June = Real Food.

June is a month for refrain… and this one could easily be categorized as either a refrain or an embrace.  We are going to be staying away from processed foods as much as possible.   My wife wrote a post about food a few weeks ago; She had been reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Well, it has inspired us toward eating more real and natural foods.  We already eat a lot of natural foods:  fruits and vegetables, local meat, whole grain breads, home-made granola, etc.  Thing is, we also like to snack on the processed stuff, but we’ll be cutting that junk out.

June will be the perfect month to give this a shot.  We’ll be able to shop for a lot of our food at the local farmers market and pick fruit from local growers.  We’ll be making a basic set of “rules” that I’ll post at the beginning of the month.  I am really looking forward to this, but I’ll struggle a bit as well, as I have a pretty stubborn sweet tooth.  It will be interesting to see how my kids do.  They actually eat much healthier than I do, but they also love their crackers, store bought granola bars… and the occasional sweets.

Join us for a month of “real food”?

My 10 Favorite Mac Apps

After I wrote about YNAB yesterday, I started thinking about which Mac apps I use the most and wouldn’t want to live without….  Here they are:

Wunderlist:  Free and awesome task-management.  Syncs with iPad, iPhone, and has a web app.

Evernote:  The catch-all for small notes, lists, web-pages, etc.  Also syncs with all your devices and has a web app.

DropBox:  It’s truly amazing to be able to access your files from anywhere on any device.  Dropbox also adds great functionality to a lot of other apps.

iCal:  I know, I know.  It comes bundled on your Mac.  That doesn’t make it any less useful.  I use google to keep all my calendars in sync.

Chrome:   I can’t really say I love this app, but I have to use a web browser, well, a lot.  Chrome is my browser of choice for most things.

YNAB:  I wrote about this yesterday….  In my opinion, it’s the best finance and budgeting app out there.  If you need help managing your budget, go try it out.

Skype:  I know it’s old news, but it is still amazing to me every time I talk face to face with my friends in Ethiopia, or even with family half way across the U.S.  Good stuff.

Sublime Text 2:  I started learning Web design and development about 9 months ago.  Before that, I had never heard of Sublime Text 2.  Now I use it daily.

1Password:  All of my passwords are now different and 10 or more characters long.  And guess what… I don’t have to remember them!  Security is awesome.

Sparrow:  I remember in college when email was the new thing.  I had to go to the computer lab to check it, and it was so fun!  Sparrow made email fun again.  Not as fun as in college, but still….

Whelp…. there’s my list.  Did I miss anything?  What’s on your list that isn’t on mine?

 

Revisiting our Budget

We have always lived on a budget for the most part, but any time we would try to sit down and figure out the nuts and bolts of each month, it just wouldn’t work.  The main reason it didn’t work: every month is different!  In the winter,  gas bills are around $100, while in the summer they are closer to $30.  Some months you need to buy gifts, others you don’t.  In the summer we do more home improvement.  December has Christmas.  Our annual garbage bill is due in October.  Like I said…. every month is noticeably different.  We tried to figure out averages and budget that way, but it just never seemed to line up or give us a real handle on how to plan for our upcoming expenses.  So instead, we just watched our spending as closely as possible and hoped that it would work out.

Luckily for us, it mostly worked out.  However, we just never felt like we had a good handle on how it worked and where our money was going.   So last December, I started  searching around for a good app to help us out.  I checked all the major finance apps and even a few “just budget” apps.  None of them seemed flexible enough to fit the bill.  That’s when I found YNAB.   YNAB stands for You Need A Budget.  It’s pretty much a full financial app (for Windows or Mac) that revolves around a well thought out methodology of budgeting.

And guess what?  It worked.  I downloaded the trial version.  (The trial has full functionality but only lasts for 35 days or something like that.)  At first, I was skeptical.  It takes a little work to get going.  It doesn’t sync with banks, so I put everything in manually (this turned out to be a benefit, as we are just more aware of our spending habits).   I decided to go all in, and really use the program for the full trial to see how it would work.  I attended a few of their live online classes (really helpful stuff) and watched a few online videos.  20 days later, I purchased the full app and have never looked back.

I could go into the methodology and features, but if your interested in all that you can go check out the website.  Ultimately, the reason it works for us?  It treats every month separately.  Each month we budget our money.  This allows your budget to be flexible where you need to be, and to plan for the bigger upcoming expenses (YNAB calls these rainy days).

YNAB takes a little work but it has really helped us get a handle on our finances.  The biggest thing for us, is that we no longer wonder if things are going to work out and we have more freedom to spend money when and where we need to.  This is what a budget should do!

If you think you need to start budgeting, or you like the idea of budgeting but haven’t been very successful at it… I suggest you give YNAB a try.

 

Sunday Mini-Posts

Post one:  We had a pretty busy weekend:  Lots of shared meals with a variety of great poeple: one Friday, one Saturday, one Today.  It is good to share a meal and connect.  When we do that, we tend to put away the computers and screens and phones, and just enjoy a good meal and maybe a tasty beverage as well.  Fantastic.

Post two: Today the message at church was on Saul’s conversion. (you can read the passage here.)  There was a ton of good stuff to chew on.  What really got me thinking was the reality that Paul was not hunting down Christians because he thought it was a fun thing to do.  He genuinely thought it was the right thing to do.  But it turns out the very thing he thought was right, was exactly the opposite.  It was completely flipped upside down.  I wonder… How often is this me?  How often is this the Church?   How often do we do things that we think are right, but we are actually persecuting Jesus?

Post three: I’ve been working with a friend on his latest project:  Hustlemonth.  It’s about taking a month (July), and being intentional about working toward your dreams… whatever they may be.  I’ll be joining in on the fun, though it will be interesting to see in what way, as we will be on vacation for at least part of the month.

Post four:   I finished the first re-design of Embrace / Refrain.   It’s nothing major, just a new theme with a minimalist layout.   It was nice to make all the changes offline with MAMP.  I was much more confident that when I made the changes on the site I wasn’t going to break anything!

Free Time…

Today… I got the first real free time I can remember in awhile. A friend of the family took my two kids who were not at school out for some fun.  And just like that, I had time to do whatever I wanted. If you don’t have kids, this may not seem noteworthy.  If you do then you probably understand how precious this time can be.  And so… What did I do with it my time?

I had some ambitions of taking a nap or going mountian biking, but intsead, I sat down to intall MAMP so that I could do some experimenting with WordPress.  For those of you that don’t know what MAMP is, it is basically a way of installing WordPress locally on your computer instead of on a server that hosts a web site.  There you can experiment offline, and have some fun playing with the PHP, CSS, and whatever else you feel like tinkering with.  This was MUCH easier than I thought it would be.  I was up and running in about 15 minutes.   I got my first chance to play around with a theme framework, and with my new (offline) confidence, I was trying all sorts of things.

What is funny to me, is that a year ago I had no idea what MAMP was, why you might use it, or how to intall and work with WordPress.  It is amazing to me how much fun it is to learn new things, and how much life can change in less than a year.  I was missing out on so much fun…

 

You can’t take it with you… unless it’s a laptop.

The title is courtesy of my friend over there in the rain….

I’ve been thinking about purchasing a new MacBook Air, probably this summer after Apple refreshes thier computer product line. I have an iMac at home, but as I have been learning and working on web design and web development, I have often wanted to do some work at the coffee shop.  Our iMac sits right in the great room, where it should be, but it can be hard to focus with a family of 5 running around you.  When I escape to the coffee shop, my mobile computer is an iPad.  It’s a fantastic device, but I definitely run into limitations when working on web sites.  Thus the idea of a MacBook Air.

As an alternative to getting the Air (they aren’t cheap)… I have been wondering about using my iPad to log into my iMac from the coffee shop.  Theoretically, I can then do anything that my iMac can do remotely on my iPad.  There are quite a few programs that allow you to do this:  some expensive, some not too bad, some are even free… but even the most expensive is quite a bit cheaper than getting a new computer.

I like the idea, but I have a feeling that it would be slow and buggy and I would end up getting the Air anyway.  Any thoughts?  Do you  have any experience logging into your computer remotely on an iPad?  If so, how does it work?

In Defense of Food (Guest Post)

If you’ve read this blog at all over the past month, you’ve read about a “wife” in many of the posts.  That’s me.  Hi…

And right now, I enjoy listening to books in the car on the way back and forth to work.  I’ve listened to novels, memoirs, super funny stuff, stories that had me wiping my eyes in the parking lot, and much in between.  Right now, I’m listening to “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan. (It’s read by a guy that also read one of the novels I listened to previously, so it’s a bit funny to get used to hearing his voice in this very information-loaded, almost textbook style book.) And I’m learning so much!!  I feel like I was brought up with “real food” by my parents, and we have sought out “real food” over the course of our adult-hood. I’m only on the third chapter, but so far this book has really done a good job with the history of the Western diet and “nutritionism”.  I’m quite intrigued, and quite ready to do a whole “embrace” of real food or a “refrain” of fake food.  I’ll let Brian blog about that though…

 

Ownership…

Today at church, the sermon was on Acts 4:  31-37.

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

One of the main points was on ownership and the Biblical understanding that everything is God’s.    The pastor had us make a list of all the things we own (or as many as we could write down in about 2-3 minutes).  He then asked what pronoun would go in front of each of those items.  The obvious answer is “my”.  Then he had us write “God’s” in front of all those possessions and asked two good questions:

  1. What items on the list were hard for you to write “God’s” in front of?
  2. How does thinking about your possessions as “God’s” change your perspective on them?
For me,  the hardest thing to write “God’s” in front of was my bikes (if you know me, this is the obvious answer).  What was more interesting to me, though, was my thought process after question 2.  My gut reaction was that I no longer have to worry about “stuff” when I understand it is God’s.  I tend to worry a bit about my cars and my house (don’t ask me about sump pumps and building houses in clay – you won’t have time for the response).  I think about what would happen if the transmission goes out, or the water heater rusts through… or whatever.  I’ll find some “big” thing to worry about, and often…it’s connected to my bigger possessions.  But if those are God’s… well then I’ll do my best to take care of them, but ultimately it’s out of my control.
 This idea of God’s ownership isn’t new to me,  but the second question just framed it different in a way that made me think:  “Seriously… why worry about this stuff.  It’s a gift from God.  It’s not even yours.  Let it go.”

 

How to win a culture war and lose a generation (link)

I have just been catching up on my RSS feeds.  I usually just browse quickly through each article, and send things to Instapaper that I really want to read.  When I stopped at this article, though, I read it in its entirety.  The article is in response to the North Carolina Amendment 1 vote, but it gets to a deeper issue of why so many young adults are leaving the evangelical church.  I think Rachel is spot on.  It’s worth a read regardless of what side of the vote you were (or would have been) on:

How to win a culture war and lose a generation

Brew Time

Last night I brewed a batch of Pale Ale with some friends. We had a fantastic time. It’s been a couple of years since my last batch, so we had to re-familiarize ourselves with the whole process. A couple of thoughts popped into my head as we were enjoying the evening and the brew process:

  • If you really get into the chemistry of brewing, it can be unbelievably complex.  However, the core process is reasonably basic and easy to get a handle on.  With a little equipment, anyone can do it.
  • Brewing is a fantastic social activity.  We brew in the garage, with camping chairs and a turkey fryer.  It is basically a campfire setting… but around the wort instead.  There is a lot of down time in between steps where you have time to connect, hang out, and share ideas about the next batch.
  • There is a very creative element to brewing and collaboration can be really fun.  We used a kit for this batch, which limits the creative scope, but we still had some fun discussing a few options we had within the recipe.
  • Explaining this process to 3 year olds can be a bit tricky.  Let’s just say my son’s brew vocabulary is a little more detailed than I’d like it to be…