously amped up the fitness, and of course I ate out plenty (if that can be considered a hobby!).

Fiscally, things are decent. I do have to deal with that whole no-car thing, but it hasn't been pressing yet, and may not be any time soon! I'm saving 16% of my salary (with a 4% match) for retirement, and have started making house-payoff plans (that will bear fruit in 2030 or later). I've been saving for a deck but it'll still be quite a while before I have enough saved, unless I get a thwacking raise or a roommate - equally unlikely at this point. 

The only real lacks in my life are volunteering and having an awesome boyfriend. I can definitely do something about the former, and I keep figuring I'm going to live an awesome life and hopefully the latter will show up eventually - and if not, well, I regret nothing!