wonderful things

1. This has been a LONG time coming: I budgeted my final credit card payment this month!

I have been meaning to talk about how epic and life-changing it has been to find a budgeting system that WORKS. (And when I say that, I really mean it’s a system that changed my habits: empowered me to make intentional decisions about my money, and then made it very easy to follow those decisions day to day.) The system I use is You Need A Budget, and even though I can’t use the pitch I depended on before (“It’s life-changing and you only have to pay for the software once!”), I trust that their new annual-fee program is incorporating some fantastic improvements.

2. Related to Thing 1, I’m finally discovering the wonder of saving money! Here’s what’s amazing: when you set aside money for something like, oh, I don’t know, a 3-month cushion (guess what I’m saving money for?), and then you reach that goal? YOU HAVE THE CUSHION AND THEN YOU GET TO START SAVING FOR SOMETHING ELSE! It’s, like, blowing my long-time debt-laden mind that I can have these monthly savings that ACCUMULATE, instead of this monthly payment that I send out into the void, seemingly, which never seems to end.

Saving > Debt (mind blown)

3. I’m going to add another point to this stream because, omg, I can’t stop taking about it.

I love that the process of saving is ALSO a process of dreaming. Do you know how many times, in the past 10 years, I’ve said to myself, “Oh, that sounds like a nice idea, but I can’t even entertain it until I pay off this debt.” THAT WAS A LOT OF DEFERRED DREAMING! I HAVE SO MUCH CATCHING UP TO DO!

And I’m sort of pumped that I get to do it NOW instead of 10 years ago, partially because I am so much smarter and more interesting now. Of course, I’m also more cautious, which is something I’m trying to push against just a bit.

This year is the year of Dreaming Big. I don’t plan on making any big actions (because remember: saving for a 3-month cushion) but I love that I’m finally in a place where I’m allowed to realistically entertain these ideas.

4. I meant for this list to be about more than just budgets. (Whoops!) Here’s a photo of some finished quilts:

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wine & wreath

When my friends Luke and Julia were planning their wedding last year, I met them at Rassawek Vineyard a few months before to help determine the ceremony location and event flow. Because the property is so extensive, and every building is SO COOL, we had a lot of tough choices to make. For proof, check out both of these links – their wedding photographs are insanely gorgeous, and I’m currently geeking out over the history of the property and buildings. Neither of those even tell you about the tiny one-bed cabins scattered around the water and the treehouse/fort/lookout with a ladder built into the tree trunk.

So when Julia asked if I wanted to join her at Rassawek for a wine tasting and wreath making workshop last December, it was a no-brainer.

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Everything was provided – wreath frames, greenery, embellishments, wine and snacks. Everyone was having fun and helping each other! It was one of my favorite holiday events, sweetened because I went out to the property early to take some product shots of my quilts.

I’m unable to attend this year, but there are still a few tickets left for the December 6th event. If you go, let me know! I’d love to see what you make.

26 books finished in 2012: Two-Part Invention

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Why are you reading this book?
Because I needed something beautiful and challenging and comforting to read, and can only guarantee that by pulling from my favorites.

What is the first line?
Crosswicks is a typical New England farmhouse, built sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century, so it is well over two hundred years old.

Describe the book in haiku form:
“Till death do us part.”
the beginning and the end
of a love affair

What will you do with it now?
keep for reference
keep and loan out to friends
x keep to read again & again & again x
post to paperbackswap.com
throw it away

Anything else you’d like to say?
I absolutely adore Madeleine L’Engle’s non-fiction work! This book was my introduction, and for that it will always hold a dear place in my heart.

The main story is of her last few months with her husband, who is dying from aggressive cancer. Mixed with that narrative are highlights from their life together, and her reflections on loving, living, working, fighting, praying…and letting go. It’s an emotionally difficult read, but leaves the reader with hope and courage.

WINNING!

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Guess which pie won first prize – and converted many hearts – last night at our party?

Here’s the updated recipe: take the best apple pie recipe you own (for me, it’s from Cook’s Illustrated, and I’m not going to copy it here because the actual recipe is four or five pages long (these people, they care about pie theory)), replace a few apples with browned sausage (this time I chose something sage-y) and caramelized onions (6 or 7 small ones, cooked the day before). Bake as instructed.

Best right out of the oven (which is why I made two last night, so our house could eat one for dinner) with some sharp cheddar melted on top.

P.S. Don’t freak out when the pie dough does weird things – even if the texture is off, it’ll still be delicious!