Friday Tidbits

*You may or may not have noticed that I’ve skipped a few Flashback Fridays as of late.  To be honest, I am having serious trouble finding old pics to show you that aren’t a total snoozefest (much like this one was).  Now that Hubs is on Instagram (THE GREATEST INVENTION OF ALL TIME), you’ll probably see these Flashbacks Fridays morph sometimes into daily tidbits instead of blasts from the past.  I hope that’s cool.

Speaking of daily tidbits, the garden we planted a while back is finally bearing fruit!

Yeah, buddy!

Happy weekend to you all!

Mad Money

Money has been on my (mad) mind a bit…you know, ever since I upped and quit my job.  Sure, I got a new job (with a handsome boss) but the pay is lots less than what I was making before.  And in truth, money has always been something I’ve thought hard about, even as a little girl.  I can get all ninja psychoanalyst and tell you the root of why I feel the way I do, but let’s not waste your time.  Since you’re already here though, I thought I’d start a running conversation about some ways I am trying to cut spending, save greenbacks, but still live life in between.

Today’s topic: Last time we chatted about debt, but this go around is all about budgeting.  So super fun, right?!?

For the past two years, we’ve been tracking our spending, investments, savings, etc on Mint – an excellent (albeit, sometimes finicky) online tool. Admittedly, we’ve only been *tracking* our spending, not necessarily budgeting it per se.  Here’s the thing.  It’s difficult for us to put together a budget because we are still in the early stages of getting Hubs business up and running, which means we don’t have a reliable and continuous flow of dolla bills to build a budget from.  Plus, we told ourselves, we are savers!  We are frugal!  We share meals at restaurants!  We don’t need a budget, we already live well within our means!

Enough with the excuses.  Last year, we started small and tried budgeting our “discretionary spending”.  Hubs got a chunk of change to spend on his choosing, and I got a (considerably larger) chunk of change to do the same. This did *not* include groceries, eating out, gifts, entertainment, gas, basic toiletries, etc – even though those are all technically discretionary as well.  For example, my shampoo did not come out of my personal spending budget, unless it was a departure from our regular products or a splurge (like something from a salon).  Basically, any clothes, shoes, hair and makeup came out of my own personal spending budget.  We set my budget at $850 for the YEAR.  That’s about $70/month.  I don’t know about you, but I thought that would be reasonable since I don’t consider myself a big spender.  Turns out, I had a very, very, *very* difficult time.  In the end (our budget rolled over July 1st), I didn’t make it.  I went $13 over, which isn’t much but it goes against the principle of keeping a budget…you need to stick to it and I didn’t.  Not cool.

(For those of you that care, Hubs didn’t even come close to spending all of his budget…so the extra rolled over to this year.  In fact, he even DONATED some money to beef up our Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, because they were sad this year.  Can you believe it?)

Nonetheless this experiment, although somewhat painful, prevented me from spending A LOT more.  Like, maybe double, or triple more at least?  It’s hard to say.  So, we decided to do it again this year – but take it to the next level.

(Has anyone even bothered getting this far?  So sorry for being overly wordy and boring.)

When we bounced out to California in June for a conference, we also took that time to host our first anual family “Budget Summit”, where we hashed out our finances.  So sexy of us!

For the sake of TMI, here is what we came up with:

  • Candace’s personal: $900/yr
  • Hub’s personal: $400/yr
  • Groceries: $300/month
  • Eating out: $160/month
  • Entertainment: $600/yr
  • Gas: $160/month
  • Household supplies/toiletries: $80/month
  • Sports (ski passes, gear, league fees): $64/month
  • Gifts (including xmas and shipping): $100/month
  • Hair: $68/month

There are a lot of other expenses to take into account (like insurance, health expenses, rent, car maintenance, travelling, the unknowns), which we did when we made up the above discretionary budget.  We’ve been tracking all of our expenses since July 1st and are working hard to stay under budget.  So far, it’s been very difficult to maintain my personal spending (because I want stuff!), gifts, and our grocery budget.  We are barely sneaking by in those areas.  But other budgets, such as entertainment and eating out, we’ve been well under.  So, this should be a great exercise for us.  In our own nerdy way, we get super excited trying to stay within the budget.  So maybe there is a little fun buried in all of this?

Anyway, I’ve blabbed LONG ENOUGH.  Anyone else doing a similar exercise, or have you been faithfully budgeting all along?  Fill me in, I’m interested in how other folks figure this stuff out!

Thank goodness spending time in the mountains is good for the soul and easy on our pocket books.  I can’t believe the views from here are free!

Get In My Belly: Bran Muffins

HUBS LOVES THESE because his Mom used to make them when he was a young lad.  I usually whip up a batch when I’m trying to atone for past sins like running the car almost out of gas every time he needs to go somewhere and staining his clothes while doing laundry.  Works like a charm!

P.S.  These would be great to take hiking or camping – or just throw a batch in the freezer for fun later!

Recipe swiped directly from here. Makes two dozen.

Ingredients:

  • 3 c wheat bran
  • 2 c buttermilk**
  • 2/3 oil
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 1/3 c brown sugar (mine was hard a gallstone, use it anyway!)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 c raisins, don’t forget the RAISINS!!

**If you don’t have buttermilk:  Take a cup of milk and add 1 T white vinegar and let it sit for 5ish minutes.  Voila, homemade buttermilk.  I’m a chemist practically!

Instructions:

  1. Mix wheat bran with buttermilk. Set it aside to soak for 10 minutes.  It’ll look like dog barf, hooray!
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 and sing ‘It’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all yer clothes…’
  3. In a separate bowl mix eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.
  4. Add to wheat bran.
  5. Combine the dry stuff: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl.
  6. Combine everything together: dog barf, dry ingredients AND RAISINS.
  7. Spoon into baking cups.  The dough tastes like compost, so don’t bother eating any.
  8. Bake for 15-18 minutes.  They are so good fresh out of the oven with coffee, pinky swear.

Why hello there, beautiful.

Bolder Boulder

A few light years ago (Memorial Day weekend), I told you that Hubs and I were gearing up for our first Bolder Boulder.  I ran the entire 10k – that’s 6.2 miles – carrying our clunky DSLR so I could tell you about it.  Better late than never?

Memorial Day started early.  Hubs brilliantly suggested we ride our bikes to the midway point of the race loop and park our bikes there.  That way, all we had was a reasonable walk to the starting line and then the same for the finish line.  Biking saved us a bunch of headaches since all of the roads were blocked off and there were, you know, over 50k runners and their families to share the town with.  It was nuts!

My fancy timing chip:

In hindsight, we should have afforded ourselves more time at the starting line because it took almost an hour just to check our gear! We figured if we missed our wave (the one we qualified for that day on the treadmill weeks earlier), it wouldn’t matter because new waves were starting every minute for the next FIVE HOURS.  FIVE HOURS!!!

Side note: They dedicate the first three waves to all of those courageous folks, past and present, that have served our country.  Love. that.

Miraculously, we did manage to squeeze into our wave just in time…our start time was 7.15am!

A real close up pre-race picture:

Lots and lots of runner legs:

The race started and Hubs and I set out.  There was loads of entertainment around every turn and we soaked it all up!

We ran into the Blues Brothers:

We enjoyed tons of bands and jugglers and cheerleaders and people in costumes…

We may have also snacked on marshmallows

and bacon…

Obviously we weren’t breaking any records (we finished in just under an hour) snarfing down bacon and carrying a fancy camera around, but my potty break at mile 5 didn’t help things either.

The finish is awesome.  You run a final lap inside the Folsom Field stadium, with the crowds cheering you on.  I felt like I was in the Olympics!  This is what it looks like – can you spot the local wildlife?

Hubs with 6.2 miles under his belt and his hands full of race swag (including two beers!):

He was just one of the many folks picking up their post race lunch totes.

We sat in the stadium for a while, watching the waves (and waves and waves) of finishers come through.

We had a while to wait still before the elite race (the final race of the day), so I did what I always do when I have too much time on my hands:

Then we moseyed back to where we parked our bikes, grabbed a seat and a coffee to spectate the elite race, which has one of the largest purses in the country so it attracts incredible talent!

Holy fit, Batman.

Afterward, we biked home and still had the rest of the day to BBQ with friends at a local park.  Good, good times.  Well, not our actual Bolder Boulder race times but you know what I mean.

The Book Nook

*It’s true, I really can read!

THE BOOK: Room by Emma Donoghue

 

My feeble thoughts: Side note – Hubs swung by the library to grab us some free reads for our trip to California.  He picked out this book for me so I could stay home and focus on what really mattered: packing each of my outfits with the proper shoes and accessories.

This book’s premise is straight out of the news headlines.  It’s a story of a woman kidnapped and held captive in a tiny room for many years, completely closed off from the outside world.  Through the course of abuse, she gives birth to a son named Jack and their story is told through his narrative.  I must admit, I found his narrative a shade gimmicky and difficult to parse at first.  But, soon, I really started to enjoy curious Jack and the little world “Ma” has tried to create for him, despite the desperate circumstances.  I would say I found the first half of the book much more exciting than the latter, but it was a good book nonetheless.

Grade: B+

Would I recommend it to a stranger on the bus (trying to make his way home)? I think so.

What I am reading now: Hubs also picked up Say Her Name (and now I have a Destiny’s Child song stuck in my head) by Francisco Goldman, which I just started this week.  I’ll keep you posted.  What are you all reading this summer?

Spring Cleaning: The Car

Still spring cleaning.  The end for these types of posts is not near, hang in there with me.

We took a rowdy Saturday to tackle cleaning the car.  It looked like crap.  Literally, because hundreds of birds had shat on it this spring since we park outside.

I drove around for months with it looking like this.

We paid 7 bucks for a worthless car wash and had to rinse the sunbaked poo off ourselves when we got back to our apartment.  The inside wasn’t nearly as bad but it needed a thorough vacuuming and wipe down, as well as just cleaning out Stuff.  To my surprise, I found two bungie cords perfect for bundling up the massive tarp that I had been hauling everywhere for track meets.  I was *just* going to buy new ones from of our tiny budget so I am glad to have come across them!

Anyway, you can’t really tell but our car is actually clean again.

That sure feels good, man.

Candace’s Crafty Corner: Makeup Brush Holder

This may be the stupidest craft yet but meh, let’s keep going.

I got this soy candle as a wedding gift from a friend (HER NAME IS TAI) and I loved it so much I just couldn’t bare to toss it out when it was spent.  So, I put it in the freezer…

I took a minute of my Saturday night (wiiiild) and chipped out the wax with a butter knife.  It was easy peasy.  Then, I scraped off the sticker and wick and viola!

A NEW MAKEUP BRUSHES HOLDER THINGY:

Which is now living in my bathroom:

Cute, eh?

Raves & Faves: JUNE

Here is my Top 7 (yes, 7) list of June loves. In other words, another chance to List thing-ys. *claps*

1. Hubs and I snuck off to ritzy Newport Beach, CA for a conference and it felt good to hear the ocean…

along with the excited chatter of a bazillion mini life guards in training, all sporting matching apparel.  Too cute.

2. The movie Adventureland.  Kristen Stewart is in it but it’s WAY better than any of those sh*tty vampire flicks.

3.  Summer running with my cross country kids started up this month.  I have to say, I missed them.

4.  Jergens Natural Glow lotion.  So I can get my tan on without actually getting tan.  Scooore!

5.  Alvin The Aloe.  He used to be *puny* when he lived in my office in Minnesota but now he’s so big, he’s sprouted babies of his own!

6.  Our trip home to see our adorable family’s faces.

and

7.  My hubs.  He’s the best guy for me.

June was over too soon.  July’s here already!?!

Check out my Raves and Faves for June 2011 here and for June 2010 (whoa!), look here.

 

Blogiversary!

At the end of June, I celebrated my second year of blogging.  My blogiversary, if you will.  For two years, you people have been reading my crap.  So sorry about that.

Some stats?

Total blog posts written: 320.  I’ve got so much more to chit chat about too, so hold on.

Total comments: 4,028 (!!) plus one super snarky one from a lady that I decided not to publish.  How rude!

Average visit duration this year: 1:29.  This is probably beefed up for the days that I spend reading old blog posts when I should be cleaning.

Number of unique visitors this year: 4,878 (yowzas!)

Most hits on a post: My skillfully crafted Halloween costume, I’m a hoot, but only because I linked up to a famous blog (Young House Love) to show it off.

Most comments on a post: This one, when we *finally* sold our house and racked up 31 comments!  At least half of them are mine because someone has to pad the stats around here.

States visiting thecandace: Most of my visits are from Minnesota (surprise!), then Colorado (most likely me creeping on my own blog), then South Dakota (hi, Kate!) and then there’s a strong showing from Wisconsin.  Although not many hits are from other states, I’ve got representation from all of them so I feel pretty important.

Number of spelling errors and misposts: Far, far too many.  More to come.

Other than the main search, “the candace” or variations of, the second search that led people here is “vomit”, which I am undeniably proud of.

Other searches worth noting:

  • garden gnome costume –> YES!
  • frozen banana stand
  • mustache onesie tutorial
  • a girl petting a scraggly dog –> ???
  • blonde hair with dirty roots –> Welcome!  You’ve come to the right place!

If you’re not ready for another year of this, I totally get it.

To see last year’s recap, travel in time to here.