Category Archives: Living

Half-Camping

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We recently had the opportunity to spend some time at a nearby lake and enjoy the great outdoors. We fully intended to camp, and we proceed to set up the tent and build cookout fires during the day. But as the temperatures continued to climb and the wind picked up, we decided to eat dinner and then pack it in for cooler pastures.

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Even so, we had a highly enjoyable day getting Aoife out and about doing something a bit different from the norm.

When you camp with kids, you can count on doing several things:

  1. Throwing rocks in the water
  2. Eating (our favorites are fire-roasted veggies, vegan hot dogs, peanut butter-tortilla roll-ups, and applesauce)
  3. Finding cool sticks
  4. Wishing you’d used more sunscreen (no matter how much you globbed on previously — you always wish you’d used more)
  5. Less napping than you are used to
  6. Not relaxing nearly as much as you thought you would

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It’s been over a week since we’ve come back, and nearly every day Aoife pretends that she is packing her backpack full of clothes or that she is kicking the water at the lake. As much work as it can be to plan ahead, prepare food, set up a tent, take it down again, and tell your children many many times to stay back from the fire/water/scorpions/whatever, it is so worth it to give them a chance to enjoy the world around them. Camping is messy and exhausting, which I think are practically requirements when creating lasting memories.

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If you end up coming home earlier than expected, that’s ok. If your child only takes a 30 second nap, that’s ok. These are building blocks for the foundation that is meant to hold a life.

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On Turning 30

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Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet, but turning 30 doesn’t scare me.

I have this notion that my 30s will really be a time for me to get to know myself. I’ve done a lot of changing over the last decade, and I’m sure I’ll do the same in this coming one, but I hope that I will approach those changes with more confidence and less stress. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying, and becoming a parent — while accompanied by plenty of worrying, in forms I’d never known — has helped me see that time spent worrying is sometimes time spent wasted. Yes, worrying can lead to greater understanding and sometimes to solutions, which is great. But worrying with no cause and to no end — I have better things to do.

Last year, I’d created a list of things I’d like to do before I turned 30. Some of them got completed; some did not. Here’s a run-down:

  1. Run a 10K — Fail. I did get back up to a solid 5K time, although I haven’t been consistent.
  2. Have a bike picnic — Picnics yes, by bike no.
  3. Get another tattoo — Yes! On my right wrist. I love it.
  4. Be 10 lbs lighter — Yes! Muscle definition abounds.
  5. Knit a scarf — Done! Not extremely well, but I like the cowl I ended up with.
  6. Make a cookbook — Nope.
  7. Go camping — Yes! Although we did not stay overnight. More info to come.
  8. Pay off credit card — Sadly, not yet. Still plugging away at that debt though.
  9. Go to a theater performance — Nope.
  10. Decorate a fancy cake — Yes!
  11. Make a big painting for the house — Kind of?
  12. Make a t-shirt quilt — Nope.
  13. Explore my hometown — I’ve taken Aoife to 5 different playgrounds and done lots of walking, although we haven’t done “touristy” things.
  14. Visit a local museum — Nope.
  15. Take a dance class — Nope.
  16. Go sledding — Yes! Aoife hated it.
  17. Sharpen knives — No, I’m still risking injury every time I cook by using dull knives.
  18. Get a pedicure — Yes! This was one of the first things I did, and let me tell you, it’s time for another one.
  19. Find my perfect shade of lipstick — I found a couple but haven’t settled on anything for daily use.
  20. Have a date night with Ryan every month — Well … we didn’t always call it an official date night, but I’d say we succeeded here.
  21. Create use-able space in the basement — Not exactly.
  22. Visit a ghost town — Nope.
  23. Write a handwritten letter once a month — Nope.
  24. Make a friend outside of work / be a better friend — Not especially.
  25. Bake a pie from scratch — Yes! For Thanksgiving.
  26. Learn to change a tire — Yes! If you count stroller tires. I did not do this for our car.
  27. Fill all my empty picture frames — Nope!
  28. Write a will and make it official — Nope!
  29. Get a bra professionally fitted — Nope!
  30. Visit a state park — We did this, but it overlapped with #7 above.

So 13 out of 30 isn’t terrible. I think many of these I ended up not really caring about (sharper knives? really? they cut just fine!), so I wasn’t fully engaged in doing them and I actually forgot half of what was on my list anyway over the year.

The best result out of all of this list-making is realizing that I’m not defined by this list and by the things that I want to do. I should remember the things that I accomplished rather than dwell on the things that I never got to, especially if I didn’t really care about them in the first place. Instead of focusing on checking off each little item, I (for the most part) lived in the moment and enjoyed life as it came, welcoming spontaneity and changing plans — something that used to be very difficult for me. Again, I chalk a lot of this up to becoming a parent — it was a situation that forced me into accepting life as it is, not as I think it should be.

And that is NOT to say that I think you have to become a parent to have that realization. I think any experience that stretches your abilities, your mind, your confidence — travel, getting a new job, getting married — any challenge — can help you realize it. For some, it happens long before 30; for others, long after.

I spent the last year learning about myself. Learning about my daughter, this wonderful person who is still quite new to the world and who has her own personality and quirks. Learning about my job and what it is about it that I truly love (thankfully, that includes most everything of what I do). I learned that I waste time when I have a Facebook app on my phone, so I deleted it. I learned that I really don’t care about Twitter, even though I have felt in the past like I should.

I learned that life is a process. Plans can change. Plans sometimes should change. I learned that I can welcome change in myself and it makes me stronger. I learned that I welcome the next decade — heck, even the next three decades or six or however many I am meant to have. I learned that I can keep striving to be the best person I can be, for myself and for others — and I’ve learned that I can let go of that ambition if I just need a bit of time to gather my thoughts, and I don’t have to beat myself up for needing that. There is strength in that, too.

I’ll be back again soon to let you know of a few plans and projects I have up my sleeve for this coming year.

 

How I Track My Money

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I’m a big fan of creating a budget and sticking to it, especially when you’re pretty strapped for cash. Between owning a business and starting a family, the past couple of years have necessitated a budget. I’m proud to say that we have not racked up any new debt, which is impressive after several years of doing just that. I wanted to share one of the tools that is most instrumental in tracking my income and expenses.

Several years ago, I was the champion of balancing my checkbook. I did it every month without fail and always balanced. Then I started using debit cards much more, and keeping receipts and writing down amounts got to be way too cumbersome, so I just didn’t do it. When you know things will be covered, that’s not terrible — but sometimes you want (and should want) a little more control. I tried using Mint for a while, but my online banking required so much verification that it wouldn’t sync easily with Mint, and there were so many things being saved as “Uncategorized” that I was spending too much time editing transactions and it just didn’t work well for me.

One thing I am consistent about is opening up my Google email and calendar every morning. From there, it’s easy enough to click into Google Drive and open up my “predictive check register”. I call it that because the most useful aspect of it is that I add future income and expenses so that I can see if my balance will ever drop to dangerous levels and I can adjust as needed. You’re welcome to use whatever kind of spreadsheet program you like — I love using Google Drive because it ties in with other services that I use, there are plenty of smartphone apps, and it’s free. You can also share your spreadsheet with another Google user, so if several people in your household need to track finances all in one place, this is the way to do it.

Let me introduce you:

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Column A: The dates of the income and expenses. I get paid twice a month, so I have those dates in place. I list due dates (or estimated due dates, as some of them change) next to the name of the expense (Column B).

Column B: The name or category of the income or expense. Keep them generic or make them specific based on your needs.

Column C: The amount of the income or expense. These are just samples, so don’t get too excited. You can put exact amounts if you know them, but when planning ahead you sometimes have to estimate. I like to round up to the nearest dollar or the nearest $10 — so, if I have a bill that is $68, I will estimate $70 or even $75 to give myself a cushion. I check my account online at my bank’s website so I can see what’s gone through. I change the text to bold if it has gone through; this way there are no surprises. When I put in my income, I put a minus sign ( – ) in front of the amount so that my formula works in Column D.

Column D: This is the running total. If you’re just starting out with this process, you’ll put your starting balance in the very top (where you can see the $200 in the image). Then you put in a simple formula (in this example, and if you’re using Excel or Google, it would be =D1-C2 so that your expenses are subtracted from the running total number above it). Fill the rest of the cells going down with the formula, and you should be good to go.

I mentioned that I make the text bold when an expense goes through my bank account. I love this because I can see what last went through and then look across to Column D to get the total that my bank account should be. I compare that with my online banking to essentially “balance” my checking account.

I can also look ahead and see where my account will be the lowest, or if cash is building up and we’ll have enough money for something fun. If unexpected expenses (or income, but let’s be honest, that’s rare) come up, it’s simple to add them in on the date they occur by inserting a new row. Then I can fill the appropriate cells with the formula and see how it will affect my account a few months down the road.

I’ve been doing this very consistently since October, and it’s been honestly one of the best ways I’ve found of tracking my finances and staying on top of everything.

How do you track your finances? 

Loving lately…

This post from Funny Shade of Green has made me even more excited for our upcoming camping trip.

The True Detective opening was one of the most powerful two minutes of television for me when we were recently watching the first season on DVD. It’s an HBO show, so be warned that you’ll see a few things in this video.

ChicRunner posted a 4-month marathon training plan that seems do-able. Running a marathon is still on my “life list”, but it’s been a while since I’ve even gone running (pushing a jogging stroller in 95 degree heat is just not pleasant after work). Got to get back out there!

We use our original flavor Table Topics cards nearly any time we have people over at our house (thanks, Meghan!), and I discovered that they also have a Family Gathering version — these would be great for family reunions! And how fun would these be on road trips?

Holy mackerel — video of someone beating Super Mario Bros. in under 5 minutes. Memories!

Also loving? Getting our house decluttered and keeping it clean.

Loving lately …

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We had a gorgeous double rainbow here last week, but just a few sprinkles of rain.

Flickr featured 18-year-old Liisa Toomus in their Photographer Spotlight. What an inspiring young woman! And her photos are beautiful.

That post led me to the THINK Global School, a high school in which students travel to international locations to learn through immersion. Fascinating concept, and one that I really admire.

Are you the type of person who needs some background noise when studying or reading? Redditors posted their favorite ambient-noise sites.

And if you’re looking for something to read, the Kansas Notable Books for 2014 were recently announced.

Loving lately …

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed this week:

Emily A. Clarke uses painted cutting boards as kitchen decor.

Man-Made DIY lists a few ways to make stylish vignettes in various areas of your home. I’m drawn to this because I tend to like minimalist design, and sometimes that means masculine too.

Vintage Revivals gives us an easy how-to for copper-accented picture mats.

Velo Vogue features on bicycling in San Francisco, my favorite city ever. I love the idea of taking a camping trip by bike.

Over at SortaCrunchy, there’s a post for highly sensitive parents and how to deal. I relate most to the “sight” portion re: visual clutter. It’s physically draining!

Finally, at least once a week I try to do a yoga routine instead of my usual workout (usually Saturday mornings). I’ve been really enjoying Adriene Mishler’s Yoga with Adriene videos (also on YouTube). She has some excellent routines for runners, and she breaks everything down very clearly and is not super new-agey, which works well for me.

Have a great week!

Sesame Street Revisited

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I have fond memories of watching Sesame Street on PBS when I was growing up, and I love sharing that with Aoife as she gets older. We have a couple of Old School Sesame Street DVDs that we rotate through, showing episodes from the 1970s. All three of us here have our favorite bits, quotable moments, and songs that get stuck in our heads. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I find these episodes entertaining even as an adult.

When I was younger, I lived in the country outside a very small town, and it was refreshing to see city life — honking taxi cabs, a hot dog cart, sitting down to read on the fire escape. It was a happy, idealized neighborhood but it still felt real.

Which brings us to modern episodes of Sesame Street. Wow, has that place cleaned up. The buildings are bright and shiny, and Big Bird’s alphabet sign actually looked cleaner after experiencing a hurricane than it did in older episodes. There is more of a focus on family life now, whereas the street housed mostly younger adults (Maria was around 21 when she first appeared on Sesame Street; Bob was age 37 when he first appeared; Mr. Hooper was the grandpa figure at age 61) who only went on to start families after they’d been living on the Street for a while. Remember I said that I was entertained by the classic episodes just as much now that I’m an adult? The newer episodes just don’t feel the same. This might be where nostalgia creeps in. Fifteen minutes of Elmo is a little much. I miss the randomness of the clips — you never knew if you were going to get a song, a number sequence, a trip to the crayon factory. The street itself doesn’t feel real anymore; now it feels like a set.

I also feel like in the older episodes, the muppets acted as real children do. I love in a classic episode of Sesame Street when Bob is playing a guessing game to get the kids to name things that everyone does. The kids (and Bert and Ernie) respond with things like talking and walking, and they discuss the fact that not everyone can do everything (Bert mentions wiggling eyebrows, and Ernie doesn’t have eyebrows). Ernie mentions playing with his rubber ducky, but not everyone has one, and Bert firmly states that he does not love that, coming back with the idea that of course everyone loves watching his favorite TV show, The Wonderful World of Pigeons. Ernie, taken aback, responds, “You know what, Bert? I hate that show!” This is such a real response that a child might have to something, but I doubt that it would be considered appropriate on a newer episode.

I do have to admit that I feel like there is something missing when I watch those older shows. I am almost embarrassed to say that it was only a short time ago that I learned that Maria’s real name is not Maria. Gordon is not really Gordon and in fact has been played by a few different actors over the years. I totally thought that Gordon and Susan were really married, and that Maria and Luis really had a baby … no. At least Bob’s real name is Bob. Now when I see these actors in their roles on Sesame Street, I find myself wanting to learn more about the behind the scenes happenings and the making of the show.

If you’re like me and want to learn more, check out the book Street Gang, published in 2008, or Sesame Street Unpaved, from 1998. If you want to lose yourself in video clips, there are many available on YouTube or on the Muppet Wiki.