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Archive for November, 2012

Easy Come, Easy Go

December 1st, 2012 at 05:45 am

I find that the closer I am to being out of credit card debt, the easier it is to pay the bills. It feels less and less like money slipping through my fingers and more and more like seeing the summit of the mountain and knowing it's not much further and just a little push will get me there.

I got to contribute $100 to the Emergency Fund this time, something I haven't done in a while. I also deposited the coin jar money to the EF as well, so that was an additional $97.05. The EF now sits at $1205.41. It is good to see it going up again.

I funded my funds, bringing the totals to $85 in the HoA Dues Fund, $200 in the Property Tax Fund, $400 in the Propane Fund, $400 in the Vacation Fund, $400 in the Mac Book Fund, and $200 in the Christmas Fund.

Expenditures for this paycheck were:

$1000.00 AMEX
__100.00 Chase VISA
__300.00 To Mom for her utilities
__100.00 EF
___21.98 Electricity for the Old House
___50.00 to the Holding Tank for garbage (not due 'til Feb)
__39.53 DH Life Insurance
__32.70 My Life Insurance
__59.89 Car Insurance
__45.63 Old House Insurance
__41.16 ADT Security for theOld House
_153.00 Storage
_100.00 Vacation Fund
__17.00 Dues Fund
_100.00 Property Tax Fund
_500.00 Mortgageon Old House ($376.14 plus extra to principal)
_100.00 Propane Fund
_100.00 Mac Book Fund
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$2860.88

I also spent $56.20 to fill up the van. It was 3.39 per gallon. It's a little cheaper at Costco, but I really didn't want to go over there today and as long as it is no more than a 20 cent per gallon difference, I'd actually use more gas going over there and then waiting in the interminably long lines.

And I spent $230.41 on groceries. I stocked up on some things that my cupboards were bare on, mostly canned goods. I also restocked the flour stash and bought some oranges and milk. I am definitely starting to see the higher prices now. Even though I didn't buy any meat since we get it at the farm now, I still wanted to see what the current store prices are, and Holy Toledo are they high. I mean some of them are higher than their grass-fed, organic counterparts. I may need to up the grocery budget once we finish eating the inventory in the freezer. I'm trying to hang on to $600 a month, but half of that is spent at the farm.

I paid out DD's allowance for two weeks, $30. DS does not get an allowance until 12/14 as his was advanced to him so he could buy something on a really good sale. I also took out $200 in cash.

I bought DD a new MP3 player. She was willing to settle for the 4GB one, so it was $40. I used part of the $200 in cash for that. Since it was half what I was expecting it to be, I told her I'd just pay for it if she'd do some extra chores for her grandmother. So she's going to clean all of the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floor, vacuum, and clean out Mom's fridge. She's also going to do all of the laundry this weekend.

DD is going to stay after school one day next week to teach her English teacher how to knit using a loom. They're going to knit some hats for some charity and they need to make 26 between now and the 18th. Knitting goes much faster on a loom. I didn't get the details on what charity, but I think it was local. I find it kind of hilarious that my sixteen-year-old daughter is teaching a sixty-something-year-old woman to knit. It's like, shouldn't that be the other way around?

Speaking of knitting, I really need to get going and finish making DS's scarf so I can start on DD's. It's hard to work on his because he is with me so much since we homeschool him. I am trying to keep it a surprise. His sister has made him a hat in the same yarn.

I almost wiped out a pair of elderly jaywalkers tonight. I guess teenagers are not the only ones to dress all in black and take crazy chances walking after dark. If it hadn't been for the man's white hair and the woman's white shoe souls, I'd not have seen them in time to stop. And they were only 20 feet away from the well illuminated stoplight with it's cross walks.

14 days and counting until the bonus checks will be put in the mail...

Payday Tomorrow

November 30th, 2012 at 04:02 am

Tomorrow is payday and I have $52.85 in cash left from last payday so that went into the coin jar. I will make a deposit into the emergency fund tomorrow. I'm not sure of all that is in there, but I'm thinking it's around $80. I ended up with $250 leftover in the checking account so that will get sent to AMEX along with the regular payment.

I am anxious for December to start. It's going to be a good money month for us, even without the Christmas bonus. It'll be a huge jump in our forward progress. You know that song from the Lion King that goes, "Oh, I just can't wait to be king?" Well, I've got that running through my head only it's going,

"Oh, I just can't wait to be free!
No one saying pay this.
No one saying pay that.
No more paying interest.
No more crazy bank debt.
My money's gonna work for me.
Oh, I just can't wait to be free!"

LOL, I can't help but be excited. It's been such a long, long, long road. This medical debt has been a weight so heavy on our shoulders for so long. Longer than I've been blogging actually. About nine years now, I think. Let's see, the first operation was in...the summer of 2003, so yeah, 9.5 years.

And I mean, we still will, of course, have the mortgage (which will be under $15,000 after tomorrow's payment) and the note on the mini-van, so yes, there actually is still interest being paid, but it's so much lower than the credit card debt. And it's secured debt which seems so much better than unsecured debt.

I'm not sure which way I am leaning after the credit card debt is gone. Part of me really wants to get the house paid off and own it in full. But since it'll be on the market sometime between now and summer, and hopefully it will sell, I don't know if it's really that worthwhile to pay it off. It probably makes more sense to work on paying down the car loan. I don't know. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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We received a new tax assessment from the treasury. They've revalued the house at a lower amount, which means property taxes will go down, but also may effect how much we can get for the house when we sell.

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Today was one of those days where I was pretty sure that homeschooling was going to be the death of me. You know, it goes like a breeze when DS is feeling good, but when he's not he turns into a whine machine. Plus he's starting to get that tone in his voice, the one of an annoyed teenager. 12 and a half was about when that started happening with my daughter so I've been expecting it, but I am also trying to nip it in the bud.

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I have to get gas tomorrow. I was so hoping I'd make it to payday without filling up again and I did. The van claims I can drive 22 more miles before it is out of gas, but there is usually still a half a tank left at 0. Not that I am going to run it that low.

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I gave in and got takeaway today. Pineapple chicken, teryaki beef, noodles, rice, Mongolian beef and beef and broccoli. It was unplanned and probably not worth it. It was stress buying pure and simple. After dealing with the whine machine all day I just didn't want to cook and didn't have the energy to fight with myself over it. It was really good and it takes care of lunches tomorrow. $45.60 was the damage.

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I am on day...5, I think of being caffeine free. Hopefully I'll be able to stay off it this time. I am still really tired, but I think it's getting better. As for the health issues, the flu or whatever is going away. I am still a bit stuffy and still have a fever, but there was no dizziness today. And all of the other symptoms are gone, so crossing my luck that I'll hopefully finish this off without catching a new cold. I really would like to stay well for a while.

Medical Stuff

November 30th, 2012 at 12:05 am

I went to physical therapy today, so that's $90 out. I also renewed a prescription, so that's $40. I didn't actually need to renew the prescription, it's only an occasional medicine, but if I renewed it today I could then renew it again at the end of December. Since January starts the medical deductible over again, I figured I wanted to get some on hand for later when it was $40. Without the deductible it's $119. Two months worth should do me for all of next year.

There's another drug I want to do that with before my doctor retires at the end of the year, but it doesn't have any refills left so I will have to call the doctor and have him refill it. It is $160 when the deductible has not been met, but $40 when it has. It is one for muscle spasms and tremors. I do have a full bottle of them, but I'd like another on hand.

Right now the tremors seem to be under control and I haven't used the medicine since July, but with our big Disney trip coming up in March I want to make sure I have it, because with all the walking we will be doing I will have muscle spasms and tremors. I'd like to be prepared for that. Even if I rent a scooter while at the park there is still the walking from the hotel, etc. I am hoping to get by with not renting a scooter though. I will take my cane so I have it if I need it. I just hope I don't need it. It's been months since I've needed it.

I have got to remember to call PeaceHealth and see about finding a new doctor before I get seriously sick again. I've got the names from Aetna that are preferred providers, but I have to see who is accepting new patients. I want a female doctor this time. At my age, I feel a little uncomfortable to be dealing with male doctors who are so young I'm getting a Doogie Houser vibe off them.

The doctor I had for my knee surgery was young, male, and very disrespectful, and the one guy I saw who referred me to Virginia Mason for the other surgery had an office staff that was so incompetent it made me cringe, so it's kind of made me not want to deal with young male doctors at all. I suppose it is biased thinking, but so what? I get to choose who I am comfortable taking off my clothes in front of, and it's not going to be some rude, wet-behind-the-ears type.

I do need to get established with someone soon though, so I can continue with my maintenance medications. I also should ask my current doctor if I can have my medical file. I'd like to have it for a lot of reasons and if he's retiring there is no point in him keeping it. I just really wish he weren't retiring. But he's 81 so I can't begrudge it. Well, I can, but I won't. It's just hard going from someone you have trusted for literally your entire life, who helped bring you into the world, to a stranger. Not fond of change, me. But I'm going to have to get over it.

New Day, Different Rant

November 29th, 2012 at 02:56 am

I'm going to put on my serious hat and talk about an advertisement that I watched today that made me feel like something is really wrong with our priorities today in this country. Now I don't watch a lot of television programming because I don't have cable service by choice, but I do pick up a couple of shows on the internet and of course those do have commercials, usually the same ones repeated ad nauseum. (Ha, that's a pun!)

The one I saw today I only needed to see one time for it to make a distinct impression on me, one that I think will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. Of course, that's exactly what the goal of commercials are, to stay with you, to make you want to buy things. But in this case that impression was extremely negative. I mean, negative on a level that was almost visceral.

The commercial was for the Dodge Big Finish Event. The words that made me go from general eye-rolling at buying a car for Christmas being over the top in the first place, to complete disdain were: "Let's see the neighbors compete with that."

I repeat: "Let's see the neighbors compete with that."

We are in the worst, yet still unacknowledged, depression this country has seen in my generation's lifetime. People are worried about having enough money to put food on the table and scraping together what they can to buy meager Christmas presents. People are worried about keeping their jobs. People are worried about what to do now that their homes have been destroyed in a storm so violent some people are still without power because the infrastructure was completely destroyed.

And Dodge has the audacity to want people to buy a new car for Christmas. Not, perhaps, because you need one. Not because your current one was flooded out and you need to replace it. But because if you buy one of their cars, you'll somehow be better than your neighbors. You'll keep ahead of the Joneses. Maybe someone forgot to send Dodge the memo that the Jonses are on unemployment and so are the Smiths.

Christmas is about the Christ child being born into humble circumstances. It is, even for non-believers, a time of generating peace on Earth and good will towards your neighbors. It's about giving a hand to those in need. It is for showing brotherly love not unbrotherly hubris. It is not about one-upmanship. It is not about trying to make yourself better than others because of your purchases. It is not about worshipping at the altar of rampant consumerism. At least it shouldn't be.

I'm sorry, Dodge, but not only did you miss the boat on this one, you're not even in the right ocean.

Insert Clever Title Here

November 28th, 2012 at 04:11 am

I really don't like these shorter days. Getting up in the dark to take DD to school is not my favorite thing to do. Some kids have to walk to school in the dark and of course being the sensible and responsible teenagers that they are wear all dark colors and cross in the middle of the street. Ditto riding their bikes without head or tail lights. Or helmets.

I can't decide whether it's a death wish or the invincible gene. Either way, I don't want to end up with splattered teenager all over my car. It's dirty enough as it is. (Sorry, morbid humor. I'm just kidding in case anyone took that seriously). I get so tense because I am always afraid a kid is going to dart out in front of me. It's happened enough times as it is.

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DS is still in a lot of pain. I went to the store today to get more medical tape, neosporin and some epsom salts for him to soak his feet in. Then after the soak we have to pour a bit of hydrogen peroxide on his toes, then dry them, then put neosporin on the wounds, then put guaze around them and tape it in place. The one toe looks better than it did yesterday. The swelling has gone down. The other looks worse. Anyway, I spent $12.43 on the medical supplies.

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It seems like my cushion is being wittled away. Instead of an extra $400 to send to the credit card, I'll have closer to $300. Oh, well. Life goes in it's own direction, which is not necessarily the direction you want it to go in.

I'm just trying to hold out and not order a pizza. I think I am going to bump up pizza night to tomorrow. Homemade of course. I need to get past the desire to order one takeout. Mine always taste better.

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We got the invite to DH's Christmas Party for work in the mail. December 14th. Not that we can go even, it's in Anchorage, but that means the bonus checks will be given out to those who go and mailed out to those who don't. Which means we should have it in about 3 weeks time. I so hope it is the rumored amount, which is twice what last year's was. I know I can do a lot with it either way, but to be able to pay it all off at once...well, I can't help anticipating it.

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I am on my third day of no caffeine. I was throwing my diet out the window and up to about four cans a day of Pepsi Throwback. It was bad for me and it was getting to be an expensive habit. So here's hoping I can keep it out of the house. I am really tired, but I know that will pass in another couple of days. Already my stomach is feeling better and my heartburn is gone. I don't know what gets into me. I try to keep our food pretty natural and ethical and then I just kind of throw it out the window on one item. Human nature, I guess. Pepsi Throwback is actually in the 100 mile food shed, there's a bottling factory one county over, but that is not a good excuse!

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DD's MP3 player broke and she about had a nervous breakdown. She's somewhat OCD (not as bad as DS) and listening to her music about a half an hour before bedtime is part of her calming routine. I helped her figure out one of the free internet radio things that you can put in one artist and then it plays other artists in that vein. She was a little worried about it running all night and I told her it was fine as long as it wasn't loud enough to disturb the rest of us.

I also told her we could buy a new one on Friday, that I'd advance her the allowance to do so. She's had her current one for several years and taken very good care of it, but it just won't turn on. Fortunately, she had all her music backed up on her computer, so the loss isn't total.

It's been such a long day. I'm glad that it's over. I'm looking forward to payday on Friday. I want to see that debt total go down. One more nail in the coffin of the Evil Empire.

Coin Jar and GC Updates

November 27th, 2012 at 06:23 am

I recieved my $5 gift card to Amazon from Swagbucks and just racked up enough points to order another one. Right now my account sits at $50 worth of GC's. Searching went well today with a 100 point search. I thought it would take me a couple more days at least, but nope.

I also deposited $3.09 to the coin jar. I need to make it over to the EF CU to deposit that money. I just don't seem to have as much free time to do it these days.

Finally! In Which I Ramble A Lot

November 27th, 2012 at 03:18 am

We finally got a hard frost last night. And I do mean a hard one. When I went out at 7 to take DD to school there was thick ice on the windows. Fortunately,I had some spray on de-icer. I started the car heating and defrosting while I sprayed it on. Unfortunately, there was a layer of ice on the inside of the windshield and you can't spray de-icer on the inside because of the fumes. I had to scrape it. It wasn't nearly as thick on the inside.

I checked all the windows to make sure nothing had been partially down overnight to cause it to freeze inside, everything was up. Then after I scraped it we had to sit for a while with the defroster going to get rid of the humidity that was making it fog up. The car probably ran for 20 minutes before the windows were safe to see out of. Fortunately, DD's school doesn't start until 7:45, she just likes to get there early. She was still fifteen minutes early.

I was really surprised because we've had such mild weather this fall, I was expecting it to continue. The broccoli looked like it was a goner this morning, but the leaves all thawed out just fine by mid-day and were looking as healthy and beautiful as ever.

I had to take DS to the foot doctor today. He had gotten inflamed ingrown toenails on both of his big toes. It runs in the family. Of course he did this early in the holiday weekend so he's been miserable pretty much since Thursday. The doc drained them and packed them with cotton and prescribed an anti-biotic.

We'll go back on Monday next to see if they need surgical correction after the swelling has gone down. It's a very minor surgery, he just cuts away a bit of the tissue and any torn part of the nailbed. They use a local anesthetic, lidocaine. DS had a lot of relief just by having the side of the nailbed packed with cotton. It will probably have to be corrected though if he is anything like me or his father. Bad toenails or not, DS has the nicest looking feet. He could totally be a foot model or something.

Anyway, so we paid out $4.76 for his antibiotic and I renewed my BP med while we were there for $40.00. And since that store happened to have some Haagan Das vanilla ice cream I got that too, for $6.49. A little more than I like to pay for it, but at least I found it. Considering I wanted to just tool on down the road a bit to Arby's and buy dinner instead of coming home and making stir-fry, that's not too bad. Arby's would have added about $35. And my cooking was better anyway.

I think the heater is going to have to stay on 70 tonight. I can feel the chill through the house despite having on slipper socks, a sweater, and an afgahn over my lap. I've pulled out the extra blankets for everyone, but we may still be sleeping in sweats tonight.

All of the birds were out today, even Silver (the shyest and most timid) and Lady (the duck). They've decided to be free range apparently. But they stayed in the yard and still put themselves into the coop a half hour before dark. Lady was less than pleased that her little pond was frozen over and she let the whole world know. Not that she's super loud or anything, it was just a constant murmur of complaint.

Fort Knox remains empty. It's just as well. It's warmer in the chicken coop with all 13 birds sharing body heat. We have to be a little more aware of the waterers now, making sure they aren't frozen. They will be eating a lot more feed now to keep up their body temps and be able to lay eggs. We got 7 today. There were five delivered to the box on the back porch. Both leghorns are laying in there now. Because why use a perfectly good set of nesting boxes when you have access to the world's best cardboard box?

Meal Planning for the Week

November 26th, 2012 at 03:53 am

I plan on doing a lot of stir-fry this week. Although it is a bit labor intensive, it is also pretty quick if I do up all the vegetables for the week tonight.

I am working on getting my freezer inventory down. I have a lot of vegetables on hand that need to get used as well. The garden is still producing broccoli. What a crazy weather year.

Monday--
Beef and Broccoli stir-fry (carrots, onions, cauliflower, green beans, celery)
Pears

Tuesday--
Baked chicken
Baked potatoes
Oranges
Coleslaw

Wednesday--
Black pepper chicken (celery, onion, bell peppers)
Pears

Thursday--
Tropical Chicken stir-fry (many veggies)
Canned pineapple

Friday--
Homemade pizza (ham, onions, bell peppers, pepperoni)
Stir-fried green beans

Saturday--
Spaghetti with pork and lamb meatballs
Cole slaw
Oranges

Sunday--
Beef Chuck pot roast
Stir-fried green beans
Drop biscuits with choice of homemade jams
Canned corn from TJ's

Don't Mess with my Ice Cream

November 25th, 2012 at 01:56 am

I haven't posted in a couple of days. We cancelled Thanksgiving. When 3 out of 5 people can't keep their food down there isn't much point. We are going to have it on Sunday, though. We are all much better today so another night of rest under out belts and we should feel up to a food centric holiday.

I think I am going to have to stop shopping at the Haggen closest to us. I went to pick up something from the deli (I know I said I wasn't going to grocery shop except for milk, but best laid plans and all that) and they had no hot food available. It was 5:30 on a Friday. They should have had the case full of rotisserie chicken, roasted chicken, and fried chicken and jojos and corn dogs, etc. Also there was nothing in the salad bar or the hot soup area.

When I asked about it they said they had been throwing out a lot of food lately so from now on when it runs out it runs out and they won't be making more. Really? Not to have hot food for the dinner rush is just ridiculous. I mean, I don't get it much but I wanted a darn rotisserie chicken.

Combine that with all the other changes they've made this year and I'm just not very happy with them. They did a completely unnecessary remodel and then jacked up all the prices to pay for it. (I know food prices have gone up across the board but TJ's and the Co-op did not go anywhere near this high). They keep moving the food around (you are not Costco, knock it off) so it is hard to find and you have to walk up and down all the aisles. The aisles are mislabelled or not labelled well.

They separate things that should be together, like flour and sugar. Last night you could smell the fish counter from several feet away. But the kicker lately is the ice cream. Now there are only two brands of ice cream we can buy due to allergies: Hagan Das and Bryers. But we can only specifically buy the regular vanilla. Bryer's had 5 times of vanilla (lactose free, carb smart, splenda, low-fat, and French vanilla) but none of them the plain and Hagan Das had no vanilla whatsoever. The only vanilla I could find in any other brand had corn syrup, or HFCS, guar gum and artifical vanilla flavoring.

They have taken to carrying about 20 brands of ice cream, many of them touted to be organic and healthy, but none of them with pure ingredients. They are also carrying a ton of things that seem to be tailored to a different shopping base than this store has had for the last 38 years. Like a hoity toity shopping base in what was for many years the area where the mill workers lived.

There are 3 other Haggen stores in the county and I think I will check out the two other ones in this city, but if I see the same sorts of changes than I am done. I may have been shopping there since I was four, but if you mess with my buying habits (and my ice cream), I'm moving on. Probably just as well to do my shopping at the Food Co-op, TJ's and the farm.

DH has been bugging me about what I want for Christmas. I'm thinking the hard ice cream maker machine. Then I know my ingredients will be pure and when I run out I can just make another batch. It's a bit pricier than our Christmas budget, but my birthday is in February so I can make it a combined present. Just like so many other things, I'll just have to learn to make it myself.

Odds and Ends

November 22nd, 2012 at 08:24 am

Not much of anything, but a little bit of everything. I added $1 to the coin jar. It was in what DH gave back to me before he headed to Alaska.

I balanced the checkbook to the penny again. I love it when it comes out perfectly. I have $419 left in checking until the 30th and no bills due until after that. I shouldn't have to buy anything between now and then except milk and oranges and if I do, I have $105 in cash. I am hoping to send the full $419 to the credit card. Any cash left from the $105 will hit the emergency fund.

I had to send DH to the grocery store with a list before he left Monday because I am extremely contagious. Let's just say he spent quite a bit more than I would have. Total was $115.92 We're over the allotted grocery budget for the month, but we aren't going to eat out between now and then anyway because I am trying to expose as few people as possible to this thing that never ends, so I just took it out of that money.

I received a check from ACOP for $14.05 for surveys and sent for another $5 gift card through Swagbucks.

I set up the budget spreadsheet for December and I updated the November one with all of the medical spending.

I ordered a box of checks. It was $16.86. They are getting more expensive but I am using them less and less. I still don't want a debit card. I feel like writing the check out makes me more mindful of what I'm spending. It's too easy just to swipe a card and forget about it.

My kids have decided they want to spend the entire weekend in their pajamas. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I may join them in that.

Mom is cooking dinner tomorrow. She's the only one not infected and she wants to stay that way. Eldest sister is coming over. I'm still not used to her wanting to be a part of our lives. It is weird. I never thought I'd see the day where I was actually looking forward to having her around again. I am hesitant to think I can rely on her to help out with Mom, but maybe she will.

The day won't be too hard on Mom. I had brought up just skipping it until I'm better (ha!) if she didn't feel like she could handle it, but she wanted to. Since we are only making Cornish game hens instead of a turkey and baking the potatoes and dressing at the same time she says it's easy. Mom has a double oven, which is helpful. Minimal fuss, minimal muss.

We will also have fresh broccoli from the garden. I still can't beleive that I am harvesting anything in late November! What a weird fall we are having.

Let's see, what else? Oh, the birds. Kyri has finished molting I think. Queen and Patricia are in full blown molt so not laying at all, and the pullets continue to lay pretty well, as does Lady who is still bunking with the chickens. There's been no luck on trying to find some ducks her age to keep her company. I think she's happy enough thinking she's a chicken.

There are now four chickens who are laying regularly in the little box on the back porch. Apparently it's the in thing to do. New to the box is a leghorn since those are the only white egg layers we have. Everyone else lays brown, pink, or blueish green eggs. Daily egg count is an average of six eggs. I am glad we haven't needed to put a light in with them at night. We might in December and January just for a heat source if the weather turns and it starts freezing, but it has been so mild so far we may luck out.

And...I think that about covers it. Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow to all of my American friends and happy Thursday to everyone else.

No, Not the Cable! Anything but the Cable!

November 21st, 2012 at 01:43 am

I read a lot of frugality and debt-reducing blogs and message boards and one thing that comes up time and time again is the argument over cable TV. This is not pointed at anyone here. I read blogs in lots of places. These are just my general observations. Anyway, it tends to go something like this:

Person 1: I am desperate to make ends meet. I can barely meet my minimums. I'm thinking about bankruptcy because I don't possibly have any place in my budget that I can cut. Help me!

Person 2: Oh, look, there in your budget, $180 for cable and internet. That's a good place to cut.

Person 1: But I have to have internet. I need it for work. I need it to pay my bills. I need it to do my banking.

Person 2: Okay, but you can get high-speed internet access for $70 a month. Keep the internet, but ditch your cable and you will still be saving $100 a month.

Person 1: Ditch my cable? Are you crazy? I cannot survive without my cable, my precious. I have to have my cable. I NEEEEEEEED it.

Person 2: No you don't. You need food and shelter and clothes and to pay your debts. You don't need cable. I should know. I haven't had cable in 5 years.

Person 1: Well, I have to have it. It's my only source of entertainment.

Person 2: Really? Your only source of entertainment? So you can't read a book or borrow a free movie or a book on CD from the library? You can't watch programs for free on youtube? You can't surf the internet. You can't teach yourself to do something productive, like knit, while you are listening to the free radio?

Person 1: No, no, I must have cable. I must have my shows.

Person 2: So you can't watch them on the internet on the networks' websites?

Person 1: But they don't air on the same day as they do on TV. I would have to wait a whole 24 hours, or in some cases 8 days. I can't be that far behind on my shows! Everyone else is watching them as they air!

Person 2: So it's not really for entertainment then. Because if it were for entertainment, it wouldn't matter what day you watched it on as long as you had something to watch that day. Is it to keep up with everyone else? Like...the Joneses?

Person 1: Huh?

Person 2: If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?

Person 1: I would if it were on cable TV! And besides, I don't like watching my TV on an itty bitty TV screen. I like watching it on my 60 inch flat screen that I am still paying off.

Person 2: Because you couldn't get a cable to plug your laptop into your TV so you could watch the internet shows on the bigger screen?

Person 1: Why get a cable, when I can just keep cable?

Person 2: Because you can't afford it.

Person 1: But I NEEEEEEED it. You don't understand my situation. I can't give this up, find something else in my budget to help me cut.

Person 2: Fine, what about your grocery budget? $800 a month for one person, that seems like an awful lot, doesn't it?

Person 1: Well, yes, but I have to eat out. I don't know how to cook and anyway fast food is cheaper.

Person 2: No, not really. If you can read a cookbook, you can learn to cook. Or make a sandwich.

Person 1: But it takes so much time! I am too busy. I can't cook. I have 4 programs to watch tonight and I might miss one if I am cooking.

Person 2: Then you are seriously watching too much TV.

Person 1: But it's my only source of entertainment!

Person 2: Well, there is your cell phone bill...

Person 1: No, I just got locked into a two year contract. It was the only way I could get the super fancy phone.

Person 2: I give up.

Person 1: Why won't anyone help meeeeeee? I need to find some place to cut...

And so it goes, on and on. I guess I just don't get it. Is it like an addiction, the TV watching? Is it like giving up alcohol or cigarettes? Or is it like giving up the pretext that you are still part of the middle class you grew up in? Does giving up cable mean you have to face the truth of your situation?

I think maybe cable TV is the last bastion of entitlement. I think people feel like maybe they are still keeping up if they can keep their cable or their meals out. But if the cable goes then they have to face the fact that things are really serious and they can't always have what they want. They can't continue to hide their heads in the sand (of network TV).

The thing is, there is no easy rescue. Even bankruptcy is difficult to get these days and it doesn't always erase all of your debt anymore. When your debts are crushing you, there is only one thing you can do to climb out of the pit. You have to cut down to the bare essentials. You have to give up things you don't want to give up. You have to put your head down and plow through it. You can't have the kind of pride that gets in the way of your ultimate goal of getting out of debt. You have to work your tail off to keep your head above water.

So many people seem unwilling to do these things. It is the rare and much admired person that cuts everything to the bone and pieces together an income that allows her or him to survive and thrive despite enormous obstacles, and to do it with a positive attitude. Too many people say, "I could never do that," when what they really mean is, "I don't want to do that." And that's what makes the difference.

You can say you want to be out of debt all you want, but if what you really want is to keep your life the way it is without making any changes, then you really don't want to be out of debt. You just want the problem to go away. And problems ignored don't just go away. They tend to get bigger. And Bigger. And BIGGER. And then it's not going to be a choice of you cutting your cable so you have money to pay your debts, it's going to be the cable company's decision to cut you off. And the power company's. And the water/sewer. And the garbage collection. And it won't matter then how badly you need to watch your shows or heat your house, or get rid of your waste. It won't be an option.

Isn't it better to decide now, today, to do what you can to get into a situation where that will never happen? Isn't it worth giving up a few luxuries so that maybe one day you won't have to? I think so. I really do. The question is, do you?

Meal Planning for the Week

November 19th, 2012 at 06:37 pm

Today is airport day and I feel too yucky to cook so we will be getting takeaway from Boomers and adding our own sides and drinks at home. Normally DD would pitch in and cook, but she has a dentist appointment today so I'm going the easy route. We haven't eaten out for a while, so I'm good with that. I'm still getting lots of broccoli from the garden, so that will figure prominently and I am working our way through the pears and the case of oranges I bought.

Monday--
Fish and chips or burgers
Coleslaw
Oranges

Tuesday--
Beef and vegetable stir-fry (carrots, onions, celery, broccoli, bean sprouts)
Egg fried rice
Pears

Wednesday--
Steak
Fried potatoes
Green beans
Oranges

Thursday--
Cornish Game Hens
Roasted potatoes
Stuffing
Green beans
Oranges

Friday--
Baked potato soup
Coleslaw
Pears

Saturday--
Homemade pizza (pepperoni, onions, bell peppers, prosciutto)
Salad
Pears

Sunday--
Beef chuck pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Broccoli
Canned corn
Drop biscuits with choice of homemade jams

Change of Plans

November 18th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Now everyone wants to wait and have the turkey at Christmas. It came frozen and as yucky as I feel, I've decided it's fine with me. I am not up for cooking a fancy dinner right now. Heirloom heritage turkeys sure look different from the broad-breasted turkeys sold in grocery stores. They are longer and not rounded or compact. They have more dark meat and less breast, the way nature made them, which works great for my family since no one really cares for the white meat and it always ends up an ingredient in something else while we eat the dark meat straight.

I love the little packet that came along with it. It has thawing instructions, brining instructions, cooking instructions, a recipe for turkey stock, a recipe for turkey soup, and a recipe for stuffing.

It also has a page with a photo of the turkeys when they were about half grown and says this:

[i]You have purchased a healthy and happy turkey which was raised in sunshine and clean pastures during their growing season (never on fertilized pastures). Diet: A turkey will eat 25% of its diet on grass. Your turkey ate an organic mixture comprised of: Spelt, Emmer, Wheat, Peas, Camolina, Seaweed, and Sea Salt. We guarantee that we never buy grain or corn from China.[i]

So it makes my sustainability goal and it makes my 100 mile foodshed goal, since the ranch is about 50 miles away. Hopefully it will make my flavor goal as well when the time comes to cook it. It also came with a large, insulated bag for free. That will come in handy for our monthly trips there. They gave us another one last week (also for free) that is a little smaller.

Since I won't be making a big old Thanksgiving dinner after all, I've decided on roasting two Cornish game hens. That will give each person a half a bird (since DH will not be here). I will make a small pan of bread stuffing and we will have roasted potatoes and green beans. A mini-feast, I suppose.

----------

DH goes back to the slope tomorrow and he will be working for 3 weeks. Then he will be off for three weeks and return to the slope on New Year's Day. Then it's highly possible he will be doing a 3 and 1, before resuming his normal 2 and 2 schedule.

Christmas Bonuses usually come out around the middle of December. Last year it was on the 16th and anyone who wasn't there received those checks in the mail a couple of days later. I am trying not to anticipate it, but it's hard. I am a planner and I like to know what is going to happen. Last year it was 5% of DH's income. This year it is rumored to be 10%. I can't help hoping for the 10% because it would wipe out the rest of our credit card debt. But even 5% would do a huge amount of payoff and then our income tax return would finish it off. It will be quite high because we get to claim the full HSA deduction.

I've calculated what it will cost us if the payroll tax thing is not extended. It will be $170 a month for every four week pay cycle, or about $2040 a year. If they do reduce the child credit from $1000 back to $500 per child, it won't really affect us much. We couldn't claim one of our kids last year and only half of the other one because of income eligibility. And DD will be 17 next year, so we wouldn't be eligilbe to claim her in 2013's tax return anyway, as I understand it.

We can absorb it, we will be fine. I'm not so sure about many others though. I'd like to continue to have that money, but I don't resent it. I mean, my mother is on social security and Medicare, my SIL is on food stamps, and my BIL (my sister's husband) is on disability and before that was on unemployment for the full term allowed. I like to look at it as our taxes going to support the programs that support our family members. And we help directly as we can.

----------

We looked at a couple of houses. 1 beautiful 1756 square foot rambler, 3 beds, 2 baths, on one acre with an enormous shop and a smaller shop with attached office, for $239,200. It's just outside of town and mid-way between my Mom's house and my in-laws house. It's a funny piece of land, though, shaped like a pie wedge and the train track borders the property. Since trains go through at least six times a day, I think that would be too disruptive.

We looked at another really nice two story house about ten minutes out of town that has 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, a shop, a barn, and 3 acres for $299,000. It's set up so that the one floor could be used as a MIL apartment.

Then just for fun we looked at a $500,000 house with a lake view and a mountain view. It was spectacularly beautiful and had most of my dream house wants, like a baker's oven, a huge kitchen with lots of storage, a wrap around porch, gables, 1 acre grounds, hard wood floors, beach access. And it had a lot of DH's wants as well, with the shop and four car garage (makes me laugh as we are a one car family). If we could afford it, it would be big enough that we could house my mother, MIL and FIL and SIL and neice on top of our own family. But I do not want to mortgage our lives away. That is not in my plan for future happiness. It sure was pretty, though.

I think we're still a year away from househunting for real, to be honest. The repairs on the old house go slowly. I am hoping we will be able to put it on the market by spring, but I am not holding my breath. If it doesn't sell, we do have a solid tennant willing to rent it for $1000 a month. Average rents out there for that size home are $932, so it'd work out all right, we just wouldn't have money for a downpayment like we would if selling, so we'd have to save up for that, although I'd want to pay off the mortgage first. It'll be under $15K after the next payment. I don't want to have two mortgages on two houses, I'd rather own the possible rental outright.

Hopefully it will just sell though and we won't have to worry about it. There is an investor who is interested in it, but most investors try to lowball and I don't want to deal with a lowball investor, though I will if I have to. Mostly I just want to be done.

It's Been a Long Couple of Days

November 18th, 2012 at 12:53 am

I'm really starting to think that public school is ruining my life. I swear my DD brings home every single germ that passes through those not so hallowed halls. 2 days of not keeping anything down and then today I slept from one a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and I actually feel like I could sleep another ten hours. I haven't eaten today, but I have had something to drink and so far so good. I might try some soup in a bit.

DH took DS with him to the ranch. We ended up deciding to get a turkey after all. It's a bit expensive, but we have the money right now and they still had one available. It would be nice to know exactly how my turkey lived out her life. Slaughter was yesterday, but we don't know if that means it will be thawed or frozen. If it hasn't been frozen I think we will go ahead and cook it tomorrow and make that our Thanksgiving. Otherwise we will wait until the day. Since DH goes back up to the slope on Monday it would be nice to do it a little early and include him.

I do know that whatever we do I'm going to make sure to strip the bones within a couple of days and package up any meat for the freezer that we won't be using right away. I can do quart sized baggies and then that way when I make two quart soups I will have enough meat to just dump in. I will also, of course, make the stock with the carcass.

I will also make up some TV dinners of turkey, potatoes with gravy and stuffing. I have several divided dishes. I also plan to make that casserole that Frugal Foodie posted the other day. And then probably turkey cacciatore, turkey fried rice, and turkey enchiladas (to freeze) as well.

I just find having a plan of what to do with all the leftovers cuts my waste down so much. And with an expensive organic, sustainably raised heritage turkey, I don't want to waste any of it. It'd be like throwing away money.

-----------

Speaking of money, I recieved a check from ACOP for $14.05. I also qualified for a product study from them that will start November 26th. It'll be $8. I just need to keep a food diary for every member of the household for 4 days and then enter it online. I've done it before a couple years back. It took me about an hour altogether.

I also spent $16.89 of my allowance to get four pairs of super thick slipper socks to wear around the house. That leaves me with $55.81 that I have no idea what to do with. I guess I can set it aside in an envelope I found from last summer that had my name on it and had a few dollars of my last allowance in it. I guess I had never spent it and then we stopped taking allowances for the grown ups while we were paying the $2500 of DS's medical.

I might go buy a couple of sweaters. I don't have very many and two of them have gotten pretty threadbare. As in I have to wear a shirt of the same color underneath them. Since I've had these two sweaters at least since DD was a baby (I'm wearing one in our family photo when she was just a few months old) they've definitely done their duty and can be retired. I think there is enough material on the one that is not worn that I could sew it into a gift bag for Christmas.

Other spending this week was to get DD 3 warm sweaters, 10 pairs of underwear, and a pair of slippers. The floors get really cold in this house. DH took DS shopping for pajama pants and a new belt to hold up his jeans, but ended up only getting the belt because DS decided to have a meltdown 10 minutes before the store closed and there was no time left to try them on. Hopefully they can try again tomorrow. DS was just a pickle all day yesterday, but it has been a long time since he has had a full on meltdown in public. So far that added up to $140.

DD needs a haircut, too, so that will be $15. Hopefully that will be it for a while. I am hoping to get through the next two weeks only buying milk, peanut butter, crackers, oranges, lettuce, celery, carrots, onions and cabbage. We have plenty of meat in the freezer and plenty of flour and sugar for making bread and rolls and cookies. There is plenty of broccoli still growing. Any money that is left in the grocery budget will be sent to the credit card.

The More They Stay the Same

November 16th, 2012 at 12:52 am

I think someone looked down on me and said, "Well, she's done with those hurdles, let's throw some even bigger ones at her and see how she does."

So FIL may also have something wrong with his kidney. At least something showed up on his MRI. We knew this could happen, they told him so after his last surgery, but all seemed to be going well. So on top of more heart surgery, he may end up losing a kidney. So he's going to the doctor again for his heart tomorrow and a different doctor on Monday for his kidney.

If that weren't enough, my mother got back her MRI results as she's been having severe headaches. (Is there anyone not getting an MRI lately? It seems the thing to do.) She has had two mini-strokes since the last MRI six months ago. And she doesn't tell me this. I was teasing her about forgetting to put soap in the dishwasher (she teases me for similar things) and she says, "Well, maybe it's because I had two mini-strokes." I mean, come on, that is not the way you tell someone you've had a stroke, mini or not.

They were relatively minor, but I had noticed one side of her face was a little slacker than the other, but she still had control of it. And I have noticed her being slower on the uptake. I suppose I watch for these things because her mother had Alzheimers and my father did, so I've seen it up close and personal. It didn't seem like Alzheimers in her, just...something not quite right.

So I don't really know what that means for her health. She doesn't seem worried about it. She's 73, but I always figured she'd outlive me out of sheer stubborness. Now maybe it's going to happen sooner than I thought. At least I have her living will, her regular will, her pre-paid funeral stuff, and medical power of attorney.

We are prepared (well, maybe not mentally) and have been for a couple of years, but I still don't want to even think about it. In a couple of days I'm going to sit down with her and go through everything again. We haven't looked at it together since Dad died and she made a couple changes to reflect that.

At least WA state law does not require filial support to pay for long term care. 29 states legally can make you pay for your parents' care (though many don't enforce these laws). I can't even fathom what that would do to DH and I if we had to pay for long-term nursing home care for either of his parents or my mother. We've spent so much time paying off our own catastrophic medical debt. To have to start all over again would be so destructive to our lives.

I don't even know what any of this means to our future plans. We've been talking about buying a smaller house, but now I'm wondering about whether or not we will have to take in MIL or my mother at some point and if we did that, we'd need the space. I know from us living with my mother that lots of space is a very good thing. I am pretty sure either way it would fall on us. DH's sister couldn't afford it and I don't think my middle sister would allow the world to stop revolving around her long enough to take care of someone else. My eldest sister, much less the ice queen since she became a grandmother, might move in with my mom so long as Mom was still able, but I don't think she'd care for her if her mind started to go.

Can I be an ostrich just for a day or two? Because I'd really like to stick my head in the sand now.

The Garden--Final Outcome--Saved Over $1000

November 14th, 2012 at 03:30 am

The weather this fall has just been the weirdest weather I remember having. It's been unseasonably warm. 2 nights ago we finally did have a frost overnight and a temp of 28, but it has bounced back up into the high 40's at night. The frost didn't do any damage at all that I can see. The kohlrabi is fine, the green onions are still green and of course the cold-loving broccoli is doing great. All I can think is that because it is next to the house, maybe that is a warmer area and somewhat protected.

I've almost finished the broccoli that I have harvested. I think I'll need to cut a couple of the plants by Friday, but the rest are fine to continue their slower growth. It is nice not to have to purchase broccoli, but harvest it as I need it. I really wish I'd gotten some more lettuce into the ground in late September because we'd be eating it now.

The potato outcome is 107 pounds. These potatoes were all volunteers, too. So I've topped $1000 worth of organic produce harvested this year. Remember this is after the cost of starts and seeds. Just goes to show you really can grow a lot of food in small places. And if all goes well, I will still have twelve heads of broccoli to harvest and possibly some side shoots.

The tomatoes wrapped in newspapers continue to ripen as do the ones on the kitchen table. There is enough ripe to add to my spaghetti sauce this week.

As for the chickens and duck, we continue to average six eggs a day. Lady continues to bunk with the chickens. She has resumed her egg laying so I think she is over the trauma of the racoons eating her nest mates, except she won't go anywhere near the new Fort Knox duck den.

Mom is talking about getting ducklings in early spring to put in Fort Knox when they are big enough, but even if she does, Lady may have nothing to do with them. It can be interesting introducing new flockmates, to say the least. As long as she puts herself in for the night with the chickens she is welcome to stay in the chicken coop. If we have to chase her down all bets are off, but I don't think that is going to happen. She's convinced herself she is a chicken and I won't disabuse her of that notion.

Gift Cards Galore Today

November 13th, 2012 at 09:12 pm

I received the two five dollar Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks today and immediately dumped them into my account. I how have $45 in gift cards to be applied when I'm ready to make a purchase there. This bring the total of gift cards I've earned from swagbucks to $55.

Today in the mail DH also recieved a $40 gift card to Safeway as his Thanksgiving perk from his job. The only Safeway near us is a 40 minute drive away. We did make it out there last year, but we still have $9 left on last year's GC. I had a hard time spending there because everything was so high priced in comparison to where I normally shop, and the organic section was very small.

I'm not even sure if we will be doing Thanksgiving this year since DH will not be home and I don't want to go to the bother of cooking it and having tons of leftovers without him around to help eat them. Maybe I can get a prime rib roast or something. We love prime rib but I've never made one because of the cost. I think $49 would come close to covering one. Or I could just get a turkey and a ham for Christmas.

I still have a duck in the freezer that would make a nice Thanksgiving dinner without leaving a ton of leftovers. Cornish game hens might be a nice way to go as well.

I suppose we could do it early and invite my mom and eldest sister. Then there would be a couple people who would take some leftovers away. I don't know. I still have some time to figure it out. Mostly I just want to treat it like an ordinary day as far as food goes. Just not in the spirit of it this year. Nor do I want to do the bulk of the work on my own. So kind of blah about it. We'll see.

Went to Costco, Did a Freezer Inventory

November 12th, 2012 at 10:45 pm

DH and I went to Costco last night. I had not figured out what I wanted to do with my allowance, but I figured it out when we got there. They had a digital crockpot, with a timer for up to 20 hours. The cheap crockpot I got for Christmas last year is already malfunctioning, so I wanted to get a good one at some point.

Some point converged with the present last night. They had the $40 stainless steel one on for an instant rebate of $10 off and then additional mail in rebate of $5 off, so when all is said and sifted, I got a good quality crockpot for $25 plus tax. This will make cooking easier again. I won't have to worry about the crockpot burning.

Still not sure what I will do with the rest of my allowance, probably just set it aside.

We didn't buy too much else there. A case of toilet paper, some prosciutto, and a case of oranges.

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Last night we defrosted and inventoried the mini chest freezer. There is quite a bit of food in there, mostly protein. I still have to inventory the other two fridge freezers, but I pretty much know what is in the main one and can more or less see at a glance what is in the secondary one.

In beef I have 4 packs of stew meat, 1 flank steak, 4 chuck steaks, 3 ribeyes, 2 pounds of hamburger, 4 premade hamburger patties with cheese and bacon mixed in, 1 filet mignon, 2 strip steaks, 1 New York steak, 2 mini-steaks, and 2 packages of prepared Korean beef ribs.

In chicken I have 1 pack of stir-fry chicken, 4 family size bags of thighs and legs, 6 packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and 1 and 1/2 packages of chicken wings.

In pork I have 6 packs of Kirkland low sodium bacon, 1 pack of Trader Joe's uncured bacon, a package of Canadian bacon, and 2 porkchops.

In fish I have 3 12 ounce packages of wild caught salmon.

There are two bags of egg fried rice (one Chinese, one Japanese) from TJ's, a penne pasta meal in a bag from TJ's, a pound of organic broccoli/cauliflower, some cheese, 3 quarts of Italian prunes (home grown), 1 quart of raspberries (home grown), and 1 pint of strawberries. Most of the fruit is in a different freezer.

Starting with next week's meal plan I will be trying to get this meat used up. Pretty much none of it is organic and is left from earlier this year before we started our journey to sustainable, organic eating. I think we can get it finished off in the next couple of months.

Once we buy our new chest freezer, the mini one is going to be used strictly for chicken. It is big enough to hold thirty whole chickens. When we buy our beef it will go in the new freezer, possibly with a half a pig. We'll see how the money flows at that point.

Meal Planning for the Week

November 12th, 2012 at 03:41 am

Monday--
Roasted Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Broccoli
Pears

Tuesday--
Beef Pot roast
Baked Potatoes
Broccoli/Cauliflower
Oranges

Wednesday--
Beef and Broccoli (carrots, celery, onion)
Egg fried rice

Thursday--
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Cole slaw
Oranges

Friday--
Pizza (pepperoni, onions, bell peppers, prosciutto
Cole slaw

Saturday--
Bacon cheese burgers
Homemade french fries
Pears

Sunday--
Spaghetti with lamb/pork meatballs
Salad

Lunches this week will be leftover chicken and low carb meatloaf. Breakfasts will be Bacon and eggs, oatmeal and eggs, or pancakes and eggs.

The More Things Change

November 12th, 2012 at 12:17 am

Life can be a real pain in the neck sometimes. It seems as if you get through one thing only to be slammed with something else. Earlier this year my father died. With elderly parents you always have it in the back of your mind that something could go wrong. I was expecting it to be with my mother. I wasn't expecting it to be with DH's much younger father.

If you'll recall a couple of years ago FIL had an aortic infarction (I think that was what it was called). He had some kind of attack which took him to the hospital ER and just as they were opening him up to do surgery it burst. If it had happened at any other time, he would have been dead because that's how fast it happens. They were able to repair the bulging part of the aorta that comes right out of the heart, and they've been keeping an eye on the rest of the aorta.

A few months ago they said he would likely have to have that part repaired in a year. He had an appointment a couple of days ago and they've moved up the timetable to he needs to get it done in the next six months.

The part of the aorta that is bulging is the part that goes into the spinal column and feeds it with blood. It is a very delicate surgery in which the flow of blood will be cut off to the spinal column while it is repaired. It has with it a chance of paralysis from the chest down. If he doesn't have it done it will lead to certain death.

Unfortunately there are not many doctors who have done this type of surgery more than once or twice. To have the best shot at surviving without being paralyzed, he needs to go to a doctor who has a lot of experience with this procedure. There is no place he can go locally. His choices are Minnesota and Texas. Either place will involve FIL and MIL getting there (either flying or driving) and hotel and food costs. MIL doesn't really drive anymore, but there are lots of problems involved with flying, the most important of which is MIL's morbid obesity. We don't think she can fit into even a first class chair. It's a mess.

Last time FIL had surgery it took six weeks in a nursing home to recover and even after that it was a slow road. FIL takes care of MIL because she isn't physically able to do much. She has a hard time even walking out to the mail box. He does the shopping and most of the cooking. I can't even imagine what would happen if FIL is paralyzed.

Maybe SIL would move in with them and become qualified to be a caregiver under medicare. I think it pays more than the job she works, which is minimum wage. She's being required to sell her house under the divorce settlement (ex-BIL waited a few years to enforce this) so she'll need a place to go anyway.

I don't know how FIL and MIL will afford this. FIL is still working, but is also old enough to get his full social security check. MIL doesn't get social security because she never worked. Once FIL can't work anymore they won't have much income. It's not like we can really help financially. We're still paying off our own medical debt that we put on the credit cards years ago.

I don't know what they did with their inheritance from FIL's mother's house (around $50,000). I don't know where they stand financially anymore. They used to have a lot of debt, so hopefully they paid that off and maybe all they have is the mortgage. That would be nice, but somehow I doubt that's what happened.

The uncertainty of life sure can leave you staggering. Medical debt can be crushing. All I can do is hope for the best scenario, but even the best scenario will cost thousands of dollars. I don't even want to think about the worst.

Credit Score Went Up

November 10th, 2012 at 09:33 pm

I have monitoring on my credit report. It's an expense that is worth it to me because we are heading towards buying a house in the next year. I'm always afraid a medical bill from the past has slipped through the cracks and ended up in collection. It happened once about eight years ago, and once almost three years ago when we moved and it wasn't forwarded to our new address.

Since DH doesn't have any credit that isn't linked with mine, but I have a few things he doesn't have, we figured monitoring mine was the best way to go and then when we are closer to ready to buy a house he will send for his free ones.

Anyway, my score went up from 780 to 787. That bodes well for when we pay off a big chunk if not all of our unsecured debt with the Christmas bonus. Ideally I'd like to see it at or above 800 when we apply for a mortgage so we will be offered the best possible rates. Our credit union is currently offering 2.9%. I have liked having our current mortgage with them. They don't sell their mortgages like many banks do, so I would like to stick with them.

Yesterday DH ran the rest of the money through the HSA account. We've maxed it out. Actually we've paid more like $10,000 out of pocket on medical this year, which is substantially more than we can claim, but nowhere near the over 7.5 percent of income, so we won't need to itemize. Since we can claim the full deduction for the HSA, though, we should get back over $8000 like last year.

I've stashed every single paid medical bill and receipt in a file folder labelled with the year, just like I did last year. I don't remember how long we have to keep them for, seven years or ten years, but we have to back up the deduction if they ever ask. I'm kind of hoping that next year's medical expense isn't so outrageous.


Paying the Bills

November 9th, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Today is payday and for once I got to sit down early and do everything. As of today the only bill that hasn't been paid for the month is the internet bill. I don't think it has come yet. That means the vast majority of next week's paycheck can be split between credit card debt and Christmas. It feels nice going into the holidays without having to scramble this year.

DH's boss called him yesterday to let him know that he will be working an extra week on his next hitch. They still don't know about January. They'll have a better idea of that after he works the extra week. But one guaranteed extra paycheck is great. Especially if he has the three weeks off. I can just save it for that time period and if there is anything leftover put it toward debt.

I hadn't paid the car payment yet, so I'm including it here, but the money for that was from last week's payday. Here's what went out today:

$1700.00 to BoA credit card
_757.82 to car loan
_300.00 for glasses (3 months same as cash, paid in full now)
1000.00 to Mom
__37.68 Garbage
_100.00 to Vacation Fund
__72.00 to holding tank for water/sewer
__44.87 Phone at old house
__23.00 for kid's allowance (DS owes me $2, so that's lower than usual)
_300.00 for beef money
_100.00 cash for miscellaneous stuff
---------------
$4473.05

DH is going to be buying a new pair of workboots, too. They will be around $200. They are steel-toed, steel-shanked, electricity proof, water proof, and Arctic safe. The last pair lasted him about 5 years so that works out to about $40 a year. Not bad for safety gear.

A Slow Newsday

November 9th, 2012 at 06:36 am

Or you know, nothing much happened here at the Robin's nest. I paid out $90 for physical therapy, $6.93 for two prescriptions, and $225 for the monthly family plan at the chiropractor. DH spent $3.69 for a gallon of milk. Found a dime and a penny.

Homeschool went pretty well today. I didn't have to do math, DH did it. It was square roots in area. DH is going to explain it to me tomorrow. There is no way I was going to get it today. DS understands it, thankfully. I did everything else, though, which is pretty good considering I didn't sleep last night. We got the fall writing sample ready to send off. I think DS did a very good job on it.

Lady continues to ignore the new Fort Knox of a duck den and is still bunking with the chickens. I don't think she wants to be alone and also she feels more secure with the other birds. I'm not entirely convinced she doesn't think she's a black australorp chicken the way she hangs out with Half-pint and Pipsqueak all the time. Of course half the time I think those two chickens think they are ducks, so who knows? We've decided to let her be since she's putting herself in the coop when the chickens go in about a half hour before dark.

We came home today from a trip out and there were a dozen crows in the yard. It was really weird. DS went to scare them off and they flew up in a swarm and landed on the roof of the house. As soon as we got onto the porch they were back on the lawn. It was like a scene from The Birds or something. Usually they stay away because they don't like the chickens or the chickens scare them off but because of the extreme wind today none of the chickens were out of the enclosure.

We still haven't had a frost. It's 42 F out tonight so I don't think we will get one, but it's definitely starting to get colder.

My physical therapist was telling me how her mother was volunteering with the Red Cross in a poor neighborhood in Queens. They are very disorganized. No one was in charge so her mother (who is a pharmacist) decided she would be and got things going and found an interpreter since a lot of the people in that area only spoke Spanish. They've been climbing up stairs and knocking on every door to see if people are okay or need medical attention.

A lot of folks had run out of necessary prescriptions for high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes, so she had to put people in charge of finding out which pharmacies were even open and if they were open, whether or not they had medicine available to fill prescriptions. They have no idea when there will be power again. I can't even imagine being elderly and trapped on the 18th floor without power and medicine.

I mean I've been without power for several days before, but never without the woodstove to provide heat and a place to warm food up. And never without necessary medicine. It boggles the mind.

Bits and Pieces

November 6th, 2012 at 08:49 pm

The mortgage payment hit today, with $77.42 going to interest and 303.42 going to principal, with an additional $124.14 going to principal. The new mortgage balance is now at $15,377.85, so after my December payment the mortgage will be under $15K. I know that we will probably sell it before it is paid off, but I still like to see it going down.

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We're still waiting to hear whether or not DH will be working an extra week or two between now and the end of the year. It's a little frustrating because he needs to know so he can buy the appropriate tickets on the appropriate dates. And of course the longer you wait, the more expensive plane tickets are, especially around the holidays.

He comes home at midnight tonight. I will be glad to have him back as I am really worn down at the moment. Both kids are sick again and I can't really tell if I am at the end of getting over a cold or at the start of a new one. It could go either way, but I'm hoping it's getting over the last of one.

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Yesterday I mailed in my voter's ballot and went and made the Chase payment. I also pulled some green onions from the garden. I can't believe we still haven't had a frost. I need to get moving and get the potatoes dug, but I'm kind of being really lazy about that. Without an impending frost on the horizon it doesn't seem very urgent.

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My doctor is retiring at the end of the year, so I need to find a new doctor. And I really don't want to as this guy has been my doctor my whole life. He delivered me and we have a great relationship. I'll have DH get me a list of the doctors on our PPO list that are accepting new patients, and I need to make up a list of the medications I am taking and their dosages. I will probably have Dr. A write me prescriptions for a year's worth of meds to send into my mail order pharmacy so that I don't have to deal with meds right out of the gate with the new doctor.

I also need to make a list of all the medications I can't take due to adverse reactions/allergies, namely penicillin and codeine. And the ones I can't take the generic of but must take the name brand of.

I so do not need this right now, but I knew it was coming. My doc is in his 80's.

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I ordered some Christmas presents for DS and was notified that they shipped yesterday. I ordered them last week so it's good to hear they're out the door. I'm trying not to be last minutey this year.

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The car payment statement came in the mail yesterday so I will write out the check and send that off. I hate dealing with their website or I'd pay it directly. It is nice to see the amount going down substantially now. The first year of payments was like it barely budged. Now I can see the progress being made.

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I've spent some time looking at houses online over the weekend and prices seem to have taken another dramatic drop. I am now seeing houses in the $215K to $245K range that a couple of months ago were in the $279K to $250K range. And ones that were in the $300K to 350K are down as well, about by the same amounts. I see more and more of them are pending sales as well. I'm not sure what that will mean for our prospects when we go to sell. Of course we are not going to be overpricing the house to begin with, which I think may have been going on with some of these other houses.

I just wish they'd get done already with fixing up the house since we can't put it on the market until they are.

Extra Income

November 4th, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Today I cashed out $10 worth of Amazon gift cards at Swagbucks. That brings my account to $35 of GC's. I didn't use my 3 free digital downloads for music though. I didn't realize they expired on 10/31. I also cashed out at ACOP, $14.05. I am not sure what I am going to do with that money. I'm not particularly sure what I'm going to do with my monthly allowance, either now that DH and I can afford taking them again.

At the moment there isn't really anything I need. I am considering saving up for a really good set of kitchen knives. I only have 3 good knives, a 7 inch chef's blade, a biscuit cutter/spreader, and an Ulu knife. I have several mediocre knives as well, but they are all in storage.

I definitely want a cleaver and a butcher knife, a filet knife, 12 steak knives, a 9 inch chef, a bread cutter, a cheese knife, a paring knife, a very good pair of poultry shears, and a few others I can't think of. The set I want is about $2000. It comes with a really nice butcher block and I wouldn't have to buy knives again for the rest of my life. I'm just tired of cruddy knives. I'd be saving for quite some time to get that. Or I could just save it for Disneyland. We'll see.

It is so warm out today. It's 64 with this really warm wind. I wonder if we're getting hit with another Pineapple Express. I haven't been watching the news online because of politics and political commercials, so basically the forecast in print form is all I've seen. But it feels like a Pineapple Express.

I've already filled out my ballot and will be mailing it tomorrow. I am sick to death of hearing about politics. There was a commercial for one resolution that I am actually in favor of, but was almost reconsidering it after seeing it about 100 times on HULU just because of media saturation. I will be glad when voting is over and we get a break from the hype for the next couple of years.

Lady survived the night in with the chickens. The new duck den was delivered today and the birds were all very curious about it. It's very strong and sturdy looking. Hopefully it will do the trick.

Payday Report

November 4th, 2012 at 09:46 pm

I am so happy it is November. No more $500 payments to the doctor for DS's treatment. We will have one more $300 payment for glasses this month and then we'll be done with big medical for a while, I hope. Although we still need to save some as come January we will have the $2500 deductible again. Hopefully this coming year it will not be met so quickly. I will have to have two molars fixed, but I am hoping to use part of DH's Christmas bonus to do that.

I did send the extra $230 to AMEX along with my regular payment. Here's how it all broke down this week.

$730.00 AMEX
_100.00 Chase (no interest)
_300.00 for Mom's utilities
__92.97 to the Freezer Fund
___7.03 to the Emergency Fund
__32.97 Electric at the Old House
__25.00 to the Holding Tank for Garbage
__72.00 to the Holding Tank for Water/Sewer old house
__39.53 DH Life Insurance
__32.70 Me Life Insurance
__59.89 Car Insurance
__45.63 House Insurance for old house
__41.16 Security system for old house
_153.00 Storage
__17.00 HoA Dues for old house
_100.00 Property Tax for old house (Holding Tank)
_500.00 to Mortgage for old house
_100.00 to Holding Tank for propane (old house)
_100.00 to MacBook Fund
__28.20 Dental (DH)
__15.69 Medical (DD)
_100.00 DH's monthly allowance
__15.00 DD's weekly allowance
__10.00 DS's weekly allowance
_267.32 on groceries (did a major staples stock up, plus OTC meds)
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$3075.09

I will also be making the car payment out of this payday, just waiting for the bill to get here. I took $100 in cash out for miscellaneous needs. And I will be depositing $46 from the coin jar on Monday, which puts my Freezer Fund at $1000 even. And the MacBook Fund is now at $300. I had $7.03 left after fully funding the Freezer Fund so that went to the Emergency Fund, which now sits at $1008.36.

Meal Planning for the Week

November 4th, 2012 at 09:22 pm

I'm still trying to use up what is in the freezers so that I can defrost. And we have a ton of broccoli coming from the garden this week that needs eating so meals will reflect that.

Monday--
Roast chicken
Baked potatoes
Broccoli
Oranges

Tuesday--
Chicken enchiladas
Mexican Fried Rice
Broccoli
Pears

Wednesday--
Beef stir-fry with broccoli, carrots, celery, bean sprouts, green beans, onion
Egg fried rice

Thursday--
Homemade pizza with homemade sausage, ham, onions, and bell peppers
Cole slaw

Friday--
Baked potato soup
Cole slaw
Pears

Saturday--
Korean BBQ ribs
Egg fried rice
Oranges
Broccoli

Sunday--
Beef pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green beans
Corn

I will be making meatloaf and chicken noodle soup from scratch for lunches this week. Breakfast is the usual, pancakes and eggs for DS and sausage and eggs for DD and me. DH comes home mid-week and he usually has eggs and oatmeal or leftovers.

A Little Heartsick

November 4th, 2012 at 03:20 am



Racoons should not be strong enough to pull out 1 inch construction staples. They just should not. It's been a very tough day today. That bleeping racoon managed to pull just enough of the chicken wire loose on the duck den in the middle of the night to reach inside and try to get at the ducks. Patches went down defending Lady and that darn critter tried to pull him through a 3 inch opening. He did not survive it. At least his body blocked the racoon from getting in and killing Lady, too.

Lady is tucked into one of the nesting boxes in the chicken coop for the night. At least racoons can't yet seem to pull out 4 inch screws. I am just so upset and angry at that racoon. It's hard to lose 3 animals in the space of a few days, especially when you have raised them since they were a day old. The ducks were not pets, but they were more than just livestock. They were productive members of the household, producing eggs for food and lots of antics for our enjoyment.

After the first attack we reinforced the duck den but commissioned a new one made with screws and locks. It'll be delivered tomorrow. I'm not sure if Lady will want to go in by herself, though. I just wish Patches had made it; then there would be two.

We put a notice up at the Feed Co-op saying we were seeking 2 to 3 grown ducks, preferrably Cayuga to keep Lady company. Don't know if we'll get a response or not, but hopefully there will be someone who got baby ducks at Easter time and now are done with them (a frequent occurrence, sadly).

Hopefully I'll feel up to doing my payday post tomorrow. Right now all I can think about is those poor ducks.

November Harvest

November 1st, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I never, ever thought when I planted this garden in early June that there would any chance of harvesting anything in November, let alone tomatoes. I can't even remember a year where we hadn't had a hard frost by Halloween. Not only have we not had even a light frost this year, but the forecast for the next ten days is in the mid-50's with rain. And I picked a whole lot of tomatoes.

I wrapped this set in newspaper and put them in the garage to ripen.



I brought in all the paste tomatoes and anything that was slightly turning color and anything that had split or bruised. They are sitting on my table to ripen.



And the red ones are here along with some last gasp green beans and the surprise of the fall, a bit of cauliflower.



I pulled up the spent broccoli and cauliflower plants and the bean plants and gave them to the chickens and ducks. The six tomato plants can't go to the birds (the leaves and stems are poison to them, but they can eat the fruit) or to the compost. Even though there is no blight on them, I practice prudence in not ever adding them to my compost bin. Into the trash they went (since the yard waste recycling is done for the year). I could have let the tomatoes go longer but the rain was really making things split and that doesn't bode well for wrapping and storing to ripen.

In the main garden I have four broccoli plants left growing, two kohlrabi, and the zucchini plant which is flowering. On the other side of the house I have several more broccoli plants that are heading up and 3 bunches of green onions yet. And there's plenty of chard for greens. I really hope this means we are going to have a mild winter. I'm still not over how much snow we had last winter. Mild weather would be great for the grocery budget.

I've Been Thinking About Survival

November 1st, 2012 at 07:52 pm

I've been reading a survival blog for about a week or so. It's by one of those people who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. It's been interesting reading, especially in light of what has happened on the East Coast this week. I imagine in some places it really has become the end of their individual worlds, especially for those who were not prepared for the wrath of Sandy.

It's definitely made me think about how prepared I would be to handle a similar emergency. Although we don't get hurricanes here, there is always the chance of one of the volcanos blowing again. Depending on the wind, we could get hit by ash from Mt. Saint Helens. Mt. Baker is a constant steamer, if it ever woke up we could get hit by more than ash. And of course there are always earthquakes living here in the ring of fire. Though we are most likely to be stuck at home due to a Nor'easter blizzard than anything else.

I think the longest I've ever gone without power was five days. But we had the wood stove and we had water and ice and a good store of canned goods. We had kerosene lamps and candles and I could charge my laptop off the car battery.

I decided to inventory what we do have if the power fails. We have enough canned goods to get through about a week. More if you count all the jam and tomatoes, but I'm talking more canned meats and vegetables. I think that is something I should probably rectify. I have plenty of food in the freezer but that does not help me much if the power fails.

I also need to set in a store of water. I mean we have the rain barrels, three of them, but any water from them would have to be boiled, so I think I should get in several gallons of drinking water. I also need to work on canned meat and canned fruit and a bit more canned veg. Pineapple is my number one priority for fruit as it would hold off things like scurvy or vitamin C deficiency. But we should have more green beans on hand. I'd like to keep a fairly balanced diet and that would help.

I have been watching videos on how to can your own beef, chicken, or venison, so as I get a surplus going I may do that. I'd rather know where my meat is coming from and can it myself, but meanwhile I have 12 cans of beef, 2 cans of chicken, and four cans of tuna.

I'd really prefer to be able to survive more than a week without a grocery store. In the case of a disaster it could be several weeks before we got our infrastructure back.

How about you guys? How long could you survive without power?


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