An Update on the Europe 2014 Trip

In the past several months since I started planning my Bionic Nerd Epic Trip: International Edition, myriad changes to the itinerary have taken place. Here’s the most recent version, which is still, as always, tentative.

Depart Wednesday, 9 April 2014, fly Charleston CHS – Charlotte CLT – Rome FCO.

Arrive Thursday, 10 April 2014. Stay one night near the sea in Lido di Ostia.

Friday, 11 April 2014, head into Rome, get settled at the little camping village where I’ll be staying in a “bungalow” (think trailer). Hey, it was available for two weeks, it’s cheap, and it’s walking distance to a train station so it’s convenient to get into Rome on all but the earliest of mornings.

Saturday, 26 April 2014, I’ll check out of the camping village and check into a hostel which is about a 20 minute walk from St. Peter’s. It’s unlikely that I’ll be there overnight, as I believe I will be queued to get into the Sunday 10am Mass starting from around 4pm on Saturday.

Sunday, 27 April 2014, John Paul II’s canonization Mass. Assuming I can get in or even anywhere near St. Peter’s, which to be honest isn’t a good chance, I’ll head back to the hostel afterwards to either collapse and sleep for a bit, or to collect my things and be on my way. I’ll spend Sunday night and Monday night in a traditional hotel near the airport.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014, fly Rome FCO – Vienna VIE. I get in around 10:30am, and once I get from the airport into the city, I should have a good 10+ hours to explore a bit. My ham radio friend Tomas OK4BX, who lives in Czech Republic, may drive down to have lunch and Sacher Torte with me. Hopefully our schedules work out so that we can meet. I’ll catch the last train from the city to the airport around 11pm, and I’ll sleep in the airport.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014, fly Vienna VIE – Frankfurt FRA – Charlotte CLT – Charleston CHS. Eugene will pick me up and take me home, where I will promptly fall asleep and not get up for a week. :-)

I heard back from the office at the Vatican which arranges tours of the underground necropolis, where St. Peter is buried. They allow only approximately 100 people per day in, in small groups which are divided up by language. The chance of any one person who speaks English to get in is slim. I have been confirmed for a tour on Thursday, 24 April.

This morning the US Bishops’ Office in Rome, which handles US visitors ticket requests, contacted me about the general audiences and the Holy Week schedule. They are requesting a ticket for me on each of the two Wednesdays I’ll be there: April 16 and 23 for the usual Wednesday general audience with the Pope. The official schedule hasn’t been released yet, but assuming he holds audiences those days, I should be able to get in.

Palm Sunday Mass, 13 April 2014, is outdoors in St. Peter’s Square. The US Bishops’ Visitors Office has requested a ticket for me.

Holy Thursday, 17 April 2014, Chrism Mass is inside St. Peter’s Basilica. See my comments below for Masses and Services inside St. Peter’s.  The Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is not on the tentative schedule for events at St. Peter’s. This is in line with how Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday last year, ministering to youth in prison. I expect he’ll choose a different location this year but that it will similarly be a smaller and private event.

Good Friday, 18 April 2014, Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord is inside St. Peter’s Basilica. See below. The Stations of the Cross are again tentatively scheduled to be held at the Colosseum. No tickets are required. This will allow me to experience my first cab ride in Rome, as it will get out so late that my train back to my camping village will have already stopped running.

Holy Saturday, 19 April 2014, Easter Vigil Papal Mass is inside St. Peter’. See below.

Easter Sunday, 20 April 2014, Easter Sunday Mass is in St. Peter’s Square. A ticket has been requested for me by the US Bishops’ Visitors Office. After Mass, Pope Francis will give his Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Easter Monday, 21 April 2014, Pope Francis will give another blessing in St. Peter’s Square at noon to anybody who wishes to attend. No tickets are required for this event.

Easter Thursday, 24 April 2014, tour of underground St. Peter’s.

Divine Mercy Sunday, 27 April 2014, the Canonizations of Blesseds Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. This will be outside in St. Peter’s Square. There are no tickets. There will not be chairs. For John Paul II’s beatification a few years ago, people started queueing at 4pm the day before. I expect it will be worse this time.

Tickets for events inside St. Peter’s Basilica: According to the US Bishops’ Visitors Office in Rome, tickets for all Holy Week events inside St. Peter’s are (understandably) very limited. I am to have my priest or bishop write a letter on my behalf requesting these tickets, along with a reason why I want them, and submit it to them no later than a week from today. My parish office is closed today due to an ice storm, so I’ll try to get there tomorrow to start this process.

Assuming for now that I can get into all the events inside St. Peter’s that I want to, that still leaves me to find a place to attend Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. If you’ve been to Rome and have a suggestion, let me know. I could go to one of the other Papal Basilicas (San Giovanni in Laterano, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, or St. Mary Major), or I could find a smaller church.

If we’ve already discussed my taking along a rosary that you own to have blessed by Pope Francis, please have that to me by March 9. I want to get them packed up first so that I have a few more weeks to figure out how I’m going to pack all of my own things. I’m trying to pack very lightly and just take one carry-on size wheeled suitcase and one backpack. The rosaries look like they’re going to take about half of the backpack.

And if you have any suggestions for what to not miss in ten hours in Vienna, I’d love to hear about it.

73 de NR4CB, Connie


How Lazy People Bake Pies and Bread

I’ve never been a good cook, but occasionally I enjoy baking. As baking is generally more precise, it can involve a lot of measuring of ingredients. It can be a real pain to measure out ingredients for each pie or each loaf of bread.

Because I’m lazy efficient, I’ve found a short cut.

Rather than getting out measuring cups and spoons every time I want to bake a pumpkin pie during the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas season, or every time I wanted to bake a loaf of bread in my bread machine that I used to have, I instead start with an assembly line process for measuring the dry ingredients.

Most recently, I prepared dry ingredients for four pumpkin pies. I’ve done as many as 10 at a time. The process itself is really quite simple, but it’s not how we’re generally taught to do things.

Step 1:

Gather what you need: the dry ingredients for your recipe, the measuring tools you need for them, and containers to keep them in as you assemble them.


Step 2:

One ingredient at a time, measure the correct amounts into each container. For the pumpkin pie recipe I use, I’ll need sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. I start with the sugar, because I need the most of that ingredient.  Once that sugar is in my containers, I start on the other ingredients, creating little piles of spice on the sugar. For now, skip the salt. Next up for me is the cinnamon.


Next are the cloves and the ginger. I had gotten out a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon for the ginger, but as it turns out, that spoon was too big to fit into that jar. So, you’ll see I have two little piles of ginger instead, which are 1/4 tsp each. Math is your friend!


Lastly I add the salt, putting it on top of a dark spice that I’ve already added. In this case, that’s the cloves. If I added the salt directly on top of the sugar, I’d be more likely to lose track of which containers already have salt. In the picture below, you can see I’ve put salt into the top two containers, but not yet the bottom two. This way when the phone rings and distracts you, you can see exactly where you are in your assembly line process when you come back to it.



That’s it. Now I have four containers of dry ingredients for pumpkin pies, ready to use. See that mess I made? Not too bad, really, considering I’ve prepped for four pies.


Step 3: Bake your pies, or wait, or both. Usually when I start this process, it’s because I’m going to bake one pie now and some more later. With the ingredients I used here for my pumpkin pies, these containers can sit on the counter or in the pantry until I’m ready to use them. When I prepped for loaves of bread, I used whole wheat flour, so I refrigerated the containers until I was ready to use them.

A note about yeast: The recipe for bread I used included rapid rise yeast added with the dry ingredients, not proofed in warm water. if you’re prepping containers of dry ingredients for a recipe like that, consider leaving the yeast out until you’re ready to bake. Yes, it means measuring one thing each time you use one of your kits, but since salt can kill yeast, it’s probably best not to give it that opportunity. Having said that, I will also say that I did include the yeast in my pre-assembled kits, and I never had a problem. I did make a point of putting the salt and the yeast in different parts of the container, and I tried not to mix them up too much.

Now go grab some containers and some dry ingredients and start baking something yummy. If you’re looking for a good pumpkin pie recipe, I really like the one on the back of Libby’s canned pumpkin.


3rd Annual Worked All Twitter (#WATwitter) US Thanksgiving Weekend QSO Party

The 3rd Annual Worked All Twitter was again a highlight of the long Thanksgiving weekend. It was great getting on the air and working some of you, and it tickled me to see so much use of the #WATwitter hashtag on Twitter each day of the event, especially during those times when Eugene and I were away from the shack celebrating with family. At one point during Thanksgiving Day evening, Eugene checked Twitter, turned to me, and said, “They’re holding a net.” Sure enough, you were. You guys are awesome. I’m glad so many of you had fun with this.

Remember that Worked All Twitter isn’t just a Thanksgiving event. Use the hashtag any time you want to arrange a QSO. We’ll talk more about this in a later post, too. A few of us are floating around a couple of ideas about how to make it even better.

73 de NR4CB, Connie


25 Nov 2013 edit:

Our Worked All Twitter event is approaching quickly.

Take a moment to update your profile. Include your Twitter ID.

Take another moment and update your Twitter profile. Include your call sign.

Some of you have asked what time it starts. Since it’s not a contest for points, there’s not an official start and stop time. In fact, many of us use the #WATwitter hashtag throughout the year to help arrange QSOs. This Thanksgiving weekend event will last from Wednesday through Sunday (27 November – 1 December), but use the hashtag whenever you want to arrange a sked or see who else is available.

Want to know how this started? Here’s the first post about Worked All Twitter. Back then I was living in Florida. Now I’m in Charleston, South Carolina, and we’ve got an antenna that will get us on 40m-6m.

My husband Eugene AB4UG and I will be on the air off and on for most of the weekend. We’re @NR4CB and @imabug on Twitter. (I am also @Bionic_Nerd on Twitter, but I’ll probably just use @NR4CB.)

9 Nov 2013 edit: This post will be updated with additional information as it becomes available. Are you interested in scheduling a net or two during the QSO party? Leave a comment.

Original post: 27 Oct 2013:

Are you exhausted after CQWW? Do you love it, but are you tired of 4-second QSOs? Would you enjoy a leisurely weekend of QSOs with the hams you’ve known online but maybe never worked? Do you need a few skeds to help you finish up your WAS?

It’s almost time for our 3rd annual Worked All Twitter QSO Party, held over the long weekend of the US Thanksgiving Holiday:

  • Dates: Wednesday, 27 November – Sunday, 1 December 2013
  • Who: Any licensed operator, especially those who use Twitter
  • Where: All bands, all modes. To let as many people as possible participate, use the portion of the band open to the most people, ie the technician class portion of 10m, the general class portion of 20m, etc.
  • Exchange: your normal exchange plus your Twitter handle, especially if it’s not your call sign.
  • Spotting: Self-spotting is practically required. Tweet your frequency, interact with people on Twitter, set up skeds, get those states you’re missing for WAS, work old friends for the first time, and make new friends.
  • Hashtags on Twitter: #WATwitter and either #hamradio or #hamr. Use these hashtags in your tweets, and search for others who are using them. Interact!
  • Have fun! Log your contacts, tweet your tallies to others, but there are no scores or awards. This is about enjoying our hobby and connecting with fellow hams over the long holiday weekend.

Spread the word, and we’ll see you on the air.

73 de NR4CB, Connie (on Twitter as @NR4CB and @Bionic_Nerd)




Mom’s Hard Tack Recipe

Mom would’ve turned 65 years old today.

I have nothing profound to say; I’m at a loss for words.

Instead, I want to share this recipe of hers for Hard Tack (the candy, not the bread) that I had asked her to share with me just two months before she died. Here it is, in her own words. The only thing I’ve edited from this is our email addresses.

73 de NR4CB, Connie

—–Original Message—–
From: wrbird <…………..>
To: connie <…………………>
Sent: Sun, Dec 18, 2011 8:37 pm
Subject: Hard Tack

Using a heavy 2 quart saucepan, put
2 cups of sugar and 7 Tblsps. of cocoa
into it.  Stir the cocoa and sugar until no
lumps remain.  Pour in 1/4 cup Karo light
syrup and 1 cup of old whipping cream and
start heating it and stir the mixture until
well combined.  Continue heating it and stir
it often over medium to medium high heat until
the mixture comes to a full boil.  Stop stirring and
do not stir it again.  Turn the heat down and just let
the mix simmer at a good pace until it reaches about
250 degrees or when a small amount dropped into
a cup of cold water tests almost hard ball stage.
Once it has reached that stage pour it into a well
buttered 9 x 13″ pan.  Do not stir or scrape it into
the pan.  Do not lift or move that pan
until completely cool or it will turn sugary.

This is the best way I know of giving this recipe, mostly it
has been trial and error.  This is how my mother,
Lorraine, showed me how to make it and I have not
always had good luck with it.  Make it a time or two,
throw out what doesn’t work and adjust the amount of
cocoa and the time spent boiling to suit your taste.

Happy birthday, Mom. I miss you.

Wanda, 4 years ago today, enjoying a free day at Walt Disney World on her birthday


* Mom said “old whipping cream,” and all I can guess is that she meant to type “plain old whipping cream.” But, who really knows. :-) Love you, Mom. ~Connie


Can we prepare for a death in the family?

I’ve written about my friend Heather before. Her family has had a very bad year. Her stepsister died in May, and her sister died not even a month ago. They were in their early 30s. Mom died at age 63, which I still think is way too young, but I can’t even imagine mourning the deaths of family members thirty years before that.

After Mom died, I learned some things and realized some things that might help other people prepare just a little bit for the death of a family member or friend. I can’t change the hurt and the loss, but maybe by taking a moment to plan a few things ahead of time, maybe what I learned can help somebody else get through one little bit of a horrible ordeal more easily.

Today, Heather published what I wrote late last month. It’s on her site here: I’d love it if you took a moment to read it. I’d love it more if you took the time to do a few things on that list.

Thank you.

73 de NR4CB, Connie

Great Circle Mapper > MS Paint

Yesterday I wrote about the trip I’m planning to Rome, Italy. I included a crude graphic of my flight itinerary, in which I used MS Paint to draw lines on a Google Map image:

that's a lotta flying, and a lotta layover time

Black line is the trip to Rome.
White line is the trip home.
[Don't you love my awesome MS Paint skills?!]

Eugene left a comment praising my MS Paint skills. ;-)  Today, he’s found this, which is so much better:


CHS-DFW-ORD-FCO-DUS-MIA-CHS via Great Circle Mapper (

According to Great Circle Mapper, my total flight distance will be 12,539 miles. That’s 179% of the miles I drove on my road trip last year. I’m glad I won’t be driving on this trip, but I better make sure I find some good books to read along the way.

73 de NR4CB, Connie

Bionic Nerd Epic Trip: International Edition

I’m planning my next big trip!

Yesterday, unofficial word from the Vatican said that Pope John II’s canonization will be on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. Today there are reports saying that this has been announced officially by Pope Francis. No matter, though, because before it was even official, I booked my flight.

But, Connie, you ask, didn’t you just get out of debt, and aren’t you supposed to be building your emergency fund? Yup! But I’m also pretty cheap. That helps a lot.

My airline ticket is $76 of taxes and fees. I redeemed the 40,000 frequent flyer miles I earned from selling a handful of very pricey airline tickets several years ago when I was a travel agent. I’m so happy to finally be able to use the miles.

Thanks to two friends, I found a very affordable room to rent on It’s five blocks from the Vatican, and after taxes it’s under $32 per night. It includes a private bedroom, shared bathroom, use of shared kitchen, free internet, and free breakfast. I couldn’t be happier. Many thanks to Rachel for the link to the site.

Because the airline ticket is a reward ticket, the itinerary is a bit, um, convoluted:

that's a lotta flying, and a lotta layover time

Black line is the trip to Rome.
White line is the trip home.
[Don't you love my awesome MS Paint skills?! Also, thank you Google Maps for the image I scribbled on.]

I leave in the evening on Holy Saturday, April 19. I fly from Charleston to Dallas Fort Worth.  I spend the night in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport area.

On Easter Sunday morning, April 20, I fly from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago O’Hare. I have a 6+ hour layover.

I was very happy to find out that Mass is celebrated daily at O’Hare, so I assume they will have Easter Mass as well. If they follow their normal Sunday schedule, I should be able to attend. What a surreal experience that will be: Easter Mass in an airport.

I leave in the early evening on Easter Sunday to fly to Rome. It’s a 9+ hour flight.

I arrive at Fiumicino-Rome airport around 9:30 AM Monday, April 21. I’ve booked a room near the airport, and consequently very near the sea, so that I can do nothing but sleep for about 24 hours straight if I feel like it. I’ve gone to Europe twice before. Each time I’ve been completely worthless the first day I arrive because I’ve been so exhausted. This time, I’m going to prepare for that and not feel a bit guilty if I let myself sleep. I figure since I’m leaving on Saturday and arriving on Monday, this is justified. Did I mention I’m not usually able to sleep on a plane?

On Tuesday, April 22, I’ll take the train into Rome; find my room, check in, and get settled; and then spend the day exploring the local area within walking distance.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are open. I’m sure there are a lot of things I’ll try to see while I’m there.

Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, is the day that is probably going to be John Paul II’s canonization. When I was in Rome in 2004, I got to St. Peter’s Square very early on Sunday morning. Pope John Paul II celebrated that Mass, and he beatified four people that day. It was a wonderful celebration. My getting there very early allowed me a good seat, but once Mass started, when I looked behind me there were people as far as I could see. I’m sure it’ll be a lot harder to get a seat at all for this Mass. Do people camp out overnight in St. Peter’s Square? Anyway, the only thing on my agenda for that day will be the canonization Mass. After that’s over, I’ll head back to my room and start packing up for the trip home.

Monday, April 28, I’ll take a train back to Fiumicino. My flight leaves around noon, and I’ll be in Dusseldorf, Germany, before 3pm. I think as long as I have to have an overnight layover somewhere, this is a good choice. I’ll have a few hours to get the tiniest taste of Germany before I try to sleep one last time before coming home.

Tuesday, April 29, I’ll take a 10+ hour flight from Dusseldorf to Miami, where I am 95% sure I will miss my connection. I’ve missed a connection in Miami before, because the airlines run late and Miami’s scheduling is too tight. But there’s a later flight, so I should be okay. The earliest I’ll get back to Charleston is just before 5pm. Then I’ll sleep for two days.

Am I crazy? Yes. Is my husband crazy for encouraging me to go, even though I’ll be alone, and even though he’s staying here to work and take care of the dogs? Yes. But it’s a good crazy.

A ham radio note: Because of CEPT, I don’t have to have a reciprocal license to transmit in Italy or in Germany. I just need to have a copy of my license with me and ID as I/NR4CB in Italy and DL/NR4CB in Germany. I’m thinking of taking my HT. What do you guys think of this? Would it be helpful while I’m in Rome?

73 de NR4CB, Connie


Debt To Debt-Free

On July 19, 2013, I married my best friend. Five days later, we have another reason to celebrate. We’ll tell you about it together in what Eugene calls a he-said / she-said format and what I call an opportunity for rebuttal.

He says:

In under a year, Connie and I have gone from having a fairly sizable chunk of debt (in the form of various loans and credit cards) to having a positive net worth, and finally to being debt free (aside from the mortgage).

This is a huge accomplishment that we’re both very proud of. We were able to manage this without having to make drastic changes in lifestyle, by having regular discussions about the money situation, by making conscious decisions about what we’re spending money on, and by working together toward a goal.

Here’s what the past 10 months look like:

Debt Free July 24

See where that line hits 0? All kinds of awesome and win. That also includes having to replace the AC unit for the house and paying for the wedding, which we managed to do without having to add to our debt at all.

When we started, Connie said she could have us out of debt in a year. My normal approach to money has been to set up everything on autopay, automatic transfers, etc and leave things to run on auto-pilot. I thought maybe a year and a half, two years was more reasonable considering how much of it we had, but she was certain she could get it done in a year. I handed the financial reins over to her and told her to have at it. We took a hard look at the finances and what we were/I was spending money on. We looked at everything: utilities (cable, water delivery, phone, etc), food, eating out, entertainment to name a few.

She says:

September of last year was before we had combined our finances, but it shows the low point for us in our debt, so it’s important to the graphic. Eugene was starting to clean up some financial matters related to his past in September and October, but we didn’t combine goals and finances until mid-November. When we sat down and went through everything — income, debt, bills, and current balances — I did tell him we could be out of debt in a year. I don’t remember if Eugene said he was skeptical or if he just gave me a look, but there’s no way to describe his reaction other than skeptical. I think that’s maybe a reason a lot of people stay in debt perpetually, because it doesn’t feel like they can get out of it, so they don’t really try.

Eugene mentioned that he handed over the financial reins to me, but really it was a team effort the whole time. We took everything off auto-pay, and I started to handle the day to day money chores. I keep Quicken up to date, I pay the bills when they are due, and I update our monthly budget spreadsheet. However, we make the decisions together. Eugene deserves more of the credit for this accomplishment than he’s currently willing to accept, but don’t worry; I’ll continue to remind him how awesome he is. Because he is.

He says:

We cut out a lot of things, or replaced them with less expensive alternatives. Even if it only saved $5 or $10/month, if it was an expenditure, it was examined. We traded in cable TV for Netflix. The $70-something/month phone bill was replaced with MagicJack for $45/year. The slow DSL was upgraded to broadband cable for a little bit more money but 10x the bandwidth of the DSL service I had at the time. The water delivery was dropped, I brought lunches more often, and didn’t eat out quite as much. Blockbuster DVD deliveries got the axe. We put the 401k contributions on temporary hold and used that money towards paying down the debt.

By looking at all the expenses, we worked out what we needed, what we didn’t need and what we could cut down or scale back on. It’s harder than it sounds, and while some of the decisions were easy to make, others were harder.

That process helped us free up a bunch of money that we could use to pay down our debt with, but by itself isn’t enough. The next step was to create a budget and make ourselves stick to it. Creating a budget is easy. It’s the sticking to it that’s the hard part.

For us, the budgeting process involved figuring out where our money was going and what categories to create budget line items for. We started with a regular budget first, then transitioned to a zero-based budget. It took me a little while to understand the concept, but once I got it, it made sense. Every dollar needs to be assigned to a budget item so that it is “spent”. That doesn’t mean we were spending every dollar we made though. “Spending” could be putting some money towards savings, or using it to pay down debt. The gist of it is that all your money has some purpose assigned to it, whether it’s paying bills, groceries, or put towards savings. Income – “expenditures” = $0.

She says:

“We started with a regular budget first”? We didn’t have a budget. We had a “pay all the bills, and pay them on time” budget. Then if any money was left over at the end of the month, we’d put that toward the debt. That wasn’t a budget.

You can see we made a decent sized payment in November and another larger one in December, but that was just our taking cash we had (which was actually from the loans) and using it to pay down the debt. But then see how the progress all but stopped in January and February? It’s because somehow we just didn’t have money left over at the end of the month. I think that’s probably another human-nature part of why people stay in debt. We spend what we have if we haven’t worked on the discipline to do otherwise. By the last week of February, we realized we needed a better plan of attack.

In March, we started the zero-based budget. It gets a lot easier after the first couple of months, but it was hard that first month making everything come out right. In addition to our normal monthly expenses, we had taxes to deal with, plus we were saving for a wedding. We still didn’t make tremendous progress on the debt that month, but at least we paid it down a little.

Starting with the April budget, we made the change that I believe was the most critical thing that has allowed us to get out of debt so quickly. Thinking ahead to after we had the debt paid off, we knew we’d then build up more of an emergency fund. After that, we’ll re-start our contributions into retirement savings. We want to save 15% of our pre-tax income for retirement. When we get to that point, our monthly budget won’t include that money. So, we decided to stop seeing that money now, and put it directly toward the debt instead. That was the plan, anyway, at the end of March for the April budget. Then the first few hot days of Charleston hit, and we realized that the HVAC wasn’t going to last the summer. Those April debt payments went with our savings to buy a new HVAC instead. Of course we wanted to pay down the debt, but not going further into debt for such a large expense was awesome.

Starting in May, those payments were put towards debt as planned, and you can see that our progress really took off.

He says:

Each month, we’d get together and plan out the budget for the following month. Then at least a few times each month, we’d review the budget for the current month, see where we were spending-wise and if any amounts needed adjusting. For the first few months, we used the “cash envelope” method for some items, like eating out and groceries. Having to fork over actual paper dollars made us think a little more about spending money. Later, when that behaviour became kind of instinctive, we did away with the envelopes.

An important budget category we created was one we called “Wiggle room”, which was just that. If something unexpected came up, or we saw that we were going to end up spending more than originally budgeted in one category (something we tried to avoid doing), we could adjust other categories or pull it out of our Wiggle room. Any time one of us wanted to buy something that wasn’t budgeted for, we’d discuss it together. At the end of the month, any left over money was put into the budget for the next month, or put towards debt.

Talking and working together, planning and reviewing the budget, and thinking about the money we were spending all helped us stick to it and played a big role in helping us reach the debt free milestone. We had to be very disciplined, and there were one or two lapses, but Connie did a great job keeping everything on track.

She says:

Seriously, it was a team effort.

He says:

Now the next step is to take all that money we were putting towards debt and start building up the emergency fund, which shouldn’t take too long. Then we’ll restart the retirement savings.

She says:

I’m really glad Eugene trusted me enough to go along with these ideas. I think the best thing about this process has been how much it’s helped us grow in our relationship. We’ve learned to talk about our goals, we’ve worked out problems, and we’ve enjoyed successes. I think we’re going to have a really awesome life.

He says:

I think so too :)

#CQMahWedding Special Event Station

As I write this, it’s the day before my wedding day, errr, Mah wedding day. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know for our Ham Radio Special Event Station.

Call signs: NR4CB and AB4UG

Friday, 19 July, 2013, from 11 am to 1 pm Eastern Daylight Time (1500 – 1700 UTC)

Between 80m and 6m, not including oddball stuff like 60m or 30m. SSB.**

We’ll be moving among bands and frequencies as needed in order to work as many of our friends as possible. We’ll be self-spotting and arranging skeds on Twitter: @NR4CB [protected account, which you have to request to follow] and AB4UG @imabug.

Use hashtag #CQMahWedding for the event. We’ll also probably use the #WATwitter and #hamradio hashtags as space permits.

AB4UG confirms with LOTW. I don’t, yet, but I will eventually get set up there. We’ll be sending out CQMahWedding QSL cards with pictures from the wedding. Please do NOT send a SASE, as we don’t yet know the size/shape of the QSL cards we’ll get. Please send your QSL cards to us using AB4UG’s address in

See you on the air!

73 de NR4CB, Connie


** Update 19Jul2013: I was wrong. We can’t tune on 80m. Try us 40m-6m. Watch our tweets.