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Archive for March, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits

March 30th, 2010 at 05:35 pm

Kids are on spring break. IT's good and bad. Timing is kind of good so I can throw myself into work and not worry about getting kids to school and stuff like that. But I Also think it sucks that they get all this time off while I am so busy. Can't win.

**Owl Barf Balls

http://www.ginjerclarkebooks.com/owl-barf-balls/

Dh got this Scholastic book a while back called "Gross Out" or something like that, all about gross animal facts. It had a recipe for "owl barf balls," something like peanut butter, cocunut (fur), pretzels (bones), etc. Dh kept telling the kids they would make it, but it never was done.

So, yesterday I went home for lunch and BM Was reading the book and delighting in it. I joked that we really needed to make the barf balls for easter.

So, came home in the evening, and dh decided to make them with the kids - with all their free time.

& um, they were actually REALLY good. Funny thing is they are making a batch for Easter. It will be fun to gross out the family.

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**So, dh asks me about the budget. He knew I just paid a bajillion bills and told him not to spend any money. So he asks me what kind of budget he is working with, for spring break.

"Um, $0?"

So I Asked him what he wanted to spend money on - we have memberships all around town - plenty of "free" stuff to do. Plus he is planning a few days with Grandma and all that. The little zoo/park by Grandma's house has been closed over 2 years for renovation, so they are going to the grand opening and all. We bought her a membership and it is still good for a few months (since they closed down mid-year through her last membership). So that is free for the kids too.

He just said he maybe wanted to go to a mantinee. "Is that it?" I think we can swing it. I was just bracing myself for some crazy expensive activity, the way he broached the subject. Since when did we not have $15 for a movie? (We go so rarely).

Anyway, I share, because it was kind of a funny exchange. I guess I have been exaggerating our "broke-ness" lately. Like he couldn't make $15 selling a game, anyway.

SO, dh comes home the other night and tells me he spent $50 at Target. For Easter.

Huh???

He was telling me how everything sucked, there was nothing good, and it was expensive. It's just so funny to me that we have the other conversation, but then he thinks nothing of spending $50. In the end he is returning $10 of things. The thing is Easter is a big holiday for his family. I could care less. Of course he mostly bought candy, though we had this huge discussion lately about the kids have way too much candy from school and stuff.

Whatever, I don't get it, but it is his *thing.*

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This weekend will be fun - big family shindig for Easter. Just hoping the weather is nice. Lots of rain for this week. Bah humbug to a rainy Easter.

Other than that, not much but work work work until April 15th.

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Almost forgot - went to Kohls and got swim trunks on sale for the kids. I swear you have got to watch them like a hawk - the prices never ring up to the signs. Went round and round to get the $8 price as advertised.

BUT, struck gold with the clearance rack. I looked all winter for a couple of nice sweaters and nothing fit right. I figure if none of the TONS of sweaters fit, I doubted I'd have any luck on the sales rack after winter. SO, I perused the clearance racks on a whim, and pulled two $10 sweaters that look like they were made for me. So - nothing really fit or looked right, until the clearance rack. Geez - if I had known I could have saved a lot of time. & these were really nice sweaters that should last a while. Phew!

I also scored a long dress on sale for $25. I usually buy one every year around February but they just didn't have anything. With time, the wardrobe has gotten much more varied, since I tend to keep things forever. I got a new dress now that I won't see any clients again for another year. Figures, but, it will be nice for summer too. IT was nice to find some nice things after coming out empty handed so many times the past few months.

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In other news, someone has been passing around my cell phone #. It's really annoying. Apparently people think I am a doctor and have left me all sorts of "urgent messages." At first I was ignoring it thinking they would get a clue. I thought it was ONE PERSON calling over and over and over. I never answer my phone - keep it for emergency and family for the most part.

So, after someone called like 10 times in one hour, I decided to start answering it. It was then I realized it was a lot of different people calling (all from the same hospital #, incidentally). I thought telling people it was the wrong #, would help.

Today it escalated. Now I am getting calls from all sorts of different area codes. I don't know what the heck.

SO, I changed my voice mail to state clearly as day that if they weren't looking for me, they have the WRONG #!!! I doubt this will help since I am clearly not "Dr. So and do." If anyone would actually listen to my voice mail.

Dh thinks I should just put some really bizarre thing on my voice mail so people will go back to the source and say, "what the heck?" Probably not a bad idea. Since only my family calls me anyway.

Anyway, I suppose I will start answering my phone until I get to the bottom of it. I do know most of the calls have come from a hospital (Caller ID) for a doctor. If I knew which doctor, I would call or show up and tell them to fix the phone #. Probably was just a transposition or something. I think I Can get to the bottom of it. It's just really obnoxious in the interim.

Interesting Article Today...

March 29th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Tears and taxes: Meet my therapist, the accountant
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/03/29/...

We always joke in my CPA office, that the truth is better than any soap opera. I can certainly relate to the article.

BUT, what is the one thing I have learned from my line of work? Get your affairs in order, and don't be cheap about it. By far and above, greedy loved ones is the number one drama we face. It's a given. Every family has someone salivating and ready to start trouble, when it comes to an inheritance. (Lesson learned - a good lawyer is worth their weight in gold).

I haven't personally dealt with a lot of divorces, BUT, one of my youngest/wealthiest clients just filed for divorce last week. Ugh. It's going to be a MESSY one.

I also agree that most people are more scared of the IRS than they need to be. I've got some stories there. BUT, I have not experienced any audits. My boss has a good track record and so his clients rarely get audited. I've worked here 8 years and we have had a handful of audits - none of my clients. Something else I am sure I will get more experience with, with time.

DIY Beauty

March 29th, 2010 at 05:47 pm

One thing I don't talk much about is DIY beauty. Pretty much because "beauty" is low on my list of priorities. I usually contribute to the discussions by saying, "I don't spend a dime on beauty." But for some soap and shampoo, to stay clean, that about does it for me.

Which I find often gets funny reactions, in online forums. As a perfect example, I used to belong to a regional parenting forum and met some great friends through the site. But a lot of the people I did not meet for a long time, in person. It was clear that most of them could not relate to me on many levels. Money and beauty topics always came up. I swear to you, these women must have imagined me living in a shack, driving a jalopy (howsever you spell it) with hairy legs and a unibrow. This is clearly the image I project online.

It was funny because meeting a lot of the women in person, changed their attitudes towards me drastically. The funniest to me was a very volatile and shallow woman. She really hated me online, and suddenly became my biggest ally, once she saw my nice home for the first time. It was just so obvious that appearances were so important to her, and suddenly she looked at me a little differently.

Anyway, my point is, you don't have to spend a fortune on beauty, to look good.

I honestly think self confidence is the bulk of it. I have gorgeous friends who wouldn't dream of leaving the house without makeup, because they would be too embarassed at the thought. Which I personally think is ludicrous. People all the time tell me, well, I am just lucky I can pull it off. Pfffft. Like I Really believe I have more natural beauty than these people. I don't think so.

Regardless, beauty has gotten low on my priority list over the years. It probably doesn't help that my spouse freaks out if I put on tinted chap stick (he just hates make up). I know other friends who are more beauty obsessed would say I "let myself go." For me, I'd say, "I have other priorities." It would be another thing if my spouse really cared about appearances that much. He just doesn't. & on another level, I am more concerned about living a healthy lifestyle. Which keeps me trim and polished, for the most part. I've got healthy teeth, nails, hair, skin. I don't need to paint it all to "look healthy." Exercise and sun takes care of most of it.

BUT, you may be surprised to know I was a beauty freak in my youth. I have actually swing WAY more "girly girl," than tomboy. Which I know does not come across so much in my current lifestyle and blogging.

& I have always been very DIY when it comes to beauty. Always had a styled hairdo, makeup, and manicures when I was younger. All done by yours truly. All I Can say is, practice, practice, practice.

I actually stopped wearing makeup when I developed allergies and could no longer wear eye makeup (I have always been light on the makeup, regardless, though). With age, I kind of found myself shifting to low maintenance hairstyle, though it is important for me to have nice hair. Thing is I can wash and wear the style I have. & I like to wear makeup once in a while. I just can't do the eye stuff every day.

Manicures? It was since having my second child that I have hardly done a thing with my nails. Though, they are always groomed and clean - good enough for me. Though I will often wear clear polish to give them a bit of shine. That takes like, seconds.

Anyway, I saw the cutest "glitter tip" manicure that was apparently all the rage at my bank. I noticed one teller, and then another on another day. "Oooooh - that's pretty," the old Monkey Mama said.

SO, yesterday I finally got around to giving it a whirl. I was skeptical since it's probably been 5 years since I did the whole "french manicure" thing. I went out and bought about $20 in supplies (way more than I needed - but figured I should throw out most of my old polish).

I experimented on one nail at a time until I found the perfect technique.

In the end, painted the tips (with guide sticker) a glittery/sheeny white that I Already had. This alone makes for a really nice manicure. Looks much nicer than the "bright white tips," to me. Coated the whole nail with light blush. Added the glitter polish to the tips, without guides. This is a realy good technique, since it hides a bit if your lines aren't perfect. Finished with a topcoat. I tried a few different strategies, but this one clearly looked the best. & as a perk, it was the easiest too.

3 people already asked me if I went to the salon. I guess I haven't lost my touch. Wink The funny thing is my right hand turned out better since I did it second. I was wary how steady my left un-practiced hand would be.

The only room for improvement would be a higher quality glitter polish. Which I will be on the lookout for. I couldn't re-create the look exactly, but got close enough. Going forward, technique down, I can keep up the look for pennies.

I tried to snap a picture, but they weren't coming out. I will break out my camera and share later.

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ETA: Pictures



Phew, a Day Off...

March 28th, 2010 at 04:04 pm

& plenty to catch up on around the house...

**Saw swim trunks on sale at Kohls, so may drop by there today, for the kids. Reminds me, my friend looked horrified when I told her I only had one pair of swim trunks for each kid. But for her asking to borrow one, it's never been an issue. :rolleyes (The friend who wonders how one-income people do it... Step 1 - your child does not need 5 pairs of swim trunks).

**Still going through potatoes. I have been making "french fries" every Sunday mornings. Yum. (More just like frying up sliced potatoes with some seasonings). Becoming a bit of a habit.

**If I am really ambitious, I will start posting items on Craigslist. Kids got toys and I the contents of my shelves are still strewn around my bedroom.

**Of course, I have taken tons of pictures over the last few weeks that I have meant to share - may get to those???

**Today is nice and quiet here. We have seemed to have never-ending guests, with dh feeling better and everyone wanting to see how he was doing. Since most of our friends and family live out of town, my Sundays have been rather exhausting.

Oh, but I am only working Saturdays for 2 more weeks. Yay! Next weekend will surely be crazy with Easter - a big deal for dh's family. Lucky for us, dh's local cousin feels up to hosting. I think we stepped in the last year or 2 - I don't remember. I don't need a pile of houseguests, nor to spend my one day off driving all over tarnation. Phew. Easter is always super fun there anyway. He had surgery too and hadn't been up to it for a long time. Dh and his young cousins have all been having surgery and been hospitalized lately (last 12 months or so?). It's kind of absurd. It will be nice to celebrate everyone being alive and well. Too much medical drama for a bunch of young 30-somethings.

I am sure some of dh's extended family will be surprised to see how well dh is doing. Will be good to see everyone.

**Thanks to daylight savings, and dh feeling so well, I am hanging in there. I REALLY look forward to getting my Saturdays back. BUT, daylight savings has afforded me a lot more time for evening bike rides and walks. Phew.

Of course, the forecasts call for a ton of rain this next week - which may make working easier. I've never seen so much rain - we haven't turned on the sprinkler system since 2009. Which is just crazy. The water is good though, as long as we don't flood.

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Saw something that made me gag. Almost everyone I have met in this city, who is a mom, is also a "professional photographer," all of a sudden.

Don't get me wrong - they can do NICE pictures. They all seem to be pretty professional, serious and talented. BUT, then again, how hard is it to be a novice in this day and age (with fancy camera equipment, digital cameras, printing options, etc.)

SO, one of these friends sent me a link to her blog. It was all about how one should consider the $2500 deposit or so for a professional wedding photographer, and then save up another couple of thousand for the whole she-bang. You don't have to buy it all at once, you know.

Anyway, CDs break and everything, but photo albums last forever.

LOL. Seriously? I don't buy that for a second.

As I read the article, I gagged. Out of curiosity, I checked her wedding package photos, and the only info was, "Starting at $4000." Yes, literally, starting at $4k - for the minimum crappy package. Though I would hope her minimum package isn't crappy, but who knows.

I will be fair to my friend. She is obviously very passionate about photography, and her wedding album means a lot to her.

I just gag at the idea that no person's wedding is complete without spending a few thousand dollars on photographs. To that, I say, "give me a break." No wonder everyone is so broke.

(For the record - our wedding photographs were free. Our photography dabbling friends and relatives took the shots with their cameras - and we paid for all the prints. We also have the digital copies saved all over the place - many copies). No, we don't have any postcard picture perfect type photos. But, we have plenty of lovely photos for the day. I personally think anything more would be "just for show," more than anything. Sort of a Joneses thing. We have plenty of wonderful photos to remember the day. Which is all we need for ourselves. We have nothing to show off how fancy the affair was or how much we spent on a photographer, no.

Anyway, I was discussing with dh, who could care less about photos, but is a huge video-phile. As I expected, he could identify with putting a lot of value on a wedding video. So, I asked him, "So, would you spend $2k, 3, 4 or $5k on a wedding video?" He asked me if I was crazy. LOL. He did spend $1500-ish on our HD camcorder. If he could do it all over, he'd get one of his friends to shoot the video with our camera, and edit it himself. I suppose that speaks to dh though. He just wants the high quality video. He doesn't care so much about the "show." We don't need all the fancy graphics and high end editing. He just wants a crystal clear picture. Which is kind of the approach we took to our wedding, since we knew so many people with professional cameras.

Dh actually isn't thrilled with our free wedding video, and has reworked it quite a bit. BUT, our wedding was pre-HD days. I think that is his main complaint. & to this day, he doesn't regret it enough to spend 4 figures on a professional.

Anyway, the point of this rant is not to disagree with anyone who has spent a lot of money on photographs. For some people it means a lot. Fair enough. I just gag at the marketing angle. "Your wedding isn't complete until you pay me a small fortune." Sorry, not buying it!

Financial Housekeeping

March 27th, 2010 at 02:19 pm

I suppose I have been pre-occupied.

We were in plan plan plan mode before dh's surgery. Then afterwards, I suppose I took a big sigh of relief.

& forgot to pay my bills - LOL.

There are only a very few bills that I pay manually every month (the ones not charged to credit) - and the biggies are due on the 31st anyway. BUT, I forgot to pay the HOA, and they tend to charge late fees. I expect a $10 fee for that. Doh.

Also was the gardener and PGE. They don't care - PGE was only a couple of days late.

I noticed all this when I paid the credit card around the 20th. It's not unusual for the gardener and HOA to not cash their checks for a LONG time, so I hadn't noticed anything unusual. (I had entered them in Quicken; just not in my online bill pay).

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ANYWAY, as the end of the month approaches, dh withdrew $40 to buy some game system thing. It's all up on ebay for a nice profit, but there is no way I will get that cash back by the 31st. (Ebay auction will be over, but Paypal is very slow to transfer). So my checkbook now has a negative $40 balance (as of 3/31, anyway). So, decided I better get my financial housekeeping in order. I know I have let it slide a bit - so busy with other things. So when I saw the date was getting so close to the 30th, I thought I better hustle. Especially since I have so many large bills this month.

I have been tracking all the large bills in my savings spreadsheet. I usually notate a "TT" next to items I still have to transfer money from savings for. & an "x" when the deed is done.

I showed:

**Medical Savings:

$50 Surgeon Follow Up

(I did receive a $1000 bill, but I can charge it in April and pay it in May. Phew. Will do so to prolong some interest - my whopping 2% and all).

**Mid-Term Savings:
-$1250 new TV and stand
-$200 new furniture for LM

(Mid-term savings is used for large/one-time purchases. Saving for larger things in the future).

**Short-Term Savings:
-$200 tooth pulled
-$200 Summer Camp
-$500 Life insurance
-$250 Veterinarian
$2150 Property Taxes

(Short-term savings is for any non-monthly "expected expense" within the calendar year. We put aside amounts for car repairs and misc. items like summer camp and extra-curriculars, as well as insurance and property taxes).

Veterinarian was not a planned expense, but these kinds of things I put in here, and transfer from mid-term savings at year-end, if I end up negative for the entire year. I debated where to put it at first, and eventually decided to put it here. We could have lower than usual car repairs or stuff like that, so it works out. Or, likewise, I may decide to save more next year, in this category, since my cat is aging and will likely have more vet bills.

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I made sure there was enough in my money market checking, for the property taxes, and will just write the check some time in the next couple of weeks.

I added up the rest and netted it against my $2050 savings from my April 1 paycheck. In the end, the net was $607 that had to be transferred from savings. I just did the transfer today, which will easily covered my $40 checking shortfall on 3/31. So, phew, financial housekeeping is done.

When I have time tonight or tomorrow, I will go through and pay all the April bills. Ideally, this will leave me enough in checking, at 4/30, to pay the March credit card bill. I can set everything else to pay, eons ahead of time. (I don't like bills to get paid automatically - I like to review everything once a month and agree to pay things, rather than just have them drawn from my accounts. I find too many errors, etc.).

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Anyway, all that said, the financial tide is turning a bit:

*My cell phone is magically working again. Knock on wood. In fact, someone has a wrong # and called my phone a bajillion times. I am wondering if that is what killed the battery in the first place. Who knows - it is holding its charge now though.

*The network wiring we had done was only $50 (they had quoted us $70) and included the cables, etc. So, it was a much better deal than expected.

*Took the cat to the vet, and she seems fine. We are waiting for some final culture results on Monday. All the blood work and everything came back healthy as can be. She is 12 and seems healthy as can be, but just had been drinking an unusual amount of water - which is a sign of many things. Anyway, it was kind of tapering off by the time we took her in. I am just not accustomed to thinking of her as "old." We might be better about taking her in for annual exams. Her free pass is probably over. I added a few years to her life, I am sure, not putting her through the trauma during her healthy/young years.

She did okay and was quicker to forgive us than in years past. Phew.

Of course, either because of our youthful appearance, and/or the fact we hadn't drug her unnecessarily to the vet in many years, they look absolutely petrified to ask us to pay $100 for a urine sample. I mean, come on. They must have some pretty interesting exchanges with people. Instead of dragging her in for more tests later, we preferred just to get the blood work and everything. They seemed surprised and relieved. $250. No biggie. She's my "baby!" & I am relieved to get the blood work in already and know that it is nothing serious.

Spend, spend, spend

March 24th, 2010 at 08:19 pm

That's how it seems to be over here:

$2200 property taxes (due 4/10)

$1000 medical (just was billed the rest of our deductible for '10 - came much faster than expected - but beats bills that are still out in space, for years past).

$700 - Family camp (MIL may insist on paying; I won't argue. But I haven't exactly offered to reimburse her, because this month sucks. Will bring it up later).

Just paid:

$200 Summer Camp
$200 Tooth pulled at dentist
$70 For some network wiring @ home
$1250 TV & stand
$200 furniture for LM

I am sure there is more.

Oh yeah - taking my cat to the vet for the first time in 8 years. What can I say - when it rains, it pours. We did some of these big purchases because March is usually so low key. Rolleyes But, I won't complain too much.

Take a guess - do you think I am going to touch my emergency fund for a cat that hasn't gotten sick in 8 years? Um, no - ample cash saved for such an event.

Mostly, in that case, I hope she is okay. Told dh she felt left out, since we all have been to the doctor far more than usual, lately. (Dh and I usually go years between doctor visits, ourselves).

My cell phone has issues too. It is like 1 day past 1-year-warranty. Of course! I usually keep my phones for 4 years. So, not too happy. For now, just keeping an eye on it - battery is running down very rapidly. It's new enough that a new battery might make sense. But with 4 people on our cell phone plan, I can probably utilize someone's "free after rebate" phone. Cheaper.

The end result of all this is that I am really treading water when it comes to savings. Most of these are well planned purchases and not a biggie. (All of them?) BUT, I feel like for about a good 8 months, I can't catch a break and move forward. The more I save, the more everything breaks. So, I feel rather bah humbug all the same. *sigh* I feel like the universe will only allow me $20k cash savings. It must be the rule since having kids. I wonder if I toss all my savings into retirement if Murphy will go away. I can't help but wonder! Big Grin

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Dh did good at Target yesterday. HE bought $103 worth of items for $37. Not bad, not bad. Receipt says, "$66 SAVED!" For a total bill of $37. Sweet!

Actually, some sort of Toy Story promo so he got TS1 & 2 on Blu Ray, plus some movie tickets for the new one. I think he paid "$6" when all was said and done - for movies and tickets.

HE also had a "$10 off $75" coupon. He was going to stock up on cat litter and cat food. I had seen a really cute beanbag monkey for $30. 2 weeks ago. I might have bought it, but had scored a beanbag monster on sale for $7 a few weeks ago. SO, couldn't really stomach the $30 price tag. Figured I'd keep an eye on it.

SO, I told dh if he had a $10 off coupon and had to work so hard to use it - to just get me the monkey! I consider it $20.

Dh had a pile of other coupons and bought some food on sale. SO, there you have it. & I got my monkey, too boot. Big Grin (Though since it was still there I can't help but wonder if I should have waited longer for a discount!)

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Reminds me in a roundabout way, about an interesting conversation with a friend this weekend.

She is one (of many) who has presumed I didn't have to pay for my own college. I am too financially successful to have "done it on my own." She's actually about 10 years my senior, and has serious issues about her parents not paying for her college. OF course, there is a lot more to it (like, an absent parent was going to pay, then flaked out). Not quite the same, obviously, as parents like mine, who are extremely supportive but expected me to work hard for it, all the same. I certainly understand why she is PISSED!

So anyway, she is a good friend, and honestly, I've never had the heart to tell her that I actually worked and paid cash for my own college. Doh. IT's not like it would make a difference - she's got issues on that subject.

SO, we were visiting this weekend and she starts griping about her 1-income friends. Which is a little uncomfortable. She tells me, as a conclusion, "I just don't understand how people do it!"

At first I was looking over my shoulder. Is she talking to me? Does she remember that my spouse hasn't worked since I met her many years ago? But I think it was more than that. She's got some snotty "friends" that I don't care for at all - who put her down. I think she was just more griping about them than anything. Maybe she was posing the question, "How do you do it?"

As far as the snotty friends - one is on the brink of foreclosure, so they say, so not sure I would care about them bragging about "better finances." LOL.

But anyway, even though we long planned for our current stage in life, I told her frankly, that after taxes and daycare, there wasn't much income to be had with dh working. Of course, I tend to be very private, in real life, when it comes to finances. This blog is my venting place. I love talking about personal finance. BUT, I realize most people don't want to talk about it, and in general I tend to be pretty private.

BUT, I told her that I knew that many people thought I made more than my spouse and that we would have to make six figures to do it. I told her that honestly we were both making $50k when dh stopped working. BUT, that it isn't like we gave up $50k in income. We gave up about $25k income, because our tax bills went down by about $25k. & the other $25k could easily be eaten up by daycare, commuting, work clothing, etc., etc. I mentioned how we eat home cooked meals 99% of the time, whereas I know they eat out like every meal. That makes a HUGE financial difference. The plain truth is we give up a few thousand dollars a year. Of course people look at that at face value, and wonder how you surviv on $50k less a year!

OF course, we are much younger and we didn't have that much to give up. It's not like we worked for YEARS in a career and just gave it up. We were just starting out - so it doesn't make a huge difference one way or another if dh has to start all over, in the workforce, in the future.

I don't think she will ever quite *get* it until she gives it a whirl. But she has been working hard on her finances and aims to cut back her work hours in the future. I told her I could help her run the tax scenarios - she would probably be surprised how much tax money she'd save, cutting back her hours.

So, dh was off scoring bargains at Target yesterday, and I thought of my friend. Was just thinking how it is like his full time job to keep our living costs down, in any way possible. This is the stuff that other people just can't *See.*

Of course, we are so LUCKY all around. OF course.

So LUCKY that we have such an excellent public school.

So LUCKY that dh scores any gaming systems, accessories, games that he wants through buying/selling video games.

So LUCKY that we can get any book free we want from Scholastic (through volunteering).

So LUCKY that people will always offer us NICE hand-me-downs.

The list goes on and on. I suppose that is the flip side of the coin. Do people think that we really just sit around at home, and all this falls into our lap? We are always searching out ways to squeeze a few more bucks out of our budget. To stretch our dollar a little further. But gosh, fierce money management can be a full-time job!

Dusted Off the Checkbook...

March 21st, 2010 at 03:36 pm

**I really only write checks to the school any more. I suppose it will be a double whammy with income taxes and property taxes. Income taxes could be paid online pretty easily though. Leaves old fashioned paper checks for property taxes and school "donations."

Anyway, wrote a couple of checks - hadn't written any for 2010 yet - and don't expect any more for a long while.

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**I didn't watch more than the first 5 minutes of Suze, but she was talking about a cash movement. I felt she was being kind of harsh on the credit card companies for starting to charge annual fees. I suppose to the uber responsible of us, we remember the days of annual fees and don't mind paying a fee for all the convenience and security. So, eh.

BUT, if the cash movement wins and paying with cash is universally discounted, I suppose I could see going the way of cash. Interestingly, I have never really used much cash in my lifetime. I use to shop with checks until I turned 16 and started mostly shopping with credit. Before the days of cash rewards - but it was super convenient. I have never really been a "cash carrier." It is only the last year or 2 that I have given up carrying cash for under $5 purchases though. Now I really never carry cash (But for a few $20 bills laying around, for emergency).

But I suppose I would change with the times, to save a few bucks.

I don't really expect this cash movement to take off. But, will see!

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**Real estate is still manic depressive here. It's the only word to describe it.

Real estate is still in the toilet. Only 3 homes sold in my zip code this past week (which is absurd - usually there are at least 20 sales - many more in regular times).

The news is all doom and gloom.

& yet, everyone I know is currently buying a house. The bidding wars are same as they always were. 100 offers on a house? Boom or bust - it still happens.

Did I say, manic depressive???

I think the thing is that there is so much pent up demand for home ownership here. So many people priced out for so long. & investors swooping in. I know a lot of locals have dreamed for $100k median prices, and I just have to roll my eyes. The magic number seems to be $200k. Anything under that - someone from LA or SF will snatch up, sight unseen. Even if no one local wants to buy. Our city may be more investment property than owner occupied - those have got to be interesting statistics.

Anyway, I read in the paper, along with the "100 offers for decent properties" that though all the statistics were in the toilet, some insane amount of homes were currently in escrow. Expecting a good spring, here.

No surprise. I know a handful of people in escrow, myself. Our next door neighbors, renters, just moved out. & a quick perusal of Facebook shows a LOT of my friends, and their friends, in escrow.

I meeting with one of those friends today. Will be interesting. She told me at some point, almost like she was embarassed, that they could only afford a $200k mortgage. Um, okay. (I personally wouldn't borrow much more than that, myself. But I realize everyone thinks we have a $300k-$400k mortgage. Because we are too young to have got a decent price and who would put any money down???)

Considering where they bought it sounds like they probably bought a pretty expensive home (From my perspective). It will be interesting to hear more details. I think they cleaned up their credit and in the end qualified for a lot more than $200k.

The other interesting thing is that at face value, this person is smart and waited out the bust. BUT, the reality is they would have bought a $500k home if they could have qualified. Terrible credit meant they couldn't play the game. Anyway, now they are talking about moving in a couple of years. They are buying the house to "get rich quick."

YEah.

So, I will just smile and be happy for her.

It isn't like I haven't said, "Are you sure that is really a good idea?" At this point, the house is in escrow and I just have to support her.

I have had similar discussions with some of my clients. Cash and stocks sucks. So I have one client who is snatching up properties left and right. That will get them rich overnight, of course.

Oy vey.

So the market is manic depressive, and no one has learned anything.

Contrary to the masses who are walking away from their properties without a care, most of the people I know who foreclosed were emotionally and financially devastated. They are just too embarrassed to talk much about it. It should be a requirement to sit down and talk to one of these people (who foreclosed) before buying a house in this city. IT could solve a lot of problems.

Feeling Blessed

March 19th, 2010 at 04:50 pm

What a week it's been. Ugh.

Mostly just work crazy. I really only have 3 more weeks of "crazy," which I find hard to believe. It will FLY right by. Then life can resume to "normal"? I can only hope.

Of course, though it's been a rather crappy, crazy, stressful week. YEsterday was AWESOME!

I snuck out for a nice lunch date with dh. Lord knows when our last "date" was. On some level, the kids are getting old enough that we no longer feeel, "OMG, get me out of the house, we need alone time!!!" So it's not like we haven't spent any time together or missed our dates. But, it was still nice to make some quality time together, all the same. Not like I have seen him much, this month.

So, yeah, we had a really nice lunch. Then we went to BM's parent-teacher conference. Since he is all signed up for the after school care now, he just went there, so dh and I could eat lunch and meet with his teacher privately. Worked out well.

I actually almost didn't go, because it has been so busy. I didn't really care that much. Didn't expect any surprises. Teacher communicates plenty so didn't expect any "news." & the last one went so well that I joked that the only direction BM could go, was down. But really, I expected a pretty uneventful meeting. Maybe more of the same. Clearly, dh could handle it alone and fill me in later. But I changed my mind in the end, for whatever reason.

So, we had heard his teacher would teach the next grade up (2nd grade) for next year. I figured odds he'd get him again were slim, though he is one of the best teachers ever and such a perfect fit for BM.

SO, he tells us if we want BM to stay in his class, he can. O.M.G. Sign us up!

The other thing is that BM is very bright and can be a bit of a handful. As his parents, we know that as long as he is mentally challenged, he can be the sweetest angel on earth. & hell, we don't expect that 100% of the time. But, you know, if the teacher told us he was bouncing off the walls, we wouldn't be terribly surprised. So, instead, another perfect report. I don't expect my child to be "perfect," but it pleases me because I know that it is because he is happy. He is exactly where he needs to be, and he gets to stay there another year. I couldn't be happier. I know that if he had the *wrong* teacher, they could tell us our child was hell on wheels and has issues. It's just how it is.

I also didn't think about it until later, but I am just amazed that we have been able to get through such a tough time without affecting the kids too much. I mean the kids little worlds could have been turned upside down with dh's surgery and everything. So I am super happy that we didn't have to turn their worlds upside down and that they seemed to have made it through rather unscathed. I am so grateful for our family stepping in and helping to make a very stressful time a bit of an "Adventure" for the kids.

And score one for frugality. My kids go to public school. Honestly, I would be hard pressed to find a better school for BM. If I truly believed my only options were my "assigned public school" or one of the insane expensive private schools in the area, I doubt I would be so happy today. Dh and I, on the contrary, feel pretty strongly about education and know there are tons of options available. We are just extraordinarily lucky that this school just happens to be walking distance from our home! & chalk another one up to luck - two years with the most awesome teacher ever...

(I do recognize that our expectations are now infinitely high. But, could have worse problems).

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Switching gears to the not so happy...

Dish was never able to come up with a signed contract. BEcause we never signed one. Doh! I thought maybe they would just leave us alone (no - didn't REALLY think it - but it has been a long time since we dropped them).

BUT, the big bad bill arrived yesterday. $50. For breaking an imaginary contract.

I don't know, I could write them a nasty letter, report them to the BBB and fight it a bit. Oh, I will report them to BBB though I don't expect it to amount to a hill of beans. They already have some insane amount of complaints about their business practices.

Dh is a FIGHTER, but he is out. He told me last night he didn't want to DEAL with them any more. I won't write a check ASAP, but I think I will just write the check and be done. I have so many friends who don't understand. Who would fight to the death on these things. & dh generally runs in that category. But considering his recent surgery and all, I told him not to worry about it.

I think what helps is dh calling them in the past and spending hours on the phone with them to remove $50 here and there that were maybe more grey areas. I figured he probably saved us at least $100 that they could have fought more. We tried to fight this one and aren't getting anywhere. Being a glass half full type person, I can look at the big picture and just get over it. They can win this battle, but we have won a few and we would certainly never give them our business EVER AGAIN. Plus I will tell everyone who will listen not to use their service.

Don't get me wrong, it will take a lot of will power to write that check. The pure principle of it. But if it means my dh doesn't have to spend another few hours on the phone dealing with the most frustrating people on earth. Well, HE is worth the $50.

Writing is my strong point so I will write them a nasty letter. Something along the lines about how their service sucked, glad to be rid of them, I don't agree, but I value my health and my perfect credit record too much to deal with this any longer. (I do tell you I Was tempted to ignore the bill if we couldn't reach a resolution. On principle it is probably the best idea. But reality is that we will have to keep fighting and fighting and fighting. Even if it ends up a fight with collections or something. Ugh. I've got MUCH better things to do with my life).

This is just one area I often don't agree with some of my more extreme frugal friends. I just value my happiness and time too much sometimes, to deal with BS like this.

Plus, usually dh is the type to pick every battle. So it kind of works out. I don't remember the last time the 2 of us "gave up" on something like this. Happens once in a while, I suppose. This is the last I ever want to speak about it or think about it, that is for sure! Life moves on.

Random Updates

March 17th, 2010 at 09:21 pm

**Apparently, it would take 17 years to pay off my February credit card charges, if I only paid the 2% of balance, minimum. Do you think anyone who accepts this reality is going to care that it is spelled out for them? I don't.

I will take a few days to get around paying it off, as I have since the first day I got my first credit card. It's really a lot easier that way. (I don't buy things that I don't have the cash for).

**Spent money yesterday. Spent about $8 on a giant plastic bin (can never have too many?) I presume I may put some of my photo albums/mementos in there - as I clear off the shelves that were in my bedroom.

I also spent about $8 on a clock. Ah, it's nice to know what time it is again. In the family room.

I am hoping I can find some time to clean up a bit and do some before/after phots on LM's room and our family room.

**Dh is back at 100%, which I am sure I have said. But I just deposited $85 into checking, from Ebay (after fees and all). Woohoo. My Ebay master is back! No Ebay for Jan/Feb, obviously, but we are back on the $100/month profit track.

Haven't missed it because we have been spending so little in the end, with all this medical hoo ha. But obviously that is changing with everyone feeling well. So it's nice to get some financial help again.

**I was able to find a few minutes to run my parents' taxes. My dad was put on disability last May and was laid off eventually. He had more income than I would have guessed, but I think they appreciated the help more than usual. He is DIY all the way - when it comes to taxes. But I always offer to do them since I can whip them out so fast. Nothing like your dad questioning your expertise though - LOL. He will argue with me about silly things. Last year he told me, "I bet you didn't notice we were barely able to itemize - I doubt you looked very closely." Oy vey. Like he thought I just rely on the computer to do it and don't check the numbers. Not the way to do my job! Actually, I noticed! But that's one of his nicer criticisms. Wink

So, it was nice to tell them they got a big fat refund. Since they are usually pretty high income, and well, not so much for this year. I told my dad he could max out his own IRA if he wanted to. Not sure they would want to, but he was skeptical. "Really? Are you sure about that? I don't remember the last time I Was able to get the deduction." Yeah dad, do you remember the last time you only worked 4 months of the year??? But what do I know? As a tax professional and everything...

It was kind of interesting though, because most of my retired clients in similar income/wealth statuses have social security and pensions galore. They pay some serious taxes.

But I looked at my parents return. Too young for social security. Certainly no pensions. Not tapping their 401ks/IRAs. I don't think they will have any taxable income for a while. (My dad is looking at few options but to retire now).

I try to have the "tax talk" with anyone who will listen, but my parents haven't really been listening. They just can't believe it. That they can live on such a SMALL percentage of their usual gross income, without all the taxes. Well, I told them so... I've been telling them so. I told them they would get a big refund. & I am glad they will take advantage and fund their IRAs, one last time. & I think this gives them some extra peace of mind. They could literally live on like 25% of their gross working income. Easy. Which is why they are just rolling with the punches, and will probably be fine.

They will get a break in the interim, anyway. The tax hit will be shocking once they hit Social Security/IRA drawdown age, I am sure. So I suppose I should warn them about that, and hope they listen.

Feasting, Craigslist, Vacation Planning

March 16th, 2010 at 02:27 pm

I suppose I am a bit of a whiner. I usually wouldn't peg myself as such. But I have been overly whiny about my house's decor.

Or maybe it just looks like a million bucks now with the new TV.

I had a frugal save!!! Moved down an oak bookcase from our bedroom. I bought it to store books and knick knacks. My list of "books I want to keep forever" is immensely small. Maybe because I mostly read library books. The photo albums could go in our immense closet, and most of the knick knacks I intend to sell. Dh wanted to wait and get his wiring squared away. I told him I just had to see if I liked it downstairs. I really had no idea if I would. I told him I might not keep it there.

SO, we put it downstairs. & I LOVE it. We will have to move it out of the way later, for wiring, but oh well. & the thing fits an obscene number of kids books and such. It's filled to the brim, but fit everything really well.

Better yet, it matches the speakers and suddenly I think the speakers look great in the room. (No new speakers!) For the last decade we have had a dark cherry entertainment center and oak speakers. Not the oak ties in pretty well with our ceiling fan, etc. Less mismatched, that is for sure. Which is all I Really wanted.

In the end, the only thing I really hate in our house is our sectional. I suppose I could get over it. I have been looking at everything with fresh eyes. Dh let me pick out all the wall colors and art work. I suppose I have been a little unfair.

So, I am in love with my house all over again.

I have been eyeing sectional prices and if my bonus if large enough we may just pick something up. Seems like plenty of steals with the economy and all. I just have no idea what color to get. I will post a picture later, for opinions. The walls/drapes are mostly cream. Now, black an light oak furniture. The carpet is kind of stone grey/mauve. I don't want anything too dark or too light. Something to hide the messy kids' stains.

I say, if nothing else, I will get my new couch withing 13 months. Big Grin (Maybe wait for next April).

Anyway, I don't hate my house so I will stop whining.

We moved most of the kids toys upstairs. I'll share pictures later.

I have a LOT of criagslisting to do. I had so little time this weekend I threw everything from the shelves around our bedroom. This weekend I should have some time to start going through it?

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Had a small feast this weekend, since my folks visited. (No one in my house likes salmon).

WE don't have a grill and so gave the "crockpot salmon" a try. OMG. It was SO GOOD. I am sure it could be easily modified to "oven salmon." Thumbs up all around.

I just wanted something besides the plain rice we usually eat. So found the lemon rice pilaf recipe. IT was simple/fast and GOOD.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/03/crockpot-sweet-and-s...

http://www.recipezaar.com/lemon-rice-pilaf-375257

Of course, my dad would eat no less than fresh salmon. Sticker shock for me. But I suppose I could splurge on myself once in a while - maybe it's good no one else in the house likes salmon. Big Grin For my parents? Worth every penny.

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My family is taunting me with vacation plans. Oy vey. I just find it hard to get too excited about vacation, knee deep in the craziest time of the year at work.

Probably late June - going to family camp again. I don't know if we will pay for it or not. MIL refused to let us pay last time, but she's pissed at us so LORD KNOWS. Wouldn't have been my choice to spend another $700 this month - with some really large purchases going on here. But, oh well. It doesn't really matter in the big picture. We have the money and figured we'd probably go. Just thought we would pay later.

& if she pays? More cash for Hawaii! Woohoo!

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Anyway, my plans for the week:

1 - Survive work

2 - Try to do some evening walks or bike rides

3 - Star Craigslisting, organizing mess in bedroom

I usually don't work late (much past 5) - I am an early bird instead. But, I was so thrown off yesterday, time change and all, that dh called me around 6:30 and said, "where are you?" LOL. SO, I didn't get to enjoy the sun being out so late, etc. I will try again today! Would love to go on a 5:00 bike ride. But reality is I will probably be working late because I am so slammed. I will appreciate how easy it was to work 1.5 hours more than usual - didn't even notice. Of course, I scrambled because I felt like the day was FLYING by.

If nothing else, I will REALLY enjoy the time change after April 15th. Big Grin

More Purchases...

March 14th, 2010 at 04:12 pm

SO...

Surewest originally gave us their old DVR with our free TV trial. We've had it for months, because though we would cancel with them, they asked us to wait and try their new DVR when it came out. (Did I mention how awesome the new one is???)

So, we are arranging everything, and realize we no longer have a clock in our main living area. (Dh finally admitted that we no longer need the non-working VCR - used only to tell time). BM gets to rip the old VCR apart at camp this summer, actually. The new entertainment center isn't big enough for it. I am glad to be rid of it.

But, no clock??? I asked dh if it was possibly the Dish DVR that told time. (There was something remotely redeeming about Dish???) No - he tells me it was the Surewest one, and he has already told them that "no clock" sucks on their new DVR. Though it's really the only thing that sucks. Le'ts face it - VCRs had clocks - the DVRs that replace them should have clocks.

In the meantime, we have no idea what time it is!!

BM likes clocks, and collects them. I thought about bringing one of his analog clocks downstairs, but realized with no backlight or anything, it's kind of useless. We spend so much time in front of the TV at night. We could check the TV for the time, but oy vey. It's been a PITA.

In the end, we perused digital clocks online a bit. I was kind of peeved at dh for ordering something so boring for LM (for his new bedside radio/alarm clock). There was some really cute/hilarious clocks (that cost less, to boot).

I think we will probably pick up a cheap digital clock display this weekend, and I will put something on my wish list for the end of the year (Birthday/Christmas). I saw some really clever/cute clocks, but can't justify spending another dollar right now. Anything will do, in the interim. & I always need things for my wish list. So, phew!

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Dh has already arranged to take the old TV up to the cabin next weekend.

Who is this man??????????

Big Grin

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AND, $70 to run a CAT 5 wire to the phone jack by the TV. (Don't ask me the details - over my head). Will be a good investment. Our whole house is hard wired for our computer network. We have already invested somewhat in it, and makes sense to add the main living area. The TV has some pretty neat internet capabilities. The TV can then network to our computers so we can access music and photos, etc. It will be pretty sweet.

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Oh yes, and I got an interesting letter from our HMO. They "forgot" that they doubled our "out of pocket" and so have misbilled all our co-payments for most of the year. (Which explains a lot - I had no idea why our pile of doctors visits in March were free, since we had $3k left to get from "maxed out deductible" to "max out of pocket").

They said they were NOT retroactively billing the messed up copayments, and so at first I thought maybe it was all for the best. You mean the tons of doctor appointments we had in early March are all "free"? What was an extremely frustrating week was maybe for the best?

But then I read further and it said no retroactive billing for before March 1. We had like 5 doctor visits after March 1. Ouch.

Their billing is always terrible, slow, and hard to understand. So this will just add to the usual. I suppose there is still a silver lining because it might take them 3 years to figure it out and send us are "correct bill." & really, I kind of expected a bill all along. So, eh. Just one more notch in the "what the hell is their billing department doing over there???" I don't keep this insurer for their billing department, that is for sure.

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I think this week is mostly calm.

I worked too much all week and I promised the kids I would do a billion things with them today. Oh, just about 3 more weeks of SUPER CRAZY. I usually have plenty time with my kids, so I know I have been gone too much, when they jumped all over me, clung to me, and asked me a bajillion questions when I got home last night. I am sure I promised them more activities today than I could possibly do. But what I remember promising was a bike ride and some Wii sports. I think I Can handle that! Big Grin I will also cook up some potatoes for breakfast and figure out a good meal to cook today for guests.

Last week was super crazy because dh did some last minute (emergency) volunteering and we had 2 kind of unexpected houseguests. It was just kind of crazy crazy crazy. Hopefully today will be more mellow.

My folks are visiting though. I have really only seen them once since dh has been out of the hospital. Which is absurd - but they were hit hardest by the bug that everyone in the family got during that time. They were out of commission for weeks. Hopefully this is a sign of some normalcy returning. We usually spend a lot more time with our families! So I am excited to see them and to spend time with everyone healthy and WELL!

Week of TV

March 13th, 2010 at 05:00 pm

IT's the Week of TV...

Been playing musical chairs with the furniture.

I am not sure how long our old TV stand and the TV we are replacing will sit in the middle of the house before dh can get them up to the cabin. The thing is so heavy we will need some help.

The old entertainment center is gone. *sniff sniff* Maybe one of the first pieces of furniture we bought together. We offered it free on Craigslist because it is just a cheapie thing (though it looks NICE), it had gotten scratched up from the heavy TV (any time we had to move it) AND most importantly, it needed to be transported in once piece, in a TRUCK. Which narrowed the pool of buyers considerably.

But in this economy, anyone will take anything free, it seems. If we asked $5, not sure any one would take it. That's how Craigslist has been lately - a sign of the times. But at free, someone hauled it off within hours of posting. (& a lot of calls about people asking if we could fit it in a minivan. Um, no!) I am so glad it went to a new home and someone hauled it off so quickly. The only other option we could see was to demolish and trash it. Which would have been hard to do!

I was unsure because it was so hard to give away my water bed frame, last time. It was a gorgeous piece of furniture, real wood and everything, but large. So, we figured in this day and age, who would want a giant entertainment center?

What do we know?

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Snowballing purchases:

I still want to get new black speakers to round out the new look. I talked to my dad and think I could get something for $150-ish. IF so, might just buy this weekend. Something else that appears way more costly than it is. Dh is convinced the old (ugly) speakers must have cost a fortune. I keep telling him they can't be that expensive since I bought them as a teen with babysitting money. Wink Anyway, my dad told me we may have spent $200 on those, and that similar quality could be had for $100 these days. Sounds good to me. He can help me find something that sounds like a million bucks, for cheap.

My dh is a video guy, but not much of a sound guy. Now, my dad is a SOUND guy.

The old speakers will go upstairs if we replace them. May need a new tuner then. I wonder what we did with the last one we replaced? Did we recycle it??? The list keeps snowballing, yeesh...

I also haven't decided if my bedroom bookshelf will do, or if I Want to buy something new for the downstairs (lost a lot of storage with the old entertainemnt center). Will move the bookshelf down tonight and give it a whirl. I should get a nice bonus in about 6 weeks, otherwise, and I may just buy something new. But crossing my fingers that I like this solution. It's much cheaper!

It will be good - force me to do my last "declutter." The bookshelf has some knick knacks I have been meaning to sell forever. When I am "done," it will be time to nag dh about his rooms. He has 2 rooms in the house - I kid you not. I get a nook (for my office). I really wish he would go through the stuff in his upstairs bedroom. We could probably share that office if he went through his crap.

I mean, the kids' rooms are spartan. We went through the garage and the walk in closet in recent years. The only clutter we really have left is dh's "storage room." Because it is more "Storage" than "office." It's nothing in the realm of HOarders or "Clean House," but way too much crap for my taste, all the same. IT's like, "Get rid of it already!" The room is just filled with stuff we never use and boxes that were never unpacked.

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Anyway, where was I? My other wish list items are new carpet in the family room, and a new sectional couch. These will wait a year or 2, 3, 4, probably. But, getting there. I think it is possible that we could replace the couch next year. Oh, that would be too awesome! OF course, then might as well do the carpet. Can't have an all "new" room with our THRASHED carpet. The rest of the carpet throughout the house is immaculate (thank goodness), but the 8-yea-old family room carpet has been subected to too much spit up and leaky juice cups. It's just a disaster that no cleaning will fix. But, no rush the same, with small kids still roaming the house. Though I do feel if we institute a no-drink/no-food rule, a new carpet would be okay.

Anyway, with work so crazy, I generally do not partake in much spring cleaning. But all week it has been "clear out the old entertainment center and re-arrange everything for the new TV."

We are going through all the kids' toys as we transform the downstairs from "kid playroom" to "grown up room" again. Moving all their toys upstairs in an effort to get them to play more there and not be too rambuctious around the TV. I am sure we will leave some toys downstairs. We do mostly spend time together, but I also don't mind them being a little more independent, all the same. May take us a while to find a balance. Any ranbuctious toys are definitely going upstaris! (Not like they need anything to be rambuctious though).

With some of the toys, and all my knick knacks, I see a lot of Craigslisiting in our future. There are also some toys in LM's room that he has outgrown. I need to get those out of the house, too. I suppose we are officially spring cleaning. IT will be kind of nice to not have to do any of this when work slows down, I do admit. Then I can just relax and enjoy all the newness!

& the toys? Those ALWAYS sell for good money. People go crazy when it comes to toys. No matter what the economy. Big Grin

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ETA: Dh bought some whole carrots and shredded them with our processor last night. (As opposed to buying shredded carrots for a recipe). It had never occured to me we could save money with the thing. Woohoo! May just buy whole carrots and slice them for the kids, too. No more baby carrots!

Recipe Review: Cowboy Beans

March 10th, 2010 at 08:20 pm

So, dh made the cowboy beans last night. Yes, my cook is back! Phew. We are too used to EXCELLENT home cooking. We missed his cooking, tons.

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2009/07/slow-cooker-cowboy-b...

I don't know if anyone else liked this recipe, but I LOVED it. I may get all the leftovers. Big Grin

I love apple cider vinegar and so put another tablespoon or so in my own bowl. LOL. I overdid it a bit - but it was still good. (I'll put in a little less - next time).

I did modify the recipe by putting cheese on it (I just happened to have some shredded colby jack or something or other). I melted the cheese on top, and then topped with the slice jalapenos.

YUM!

Forget side dish, this was a MEAL!

I do agree with dh that it was rather bland, otherwise. I told him just to dump in more vinegar next time.

#1 selling point. I don't eat tomatoes. Ever. HATE them. The diced up tomatoes (Ro Tel?) in this thing were harmless. I gobbled them up. I give thumbs up to anything that makes veggies taste good. I can be pretty picky.

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As an aside, I made "hashbrowns" over the weekend and took pictures as I went. I might have already said - our food processor is AMAZING. It took me like a minute to shred 4 potatoes.

Anyway, I think I would call them "potato pancakes" as opposed to hashbrowns, but they were good. I will share the recipe later (with pictures).

AND, the cheapie food processor has really won me over. I came home the other night and dh was hand chopping celery or something. I was like, "um, what about the food processor? Mandolin slicer?" His response? "Oh yeah - I forgot." Well at least I am using it. (These were all gifts for him).

Anyway, if it doesn't hold up, I will definitely invest in a NICE food processor. What a time saver!!!

The Shopping is Done / Generation Candy

March 10th, 2010 at 04:58 pm

Will wonders never cease. Dh liked the bedside table thingy I picked out for LM.

& LM liked it too.

SO, I ordered that one last night.

So, his "room makeover" will complete within the week, when that all arrives.

I actually just picked them up because March tends to be a pretty low spend month for us. We don't really have the time to go anywhere or do anything fun. So this time of year we tend to stock up on the material things. Not that we generally have a lot of time to shop. But doing it all online makes it pretty easy. I can squeeze these out of the monthly budget.

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I went to Target last night to pick up a few groceries (for the most part). Still helping out dh more than usual. Not sure if it is necessary, but I have been doing so much, and running there so much, I don't mind. Seemed easier for me to just stop by there on the way home.

BTW, we are getting a "super Target" with produce and meat everything - I believe within the year. Should be interesting. I honestly don't expect prices much cheaper than our local grocery store. (Which is a REALLY nice store with huge selection - but great prices too). BUT, will see. We usually get cereal (generic), and granola bars at Target. Maybe a few other things.

I spent $65, which wasn't bad since I went WAY off list. My usual rule is that I do not get a basket. At most, maybe a hand basket. If I can't carry it - I can't buy it. I just can't be let loose in there with a cart.

It was rather subconscious, but I decided at the last minute to get a cart since my grocery list had gotten so long. I think it was for the best. Picked up a few things I had been "needing" like kid sized hangers. I had grabbed some $1 plastic bowls before and figured I should grab some more. I don't think I picked up anything that wasn't either insanely cheap/useful or "I have been needing those forever but I never have room to carry them."

I also perused the furniture and stuff. Considering options for LM's room and to supplement our new entertainment center. Made sure the item I picked for LM wasn't in stock (I found it at Amazon - free shipping - in the end).

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**Generation Candy**

Is it just me, or are small children in "Generation Candy"?

I don't *get* it. I thought we were generation "HEalth Nut." But to the kids? The main food group is sugar???

I was pleased when I found the Valentine's cards I had bought on clearance last year (after V-day). They were very fancy and I thought, "Ooooh. BM will have the fanciest cards of the bunch. They will think I spent some insane amount on stupid V-Day cards." They were holographic and everything.

Instead, he came home with PILES Of candy. In the end, we were the cheap ones that didn't give away candy. LOL.

I mean - the candy rivaled HAlloween. IT was INSANE.

Thing is, every birthday, every Holiday, and every celebration of any kind means mountaints of candy and cake. I just don't *get it* in the least. I suppose this showcases my personality. Where is the excitement if this is like every single dang week of the year? I am not opposed to a nice treat once in a while. But when we have a neverending supply of candy sitting in our house. It kind of takes away the fun. Doesn't it?

I am not quite sure what to do about it. The candy load will DOUBLE next year once LM starts public school. (Not that he doesn't bring home loads of candy from preschool. Just not near the amount of kids in BM's class). Can you donate candy???? I Would if I could. Big Grin

I loathe to throw anything away, but this is just ridiculous.

I Don't Like Waiting...

March 9th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I'm not much of a procrastinator, and that can generally be a good thing. But the flip side of that is that I really don't like waiting for things I decide to do.

I can be pretty patient. But once I set my mind on something.

Anyway, last night I filled out tons of paperwork, for Kindergarten. I had to get a sign off today, and am now just waiting for dh to get the medical sign off. Last time he moved quickly, but he is too distracted by TV stuff, these days. Oy vey.

I told him by Friday - so, will see. I won't start nagging him until Monday. Hopefully I won't have to. (I could call, yes, but he's done it before - he knows who to call - and he has the time to call and pick it up).

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I perused bedding again and keep going back to the "$120 with shipping" one. Everything else is so BLUE BLUE BLUE. Since we painted LM's walls a dark blue-green, everything is clash clash clash.

I like this one because it has a white background.

I finally decided that since the bed skirt was nice and it would make the bed more "pretty," that it was probably a much cheaper investment than an actual bed. So I finally bought the dang thing. (One click of a button).

I also perused night stands to round out the look. But since he has real oak furniture, I can't see anything that would match there, either. I finally found a white "locker" nightstand at Target, for $50. Now that one will have to pass dh approval. & I will have to measure to see if the height looks good. But I think it will round out a nice "bedroom" for LM.

Of course, we have also talked about getting him a clock radio, with all this big boy stuff. We got BM's his when he was like 3 or 4. He is a little clock obsessed, yes. BUT, he has also really enjoyed the radio and CD-player, etc.

IT would probably make a nice birthday gift. But his birthday is like 4 months away. Ugh. I hate waiting until birthdays to give people stuff. I never do, wait.

It's probably moot, because dh will probably HATE the night stand, anyway. Though I suppose we should be able to find something white. That would work.

I don't know how dh and I Could be SO COMPATIBLE. Just don't ask us to go furniture shopping. Then it's all fighting and frustration. I don't know what the heck it is. As long as we don't furniture shop, we are good. (This is why I HATE most of our new furniture in our house. Too much compromise. Bad memories? Not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to our sectional couch. & our bedroom furniture? BORING!).

So anyway, if by some miracle dh doesn't think the "white locker night stand" is hideous, I may just order that and pick up a clock radio. I can't imagine a clock radio costs much.

I think LM is unaccustomed to so much "new" stuff. I really think it's "fair" that he get a little splurging!

Running out of *Baby Stuff*

March 9th, 2010 at 04:50 am

Dh and the boys also have varying illnesses (all mild), so I Was nominated to attend the kindergarten "lottery," tonight. Our kids are in, regardless. We are "founding parents" of the school. I just wanted to show up, make sure he was in the first lottery batch (little more than formality), and pick up the application.

I didn't make it inside, so I never saw how many hundreds were on the wait list. I just got lots of jealous looks when I walked in and out with my packet. Phew!

It's not over yet. Still have to get the application in. I hope to get all the medical sign offs and everything, this week. I won't rest easy until everything is taken care of. Though it's a little less stressful, this round, having gone through this before.

Hard to believe I am signing up my BABY for kindergarten, though.

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In other news, I Always say that most the big baby items we bought used, and sold for the same amount in the end, anyway. Which equates to lots of "free" baby stuff.

The kids' toddler bed was bought from an acquaintance for $50. It came with a "crappy mattress" that we sold with the crib. Bought around 2004 or 2005?

Both kids have used it. Dh put it up for sale today. (Because of LM's new bed and everything).

It just left - for $45 cash. We threw in the bedding because lord knows what we would do with it otherwise. But, $5 (net) for around 5 years of use, isn't half bad. It was a nice bed. I can't help but wonder how long it will last and how many toddlers will sleep on it. I don't know if it was bought new by my friend or what. Who knows.

It was funny because there was a very similar looking bed at Target for $20 last weekend. Dh said, "I doubt anyone will pay $50 for it." I had suggested starting at $50 since that is what we paid.

Anyway, in the end, he said it looked like the going rate on Craigslist. It took a couple of hours to sell.

Phew!

I admit dh was extra motivated with this whole TV thing. We had put the bed in the living room, and now it is empty again - ready for the old TV and entertainment center - until we figure all that out too.

I think it's official. Do we have any more "baby stuff"? I found some baby wipes and gave them to the preschool, last week. I think there isn't much left. What a symbolic day, on some level. My babies are growing up.

A Nice Sunday Here

March 7th, 2010 at 04:16 pm

Weather is gorgeous. Hopefully will get a bike ride in today.

**Yesterday I made some potatoes. Yum! Thinking of making hashbrowns for breakfast. Will see. My mom said she had more potatoes for me. (My dad picked up too many at Costco - has been very forgetful since his stroke last year. Forgot they already had a TON). So, she said she had more for me. She also brought me a ton of butter. That was because they switched to some margarine thing. I think they have already given us a years' worth, with more to come...

I did throw away 4 large potatoes that dh never bothered to do anything with. I guess I am the "potato maker." I will try to utilize the giant bag. Potato salad is also on my list (maybe for Easter?)

Slowly expanding my culinary horizons...

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Someone in another blog posted a link to some crazy 365 days of cooking in the slow cooker - recipe site. I will find it and link it.

I printed out a few recipes thinking we may try some day. So dh decided to make them ALL next week. Well, okay then.

On the menu:

*Indian Spiced Lentils with chicken

*Moroccan lentil soup

*Cowboy beans

I was printing the bean recipes, thinking "frugal and healthy." (Not that I wanted to eat beans all week - LOL).

I'll slowly go through some of the other categories.

The potatoes I made last night were simple, but yummy:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Steves-Famous-Garlic-Home-Fries...

I put in double the garlic and pepper, but probably could have used even more. Kids loved it, though.

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**Updated Quicken for my new IRA.

Had enough cash to pay my state income taxes. So, just paid those. Will deposit my Fed refund, next week - they wash each other out.

Looked where I stood as far as property taxes. I will have enough cash with my paycheck on the 1st, to pay that. So, will just write a check on the 1st.

I usually write a check from my online money market - it takes a while to clear. Squeeze out every dime of interest. BUT, barely have enough cash in that account (much lower interest, these days). So, figured would just pay from checking. (Instead of transferring the usual $2k+, to savings).

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Dh is buying a game system today. $80. Can sell most of it for $100. He told me he was going to retain some extension controller cords, a Gameboy Advance, and some other accessories. At first I thought he meant he would sell the rest for $20. (He had said, "will make $20 off of it."). When he listed the bajillion things he was keeping.

So, anyway, once he clarified that - could sell for $100 - sounds like a darn good deal.

He also volunteered last night and hid clean laundry in the dryer so I wouldn't fold it and put it away. He nagged me about that last night. (Laundry to me is the easiest chore - I don't do much folding anyway - kind of throw it all in the drawers). So I had to roll my eyes. But work has been CRAZY this week, and I suppose he decided he better stop being so lazy. Wink He is definitely back to 100%. Phew!

I can't believe "work crazy" is only about another 6 weeks. It went fast. Though I feel taking last Monday off was the worst mistake ever. I am BURIED. But, I suppose I will survive - always do. All else being equal, this is by far our calmest tax season in a long while. We have lost some clients, but we still have more than we can barely handle. So, it's GOOD! & feels a little more relaxed on some level. If not dealing with all the sick and everything. But I am super relieved that dh is feeling better. I've been mostly giving him a free pass. But told him if he felt so good, he could take BM to school next week. I am hoping I get a bit of a breather after March 15. It's the Corporate deadline. A breather for a day or 2? The next 4 weeks will be the WORST. Around April 10, most of that will be done. Then it's catching up on all my "regular work." Which seems to be going better this year more than others. So, phew!

Random Updates

March 6th, 2010 at 08:29 pm

**Sick of Doctor visits and prescriptions. Oy vey! 2010 feels like: Doctor, prescription, rinse, repeat! Not dh, just everyone. I am over it! (Glad nothing serious, but a total PITA all the same. We generally never go to the doctor).

Oh, since dh's skin infection, the kids have respiratory infections. Doctor appointment would be a waste, otherwise (BM was like 100% by the time we got in), but he was prescribed an inhaler. (More useful for next time. Though, this bad is only once every year or 2).

Of course, we had to get out the inhaler for LM, last night. Now he's got it. Any big virus really hits their airways. Though LM has "asthma" and BM "doesn't," I am not quite clear what the difference is. Except for BM, it is ONLY when he is sick. But I have heard asthma can take that form. LM is kind of the same way, but it will last more than 5 minutes, with him.

Anyway, last night was the first time we REALLY needed the inhaler since LM's was prescribed. What a relief. to have it. In a year or 2, I may feel that relief when BM has another "attack."

I am not sure where we are in "deductible/out-of-pocket HMO" land. Our doctor visits are apparently all "free" now, MRI was a small co-pay, and prescription was insanely expensive compared to last year (not sure if it is our status, or reduced benefits for 2010).

I'd presume, regardless, we hit our $3k deductible with surgery. But, I thought we would have medium/large co-pays until we hit our out-of-pocket. Which scares me - maybe we hit it already. (On the flip side, lord knows when they will bother to bill me or fill me in. Not like I will take a hit to cash any time soon).

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Ugh.

Everything else seems to be going rather well. Knock on wood!

Dh is doing pretty good. He is volunteering today, which makes me nervous. Seemed a little worn out yesterday.

I have been taking BM to before-school daycare. Until we run through our deposit, OR work gets too crazy. WIll probably put dh back on morning duty, soon. At least part-time. Work is definitely crazy.

He was going to do a big grocery shopping run, but that has been put off another day or 2. I am thinking we should just all go together tomorrow. Thus, if it is too much, he can go sit in the car or something.

We heated up our last frozen meal yesterday. So, my last grocery run got us a little over 2 weeks of home cooking.

My mom left us some potatoes (don't remember why she had so many extras). We haven't really used them. Don't cook with potatos much at all, though I love them. I think just different territory, for the both of us.

SO, I decided to print out some potato recipes, to try. Was thinking hash brown (to utilize our new food processor - has a shredder and all). BUT, instead, just found a simple recipe for frying up some potatoes. I also dug up a potato salad recipe. Not sure when I will make it. But plenty of use for all the potatoes...

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**Got an interesting credit card offer. 2% rewards - Fidelity - sweeps into your IRA.

I usually just rip those offers to shreds, manually. We have a shredder, but it can't handle all the credit card offers! Anyway, so my instinct was to just rip it up. During the process I did stop and think, "well that looked kind of interesting." So, I looked it up online and it looked promising. I would consider it if Chase stops our 3% Freedom Rewards.

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**My parents have some "hoity toity" friends. You know, they live in a Mansion, and cringe at the thought of public school. Stuff like that.

So my mom tells, me, can I believe it, that they want to buy a new car. So they decided to RENT the model for a week or something, to try it out.

Honestly, I thought it wasn't a bad idea! At first I was like, "That sounds like a great idea!" She's just like, "Can you believe those people?" LOL.

It seems to me every time I have gotten another car, there were little things that just bugged me for a while. Like, when I bought my Mustang, I didn't notice it had NO cup holders. So next time, cup holders is top of the list, but then you don't notice x,y, z.

PLUS, since when was renting a car that expensive? (Weekday rental, not in a touristy destination? Car rentals are cheap, here, anyway).

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**Got my gas bill. Our usage was 20% lower than last year. All I could figure was the weather. It was mild for a spell (no heat for a week or 2?)

Interestingly, we will probably be eligible for another 20% rebate on our Jan/Feb bills, BUT I did read that the calculation was "weather-adjusted." Interesting.

We got a leg up in January though, since we were gone a week for dh's surgery. A COLD week. (Left the heat on at 55 or something, so the cat didn't freeze).

So I wouldn't be surprised if we get $20 or so, back, on our next bill.

We are only paying $14/month, balanced billing. BUT, I think that is taking into account that we got a $25-ish rebate, last year.

The whole time MIL was here, we just flipped the heat on to 68, during the day. She has made strange comments to relatives (not us) about how insane our heating/cooling bills must be (because our house is large). YEs, all $14 of it! Wink SO, I honestly expected her to get on our case about being more energy efficient, or something. Instead she seemed all uber impressed when she stayed with us. She told me one day it was good we kept our house "cold." Um, okay then. LOL. What did she think, we ran the heat 75 degrees, 24/7? We actually kept the house a little more comfortable, for guests and all.

I do know we have decreased our usage a little bit, with just adjusting to another degree colder, every year or so. So, I know it's not 100% weather. But, I think the weather gets most the credit, this year.

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In other news, looks like we are going to Hawaii for our anniversary, this fall. Kauai!

Ironically, I think Alaska was starting to look more exciting. Maybe because it is somewhere dh and I have both never been to. & I have been to Hawaii, so Alaska seems a little more adventurous, on some level.

The prices are reasonable, but the taxes are insane! (Alaskan cruises).

MIL now insists they have enough timeshare points/airline miles to give us the Kauai trip. Not sure how true this is, and we made a last ditch effort to do Alaska, ourselves. We could maybe swing the cruise in a few months, but not the taxes.

SO, decided to go with it. Dh seems open to flying again, so, phew. This was MY dream vacation and I feel super spoiled!

Especially if we can swing Alaska in a year or 2.

I've been wanting to go to Kauai, since like forever.

Dh/Mattress/IRA/529 Update

March 3rd, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Dh's appointment was pretty uneventful. I guess we got to see the "proof" that the tumor was gone.

We had last talked 5% chance of tumor regrowth, because we had only discussed the one-two punch of the surgery and radiation. Too risky to get all the tumor out, in surgery, after all.

BUT, in the end, the surgeon got out most of the tumor. So our odds are now 50/50 regrowth.

Regardless, we would have to monitor growth with many more MRIs. SO, we decided to push it off another 6 months for the next MRI. If it grows a milli-inch, he is getting radiation, no doubt. But I am happy to "watch and wait," for now. Let him recover from surgery and all.

So it's not super great news, but we have little to complain about, all the same.

We may meet with the radiation neurosurgeon in 6 months, just to discuss things. But, neither dh nor I wanted to plan any more hospital visits for now. I suppose it is very nice that there is NO RUSH!

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Poor dh. He has been getting all sorts of skin infections, since surgery. Google MSRA and it will scare the crap out of you. The first one just went away and he never saw a doctor (he had e-mailed a picture to his surgeon and regular doctor. This was before we realized it was probably an infection). This time, he got a nasty fungal infection, under his arm. He went in today and got some sort of prescription.

Besides the icky skin though, he seems to be just fine. His energy level is about 100%, at this point.

Oh yeah - I think he also got his tetanus shot (said it wasn't bad). Last time I went in I Was sicker than a dog. The nurse said she supposed I didn't want any shots. She supposed correctly!

Now I guess I should get in for my dang shot!

(BM also has a NASTY bruise we are keeping an eye on. Nothing earth shattering, but I am getting really sick of the frequent doctor visits, all the same. Oy vey! 2010 has been a record year for us - yeesh).

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We got LM's new mattress. It seemed "too good to be true," but I am happy to report an A+ experience with Overstock.com. The mattress is great, as was the delivery.

Something to cross off my To Do list.

Thing is, I Wanted to get a mattress last year, and throw it on the floor for a year or so. Dh was VERY against this for whatever reason. (Lord knows why. He is so CHEAP most any other way. Like a "headboard" is a worthy investment?). I just wanted to spread out the purchase of the mattress, and then the bed.

Anyway, it came with a boxspring, and now dh says, "Why does he need a bed?" So, on the floor is totally unacceptable. But raised on an ugly box is just fine and dandy! Okay then. (I will get a bed skirt and call it a day).

I suppose if nothing else, we can take our time and search out a super deal on a bed. If we bother. No rush!

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I opened/funded my Traditional IRA.

Now I await being able to roll my work retirement into it. Lord knows when that will be all ready.

All our stuff is in ROTHs, so I needed a regular IRA to roll it into. I opened my very own first Vanguard account (felt left out - dh and the kids already had VG accounts - which I manage 100%).

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Came across another "529s Aren't All That" article. I would say these were IMPOSSIBLE to find, before the economy bust. So, I guess it's nice to see intelligent discussion on them. They make sense for some people. Certainly not for everyone!

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870426900457507...