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Archive for September, 2010

Aloha #2

September 27th, 2010 at 10:15 am

After continually reading that all the BEST views take treacherous hikes and routes by sea, we were awed yesterday that we were able to just drive up to the first 2 vistas. (The pictures do not do the views justice!)

Just amazing!





We then hiked 8 miles round trip through a swamp to see this:



LOL. Actually, it turned out that we felt lucky to have such spectacular views for our first 2 stops. We looked up the last one when we got back, and thought, "eh." Picture #2 was at the beginning of the hike - and I don't think anything could beat that. We didn't see anyone the 4 miles in, but on the way out we saw quite a few people disappointed by all the fog. We got (mostly) stunning views and a cool hike back - so no complaints from us.

Every day is just more amazing here. I can't believe we have 3 more days to explore!

Aloha!

September 25th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Ah, this is heaven!

September is the time to be here. We have had virtually the whole island to ourselves, it feels. (It also helps to still be on California time - a lot of early morning treks have helped us to beat the crowds).

We got the lava pool completely to ourselves (picture #1) and picture #3 were at some gardens we visited today - got the place to ourselves there, too.

The beautiful beach we visited today had people, but not many.





Airlines & Cable Companies & Medical Bills

September 22nd, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I often say that we just avoid the "big guys" as much as possible. To save both money and probably even moreso, to save on frustration.

But there are some areas where we have little choice (utilities, etc.).

The airlines are quite a doozy. I probably can't complain too much because I rarely fly unless I can find a rock bottom deal. The rest of the time, it's on our parents (this current trip is on MIL's airline miles).

The airlines are really getting on my last nerve though, for this trip.

For whatever reason we didn't get seat assignments - this is an airline I fly with all the time. (Tickets were bought with some sort of rewards - maybe credit card rewards - I don't know).

Beggars can't be choosers, eh?

I was dissapointed to see that the only seats available at check-in (I logged on exactly 24 hours before flight to nab seats) were in the back row of a smaller plane. (I have only flown to Hawaii on GIANT planes before). I told dh to pack ear plugs as a particularly bad flight is still seared in my memory - same plane - stuck by the back engine. I am pretty sure it is the same type plane and this flight is pretty long. Dh will be glad he is deaf in one ear. I should feel lucky we get to sit together.

SO, I asked dh to call and ask for assigned seats on our return flight. He called, and let my preface this by saying my dh rarely takes no for an answer and doesn't take much crap. But, pretty much, they said it is impossible. Somehow everyone else has assigned seats, but us? Rolleyes Ugh!

Meanwhile, when I check in, they try to sell me a million upgrades. Who pays for this stuff? The economy seating with extra room, about $79 a person. Fast track through airport security? Another $70 or so a person? Egads. On and on and on...

I then looked up the meal choices. Since our flight leaves a few minutes before 10am, the fresh food served on 3+ hour flights, is not served on ours. Breakfast is served, but not lunch. Rolleyes

Which is fine, because it cost an arm and a leg. Dh tells me he pretty much rather die than pay a penny for airline food. I tell him this is nice, but I rather pay $5 or $10 than starve. I am one of those people who has to snack constantly. I will try the snack thing, but if I feel faint, I am going to eat. Dh will have to get over it. I totally see his point and will try to pack enough food, though.

& so the fun begins!

(Ugh - I am just not a travel person!)

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In other news, I got our latest Surewest bill. It has been "inching" up $10 or $20 a month as our credits expire - just at the same time they raise rates.

You know dh loves his video and all that. & trust me, we never paid a dime for cable when we made less than $60k-ish per year. Never!

But, I did about fall over when I opened this bill. $180! For cable, internet and phone.

In the end, I thought this may be a good thing. Dh started griping and we talked about how maybe it was time to drop the cable. I thought we would have all week to discuss it a bit.

Instead, he called Surewest to complain, and they lowered the bill back to $160/month. IF we signed a 1-year contract.

Ugh!

I suppose we have all year to discuss dropping the cable. I thought we were so close! (With netflix any everything). If dh had to buy a dedicated computer to run hulu through the TV, it would most definitely be worth it. At these prices? Ouch!

It's hard because Surewest is a good company. Their customer service, and their services/products, are excellent. I can guarantee if our only options were any of the other big guys, we'd be completely out of the game - even though they cost less. I can't tell you how many times dh legitamitely threatened to leave Dish and they never took a dime off our bill. (We refused to sign any contracts with them). It's nice that Surewest will at least work with us.

Next year I suppose this all could be moot. If dh is working next year, I won't care about the bill. But in our current financial state, it's a little ridiculous.


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In other news, I have a MRI scheduled for when we get back from vacation. I stumped more Doctors with my arm, so the concensus was that it's probably nothing but they want to look at it to be sure.

Dh is more supportive this time. Less, "When I had "nothing" it was a tumor," and more "I think it's probably nothing." I suppose the Doctors were convincing.

We will be MRI buddies. Since his surgery maxed out our deductible this year, I already know MRIs will be $50/pop for the rest of the year. Now is good a time as any to deal with something like this. On January 1, it would cost about $1500 a pop. So, phew! (& dh already is signed up for one MRI a year for several years - like we really want to pay for more than one).

Dh has a doctor appointment today - he's got some fungus thing that won't go away. He ran out of medicine and decided he better get a refill before we leave. I think he should have told his doctor ages ago that it didn't exactly every go away. Rolleyes So glad he had some motivation.

We are getting our HMO's money's worth this year, that is for sure. His only real side effect from surgery (besides one-sided deafness) is that his eyes are bothering him a bit. I am wary for him to get glasses if his vision is fluctuating, but he should look into it. I've got a female checkup, the MRI, plus a consult about my neck. Outside pregnancy, we are the types who could go years without seeing a Doctor. So I think we have had our fill!

I learned that my good cholesterol was a little on the low side. My doctor didn't say anything, but I saw my results. Get that from my dad's side of the family. He always had cholesterol and blood pressure issues, from very young. Genetic. I am not sure if I have ever had a cholesterol screen (since I so rarely go to the doctor). So, interesting to note. I thankfully inherited my mother's low blood pressure. The nurses always delight in my low numbers. (Though I also tend to get faint very easily - so as with anything - too low is not always the best thing. I tend to run more normal with age and weight though. Though my numbers still seem to impress).

Have you Flown Recently?

September 20th, 2010 at 04:14 pm

I have flown recently, but not for a big trip.

These new carry on policies are absolutely ridiculous!

I got out the measuring tape and my carry on (bought new in the last few years) - it is just too big. I toyed with bringing it anyway (trying to sneak by) but the more I look into it, the more I think this is a bad idea. (It's a few inches too long due to the handle thingy do, though also too deep). I don't want to get stuck having to check it.

My mom mentioned offhand that I could use their baggage. So, phew! Since we are staying with them the night before we leave. Guess I will have to pack and then re-pack.

Thankfully we are going to a warm destination - it will be easy to pack light. I was thinking of doing laundry in the middle of the trip anyway, since I only have a couple of pairs of shorts that I think will be appropriate (long/light shorts, for hiking).

WE did just go to Colorado, but we packed so light. I only now realize that we really only get one (tiny) bag and one personal item. The pleasure to bring more costs $50 at minimum (roundtrip fee for checked baggage). Rolleyes

The plus side is that I was impressed how light people traveled on our last trip. Now I realize why. Maybe they should have enforced this "one carry-on" thing many moons ago. It was nice not to be drowning in baggage in the plane cabin. It's the gouging to check a bag that really irks me.

I do admit that it is nice not to deal with checked baggage. Those prices are a pretty good deterrent. I can look on the bright side - no checked baggage in my future.

I am just annoyed that my relatively new carry on bag is completely obsolete! I suppose it is still nice for road trips?

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Anyway, at Overstock I found some decent carry-on lugagge for $30-ish with shipping. I may just put on my Christmas wish list, or purchase sometime next year for future trips.

Someon Up Above is Laughing at Me

September 18th, 2010 at 09:15 am

Or I could title this post - "Feel Like I can't catch a break!"

We decided to put dh's MRI off for one month so we can enjoy our anniversary vacation before resuming talks about radiation and stuff like that. I do admit it has been nice to put all that stuff behind us for a few months and just forget about it (which mostly, we have done).

But, in the meantime, it is my turn to pile up medical bills. I found a lump on my arm which may just be serendipitous. I usually don't go into the doctor for much, but I do listen to my gut. I felt kind of silly going in, but finally did. After I made the appointment, I found a similar bump on my neck.

The lump on my arm definitely stumped the doctor (I thought he may just tell me I got hurt and let's see if it goes away. It looks more like swelling, to me, than anything else). But, he believes it is a tumor/cyst/growth of some sort. Though WAY more concerned about my neck. All I can think is that may have been there forever. I tend to get allergies and swollen glands, most the year, so I thinking back, it may have been there for a LONG time. It's only now that it struck me as odd, because it is very similar to my arm bump, and I am not sick at all.

I did a pile of lab work yesterday, and the results thus far seem good. (I keep getting e-mail alerts as they roll in). I have appointments with 2 different specialists (arm/neck) - probably after vacation, so, phew. Maybe dh and I can go bury our heads in the sand and enjoy our time. Even if I get the arm appointment this week, any biopsy or scans would wait upon my return, I assume. The neck doctor was too busy to see me until end of September, anyway.

For now, I am just frustrated by mounting medical bills and such. I feel like we can't catch a financial break this year!

Dh knows how to handle the situation (not!). He told me he didn't really care what my general doctor said. As "you don't know how many doctors told me there was NO WAY I had a brain tumor." Gee dh, way to help me feel better. Big Grin Considering his unique situation, I won't worry about it. Doctor said was probably not serious. I will go with that, and ignore dh. Until a Doctor tells me otherwise, anyway.

But, dh was happy they took this seriously, and that I would get some more opinions. I suppose would be the case - to be extra cautious when it comes to any sort of lumps on the body. Dh's tumor was different in that it could not be seen with the naked eye. His symptoms could be explained away as a common cold.

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My poor parents seem to be in the same boat. They had to replace the pipes in their house last weekend. (Knew it was due as most their neighbors had already done it). I think they got a good deal, with the economy and all, so works out. Had some water leaks once my dad started working again.

BUT, there was apparently some politics with my dad's boss, which was making my parents nervous. In the end, the boss just up and quit. So, not sure where that puts my dad. He did not get to restart the COBRA clock, since he is a contractor for this company, at the moment. Health insurance is their only financial concern, at the moment. If not for that, he could retire. Of course, the other thing is he doesn't want to retire. So, hoping that it all works out.

I am not sure how long he is been at this job - maybe a few weeks??? Quite a bummer.

In other news, my Grandma isn't doing so hot. The last thing my mom needs is to worry about me, too.

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All I know is that I am ready for this vacation!

Our return is definitely looking like a cold shower of reality! Ugh.

Art Classes

September 16th, 2010 at 06:58 am

Well, LM finally expressed an interest in something. He is obviously musical and artistic.

His school actually has a dedicated art teacher. I am surprised he isn't really taking to it so much, but I am sure he will as they do more drawings and such. (They started out the year with sculpture, which he didn't seem to enjoy?)

So, they had a sales pitch for a private after school program. Dh told him the usual "hell no." But I said, "Wait a minute - it's not like BM who has 5 things going on and then wants to do the Mad Science after school, which cost an arm and a leg."

I figured if he is showing interest in something, it is fair to oblige.

Of course, the cost is $14 per class. (choke choke). No discount for more classes. Rolleyes

I keep hearing all about this new childrens' art studio downtown. I am sure it is quite nice, and figured that might be more economical. Um, no? $16 per one visit. It's only $8 per person, but LM can't take himself. Rolleyes The KidzArt program would be cheaper and more convenient, then.

The city actually has no art classes. They used to have a kid art class that one of the kids was enrolled in. Maybe it was LM. That was a long time ago - nothing right now.

I will be keeping my eyes out for more frugal alternatives for some creative outlets for LM. I may sign him up for the Kidzart just to see how he likes it. But for the most part, seems overpriced. BM did Mad Science for one term and though he enjoyed it, we weren't very impressed. That we can do at home. We just don't feel we have much to offer as far as artistic guidance. Maybe we could find some free stuff online. It seems what he liked was being instructed how to draw a particular thing, and he does do quite well. Better than I could (which isn't saying much!) Maybe we can find that kind of stuff online.

He's 5 - so not a lot of other options at the moment.

All I can think about in this economy, is who pays for this stuff?? I am tired of seeing people who can't afford their mortgages with $100+ gym memberships and apparently spending $16 for every art visit. (All my REALLY broke friends have told me all about this art place. I just can't stomach the price!)

More Efficiencit

September 14th, 2010 at 05:31 pm

I have an admission! I don't actually verify all my receipts (though I charge most things). I do reconcile my bank (daily/weekly - electronically, which is very simple). & I download my credit card transactions often enough that I will catch anything that is "off."

But, as far as a penny here or there, charged, or a few pennies even, I wouldn't have a clue.

I honestly don't expect to find much, but I guess I could be surprised.

I bought a little notebook quite a while ago, to note charges, particularly for things I don't keep receipts for. The goal was to match them to my statement every month (at the least). I took it out of my purse for some reason, and forgot about it (for a year???). Spotted it the other day and decided to start over again.

So far, it is real exciting:

9/4 Gas $45.24
9/4 Bread Store $7.34
9/9 School lunches through 12/31 $159.25
9/14 Taco Bell $4.53

Clearly, it's not the daily spending that gets me in trouble. Big Grin

I think I also need to make sure I ask dh for all his receipts, and make sure to write those down too. I know we went out for dinner last Friday, but since I didn't bother to take my purse, makes it harder to remember when we go out together. I usually just let him cover it, then.

Will be interesting to download my activity and see what I forgot to write down!

Tuesday Update - Sports in not our thing

September 14th, 2010 at 09:56 am

I booked our zipline tickets. Big Grin Kind of for the middle of the trip. I found a place online that sold the tickets at a total $20 discount. They charged more fees though (they don't mention that) - so in the end it looks like we saved $13. Still came out ahead, so phew. About $250 for a 4-hour adventure (includes lunch and time at a swimming hole).

I really have never done anything like this - so am very excited!

ETA: I expect a $250 Chase rebate around 11/1, so consider that won't have to come from savings. Assuming I can squeeze out another $250 - I feel lucky every time I hit 200 points that they haven't lowered the rewards for me yet.

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We had our first real soccer game Saturday. Ugh! Due to a variety of factors, I just don't think sports will be our thing. The coach on the other team was downright scary. I think dh said it best when he said, "Geez, it's just a GAME."

You hear about how kids are growing up to be so non-competitive in this day and age. So I am completely thrown off by how intense soccer league is for 7-year-olds. Not only this, but we are behind the curve since most the kids started much younger.

Don't get me wrong, he has a really good coach. & BM has been a very good sport. But, I don't think we can get behind the organization as a whole.

We actually had other issues with the tee ball league, and with this whole thing, I don't think dh or I will encourage much more on the competitive sports.

It's funny because no one in my family has ever been into sports at all (but for my mom). We have much more brains than brawn. The truth is, none of us want to take any sport quite that seriously.

All that said, BM is lucky enough to have both brains and brawn. He has always wanted to get out and run around. He wants to try a little of everything, and we are happy to oblige. He will show interest in tee ball still, and probably soccer too, but no real burning desire. Which is why we will probably stop encouraging it.

It's not the end of the road for him - just the end of playing ball, probably.

Track starts in the winter (he wanted to run a mile the other day, for fun, so that is why we have been eyeing the track club - which he could have joined last year, but I thought he was too young). & dh has dreams of swim team, because he did swim team (I had no idea).

I may feel differently with age, but just think it is all way too much at this age. & I can't help but feel he will be left in the dust if he quits now.

The track team does not require you to compete, so I think I like it already. Will see!

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Has anyone here done Odyseey of the Mind? They have a team at his school. Again, I just assumed he was too young last year. But apparently no.

I have heard nothing but good things about it, and is so completely up BM's alley. He will probably join the team for this year.

From their website: "Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level."

I think this will suit our own family a wee bit better than soccer!

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In other news, we had a delightful weekend at the family cabin. Weather was just gorgeous.

Paid for Itself (Or Why to Shop Thrift)

September 10th, 2010 at 05:59 pm

I have to preface this by saying, dh is a lucky duck. I can't say I have ever found a wad of cash, in my entire life. But to dh, eh, happens every once in a while. Rolleyes

SO, today he goes to the thrift shop, and is not sure he is thrilled with the prices. But he sees this really cool Hawaiian shirt (for our trip) and some nice/comfortable pair of shorts. Figures maybe he should buy a 2nd or 3rd pair of shorts, for our trip. (He may have 1 or 2?)

When he tries on the shorts, he finds $9 in the pocket!

My jaw hit the floor when he told me.

Irony is the stuff cost $9 - so he just paid with the cash he found.

Lucky Duck!

I laughed because clothes are SO not his thing. I really have no idea where this Hawaiian shirt idea came from. Since being home with the kids, his standard uniform is a white shirt and jeans. I nag him to wear some real clothes once in a while. I am not much into looks and not overly picky. But I prefer my husband doesn't look homeless, either. Sometimes, anyway. (90% of the time I don't notice).

So, as he modeled his new outfit (khaki shorts???), I told him he HAD to wear this new ensemble to his family BBQ tomorrow. His mom will pass out. LOL.

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In other news, that nasty mosquito hasn't shown up again. I think I did whack it, but no idea where it went. The cat might have got it.

Phew!!!!

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This weekend we have BM's first soccer game, and a family get together at the cabin (about an hour away). They took LM already. They wanted to do a BIG family weekend, but the 3-bedroom cabin can only fit so many people. Was a perfect fit for his grandma and her kids and grandkids. But great-grandkids - there are about 8 of them. Plus the grandkids' spouses - gets kind of crowded. We will just show up for the day.

I was hoping that the kids could stay over night, but no go. MIL gets really weird about "out of the way" we are. YEs, all 5 miles "out of the way." Rolleyes (I shouldn't whine - this means that she doesn't drop in on us much - even when in the area! Is probably for the best!) So I am surprised that they stopped to pick up LM. At least he is getting the overnight / cousin experience. Not very exciting for dh and I. We have been trying to sneak out to the movies, forever. We were considering tonight (only one to pay for babysitting), but decided against it. It's been too spendy.

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I put a small sum in LM's lunch account and a larger one in BM's. I think they kind of feed off of each other, and all of a sudden they want to buy lunch every day. Ugh! I told them 3 times a week, max. Since LM was so gung ho, decided to put more money in his account. (I really thought he would be too scared to go through the whole buying lunch ideal - what do I know). But since there is a $1.75 fee for every deposit, I decided to just estimate the rest of the calendar year. So, about $150. Ouch. That will buy them 45 lunches, each (when added to the money BM already had). The frugal lunch option - well, isn't so frugal with the two of them together. But, it still makes life easier on us, so be it. (Dh's grandma is always slipping me a $20 here and there for lunch, too, which is nice).

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Somehow or other, we were on the verge of trying hang gliding in Hawaii. (From cheap - not spend anything but food and rental car - to $200/hour, per person, motorized hang gliding. Don't ask me how).

I chickened out, but told dh that I would rethink the zipline thing. If I don't have a heart attack on the zip line, maybe I will try hang gliding, next time...

So I have to pick one and reserve that. Will be $260-ish, for the 2 of us. We decided to bite the bullet and splurge.

I am thinking of doing that on our anniversary. The fact is that is probably more dangerous. Oh well!

So Much for That...

September 9th, 2010 at 06:53 am

I dumped our $6/month Green energy fee on our electric bill. It's a good program, but everything has been going up and up, so it seemed like a logical cut.

OF course, I just dumped it, and then I regretted it a bit when I Was looking at it again. For everyone who pays $6, their share of energy is 100% renewable. I didn't remember it being quite so direct. No wonder we signed up!

Anyway, I just got the last bill, and they adjusted our balanced billing up by $5/month. My first thought was that this mostly offsets are gas decrease of $6/month. I guess that's a wash.

But, then I realized that they completely did not take into affect our $6/month payment reduction. They just averaged our last 12 months.

So much for that! I should sign back up. They change the amount every 12 months. So, am stuck with it for another year.

Anyway, our gas/electric is averaging $103 a month now, down from $104 last year. $6 of that is completely voluntary green energy. All else being equal, it should knock down to $97, next year.

I will have to consider just adding the green energy back. Paying for it anyway.

I must say further attempts at energy savings seem to be failing. New computer monitor was bought largely in that vain, and dh sung the praises of the energy efficiency of his new TV. But, energy usage seems to remain unchanged.

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Dh found a great deal on a Blu Ray yesterday - it was $10. He sold his DVD copy within hours, on Amazon. (Kind of unexpected how quickly it sold), for $20.

I admit this is one area where dh and I differ, and the kind of thing an "allowance" comes in handy for. I have no idea why anyone would waste all that money on DVDs, etc. I wouldn't spend a dime of my own money on that stuff.

But, dh is a different breed. All that said, when you walk in and see his extensive DVD/Blu Ray collection, you can kind of guess what people are thinking. Reality is that he is making money by converting to Blu Ray. Kind of funny. One of his more recent finds was Toy Story, practically free after rebates and coupons. Plus, it came with movie tickets, and of course, he sold the DVD.

Who knew someone would pay $20 for a used DVD? IT had special bonus features or something like that. You got me!

& The Winner is...

September 8th, 2010 at 07:50 pm

CORN!

As weird as it sounds, our local grocer seems to do pretty well on the produce front. We get lots of high quality fruits and veggies at decent prices.

Thus, I haven't been overly impressed with our farmer's market finds.

Or maybe I just have no taste.

The grapes we got were maybe marginally better. Not enough to really notice.

BM oooohed and aaaaahed over the strawberries. Maybe those were extra good. The rest of us are not strawberry fans.

The green onions were not anything exceptional. Same for the cilantro and the pistachios.

I'd still go to support the local farmers and all that. Just not the huge increase in quality that most people expect from a farmers market.

But, today, I actually remembered the corn. I was going to bake the ears of corn, but in the interest of time, decided to boil them at the last minute.

Best corn we have ever eaten, by a mile!! YUM!

We are going to a BBQ this weekend, so we decided to offer to bring fresh corn from the farmers market. BBQ corn - even better!

Attack of the Mosquito & Risks

September 8th, 2010 at 07:23 am

I heard the distinct bzzz of a mosquito in my ear on Monday night as I lounged on the couch. I jumped up and yelled, "Mosquito!" Everyone else looked at me like I was crazy, but it was confirmed soon after. I call it vampire mosquito because I got a lovely mosquito bite on my neck. (Though honestly, one of the more pleasant mosquito bites I have had - hasn't been too bad - I have benadryl cream on hand).

It appeared last night again and dh casually mentioned he had a handful of bites (I didn't know). That's what he gets for being home all day.

SO, this morning I sit down for a few minutes when both my knees start itching. I am just scratching them for a while when I look down and see the mosquito. Aaaaarrrrgggghh! I slapped it away (and ran away screaming). If dh was awake he would give me a lecture on keeping calm and getting rid of that thing for once and for all.

Now I have about 8 giant welts all over my knees. I don't know if it couldn't find any blood, or is just gorged itself. Egads! If we keep feeding it so well, it might as well be a pet. Rolleyes

It just runs off and hides until its next meal. It's a sneaky one!

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Not much else going on. The boss is on an extremely rare month-long vacation, and yesterday all the computers and phones were having issues (traced to a T1 line, eventually). But, what a mess. Thank goodness for cell phones.

Hopefully today is a little more productive. I have a couple of big projects that I really need to get done before my vacation. It''s usually pretty slow this time of month - but geez louise. Though I feel I should probably work some overtime, I think I will apply it to my vacation time so I don't have to use as much vacation time for vacation. I haven't worked any overtime since April, but to work a couple of weekends to not eat up vacation time. When I work overtime, I get paid for it (once a year bonus) so if I have to work overtime, I could probably use it anyway. Maybe October will be a good time to earn some extra cash.

If people didn't know me, they'd probably figure I wouldn't work a minute overtime. But the thing is things have been slow for a couple of people in my office. Though one manager delights in working 100-hour works, I have kind of taken the position that if people have nothing to do, I shouldn't be working more - I should be delegating better. But I am getting to a place where I can't delegate further. Though I'd probably be fine if not for leaving for a week.

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I am still tired of all the miserable people in my life. It could be a character flaw, but I have low tolerance for whiny people. So DO something about it.

I was reflecting on it the other morning. I had a conversation with a relative (a mother) who was "forced" to work full-time.

I was also thinking about it in terms of risks. I think Frugal Foodie (correct me if I am wrong?) posted about a study where 95+ year-olds stated what they would change in their own lives, if they could turn back time. "Take more risks" was one of them.

I am extremely risk -adverse. Probably well more than average. & I noticed a lot of people agreeing that they were not risk takers. But, I was thinking about it in terms of this miserable relative. They are highly educated and make good money. BUT, choosing to live in the same city as their family is not helping them (median home price something like $700k). Meanwhile, all I have ever heard is how awesome her job is. They have always been very flexible with her, and offered her a full-time position on the spot when her spouse's job was in jeopardy. Now, times are tough, and she is just pissed that she would have to sacrifice anything for them. I suppose it's a pet peeve of mine - when people expect the world from their employers, but just gripe when they have to return the favor.

Regardless, if the work is too much, so quit! So find another job!

The irony is that we have 2 other relatives who work for the same employer. When I asked another one about the hours and how she was taking it, she replied, "Pfffft. I told them I wasn't working more hours - I will quit if I have to." They decided to keep her at part-time.

I think that kind of says it all.

I kind of think of these life choices when it comes to risks. It's risky to think outside the box and demand what is better for you, sometimes. But I think most people over amplify those perceived risks, and it keeps them very stuck.

On the flip side, dh and I were considering a hang glider experience in Hawaii. This is a very different kind of risk. I actually got turned on to the idea because there is no way in heck I would ever get in a helicopter (you know how risky those can be?). But I was reading about these motored hang gliders and the amazing safety record of this company.

The truth is, even a helicopter ride is probably less dangerous than my commute to work. But, my commute to work serves a purpose of survival. I finally told dh that I was happy to consider the hang glide ride when the kids were adults, but as long as I have small children, I don't want to do anything too overtly risky. Kids are another animal. I can hardly imagine anything worse than not being alive to raise them, so why would I do anything to risk that??? (Within reason of course. I could hole up and never leave the house to achieve some higher sense of safety. But, living life is important too).

So, I Can't help but wonder what kind of risks these elderly study subjects were wishing they had taken. Did they wish they had quit their unfulfilling jobs? Or did they wish they had gone sky diving? I couldn't help but feel it was the more mundane risks in life that they probably regretted. I really don't know for sure.

Phew!

September 6th, 2010 at 08:42 am

**I had to sit down and square away everything for September, since we will be gone the end of the month. NO sitting and waiting if dh makes some amazon sales or if money falls out of the sky by the end of the month (sometimes it does)! Most the bills are paid the 31st (health insurance and mortgage - the biggies).

So, we barely spent anything on gas or groceries all month, and yet my checkbook balance for 9/30 was -$250. Frustrated by this, indeed.

As I looked at it, I remembered my mom owes me $110 for the cell phone. (They reimburse me every other month - on the months I have a bi-monthly utility bill - so works out perfect).

Phew. I looked at the months' expenditures - we spent a fair amount in Denver (food) I hadn't reimbursed from savings. Also, soccer expenses, and some clothing. So I transferred that amount from savings - soccer/Denver/clothing. I can live with that.

I told dh it was a fine month, but that we relied heavily on an efficient gas/grocery month.

On the flip side, it is easy to curb spending this time of year. Dh's family is big on the wish lists, so anything I have the urge to buy goes on my wish list, and I will probably get it come December. As of now, my last fleeting thought was a bike basket - for the farmers market. On the wish list it shall go.

My stress level with BM's dental situation has also decreased because we get 10% cash discount + 25% off when it comes to income tax deductions and credit card rewards. We are 2 months away from cashing out another $250 Chase reward. Plus, with all the medical bills, I am estimating about $2k income tax refund at this point. (I usually go for breakeven, so this is pretty substantial for us - decided not to change my withholdings for such a freak year - and do appreciate the forced savings). I will probably just transfer that to my IRA, early next year - to reach my 2010 financial goals. Which makes my 2010 goals much more doable - with that extra $2k to utilize. I usually file around January 31, so expect the money in February - and will apply to 2010 IRAs.

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This weekend has been nice.

**On Saturday, the wild salmon was on sale. I honestly couldn't tell the difference (usually they have farmed salmon). BUT, the kids certainly could. They helped me eat 1 pound of salmon, over the last 2 nights. I did the crockpot recipe - it is so delish.

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

But yeah, the kids never like it, so I Was impressed that they ate so much of it.

**Yesterday we went to the Gold Rush days - 2nd year in a row for us. SO MUCH FUN!

To start, you pan for gold and turn it in for a certificate. Then, you can go to 6 businesses for a treat.

Last year was much better. Almost every business was giving away things. Apparently, the kids' favorite was a real flake of gold from the jewelry store. So we ran to the jewelry store first, to find they weren't giving away real gold this time (aw, shucks). {I can't say I minded much - last year's gold is just taking up space - not real useful!} From there, we didn't see a participating business for many blocks. Last year we were sampling food and all sorts of goodies. !! (I think we had found some extra certificates on the ground, at some point, last year - we took advantage).

We were wary at lunch since we have had some pretty horrendous meals there in the past. Should have researched better. We ended up at some small cajun place which boasted "Best cajun food" or something like that, on their walls. I wondered how much cajun food there really is in Sacramento, anyway. Still a little wary.

Well, we lucked out. The food was excellent. Since dh's Grandfather lives in Florida, and I had never tried the gator meat (didn't remember, anyway), they ordered alligator for me. (His parents were with us, and treated). It was okay. Dh delighted in ordering hushpuppies. I was wary to order the Buffalo burger since I am particular, but I wish I had. IT was REALLY good (tried a piece of MIL's). Definitely worth the wait.

After that we found some treats (VERY crowded since the participating stores were hard to find). One candy store was just giving candy away to anyone - what a MOB!

WE found the "Historic Schoolhouse Museum" which was really cute. No idea it existed. We also found a museum that focused on the Pony Express, plus saw lots of Pony Express riders on the way out.

BM proved to be quite the gambler, and we filled up on Sarsaparilla, of course.

I think there were way more costumed people than last year.

I think the best part was that it was similar to last year, but a completely unique experience. We will definitely go again next year. We spent about $5 on sarsaparilla, and $8 to park.

They literally dumped tons of dirt on the streets.



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Today we plan to lounge by the pool, though we invited a couple of the kids' friends and have sandwich fixings for lunch, if they decide to stay and eat with us.

I have a $10 coupon for Kohls. As usual, I really think I can go on and find something for $10-ish. I usually fail, and spend a ton. BUT, I actually walked in their a couple of times in recent months without buying anything. Don't ask me how! So, I will probably pick up a top - something fitting for work. I am still on the neverending search for a button up sweater to wear over my work dresses. I can never find anything flattering - just a lot of odd styles. That will be my pie in the sky goal. But, a regular old top is probably what I will settle on.

Quite a Haul

September 4th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I thought today would be uber spendy.

Probably will be. But, we got enough produce that dh said he would get gas/groceries tomorrow. When I mentioned I was still going to pick up salmon, he decided to go gas up, get the groceries, and pick up the salmon for me. So if not for my salmon splurge, today probably would have been a low-spend day of sorts.

Anyway, I went to the bread store this a.m., since we decided just to do sandwiches for Monday.

For just over $7, I got 2 loaves of bread, a loaf of sliced sourdough bread, english muffins, tortillas, oatmeal cookies, generic oreos, and some cinnamon donut pop 'ems. The pop 'ems are my staple work treat (that way I can eat one or two but don't end up eating the whole box). Oatmeal cookies would have been plenty, but we recently got turned on to "Minute to Win IT" and I had told the kids I would get some so that we could try the oreo trick (you move them from your eye to your mouth using only your facial muscles).

Which reminds me, I was craving Oreos last weekend (can't remember the last time I had them), so I was looking at Walgreens when I went to pick up some milk. There was an enlarged price thing that said something about what a great deal they were at $4.57 (something like that - well over $4). *choke choke* I grabbed the generics for $2. They were actually pretty good. I asked dh how much Oreos were at the grocery store - he didn't know. I asked him if $5 sounded a little steep. HE certainly agreed.

These Walgreens generics were fat oreo cookies with lots of filling. At the bread store, they were more like little oreos, but I figured they would do the trick. They were $1.50.

Anyway, since I spent $7, I got the english muffins for free. I also earned 2 free loaves of bread with my punch card.

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After aerobics/bread store, I came home and showered/changed so we could try out the farmers market by the library. I have to preface this by saying we have had a lot of expensive farmers market around in the area (all organic and all that - we aren't much into the organic). So we didn't really have high expectations. This is the kind of neighborhood definitely where you slap an organic label and everyone would pay twice as much.

So, we were very pleasantly surprised. A wide variety of really well priced produce. Most of it was sold as organic, too. I had pressed dh to get there early because I heard they had sold out quickly in recent weeks. As I walked past a few people lowering prices mid way through the morning, I told dh maybe later was better. We aren't that picky.

Definitely will become a weekend trip for us. Even better, they are putting lights on the freeway overpass so it may be safe enough to ride bikes over there, by next year. I am so excited about that!

We spent about $13 on pistachios (most of it!), corn, green onions, carrots, cilantro, grapes and strawberries. Everything was about $1 per pound of per bunch, but for the pistachios and strawberries - which were our splurges.

We saw "all natural beef" at $5/pound. We decided to look into it. Dh was wary of buying beef in the hot sun. I said I just wanted to look up how natural it really is. Big Grin Which is why I am not head first into the organic movement - I am pretty skeptical if everything labeled "organic" is really worth the higher cost. But at $5/pound, you might be able to get me to switch to organic beef. I just need to do more research on that one.

Overall, a success!

Having to pay cash would REALLY throw me off, but dh had a $50 in his pocket. Rolleyes His Grandma had given it to him at some point. I told him that I could have really used it for bills (or in savings), but that could be our Farmer's market/skating rink budget for the month. Both cash only. Just throws off my whole bookkeeping system! So, yeah, I was annoyed to know he had $50 sitting in his pocket - for many weeks apparently. Guess it works out.

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No time to cook breakfast this morning, so scrambled eggs and fresh fruit for lunch. BM is becoming the master chef of scrambled eggs in our house.

Just an Update

September 3rd, 2010 at 07:58 pm

**Not much to report. Budget seems uber tight, but I suppose I committed all the preschool money (rounding up) to short-term savings, though we also have spent a fair amount of it. That was they money we had to justify our uber high speed internet, and super fancy HD programming. So, I "double booked" it so to speak, and am feeling the pinch.

Of course, on the flip side, my gas balanced billing went down $5/month. While everything is going up $5 here and $10 there (all the utilities, etc.), gas is heading down. It was $14, then $31 (probably to make up for it being too low). $26 probably sounds about right. It is amazing how energy efficient our home is - that is the gas stove (we use almost daily) and the furnace for winter. + hot water. Reminds me, I just turned the hot water up because it has been more like fall than summer.

Anyway, by some miracle we only spent $500-ish on grocery and fuel, this month. Our budget is more like $800. I wish I could say I saved the difference, but we seemed to spend it all. I think I am just going to hang tight through December, and re-evaluate come January. The extra savings from preschool is important since we have a one-time flood insurance bill due this winter - something like an extra $1200. We can probably survive without it next year, if I feel I need to absorb it in the spending budget.

**Since the weather has been 20-30 degrees cooler than normal, we haven't been in the pool in at least 2 weeks.

But, September has brought summer weather (???) so we went to the pool tonight. Heck, not sure I have ever seen it so crowded on a Friday night.

**Weekend plans are getting kind of busy.

Saturday - clean house a bit, dh needs to stock up on groceries, both our cars have absolutely no gas. Today is the close of our credit card cycle. It shows - we are running dry here. Though I was shocked when dh agreed not to get groceries until tomorrow. Has helped the bottom line immensely.

I'd like to pick up some fresh salmon - it's been a few months. A treat for me, myself and I. (Dh and the kids don't like salmon). I told dh I would stock up at the bread store, too. Tomorrow will definitely be spendy!

Sunday - MIL/FIL are coming up for our Gold Rush Days - was so fun last year. Hopefully it is not a billion degrees...

Monday - Invited friends over for swimming/lunch. If we go early, can probably beat the crowd. Though I am hoping they clear out early so we can laze around most of the day. That one is for Mr. Social BM more than the rest of us. The rest of us would like a nice quiet day. Not sure what happened to our weekend! Tomorrow should be quiet - but plenty to do.

**I suppose I do deal with the heat better than dh. When I commented on all the "crazy people" with babies and no A/C, I admit that was when we were new to the area (many years ago). I suppose I have acclimated. I still wouldn't want to cart around an infant in the hot car, but it really doesn't bother me. 10 minutes in the car between 2 air conditioned havens - eh - somehow I survive. It probably depends on the day. On the freeway, it may be a hot breeze, but it's a breeze. I suppose as long as I don't get stuck in traffic or anything like that.

**Knock on wood, but LM still LOVES everything about school.

**The soccer league is nice enough to give us this weekend off. Phew! I suppose we start games the following weekend.

**We have to remember to check out our new, local farmers market tomorrow. I keep forgetting!