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Home > Archive: November, 2011

Archive for November, 2011

German/Irish Cookie Recipes?

November 29th, 2011 at 06:45 pm

Here are all the butterflies we couldn't see when we went to the beach the other day:

WOW! It just wasn't quite so impressive down on the ground. (My dad sent me this picture and was also surprised how many there were).

Next time we will have to remember our binoculars.


BM needs to work on a big cookie project for school. He is supposed to pick a recipe from his heritage. I told him he was American and we have been here for several generations - and I have no non-American recipes. I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe from his Grandma, and is the best I could come up with. I googled it to check that chocolate chip cookies were American. Encyclopedia BM already knew the answer to that.

Anyway, we googled German cookies and found a couple of recipes, and I said we could try a couple this weekend and see what we like best.

BUT, if you have any Irish or German cookie recipes, please share. Of course, preferably the easier the better since he has to make a how to book of some sort. We ruled out some of the recipes with 20 ingredients.

I still think we should just pick something American, but that just isn't as cool!

There will be lots of baking in my house this weekend!


Tonight we tried this recipe:

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Text is http://www.netplaces.com/potluck-recipes/healthy-vegetarian-choices/sweet-potato-enchiladas.htm and Link is

Thumbs up!

Dh got a few free recipe books on the kindle - so this was one of those - glad I could find it online to share.


Today I received that annual refund from Chase. YAY! I will have to update my rewards tallies. Maybe tomorrow.

Plastic Jungle is less impressive this round. Last time they struck me as lightning fast - I sold some gift cards for cash. This time it took them EIGHT DAYS to receive half of my gift cards. The other half has apparently not arrived yet. They clearly closed their offices for the holidays, but from 2 to 8+ days is a little ridiculous. (To be fair, the US Postal service has gone amazingly downhill the last decade, and I use it as little as possible any more - I understand it may not all be their fault - but I think the Holidays slowed them down VERY considerably).


Tomorrow is back to work for me. The end of lazy and the beginning of CRAZY.

Perfect Beach Day

November 28th, 2011 at 09:30 am

I am so glad we made it to the beach yesterday.

First off, gas was significantly cheaper from last time we filled up. Yay!

We got to my folks house around noon and gave my mom her kindle (Christmas/Birthday present). She seemed to love it though we couldn't get their library system to work with it. Dh will figure it out. Or maybe it is just the library. Oh well!

We ate lunch at Burger King and it only took 45 minutes to get to the beach. Dh is definitely not a beach person, but with the short drive I realized it would be really easy to take the kids again. It was just a "Gee, this is a lot closer than I remembered!!" kind of moment.

We saw the monarch butterflies, and it wasn't all that exciting. There were a lot of them, yes. But they were all way up in the trees, so not much to see.

That said, the beach was AMAZING. I had never been to this particular beach, but it is definitely now my favorite.

The tide pools were amazing. We ended up getting there so late we stayed for the sunset and the low tide.

IT was crowded, which didn't bother me, BUT everyone and their brother was there to take pictures of the sunset. We moved away from the main picture focus to a little beach off to the side, and I heard someone say about my kids, "We should tell those kids to get out of the way." I could only think: Rolleyes Some of us were actually there to enjoy the beach and not just take pictures of it. Thankfully, they decided against asking the frolicking kids to get out of their way.

Of course, I figured we'd do Taco Bell for lunch and the deli for dinner - keep it cheap. BUT, my parents took us out to my favorite mexican restaurant for dinner. We might have gone anyway, but my birthday is this week so was an early birthday dinner.

All that, and we got home by 10pm.

Oh, and the weather was just perfect. I was questioning the weather report I saw because on the drive we mostly saw thick fog, both ways. But it was a very sunny and beautiful day at the beach, which is hard to come by. Thank goodness weather.com did not lie! Big Grin Since when is the land covered in fog and the beach clear and sunny? Bizarro! It's usually the opposite around here.

I have today off of work. & tomorrow I have a seminar. So, I have been very happy with this vacation. IT was kind of spontaneous, but I mostly prefer to stay close to home and keep it low key. As such, I definitely feel very refreshed! It was a very good call.

IF we have time, we might go to the art museum today. If not, we will maybe go Sunday instead. Today will mostly be a lazy day at home.


Credit card closes on the 4th (Sunday) and so not much fiscal I have to do before then. At that point I should have a good sense of our 12/31/11 status.

When I get paid on Thursday I will pay the mortgage and the property taxes. The assessed value of our home went down about $7000, but the taxes went up with all the voted tax increases the past year.

My mom did slip me $40 for groceries on T-Day, per usual. Yay!

Weekend Doings

November 27th, 2011 at 09:13 am

**Dh got another unexpected *$15 off next purchase* coupon at the grocery store. This seems to be common on weekends, though he usually shops during the week. I need to remember to check the website since who knows how many of these we have missed!!!

**We got some mild bug on Thanksgiving. We all felt pretty terrible and useless on Friday so didn't go anywhere. I really perked up last night, so we decided to go to the beach today. I am so relieved we are still able to fit it in!!!

Most of yesterday I didn't feel too bad, but just felt pretty blah and didn't want to do anything. So barely got off the couch all day. I was thinking it was just the *no schedule* - I do better with a schedule. But I perked up so much in the late afternoon that I suppose there is probably an element of that along with an element of just not feeling very well. Ah, family and all their GERMS!

Thankfully I feel energized today.

We are going to see the migrating monarch butterflies today and hopefully just laze around the beach for a while. I hear the tide pools are also amazing there, BUT high tide is noon-ish - so I don't think we will get to experience those. Will stop by on the way to eat lunch with my folks, invite my dad along to take some pictures, and can stop for dinner before we drive home. The beach is a 3-hour drive, but our folks are on the way - about 2 hours out.

Black Friday

November 25th, 2011 at 04:09 pm

You couldn't pay me to shop today.

Black Friday symbolizes to me the time to stay away from the stores. I won't go near a mall probably until January, again. I'll stay away from the big box stores, too.

The kids still have to get Xmas and Bday presents for dh. We've got the internet for that.

ETA: While thinking about it, we bought dh a Christmas gift (with rewards, so was free). I have a very nice gift in mind for his birthday - will wait to see if I can use my next $250 credit card reward for it - the item cost $250 and isn't released until after his birthday, anyway. So, can wait on that one. The kids are learning that you don't have to spend money when you nice gifts for other people.

The Car Won't Co-operate!

November 25th, 2011 at 10:52 am

Thanksgiving was lovely!!

I just love how the entire family works so well as a team (everyone seems to have their *job* but no one person works too hard). Everyone really seems to enjoy spending time in our home too. Since most of our family lives in a high cost area and has such small homes, I suppose that may be a lot of it. (They ooh and aah over our space and big kitchen every Thanksgiving). But, we are also extraordinarily laid back, and people tend to thank us for that too (always have a very nice and relaxing time). & for the women, since they aren't doing all the cooking, they love it. & since they didn't have to ready their homes. But yesterday dh's male cousin commented that we should host every holiday at our house. I don't know what specifically he enjoyed so much. All I know was a good time was had by all, and my heart is very happy. I kind of get that Grandma/matriarch feeling. Though I am 34 and no Grandma. Big Grin

Of course, everyone seems to think it was such a relaxing day because obviously I slaved away to make it so. All I can say is: Rolleyes I really didn't do much of anything! (Whatever we did do - dh and the kids were of immense help - they probably did the bulk of it anyway. No one ever believes that though).

Kids' cousin - college student - fulfilled a new role for Turkey Day. She took most the leftovers. Big Grin

I checked the grocery budget and we still have $100 left for the month. I don't mind that we probably won't be eating turkey all week. Phew.


About the only thing that I could think of to ruin the November budget and our 12/31 cash standing was auto repairs, because those charges would be due immediately if we took the car in. Well, of course dh's car has been hesitating when starting. I consulted with my dad (DIY car expert) and he thinks it is the battery. At least the battery is under warranty, so I feel a little better. If it is just the battery, it won't matter much. I am thinking we should just take it in Monday to have it looked over. If It is a large repair I can put it on the Visa and still put that off to January. (The visa closes the 25th every month, for whatever reason).

Of course, the weekend plans are up in the air then. I really wanted to drive the gas sipper to the beach this weekend to see the butterfly migration. I checked the weather thinking the following weekend may be better, with a car that is in better shape. BUT, of course next weekend calls for rain and this weekend is sunny and perfect. I am leaning towards just taking the van. Will cost almost twice as much in gas. Also, van has been making weird noises, smells, etc. Since it has been behaving totally fine in recent weeks, I think a big test run would be good. But, I'd rather do the test run with another car in perfect working condition for backup.

So, will see. Today I want to do nothing but crash. Clean up a bit after the tornado that left our house yesterday.

I think I would be happiest to go to the beach Saturday. These are my last few days off before crazy busy season at work!


Oh yes, and I got a bunch of birthday presents from dh's family and was spoiled rotten. Interestingly, my parents said they also had something for me. (They don't necessarily get me anything at times, so was surprising to hear!)

Mortgage Goal

November 22nd, 2011 at 10:55 am

Well, if we can go 8 more days with no major unexpected bills, then 2011 should wrap up pretty AWESOME-ly. (& frankly, even if I end up in the emergency room, what are the odds any bills would be due before December - things are looking promising). {Note: Any unexpected December bills can be charged in December and paid physically in January - which would not affect 12/31/11 cash position or net worth}.

I am looking at knocking out 3 huge (long-term) financial goals this year. I find it fascinating that all goals will probably be met at about the same time. What are the odds? IT has not been particularly a banner year of any sort. Hell, I started out in January by having another surgery. BUT medical bills aside, we have not had one large expenditure this year. I have not touched our savings for ANYTHING, and so it has flourished, though I honestly saved less this year than I have the past several years. (This would still be much more impressive if we could also stem the tide of medical bills).

Of course, credit card rewards will largely be responsible for meeting agressive mortgage goal this year. I suppose over all, much more financial luck this year than the past few years.

Last I mentioned, I Was about $165 or so short on mortgage goal - to come out of savings or birthday money. Well, Chase is sending me a $69 annual fee refund, so that takes care of some of that - I will just put it to the mortgage.

I wondered if my annual Christmas bonus would be bumped up this year - now that I have been here 10 years. ??? Will find out in about a month. It's nothing overly special - usually $250. But I believe it was $50 or $100 for first 5 years, $250 the last 5 years, and will see for this year. I've got mortgage and ROTH goals to fund, though if it is more than usual, I probably will put $100 to top off the mortgage goal, and the rest to charity. Will see!

Come December 1 I will update you all on my amazing goal progress. I won't believe it until November passes! I did pay all the December bills already and updated my progress on the side bar, so you can see all the goals I believe I have achieved for 2011. The trifecta part is that my cash position is much higher than expected!

Credit Card Rewards

November 21st, 2011 at 05:50 pm

All of the cards are officially closed, as of today. (Southwest Chase was kind of slow to respond).

Chase did not offer automatic refund of annual fee to dh, like they had to me. So I wrote back and asked them if the fee would be refunded (because in my experience it usually is - I said something like that). I poked around and saw that Chase has a policy on refunds within 30 days or 60 days - depending who you ask. Interestingly, they charged me the fee on the second billing cycle, so I thought maybe I fell in the 30-day time period as a fluke. BUT, I looked, and it was about 45 days from when I was charged the fee and when I closed the card. It was over 60 days that I actually had the card. The only thing I did different when I closed the card was cite the fee as a reason not to keep the card. Not sure if that mattered.

Anyway, dh has also had the card 45 days. So, will be interesting to see what they say. (Er, 45 days from when the fee was charged, anyway?)


I checked my AmEx Gold, and $1000 in charges is showing up there (they got my insurance charges). SO, I just have to wait for December 15th to redeem that reward - I am hoping I can pay it off January 1. I suppose if I don't pay it until January, I can't kill it until January.

It's the only one-time rewards card we still have open from the pile. I cut up a LOT of credit cards over the weekend.


As an aside, I am SO not liking the trend of credit card companies to offer rewards based on rotating categories.

For one, it's far more complicated than what I am used to (I am used to 3% back on gas and groceries, all the time, which was GREAT since most of our variable spending is gas and groceries).

Rotating Categories?

Department Stores
Movie Theaters
Charitable Organizations
Clothing Stores
Electronics Stores
Toy Stores

Even if they had these categories all year, don't think they would help ME much. But, the fact that it changes every quarter, and you have to register for the categories to save on? I find uber annoying. I hope someone is making money off this. I've closed all my cards that have moved to this rewards structure. Thanks, but no thanks. (I think I am almost more annoyed about how complicated all this is, than anything else).

Procrastinating - Lots of Thoughts to Share

November 20th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

The weather is cold (not going outside)! and there is absolutely nothing to be done today.

I should be readying the house for T-Day, but I am procrastinating. As long as I get going by noon, probably have plenty of time to clean up the house AND work on some fall cleaning. (We picked up a bit last night - family is a great help - so not much left to do). I suppose that is the plus side. We were going to dinner at our neighbors, but they canceled due to sickness.

Oh yes, and we had wanted to go to the free museum day today but had changed our mind with dinner plans. I suppose I will look into that - there is a really cool exhibit going on - some "mad scientist" from the Bay Area - has all sorts of cool looking robots and things. We were thinking of just going on one of our days off from school/work, but might as well take advantage of the free day with no other plans. I am planning on getting a family museum membership, but our plan was to check out some of the free days and figure out the parking situation. If we never go because the parking sucks... So, it will be a bit of an experiment.

This is the kind of art that the kids can get excited about:

Text is http://www.crockerartmuseum.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/current-exhibits/624-clayton-baileys-world-of-wonders and Link is


When it comes to the online blogosphere and such, I generally settle down somewhere for a period of time, and then move on when life changes. For example, I found pregnancy support message boards to be incredibly invaluable while pregnant, but didn't find what the community evolved into post-birth to be terribly useful. I am sure there was probably a lot of wisdom and tips to be gleaned in such groups, but the problem is you have to wade through the minefield of sleep-deprived hormonal new moms. NOT a pleasant experience. Wink Throw in the mommy wars, and I found the experience pretty useless. Beyond useless - it was a pretty toxic environment.

When I moved away from that and found savingadvice, I settled here and has definitely been a VERY positive experience. I have often wondered when I Would move on and where I would be taken next. I think it all started with "Small Notebook." I LOVE that blog and really identify with it on many levels. I find myself finding more and more blogs that are along the same lines. I don't think I had ever really thought about it, but a running theme in my own life is simplification. I find most people make things far harder than they have to be. I am ALL about the short cuts! & so I am really digging finding bloggers who focus on simplicity and love thinking about things in new ways and getting new ideas.

That said, I don't think I am going anywhere! No matter where I am in my financial journey, I am an accountant at heart. I have always delighted in organizing my finances, and I always will. I often go to work and can't believe how well I get paid for simply doing what I love doing. So, I don't think I am going anywhere.

But, I share because I have been linking more and more of these blogs to my website links, AND the more I read them and focus elsewhere, the less posty I have been. & I suppose that is my intro as I start to think more about how I do simplify things in my life, if there are any tips I can share, and I why I am excited to share new things I am learning.

Anyway, I read this old blog post this past week and thought it was fascinating:

The myth of doing it all: modern moms and hiring help

Text is http://thehappiestmom.com/?p=3217 and Link is

Love love love this article. It really made me stop and think about the cultural norms that are behind the attitude we have often gotten for our own personal choices when it comes to hiring help.

What kind of attitude?

A - our parents think it is TERRIBLE that we hire any help at all. We hire a gardener. Interestingly, our parents were always supportive of us hiring out childcare (as women who could not afford it - they realized we were incredibly lucky to be able to - better for both us and our kids).

B - From very frugal friends, we always got a LOT of attitude about hiring out daycare though my spouse stayed home. To me it was always a "What the hell is their problem???" kind of thing. Even though we stretched a bit to make it work, I wouldn't change it for anything. Towards the end I said specifically in this blog, "Why do people with HUGE car payments get so judgmental about such a practical, and so very temporary, expense?"

Ding ding ding - societal norms. Society says be in debt forever in your car, but only snooty/wasteful Stay-at-home people hire help. I was thinking that daycare help was much more pleasing for the soul than a brand new car. Big Grin

C - A friend of mind who is deep in debt, orders lattes every day, and goes to the salon endlessly, well her or her husband have made several "it must be nice" comments to us over the years, about the fact that we have a gardener.

Again - societal norms. Forget that they are paying WAY more on a monthly basis for simply salon visits. Hired help just has a much bigger stigma.

& what I realized thinking about this was that on every level, getting to think outside the box and look at things differently is so freeing. It really does make life easier to not to be so conformist. I have never had a lot of problem being different. But reading that post made me look at things a little different. I think next time anyone makes a snide comment about any decision to hire help, it will be easier for me to see where *they* are coming from. & maybe I know better how to reply to help open their own eyes. It's like I realized, but I didn't really realize. A bit of an *aha* moment.

So next time my friend makes an "it must be nice" comment (honestly, I think it is her husband, not sure she has ever said the same?), I think I will just smile and say, "yes, it is nice." What can you do?


In other news, I made a new step in organizing in my house, after reading this post:

Clearing the �Counter Pile� with a Tickler File

Text is http://simplemom.net/clearing-the-counter-pile-with-a-tickler-file/ and Link is

I am a big believer in manila envelopes. I organize my life pretty much in manila envelopes, anyway.

BUT, when it comes to bills and stuff, my way is not overly organized. My method is simply this. I don't procrastinate. So, when papers come in, I send them back out. I either shred them, or pay the bills, or send back the school forms, or whatever. If it can wait a bit, I just throw it in a pile. The pile never gets very big, and I know where to find anything I need.

It works.

BUT, the idea on this blog post was to have one manila type folder for each month, and to file things away by month. So, if a bill is not due until January, I could file the bill in January, rather than leave it in a pile. If I have a form I want to take care of next month, I can file it away for next month. So simple, and yet so genius! I went one further and got out some folders for coupon categories and also labeled one for each kid. In the kid folders I put school stuff that I may need to reference, but didn't want to toss yet. Or stuff they may need next month, or later.

In addition, I put an envelope in each month to keep all receipts. Talk about a simple way to get mega organized. I will probably toss most the receipts once the month is over, but I too often have to ask dh what this or that purchase was for, or forget some purchase I made 4 weeks ago. So, this should help simplify.

So yeah, I organized all of the coupons into folders, too, by category. Our old method was a pile of coupons. I can't say it was working overly well.

I already put EVERYTHING on the calendar as a simple way to keep organized, so I find I didn't have to follow this tickler system to a tee. I just have to remember to check the folders every month, is all. I like the tip to put, say, wedding invitations in the month for when the wedding is. That is something that is generally sitting in a pile. We had a birthday we went to that we got the invite MONTHS in advance. So we just left the invite in the "pile" for many months. OF course it was on the calendar, but I just had no where to put the actual invite, aside from the "pile." Oh, that folder system would have been so nice for that. Big Grin

Anyway, read that link - it may change your life!

The funny thing was I had went to the store for manila folders a day or two before I came across that post. All they had was a set of 50. I probably only needed a few. I thought, "well, here is a lifetimes supply of folders," and just bought them since it was all I Could find. So I have suddenly found much use for all the extra folders.