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January 6, Smart Thermostat

January 7th, 2018 at 09:03 am

January 6:
$100 Smart Thermostat
$44 Groceries
$35 Fuel
$30 MH allowance (movies)
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Asian Salad

In addition, $10 was spent at Target (cat food) but MH did a return for me ($17.50?).

MM(14) volunteered at the animal shelter. I have been 100% taking him (since summer) but knew I would pass the baton to MH during tax season. I know MH ran to Target (while waiting) and the used book/music store (where he has credit to spend if he bought anything).

That reminds me, MH picked up some board game at the library. He is a bit of a game hoarder so I am ecstatic about that!

I decided to fill up the van (used coupon, saving $8). I *may* squeak by with this gas tank for the rest of the month. (Or at least for this credit card cycle. Probably not for the calendar month). Since the kids had devoured the sourdough bread in mere minutes, I decided to go pick up some more bread and get some gas. In the end I decided to make lunch and picked up a few other things (needed more butter and some bleached flour for baking). I did pick up pistachios because they were on sale. They only seem to sell ground hamburger in 2-3 pound packages these days, so I bought more than I needed.

Comment I made on January 1:
I don't see why we would spend much this month.

Reality:
I forgot that this is a chore month for MH. So I guess there will be lots of spending on that front.
Dental appointments, Doctor appointments, oil changes, etc.

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Did you notice the $100 thermostat purchase?

What a day!!

Upstairs thermostat has been on the fritz for a while. It DIED when I touched it the other night. Because we have two zones for out HVAC system, it's not particularly critical. (Which is probably why we haven't fixed it before). Honestly, the downstairs zone heats most the house and all the heat wafts up to our bedroom. & the kids don't particularly even like it when I turn on the heat upstairs (they prefer the cold). So, it's not critical, but we had a very short window that my dad could maybe help us (before he went out of town for a while). So we decided to attempt to fix it and arranged for him to come up today if we needed help. (It is probably the coldest month of the year and could get uncomfortable if we couldn't turn on the upstairs heat. Not critical, but not ideal either).

In the end it was a very frustrating all-day endeavor, but we figured it out.

MH took the opportunity to price out a Smart Thermostat. It had to be something he could just pick up in person. We settled on a $100 model at Target that is not sold in stores. MH went over to a regional electronic store that price matches. That way he could just pick it up that day at the best price he found.

{While there, he bought some movies on deep discount; the first allowance spending of the year}.

In the end, the new thermostat was just as dead. We were really darn close (more than once) to just calling our HVAC repair guy and not even bothering my dad with this. It seemed we had a much bigger problem.

I said to MH at some point, "It seems to me the problem must be on the other end of the wires." He is the smart engineering one and I am the polar opposite, but I guess I have lived with engineer types my whole life and they are rubbing off on me. He didn't seem to comprehend, but "the other end" meant climbing up into the attic (which is little more than a crawl space) and messing with the heater. I think he was just in denial.

Eventually he got out of denial (the more obvious it became that this is the only other obvious solution and might save us $100 if he just checked). There was some 5th wire needed for this thermostat that we checked and knew we had coming out of the wall, but I guess in the end it had never been connected on the other side. Yeah, it seemed kind of obvious to me that was the problem. Something wasn't connected right. I expected maybe some other wire was loose (why we had problems at all) but in the end, all the rest of the wiring was completely fine; the old thermostat is just dead. So we feel better about just replacing it. We just happened to make life more complicated by transitioning to a thermostat that needs more wires. Up to that point, all we knew was we had two thermostats that wouldn't work at all.

Much to my chagrin, at that time MH connected the 5th wire to the heater, it still wouldn't work. Which is about the time we 99.99% gave up.

MH fiddled with it one more time, and it worked!! PHEW!!

In the end, we weren't interested in the super smart thermostats, which are more expensive anyway. Our house is very well insulated and we live in a mild climate. Is significantly more comfortable and frugal for us just to use the heat/air as needed. For example, the thermostat may say 62 in the fall but may feel really comfortable (because is not that cold outside). But on a winter day the thermostat may say 70 and I might be *freezing* because I am sitting near a window. As such, I don't know that we have any predictable patterns. & turning on the heat/air while we are on the way home (geofencing?) would just be excessive and would be a huge energy waste.

That said, we do have excessive heat in the summers and we do have a pet. I feel the $100 is a bargain as to the luxury of being able to see remotely how hot the house is and being able to turn on and off the A/C to keep the house reasonable and comfortable. Would probably only use if we were out of town any length of time, but you don't know how much energy I've spent in the past worried about pets when we've vacationed during summer months.

It will also be nice to be able to control the thermostat from bed.

Will give it some time to see how much we use and like. If we love it, I am sure we will upgrade the downstairs one (this year?) but want to give it some time. While the remote app stuff is really nice, and I know I could cool some of the house off in a pinch, it would be far more useful to have this feature for the downstairs zone that provides 90% of our heating/cooling.

January 4, Fence Work

January 5th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

January 4:
$1.50 fresh baked bread
$46 can of paint
Dinner: Chicken enchilada skillet

I guess it worked out that they were out of bread the day before; sourdough was on sale for $1.50 yesterday.

We are having some of our fence replaced (more details below) and the quote did not include paint on the street side. That said, the contractor asked MH if we had any paint ~ said he'd just take care of it (in about an hour). So MH ran to Sherwin-Williams to get some HOA approved paint. MH called me after he left the house to see if I could find a color match or something. I perused Nextdoor (neighborhood social media) and told him someone had taken a piece of fence down to Home Depot to color match. Others have just asked around for extra paint, which I could do. He told me was already out of the house so whatever, but that yes these were all much smarter ways to go about it. But we were both in the "get it done" headspace, and happy to have one less chore to do.

As to the fence, I would have replaced eons ago but neighbors have been too broke and/or cheap. *sigh* In the end, we have a new neighbor on one side and we had discussed in the summer when their neighbor on the other side replaced their shared fence. They were open to it, but they have a big dog and were really put out by the whole thing, so we figured we'd revisit this month when MH has time off work. In the end, the fence blew down a couple of weeks ago. (I presume that is the opposite of Murphy? When you've already penciled in the repair?). Neighbors were happy with their contractor and took the lead. Probably more expensive than we'd go because we are in the head space of, "We've lived with a falling down fence forever at this point, and we won't even be here another 10 years." But felt it best to just "go with the flow". Just happy they agreed at all. But I am pleased with the cost/quality. It's the longest side of our fence and so was $1,100 for our half, plus $400 to replace the gate.

We have a reasonable quote to replace the back fence (by far the worst section; is currently propped up by a pole ~ I think that section blew over about a year ago). Is a smaller length of fence, so cheaper. I'd love to have a uniform fence. But no idea how that will go with neighbors. It will depend how they react. I'd probably just pay for it, but MH doesn't want to. So he has to negotiate with them, and if that doesn't work, he will have to negotiate with me. No idea how that will resolve (but probably most likely with a cheaper contractor, if at all).

We decided to leave side #3 for now. It's mostly obscured by house and bushes. Just, too many neighbors to deal with it, and more expensive than I was guessing. Will get to it eventually. I'm more open to using cheaper wood on that side since we don't "see" that side so much. & it may be that we revisit this year, but just don't have to be this month.

This & That

October 15th, 2017 at 03:30 pm

**The tax season from hell is officially over. (10/15 is the last of the income tax deadlines.) I am EXHAUSTED. I think I may have enough down time to take a week off in December (the week I couldn't take off last year, so I have an extra week this year). Will see. Still in the middle of another monster project, though the end is in sight.

(I am usually not so busy in September/October, and probably would generally consider May through November to be pretty relaxed at work, but it's just been one of those years!)

**On the home front, hell froze over and MH finally discarded his professional wardrobe. It was mostly bought used and hasn't been worn in 15 years. We had last left it that he could keep it but I was NOT moving with that stuff that he was obviously never going to wear. This was our compromise.

In the end, he asked me to take him shopping for more casual clothes (he wanted help) and he was open to purging his closet after we went shopping. I thought he mean some of his more casual clothing, but he went through it *all* and admitted most of it was not in great condition after sitting in a closet for 15 years.

In the process, I took some time to purge my side of the closet too. My problem was not with his quantity of clothing, but with the fact he was NEVER going to wear it. So when he purged like 90% of his barely existent wardrobe, I felt like I should make an effort on my side of the closet. I was surprised how much stuff I had to purge and the shirts I forgotten I had, etc. Ugh. I can use improvement on my 1-in/1-out rule.

**I also *finally* got through our photos. The problem is my (4-year-old) phone has a burst mode for taking photos. I LOVE this feature, but the downside is I end up with massive amounts of photos.

It was my goal to download and backup photos before our London trip. There were two big vacations in particular that I never backed up. (They were automatically backed up in google, but we have a more extensive backup system in place, and I had never added those photos to MH's more secure backup). I was trying to use London as a motivational deadline, but I had too much to do and was having technological difficulties. Anyway, on one day a couple of weekends ago I made some strides on this. I seemed to stumble upon a more efficient way to get everything downloaded. So I spent all day and just got it done. Finally! Backed up London, and probably all the big vacations we took in the past 4 years. I think the hard part was deleting the endless duplicates.

**Other than being busy on the chore side of things, it's been a very spendy month.

We finally replaced our hot water heater. It was making some strange noises, and was definitely time. We were planning to be more proactive in 2015 but the labor costs to install were more than we expected. I got a lower quote this time around, and am happy to cross this off my list.

For a while now, I've also had it in my craw to pick up some glasses in person. The last pair of glasses I purchased were $10 on Zenni. They are absolutely *awesome*. Is my second pair I've ordered online? But I never got proper measurements for my pupils and I thought I saved enough on glasses the last several years that I could probably splurge on a new pair and try on in person. Sounded like a nice luxury.

Was it worth it? Not sure. I wasn't enthralled with the selection and ended up getting glasses more very functional but nothing as cute as I have been getting on Zenni. I could let it go as there is nothing wrong with practical glasses. The only complaint about the $10 pair was that they were a little heavy. Which I guess I will make note of for the future (Zenni certainly sells very light glasses. I had just never bought such heavy glasses before, so hadn't thought to check the weight).

Whereas Zenni charged me a whole whopping $5 for their anti-glare coating, my HMO charged me $90. So that's going to be the deciding factor. I have had problems with night driving. If the $90 clears that up for me, then it's a no-brainer and definitely worth it. But if I don't notice any difference on the glare, then I am probably just going to stick to Zenni in the future. (I am guessing I won't notice any difference).

Today I ordered some prescription sunglasses online, $30.

My timing is probably pretty terrible on this front. I have been thinking about doing this for a while, but what motivated me to make an eye appointment last week is that MH (who has been talking about this quite a while) decided to go ahead and make an eye appointment for himself. Never wore glasses, but can feel his eye sight worsening. He wanted me to go with him to help him pick out glasses, and I told him was fine since I need to have a check up myself.

In the end he feels his near-sight is worsening but they told him he needs everyday/distance eyewear. Strange as it sounds, it seems to be helping.

They actually upsold him to a $350 pair of glasses, but they were a pair like I had before which I really liked and were very high quality. (I wore for maybe 6+ years). So I told him to just go for it.

I went for titanium (wanting to go much lighter) and paid $250 for mine.

So yeah, though I planned for a while to do a splurge for myself, wasn't planning to make it a double splurge. Makes it a little harder to digest.

So that sums up some big spending.

**In other news, the kids have been really clicking with their cousins and I have been making an effort to get them together. My impression is that SIL is far too busy for us, so I was really surprised when I requested a more last minute get together and she obliged. (I figured I'd try, but wasn't expecting much). So I have to give her credit. She wanted to go do something ridiculously expensive, next time, and told me they had no free weekends for the rest of the year. So that is the flip side of it. They do over-book and tend to flake on our standing annual traditions. But I mentioned we'd be in town one weekend and she is making that work too. Which is nice because though I am doing *all* the driving (I guess it comes with the territory of being the ones who moved), I appreciate not having to take any extra trips. We had a 3-day weekend last weekend, and then if we can kill two birds with one stone next time... That works.

For last weekend, MH had some movie plans and some volunteer commitments, so I just took the kids on my own. It was a nice little day trip.

**UGH! I accidentally cut and paste over my last post. It was about the wild fires in our state. They suck and it's horrible. We are far away and unaffected. I think that sums it up. I mentioned the wind was crazy yesterday and not helping, but it seems to have died down, so maybe they can get these fires under control.

August Savings

September 1st, 2017 at 05:12 am

Received $55 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our grocery card.

Redeemed $45 cash back on Citi card.

Other snowflakes:
--$15 (sold old sleeping bag on Craigslist; kids outgrew) ~ I set this money aside to pay for gymnastics (it's cash only)

--Redeemed $11 cash back on Visa dining/fuel card. Since this was mostly trip expenses I just applied this snowflake to our trip.

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
- 600 auto insurance
- 400 kids' birthdays ($200 x 2)
- 305 dentist (cleanings x2 + chipped tooth)
- 120 van repairs

In addition, we pulled the following from mid-term savings:

- 215 Plumbing repairs
- 200 new pots and pans (couldn't cover after all this murphy)
- 150 fix car stereo**

{Note: MH has no wages during summer months}.

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**I'd generally pull this from short-term savings (car repairs) but we've maxed out our repair fund already this year. Which is unusual, but we do have an older vehicle that didn't need *any* work last year. It makes sense from a multi-year view, but is exceeding our annual allotment. This is why we have other savings.

I'd probably cover something like pots and pans from short-term savings, but it's also fairly maxed out at this point. I still have some space remaining for insurance, dentist and property taxes, but the misc. and the car repair portions have been spent. I need to leave enough cash for the more fixed expenses I know of.

As far as Murphy goes around here, this was somewhat muted, but just a lot of little annoying things.

As an aside, I am always bemused when someone talks about keeping their old cars and doing without modern conveniences like blue tooth. Like it's either/or. Seriously?? You can keep OLD cars and update them with modern technology. Wink In another situation I might have replaced the car stereo, but the stereo is not very old and the vehicle is 12 years old. We figured it made the most sense just to replace the face plate on the stereo, which solved all of our problems. If I thought I'd keep this vehicle another 10 years, it might have been worth investing in a new stereo system.

I don't know where we stand on the Murphy front. I've already had more problems with the van upon our return from our trip. *sigh* We've not been home long, but hopefully things settle down a bit.

Technically trip expenses will sort out in October, but I think I will start transferring money and paying off expenses today. Travel rewards card is not due until October, but I have the cash and I just want to get everything paid off and accounted for.

See last post for Europe trip details. (I just realized this post covered that one up).

Doings

October 16th, 2016 at 05:51 am

**MH won $75 at work. More on that below.

**MM got accepted into a study that will probably pay him $300 next month. (It's $100 per visit, and depends if he passes the first one or two screenings. If accepted, it's a 4-year study and they may randomly choose MM for follow ups later). This is an autism study.

I've said in the past that the kids don't really have anything to save up for, so am just thinking longer term. (Just different times, different circumstances. Seems I had more ways to spend money as a kid). BUT... When discussing the possibility of a study (another one that paid $200 up front) MM mentioned that he wanted a new desktop computer. We agreed to buy him a monitor and a OS (probably can get a student-priced OS) and would cover 50% of the rest. He was probably going to have to come up with $300, and then this study just fell into his lap. If the study doesn't pan out for any reason, he has the money saved already.

I am glad he is going through the ropes of a more medium purchase before he buys something like a car. He's going to build his own computer. Right now all he has is a keyboard and a mouse (that he uses with his laptop).

That's the income side of things.

On the spending side of things...

**MH had pre-ordered the PlayStation Virtual Reality system (for about $500).

It is pretty freaking AMAZING. (Seriously, it's hard to imagine this is just the bottom/intro. They are going to do amazing things with VR).

It's the kind of thing we've been paying with credit card rewards (for the past several years). So I was thinking I should probably look for a $500 reward. I know there was one I was eligible for again this month, but it looks like that particular reward has dried up, as many of the others have.

I told MH that we had a good run, but we might not be able to find big bonuses any more. (& not that they don't exist, but if we've done them 3 times already they aren't going to let us do the same bonus again).

I will of course keep an eye out, but I am not expecting much on this front. The cc rewards were a nice income stream while MH was out of work. Plan A was that we were just paying from his income anyway.

We decided that MH should use his found $75 for some games. He already spent $25 (bought the VR game that everyone is raving about the most) and is keeping the other $50 for whatever strikes his fancy between now and Christmas. Otherwise the VR system came with some demos/games and he had bought some play station credits on sale a while ago (25% off?) that he has been using.

In general, MH and the kids aren't big game spenders. But it helps when $75 falls out of the sky like the day you get your new VR system. Big Grin (Otherwise, they are filling up their Christmas wish list and will keep an eye on the used market).

Other spending has been far more boring and mundane...

I hired out someone to get our trees trimmed and to pull out dead shrubs. A LOT of work. We had never trimmed the trees (just one monster tree in the back that *really* needed to be tamed). I mean, we did minor pruning that we could do on our own, but the trees are 15 years old at this point and need more work. In the end, monster tree is still enough of a baby that they said we wouldn't need to do a big pruning for another 5 years. The shrubs that the builder had put in all died in the drought (because we couldn't water enough in summer). I think except for two trees in the front, everything else we had put in. It's a hot/dry climate in general so we always need plants that need very little water. I am pleased that everything else seems to have done well with very little water.

**Yesterday I took MM out shopping. He needed a new backpack and a new jacket.

We stopped by Ross, who had TONS of backpacks a couple of weeks ago, but had since cleared out the inventory. But we found a $20 jacket that was just about perfect. My only concern was that it was a bit bulky, as to something to just keep in a backpack (since my kids mostly refuse to wear jackets. It mostly sits in the backpack to appease the teachers who freak out about their lack of warm weather wear).

So... We went over to Target. We found a $30 backpack that he liked. (I told him not to take off the tags until he is sure everything fits).

And... We found his dream jacket. Super light and thin, just for the rain. It was something like $32. I said "whatever" because he was so pleased with it and I knew it would fit way better in his backpack. It wasn't until I got home that I even realized that jacket was on clearance. Yeesh! (Full price $45?) Since they mostly never wear their jackets I am used to just buying whatever on clearance (more in the $10 range). But with MH working and MM being a teenager, I am trying to let his taste come more into play. Thank goodness for places like Ross. & we could probably hit the thrift stores too, but it's just something I haven't done in so long (almost a decade?) with access to such cheap clearance items. I stopped shopping thrift when Target opened a store near our home. The kids' clothes is most often in the $5 range. Plus I can just order online and have it shipped free to my house. & Ross isn't too far off from that for adult clothing. But... Given our finds yesterday, I suppose we need to re-visit thrift options too.

MH has lots of time to kill (in the vicinity of Ross) while he waits for MM to finish his math class, so I will just have him return the other jacket during the week.

I didn't pick anything else up at Target. It's how I have been since we got a Target credit card. I generally would never do a store credit card and feel uncomfortable with it, but we got the cc because we do primarily grocery shopping there and the 5% off is pretty sweet. I think my reaction to that was to just avoid Target like the plague. I just didn't need any additional temptation. & so is the irony that I have probably never spent less money at Target. I mean, how many years have we had this credit card? At least a few years at this point. I no longer equate Target with hobby shopping or perusing. Just in and out with a list. & I don't think it's an overly conscious thing but it's just how my mindset shifted with the credit card.

Ross is another story. I didn't have my internal alarms turned up, and so my attitude was completely different in Ross. I fell in love with a $10 blanket that I happened to walk by. I actually resisted it the first pass, but then decided I couldn't remember the last time I bought myself something. Just $10! So I am glad I decided to splurge. (The blanket is very soft and just gorgeous).

I also found a drawstring bag (but more sturdier/higher quality) for $3 and so I just grabbed it for our re-usable bag stash. Reminds me that MH also got a free bag from work.

May Doings, High School Stuff

May 7th, 2016 at 08:22 am

I guess this month is shaping up to be a bit of a chore month on the home front.

3 of us do have dental appointments and will have to get our cat his shots so that we can board him while we vacation. Just stuff like that.

We did have someone come out and clean out the gutters and power wash the house.

On the flip side, things have been pretty quiet. We are so ahead financially on everything that all through tax season I felt like I was forgetting something. But I think we've just gotten so efficient. I don't have anything in particular to tend to or clean up on the paperwork side of things and don't feel like I have done much this year. Since we are always pretty organized, it could just be that life has been *really* quiet. I do think that is some of it. But I am also really appreciating things like pre-paying the property taxes so that I have one less thing to worry about during tax season.

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In other news, we had a meeting with the high school that went really well. They seem infinitely more interested in "proper math placement" than BM's current school. I think they just have different red tape and motivations.

Will see, but so far both schools and the district seem to have no problem with things. If you missed my prior post on this topic, BM's current (middle) school doesn't offer higher math than algebra. He's already been held back more than he should have. We were never promised anything, but our first choice would be that he take math at the high school next year. It's our preference that he take an actual math class with peers. We have the resources to get him a (free) private math tutor if need be, but we kind of figure that is our last resort. We also have some other options that are not very ideal. So this is Plan A. (Plan A seems to be everyone's preference).

I wasn't sure what to expect from the meeting. But I think the bottom line is that they want our kid to attend their low performing school. I do also think our principal framed it with this expectation so that they would work with us. Honestly, this high school is very strongly in the running (they have some great programs for the higher achieving kids). But we haven't made any decisions yet. While there to discuss math (which we did all of a couple of minutes), we did tour the school and talked about the engineering program. Up to this point we've just been thinking of this as a means to get BM the proper math class. We chose this high school 99% because of the close proximity to the middle school, but also because our principal has a very close relationship with the school. But I now realize it is a really nice edge to attend the school for one year and get a feel for the campus. I will say I already have a far more favorable impression of this school administration versus the other high school. But I also think attending the school for an hour per day will give us more information to decide than any first (or second or third) impressions ever will.

I still will believe when I see it. I am sure there is red tape to sort out, even if we haven't been presented with any red tape yet. Schedules have to mesh, etc., etc.

Celery Cat Nip

January 20th, 2015 at 06:10 am

**BM is doing a science experiment with celery plants.

So I come home the other day and our cat is completely and totally BONKERS. He can be a hyper and troublesome cat anyway but he has substantially mellowed after a couple of years with us.

All I could think was... EARTHQUAKE. My dh thinks I am totally insane but there is science to back that up. I will never forget in the Loma Prieta quake when all the birds outside started squawking right before the big quake. (We don't particularly live in earthquake territory though so this pre-earthquake like behavior was a little perplexing. Like holy crap WHAT is coming?? We can feel quakes far away if they are large enough).

Dh is always the smart one that figures these things out. He had noticed that the cat had been particularly enamored with the celery plants. I jumped on the computer hoping we didn't carelessly leave out poisonous plants! Thankfully, that was not it. But what I saw immediately was that some cats react to celery leaves like they are catnip. HA! Dh called it.

The cat has kept out of the plants since and has mellowed out again. I keep expecting to come home to find plants everywhere and the science experiment ruined. Will see... He seems to be staying away from them - maybe that celery high was a bit too much for him.

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One of my recent posts I mentioned a lack of things to buy or a lack of a material wish list at this point.

Of course, I Am well aware we have stuff to maintain and to eventually replace and yadda yadda. It just seems to me that maintaining seems to be a generally much cheaper phase of life than the "accumulation" phase.

So I am sitting back and seeing what has been very low on our priority list and what is floating up to the top now that we really have no purchase priorities?

I have a GAP sweatshirt that I bought in like high school (20 years ago?) that I wear at night. It doesn't need replacing in the slightest but I thought "more than one night sweatshirt" might be nice. It's been kind of "meh" since we have done so much laundry with the kids. Especially when they were in diapers. But you know, I can probably afford a second warm night shirt now and we aren't doing as much laundry as we had been. Going longer between washes... So, I bought a couple from Gap online. Didn't see the exact same thing but thought I'd gamble that they are still making half the quality they did in the 1990s. Who knows. Their stuff was on sale. I actually gambled on a large boys' sweatshirt (it actually fit and I really like it) and then just got a large mens' sweatshirt. I figured if the boys' one was too small I could just give it to the kids. It's what looked closest to what I Wanted and both were on clearance. Of course they had nothing like my incredible sweatshirt!

That's my January improvement, I suppose.

February? I am thinking toilet seat. Our toilet seat has gotten scratched up for whatever reason. I think we should buy one and see how we like it. If we find a nice seat then probably should just replace the other two. I don't know that the other two are messed up but they do have some stains. At the least, would be nice to have a new toilet seat in the guest bath. This will be a very nice but inexpensive improvement. I see all the toilet seats these days are "slow closing". That will be nice actually. Our weather is too mild to care about warm seats and stuff like that (though I saw a lot of those too).

Paid $3.04 for gas

October 15th, 2014 at 08:14 am

What a nice surprise at the pump!

**Filled up the van today, should be the only time this month. Timing worked out well.

I had filled up 3 times last month because MIL requested we bring van down once when her sister was in town. This month, no one drove the van the 6 weekdays I had off from work. So I guess it all evens out.

I usually fill up the van twice a month. I've just been commuting with the van because we have been doing so many longer trips in the gas sipper.

I like the gas prices today considering we are driving to Napa and San Francisco next week.

**Current carpool arrangements (knock on wood)... Neighbor is picking up kids all week and then dh next week, alternating. I still just take BM on my way to work. I offered to take neighbor child as long as he is at our house in time but they have not taken us up on that offer.

This is new for this year since their child is a year younger and was at the other (Walking distance) campus last year. Neighbor keeps telling us he will be working and unavailable but then he is not. Is good for us I guess, but bad to see how unemployed he is at the moment. (They are *awesome* neighbors but their home has shown to be in foreclosure for over a year. Public records. No idea what is up with that. Is the curse of our carpool).

**Reminds me, dh has been helping out divorced (last year carpool) friends with a lot of babysitting. He was assertive that things were not working out so well and it seems they are kind of pissy with us. Whatever! We are not your personal free babysitter. Never minded helping them because they always returned the favor best they could and were very gracious.

Anyway, I hope newly divorced mom was just surprised or feelings briefly hurt and she gets over it. It's nothing personal. Her child is WAY younger which is most of the problem. In a couple of years I don't know that it would matter. Dh is always way too nice about this stuff but always draws the line once it affects the kids. My kids were getting really cranky about it. (I would have been cranky too. I can't say I would have ever agreed to watch a 7yo. But dh has way more patience for kids. It's not just that dh changed his mind. She kept bringing him over 2-3 times more often than she had asked. So, she can't be surprised that dh was getting annoyed).

**Dh got a 3rd and 4th opinion and repaired the crack in our stucco. Final cost? About $4 in supplies, plus borrowed a ladder from a neighbor. Woohoo! I always love it when nasty looking home repairs turn out to be like $10 or less to fix. It happens sometimes.

**Oh, and I almost forgot the best news of all! Did not run the AC yesterday and the weather looks favorable for turning it off for the season. Phew! We have been running the AC every day this month, which is ridiculous.

We usually don't turn on the heat until Thanksgiving. With this crazy weather, who knows...

Craziness

April 8th, 2011 at 09:58 pm

Life is crazy. Tax season isn't really the all of it. Maybe the most of it. I try to keep things simple and not so hectic, so it all does seem pretty hectic at the moment. That said, I intend to work all weekend. Not because I have that much to do, but it's my last shot for overtime. That, and too many personal appointments. So I'll need to work both days. I am exhausted just thinking about the weekend. And work my To Do List looks impossible, I guess. IRS deadlines? I think I will pretty much be done by Monday, like usual (one week ahead). But the state has a 4/15 deadline for use tax, April 30th is payroll deadlines, May 7th or something like that is property tax deadlines, and I am behind on all my regular work. It will be busy for a while. I don't have that many tax clients, so that is why I am pretty much done. I actually expect to get caught up on other things next week. Phew!!!

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I can't help but feel my horoscope would read something along the lines of "many loose ends will be tied up this week."

**April 15th deadline - pretty much conquered.

**Gutters fixed. Total damage? $30. For a thorough gutter cleaning, some patches, and some fixing. I know - we owe our neighbor a nice dinner or something. He didn't want to charge anything and dh made him take $30. That was a project LONG put off - talk about loose ends tied up.

I hope he cashes the check. This is a case where cash would have been nice. I hate it when people don't cash checks!

**IRS audit - done. Got the letter that it was final and no change. For a client - but was a big stressful ordeal. Woohoo!

**I have 2 partnerships who have been quibbling with an exiting partner. Both have brought me much stress and back and forth the past year. Those 2 issues seem to be mostly resolved, as of this week. That calls for some champagne!!!

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As far as government shutdown? Living in California, I am ashamedly used to it.

This was actually a huge reason Ms. Preschool up and left the state. She had a lot of state subsidized children in her care, so basically didn't get paid many months out of the year - many years.

I am still bitter about that, obviously. Frown That she just up and left - we loved her to death!

Government not getting their act together and paying their bills? Yeah yeah, what else is new? It's sad that has become the norm on some level. I agree with the other comments said this week in the blogs. Imagine, spending within one's means! A very novel concept...

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I told dh that getting our gutters taken care of so well, so quickly, and so cheaply was karma.

I have to laugh when people presume I am money grubbing whatever because I am an accountant. Accountant isn't the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to making differences in people's lives. But, the truth is it is pretty rewarding. I think people just tend to really appreciate having someone to trust with that stuff, and not having to deal with it. Because though I love it all, most people can't stand numbers, finances, and taxes.

Anyway, I am told on a regular basis that I am highly appreciated. Which is where the rewarding part comes in. Probably extra so this time of the year since people hate dealing with their taxes so much.

I suppose I feel the same way about home maintenance. I know nothing about it. I don't want to know anything about it. & having someone I can trust, who isn't going to screw me over, and help me with that? I told dh I was feeling what it was like to be on the other side. *Home maintenance* is my equivalent to *evil taxes* I guess. Big Grin

So yes - definitely owe neighbor a nice dinner or some other token of appreciation!


It's Done!

May 4th, 2010 at 07:44 pm

& so it is done...

Dh called me around noon to tell me the painters were done, and called me back in the afternoon to tell me the paint company's owner picked up the check.

I just got home, and boy, they did a GREAT job!

I had wanted to do a once over before dh handed over the check, but I guess it didn't matter.

They just have to come back tomorrow to put the weather stripping back on the front door.

& so ends our first "big maintenance" as homeowners. Heck, the only other maintenance we have done, is bird proofing. We've been homeowners for about 10.5 years.

$2200 to paint the exterior. Definitely worth every penny.

I am just in awe in how quickly they painted the house and what a great job they did. It was about 12 hours of prep, painting, and cleanup, I'd say. Not including a couple of hours of power washing, last week.

I will post pictures, later. Big Grin

Not So Manic Monday

May 3rd, 2010 at 04:02 pm

I think dh mentioned it, but I remembered my LONG put off optometrist appointment was today. I decided to postpone it, with the pink eye and everything. BM also stayed home from school today - because he looked terrible. LM and I look like we can *fit in* with normal looking eyes. Though we shouldn't be contagious; just kept BM home to be safe. He has been really difficult to give drops too - not sure how much is making it into the eye!

I was relieved that his eyes looked a little less red, at lunch.

I suppose this is another reason I am glad I just went with my HMO for the appointment. It was simple to reschedule, online on a Sunday. I just put off to next week.

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Painting has started on the house. How exciting!

I have heard that the first 8 (or 10?) years is when a new house really settles. There are lots of little cracks to fill in and such - it is more than just about the paint. Though we didn't wait for the paint job to look "horrible," I still look forward to the facelift.

Oh - I believe there will be some "hidden costs" to the paint job. I presume they will use our electricity and water, which we tend to be quite frugal with. So, will expect a big bill, for May!

Also, we have a LOT of natural light in our house - it is so open and has so many windows. Anyway, with the windows all taped up, it was eery how dark the house was. We will be using way more lights than usual, I am sure. They should finish up Wednesday.

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Here's something I had never heard of before. A friend told me that her neighbor paints one side of his house, every year.

May be a little overkill, but it is definitely an interesting approach, to just bite off a little at a time. I suppose the every year thing keeps it looking fresh. One wall every 2-3 years might start to look a little more weird?

Maybe part of me is glad to have a very tall house so I don't have to do the math and feel guilty for not doing it myself. Paying a $1500-ish premium (over cost) to not break my neck, sounds good to me. If I had a single story, I would consider the once a year/frugal strategy.

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Had the funniest exchange with dh over the weekend.

I am probably guilty of not vocalizing all my plans - I keep a lot of things up in my head. IF it's "hell no we can't justify that right now," I just file it away (in my head) for later.

Anyway, I saw some decent patio set on sale, in the paper, for $300, and I just said aloud how maybe we should buy something like that, next year.

My dh flipped out a bit. To which I took great offense. Thing is, he rarely wants to buy anything for less than $1k-$2k. It's always big things, with him. So of course I told him to give me a break - it was flipping $300. Since when do I get to buy anything?

Anyway, we both calmed down, eventually. I told him that we had treated our patio furniture really bad, and I just wanted to start over. To which he replied, we never use it. To which I replied, because it's repulsive.

So anyway, AGES AGO, I bought a cover for the table, and dh hemmed and hawed about how ridiculous it was and how hard it was to remove the umbrella. To which I pointed out that I didn't really have issues with the table, or all of the chairs. Maybe we just needed an easier to remove, umbrella. IT really should be brought in every winter, with the chairs, and the table covered. The cover still sits unopened in the garage. I swear I bought it before we had kids.

NEedless to say, at some point dh went outside, and hosed off the umbrella. He opened it to dry off. IT was a bit windy and I saw it spinning around and suggested he put it down (I just meant close it). I would open it later when it settled down. It gets wasp nests when it is closed, and so then we can never use it!

SO, dh misunderstood and put the thing in the garage!

So I Ask him - if he left some of the pole sticking out or if I could actually put a cover on it. HE said the table was ready for a cover.

Oy vey! All that hemming and hawing, and he was able to remove the entire umbrella twice in one day.

So, all I had to do was threaten to spend $300??? Give me a break.

The whole thing is still not resolved. We have 3 white chairs that have turned a dark rust color. They are disgusting. The other 3 are fine. I will commit to bring them inside during winter. The other three can go in the trash as far as I am concerned. I told dh I may still buy some chairs - they don't have to match 100%. He doesn't agree. Sometimes he drives me nuts. Lord forbid I Want a chair that doesn't look disgusting.

In other home imrovement news, I am so tempted to get a screen door. With the house all spruced up, and a little cash, I think it would be a nice touch. I have wanted one forever - like a storm door so we can open up the front door in the summer and get a cool breeze through the house. Maybe it will save us some electricty (AC) costs in summer. Big Grin

But, I may put that one off. We need a custom door, is the problem.

Anyway, I can identify with ceejay. Having some money to get some stuff done around the house - and I have some long put-off projects in mind. I'd just like to get it taken care of so we can jump into super savings mode, for next year.

For whatever reason, dh was not opposed to the door. Maybe because I mentioned it multiple times over the years. Seriously, I am sure that's all it is.

Well, glad I mentioned it. I am going to scrub the patio table, and get out the nice chairs, and enjoy the backyard a bit this spring. Hallelujah for shade (from the umbrella).

Contractor Stories

April 22nd, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Our first home was a condo (little upkeep, but had been completely remodeled before we moved in, so we didn't do a thing to the place). Second home was bought brand new.

Needless to say, I don't have a lot of contractor stories, even if we have been homeowners for a decade.

We are probably going to have our house painted in the next couple of weeks.

We have been waiting a year (or two) for some neighbors to paint. To get a good recommendation. To see who was good and who to stay away from.

We gave up on this angle. Since no one has painted their home.

I haven't really asked many friends. I asked a couple of financially savvy friends for referrals. They have never painted their home. This is they kind of thing I wouldn't just taken any referral. I think people tend to be really stupid. I have had terrible referrals in the past. If it's not family, I am wary of any recommendation of this type. I just want a good/ethical contractor that is reasonably priced.

All that said, it's not an area we have any experience with!

I think we may have lucked out with this painter, but won't speak too soon. Found an ad online. Has been in business forever, A+ rating with the BBB, properly licensed and insured, and all that jazz. I picked him because he was giving rock bottom prices "due to the economy." I would stay away from any ad that had the word "cheap" in the price. I don't want cheap - I Want quality. The way his ad was worded, sold me.

Of course, he looks good on paper, but the next step was to meet him in person, and get a quote (and a gut feeling).

I would generally get multiple quotes and maybe we should, but from what I know about prices, I know the price we did get is rock bottom. I know no one has complained about this guy to anyone who matters (licensing board, or BBB) in the last few years. I know he has been in business for many decades. Liked him as much in person. He does not even ask for a deposit (which would be standard). It seemed clear he would go above and beyond the minimum standard - looking at the contract.

So, will see how it goes. & so we bite the bullet. Dh is supposed to call him this week. Though with all the rain, lord knows when we can get it done. No rush - my angle was just to get a discount with the pre-season. Plus, probably best to paint before the wasps move in. Why I kind of wanted to beat warmer weather a bit. But I Can wait a couple of weeks!

Of course, I am open to ANY advice on the subject.

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We actually hired a contractor when we first bought our home, to get the backyard landscaped. Concrete, lawn, irrigation, plants/trees.

I am sure it was in the realm of $5k, though I don't remember for sure. At the time, we had tons of landscapers going door to door. We asked a couple of our neighbors who actually did their yards (most waited YEARS - ugh). They all had horror stories and said they wouldn't recommend their landscapers. If nothing else, they don't show up.

Great!

We started talking to the door to door guys and settled on someone who sounded like they really knew what they were doing, and was really "cheap," to boot. Wasn't the lowest quote we got. Just the "best feeling" we got. We were really young and no idea what we were doing. Though I am sure we got advice about what to ask about and look for.

The results are mixed. In the end, turns out the guy was using a relative's license (he had a very similar name). The whole thing was kind of frustrating. We would never know, but he didn't pay for the concrete, and so the concrete company put a lien on our house. Yeah. So, dh calls them, and they tell us that they are going to report us for hiring someone without a license. Okay then. Report away. How do you explain how you allow a non-licensed contractor to get a lien on our house??? Maybe they found out after the fact. I have no idea - but they seemed to have a clearer picture of the situation than we did.

Dh tracked down the actual licensed contractor we thought we had hired. HE paid the bill, apologized for his relative, and that was that. No more lien.

So, yeah, not a great experience.

Don't get me wrong - he did a nice job. But we tried to do right, and the whole thing kind of sucked in the end.

Anyway, in the end I suppose it worked. He showed up and did a nice job for a reasonable price. Extra reaosonable because he was a fraud, I suppose.

Sometimes another perspective can be so eye opening. Only recently, one of our neighbors commented how we had the nicest landscape job. I had never really thought about it. But, they had bought a second house in the neighborhood and both the homes just had terrible backyards. She was telling me how much she loved our trees when she lived behind us, and how nice our landscaping look compared to theirs.

I suppose though the guy was a fraud, he obviously knew what he was doing and did a nice job. We asked for "low maintenance" and that is what we got. It was only looking at my neighbor's crappy looking yard that I appreciated that we really could have done a lot worse. So, phew.

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Needless to say, when we met with the painter, we asked to see his I.D. He also apologetically told us he had to disclose about the whole lien thing, legally. "Oh, but I've never had to put a lien on anyone's home." Dh and I just looked at each other when that subject came up.

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Actually, I am also looking for someone to clean our gutters and do a small repair. I thought that maybe we should just rush that out before the paint job. Probably should, but I can't find anyone. I just want someone license/insured who doesn't have terrible reviews all over the internet. A lot of contractors say they are, without sharing their license #. Clearly not licensed - so probably not insured. Still more homework to do for that one. There's no (big) trees so we have never cleaned our gutters. Dh found a leak and was going to take care of it, but has never got around to it. I had to climb up on the lower roof to remove some of the Dish equipment and saw the buildup in the gutter. It does need a cleaning, to prevent more damage.

Funny enough, a lot of gutter places around here do pigeon cleanup and bird proofing, etc. I had NO IDEA. We hired a guy to put up bird proofing and he moved away. Last time we just called a big pest control company to fix one area, but they didn't clean up all the bird droppings on the roof. Looks like we can get the painter or the gutter cleaner to spray that off. & it's nice to know who to call if we ever have any problems. (Knock on wood, but haven't had any bird issues in a while. The birds are pretty bad around here - well, they were).

I may renew my gutter cleaning/fixing efforts this weekend. Might as well get it done.

Why not do our own? Oy vey! Not the proper tools/ladders/guts for the crazy high gutters. Will spend $150 for a pro. It's a steal.

Going forward, will probably have to do a wee bit more often than once a decade.

Oh yeah - we never wash our windows either. I don't see the point. Painter said they would be "cleaned" in the process with the spray - and they go over them with a squeegee so they look nice. Our house will look so shiny!

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I know - I have been so knee deep in work, I haven't felt terribly bloggy.

But, now I am knee deep in home improvements and long put off stuff - all costing money - and thus I swing the other way, to very bloggy.

Project Complete!

November 27th, 2009 at 07:37 pm

Between Thanksgiving, my super-mini-vacays, and all this health stuff, I have not completed the bath projects.

I figured I'd get our shower up and running (haven't used in years), BUT as I finished the shower I noticed grout falling out of another seam. IT was very small, but decided I should go over that with caulk. (Went over the seam - top to bottom - tall shower).

I also had to go around the tub, where if meets the floor. I decided against ripping out the old caulk around the tub, since it is rarely used. I didn't need to finish the tub, to use the shower.

BUT, it had been so long, today I did the final shower seam, and around the tub.

It needs to dry for 24 hours (will aim for days to be extra sure). & the tub may need another layer. But by next weekend we will have our shower back! I am so excited.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the kids' bath, BUT, I am investing in some caulk remover and hope that helps.

I dread working on the kitchen sink. It's just so big around. You'd think the tub would be larger, but at least it is all straight, and not all the way around, etc. I will also have to work quickly on the sink - it will be hard to cook without it!

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We were introduced to a new game called Munchkin. It's pretty fun and we now own a couple of variations. Another birthday present for me. (Was curious who the Munchkin fans were - Big Grin )

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Got some fun/frugal things planned for tomorrow (utilizing memberships), and Sunday will be "home improvement day" as I start tackling the other bath.

Chores, Chores, Chores

November 1st, 2009 at 05:07 pm

"Productivity" must be in the air. It is definitely a fall thing.

**Counted kids' money today, and BM has a $50 deposit. It is so funny how crammed full his piggy bank was with $1 bills. Mental note: check his piggy bank more often.

For now, BM is the saver (he is like dh: likes his electronics, but hell if he would spend a dime on anything else. Seems totally disinterested in fads. Though, since dh gets so many games and books for free, he is content).

LM is more imaginative and could play with lint all day, but he also likes collecting little characters. He has been the spendy one. That being said, Grandma spoils him a bit, and as spendy as he is, he still had about $40 in his piggy bank. Go figure. (He doesn't get an allowance yet, so BM has much more dough).

**Dh and I discussed no-spend November. Well, I think it will be "low-spend November." We've spent our money for the year, pretty much. (Keep in mind - all our November bills are already paid, etc. Anything in December will mostly be charged, and paid in January).

Today I reconciled all our "savings buckets" accounts - spreadsheets - through the end of the year. In the end, I don't think we will have to touch any other savings (barring Murphy or unforeseen), but on the flip side I am upset that I have no money to add to the efund. Maybe next year!

We will end rather breakeven in short-term savings, and with $0 in the medical savings. $20k-ish in more long-term savings/efund.

I think short term savings needs a $150/month boost. That is where preschool money will divert to, mid-2010.

(Drats - and I forgot to account for possible $1k car repair. Might have to touch savings, after all. Won't beat myself up over it since short-term savings covered $2k body work on the van this year. I'll be lucky to have barely touched our "true savings," otherwise.).

**I've finished most of my goals for the year, but have completely ignored all my "house goals."

Until the month of October anyway.

This weekend I:

*Touched Up Paint
*Trimmed Trees (never done before)
*starting demolition on bathroom repairs.

Last one sounds fancy, but I am mostly just removing grout, old caulk, and cleaning for re-caulking.

The nice thing is I have all the time in the world for bath projects. I have quite a few areas to work on. Our bathroom has not been used for years, and so I will take my time on it. Once it is in working order, we can start work on the other bath. The perk to having 2 full baths. (My bath will be the most tedious - the only one with grout to remove. The reason being that it was falling out all over the place. I got all the easy stuff on Friday, and the rest will be a chore. Just where the tile meets the bottom of the shower. I have read that it should be caulked - where different materials meet - so that is what I will do. I read builders are bad about this detail, but it hasn't affected our other 2 tubs. I am just going to caulk over the other 2 tubs since the grout has held up. Phew!).

The only other frustration this weekend is that the door paint, which we had never opened or used, was all "curdled." We went by the paint store today, but it was closed. Doh! Builder gave us small 1/2 gallons of touch up paint, and wrote down the paint #s. Hopefully it will be easy to replace (though I am not terribly sure that it's the right paint to begin with?).

So all I was able to touch up was the walls, but they do look like a million bucks.

In the end, might have to pick a new color for 2 doors, and completely repaint them. Worst case, anyway.

Anyway, I was starting to think I might not hit any house goals this year. No idea where this motivation has come from, but I will take it!

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Enjoy it while you can. I don't plan to make "house repair" a hobby. I have actually been a pretty terrible procrastinator on this. Like, I rather not use the shower, than fix it!

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Dh earned his keep. He did minor garage door repair, changed air filters, and promised to repair a hole in the wall (from doorknob - pesky kids loosened the door stopper). Him and the kids helped me with the trees, too. Dh did the grunt work.

Oh yeah - I figured I'd attempt to remove our small, dead tree. It seemed wobbly, so I gave it a good kick. Well, that was all it needed! Dh ended up having to saw it up into smaller pieces. It was just too dry/brittle. But I was able to get all the live tree branches trimmed. Borrowed saw came in handy!

I also drug dh along on a home repair shopping trip. Though I ended up buying most of it online (cheaper).

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One thing to add: I puzzled over our grocery bill this month, since it was quite high, for 2 months in a row. & um, family was gone for ONE WEEK? I thought this month would even out since dh had stocked up on so much before their trip in October. (To be fair - I gave a fair amount of food away because dh cooked more like for 2-3, than for one).

Anyway, I swear the kids have asked for a snack about 100 times today!!!!! I think I can see the culprits! They usually do not eat light in the least, but I think keeping them well fed will be challenging for a while. They get this way with growth spurts. I can not imagine what it will be like to have 2 teenaged boys!!! With their metabolisms? Oy vey!! Glad I have time to save up for that - may need a second income. Or a Costco membership. Wink

Monday, Monday

October 26th, 2009 at 02:56 pm

Weekend was productive.

Cleaning progress was made, and the dryer vents were cleaned.

Though I could probably do a once over in every room - to get them all sparkling top to bottom, they probably look better than they have in years. (TIME is key here. Time is not something I've had much luxury of since having babies!). Time and motivation - not sure where the motivation materialized from. But for a quiet week to myself - it really kickstarted me. Maybe I should kick the family out of the house for a week, every year! Big Grin

Anyway, besides time, it helps to have more helping hands around (the kids). With little time and more money, I have rebeled against much "DIY" in recent years. But, I do realize my willingness to get my hands dirty has more to do with time than anything. That's my conclusion as I take on more projects I had intended to hire out. (I still rather get things done *right,* and not do things I hate with a passion - like yardwork. But I find myself taking on more, all the same, with more time).

November projects include touch up painting, and bathroom repairs (resealing tubs & sinks). Maybe some tree pruning and removal. Dh has a wall to repair. I am feeling motivated on long put off projects. But if these are done, the house will be rather beautified for it's 8th birtday.

Next year, we may make progress on the outside (fresh paint and a new fence - on our To-Do list. Though I would label us as the types to put this stuff off, in the end, what do I know? Will likely be the first in the neighborhood. A major reason we have delayed is hoping to get painter recommendations from neighbors. But everyone is too broke to maintain their house, it seems. We were also the first to put in our yard, so I guess I under-estimate ourselves in some regard. Though literally, I can't believe it if we are the first to paint our house. Just sad, since some homes are looking so shabby. Our light colored paint has held up better than a lot of the others).

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Yesterday we went to the pumpkin patch. We had Southern weather. Everyone was in their tank tops - it was WARM! It was rather surreal.

Still crazy warm weather here. Usually around now I struggle to keep the heat off. Instead, we have struggled to keep the AC off. Literally.

& yes, I Was buying fleece just a couple of weeks ago because we had a chilly night or two. Hasn't gotten much use!

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That's the long and the short of it, from my corner of the world.

I think November will be about projects around the house!

I am also considering trying to get dh on board with a no-spend November. We've just been spending too much, lately. Staying home and working on the house, may be productive. But if I could talk him into not purchasing anything for a month (besides groceries/fuel), well, I think that would be helpful. Though, certainly a challenge. I think November is a good month because we bought a lot of toys the last few months. We should be able to do it. Heck - I'd like to start this no-spend thing, tomorrow! (Speaking of time - I had too much time to shop while the family was gone. That was the downside. The busier I am, the less money I spend).

Weather Changes

October 14th, 2009 at 09:13 am

Yes, I do think the storm is over. Phew. Was pretty nasty.

Still warm. House is at 71. No heat needed. No sun, but it also didn't get any colder over night. So house temp has stayed rather steady. Usually it warms up a bit during the day and drops back to 70 in the colder nights. Major reason why is extreme energy efficiency in the house. Our parents & friends have been running their heat for weeks, in their older homes.

Yesterday I turned up the hot water heater a bit. I put a black mark where we had it set for summer. We average 6 Therms a month in the summer. I can't remember where I set it for winter, or fall, so I think I will mark the winter level once we find it again. Summer is marked. We go in between for spring and fall.

Chalk that one up to energy efficiency too. Funny thing is we LOVE our HOT showers. I think between the insulation and the hot garage, it just doesn't have to work very hard in summer. Plus, in summer we are probably happy with "lukewarm."

I also turned off the outside irrigation ahead of the storm. Seemed a good time to reset everything for our more wet fall/winter. In summer we were told to conserve water for drought, but both the HOA and the city were clear that unnatural emerald green lawns were still expected. But that we could only water every other day.

Talk about conflicting messages!

I decided to stick to my watering 2 times a day schedule, and stick to the days the city allowed. If they wanted to bother us we would ask them how to make our lawn look nicer not being able to water every day in 100+ temps.

(Our city is known for being huge water wasters. Our long term goal is to do desert landscaping in the backyard. Not allowed in the front yard, of course).

Anyway, the summer was a tad mild, which maybe helped. But the watering schedule really did well. The lawn stayed pretty green, and we used a lot less water than usual. Phew. We've only been watering 2 times a day for a couple of years. IT seems like a good strategy - and is allowed. WE are limited to 20 minutes a day or something.

Last fall I wrote down our fall/winter watering schedule, which was a huge help. I lowered the watering times and switched everything to water only one time a day. Kept it at 3 days a week or whatever it was for summer. I made sure to write down where everything was at for summer. I should have done all this sooner. I can never remember how we watered last year or where the hot water was set, etc. Hopefully this makes life easier.

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I ran by the store this morning and stocked up on tea. Good Earth Original - sweet and spicy. The one I mentioned yesterday.

Thankfully my friend told me to look in the Health Food aisle. Wasn't sure what that meant, but I found it easily enough.

I actually got the last 2 boxes - is a popular one.

Amazon cost 60 cents more per box, to buy in bulk. I may shop around a bit if I don't get sick of it. But looks like grocery store wins - will ask dh to keep an eye out for it on sale.

For soda - I had settled back onto the small cans (12 ounces?). More expensive, but I drink so much less that way. I've come full circle. Dh had talked me out of them because they were more expensive! I picked up some six-packs at Target for about $2.50 or so. "Ugh," I thought. So while at the store I checked just in case they were on sale. Full price there was more like $3.50. Suddenly $2.50 didn't seem so bad. I will keep an eye out. Though I do hope to wean off a bit with the tea as a replacement. A much cheaper habit, that is for sure.

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We will probably get dh's brakes checked this week. Not sure what to expect since at 100k+ miles they have never had any brake work done. BUT, we have had them checked many times. Always fine and dandy. (FORD, by the way. You don't have to spend a fortune to get a decent car. My pet peeve of late).

They felt *off* to me last week and so I talked dh into it, though he thinks I am crazy. Better safe than sorry. (I've lost my brakes before - he hasn't).

Interestingly, my brakes were grinding this morning. I think it is just from the rain/storm. They were fine once I got on my way. BUT, I was thinking it just figures. Our cars have settled on the same repair schedule. Though mine (DODGE) is at 70k miles. But obviously 70k miles isn't bad either, for no brake work. I can't complain if they both need brake work. Or new brakes altogether.

I think our driving habits are very different up here. Neither of us particularly drives in stop and go. No brake work since moving up here, though I always had brake work done in the Bay Area. Much more often!

I was going through our auto records a while back. As much as my car has pissed me off with it's issues, I realized my vehicle has had no mechanical issues (knock on wood). What it has had is a lot of electrical/computer issues. It makes me realize our tendency to buy stripped down/less featured models in our younger more broke years really paid off. When I smashed my van door the first thing I thought was, "Thank goodness that is not an electric door." Because of course everyone else I know has an electric door. My annoyance at the very idea ended up being more logical than I realized. All those fancy features just add up to one more thing that can break. I knew that, but as I now own a nicer vehicle with more features, I really feel the pain in the pocketbook.

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In financial news, Fidelity sent me a notice that they will start to charge low balance fees for funds under $2k.

I have a few funds I wanted to add a little to while the stock market it low. But it would really throw off my stock market allocation! So I haven't.

Anyway, if I contribute my November ROTH contribution to Fidelity, I will save $12. I guess that is good motivation to top that one off.

I rather the market go lower before I feel enticed to add to the others. Like other bloggers have mentioned, I expect the market to dip again too. Either that or I at least wanted to evaluate my cash position in December. Will see.

Week Sum Up

October 8th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Weather Update: Man, it's warmed up.

I mentioned I went shopping crazy. Well, I walked into Target and all the workout clothing was on sale. Fleece sweats $6.49 or something like that. It's been cold, my hubby (heat for bed) is out of town, and there is fleece for $6. I am sold. I went *way* off my shopping list!

Anyway, so back to the weather. It was in the 100s just like 10 days ago. & then I heard on the weather with the record cold temps, the ski slopes at Tahoe are opening record early - this weekend. What happened to the record hot temps? & then I bundled up in my fleece, and woke up sweating. Today the house warmed up and I am back in my summer PJs. Weather can't make up it's mind. Wonder how that whole snow/ski thing is going to pan out. Unless I am unaware of an approaching cold front. Wink It was only COLD for a couple of days.

Back to Target. I know, I know. Maybe I have been too harsh on Target. I have been boycotting their adult clothes, though for the kids I don't care. They are rough on the clothes, but they don't wear them long enough to matter. The stuff is cheaper than thrift - I buy all the kids' clothes there and at Hanes any more. But *I* want to buy something I can wear every days for years, if I like. & I have been noticing that anything I buy at Target doesn't pass muster. So I stopped buying clothes there. & have been spending a lot less on clothes in the end.

So when I saw the $6 fleece, I thought about it. I wondered if I wanted to spend $6 on something that might just fall apart. BUT, it turned out to be Hanes fleece. So I was sold. I guess maybe I should peruse Target sales a little more - they do have other brands. I wouldn't buy anything Target specific though, personally. But it was a good experience to remember there are other brands there. Some good ones.

& this is why I ended up getting some warmer/brighter workout clothing, for winter bike riding, at Target. Was a popular brand I saw in all the stores. Figured what the heck. Sales were good. Though still no luck with pants.

Fleece was cheap, and workout clothing I have been looking for, for a while. They hit my $10 price point - yay! Now I just hope the stuff lasts.

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I got distracted, but I got the final closet pictures. My biggest project of the week, perhaps.









I still have to go through a few things with dh.

Dh is always hiding kids' presents on top of that black dresser, under blankets and such. I had a novel idea to just move the stuff inside the dresser. Duh.

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Status:

**Master Bath is sparking, Master Closet and bedroom remain clean.

**Dining Room is still immaculate (no one to mess it up - hehe).

**Living Room is filled with about 8 Goodwill Bags

**Carpets have not been washed yet (maybe tomorrow or Saturday)

**Dishes clean, and new table clothe to brighten dining nook. (Not a lot of choices so I went white. Said machine washable. Will see! I have enjoyed it for the week anyway).

I did decide to not mess with the rest of the family room/kitchen. I'll let the fam recover this weekend, but they can help me clean it up another weekend. I don't need to clean the entire house by myself.

The same attitude about the kids' bathroom and rooms. Will be a team effort sometime after their return.

**The fridge is FULL of food. I used another 2-for-1 BK coupon today when my lunch plans changed (was going to come home and eat through leftovers). & I have lunch plans for tomorrow. We will be eating leftovers Sunday and Monday. But maybe it will go fast when the fam returns. Anyway, it was stupid to get 2 sandwiches when I am going out tomorrow. I had forgotten. I will have my second sandwich for dinner, since it won't last very long. My parents are taking me out for fondue Saturday, and well, the fridge will remain full as it is until the voracious eaters return.

I've barely eaten a sandwhich all week - I even have a loaf of bread left.

I bet the family will look forward to all the leftovers. Bet they miss the home cooking. The have been eating out all week.

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Today I jumped on the productive train again.

Worked all day, did dishes and laundry. Cooked a simple dinner. Went shopping for some more work pants (had to exchange - bought wrong size. I did try on other things, but luckily nothing fit well. I stuck to my exchange. IT always amazes me when I walk into a store 2 days later and it is filled with new stuff. EVIL). Finished up the last touches on the closet, made the kids' beds, put away clean sheets, lugged goodwill bags downstairs. Put out trash (trash got taken today, and I already filled our trash container back up).

Phew!

Caught up on internet, and still time to read.

Today was my last crazy busy day. I am going to unwind my last couple of days of "freedom." Only things left on my "To Do List" are to clean carpets, and pick up my family from the airport!

Getting a Slow Start Today

October 6th, 2009 at 08:38 am

I think my "vacation" has fared well.

I got a lot done yesterday. But I ALSO had time to read, to watch a fair amount of TV (got caught up on Medium - love that show though it's hokey often times). & I took a nice nap!!!!

I ran all my errands in the morning and did most the housework after 5pm. I've had more energy than usual. Maybe all the restful sleep and endless free time. But it's dangerous. A day in front of the TV and napping can zap my energy pretty fast. So I am proud I didn't waste the day away.

I have way too much food!!!! I know they boys eat far more than I. But it is readily apparent as I look in the fridge. I have barely made a dent. What was dh thinking? He was thinking he was cooking for a bottomless pit, like our sons.

I wouldn't be surprised if I lose weight this week. BEcause I have been too busy to eat. AND because I have been working so hard it has decreased my appetite. The more I work out, the less hungry I am usually.

IT could have easily gone the other way. I am an emotional eater and could have easily eaten tons of junk while I miss the family. So I am rather surprised with myself, thus far.

Anyway, my parents are going to visit me and help me eat through this food. Phew! I am starting to worry if some of it will go to waste. I guess I will take down whatever is left, to my parents, this weekend when I pick up the fam. There's a plan, since it is hard to judge what I will eat the rest of the week.

But basically, I can't fit one more thing into the fridge!!!!! I bought some eggs on sale yesterday, since I love hard boiled eggs. I could barely fit them in the fridge - yeesh.

Anyway, to revisit my list yesterday:

1 - Kohls - shop with my $10 "coupon"
*2 - Groceries (just a few items, like, we are out of cereal and PEPSI!)
*3 - Best Buy for recycle
*4 - Crown books for a treat

*5 - Vacuum closet/finish tidying up
6 - Arrange CDs (ones to keep)
*7 - Wash bed sheets
*8 - Clean up bedroom - dust/vacuum
*9 - Clean Master Bath - make it sparkle
10 - Maybe start some carpet washing in the p.m. This can certainly wait
*11 - Clean toilets - as everything else is getting so clean, I am noticing the toilets haven't been cleaned in a while

12 - Update Quicken / Look at Sep. expenses

* - Complete!!!

I need to go to Best Buy again today - more recycling.

I skipped Kohls because I forgot my coupon. Noticed when I got there, but I was only traveling to one shopping center, like a mile away, for all my stops. No biggie.

Carpet washing and Quicken are easily doable on a work day.

SO, I feel rather accomplished.

I also renewed my car's license and my driver's license, online.

TODAY

Not much planned. Will take it easy and enjoy houseguests.

Before they arrive I would like to clean the kitchen a bit. I don't expect it to take long. Famous last words... & I will run to Best Buy, Target and Kohls.

Will see. I got a slow start today. I am annoyed that everything opens at 8am, but Best Buy not until 10? I was annoyed, but since I still haven't showered or dressed, I guess it will work out. My parents won't get here until noon.

One funny thing - I never make the bed. Never see the point. I hate having my feet covered up and so kick the covers off all the time. & though dh blames all the blanket whoas on me, I think he is a little guilty.

So last night, it was chilly, and I bundled up in bed, and left my feet in after I had made the bed all pretty, etc. I woke up, got out of bed, and looked at it. It hardly looked like anyone slept in it! It took me about 1 second to make the bed. To straighten the covers. I thought to myself, "This is why people make the bed." LOL. I would too, if I always slept so still.

Just another Manic Monday

October 5th, 2009 at 09:09 am

Brrrrrr. I woke up to a chill. Last week it was over 100 degrees. This morning I wake up to 45-degree weather. What the heck? We RARELY get below-40 weather here. IT feels like summer one day, and like winter the next. Last "fall" was like this. I am not used to such extreme weather changes. I usually have more time to adjust to the cold. No doubt it is time to dig out the warmer clothes.

Fall weather always leaves me feeling very "spring cleany." I think the thing is in the spring I am just bursting to get outside. But in the fall, suddenly you are holed up inside. & then you see all the projects you have been putting off while enjoying all the nice weather for many months. This year in particular, since we have rarely been home all summer and really let the house go. It seems natural to work on the house, now that I rather be inside!

IT also seems everyone has been sick. A quick perusal of Facebook anyway, shows all the locals with sick kids and such. I am glad I am on "quarantine" (spending my days pretty alone and holed up) and that the kids have a holiday from school this week. Though since the hell of preschool (about 365 days of all of us being sick), no one in my house seems to really get sick any more. A year of preschool apparently gives both kids and their parents, immunity of steel. But I don't want to jinx it either.

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Well, I did it! The closet is pretty complete - as of last night. I didn't even stay up late.

The thing is, it is full of cracked eggs so to speak. While the "cake is baking." Pictures will be later!

I have a pile for donation. It's not particularly large. Interestingly, the closet was already way more cleaned out than I expected.

I found 2 items that would probably take hours to go through. Some photos, and some arts and crafts. The progress I made was to donate the un-started crafting kits. Woohoo. The rest, I just couldn't look at. Another day or time. & I do remember distinctly going through ALL the pictures at one time or another. Let's face it, I have room to store a box of photos. So those are my 2 boxes of crap in my closet. Gotta leave something for later!

I got a pile of CDs for dh to sell for me. Giving away some frames, a lamp, some weights, and some gifts. I always felt obligated to keep gifts. I don't see the point any more. There is stuff that has been buried in my closet for years because I felt I had to keep it. Gifts that were not re-gifting material. That is very freeing, to let those go.

The interesting find was some 1st birthday party decorations from my eldest's first birthday, about 5 years ago? Some of it was donateable. The rest should have been trashed 5 years ago. That's a byproduct of my not wanting to throw things away. But thankfully, a rare byproduct.

In the end, the closet stores our: clothing, mementos/yearbooks, important records, 1 box of crafts, 1 box of photos, my wedding dress (which I plan to donate actually), piles of piano music, some frames, all our camping gear, some sports/workout gear, & pillows and blankets. I think that's about it?

I need to go through a couple of items with dh. We have a 100-disk CD player. I think he wanted to sell. I couldn't get it down myself - was on a top shelf. Dh has a secret stash of future gifts for the kids in there too. But I do need to run through with him on a few items.

I feel very proud and accomplished to harness any kind of simplicity. As with everything, simplicity is relative. Compared to just about anyone we know, we live very simple as far as accumulation of stuff. Even my kids know if they want a new toy they need to sell or donate an old one.

No doubt it is obvious from my pictures that we can achieve greater simplicity, though. I feel like it is a never-ending work in progress. But yes, I have spent many years trying to break free of my stuff. It sometimes doesn't show because my spouse likes stuff more than I care for. I think with age I personally just lean more towards "useful stuff."

I accumulated a lot of useless stuff in my younger years. So it's taken a while to plow through it all.
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Today's To Do List:

1 - Kohls - shop with my $10 "coupon"
2 - Groceries (just a few items, like, we are out of cereal and PEPSI!)
3 - Best Buy for recycle
4 - Crown books for a treat

5 - Vacuum closet/finish tidying up
6 - Arrange CDs (ones to keep)
7 - Wash bed sheets
8 - Clean up bedroom - dust/vacuum
9 - Clean Master Bath - make it sparkle
10 - Maybe start some carpet washing in the p.m. This can certainly wait
11 - Clean toilets - as everything else is getting so clean, I am noticing the toilets haven't been cleaned in a while

12 - Update Quicken / Look at Sep. expenses

DONATIONS - I am waiting for someone to offer to pick up everything. 'Tis the season - the stuff will be gone soon. We usually get plastic bags left on our doorstep every couple of weeks, with a request to set out donations. I just don't have one now, but probably don't need much patience before one will arrive.

Is that quite a To Do List? The funny thing is I absolutely hate tackling one big project. I have been procrastinating on the closet for ages, for one. But I thrive on a lot of little tasks. So I am excited to accomplish much today.

I also tend to be overly optimistic, so we will see! Big Grin

Tomorrow I am planning a relaxing day. I know I can tidy up the kitchen in a short time, before my parents arrive if they visit. & I know I have the rest of the working week to accomplish smaller tasks and to work on the carpets.

I think the house will be pretty immaculate when the boys come home. Too bad it won't last long. Wink It's more rewarding to clean with the "tornadoes" out of the house. That is for sure!!!

Closet Progress...

October 4th, 2009 at 05:56 pm

I am testing the limits of how many photos that SA will let me upload and store. Big Grin

I prefer to use my cell phone so I don't have to edit them down though.

Well, I am taking a break for dinner. My back hurts and this step took longer than I thought it would. Not sure why. Not sure why I didn't realize it would take so long. Big Grin This was just the "surface cleaning." What I really want to do is dig through everything in the closet, and do a round of freecycling, etc.

It shouldn't be too bad, I have been through the closet in more recent times. BUT, I find I often need a little bit of time to let things go. Maybe a few runs through the closet. So though it is manageable, I know I can toss more stuff!

Anyway, there's a floor!







I took all my clothes off the lower half of the closet. I've got 2 sides of the closet - dh gets one. Hell, I don't think he ever wears the clothes he has hanging up. Was from when he was working.

I am embarrassed at how many clothes I ended up donating. & what is with all the hangers?? A bag of hangers too. So yeah, 2 bags of clothes, and about a 1/2 bag full of plastic/cheapie hangers. I think these days the stores I shop are less stingy with hangers. All I Could figure.

I did go through all my clothes - those in drawers in my bedroom as well.

A lot of the stuff I haven't worn in MANY years. Thing is I swept through the closet a few times, pretty aggressively, in the last couple of years. But there was still a lot of pruning to do.

One example is a robe that I love and is fine. But it is bulky and I never wear it since I bought a new one (a cute monkey one, of course). Into the pile it went!

I got rid of a lot of stuff that was pretty worn out, that never really fit well, or that I really like but had shrunken, etc. I could maybe fit into them again, but it hardly seems worth keeping any more. I tossed a lot of low quality clothing. A LOT I have been finding I spend a lot less on clothes now that I focus on better quality. & don't get me wrong, I still primarily shop Kohls and places like that. I don't shop higher end stores. BUT, I will probably never buy adult clothes at Target again. Nor anything on those shelves of $10 clothing at Kohls/Mervyns. They just fall apart too quickly.

I have much better luck with clothing quality at Marshalls and Ross.

Now my clothes fit better and they don't shrink as much, etc., etc.

It's this realization that made me realize the crappy stuff will always be crappy. Time to let it go!

I also let go of some shoes. I guess their problem is discomfort. So I never wear them. But I might *need* them sometime. Old thinking, anyway. Some of those I have had for over a decade too.

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I found a good spot for my clothes drying hanger thingy-do. It's usually kind of in the way, but I found I could fit it just about against the wall, in the center of the back. I think that actually will work out pretty well.

Anyway, the entire left side of the closet is just dandy.

The middle/back has a few things on the shelves. Nothing much.

The whole right side of the closet is a nightmare. Lord knows what is over there.

We shall see! I'd love to at least get my trash/donate/sell piles by tonight. Sometimes while cleaning the house there is a whole messy stage in between. Anyway, my house is filling with bags, that is for sure. At least it is contained, and ready to be shipped out.

I'm probably optimistic, but will see.

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I didn't work "too hard." I got sucked into a movie while I was eating lunch. I had a fair amount of down time!

I am also thinking I am going to slow way down M/T/W. I was thinking of inviting my folks up because it would force me to scrub the gust bath and clean up the kitchen and living area a bit. Followed by a nice relaxing day anyway. So that might be a good strategy. Tomorrow I will at least have to leave the house so I don't go crazy.