Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A view of Raleigh

A little bit of Raleigh, where I find myself for the moment. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the enjoyment of work

Portrait of me (the taller one) and a student, by a talented first-grader
Receiving beautiful artwork is just one of the many reasons I love my job.  Being a teacher makes me realize how VERY wonderful it is to really enjoy your profession, especially just the day-to-day experience of working.  I am so happy to see my students everyday, and teach them, and just talk with them.  I'm convinced the most important aspect of any job is by far the enjoyment factor-- not the money factor.  I am also convinced that everyone can find an occupation they enjoy as much as I do mine-- it just might take some time and trial-and-error to find it.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

simply beautiful: visit Killarney National Park with me on a bright summer day

All of these photos were taken in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland, back in Summer 2010.

I loved how the light was coming through the trees right here.

Tall wildflowers along the trail
I wish national parks in the U.S. had castles.
One of my favorite photos-- I like the way the walls of the castle frame the lake and mountains.
Pretty light comes through the trees on a forested trail.
It was a looong walk to this stately manor home-- and well worth it.
Unbelievable view adjacent to the manor.

So beautiful here!
Approaching the ruins

In the nave...(ignore the eye infection).

This spot along the path was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

frugal furniture

One of the several things I have learned in recent years, since becoming a grownup, is that furniture is expensive.  I dislike this, so I've developed the following methods of combating it.  I have listed these in order from best option to least-best (but still good).

Best option: DIY
There are two paths to accomplish this: either make what you need yourself, or refurbish and spruce up old furniture you've already got.  Some ideas for the former:  Stack up stuff (such as large books) to make a side table, use plywood to build shelves or bookcases or a table, make a platform bed out of old pallets, etc...  You're only limited by your imagination.

As for fixing up stuff you already own, there are a ton of options: add new handles/hardware, paint it (I've done this with plenty of furniture, and it's the easiest way to completely change the look), create designs and decorate it, and just do anything you feel like to make it your own.  If you don't feel like being really artsy, but simply want to refurbish something old, that's also a great idea.  One of my favorite things is an antique Japanese lamp we had sitting around that was nonfunctional, and I was easily able to rewire it with a kit that probably cost five dollars or less at Wal-Mart.  Another is our homemade bookcase (which is also by far my most useful piece of furniture).

This option is the most creative, and thus the most fun, and that's why it's my favorite.

Second-best option: choose used over new
The best option in this category is to "adopt" a family member's spare furniture, since this would be free.  Mom, for example, might be a good candidate for a furniture source, though I would suggest asking first.  Second-best (and a personal favorite of mine), is the thrift store-- the only store in which I enjoy shopping.  This could be Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or any number of thrift stores you probably have locally.  The furniture is usually of lower quality, and you'll need to weed through a lot, but remember that you could combine this with Option #1 and artfully spruce up something you pick up for ten dollars.  Another great idea is the Craigslist furniture listings.  I've gotten a few good things this way, always for a swell price.  The only downside is that you will generally need to drive to where they're at and pick the stuff up-- but there is some great stuff to be had, and it is well worth sifting through what's available.

Third-best option:  when all else fails
I am loathe to buy something new, because the other options are just so much more fun (and cost so much less)-- and because I love old things.  But when I must buy something new, my default choices are Target or Ikea.  Not everything on the Ikea website can be ordered online, so keep that in mind when attempting to order that way.  Mom and I recently had the joy of shopping in their real, live store (in Charlotte) for the first time and had a ball, and we bought one of everything (almost).  As for Target, I have found that shopping conditions are ideal in September, when their dorm stuff goes on clearance.  My freshman year I scored a sweet coffee table (for five bucks!), a nifty purple desk lamp, and assorted kitchen stuff, all of which I am still getting use out of now, years post-dorm-- so I am certainly getting my money's worth.

--One last thought: I've never tried this myself, but is also an option worth mentioning, especially for the truly broke and/or frugal.  It's a site where people give away stuff for free-- so it's certainly worth checking out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

what's worth spending money on

View of the snowy courtyard from inside Nymphenburg Palace, December 2010.  Travel is a high priority for me, so in my budget, it is worth saving for, planning thoughtfully, and spending on.

To gain greater control over your finances, decide carefully and thoughtfully what the most important expenditures for you are, and work towards eliminating the rest.  How I allot my discretionary expenditures is something I've been working on increasingly in the last several months-- aiming towards prioritizing better and fine-tuning my budget.

In contrast with my previous post, these are things I've decided are worth spending my money on:
-world travel (on a small budget)
-visiting/staying in touch with family and friends
-used books
-college classes
-better quality/ healthier food
-additional/unplanned giving to a cause that's important to me
-occasional treats like wine or champagne and high-quality, real chocolate
-memorable events or experiences--  celebrating a meal out on a special occasion, going to a concert, a hiking or skiing trip, visiting a museum or historical site, etc.

Everyone's priorities are personal, so pick and choose carefully which expenditures are MOST important to you, and prioritize accordingly.  My intention is to have more money left to direct towards these important things through budgeting more thoughtfully and deliberately, and developing the self-control to not let what I earn slip through my fingers (or, perish the thought, escalate into consumer debt.)

The things I choose to spend discretionary money on are, of course, a secondary priority.  My monthly income is first allotted towards:
1.  Contributing to a supplemental retirement fund (in my case, a 457b plan for state employees)
2.  Transferring a pre-determined amount of money automatically into savings to build up a savings fund
3.  Paying down debt
     -Right now, my first priority is what remains of my only private student loan, which has a relatively high  interest rate.
     -Second priority, which I will focus on in my budget in two months, will be my car loan.
4.  Setting money aside to pay for class tuition and books, so that I can pay for these upcoming expenses in cash rather than on credit.
5.  Any planned giving
     I'm a fan of Compassion International and Save the Children as well as a few other local/national organizations, but any charity/cause you choose to support should be checked out first to verify that most of your contribution is going towards what they claim to be supporting.  Guidestar and Charity Navigator provide resources for this.

What, to you, is worth spending discretionary money on?