Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31st

Dusting of Snow.....

Breakfast with a Friend.....(with silly tongue out grin)....

Movies and Quilting......

and a kiss at midnight....


Sunday, December 28, 2008

A new path

For many years of my adult life, I have been a multi-tasking, relationships, classes, performances, projects, callings, more classes, etc. etc.... "Take it all on!" "Sleep when you're dead!" "I'd rather burn to ashes...and...streak across the sky!", I thought. But, over the past year or so, I have been slowly stepping back from this approach. Gradually, I began to realize that I felt like a boxer in the ring, either preparing to "take it all on", pulse pumping, gloves pounding, adrenaline coursing or I was exhaustedly picking myself up off the mat after the round was over, feeling "dead" and "burnt to ashes". Didn't I know any better way?

One of my clearest childhood memories is of being kept after school with my kindergarten teacher to finish up my worksheet from that day. I was not a fast-working, multi-tasking kindergartner. In fact, I always took longer than everyone else to finish. That day, Mrs. R was making a point (to me? to herself? to my mom?) of just how slow I was. When I finally finished and left, the schoolyard and playground were deserted. Even my friend and next-door neighbor, who was supposed walk home with me and who said he would wait for me, was gone. A touch of panic at being left behind, forgotten, lost and neglected, all because I was slow, crept in. I don't know that this impacted my school habits, but now my slowness induced feelings of fear and guilt.

As I have been revisiting the pace of my life, this memory comes back to me, along with other times in school where I found myself behind in my timing. Those experiences always involved judgment on myself. Yet, I love the drawing out of time I feel when I visit a beach or a fabric store or a gallery or a new mountain vista. I often want to dawdle on a project or spend all day in the kitchen. I enjoy spending an hour in the morning writing in my journal. For all of my "pack-it-in" approach, I am rediscovering that I really like to work at a slow, focused, all-the-time-in-the-world pace. A friend once told me she likes to take trips with me because I love the moment and time is never an issue. That sounds like a good thing, right? Oh, how I want to reclaim this way of living! Is it possible? Is it practical?

I am bouncing back and forth a bit...trying to find a slower pace, but not succeeding...or succeeding a bit, but then getting overwhelmed by what then gets neglected. I find myself in a place of confusion and even grieving...confused as to how to balance the demands of daily living and this way of being that feels peaceful to me...grieving that this way of working and being has been lost to me for so long...wondering if I can ever have it back. It seems that Mrs. R and Mr. Life don't support my kindergarten worksheet approach of slow and focused.

However, I think I may stay here for a while, sorting out how to reclaim this lost thing and honor the beauty of my kindergartner approach. I know it can't be the only approach to my life, but for now, I have some worksheets that need some serious dawdling and doodling attention.

p.s. These photos are from a solo hike in Alaska last fall...a time I was able to just be, for as long as I wanted...or at least until dark. :)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Schlepped a 20 lb. turkey on the subway...

Yes it is true. I also had stocking stuffer citruses, bagels for breakfast, things for two savory gift baskets and other grocery miscellany in tow. It was an adventure...a heavy adventure! (Did I mention it was raining...and my turkey and groceries were in paper bags?)

Luckily, all made it home safe and sound! The trains weren't crowded and after all my city walking, I feel justified in the joyful feasting to come. Here at home, I'm settling in to wrap and bake and prepare for holiday entertaining, which is new for me. I'm looking forward to it! Hope you and yours have a lovely holiday weekend!

Merry Christmas all!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Magic everywhere....

The thought "life is magic!" flashed in my mind this fall when a moment of unexpected beauty that caught me off guard.

Beauty isn't usually the most immediate thing outside my apartment windows. Between my 2nd floor apartment and the fabulous park across the street, the view from five of my six windows is the rooftop of the shops below. Guests often ask if we go out onto this balcony-looking space. I have to admit, it's a great gathering place....for pigeons, windblown trash, grimey puddles, random items that escape from the apartments above (such as the current display of men's brown tighty-whities...or would that be tighty-brownies?) and other such miscellaneous stuff. Usually, it just gets caught there, creating a monotonous gray landscape.

One morning, I opened the bathroom window a crack while I hopped in the shower. Mid-shower, I caught a glimpse of the rooftop. It had been transformed! In the place of the dingy, puddle covered roof was a shimmering lake of golds and oranges. All the trees across the street were gazing lovingly into this rain-made mirror, admiring their new autumn attire . It took my breath away.

I have appreciated things like the Noticing Project as I read other's blogs, but in that moment I saw it in my life. Perhaps, life is magic, if we but open our eyes to see it.

Here is a bit of man-made magic downtown I've been enjoying lately, where paths of light are created every night in an otherwise ordinary plaza.

I love walking through here after dark. The trees wrapped in lights, the diagonals, the shafts of light on the ground...I truly love it. Thank goodness that even municipal folk create beauty sometimes!

Where have you noticed beauty lately? What magic has stopped you, even for just a moment? Oh, I'd love to see your pictures, your words or your image or links. Will you share one?

Fully Appreciated Value

We have a Christmas tree! She is a sweet little thing and I just love her!!!

Most years, we already have our tree by mid-December, but this year's been busy, with hubby madly writing grad school papers and me rehearsing more than in previous months. Having a night where we were both home together before 10 p.m. and could go Christmas tree shopping just hasn't happened.

Last night, late, on the way home from a wonderful harp concert by a dear friend (with dear friend's parents in tow), we saw a local tree vendor. I detoured hubby and I across the street to gaze at the trees. Immediately, I saw her...shorter than me, but sweetly fragrant and only $25! I was in love! It was late, we had guests, both of us had things in tow, etc. etc. we walked away....with me feeling a little sad to leave her.

Home and changed out of work clothes, hubby finally said if we were going to go get a tree, we'd better go before it got any later. Yippeeeeeee! Looking at a few others only convinced us that this little fir one was the one for us, a little lopsided and all.

Skipping! Singing! Like a kid at Christmas? When we walked in the door, our guests asked if we were bringing a tree in. In response to my gleeful, "yes", Mac said, "From the smile in her voice I can tell that that was a good idea." And yes, yes it was!

How can a little tree make me so happy?

Teena said really enjoying something is what Mac calls getting "Fully Appreciated Value". Big economic term, simple principle...appreciate what you have. And so, in my efforts to be more economically wise, I am going to strive to get fully appreciated value out of this tree, loving it and enjoying it completely!
(Don't mind the woman hugging the tree in the entry way, adoringly trying to guess her name and offering her hot coccoa. Possible case of Season affective disorder...sometimes the Season just gets to her. Hope it gets to you too.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It's SNOWING in NYC....big, beautiful, nearly snow-ball sized snowflakes! Hooray! Must make hot coccoa, watch it all for a minute, then back to work....smiling! I love magical days!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You want me to WHAT?

Money's been on my mind lately. I'm guessing it has been on yours too. Thought I'd share a budgeting tool that has finally made it so hubby and I budget.


You have no idea how many failed attempts proceeded this discovery. Every month that we tried budgeting ended with the mournful whine, "but where did it all go???" (sigh of exasperation.....) It was just too depressing and failed for reasons I could never seem to explain. We weren't extravagant. We were trying to be good. We didn't even BUY anything, it seemed. So where had it gone? But now, I can SEE where it is all going...even when I don't want to. (Don't ask me about how long it took me to pay the budget back for a tiny, little splurge on summer clothes. Please don't.)

(But you can ask me how much I would have had to pay in credit card interest if I was paying the credit card company back for the splurge, rather than myself! :)

First, some history...envelope budgeting the old way....

My parents did this. My mom had a box of envelopes in her closet where all the budgeting for the month happened. Whenever she or Dad got paid, she'd divvy up the cash from the check among the different envelopes...groceries, kid fund... (Hmmm...those are the only two envelopes that I specifically remember. Guess what was important to me!) When it was time to buy something, she took the money from the designated envelope and spent what she had. If she needed more money for something, she'd have to rearrange the cash in front of her to funds the specific envelope in need. Or wait 'til next paycheck.

Fast forward 20+ years, where we rarely pay for things with cash.

Photo by Andres Rueda, used under Creative Commons License

You probably have several credit cards, a debit card, online bill payments, checks, automatic deductions, direct deposit, etc. etc. etc. Makes things a little bit more complicated than my mom's system, eh?

Enter mvelopes, an online company that allows you to use the same system, just catered to our electronic spending methods. You link your mvelopes account to your relevant financial accounts (bank accounts, credit card accounts, etc.) Daily, it retrieves all of your activity, both payments and deposits. You then assign each of those transaction (click and drag or set rules for assigning them automatically) to the appropriate digital envelope.

For instance, you get paid $1,000 by direct deposit. It shows up as an incoming deposit. You record it as income and then decide how much of that should be set aside for different expenses (rent/mortgage, groceries, movies, clothing, insurance, etc.) If you set aside $100 for groceries, your grocery envelope will show it has $100.00 in it.

Then when you buy something, (does $32.00 for cupcakes count as groceries?) that transaction shows up and you have to assign it to the correct envelope. Let's say I convince hubby that $32.00 for cupcakes is a valid grocery expense. (That many cupcakes could sustain a girl for a long time!) When I assign that transaction to groceries, it then shows I have $68.00 left for groceries until more money comes in.

Hmmmmm....more cupcakes? $68.00 would buy a lot of cupcakes! Enough to last until the next paycheck though? Hmmmm....

Let's make it a bit more are really trying to use that rewards credit card, so you buy your cupcakes with it. (Miles and cupcakes? We're in the money...) When the transaction comes in and you assign it to groceries, it will take the money out of your grocery envelope and place it in an envelope called "money for rewards credit card". This way it shows you that money has been spent from your budget even though you haven't paid the credit card company yet. Now, when the bill comes, you can pay it off in full. This prevents one of the traps I used to fall victim to...thinking because there was money in our checking account (we're not broke!), we had money for it. Right? So I'd charge this and that (nothing extravagant) to the card and then be flabbergasted that it put such a squeeze on our checking account to pay it off or I'd have to carry the balance over.

Mvelopes has it's quirks, admittedly. And it is a tool, not your mother. You still have to manage it...assign transactions, adjust your budget, fund your envelopes. It won't prevent you from spending more than you have allotted for a specific part of your budget. Those envelopes can go in the red! (See above re: clothing splurge this summer!) And there is a small fee. But if you are checking it frequently, you see when and where unexpected, or seemingly insignificant expense hit your budget and how they impact it. You can see, where your money is going, but also how much you have left and decide how you are going to spend it. And, I've discovered you can see how much you have saved and what your savings are for.

Whew. There it is. My long post that feels a bit like an infomercial. But if any program can help me see how to increase my spending account for cupcakes, I mean increase my savings and education funds and things, I am all for it! And mvelopes has done just that.

Happy budgeting all!

p.s. hungry, anyone?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Making Progress!

Yesterday was a sewing and cleaning and baking day. I made cut out and am almost half-way done sewing the borders on my hand-pieced quilt. I am so excited to see it coming together!

Have a great day all!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Feeling Lazy...

...and just a bit under the weather. (This was really helped by my pot-smoking neighbors deciding that 3:45 a.m. - 5:30 a.m. was a great time to have a gathering, including loud laughter and piano playing. Once I finally got back to sleep I dreamt about inter-apartment wars between hubby and I and an illegal cabaret next door.)
All creative and financial posts on hold. Today is just grocery shopping, errands, cleaning, maybe a tiny bit of crafting and then games with friends. Although what I feel like is a movie in my pj's, a nap....and games with friends. Oh well.

Go sign up for this quilt giveaway today! It is an adorable quilt!

Have a lovely day! Be back in better form soon...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wealth....and a Cupcake Award

(Logical pairing, right? Don't cupcakes = wealth?)

Worried about money? (Aren't we all???) Recently two ladies struck up a conversation with me on the subway about money and I found myself sharing a tool hubby and I use in our financial management that is immensely helpful. If I'd share it with strangers, why not you, my lovely readers? So, I'm working on a post to tell you all about it. Should be up by the end of the week.

Now about that wealth.....

I got my Spare Change Swap fabric some time ago and it is fabulous!!! A long overdue thanks to chickpeastudios for the phenomenal swap! I have enough projects on my plate that I won't be sewing anything with these for awhile, but check them out! Aren't they fun???

I think my all time favorite is the pea pod fabric. I gushed about it enough when I saw it both times on her blog, that our kind swap guru offered to fish out my package to make sure I received one of them. With over 150 packages to prepare!!! I thought that was an overly generous offer and reassured her whatever I got would be wonderful. (Looking at the other 23 squares in my pack it is TRUE!) However, I got one after all! Wahoo!!! Whether she double checked for me or the fabric fairies were on my side, I know not, but her extreme generosity in arranging this swap definitely earn her a cupcake award for sweetness. She made a lot of quilters very giddy this fall! Thank you chickpea!

Photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick, used under Creative Commons License

Monday, December 1, 2008

Finished Object!

sort of.....

I bought this adorable fabric in early October with the intention of making myself a table-runner with the cute trick-o-treaters. Then I got caught up in the whirl of the Fall into Fall Giveaway, making 3 table-runners (this one and two like this) for others out of the scraps, but never making one for myself. I finally finished the top the day before Thanksgiving. (Silly hubby thought the sewing machine and ironing board and fabric craziness had to go away before Thanksgiving guests arrived. Huh??? We could've just had a picnic in the living room, right?)

Here she is, in two photos because she is so long...

I have sworn off quilting on my old, bothersome machine (am looking for a new one), so this top will have to wait until next year to get truly "finished". I'm a little out of season, but catching up. Evidence? The first December decorations went up last night. Wahooooooo!

Have a great day, all!