Let's Talk Benjamin Franklin

 Today I'm going to dive straight into the prickly issue of money.
Let's talk Benjamin Franklin (or we can talk smack about it if you'd like)
To be straight up honest, money is NOT my favorite conversation to have.
I think I feel like I'll break out in hives every time we have to have our weekly budget conversation.  The husband and I.

I feel like I grew up with a considerably healthy view of the dollar.
My parents were ahead of their game, so to speak.  They implemented things way back then, that are just becoming 'money smart' now.  
And I know I have them to thank for the financial rewards I'm reaping today.
I never felt like it was a terrible thing to have money, or be wealthy.
But I know that a tremendous amount of people have a mental block about wealth.
Like God doesn't want you rich.  That money is a pitfall that opens Pandora's box to all kinds of sin and temptation.

Myron and I are over the halfway point in the Financial Peace University course we have been leading this winter.
You guys, if you haven't done it, take this class!  
It will totally rock your financial world, and begin to set your finances right side up!
We've had some cool testimonies come out of this class already, and we're not finished!
If you live local, stay tuned.  We're going to be putting another class together later this summer or fall.  You don't want to miss it!
And just a plug about an FPU class:  while you can do this course on your own, at home, it is so much more worthwhile to do with a class.  You get accountability (a huge factor in making it work), you learn off of each other's successes/mistakes, and you get to hear each other's cool stories and be motivated.  So please, do the class with a group!

 Myron and I have budgeted for quite a while, but got super serious about it again a while ago and instead of budgeting purely to know where our dollars went, we're serious about TELLING that dollar where it goes and making it work for us, not the other way around.

While Financial Peace University says that it will bring peace to your finances,
Oh. My. Gracious.  This is my 2 cents: it will bring turmoil before peace.  Insert scowly emoticon.
We have had more heated discussions over money this winter, than we've had heated discussions period, for years.  I'm not a big spender to begin with, and to try to squeeze my dollar so hard I 'give George Washington a headache' has given ME headaches also.  I'm in it for the long-term result, so the short-term discomfort is just going to have to work it's self out.
Myron is definitely the 'nerd' about money, and I'm more of a 'free spirit'.  He is a fanatic about crunching and entering numbers (which is totally what is going to make this whole budget work for us),  I just don't spend more money than I have to so when I'm asked to 'ingest pennies and poop dimes',  I tend to get a little cranky.  

But ya'll, I'm LEARNING!  YAY!  (We're getting somewhere!!!)
I've been obsessed with getting my hands on any good books I can find out there that back up what is taught in FPU.  Just kind of drenching myself in money talk.  I love reading books that reinforce and grow what I already have stashed in my brain database.  These are some of the books I read, just in the last week:

While I didn't enjoy all of these, here are some books I'd totally recommend:
The Millionaire Next Door 
Complete Guide to Money (of course!)
Smart Money Smart Kids (We are implementing this with our kids, 20 years from now, ask me how it turned out)
Rich Dad Poor Dad 
5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me 
I know there are so many more books to be read, and more that I have read, but these are just a few of my current favorites that I've read recently.

I'm not a teacher, so I won't proceed to explain and direct you into all things budget-ey,
But I will point you toward some terrific online tools to use for creating and maintaining a budget.

Here's a few to get you started
 This has been around for a while and if you're a computer genius you can make your own spreadsheets and work the system like you want.  We're not like that.
 We used to use this.  It's great for tracking WHERE your money is going.  It didn't really work for a zero-based budget (Which BTW, is the only way to budget) (essentially TELLING your money where to go, not just tracking it).  This also can be linked to your bank account, so in essence, it recognizes your purchases and puts them in certain categories.  You still have to do some legwork to divide them then, say for instance, you went to Wal-Mart and bought food as well as clothing.  It would recognize Wal-Mart, and probably place it under the grocery catalog, but then you would need to change it and divide it properly into categories.
If you've taken FPU in the past, this seems to be the version replacing the Gazelle Budget tool.  We tried the Gazelle budget and it just didn't work for us. Also, it was a little pricey to pay for it's use. (Which, if your budget tells you it ain't there, it ain't there.  Free is always good) The EveryDollar budget system seems to have real promise.  It's got an app, and it's free (at least for now).  
This is what Myron and I use.  We've loved it so far.   It allows you to move money between categories, it's connected to Drop Box but downloaded on your computer, it's got a slick app that you can enter purchases into at the time of purchase, and you can also pin a location so that when you are at, say Aldi, it will recognize that and all you need to do is enter the amount.

A comment on using an effective budget, and especially YNAB, you will learn to spend the money you earned the previous month.  So, in April, you will be spending March's income.  That money should all be divided into categories, every dollar going somewhere, until your budget equals $0.00.  This is a zero-based budget.  And you're only spending the money that you actually have.  Yay!  No more adding on debt.  It's a little tough the first few months to get started, since you may not have that whole paycheck in your bank account anymore.  We transferred that amount over from our savings, so that we could start out fresh, but if you don't have that money available, you'll be pinching your pennies super tight to save that base amount to start your budget.  And BTW, everyone declares that when you're tight financially, you eat a lot of mac and cheese and tuna.  My calculations tell me that tuna is not,  I repeat, NOT a budget friendly food.  That's just fishy advertising.  

There are so many areas to jump off of, into this area of money.   I've got a whole list of awesome books to read, on the 'spiritual' side of money.  Since I believe in the supernatural and definitely want to see God as my ultimate Provider, I don't want to base all of this money talk on purely the logical side of money.  The actual pennies and dollars on paper.  Sometimes we need to see how God provides ABUNDANTLY, not just logically through our paychecks.  I've heard some pretty awesome sermons on spiritual provision and God's blessing on economics, and have got some great books to recommend also.  That will have to be an entirely different post.  

But I have begun learning one thing about 'spiritual money'.  It's that God blesses and multiplies the assets of a person who is a faithful steward of what He gives.  People double their incomes, folks, just by following Godly financial principles.  He also smiles strongly on the cheerful Giver, and I believe you won't lack for anything if you give graciously.  It's like the law of gravity, what goes up, comes down.  Except, with money, when you give, it's given to you.  Even some of the 'worldy' books I've read on money, recognize that it is a universal law of life.  And I'm not being greedy by saying I want more, so that I can give more.   So we will budget, and budget hard, and we will 'Live like no-one else, so that someday we can Give like no-one else'.  And if this means I don't get out of the house much, rarely eat out, buy second-hand clothes, and have holes in my socks, then by golly, I'm giving it my best shot.  I'm putting it out there: I will squeeze and wheeze my way into that budget every month.  One last personal note: when it came to cutting our grocery budget back, I put my foot down on cutting back on hospitality.  Hospitality can be costly, it can cost you water, electric, food, other resources.  But to me, this is part of my giving to God.  And hospitality was not getting kicked to the curb EVER.  So I encourage you, to take what you have, and use it wisely to bless and be blessed.

What are some of the best money tips/advice you've received, that have benefited you tremendously?  What methods have gotten you the most bang for your buck? 



Mmm.  If I had to pick a favorite pastry, creme puffs would be in the top running.
There is something about their light, fluffy poof and cream
That creates a sort of denial of the calories they contain.
It's like the pillowy puff will allow you so much less guilt, than any richer dessert.

I've been a fan of creme puffs for years, and have literally tried my hand at them 
Ever since I was like 13 or 14.  A long time, folks.
But this past Christmas, I made some that just reminded me all over again, Why I love them so much.

I did these for a banquet, and easily doubled and even tripled the recipe with great results.  If this is your first go
at creme puffs, then I'd suggest you start with just the basic amounts before you get too crazy about going for doubles or more.  It will blow your mind how very simple they are to mix and bake.

Here is the recipe:
  • Puff Shells
  • 1 C water
  • ½ C butter (1 stick)
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Custard  
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 C warm milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sweet Cream:
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Granulated sugar to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  1. For the shells:
  2.  Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Set aside a large (12 or more) muffin tin, very lightly buttered.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, bring water and butter to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add flour, stirring well until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Stir in eggs, one at a time, beating with spoon or large fork until dough is smooth. Beat additional 10 seconds to continue to increase volume of the dough.
  4. Using a tablespoon, drop dough into deep muffin tins. Divide all the batter between 12 tins. You can also divide the dough by TBfuls onto a cookie sheet, for less puffy, more spread out, shells.
  5. Bake shells in 400 degrees oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Important that the puffs are golden/crisp or they may collapse. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  6. (The shells can be prepared the day before. Just lightly cover when completely cooled and let sit at room temperature.)
  7. For the custard cream filling:
  8. Place the 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk them together and set aside.
  9. Mix sugar, flour and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in warm milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. Mixture will thicken and bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook one minute more while still stirring.
  10. Remove from heat. Stir about half of the mixture into beaten egg yolks.
  11. Blend this back into remaining hot mixture in the saucepan. Stir constantly just until mixture begins to bubble again.
  12. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Remove from heat. Set aside.
  13. For the sweetened cream:
  14. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, and add sugar and vanilla to your liking.
  15. Assembling the cream puffs:
  16. Cut off shell tops and scoop out the insides of top and bottom to make room for the custard and whipped cream.  Often the puff is so full of air inside, there will be a natural indentation and you won't need to do this step.
  17. Dip the bottom of the puff into powdered sugar, then repeat with top of puff. This will coat the puffs  and gives a "French pastry"  look.
  18. Fill bottom of puff with Custard Filling. Top generously with the whipped cream.
  19. Replace top of puff. Place puffs in refrigerator, uncovered, chilling for 4 hours (at least one hour). Do not cover the puffs in fridge or the powdered sugar will disintegrate into the puff. 
Makes about 12 cream puffs if made in muffin tin.

These cream puffs make an excellent carrier for chicken salad, tuna, eclaire fillings, fresh fruit and cream, and the list is almost endless.

*On a side note: I have no idea why the French word for cream puff is sometimes Profiterole.  All I can think of when I read that is: Profit and roll.  Elementary, I know.  I'm just thinking that if I had a restaurant, I'd be making creme puffs to make a profit-roll too.  (I'm not even sure that I should be laughing at myself right now either-major eye roll)

laissez les bons temps rouler!


(Black is still) The New Black

Black is such a lovely color to me.
If you've ever been in our home, you probably noticed that.
Black and white may just be my favorite colors, 
If they're even allowed to be in the color family.

I notice that black and white pop up when I take pictures,
like the one above.

Our master bedroom is black and white and I find it so soothing.  The only thing I'd really change, is to add in white linen curtains.  I adore linen also.  The curtains we have are actually from the fabric markets in Thailand, they are a sheer black with white ribbon roses stitched onto the sheer.

The handwriting on the wall (quite literally) was such a fun project.  I just went at my white wall with a yardstick and a sharpie.  I love it so much.

I've got black on my walls in our living space
and black on cabinets, countertops, and in decorations.

 I have such great admiration for those fun spaces you see in peoples homes.
All full of bright colors, in turquoise, yellows, and so much more.  I'm such a fan of happy spaces. 
But I'm ok with those colors just not being my thing.  
Black and white are calming to me, and I love the freshness
of a space, minus the chaos of color.  
Airy, but dramatic I guess.
All I can say though is, gracious, I hope colors don't identify
your personality that drastically.
Because if that is the case, I'm either dull and boring
or incredibly moody and dramatic, as well as airy.
Let's just not go there.
Even the outside of our house is white.
And if I didn't need to go through the Historic District Board
to do it, my front door would probably be painted,
you guessed it, Black.

 My pinterest board looks like someone took an eraser to it
and completely scrubbed out all the colors, 
except for black and white.

One of my favorite online magazines, delivered to my inbox
has so much monochromatic going on, I can hardly stand it.
Est Magazine 

I also love to follow this blog
Her pinterest board is amazing.

I'm in love.
And I think that Black is Still the New Black.

What about you?  Are you a bright happy color person?