Monthly Budget Update | May 2020

Well, May did not go as planned in the budget department. I spent a lot more money than I should have, especially on takeout and online shopping. It happens, you know? I don’t want to shame myself for any of it, but I do want to keep a closer eye on how much money I’m spending on food and shopping in June. Let’s dive into my monthly recap!

may budget - Monthly Budget Update | May 2020

Savings (27.4% – $1,300 compared to $215 in April) – Woohoo! What a great month of saving for me. I must credit the majority of this to my stimulus check. I put a large chunk of it into savings. I put $800 into my house fund and then threw $250 each into my emergency savings and car fund.

Housing (22.9% – $1,085 compared to $1,065 in April) – My electric bill in May was a bit higher than usual, but all other expenses stayed the same: rent, water, Netflix, and Internet.

Shopping (8.8% – $418 compared to $122 in April) – Ahhh, wow. I spent a lot of money shopping this month. Eeks! More than half of this, however, was the purchase of AirPods Pro, which I decided to treat myself to when I received my stimulus check. Other purchases: books (I bought 8 in May in between Book of the Month add-ons and Kindle e-books), a floppy hat, a face mask, and a new bathing suit.

Eating Out (6.9% – $329 compared to $288 in April) – Oy vey, that Uber Eats app gets me all the time. I was trying to limit my orders to twice a week – once for lunch and once for dinner, but that has quickly evolved to multiple times a week as time has passed. I’m definitely going to watch this category a lot more closely in June to try to keep it closer to $200. (Also, to be fair, that $329 number also includes tip money to my driver.)

Spa (6.6% – $313 compared to $50 in April) – This accounts for my monthly massage membership (that I really need to pause!) and my hair appointment. I got the works – highlights and a trim.

Home (6.2% – $292 compared to $112 in April) – I bought a pair of bar stools! I have been wanting to do this for a long time and I’m so happy with the purchase.

Pets (5.8% – $277 compared to $16 in April) – An expensive month for the girls! I needed to refill their flea/tick/heartworm medication and I also bought a bag of litter, a harness (so I can walk Ellie!), a new scratching bed, and some toys.

Groceries (4.9% – $233 compared to $384 in April) – This is positive! I spent wayyy less in groceries in April. Woohoo!

Phone (2% – $97 compared to $142 in April) – I traded in my phone for the iPhone 11, so I got a bit of a break on my phone bill this month since I didn’t have to pay the leasing cost.

Debts (1.8% – $87 compared to $1,065 in April) – Only one of my student loans right now needs to be paid (somehow, I paid over and above my payments for the other one so it’s giving me a bit of a break), so I paid the minimum on that.

Technology (1.7% – $80 compared to $0 in April) – This is for my keyboard replacement. They wanted me to pay half of the cost upfront, and then the remaining $70 will be due when my computer is fixed.

Toiletries (1.4% – $66 compared to $30 in April) – This category is mostly comprised of body wash. I bought 11 bottles of it in April, ha. (Your girl loves her bubble baths.) I also replaced my loofah and bought conditioner and mouthwash.

Gifts (1.1% – $50 compared to $47 in April) – Buying gifts for Mother’s Day and a friend’s birthday comprises this category.

Subscriptions (.9% – $44 compared to $55 in April) – Patreon, Spotify, PicMonkey, and Book of the Month. It’s less this month because Sephora has phased out their beauty box subscription.

Entertainment (.8% – $38 compared to $14 in April) – I bought a set of covers for my Story Highlights on Instagram and also pitched in for pizza at book club. Annnnnd there may have been a handful of purchases on Candy Crush.

Donations (.5% – $25 compared to $28 in April) – I donated to my local community bail fund for the protestors.

Household Supplies (.2% – $11 compared to $31 in April) – All I needed was dish soap and batteries!

Categories with $0 spending in May: travel, health, beauty, and auto. (The last time I filled up my gas tank was in early April. And I still have over half a tank left! Whaaat.)

tgFiDKOZuBw - Monthly Budget Update | May 2020

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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