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Archive for December, 2012

Vacation Planning

December 31st, 2012 at 05:34 pm

For Thanksgiving DH's work gave us a $40 gift card and for Christmas they gave us another $40 gift card to Safeway. Safeway is quite a ways away from us and requires an hour round trip and 3 gallons of gas. Well, I pulled one out today and gave it a good look.

It's also good for Von's. We don't have one of those at all near us, but there is one near the condo in Anaheim. In fact that is the very store we planned on going grocery shopping at. So we for sure have $80 on gift cards we can use and possibly $9 left from one we didn't use up last year, assuming it didn't expire or something. Cutting our grocery expense by almost $100 for something that was going to be a hassle just to use is great.

We got an offer from Disney Visa today, too. If we open their credit card and spend $500 in the first 3 months we get a $200 Disney gift card to use. So I am thinking about doing that and using it to pay for our Parkhopper tickets, easily hitting the $500 three times over. And if we use it at the park a lot of stuff will be 10% off. Then we can just pay it off when the bill comes. Having an extra $200 to spend at Disneyland would be nice.

If they'd accept the gift card in the restaurants that would be great. We want to do Ariel's Grotto because you can reserve for the time they are doing the Colors show and it's supposed to be great seats. But Ariel's Grotto is like $45 per person, which multiplied by 7 people is going to be expensive. It could bring the price down from $315 to $115.

We have decided to skip Blue Bayou altogether this year. It is too pricey now and since we can get the Monte Cristo sandwich at Cafe Orleans for $7 less and no split plate fees (because half of one of those is enough for one person) we'll do it. You can see the restaurant from the Pirates ride anyway. The only way we might do Blue Bayou is if we just went for dessert, which is still $8 per item. But I think we can give SIL and her daughters the idea of it just from the ride and we'd rather spend for Ariel's Grotto, which will also have princesses roaming about, then just a nice riverside dinner.

End of Year Financial Housekeeping--Debt Paid Off in 2012

December 31st, 2012 at 01:44 am

Well, it's nowhere near the $57,010.88 of principal debt we paid off in 2011, but that had extenuating circumstances. I still think we did a good job with paying off over $21K of principal in 2012.

$18,544.28 Mortgage Amount as of 12/31/11
-14,948.33 Mortgage Amount as of 12/31/12
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$__3,595.95 Amount Paid Off in 2012

$20,228.79 Amount of Credit Card Debt as of 12/31/11
$12,514.07 Amount of Credit Card Debt as of 12/31/12
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$-7,714.72 Amount Paid Off in 2012

$87,000 Amount Owed to Mom as of 12/31/11
-77,000 Amount Owed to Mom as of 12/31/12
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$10,000 Amount Paid Off in 2012

So I paid off a total of $21,310.67 in principal this year. I have no idea what I paid in interest, but it was a lot. I have $104,462.40 left to go. All but $5200 of the credit card debt will be paid off by the end of January. That will leave me with a 0% loan from Mom, a 0% $5200 credit card debt (well, $5100 since I will pay off $100 of that in January), and the mortgage which is currently just under $15K.

As usual I am not including the car loan. I never have included car loans. Probably because if we had to sell it and not have one it wouldn't affect our bottom line. We barely drive as it is. We have 12,000 miles on our car and it is a 2010 and probably 4000 of that was on driving vacations, which again, could be easily cut without affecting our bottom line. I may put it up there after everything else is paid off, but I consider it more or less a fixed expense. It's at 1.9%.

Mom still wants the steady $1000 a month so she has a steady income stream to go with her social security check and can put a little in the bank for emergencies, so she doesn't want us paying it off early. So that is another 6 years and 4 months worth of payments to go. This will be the first year where we shouldn't have to take a month or two off from paying her back, due to high medical bills.

We also paid a little over $12,500 in medical expenses out of pocket, $6500 (the HSA amount) of which we will get back on our tax refund.

By the end of March or April (depending on whether or not taxes will be refunded promptly) I can pay off the last of the CC debt. And then just deal with the mortgage, the car loan, and Mom. So two secured debts and no unsecured debts. Well, I suppose technically the loan from Mom is unsecured, but she's my mother and there is no way on God's green earth that I will not pay her back. So that loan is very secure, so to speak.

So I will be focusing on the mortgage and the EF after CC's are gone. I'd like to get that finished off by the end of 2013 unless we manage to sell it. We should be able to do that with no credit card debt left. Also will be building the college fund.

Meal Planning for the Week

December 30th, 2012 at 08:17 pm

On the hard ice cream maker front, the ice cream hardened right up after placing it in the freezer. 2 hours later it was as hard as hard ice cream from the grocery store. Nothing at all like the soft ice cream that your typical ice cream makers produce. I tried a taste of it today and it was delicious and the texture was perfect. And the ingredients cost less than Haagan Daas, so we now can have a nice, safe, all-natural organic ice cream that won't make those of us in this house with food allergies sick.

Here's the meal planning for the week:

Monday--
Beef and vegetable stir-fry
Oranges
Milk

Tuesday--
Turkey and vegetable soup
Blueberry muffins
Milk

Wednesday--
Baked chicken legs
Baked potatoes
Stir-fried green beans
Milk

Thursday--
Baked potato soup (bacon is the protein)
Blueberry muffins
Broccoli
Milk

Friday--
Homemade pizza (homemade sausage, onion, and bell pepper)
Coleslaw
Milk

Saturday--
Wild caught salmon
Broccoli
Oranges
Milk

Sunday--
Beef pot roast
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Cole slaw
Drop biscuits with homemade jam

Odds and Ends

December 30th, 2012 at 01:36 am

I finished knitting DS's scarf. Yellow is his favorite color and it is a hard one to find at a store. It was hard enough finding bright yellow yarn. This one is a single thickness.



This is one I made previously and I did fringe on that one. DS didn't want fringe on his as he thought it was too girly. It's a deep rust or copper color and a double thickness as well.



Now I'm working on one for DD, but the pattern on the yarn wrapper does not actually match the yarn, which is supposed to be purple for so many rows and then black for one row and then purple again. It says fourteen per row but it really needs twenty and it does make a difference so I am going to have to unravel it and start over. This annoys me, but oh, well. Life goes on.

On Christmas DH's FIL forgot to put the turkey neck into the roaster (or maybe didn't because it was still frozen). Last night I put it in the crockpot with some water and DS and I split it for lunch. I can't believe the amount of meat on a turkey neck, I always forget. And it is so tender and flavorful. Anyway, to the juices left in the crockpot I added all of the turkey carcass bones that I'd frozen along with all of the peels I've been saving for the last few months (onions, carrots, garlic) and some celery leaves, salt and pepper and filled it to the top with water, so it is cooking down for a total of 20 hours.

Tomorrow I will make soup with half the stock and freeze the rest. I wish I had some fresh parsley for it, but I'll add some parsley flakes to the finished stock. I am defiitely planting parsley next year. Right now I'm looking at potatoes, celery, carrots, and an onion for it. I don't think we'll be adding noodles this time, just lots of potatoes. I might even thicken it to make stew. This will be the last of the turkey, so we will have used every part. The chickens got the organs. I am very happy to have had a zero waste turkey this year, considering how much it cost.

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We made a simple ice cream recipe in my new hard ice cream maker. It's definitely harder than soft serve, but still not as hard as hard ice cream from the store, but that might have been because we didn't do a custard base, we just did a simple one of 1 pint cream, 1 pint half and half, 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract. It will freeze all the way up overnight though and I'll see how the end result is. I haven't tasted it, but everyone else did and pronounced it good but light on the vanilla.

Their website has all kind of recipes for it, regular ice cream, sorbets, sherbets, and sauces. I'll experiment with recipes until I find ones that freeze harder. There was a note with the recipe for Champagne sorbet that said that the alcohol will make it thaw quicker, so I am wondering if maybe that was part of the issue, since pure vanilla extract is basically vodka and a vanilla bean.

I probably won't eat too much of it since I'm trying to stay away from sugar more and not become diabetec, but there was one sorbet that used strawberries and 2 tbsp honey that might not be too bad. I won't even have to wait until summer since I have strawberries from the last season in the freezer. (I usually won't buy fruit out of season because of the cost).

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Got a bill from the podiatrist, $114, for DS's toenail thing. That's for two visits and he spent a half hour with us both times. Since my podiatrist is way out of network the insurance didn't cover it. Still, he's the best and my family has an established relationship with him. Plus $57 per visit? I mean, who still does that? No one. Most doctor's charge $90 or more around here. Anyway, I mailed that off.

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DH took the kids to Kmart today. DS got two more pairs of sweatpants and one more pair of PJ's. DD got one more pair of PJ's. They should both be set now for the rest of the winter. Stuff was marked down even more than the other day. DH ended up spending $48.87. I forgot to give him the saving's card again. Oh, well. I need to start keeping it in the checkbook, I think.

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DH also picked up a prescription for himself, $2.50 and toiletries and cleaning and laundry supplies for $61.34. The latter stuff is all unscented, coloring free, natural stuff because of DS's chemical sensitivites and allergies so a bit more expensive, but we shouldn't have to buy it again for quite some time.

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DD has volunteered to cut DS's and DH's hair tomorrow. We have a clipper so it's not like you can go wrong much with that and she's getting to be as good at it as I am. I just don't want to do it right now with a swollen knee.

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I still haven't watched the Doctor Who Christmas special. I guess I am not quite the fangirl I once was in the Eccleston and Tennant years. I still hope to watch it tomorrow, though. I haven't watched anything since before Christmas. Who has time for TV right now?

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I received a $5 Amazon giftcard from Swagbucks and cashed out for another one yesterday. I think that about covers it.

Bits and Pieces

December 28th, 2012 at 09:44 pm

We have actually managed pretty well with the portable heaters. I mean it wasn't comfortably warm or anything, but it wasn't freezing either. Just more sort of adequate. Fortunately the new control board for the furnace came in a lot earlier than they claimed it could get here and the guy came out and installed it around 2. It is nice to actually be warm again. I think that's something we can really take for granted sometimes until it's no longer there.

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Some expenses that have gone out this week:

$50.47 for 3 prescriptions
$90.00 for physical therapy

Also $76.95 to AMEX which had a couple of autopays go through before I could cancel one and switch the other to the BoA card. The holidays made me absent-minded. Or maybe I'm just naturally absent-minded. It has a zero balance again and I don't plan to use it for gas until the BoA is paid off.

And $30 to DD for last week's and this week's allowance. Also 4 cents to DS who has finally paid off his advance and will resume getting his full allowance next week. As of next week the kids have to start banking half of their allowances for Disneyland.

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Finally got through the preface of the book I got for Christmas. The review at Amazon said it was written from a Christian perspective, but I think it's coming off more like he's a religious whackadoodle. If it doesn't tone it down some I may not make it through the rest of the book. So far the writer does not come off as the sort of Christian that I strive to be, certainly. More the type that I tend to look at and think please get out of my religion, the type that makes that verse about not judging others very difficult to apply. At this point I am glad I did not purchase it myself. I hope it gets better. I hate to think it was a total waste of my SIL's money.

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I do plan to get back to the food stamp challenge menus soon, but I totally torqued my knee on Christmas day and so it's making it hard for me to concentrate for the amount of time it takes to devote to one of those. It is getting better but is still swollen and sore. Hopefully it will continue to improve.

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DH and I have been planning out more of our Disneyland trip. We have a hotel narrowed down for our overnight in Seattle. It has a hot breakfast included (not continental). That was the last thing that needed to be booked.

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The chickens are doing really well. Finally put a light in a week or two ago. Today we got 10 eggs out of 12 chickens. Not bad. I miss Lady, though. She is doing well at the new farm, but I still miss her. She was my favorite duck and such a sweetheart.

Life Happens. It Does That.

December 26th, 2012 at 09:08 pm

Well, it's not really as bad as all that, I don't have to pay for it, but the furnace stopped working. It has to do with a control board, not the actual furnace itself, but it will be a week before they get the part. It is cold in the house. So DH and I broke our no shopping on Boxing Day rule and went to Lowe's (the parking lot was pretty empty) and bought two ceramic space heaters, spending $54.86. One is for the bathroom, which was registering at 40 degrees F and the other for the living room which has three huge windows and was about 45 degrees F. It is 34 degrees outside and raining ice.

There were already space heaters in two of our bedrooms and Mom had another one for the third bedroom. Fortunately for her there is a gas fireplace at her end of the house so she has it cranked and is doing just fine.

I certainly miss having a wood stove though. It's hard to keep our wing of the house warm, even with the heaters, sweaters and blankets. It'll be fine once we go to bed and can keep the doors shut. A wood stove would have had us toasty within 30 minutes. If our new house doesn't have one we are going to install one of the ones you can stick in a corner of a room and vent directly outside instead of up a chimney.