Home > Archive: April, 2012

Archive for April, 2012

House Hunting, Free Lunch, Chicks & Ducks

April 30th, 2012 at 12:06 am

So today was a major day for Open Houses for my city. They were doing a thing of some sort. Anyway, we looked at a lot of houses, and it served to reassure me that there are a lot of houses out there that would be right for us, which means when we are really ready there will still be a lot of houses that are right for us. Although almost perfect house is still almost perfect. It was really nice to see it, I really liked it, it had some problems, mostly fixing the paint would fix, but it was nice. But there were a lot of people looking at it and I did not feel bad about that or territorial or anything, so I think I am well over my irrational urges to buy right now.

We did see an absolutely gorgeous house about 3 blocks from my mom's house, too. It was truly exquisite decorating. It was like walking into a piece of art. But a comfortable, liveable piece of art. The fixtures and the floors and the wall paper and the way the walls were painted, it just was such a feast for the eyes, but not in a way you'd ever get tired of. The landscaping was incredible. You could just really tell that the people who owned it adored their home and had put a lot of effort into making it so beautiful.


What was really funny was I ran into a man that I have not seen since high school (although we were friendly in middle school we had no classes together in high school so it felt more like not having seen him since middle school). He was friends with the realtor showing one of the houses and was waiting for him to finish up. It was so strange, because I almost never run into people like that. DH always does, but almost everyone I knew back then took off for Seattle or Oregon or California. But it was nice once we figured out how we knew each other. 24 years changes you a lot.

The had free Subway sandwiches at the last place we looked at, so I split half a six inch sub with my son and DH had one, so that took care of a late lunch. We were starving by then. I really liked the realtor who was friends with the guy I knew from school. He wasn't pushy but he was interested in helping us when we were ready. He was younger, maybe 30, but he felt honest and I got a good vibe off of him. We might decide to use him.


The bathroom remodel is almost done. They've put in the vanity cabinet (but not the sink) and the toilet is in. The final coat of paint is on. The sink still needs to go into the vanity. The mirror needs to be put on the wall. The glass door needs to be installed on the tub/shower, the showerhead needs to be put up, and the shelving needs to be put up. We may actually have our bathroom back by mid-week. I hope so. I am tired of not having one. Of course we may have to wait for all the caulking and stuff to finish drying so it may be the weekend before we can use it, but I will just be so glad to not have the workmen in the house.


The chicks and ducks are now allowed to go outside after they made a great escape yesterday. They tore the mesh netting free so they could get to the layer mash on the other side of the coop and then came outside after they had eaten it all, so Mom decided today to just let them go out now. They are loving it and the weather is nice so they are happy. They are big enough. They are mostly all flopped together in a heap under one of the blueberry bushes but they adventure out a couple at a time. Totally adorable.

Today is Payday

April 28th, 2012 at 02:20 am

So far today I have paid $700 to BoA VISA, $600 to AMEX, and $265.86 to Costco. We bought two new high pressure, low flow toilets for the old house, plus selected organic groceries there (and some raw sheep's cheese imported from France that they were sampling, so good, and we usually get some kind of expensive cheese when we go there). The toilets were $79.99 each plus sales tax of 8.9%. They are one piece models where the tank is part of the toilet unit, so very easy to install. We also bought gas while we were there, filling the tank for $59.56.

I figured out the budget for this week and next week's pay, and then figured out that since the car payment isn't due until 5/19 and we get paid on 5/18, I could actually skip making a car payment out of next week's check and make it on the 18th in person instead. I could then take the $800 (payment + additional principal that I always make) and put it on the BoA VISA instead. It's cutting it close, but I do still have enough money in the EF to cover the car payment if needed.

That should still have us on track to have the VISA paid off by the end of May or at the very latest the middle of June. I wasn't expecting to have to buy a new bed for DS this month, but sometimes things happen. Maybe we won't have to use the full $1000 I've set aside to have the whole house professionally cleaned. We are going to email about setting up an estimate. Then we can make an appointment to have it done. Then the only thing left to do will be to change out the toilets, get an estimate on fixing the window, and then scheduling an appointment to actually fix the window.

And then we will have to make a decision on replacing all of the interior doors and frames, or letting the house go As IS/Where IS without fixing those things. I don't think we are going to paint. I might get an estimate to see if it is worth it, but...I don't really want to put that much more money into it. I just want it clean, on the market, and not have to worry about it anymore. At least the roof is sound. We are twelve years into a thirty year roof warranty come July, and it was an excellent roof we put on.

The lawn will have to be mowed this weekend though. And probably at least every weekend from this point on, at least in the front where it shows from the road.. *sighs* It won't be too bad. We'll need the gas mower this first time, but after that I can use the push mower. And I can save the back yard for DH when he's home and he can use the gas mower for that.

I have some other bills to pay and set money aside for but I'll probably do that tomorrow. I did make a deposit to the Safety Net of $122.30.


I forgot to post this before I left, so we took the kids clothing and bathing suit shopping after school, a planned expense, and got spring wardrobes for them (shorts and t-shirts for DS, Capri pants and t-shirts for dear daughter. They each got a bathing suit and I got one, too, though I am annoyed about it. The one I really wanted and liked the colors in various shades of green and blue of the most showed way, way, way too much cleavage even for me, and I'm pretty comfortable with that sort of thing, but dang, I would have had to pin this to feel comfortable in public. It fit so well, too, otherwise. It was an older ladies swimsuit, too. Why do they think we want to show off that much over age 40? It's like the toddler booty shorts. I mean, why? It'd be one thing if I was buying a bikini, but this was a swimdress style suit.

The one I ended up buying was various shades of pink (one of them hot pink, which I do like, but most pastels, which I don't) and brown. I am not really a pink person, but due to things that often tend to be out of my control, I have far too much pink in my wardrobe already. Usually because I just want to be clothed and the only thing left in the styles I like and my size by the time I get to shopping is the pink ones.

But it fits perfectly and supports perfectly. The skirt is a little too long for my preference, but hopefully it won't get in my way when I do the crawl stroke. I used to have one that was so long my hands would tangle in it when I swam laps. This one isn't billowy though at all. So I bought it. One nice surprise is I was able to buy it a size smaller than my other swimsuit. (I like to have two because I swim almost every day mid-spring through mid-fall, and the older one invariably falls apart from all the chlorine mid-season.

I mean, if I wanted to spend over $100 for a suit, I would order one online and get the colors I really wanted, but I don't, and a $33 suit with proper support and coverage, even if it isn't the greatest colors, is fine with me. And DH likes it regardless and says it looks good. It's just my dislike of pink, not reality. Sometimes we have to make compromises in life. This isn't a big one.

We also picked up some school supplies to replace what was worn out or used up, and some OTC medications to replace the stock used up when ill. The last thing I want to do when I am sick is go shopping for medications, so I really like to have enough on hand to treat 3 of us if we go down at the same time (DH is seldom sick).

We went to two stores and spent $73 at one (after $8 off from our loyalty card and were given a $5 gift card because we qualified for having spent over $50). At the other, where we did the bulk of our shopping we spent $265.56 (almost the exact amount we spent at Costco, interesting).

I was so tired by the time we were done, I decided to get takeout pizza instead of making some. *sighs* Willpower, thy name is not LuckyRobin. So that was $27.18. And after a quick run to the store tonight for milk and crackers I am not going to spend any money (except to write out bills) for the rest of the weekend. I hope.

Make it Stop

April 27th, 2012 at 03:56 am

Why do near perfect houses keep coming on the market in the neighborhoods we want to buy in? It's like if they all sell before we are ready, what is going to be left when we are ready? It makes me just a little bit crazy. This one is four blocks from my mother's house, right school district, right price range and appropriately priced, a gorgeous Craftsman (my favorite style) 4 bed 2 bath with hardwood floors and a yard the size of a postage stamp so barely any maintenance at all, but a great back deck. It has two bedrooms on the main floor and two upstairs, so accessibility is good, too. *sighs*

And I have to drive by it four times a day five days a week so it's going to be right there in my brain all the time. It's the shortest route to the schools so I'm not going to not drive by it and waste gas going a different way. But it is taunting me. The only really good thing about it is that it is for sale by owner so chances are it will linger on the market. A lot of folks do not want to deal with someone not using a realtor because of all the extra hassle involved. Me, I don't care.

We have $1,526.94 left to pay off to get our debt to income ratio at 45%, which is where they want it to be to qualify for a 2.9% mortgage at our credit union. Our credit scores are already in the right range. Tomorrow I will make the car payment, another VISA payment, and the AMEX payment. Then on Monday when the money arrives from ING, I will make an additional VISA payment. So we will be below that 45% range by Monday, though it may not trickle through to the credit bureaux until mid May. Not that it matters with no down payment money, but it is one more step in the right direction.

So...question. Does it make sense at all to do a 3% down loan if I am going to make double payments (not just double principal payments, but doubling the first payment with all the extra going to principal) until we've paid off 20% of the loan or is that just asking for trouble? We will have that much money available once the credit card is paid off in a month or two. Or should I stomp on my desire to get out of here and buy a house "right now" and get that 20% saved up. It will take us about a year, less if we sell our house.

How do we ever get past our wants prompting us to think they are needs? I know I could save 3% down in just a few months, but that is probably a stupid thing to do. And it's not like I've even seen the inside of this house. Gah. If we just stay here another year we will be so much further ahead. We'll be out of debt except for the car and the under $18K mortgage (which will go away when we sell the house). We'll be another year gone on the car and I'll have been making extra, extra principal payments on it, too. We'll have an EF of better quality and we'll have the downpayment saved. Life will be less stressful. Okay, I think I've talked myself out of trying to do anything rash or stupid. Trying. But not wanting.

I can do this. I don't need to throw my hard work away on impatient desire. *deep breaths*

Okay, and for the DEC, money spent today was $374.91 for a new twin mattress, box springs, and Hollywood frame for DS. We borrowed Mom's truck and brought it home ourselves and plan to put the old mattress on the curb with a free sign, so no delivery or disposal fees tacked on.

Speaking of wants, but not of wants that make me irrational, while we were at the furniture store waiting for the paperwork, etc., I sat in a lovely recliner in front of a giant screen TV. 70 inches of HDTV beauty. It was playing a scene of ocean waves crashing into a gorgeous tropical beach. I wanted to go there. It was like taking a mini-vacation in my head. I am happy with the big screen TV we have, but that thing is going on my future wants list way down the road, or something like it. We don't go to movies more than once a year usually, but we like to rent them and that thing would be great for the big sci-fi blockbusters.

It was surprisingly not horrifically expensive. Under $3000. I remember when you had to pay that for a 30 inch cathode ray TV with nowhere near this kind of quality. We never did, but I remember when. And there would be an installation fee, because that thing has to be mounted to the wall studs and we'd want it done right. It's on the dreams list, but it's not even in the top ten. And it's a much easier want to squelch than the house thing.

And is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the new article columnist seems to be very into brand names and very anti-generics? It's getting to be a theme.

Got an Offer--Sort of--On the Car

April 26th, 2012 at 03:39 pm

Last night one of the workmen who is remodelling the bathroom asked about the Crown Victoria, which has basically been setting there the past four months with a beyond dead battery and needing about $600 worth of brake work. He is interested in buying it. Blue book if it were in perfect working order is $2000. His price range is $1500. I said $1000 would be fair considering the work it needs done on it.

He is going to talk to his wife about it and bring a battery with him the next time he comes and we can make sure it is just the battery and not the starter.

It is such a good family car and I would be very happy to see it go to someone who needs a nice, solid family car, which is what they need. She has been such an excellent car over the years. She's a '92 that we bought in Jan of '98 and have maintained well. He was very surprised to know it was 21 years old since there is hardly anything wrong with the paint, just two tiny dings and you have to know where they are to notice them. It still looks shiny and nice and only has around 134,000 miles on it.

We've pretty much been a one family car anyway since we needed brake work done, and it'll make Mom happy to see it gone. Even in the years when we've owned more than one car, we didn't use it often enough to make it really worth having two. Now, if DD starts driving regularly we might buy a second inexpensive car, mostly because I don't want her driving our expensive van without supervision. But she hasn't even got her permit yet (lack of time and interest, really), so I don't see that happening before we move out. Once our credit card is paid off I am going to start setting some money aside for a new used car, but not too much as most money will go towards saving for a down payment and some to building up the emergency fund.

If his wife does give the okay to buy the car for the $1000, we will take that money and put it on the credit card.

Speaking of the credit card, I got up the courage to transfer most of the EF today and we will be putting it on the credit card, leaving us with just a $1500 EF. That is my compromise. $1000 just didn't feel like enough to me. I'd be happier with $2000 but that interest rate is ridiculous on the card. Now I just have to wait the 3 business days for it to show up in my account.

DEC for Today and Survey Cashout

April 26th, 2012 at 04:29 am

I cashed out at American Consumer Opinion Panel for $20.05. I do kind of roll my eyes a little, because you can't cash out until you have $10, and it takes 10 days for whatever you do to even hit the account and then when you cash out it takes 1-2 weeks for them to process it, so they really make you wait for it, but then it does come through eventually and they do pay really well and have some very interesting surveys and product tests, so I guess it is all worth it even if I do roll my eyes. I just always figure payment will be a month later. They are better than many I have tried and I have been signed up with them for six years, so they are definitely tried and true.

I spent $3.38 at Youngstock's today. It is an outdoor produce and flower stand. Then I spent $72.50 at Haggen. DH is home, but we kept to the list pretty darn well. We are just a little over the amount for the week by about $5. Not bad for almost everything we bought being organic.

Baked Potato Soup--Price Breakdown and Recipe

April 26th, 2012 at 02:34 am

Dinner tonight seems a little pricy at first glance but considering that most of the ingredients were organic, sustainable, or additive/preservative free and how many servings one gets out of it, a hefty 16, it's not bad at all. It provided dinner for four and will provide several lunches or after school snacks this week. DH and DD ate two bowlfuls, but DS and I were both happy and filled up with one.

Here's my price breakdown and ingredients list:

8 organic russet potatoes $3.12
1 pound smoked, additive and preservative free bacon $3.99
1 bunch organic scallions .38
1 gallon local whole milk $2.99 of which 8 cups are used in the soup and the rest was drunk at dinner
1 lb organic and sustainable local goat's cheddar $7.19
2/3 cup butter $1.50
2/3 cup flour .10
1 lb Daisy organic sour cream $2.50 (was on sale 2 for $5)

So total spent was $21.67. Of course the price can be brought down by using less expensive cheese (but it's what I had on hand) and bacon with junk in it and non-organic potatoes, but still, not bad for 16 servings.

It is best to start with everything premeasured and cooked. I like to do the bulk of the work the day before or even earlier in the week. The potatoes were baked on Sunday and the bacon cooked earlier today. Then before I started we peeled the potateos and cut them up and chopped up the scallions and bacon just before starting. It is easier to chop up the bacon when it is cold than when it is still hot.

To start melt 2/3 cup of butter in a pan.

Add 2/3 cup of flour.

Whisk together over medium low heat to make a roux.

Turn heat up to medium high. Gradually stir in 8 cups of whole milk, then stir in 1 pound of sour cream until it is absorbed and soup base is of a creamy consistency. Add in the shredded cheddar cheese and stir in until melted. Turn heat up to high and put in the diced potatoes and scallions. Cook for five minutes. Dump in bacon and cook for 3 more minutes.

Add in salt and pepper to taste. The original recipe I worked off of in the beginning suggested 1 full tablespoon of sea salt and a teaspoon of black pepper. I find that to be too much salt combined with the bacon, but just right on the pepper. And of course individuals can add salt and pepper at the table as well.

Spoon into bowls. Dinner is served.


April 25th, 2012 at 02:11 am

I have managed to hurt my eyelid and my eye has spent the better part of the day swollen shut or mostly swollen shut (it opens a bit after 20 minutes of icing). I don't even know what I did, really, but there is a nasty scratch right above the lashes that is about an inch long. They eye itself is fine. And fortunately I can type without looking so I can still post.

My mom picked the kids up from school today for me and I sent money to pick up another gallon of milk and some antibiotic ointment and bandages for my hand. It came to $14.40. No other money was spent today. I added .60 to the coin jar.

We have finished naming the ducks now, so the last two are named Noisy and Snuggles. I don't know if I mentioned the first two were Inigo Montoya and Len Tao. Snuggles likes to do just that, snuggle her head against the side of your neck and shoulder. I think Noisy's name is self explanatory. It was either Noisy or Squeaky and I think it'll outgrow the squeaky noise so Noisy won out.

The chickens are more fragile and we'll probably put off naming them for another couple of weeks except for Half-Pint and Pipsqueak the two littlest ones who got named despite us knowing the survival rate of chicks.

Three of the hens have not been laying, or at least not laying in the nesting boxes, since we moved the chicks and ducks in. They may be hiding them elsewhere. One of the few negatives of allowing your chickens free range is that sometimes they hide their eggs when they get broody, even when there is no rooster around. I think the introduction of the chicks may have made them broody. One of the other few negatives is they freak out easily when you turn a car on and streak across the driveway so I'm always afraid I will hit one.

Still, I'd never want to keep them cooped up all their lives and I am looking forward to when the little pen is constructed so we can let the babies out for an hour or two a day when the weather is nice so they can get used to the outside under supervision. Although I am not looking forward to the day when they get to run free but have not yet learned to go into the coop on their own and we have to chase them in. Fortunately the learning curve only lasts about six weeks. And with the adult chickens to show them what to do they may not be as difficult as when we started from scratch.

Bits and Pieces

April 23rd, 2012 at 03:58 pm

It was nice to wake up this morning to the smell of chicken stock simmering away in the crockpot. You know what I like about making stock over making soup? When you make stock you don't have to peel anything, you just have to wash it. And you don't have to dice it, you just have to rough cut it. It was so nice to just cut the onion into 12 pieces and throw it in. So nice not to have to peel the carrots, too!

I will have to peel and dice for the fresh veg I put in after I strain it, but that's not a big deal. I am going to put more diced celery than usual in, though, because it's starting to look a little sad, and DS is going to take one cut up stalk with peanut butter in his lunches for the next couple of days.

I was looking at enchilda sauce recipes on the internet last night and then I thought, well this is basically the ingredients in my big bottle of McCorkmick taco seasoning with tomato sauce, green chiles and garlic added, so that is what I'm going to do. If it tastes weird, I can adjust it with chili powder and cumin, but I'm sure it will be fine. And I will add a bit of cocoa powder if I don't like the color. Cocoa powder makes it more brown and less tomato sauce color.


Yesterday for the DEC challenge, I spent $14 on a haircut for DD. That was the only spending.


I added $1.14 in change to the coin jar.


I am getting a massage today as my hip and knee and low back got majorly tweaked last week, so I will spend $90 on that.


I'll be making blueberry cornbread muffins and a loaf of bread today in the bread machine Mom loaned me. I haven't used it for more than dough before so hopefully it will turn out. It's a fancy machine, way more bells and whistles than my old one had, and I'll have to recheck the manual online to make sure I do it right, since she can't find her manual.


I got to cuddle a duck last night. It just lay there in my arms and put it's neck right over my shoulder. So cute and sweet. Unfortunately I managed to slice my hand open on a metal screen. I am going to call the doctor because it looks pretty bad this morning and I want to make sure it's not infected. I cleaned it immediately and put antibiotic ointment on it, but it still looks nasty. It's in one of the worst places, too, on my right hand just beneath the webbing between thumb and first finger. Basically wherever you need to grip to open a jar, it's in the way and it hurts.

I never ended up getting a tetanus shot for the staple I stepped on. The doctor said since it was a clean, unused staple with no rust I was fine, and I have been, but this time I know there was rust on the screen so I guess I am destined to get that shot after all. If I had got it last week I wouldn't have to worry now, but oh, well. I'm sure it won't be completely covered, most vaccines are not unless you are a child. Stupid, but it's the way things go, sort of like how insurance doesn't want to pay for orthodontia in adults. I find it very short-sighted.