Saturday, January 31, 2015

Budgeting Wisely

I spent a lot of time this past week working on a little project---a budgeting spreadsheet. Since I became the treasurer for our American Heritage Girls troop this year, I've been doing a lot more financial stuff. Thanks be to God, our treasurer for the first 5 years had a really good system. When I inherited the job in year 7, the finances were still looking really good, and I started using Quickbooks online for the troop accounting. It's fun, but kind of cumbersome.

As for our family finances, we have used Quicken a little bit, but we have really preferred paper over the years, and we have been keeping track of our expenditures for approximately 25 years. The way I remember it, we had a 3 month-old baby, and payments on my college loans were scheduled to start in her 4th month, and I needed to get a job. That was distressing, to say the least, but Dh got a year-end raise that covered my loan payments, and I was able to stay home! From that point on, we decided we needed to keep careful track of spending so that we could live within our means.

"Living within our means" didn't mean "not buying furniture with no money down." It just meant we had to be able to make the payments. Thankfully, we didn't go overboard and end up too deeply in debt. College loans for 2 4-year degrees and law school were quite enough debt!

Annnyyywaaaayyy, are you tired of the backstory yet? All that is to say that I am heartily sick of the Budget Book and writing everything down every day! Since I'm spending more time doing accounting on the computer and have learned a little bit about making spreadsheets, I decided to try it for our home records. As I said, we had tried Quicken, and I've tried other pre-made budgeting products (like the ones that come with your computer), but they didn't suit our style.

I created a Google doc sheet that I can share with my husband, so he can enter his expenses from his computer. This is what I love about it:

  • There won't be a giant binder taking up space (once we abandon paper for good)
  • We can access it from anywhere and add our expenses before we forget or lose the receipts
  • We don't have to add up expenses throughout the month to see if we're going over budget in a category---it keeps constant track for us
  • We can easily see how the overall expenditures for the month compare with income (which isn't the same every month)
  • It saves the trouble of adding everything up at the end of the month and finding out that we didn't do very well!
Here is a version of it that I edited to make it suitable for someone else, like you.  
  • In Row 1, you enter your income as it comes in. The Total Income will show up in Row 1: Column S. 
  • Column B is where you enter the amount you have budgeted for each category, and the total amount budgeted will be reflected in B:27. 
  • Enter your expenses, in the appropriate rows, (columns don't really matter) as a negative number. (Like: -350) We don't bother with cents and just round up every dollar, so $35.23 would be entered as -36. (Always round UP)
  • Column S (S for SUM!) keeps track of how much you have spent in each category, with the total amount spent for the month shown in S:27, so it's easy to compare, at any time, your expenses with your budget!

So far, we've just experimented with January. Even though fine-tuning it has been a bit of a chore, and I've taken the time to enter everything that was already spent for most of the month, I already love it and the instant gratification it gives me!

I'm sure a great deal of this is a no-brainer for some of you, but maybe someone will find it useful. I'm not an accountant, and this is the format that has worked for our family for 25 years. Don't mock me for learning spreadsheets late in life in mid-life. ;-) Let me know if it works for you!

I think if you want to use my spreadsheet, you will need to access it, go to FILE> Make a Copy> Rename, and I guess it will be stored in your Google Drive or on your computer. (We're out of my realm of competence, here!) From there, you should be able to edit the categories as needed, leaving the original for others.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yarn Along

I finally finished my gorgeous Settler Shawl today. It's blocking on the floor now, and I hope I can wear it tomorrow (about the same time as this posts).'s done! I wore it this morning ---had to take it off to show you. The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino light that I got for Christmas. Perfect present! 

That's closest to the real color!

My book, waaaayyy up there in the top photo, is Alignment Matters. Not much plot, lots of great info. It's the first five years of Katy Bowman's blog posts, and the reason I'm sitting on the floor, stretching my ligaments, and trying to maintain mobility as I age.

Where are you sitting? I mean, what are you knitting? Check out the other yarns at Ginny's; that's what I'll be doing to  find a more .... adventurous... book!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Birthday Month!

January is a big Birthday Month around here! Three birthdays to celebrate, and I haven't even taken the time to blog about them.

Tom turned 19, and celebrated the actual day at The Institute. 

A few days later, Pippo turned 16, with 8 boys/young men at the house to play poker and video games.


Pip's "cake" is a giant Twix Kit-Kat made with Italian wafer cookies and melted chocolate chips. It was fun/harrowing to make, and it didn't cut well. The cookies just crumbled apart, so the guys that were interested really just stood around the platter and ate handsful of cookie or chocolate. Frankly, we all did. <blush>

Last, but not least, Meggie turned 13 this weekend! After many years, I have no children that aren't teens or older. <sob> It's not a Party Year for her, so we had a simple celebration. (Around here, you get a party on your 6, 12, and 16th birthdays to save Mom's sanity!)

She did get to go to a party at a friend's house, and her friend made pink cupcakes for her, so it was like having a party! (Can you tell I have a little Mom-guilt for not having a party?) 

I can not believe that my three babies are 13, 16, and 19! I think I blinked. 

And with that, Sugar Season is finally, finally, over. And don't even mention that St. Valentine's Day is in 3 weeks!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Schooling

Monday school-time. It's Monday, as if that weren't enough, and it's cold. No one wants to work and everyone wants to snuggle.

So we're doing schoolwork the Japanese way. We have a little heater under the table, and we are keeping the heat in with blankets.

It's a giant fort, too!


Look who else likes it. :-)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yarn Along

This is the Yarn Along version of a #Latergram, as in I finished the socks in time for Christmas and the book last week. But I wanted to share both of them, so here they are!

The socks are Sweet Georgia sock yarn which I really like----soft and sturdy. The pattern is just a basic sock using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel (which costs $1 and is totally worth the money for this easy heel pattern and the tips on how to make socks that fit!), Judy's Magic Cast-on (for toe-up socks that don't require any seaming!), and Jeny's Suprisingly Stretchy Bind-off, plus a basic 2x2 rib. I combined all those features for a men's size 12 sock that didn't need a pattern. I love that with toe-up socks you can just keep trying them on to see if they fit----which I did to all the size 12 men around except the gift recipient!

All those tips just might turn me into a sock knitter! Except that there is still the pesky problem of gauge when you want to go a little crazy, knit a little faster, and use a size 3 needle!

My book is The Martian by Andy Weir, which was a Christmas gift. I heard about it (repeatedly) on the Catholic in a Smalltown podcast. Mac liked it so much that he kept talking about it, forgetting that he had already reviewed it once. I put it on my Christmas wish list, and I was not disappointed. It was one of the best books I've read in a long time!

Mark Watney is part of the Ares 4 manned mission to Mars, and on the 5th day there's a disaster that (supposedly) causes his death and the mission is aborted. The other astronauts must leave the surface quickly and don't have time to search for his body. As you might have guessed, he's not dead and the crew has no way of knowing that. Mark knows that he has to find a way to survive for 4 years until the Ares 5 arrives---3200 km away.

The Martian is really well thought out in terms of the scientific realities of what conditions are like on Mars and what kind of gear Mark would have available. It could have gotten dull with just his log entries and long, scientific explanations of what he's doing, but Weir manages to vary the storytelling and keep the explanations understandable for us (extremely non-scientific types).

Now I need a new book to any recommendations? I know, I can just go read all the Yarn Along posts at Ginny's!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Keeping the Family Honor Intact!

Hey there!

It was a busy weekend----Monday was Recovery Day and today is was just Busy, so I'm just getting around to blogging.

Anyway, Meg and I went to a Family Honor program on Friday and Saturday. Family Honor is about teaching the facts of life in the context of Catholic church teaching along with emphasis on the virtues of Purity and Chastity.

I really didn't know what to expect, though I knew it was good. I'd heard it "takes the awkwardness out of teaching your kids about the birds and the bees." I wasn't sure how that would work...but they do it by actually telling your kids everything they need to know! That sort of surprised me, but it was fine.

The whole seminar was a  combination of the Natural Family Planning classes and Marriage Prep classes that Don and I taught for years. We learned about communication skills, hormones, women's cycles, and chastity through a mixture of lectures, slide shows, games, and parent/teen discussions. There were several breakout sessions---boys, girls, parents---and the Facts were taught in a single-sex environment. The only time the boys and girls were together was with the parents.

Meg, as the youngest of 6 children, and a very open, talkative child, was much more knowledgeable than many of her siblings at age 12, so it was good timing for her. Other children might do better in 8th grade as opposed to 7th, though several of her classmates were there. It has already made discussions much more open around here!

Family Honor seems to be focused around the southeast, but it you have the opportunity to attend one or organize one at your parish, I highly recommend it! I wish all my kids had had the chance to go.

Have you ever been to something like this?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Favorite Podcasts

Beverley asked in the last post what my favorite podcasts are, so I thought the answer was worthy of a blog post. I'm somewhat outgoing and extraverted, and I like companionship during my days! I find that I'm much more likely to get housecleaning or projects done if I have company of some sort. I always enjoyed what I call "Team Cleaning" with the kids---where we all worked on the same room together and then just moved from room to room that way. It was fun with music and tasks! The same goes for exercise like walking or running---if I can't have an actual person with me, I like listening to podcasts.

Now that the kids are moving out or going to school a couple of days per week, and just plain more independent, I have a lot more time to myself. And planning to walk 1000 miles this year also means I have plenty of time to listen! I don't know why I don't listen to music very often, but I never have.  I'm also not opposed to simple silence; I'm very comfortable with myself, but I prefer "company" for those activities that require a little extra motivation.

So...onto the podcasts! First of all, I use the Downcast app to organize my podcasts. I tried a couple of others, but I've been very happy with this one. Sometimes, I don't know why, but new episodes may not show up and I have to search for them manually, but it hasn't been too much of a nuisance.

I have quite a few shows on my app that I don't get around to listening to unless I've caught up on absolutely all the favorites.

Catholic Podcasts:

Among Women by Pat Gohn. Pat is a sweetheart and I love her book Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. Her shows are split between an interview and a saint profile, and she focuses on topics that are of special interest to women---though I've heard that men can listen, too! Highly recommended!

Catholic Stuff You Should Know by a priest and a seminarian, I think. :-) These are usually on the shorter side but entertaining and informative. Most of the time.

SQPN Catholic Weekend by a panel of nutjobs, a couple of whom are personal friends. I try to tune in live when they're recording on Saturday mornings, but I'm usually too busy for that. It's usually a wacky, fun conversation with a little Catholicism thrown in so they can earn the name "Catholic" in the title. One of my favorites. :-)

Catholic in a Smalltown by Mac and Katherine Barron who live in south GA. Parents of boys, they talk a lot about family life, movies & books, and the faith. Funny and irreverent.

Just a Catholic Dad by Sean McCarney who lives in England. He talks about faith and fatherhood as he raises his daughter in the Catholic faith without the help of his non-Christian wife.

The Catholics Next Door with long-time podcasters Greg and Jennifer Willits. More faith and family. Very well-produced show and educational.

Read-Aloud Revival by Sarah MacKenzie. She's Catholic, though it's more of a family podcast. Amazing guests that talk about incorporating reading into family life. I wish I had heard this when my kids were younger, even though we are already booklovers. I could have used many of these ideas!

Taylor Marshall Catholic Show. Very educational, Catholic-wise.

Health & Well-being:

Katy Says with Katy Bowman, biomechanist. She's all about alignment and movement in our daily lives. Katy is a lot of fun to listen to and the only expert out there that I've heard focusing on alignment---a topic I'm interested in because of my back and neck problems.

Underground Wellness with Sean Croxton. I love his show, but I pick and choose based on the guest and the topic.

The Primal Blueprint Podcast. From the blog Mark's Daily Apple. Occasionally they have guests, sometimes blog-founder Mark Sisson is the host or the guest. More often lately, they've been narrating blog posts which I really like. I've gotten to where I skim past the blog because I don't want to sit and read something intense at the computer; I'm thrilled that they're reading those posts to me now!

I have 5-6 other fitness/paleo podcasts on my list, but I don't usually get to them. If you really want to know, I can try to update another time.

Finally, the only General Knowledge show on my list is a new one, highly recommended by my good friend Kathleen:  Radiolab from WNYC. I've listened to only a few shows, but they're very interesting, educational, and well-produced.

If you have any additional recommendations, let us know! Despite the number of hours of podcasts I have available at any given time, sometimes I just want something different!


Monday, January 5, 2015

11th Day of Christmas Rambles

::Weekly Rambles::

What’s really on my mind and heart?

We had a pretty nice Christmas despite several of us being in various stages of illness. Namely me, so meals were simpler than usual, and the house was messier than I would have liked, but probably no one noticed except me. 

I love celebrating Christmas and I sometimes wish it weren't a gift-giving event so that we could focus on the Real Meaning. All my Christmas decorations are still up, and I'll probably start slowly working on putting them away this week while Meg and Pip are at school, but I'm in no rush. I am looking forward to being back in somewhat of a routine.

What am I thankful for?

I am very, very thankful for the success of the procedure I had done last Monday, and even more thankful for the news on New Year's Eve that all the tissues biopsied were benign. I'm really thankful for general anesthesia, too! This was my first experience being put to sleep and it was like magic. What a beautiful thing to be completely unaware of what they're doing to you! Of course, they could do anything,  and that's a little creepy, but I just keep pushing that thought away. ;-) I'm also thankful for my doctor's skill since I have had no issues and no real pain which seems to be unusual.

What’s going on in school?
School starts tomorrow for Meg and Pip. They're looking forward to seeing their friends. Schoolwork? Notsomuch. Pete and Tom started classes at their respective universities today. It's Pete's last semester! Another graduation to start planning for in May!

What’s on the needles?
The very beginnings of a Settler Shawl. The gorgeous, purple Tosh Merino Light was a Christmas present for me, so the shawl is also for me. I'm loving it already because the pattern, the color, the yarn. All of it. Yum!

Also, a simple cowl that is intended for the shop. The yarn is Elspeth Lasvold's Silky Wool, a random skein from the stash. I love the denim colorway and the rustic feel!

What’s special about this week?
So much specialness! The Church celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany on Sunday. Tom's birthday is tomorrow on the actual Twelfth Day of Christmas, and then Pip's 16th birthday is Saturday! There are too many birthdays and celebrations in January to even think about starting a diet on Jan. 1!

What am I reading?
I am reading The Martian as recommended by Mac Baron of Catholic in a Smalltown podcast. I got it for Christmas and am finding it fascinating. Astronaut Mark Watney is a member of the Ares 3 Mars expedition and when a huge sandstorm came up, he was injured and left for dead while the rest of the crew had to leave the surface. He wasn't dead, and now he has to figure out how to stay alive, all alone, for 4 years (and only 1 year of food supplies) when the next manned mission is scheduled for.

What am I praying about?
Other people are coming up with words to live by during 2015, and I'm praying to know God's will. It might come in the form of one word, but I don't know yet. I spent a lot of prayer time asking for grace while expecting to deal with a cancer diagnosis this year, so I'm happy to be able to move on to something different that the Lord wants me to focus on!

I'm also praying for all my children, others with cancer, my sister-in-law, and myriad other loved ones and friends.

What projects are happening at home?
Not quite into project mode, yet. Between Christmas, the flu, and recovery from my little surgery, we're just in day-to-day mode. The first big project will be Christmas clean-up, and then I'll let you know. ;-)

Weight loss should be a big project. I guess it is, and it sort of started today with a 3-mile walk. It will take a while to get the food back under control because we are totally addicted to sugar around here, and, again, it's Birthday Month. So....yeah.

I am looking forward to getting back into the habit of blogging more than 2x per month! I'll never make a living from my blogging, but I enjoy chatting with folks, so stop in the combox and say Hi!



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