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Retirement Update

September 15th, 2019 at 05:31 pm

The IRA has completely recovered now and is slightly beyond where it was. The 401K is gaining nicely. The previous balance was $20,127.80.

$12,181.55 401K balance
+_9,113.07 IRA balance
--------------
$21,294.62 Total Retirement balance.

It has gone up by $1,166.82 in two weeks. May it continue on this course.

Less Limping Along

September 14th, 2019 at 01:30 am

Well, I am finally able to walk without limping after my toe surgery on the 6th. It still hurts a little when I try to put it in a shoe, so I will stick with flip flops for a couple more days before trying again.

I managed to get some canning done this week. I have done 7 quarts of French cut green beans. I am kind of thinking I might have just wanted to do pint and a half jars now, but oh, well. We'll have some leftovers. You can get a lot more French cut beans in a jar than regular cut.

I also canned 4 quarts and 1 pint and a half jar of really rich, gelatinous chicken bone broth. I made it in the Instant Pot while I was making chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) for pastaless chicken Alfredo. After the first batch, I put in more chicken, did it again, took it out, put in more chicken and did it again, all in the same broth without adding more water, so it got richer and richer with each pressure cook. It is amazing and tastes so good and is a deep, rich yellow color. I'll do it again when I make chicken enchiladas.

I managed to get two freezer meals in the freezer so far and tomorrow I will do 2 pans of beef enchiladas for the freezer. I made one pan up tonight that we will have for dinner tomorrow. It was a new recipe and I really like how the sauce turns out. I did it in the Instant Pot instead of the slow cooker like the recipe calls for. A lot of slow cooker recipes can be easily adapted. I also need to make up a big batch of meatballs. We're going to try brown rice spaghetti and I'd like to have the really good meatballs to balance things if the noodles turn out to be less than spectacular.

Also tomorrow I hope to can some more tomatoes although I may push that to Sunday. I am doing the rest in pints and saving our remaining quart jars for green beans and potatoes. I might get some more beans done tomorrow, too. We got the last of the corn in, but it is just for fresh eating. There are still more green beans and tomatoes out there growing.

I did get the sausage made up for breakfast burritos, but threw it in the freezer as I am not sure when we will get those made. I may end up using all the tortillas for enchiladas.

I am feeling a bit under the weather, so I have mostly just been eating egg flower soup and cheesy rice crackers the last couple of days. Not ideal, I am not hitting enough calories in a day, but there is protein in the soup and no noodles. I am hoping with making broth the way I have started to I will be able to make my own egg flower soup and it will taste really good and also have a denser, richer chicken soup as well.

There is also a chance I may just stay in bed all weekend and do nothing. Depends on how I feel when I wake up in the morning.

Through the Storm

September 8th, 2019 at 04:37 pm

Last night my husband and I were caught out in the most violent thunder and lightning storm I have ever seen in my life. I was just thankful we were together. We had just finished up our grocery shopping and I'd gotten in the van and it kept feeling like someone was flashing a strobe light. It took us until we got out onto the road before I realized that it was lightning and not a light show of some sort, because that was when the massive forks started.

We made it the mile home, passing a couple of bicyclists who I very much worried for the safety of, and sat in the driveway for an hour as the lightning forked all around us. We saw 52 distinctive forking strikes and another 3 dozen sky flashes, at least. Sometimes there were two or three forking strikes completely unattached to each other at the same time. The thunder, though, was the scariest part because it tells you how close the lightning is. I didn't even make it to half a second at the worst part of the storm.

We told the kids to stay in the house and not try to come out to us. The groceries were in insulated bags and we knew the safe time for meat to sit out is two hours. We knew we were safe in the car with the rubber tires insulating us.

I could feel the amount of electricity in the air. I am sensitive to electricity since I was electrocuted as a kid. If I go under high voltage power lines I feel it in the back of my neck and in my joints and all my hairs stand up and my skin feels like it wants to crawl away. This was like that on steroids.

There were a couple of times I screamed. Not from the lightning but from the thunder. My adrenaline was going overtime. For half of it, it didn't rain, but when it let loose, it really pounded down.

We lost internet for about the second half of the storm, but not cell service. But the lightning strikes kept turning off my phone camera, so I wasn't able to get any footage. I had wanted to show the kids what it looked like.

We had a couple false starts thinking the storm had ended, but then the next part of it would move through. Finally the storm moved away and once the thunder was 9 seconds behind the lightning and the rain had eased off we finally went into the house.

I have never seen anything like this storm. People misuse the word awesome all the time, but this truly was awesome. The amount of awe inspired by it was kind of jaw dropping. It was beautiful, in a way that only nature can be. It was definitely a case of "His power throughout the universe displayed," as the old hymn (How Great Thou Art) goes. It was hard to believe that something so dangerous can have such much beauty in it. But beautiful or not, I was the most grateful person in the world when it ended. I hope never to experience anything like that again. Once was more than enough.

Changing Things Up in the Kitchen

September 4th, 2019 at 08:57 pm

I've decided to try going wholesale into freezer cooking this next pay period. We are still eating out too much and I am tired of paying the money. DS is on board with helping with prep work. So I need to have five meals that are not too carb heavy and just two that are and then double that so we will have 14 dinners in the freezer and then also get some meatballs in there. I don't like to have a lot of carb heavy meals in a week. I might actually make 3 of some meals just to get ahead a little.

So I think on our agenda this time will be:

Meatloaf
Beef Enchiladas
Peppers and Sausage
Shredded Beef Tacos
Sausage Crust Pizza Casserole
Lasagna
Beef Carnitas
Meatballs

Then the next payday the focus will be on chicken. So far I have:

Chicken Pot Pies (biscuit crust)
Spaghetti Casserole with Chicken Sausage
Chicken Stew
Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Curry
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Casserole
Turkey dinner (mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing)

I'd also like to have a few ziploc bags of real mashed potatoes in there. We won't have beef every day the first two weeks, I will continue to cook a few nights a week so we will have variety, but eventually when we have enough in the freezer I can rotate a little more. Then when I want to plan for mashed potatoes but not for peeling or chopping them, we can pull out a bag and thaw it. And then I can make up a quick vegetable side for dinners, usually a can of green beans, some frozen broccoli, or Normandy veggies.

For breakfasts I am going to make:

Egg white, spinach, and ham in muffin tins
Egg bake with shredded zucchini, sausage, ham, tomatoes, green onions, and crumbled bacon
Breakfast burritos
Egg Muffin sandwiches with Canadian bacon
Egg Muffin sandwiches with Denver omelet ingredients

For lunches we will have salad fixings, I usually eat either ham and turkey salads or steak salads for lunch or if we have seafood from fishing, that. I will also put some more chicken mac, chicken casseroles, skillet lasagnas, and chicken alfredo (no fettucine) in the freezer for the kids.

I may swap the beef/pork list with the chicken list if sales are better, but hopefully sales will cooperate with my plans. I think in the long run we will save a lot more money this way.

Busy Weekend Cleaning and Preserving Food

September 2nd, 2019 at 11:10 pm

Friday was DH's 50th birthday. He didn't want a bunch of hoopla so we just had a quiet celebration at home. Saturday was spent canning tomatoes and Sunday was spent cleaning out our bedroom and closet. We had so many boxes in the closet and along one wall of the bedroom that it was a hazard for me to try to get into the closet or open the curtains.

We went through so many boxes. We ended up with 10 garbage bags worth of clothes and old but good condition sheet sets for a bed size we don't even have anymore for Goodwill. We also donated some top sheets that were in great shape, but the bottom sheets had to be thrown out.

We donated a couple of our ugly blankets that we were given by other people that don't fit any color scheme in the house and never did, but we used them until we could find the colors we liked. There was also a nice set of two throw blankets that we were given for our wedding that I donated. They were a dark blue and white plaid and we used them for years, but they just don't fit our needs or color tastes and we aren't even in touch with the people who gave them to us.

We also shredded or recycled 8 grocery bags full of paper. I thought we had shredded all the old papers, but there were a couple of boxes of documents we didn't need anymore. I did find the old copy of Mom's will that sorely needs to be updated since most of those assets don't exist anymore, having been used up on Dad's care before he died. We'll need to get a new shredder soon. We have two semi-functional ones, although the one makes a horrible noise and the other is rapidly becoming non-functional. They are both really old, though.

But now I can walk over to the window without tripping on anything and open the curtains and blinds myself and close them, which sounds like such a small thing, but when you are disabled, having a clear pathway is huge. I can also go into my closet now and everything is hung up and the floor is clear.

There is still more to be done. I need to vacuum the floor and scrub the windows and there are a few smaller boxes to go through, but they are up out of the way on the closet shelves now. DH fixed a broken wall attachment for one of the dowels we hang clothes on so that rod is usable now, too.

Today was spent snapping green beans and canning them. Mom helped a lot today and I am very grateful for it. I shouldn't have to can tomatoes again for a couple of days and no green beans probably for a week. I do have to take down my dried oregano and parsley, take all the leaves off the stems, and put them in storage jars, and it is probably time to dehydrate another batch of basil as well.

I am hoping that boneless skinless chicken thighs and chuck roast go on sale soon. I need to do up some canned chicken and beef. I also need to start working on canning potatoes. It is my least favorite thing to do because of all the peeling and chopping, but I do have my little potato peeler, so I'll be using that. It is worth it in the winter time to not have to peel and chop every time I want to use potatoes.

I am thinking about not doing a garden next year as I have been so tired the last few years. But probably when spring comes I will change my mind as I always do. The food is always worth it, but sometimes I really struggle to keep up with the garden work. There is so much local food available here and I can buy one batch's worth at a time to can instead of having a glut or only two jars worth at a time.

I'll seriously have to think on it. I have to make pickles tomorrow. They will be fermented though, so far less work than canning.

Retirement Just Went Back Up and We Hit a Milestone

August 29th, 2019 at 08:50 pm

I know I shouldn't be checking it this often, but this was DH checking it, not me. Both the 401K and the IRA jumped substantially today and we hit over $20K! The IRA hasn't recovered completely, but it gained back $95 of the $123 it lost. The 401K never lost anything, though its growth had slowed. Hopefully we'll see some more leaps in the next couple of weeks. I will not check it again for that long, but DH probably will. I don't need the stress of checking it weekly or daily.

$11,270.42 401K
+_8,857.42 IRA
------------
$20,127.80 Total Retirement

Monster Mom Loan Payment and Upcoming mini-Vacation

August 28th, 2019 at 09:06 pm

$15,400.00 Balance Forward
-_1,200.00 Payment Made
--------------
$14,200.00 New Balance

I am not being super aggressive right now to save a little bit of money. DH and I have decided to take a mini-vacation get away the week of the 29th anniversary of our first date. We are going to the waterfront for two nights. It's not an airbnb, but is something similar and is a little cottage with 5 stars. It has its own beach, dock, row boats, kayaks, an acre of private land, and a barbecue area. Because it is the off season it is less expensive than it would be during the summer.

We haven't had a vacation in 7 or 8 years and I am just really needing to get away from everything right now and have some time alone with my husband without having to worry about everyone else's garbage. Most of the time I wouldn't even consider it while we are paying off debt, but I am just really worn down. I'd like a couple days with meals out, no cooking, no cleaning, no being a mom or a daughter, just being a couple.

I think we might go again on our wedding anniversary in March if we like it. It will be our 25th. I had always hoped to go on a cruise for it, but I won't do that until we are out of debt and have a 3 month EF. It will fall on a Wednesday, so we could drive down on Wednesday and stay through Friday morning.

So we might not be out of debt for an extra month, but I think my mental health is a little more important right now. And yes, I am justifying, but I don't care.

Retirement Update and a Rant

August 26th, 2019 at 12:56 am

$19,829.71 New Balance
-19,323.36 Old Balance
-----------
$__,506.35 Net Gain

If the IRA would stop tanking I'd appreciate it, but the 401K is holding its own, doing slightly better than the amount we are adding in each pay period. I am thinking about having DH transfer his IRA to the same company that handles his 401K. I am looking forward to hitting $20K in total retirement savings.

If the narcissistic media and the viciously stupid, out of touch, self-centered celebrity millionaires would stop trying to tank the economy on purpose it would help. I am getting annoyed with all the recession talk. It is like all the stupid Russia collusion talk, yak, yak, yak that was a big nothing burger. In order for there to be a recession you have to have two consecutive quarters with the GNP having losses. We haven't had a single quarter with losses. The economy is fine until the media start trying to push this crap. They are the original chicken littles, but the sky isn't falling.

They just know that if the economy doesn't fail there is a strong chance the president will be re-elected and they can't stand that idea so much they'd rather damage everyone's retirement and paychecks in this country than get over it and wait it out. Babies. I'm so tired of the immaturity. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don't. It doesn't last forever. I don't want another recession. The last one was bad.

And I'm so annoyed at the DNC for trying to cheat Tulsi out of a spot in the debate. Oh, you have 26 polls putting you above the required percentage points? Sorry, you need these 4 polls and you only have 2 of them. She's the only one worth listening to in my opinion and could actually get moderates back and the only one who won't collapse against Trump when he gets down and dirty. But they'd rather cheat us again like they did last time for whatever preferred candidate they have in mind. Dirty politics tick me off.

Rough Couple of Weeks

August 24th, 2019 at 08:41 pm

It's been a rough couple of weeks. I hurt myself pretty badly in a fall when the ancient garden chair I was sitting in gave up the ghost and collapsed. I landed on my butt, but I grabbed the garden bed as I started falling, so I wrenched my shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and then because I was so close to the bed, my knees hit it and twisted to the side, wrenching both my knees and ankles and making me fall the rest of the way onto my left hip.

I am finally comfortable sitting in my desk chair again, at least for a few hours, but it has been pretty miserable with the aches and pains. It caused full on inflammation as my autoimmune disease was triggered from the impact. The body swelling is finally going down. In the midst of all that I had a nasty aural migraine that blurred my vision so bad I couldn't read even with my new glasses. It lasted three days.

I am not back to my old self again yet, but at least my hands feel good enough to type. My physical therapist worked around the pain and I have been able to do my exercises for all but three days throughout. We modified any exercises that hurt and I am back to being able to do all of them fully again.

I am so careful when I walk so as not to fall. This was just a freak accident. That chair was old, but it was solid. I definitely did not expect it to just give out like that. Now I have to find a new chair at the end of the season, which is going to be frustrating. I am not sure they even have them anymore. Maybe I will have DH build me a square stool. It will be a lot more solid than anything we can find in the store. We have some good wood in the garage from some heavy duty pallets with 2 x 4's, so it won't cost us anything to build it.

The green beans are in full swing now. I canned 7 quarts. The corn is starting to come in. Most of the onions are in the garage drying, and the tomatoes are finally starting to turn red and yellow, respectively. I am still getting cucumbers and zucchini and the one volunteer lettuce plant is finally big enough to harvest off of. The kale is still trucking along and I have harvested all of the broccoli except one. The celery is big enough to start cutting it, too. So I guess it is a good thing that I am able to sit again because I have a lot of preserving to do.

Meal Planning for the Week

August 7th, 2019 at 11:06 am

I forgot to post this on Monday. We are working on eating veggies from the garden and using up some of our beef, lamb, and pork from last year. I want to buy half a hog this year and at the least a hamburger share of beef. Usually when someone has a dairy cow that is no longer productive they will offer it as hamburger only for $200 a share and that yields a lot of ground beef. Since the cows are pretty old, using them for other cuts would not be tender at all, but it does offer up burger at a great price.

Day One:
Pesto (basil from the garden) grilled chicken, baked potatoes, fresh green beans

Day Two:
Rib steaks, baked sweet potatoes, leftover green beans

Day Three:
Grilled pork ribs, grilled patty pan squash (from the garden, grilled onions, broccoli (from the garden)

Day Four:
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, leftover veggies

Day Five:
Rigatoni with Meatballs, broccoli (from the garden)

Day Six:
BBQ chicken thighs, fried potatoes, baked zucchini

Day Seven:
Beef bottom round roast, potatoes and carrots, leftover veggies

Reworking the Budget

August 5th, 2019 at 12:11 pm

I have just finished making the budget for August and reworking some things. I decided to up the grocery budget to $500 every two weeks since we are heading towards Paleo eating. I don't know if we will go 100%, but I am going to try gluten free baking. All of the flours are more expensive than normal flours.

Aside from that, prices are starting to rise in the stores. Some places are having food shortages, a result of the flooding in the middle states. It mostly seems to be peas, green beans, and corn. Also, dairy has gone up, probably due to all the slaughtered dairy cows not being around to make enough butter and cheese.

I am using Melanie Lynn's gluten free flour recipe. It has no carageenen, guar gum, or xanthum gum in it.
She spent years developing her flour mix and recipes and they look just like the real thing. It's a completely different way of dealing with fat and flour than normal baking. She didn't want to have gritty, tasteless food or rely on iffy ingredients. I have been happily reading her website for the past week and am looking forward to trying some of her recipes. I've followed her for years on youtube.

Also, I doubled the amount of the gas budget. If DH is going out fishing/crabbing/prawning he does need to contribute to the boat for the gas. Once fishing season is over I will revert to our normal gas budget.

So that means that I will only be paying Mom $1600 a month instead of $1800. Even at that amount we will still be out of debt next year. We do plan to put any Christmas bonus and our tax return on the debt, too. Last year's Christmas bonus was around $800 after taxes and he only was a direct employee for 6 months. This year he will have worked 12 months and he will have been working at a higher wage during those 12 months. The bonus is based on a percentage of your salary and hours worked. So I think we will see double that, probably more. It would be nice to throw an extra $1800 at it. But no counting chickens just yet.