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2010 wrapup

January 5th, 2011 at 09:31 am

Goals & Results for 2010

Goal: 1. Finish the CPA exam and the EA exam. Find a real self-supporting accounting job. Results: CPA exam--passed! EA part 1, passed. Working part time at a CPA firm and for 4th quarter at a doctor's office too. But no job that is full-time and self-supporting yet.

Goal: 2. Continue regular exercise with an eye towards weight loss. I walked 285 fitness miles in 2009...hoping to increase this to 365 in 2010. Also need to add in strength training at least twice weekly. Results: Walked 205 miles (didn't walk during two crisis months with Henry & my mom). No real strength training effort.

Goal: 3. I will focus on eating fewer prepared foods and smaller portions with an eye to both losing weight and trimming my food budget. Results: I made progress here--switched to Dr Fuhrman's "Eat for Life" plan in mid-Sept and have lost 19 pounds since Jan. 1 of 2010. I'll have to check how this affected the food budget...I don't really think it is down substantially.

Goal: 4. Do my own "happiness project" to combat the depressive tendencies that come with long-term unemployment and dealing with two dear family members facing terminal illness. Results: I made sporadic efforts and have at least avoided outright depression--mostly because I have been working part-time all year, much better for my mental health than total unemployment. Also a friend of mine whose grandson is dying of cancer and I partnered to form a strong mutual support network and check in on each other regularly, especially when one of us knows that the other is dealing with a rough patch, and this helps.

Low points of 2010: Henry's death; mom's landing in the hospital and then nursing home and realizing how serious her illness was.

High points of 2010: Landing the part-time job at the CPA firm; passing the last of the four CPA exams.

Goals for 2011 are the same but the plans and strategies are different.

David Bach's latest book free, Jan 5 only

January 5th, 2011 at 09:22 am

One of the things that I appreciate about David Bach is that he usually offers his latest book for free for one day each book release. Today's the day. His latest book is "Debt Free for Life." Go to http://www.walletpop.com/david-bach to get your copy.

I haven't read it but I have appreciated his advice in the past.

Gut Yontif

September 19th, 2009 at 06:39 pm

Happy 5770! It's the Jewish New Year, and New Years is always a good time for a new start.

I haven't posted here in over six months but will try to post more regularly as I am struggling financially, and otherwise, right now. So far there's still money in the bank, and I have my health, so things could be a lot worse. But I am hoping for a turnaround in my fortunes this year, and in particular, successful entry into a new career. This is NOT the job market that existed when I first went back to school 5 years ago to get training in a different field, but it IS the job market I have to deal with today, so I'm busy trying to figure out networking, and still in shock over the reality of being unemployed.

Hopefully the new year will bring some positive changes.

Buying Coupons?

August 3rd, 2008 at 02:28 pm

Yes, I've actually been buying coupons--but coming out better for it in the end, as long as I remember to use them--which I will.

Before I started couponing about a month ago, I never realized that people actually sell coupons on ebay. Actually, they don't sell the coupons themselves (I guess that is illegal)--all the sellers say that the coupons are free but you are paying for their time in clipping the coupons.

Buying coupons actually makes sense if you have a product that you use that (a) you won't accept a substitute brand for; (b) the product is relatively expensive; (c) you buy a large quantity of the product; and (d) either the coupons have no expiration date OR the product is non-perishable and you have storage room. The latter two requirements are because the sellers sell the coupons in batches, typically six or ten or twenty of the same coupon. Also, (e) the coupon should be for a high amount off.

I've done this for 3 products: my brand of soymilk (I drink Silk Unsweetened and will ONLY drink that brand; all the others taste bad to me; also, I drink at least a gallon of it a week); my dog's brand of premium dog food; and my brand of tampons (again, I'll ONLY use that brand). In each case, the coupons I bought were for either 1.50 or 2.00 off, so the discount is substantial. The soy milk coupons have no expiration date, and the other two have expiration dates but my dog eats a can of dog food a day, and the tampons will last ad infinitem so can be stockpiled. In buying coupons for a month's worth of dog food, a year's worth of soy milk, and a year-plus worth of tampons, I've saved--after the cost of the coupons--about $150. If I can couple the coupons with a sale (which I can in the case of the tampons), the savings will be even more. Not a bad profit for an hour's effort--once I figured the strategy out!

Travel--and Mortality

July 13th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I'm getting ready to travel to my mother's this week--my first plane trip in two years. My sister has flown recently, so she brought me up to date on all the new carry-on regulations--glad I learned about that *before* going to the airport.

I also checked out the size of my old carry-on and found that it was a couple of inches bigger than regulation. Most of the time that might not matter, but I figure in this day of packed flights and charging for baggage, they'll be more likely to check. Anyway, I found a carry-on that's within limits on sale for 51% off at the LL Bean outlet--because the color is being discontinued. So I was happy with that find, especially as my mother is aging, and I figure that at some point in the foreseeable future I will probably have to do a great deal of cross-country flying back and forth.

That's on my mind as I've been witnessing first-hand the decline of an elderly man in my congregation who has been ill this year. I had visited him (and his wife, who was also hospitalized at the time) in hospital on New Years, and then three weeks ago heard that he was in hospice. So I was very surprised a few days ago to hear that he and his wife would be hosting Shabbat services at their assisted living facility this past Friday night.

I went, and Frank was in much better shape than he had been the last I saw him, though the change in his appearance was shocking compared to that of just a year ago before illness took its toll. He seemed in good spirits, and I was hopeful that he would have a while yet.

But it turns out that that Shabbat service was a good-bye. I received word by email that he died in his sleep last night. I know that he suffered a lot this last year, but I'm glad that his last Shabbat was such a pleasant one.

It seems so odd, to be going to a service hosted by a fellow on Friday and then to his funeral on Monday.

Mid Year Goal Assessment

June 30th, 2008 at 07:49 pm

So here we are, already half-way through 2008!

Time to take stock.

I've posted my goals on the sidebar, and so far, I'm not terribly happy with my progress. I really doubt that I'll either save 15% of my income OR lose 15% of my weight in 2008.

So far, I've saved about 5% of my income. This is far less than planned. On the other hand, one thing that I did not really take into account sufficiently in setting my goals is that I suffered a fairly big salary cut (17%) back in September. I'm still getting used to living on a reduced income. I did well at saving last year because I had more income. Now I'm living on less income *and* prices are higher--yet I've still managed to save *something*. So I really should be happy about the savings that I *do* have.

I did have some "extra" expenses during the first half of the year (medical bills, a plane ticket, and $560 worth of textbooks for courses I am taking), but I'll probably have about equal "extra" expenses during the second half, as I am having a home repair done, and need to take my car in for inspection. There's usually about one $300-$500 car repair bill during the year and I haven't had one yet, so I won't be surprised if something of that size needs doing in July when I get the car inspected.

Food costs haven't decreased at all--not surprising given inflation but there are still some bad habits I can improve on. I'm going to try to be more mindful of them as the year progresses. If I can make some changes habitual over the summer when my workload is lighter, perhaps some of that will carry on through the fall.

Weight loss isn't happening--I *did* lose 9 pounds during Jan and Feb, then gained it back in the interval since then. Going to try to lose it again during July and August.

Career change progress, mortgage paydown, and investing are going reasonably well. The market is down horribly as are my retirement assets, but I'm in for the long-haul so not panicking over short-term decreases. I *do* think we're in a recession, but recessions don't last forever. The economy will turn up at some point and I'll be in the market to take advantage of the increase when it does.

A change in summer plans

June 8th, 2008 at 05:55 am

I've decided to change my original summer plans. The original plan was to take one summer school evening class and to find an accounting internship during the day, as I don't have any actual accounting experience, just 3/4s of an undergrad accounting major completed (this is a post-BA certificate; I already have a Ph.D. in another field but after 20 years have given up on getting tenure in academia; hence the career change).

Alas, I really dropped the ball on getting an internship--it's something I should have gone after in February and March. But I didn't. The past two years, I've been working one full-time teaching job at a day college, a part-time teaching job at an evening college, *and* have been taking a class a semester, too. It's an intense schedule and so I didn't get around to applying for the internships when I should have. So I told myself, well, there's "Accountemps," or I can try asking a couple "friends of friends" with small local CPA offices if I could do some work for free.

The school semester ended in mid-May, and I spent the first two weeks after getting life organized around the house--housework and home maintenance are relatively low priorities given all the other stuff, and some things were in need of attention. Then my summer school evening class started. But as we got into June, I began feeling like it was really late to ask for a summer internship. I also was feeling panicky about the fall, when I am currently scheduled to take *two* classes on top of my usual full-time plus part-time teaching load. One has really been as much as I can handle, and I even had to take an incomplete on one last fall. So I've been feeling as though the fall will be an impossible task, but I contacted the instructors and got hold of the textbooks ahead of time and said to myself, "maybe I can do this if I get most of the reading done ahead of time." But that reading takes time, of course.

To shorten an overly-long story, I've given up on the internship idea for the summer. Instead, I am going to take a second course for credit that starts via distance learning on Monday. I may take a third class as well (during the evening in second summer session), albeit one that is not a requirement, so I may audit it rather than take it for credit. And, so I start getting out there in the accounting marketplace, I am going to contact one or two of those "friends of friends" and do some informational interviews and seek mentoring. The actual accounting work is going to wait.

This plan will make things financially tighter--I have my base salary coming in, but no second-job salary, so my income is down 23% for June, July, & August from what I'm used to. And there are some big expenses coming up that may require me to dip into my savings. I'd been planning on some income from an internship to replace some of that second-job income. But the new plan *greatly* reduces the panic I've been feeling, and it will make the fall much more do-able, as I'll only have to take one class on top of the full-time & part-time jobs, and I know I can handle that. Plus now I can think more seriously about visiting my mom sometime this summer, during July or August.

Quiet Weekend

April 27th, 2008 at 03:13 pm

This weekend has been the antithesis of last, much quieter and laid back. Good thing, too, as I am exhausted and have been for several days.

Friday I was too tired to cook but the contents of my fridge weren't inviting, so I went to my favorite little Korean restaurant, where Kim cooked me a lovely 5-course Korean meal for $12 (dumplings, soup, a selection of 4 salads & kim-chees, chicken & rice, and vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries & kiwi for dessert). It was too much to eat so I took the leftovers with me and dropped by my BF's on the way home--I left the leftovers with him for a snack and he made me a cup of coffee). (I'd invited him to eat with me, but he'd already eaten by the time I called). I got home around 8:30, watched an hour of TV, talked to my mom on the phone, and went to bed by 10.

Saturday I mowed the lawn first thing, went to the vet to pick up Henry's prescription food, then stopped by the gardening center and got some weed block cloth for the foot-wide weedy patch of dirt under the fence on the north side of the yard.

I got the existing weeds out as well as I could with my limited assortment of tools (I'm sure there must be better tools, but I have no idea what they would be; I grew up in L.A. where every middle-class family (except those with teenage sons) hires a gardener to do the yardwork), and I cut and pegged down the weedblock cloth. It's a bit messy, as every physical thing I do tends to be, but I'll get some mulch to cover over and hide the messiness. (I love the *idea* of being self-sufficient, but not the implementation; I have little patience and even less knowledge when it comes to doing anything but the most basic of physical tasks--and I often struggle with the most basic as well.)

I also spent two hours yesterday ensconced in my favorite activity: browsing at the bookstore. I buy a cup of coffee and find an armchair in the coffee shop and browse to my heart's content.

Last night DBF and I had take-out Chinese and again I crashed early.

This morning, I did a few errands (grocery, fill up the tank, deposit $$ at the ATM) and chores (dishes, vacuuming, cooking). It's now 6 pm and I'm hunkering down to do some grading of exams. I really don't know where the day has gone; I DO know that I'm exhuasted again and feel pretty much ready for bed right now!

After the grocery trip and filling the gas tank, I think I am done spending for the month, barring any unforeseen emergency, and am coming in at $2206, close to what I spent in February. That's good as it allows me to put a bit of money away.

My take-home full-time salary is about $2600/month, and I've been working a part-time job as well to bring in another $700/month, but I'm not sure if I'll have any extra income this summer.

I have to prioritize my summer projects:

Furnace yearly servicing $109
Have the roof silvercoated (?$200-$400)
Replace the gutters ($600-800)
New eyeglasses (~$400-500)

Hopefully I'll earn enough this summer to at least cover these additional expenses.

One nice thing is that my Mom called today to tell me that she's getting me an early birthday gift (my birthday comes at summer's end). I had been talking about maybe getting a grill for my backyard this summer, and she went and ordered me one that should arrive this week, so that's one item on the summer expense list crossed off already!

Busy Weekend

April 20th, 2008 at 01:16 pm

What a busy weekend this has been! Started off Friday with a "date" with my BF. He treated me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant that opened near him about a year ago; it was a bit expensive but really, really good (and has won an award as one of the Top 100 Chinese restaurants in the U.S.).

Saturday morning there was the annual undergraduate research conference in my field at the nearby U.; I went to hear the keynote speaker and cheer the students on and see a few colleagues from other institutions. Then a quick trip to the grocery store and home to do some chores and walk Henry and cook my contribution for the night's seder. The seder was fun--my friend who invites me every year purchased a small farm 1.5 years ago and is raising llamas. The seder was nice but went on a bit long for my taste. The hostess wanted to sing every song in the book, just about. I agree that a seder should be a leisurely meal, but 2-2.5 hours, not over 4 (the point at which I left) is more to my taste.

Today I pulled the lawnmower out of the basement and did the first mow of the season after first cleaning up the yard of sticks etc. The grass was actually a bit long for a first mow so it was slow going. I also did another grocery shopping trip (yesterday's was mostly for my seder dinner contribution) and stopped at BJs, and at home I'm doing laundry and cleaning and working on data analysis for a dozen undergrad projects.

I'm supposed to go out to another seder tonight but I really don't want to--I have a test to grade as well that I'd really like to have off my back. Not quite sure what I'll be doing yet.

Oh, and of course there was yesterday's hour-long talk with my sister (who was at Mom's, while Mom was out grocery shopping, which means another hour today talking to Mom).

One thing I'm NOT doing today is going to Hillary's talk at the local H.S. a mile away. I've already heard Bill in person, and Barack, and I've made up my mind. If she had come a month earlier, I might have gone. Bill has been in the area 4 times, Chelsea at least twice, and now Hillary. All I can say is that I was really frustrated by Tuesday's debate and the way the moderators emphasized trivial questions for the first half. I don't watch TV much so I've missed the barage of TV ads, but my mailbox has had 1 or 2 mailings from Obama every day this week. I'll be glad to get the PA primary over with. Back in January the local paper was hosting a "Pretend your Vote Matters" poll on its website and PA has turned out to be anything but that!

It's going to be a loooonnnnggg time until November.


On the spending front, so far it looks good for my coming in with another ~2000 spending month, but there's still 10 days to go. I did buy a couple of books cheap at BJs plus ended up buying an 8 gig thumb drive to transfer a bunch of files from home to work since my DVD burner won't burn disks (but plays them fine), so there have been a few extras but not too many.

I've already planned to buy some Earth Boxes for container gardening and a barbeque grill for my back porch next month. This is my third year in the house and every May I buy something to liven up my outdoor living space. Other than a concrete bench for under the dogwood, this will complete the annual May outdoor buying spree, I think. My two porches and my lovely small backyard are one of the favorite parts of my house, and this is the only area where I've splurged and bought things mostly new rather than used.

Two NSDs and a bit of extra income

February 4th, 2008 at 06:16 pm

I've had two no spend days in a row the past two days--yay! And the scale reached a new low (for the recent span of time) this morning. I was hungry hungry hungry today, so it'll probably take me a week to regain that number. Didn't do huge damage--just ate the number of calories that I ate last year. One day won't do damage but daily eating at that level puts the weight right back on. I rationalized it by telling myself that I needed to let my body know it wasn't starving because of the lower calorie intake of late--when your body figures that food is scarce, it lowers the metabolic rate.

When I got home from work I had a phone call from the Dean of the Evening College I teach at. The upshot of it is that a student needs an independent study in order to graduate in May. I agreed to supervise. It means an hour weekly meeting (plus a couple extra to catch up since we're now in week 4 of the term) and a bit of additional grading, and $600 extra bucks (before taxes) in my pocket this term.

Final thought: Maybe that was a gift from Dad (who passed in 1990). I maintain a pretty rationalistic approach to my spirituality, but sometimes it's fun to indulge. Today would have been my father's 90th birthday. It's just nice to think that he's celebrating by giving his family gifts. Makes me a bit sad, too--although I was 28 when he died, I still feel like he didn't get to know me as a "real grown up." I hope he'd be proud of how I turned out. He was always a button-bustin' papa, so I'm sure he would be.

Celebratory Weekend

January 20th, 2008 at 08:17 pm

Knowing that I have a job in hand through summr of '09 (the point at which I finish my accounting studies and am ready to move on to the new career), I felt like celebrating this weekend. It worked out well that I already had an out-of-town visitor scheduled, a trip rescheduled from before-Christmas. I spent Saturday morning doing some grocery shopping and tidying up, and Donna arrived around 2. After hanging out at home for an hour, we went to a nearby town having a "SnowBlast festival" to look at the ice sculptures. I drove her home past my workplace and with a stop at the Farmer's Market. Our Farmer's market is open Thurs, Fri, & Sat. If I go, it's usually Thurs or Fri since I work nearby. I hadn't realized that on Saturday the hour or so before closing, the merchants steeply discount their wares, since they don't want to have to pack them up again. It might be worth the occasional Saturday trip in the future.

In the evening, DBF came over to join us for dinner, which I cooked (salmon with Asian stirfry veggies in a citrus-soy sauce over brown rice). Donna and I split a bottle of wine (DBF abstained). I got quite the buzz on and paid for it later that night. A drinker I am not.

Today we puttered around home until 10:30, then went to Granny's Tearoom for brunch, and to the local bookstore and a couple of giftstores, all along Main St, to browse. The tearoom had a special whereby they were selling Windsor teapots for $10 if you bought some tea; so I picked up a package of white tea with blackcurrent and a cobalt blue teapot, as I have recently switched from coffee to tea as my default drink of choice. I also bought a book on Green Housecleaning at the bookstore since it seemed to have some very useful tips when I browsed through it.

After we got home, Donna left, and I ended up puttering around the rest of the day--went out to Lowe's and bought a new trash can since one of my two finally split completely down the middle last week, and otherwise hung around and drank tea (plus I did one of my in-home walking tapes so I'd get some exercise).

Tomorrow I have off from teaching, but it will be a work-at-home, preparation for the workweek day. Now that I know that my plans are in place for the next 1.5 year's it's time to stop worrying and blast full-speed ahead!

School Term starts tomorrow

January 13th, 2008 at 06:13 pm

Today's the end of my vacation--the only time all year that I have time to do more than catch up on sleep and laundry (given that my schedule is that I work a full time job, a part time job, and I go to school part time--I used to have more "fun" on my vacations when I "just" worked full-time; now it's just recovering from exhaustion). During my month off, I didn't manage to do anything like go to a movie or take a daytrip to Philly, but I did browse at the bookstore half a dozen times, and, more productively, I did a lot of cleaning and reorganizing at home, and I got myself started exercising regularly again and lost about 5 pounds. Those things feel good.

When I manage to get myself to the point where I "just" have one full-time job (ideally as of June 2009), I'll have to start planning for a "real" vacation--maybe in December of 2009. The last time I took a week off and traveled anywhere was my obligatory trip home two years ago. I can't even remember the last time I went anywhere for more than a weekend just for fun--it's been about 10 years.

Good thing I've only got a year and a half more on the "work full time and part time and go to school" plan. I'm beginning to get burned out.

As for my last day of vacation--well, I spent the morning finishing the kitchen reorganization project, and making applesauce and braised cabbage (yesterday I made Chicken Cacciatore, so I have some food laid away for the week ahead) and the afternoon doing syllabi for one course. Tonight I really should finish the other syllabus, but I think I'm going to bed early, since we're expecting some amount of snow (2" to 5") and I'll have to dig out before the morning commute.

Tea and a Mitzvah

January 1st, 2008 at 06:39 pm

Here's how I spent my New Years Day: in the morning, I went over to my friend Anne's for tea and a chat. We made a plan to walk on Tuesday & Thursday mornings at 6 from now on. This is great because one thing I have learned about myself is that I am most consistent with my exercise when I make it a social commitment. Also Anne lives only half a mile away, which makes it easy. I lost my last walking buddy when I moved from the next town over. We kept up our walks for the first year after I moved, but it was a lot easier to skip a walk when we each had to drive 5 miles to meet, and eventually things fell apart when our schedules changed. Now I'm going to approach my next-door neighbor about walking, too--we'd briefly discussed it over the holiday. It will be twice as good to have *two* nearby walking buddies--get me out there twice as often!

When I went home and checked my email, I learned from my rabbi that an elderly couple in our congregation were both in the hospital today, and eager for visitors. I decided to go, since I can remember how much I appreciated visitors the time that I was hospitalized for 7 weeks. I ended up spending three hours visiting with the wife and just talking to the husband (who's in a different wing) over the phone. She ended up taking a trip down memory lane, and told me many stories from her younger years, which was fun since she's a person whom I didn't meetuntil she was 65 (she's 80 now). I was taken by her love for life and its pleasures. This is a woman who, after falling and breaking 8 ribs, did not want to miss the cioppino dinner that a friend was bringing over, so she had herself helped into a chair, laughed and talked through dinner (she said she was fine as long as she didn't move), took two Tylenol PM to get through the night, and then went to the hospital the next morning! She says she's glad that she did it as it has given her a good memory to savor during her stay. I hope I have as much lust for life when I am her age.

A quiet, frugal christmas

December 25th, 2007 at 06:49 pm

My boyfriend and I got together to celebrate the holiday last night. He brought over take-out Chinese and we exchanged gifts and watched a video. I got him a "Thera-cane," a device for doing self-massage and getting at one's "trigger points." We'd come across the device in a "Relax the Back" store in November, and he tried it in the store and said that it got out a tough knot. He's always complaining about pains in his back, shoulder and forearm (as a graphic designer, he spends too much time on the computer by necessity). I was so impressed with the device that I got one for myself and one for my mom, too. For my sister, I renewed a favorite magazine subscription of hers that I've been buying her for a few years now. As for what I got, well, Tom paid for the annual B.J.s Warehouse membership that we share, and he took home two of my dresser drawers that were broken to repair. (This is typical; I buy him things; he gives me gifts of help with home maintenance and repair that I cannot do on my own.) My mother sent me a check, and I told her that some of the recent clothes purchases and a book purchase I made earlier this month were "her gift" to me. My sister says that she has something for me, but, knowing her, I suspect that I'll receive it when next I visit her in L.A.

As for the big day itself, it was quiet. As I'm Jewish and don't really celebrate Christmas but rather "the holidays," spending the day alone was no big deal. I had originally planned to accompany my boyfriend to his parents, but he was concerned about some current family stresses and felt it might be better if I didn't come today. The day was sunny and relatively warm, so I spent a couple of hours finishing up some fall garden chores, another hour or so on the phone with my mother and sister out in California, and the rest of the time puttering about on the computer, making goals and plans for 2008 and tallying up my 2007 expenses. Now I'm about to sign off the computer and watch the second video that I rented yesterday.

So today was more like a lazy weekend day than like a holiday, but it's helping me renew my batteries after an exceptionally overybusy fall term.

A good deal

December 19th, 2007 at 07:09 pm

I pulled out my winter boots a couple of weeks ago to find my two pairs not really usable. Both pairs are over 10 years old. The vibram sole on the dressier pair had just about collapsed, and the uppers are looking quite shabby. The uppers on my GoreTex insulated LL Bean boots are still in good shape even despite their age, but the sole has been worn down to be almost flat.

I am lucky enough to live near an LL Beans outlet, so I went there to figure out what to do for winter boots this year. I had thought about replacing the Bean boots, but I found a cheaper way around that--as I was in the checkout line, I spyed safety treads for ice fishing for $5. I bought those and put them on the Bean boots--they stay in place, unlike the much more expensive "YakTracks" that I had bought a few years ago. Now I have a way to shovel snow and pick at ice while having some traction, and it only cost $5. (I did buy some dressier snow boots for $60, too, to wear to work).

It looks like we're in for a bad winter, so it's good to have these purchases in hand early in the season.

Almost vacation time

December 14th, 2007 at 07:22 pm

Today I picked up my last set of papers to grade for the term. They were due yesterday, but with the ice storm we had, I didn't want to go out in the weather. (Neither did the students: half of them submitted their papers via email, and I had to spend half an hour printing them out.) Once I grade this set of 20 final essays and the 50 exams I gave on Wed., I'll be done for the term. I had hoped to finish today, but it will be sometime over the weekend.

A friend of mine was supposed to come down to visit me this weekend, but she postponed her visit for a month because of the storm that's supposed to hit the east coast starting tomorrow night, and her holiday plans that intervene after that. I'll look forward to seeing her, but we'll miss all the Christmas stuff. I live in Bethlehem, PA, and of course the town does Christmas up big time. It's fun to have a visitor for Christmas to share this with. Of course, I could go do some of it on my own, but it's just not as fun as having someone to share it with.

I'll look forward to getting my "nest" back in order over my winter break. The downstairs generally remains presentable, but piles of clutter build up here and there--in particular, a small desk I have in the living room has been unusable for months because of the piles of paper, and the top of the dog crate in the living room is my "active project" piling base and is getting to the paper-toppling phase.

Otherwise things look homey, especially with the bulbs I've been forcing: an amaryllis, paperwhites, and crocuses. With the bulbs and the two birdfeeders that sit out on the porch just beyond the windows in this picture, I have ample signs of life all winter long to cheer me up.

Getting Ready for Winter

November 19th, 2007 at 02:47 pm

We had our first snow of the season yesterday, and that motivated me to get out and get some winter clothes shopping done. I stopped at the LLBeans outlet (we're lucky to have one!) in search of a coat that I thought I'd seen in their catalog, but to my chagrin (after having the salesclerk do a search and then finally going out to my car to get the catalog itself, the coat that I wanted turned out to be from Lands End. Oops! Beans does have a similar coat, and I tend to think the quality of their merchandise is superior, but I didn't like the colors offered, so I'll get the Lands End coat from Sears or from the catalog. I did buy 4 pair of SmartWool socks while I was there, and a matched red fleece scarf, mittens, and headband. I'm determined to get any shopping done before this holiday, as I traditionally avoid setting foot in the malls from Thanksgiving until after the New Years--I can't stand the crowds.

I've been saving up in my virtual "budget envelopes" for this clothing purchase for months, and I'm pleased that, after the LLBeans purchase today and the planned Lands End purchase tomorrow, I still have 39.50--just enough for the new fleece lined set of clogs that I spied at Beans today. For the past 6 years, I've been wearing the same old winter garb, and a secondhand winter coat passed on to me by my sister in a color that I wasn't really fond of, so it will be really nice to have new winter wear this season.

question: Insulating the basement

October 14th, 2007 at 02:38 pm

I'm a relatively new homeowner, and I'm completely clueless about home repair, home maintenance, etc. This will be my third winter in this house. The house is reasonably well insulated--I had it inspected before buying and there's good insulation in the attic. I was wondering though, about insulating the ceiling of the basement. I spend a lot of time sitting on my floor, and now that the weather's finally turned colder, I'm noticing how cool the living room floor is . I was wondering about putting some insulation in the ceiling so that the first floor floor stays warmer (and to perhaps reduce the heating gas bill--I pay about $1800 a year). Last year I put down rugs, but the dog ended peeing on them repeatedly, so I was thinking of trying to make the floor itself warmer. What kind of insulating material would I use and is this something that people do or is this an off-the-wall idea?

Weekly Spending, 7/22-7/28

July 28th, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Because of the computer, an expensive week

grocery 159
dining 35
pets 272 (annual exams for 2 cats, with biannual shots)
dentist 190 (some of which will be reimbursed by insurance)
computer & accessories (keyboard protector, surge protector, VISTA book) ($150 expected back in rebate) 1040
Total spending: 1696

Spending 7-2 to 7-7

July 7th, 2007 at 01:46 pm

My computer is being "held hostage" in the shop over the holiday week (I completely forgot the 4th was a holiday, and they took the rest of the week off), so I haven't been able to log in except by going to the library.

Spending since 7/1

July 2

Grocery: 20.17

July 3
Drugstore: 18.96

July 4
Dining: 6.25
Video rental: 1.75
Total: 8.00 (nonessentials)

Then I've been in "holiday weekend" mode since this is the only weekend I have with no class commitments looming over me, so I've spent a bit the past few days.

July 5
Veterinarian: $10
Auto-fuel: $29.32
Total: $40.32

July 6
Dining: $11.00 (nonessential)

July 7
Clothing: $98.32 (a swim suit, a pair of summer clogs, a pair of water shoes, and a shirt) at the sale at LL Beans) (items worth $134 if not on sale, so I saved over 25%). Arguably nonessential, except possibly the swim suit (I discovered yesterday that the old one is unwearable) but I'll get good use out of it. Also tomorrow I'll spend $15 for an introductory kayaking class that Bean's offers. I do like living near one of their outlets!
Dining: $12.59
Total: 110.91

That's $209.36 of spending so far this month, $19 of which is clearly nonessential. But that's less than 10%, and I think the "extras" of the couple of meals out, the video rental (The Da Vinci Code), and tomorrow's kayaking trip will help give me a sense of having had a tiny bit of real vacation during this generally hard-working summer. Hopefully this little bit of getting off track will help me stay on better track the rest of the month.

Almost the end of the semester

May 5th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

Classes ended yesterday; now I just have two exams to administer and piles of papers and exams to grade, so that the academic year should wind up in about a week. I get a brief break of a week and then start teaching summer school (1 class) and taking classes (2, I think, presuming the two I want to take enroll enough students to run). I suppose if I don't take the two I'm planning on, I'll go over to the community college and enroll in more distance learning classes--but I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, as the (4-year) college classes are not only better, but, since I've worked there for more than two years, I get to take them for free, while registering for two community college classes will cost about $800.

I started Weight Watchers just over a week ago and lost over 5 pounds the first week. Maybe eating less will lower my food bill eventually, but at the moment, it really helps to buy things that are precooked or prepackaged in small servings, plus my consumption of fresh produce has increased, so the food bill remains high for now.

Chores Day

September 3rd, 2006 at 04:01 pm

Finally sitting down to work (no holiday for me tomorrow...no college I ever taught at or went to ever had Labor Day off!) after spending the day doing chores:

swept/vaccuumed the floors

decluttered the dining room table

gave the bathrooms a good cleaning

cleaned the kitchen sink

made a crockpot dinner (ate tonight plus have 3 more portions for later this week)

pulled a bunch of weeds

mowed the lawn

bought 3 bright yellow chrysanthamum plants to replace the begonias and impatiens I bought the beginning of the summer, which are looking pretty spent

put up Redi-Shades over four more windows for more privacy along the sides/back of the house (I only put up shades in the front when I moved in 10 months ago). I'm hoping to buy some nice *real* bamboo or wood blinds for the dining room by the end of the year. I'll put up blinds (which I vastly prefer to curtains) gradually room by room. For $4 apiece, the paper Redi-Shades are a great value and actually look quite nice--my neighbor, who's only seen them from outside the house, complemented me on them once!

Also went to the gym and did a full body weight circuit and walked the dog 3 times today (total 1.75 miles, which is the furthest we've gone in a day since the weather heated up in June).

I only got five hours sleep last night. Hoping to put in a good 2-3 hours on class prep for Mon & Tues before bed.

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