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Veggie Garden Roundup

September 23rd, 2016 at 05:31 pm

It wasn't the biggest garden I've ever had, and half of it was in pots lining my driveway, but given the small effort I put into it, I was pretty satisfied with what I reaped.

Eggplants: This was my greatest success, considering I think I only grew eggplant once before. I had 2 plants; one of them was destroyed by voles, but the remaining plant gave me 9 wonderful eggplants, all of which I used to make my favorite eggplant recipe: baba ganouch.

Cucumbers: This was another great success. I had just 2 cucumber plants; one of them gave me 22 cucumbers (!!!) and the other, a pickle cucumber I accidentally bought, gave me 7 pickled-sized cucumbers. Both of these were potted plants.

Tomatoes: I didn't a ton of tomatoes from my 2 potted plants, just 19 cherry tomatoes from one and 8 small to medium sized tomatoes from the other plant. Believe me, I watered daily for most of the summer.

Stringbeans: Sigh. The string beans I sowed in fenced garden were destroyed by voles. The string beans I sowed near my front door were mowed down by voles. The string beans I sowed in 3 pots in the middle of the driveway, surrounded by fencing, looked absolutely pristine until a woodchuck discovered them late in the season, destroying most of my crop. I had just one good meal with string beans as a result.

Onions: This was a waste of time. I figured the voles would not bother these, and for the most part, I don't think they did, but they took up a lot of space and never really seemed to grow much. I ate them all in a single meal of potatoes, onions and broccoli. I think one problem was they probably didn't get enough water. I dislike having the drag the hose over the driveway stone wall and down the front of the lawn and stand there with the sprayer; it was difficult getting the new sprinkler to send water exactly where I wanted it.

Wineberries: I picked about 2 cups worth of wineberries and blackberries from the thickets surrounding my yard.

I also grew mint, basil and parsley in pots. I will have at least 3 pots of parsley next year to attract more butterfly caterpillars, hopefully earlier in the season, becus it was very special to watch them emerge and make their very first flights.

Earlier tonight I brought all my houseplants indoors as it's going to be much chillier tomorrow morning and overnight. I used the garden hose to thoroughly spray each plant, underside too, to avoid bringing any bugs indoors. Most of them wound up in my upstairs sunny bathroom. Most of them seem to have benefitted from their time outdoors (especially my copper plant, a succulent, and something in the cactus family, although the pothos ivy is looking a little beat up and the aloe looked better inside and was actually very sun-sensitive.

I would like to try to divide a crowded gazanie daisy plant that's resided in a pot for at least 5 years now, successfully overwintering each winter in the garage with 2 other pots of the same plant. They all look great, very bushy, but the one resin pot is crumbling and the plant is big enough I could create 2 plants if I can figure out which pots to use.

I also have a ton of daffodil bulbs, like 50 or so, that were dug up by voles earlier in the summer. Annoying. I have a potted lavender plant I may as well try planting in the ground.

I made a trip to Whole Foods today for just a few things I can't find elsewhere, including organic dried apple rings from the bulk bin, vegan mac and cheese and organic lemon juice in a jar.

I'm feeling a little concerned because the guy who interviewed me for that job on Tuesday had said he would be in touch toward the end of the week to schedule an in-person meeting with me, and I never heard from him. I sure hope he didn't meet other candidates he feels are more qualified but I think that's a possibility.

I was going to do another beach cleanup tomorrow about a half hour away but it starts at 9 and I am feeling a little lazy right now. I always have so much to do at home but seem to always leave that and do shopping errands or something else instead.

I did hang some laundry out to dry outdoors today and I checked in briefly with my job coach. I made more baba ganouch.

Dumb recruiter

September 22nd, 2016 at 05:54 pm

Yesterday morning I saw a new job posting, a 3-monthh contract for a writer to do employee communications at a healthcare company. I sent in my resume, and while I was out hiking, the recruiter who posted the job called and left me a message.

I called him back when I returned home from the hike, which was about an hour after he called me. I got his voice mail and left a message; he didn't respond back until after 5 that night, via email, saying sorry, I could only submit 2 candidates for the job and I already found them.

I mean, I called him back just one hour later and it was already too late? Usually a recruiter chooses the top 3 or 4 best candidates for a job; this guy said that 45 people had applied for the job and he was calling all of those who qualified. So instead of getting my resume submitted based on my qualifications, looks like he was submitting resumes based on who could get back to him quickest.

I've never had that happen to me before. I was really annoyed because I had gotten excited about the job, only to be told I was too late. So i told him don't bother contacting me for any more jobs.

Wednesday words

September 21st, 2016 at 08:02 am

Not sure how I'm supposed to get any work done here...

Hairy monster.

Yesterday's Meals:

Breakfast: My own granola with generous serving of fresh raspberries and unsweetened almond milk.

Lunch: An entire Trader Joe's pesto/broccoli frozen pizza. Dessert: Soy ice cream sandwich. One Brazil nut (supplies the day's requirement of Vit. E)

Dinner: Strangely did not feel hungry but I did make a banana/nectarine/almond milk smoothie and then around 9 pm I sliced up a half a cucumber and ate it plain, including the antioxidant-rich skin.

Waiting for the furnace guy to come and clean/tune up the furnace for the winter season. Once he's come and gone, I want to head over to a nearby Audubon center to do a LONG walk. I'm a bit behind on my walking for this week. I'll stop at Shop Rite on the way home and deposit a $212 check I received for freelance editing.

What your job would be like if your boss was a cat...

September 20th, 2016 at 04:14 pm


Phew. Got thru the interview

September 20th, 2016 at 09:16 am

I just got through with my phone job interview. It was a 30-minute interview that actually continued for 55 minutes, which I guess is a good thing. I was feeling nervous because I knew this was a writing job where simply being a good writer would not be enough; I would need to understand how to interpret and apply analytic research about online customers' shopping behavior (in terms of clicks here or clicks there, what pages they view and so on) to what and how I write.

I didn't understand a lot of what he said, to be honest, about how their business model works, but this has happened to me before and I did okay. I could tell he was prepared and had a list of specific questions (what salary did I want, why do you want to work for us, are you willing to use analytics in the writing, am I familiar with SEO, why did you leave last company, how do you juggle competing deadlines).

He did ask the dreaded salary question and to my surprise, after I answered in a way that basically avoided answering the question (I'd like to be compensated at a level that's competitive with the industry, based on my background and experience), he did not push for more and he did later say it was a competitive pay with medical/dental, PTO and so on, leading me to believe I might not have to take a pay cut from the $82,700 I was making when I left the bank.

Their CT location is very small, I think, probably no more than 10 people, though I could be wrong. This is based on how many people came up when I searched Linked In for that company. They have more people in their PA location.

When he asked me the question about would I be open to using analytics to inform my content, I came up with a really great metaphor while answering that question which I think he liked. I said, think about a masterpiece painting, like a Picasso. There's not a single brushstroke or dab of paint that is unintended; everything is deliberate, and there for a reason. That's really how I approach my writing, I told him. Language is a tool, like any other tool, that I use to achieve very specific goals.

I thought it was a good metaphor and when I relayed this to my friend R. after the interview, he agreed and thought it was great.

Toward the end I started getting good signals from the interviewer becus he told me in very basic terms what their compensation package includes and the work environment, and I felt like he was trying to sell me on the company a little. He said in all his 25 years of working it was the best work environment. Or maybe I was just the first person he interviewed. He even said something a little complimentary about my resume. He's going to call me during the end of the week to schedule an in-person interview, at which time I will be even MORE nervous than I was this morning.

Job interviews are one of those things that no matter how many times I do them, they don't seem to get any easier. Even when the stakes aren't that high. Meaning, I still have 5 months of unemployment benefits left, I'm in great shape financially and just have a few more years to go before I'll seek to retire. But still, I feel so nervous about interviewing and getting the job and not stumbling over some answer or just blanking out.

In other news...
If your yard's in need of attention or you want to do some planting but are unsure what will work in your area, click on this link below and type in your zip code and email, and you'll get a list of plants (berry-producing shrubs and trees as well as perennial flowers) (with color photos) appropriate for your area, along with the different bird species that plant will attract.


It's part of their drive to plant 1 million native species to help feed birds.

When you see plants you like, you can build your own list of favorites. It's a pretty neat tool.

A little of this, a little of that

September 19th, 2016 at 03:01 pm

I spent most of the day, on and off, prepping for my phone interview tomorrow. I'm reading their website and their case studies, researching certain marketing terms I'm not familiar with, and reviewing my own job history becus I'm a little rusty and not sure what he'll ask.

In between that, my dad came over in the morning and with him here I attempted to access his Santander checking account by creating an online account. It took an hour; we went through the whole long security questions with one rep and then when she was nearly done, she disconnected us and she never called me back so I had to call again and start all over with someone else who got me access to the account.

Dad's had trouble with The Hartford becus they cancelled his auto insurance after claiming they never received payment from him, even though his bank shows the amount due was electronically withdrawn from his account.

I wanted to access a copy of the actual cancelled check so I could email it to The Hartford, but it didn't appear on Santander's site and so they have to retrieve this manually, and that will take up to 2 days.

What a nuisance. Meanwhile, dad has been driving illegally and is takign a risk getting stopped by a cop.

My dad had even gotten his bank and the insurer on the phone together but that did not immediately resolve the problem.

I also was able to find an old friend (husband/wife) of my dad's on Facebook; he remembered they live in CT and now that he's up here, too, I think he would like to reconnect. They were friends when my dad's second wife was still alive.

So I found her on FAcebook and becus she listed where she worked, I called her there and confirmed that it was her. She seemed nice and gave me two of their phone numbers; I know my dad will be excited about it once I reach him on the phone.

I also picked up 3 pieces of unsold art at a local frame shop after the end of an exhibit there.

I attended yet another webinar on creating "SOAR" statements that can be used on your resume and at an interview.

Yesterday we did the 4th road trip with my friend R., this time driving up to Burlington to briefly meet R.'s niece and her 2 girls and then to Collinsville, where we lunch on the patio.

As we were driving, we went past a private home with the most spectacular gardens. I made R. turn around so we could get a second look. It was a busy road so I didn't get out of the car, but this should give you an idea:

Look at the size of those window box plantings!

These manicured and carefully pruned plantings completely surrounded the house on both sides, which you can't really see here, as well as a backyard that sloped uphill, so the view from the road was really stunning.

Here's Luther, wondering what's for dinner.

Oh, and here is me with the other volunteers at the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday. I'm in the front row, the only one not wearing their t-shirt. (I arrived late and couldn't figure out how everyone managed to change into these shirts when they arrived.)

Busy AM; now it's time to relax!

September 17th, 2016 at 11:14 am

There were 2 events I wanted to do today and I had to choose one: either the Int'l Coastal Cleanup Day at a beach an hour's drive from here, or the annual health fair here in town.

Since I go to the health fair every year, I decided to push myself to do the litter pickup on the beach. I've participated a few times in past years and found it very enjoyable.

However, I had to leave the house by 8 a.m. to get there in time, which I did. Everyone got a free t-shirt along with garbage bags and gloves, and we were told to form teams.

I was looking forward to wandering up and down a long beach, but this particular park was part picnic grounds and trails and only had a small town beach. Not only that, but it was pretty darn clean to begin with! We had to content ourselves with picking up piles of cigarette butts, for the most part.

At other locations with the usual trash problems, particularly when it washes in with the surf, we'd haul car tires and all sorts of much larger debris, which I have to say is more satisfying when you clean it up.

I did get to talk to a few very nice women about my age, and I especially enjoyed talking about upcoming retirement plans with one of them who was still working full time at age 67! That will not be me! She revealed that she rents, so I can see how forever having that big expense could cause one to hesitate when it came to retirement.

There were about 30 volunteers, and they rounded us all up toward the end for a group photo which I guess will appear on a website somewhere.

There being so little litter, I headed home earlier than expected and found I was home in time to catch the tail end of the health fair, where I got my flu shot, my cholesterol and glucose checked. All good!

I HAD eaten breakfast so my glucose, at 99, was fine.

Normal is less than140 for a non-fasting person.

My overall cholesterol was 186 with HDL at 81 (great), trig at 116 (als0 great) and LDL at 81 (still great). My ratio was 2.3, very, very great.

Having gotten all these key numbers, I may feel more comfortable skipping my physical next spring (or until I get a perm job). Because even though preventive healthcare is supposed to be "free," it's a fairly expensive proposition to get a physical because my doctor's office requires you to come in to discuss the results and while you don't pay anything for the 1st visit, you do pay $25 for the 2nd one. (It's worth it to discuss those results in an unhurried manner.) However, you then have to pay the lab fee for all the bloodwork and I recall that being another $90.

So I saved myself $115 in fees going to the town health fair.

After the health fair I went home and remembered my dad's DNA sample was sitting there and needed to be mailed. I hadn't wanted to leave it in the hot car while i was collecting litter, so I didn't bring it with me, but I also just wanted to get it out in the mail, so I drove it to the Post Office, then stopped at grocery store to pick up a few things and when I got home I made a nice corn, tomato and black bean salad, supplemented with some very colorful organic tomatoes and a small bell pepper I got at the organic farm.

You don't even need to cook the frozen corn, you just dump it in the bowl and let it dethaw. I love cold salads like this. I just add a little salad dressing to coat all.

Now I'm really pooped. There's something about spending a few hours in bright sunlight that just wears me out.

Just going to relax for the rest of the day since tomorrow we have another "outing" planned.

Patient Saver's List

September 16th, 2016 at 07:16 pm

Ooh, I played this game once before but I don't remember what was on my list then.

1. I never married and have no kids. (See #19 below for a hint why.)

2. I LOVE to travel and did a fair amount in my 30s, mainly to Europe, about 5 or 6 times, and also at least 3 major trips thru Canada (Canadian Rockies, Yukon, Montreal, Nova Scotia, Laurentian Mts), Mexico, Costa Rica, US Virgin Islands. My favorite state is Alaska.

3. I'm an amateur naturalist and love studying insects, birds, butterflies, critters, you name it.

4. I'm a liberal.

5. Probably the most interesting thing about me are the many unusual jobs I've held, including 2 fun journalism jobs and another one working for a company that investigated insurance fraud cases. I also worked for a nonprofit environmental group that was very hands-on, requiring me to pack and sort over a dozen different types of tree seedlings, and also manage a trout fingerling sale we did as a fundraiser.

6. I also went to law school in Boston, but dropped out after a year (probably a mistake).

7. My favorite color is turquoise.

8. I'm a history buff.

9 I'm a genealogy fanatic.

10 Social injustice bothers me a lot.

11 I am proud of having paid off a 30-year mortgage in 17 years and all the progress I've made saving for my retirement.

12 I'm probably an atheist. Agnostic at best. If I had to pick a religion, it would be Buddhism, and I am interested in Eastern philosophy, yoga, meditation, healthcare, etc.

13 I've been writing for a living all my life, marketing, mostly.

14 My favorite kind of writing happens when I can act as an advocate for others, which is something I did in what was close to my dream job when I worked as a personal finance writer for a consumer website that has since gone belly up.

15 I have had chickadees and wild turkeys eat out of my hand.

16 The beauty, symmetry and synergism of the natural world will always fill me with wonder.

17 I like to record everything I see (using a camera)

18 I am a vegan-in-process with a strong interest in diet and nutrition

19 When I was very young, I was kidnapped by my father during a contentious post-divorce dispute between my parents over visitation. Since that time, I've had 3 step-parents (2 step-fathers and 1 step-mother). My parents outlived them all.

20. I've met one fellow SA blogger here, twice! And would do it again.

Phone interview lined up; mixed feelings

September 16th, 2016 at 06:19 pm

I got an email from a job I applied for, asking me to chat on the phone next week.

I haven't really had too many parameters on what kind of company I'd want to work for, although one of them was to shy away from start-ups or very small companies because my past experience has been they can be very unstable, plus pay and benefits are not as good as with a larger firm.

I need to do more research, but this looks to be a very small company that, while not a startup, isn't that old. The company has two businesses, and the one I'm guessing I'd be working for was just rebranded as a separate company in 2013.

The office local to me would be a decent commute; they also have an office in PA.

I'm guessing the main purpose of the phone call is to tease out what salary expectations I would have, and my job, according to a webinar I just took today, is to obfuscate and avoid naming a salary range if at all possible. Get them to share their salary range. If I honestly told them what i was making at the bank, i don't think a small company of this size could match it.

They are not a public company and don't even show up on glassdoor.com, so hard to find out much about them. A few press releases, and news of their acquiring another small company, a number of Linked In profiles, stuff about the business with a few business bios on the website, that's about it.

I will devote as much time as possible to prepping for the talk and trying to come up with an acceptable, accurate salary range. This is my 1st "interview" in about 3 years and i do feel rusty.

Honestly, I don't feel like I have to marry the company, only work there for 3 years before my planned retirement. If I love it and wanted to stay longer? Sure, that's always a possibility but right now the game plan calls for an exit after 3 years. So the pay probably doesn't have to exceed or even match the bank salary, although that would very desirable, of course.

I think my goal during the phone call is to make sure I get invited to an in-person interview, and not allow them to eliminate me from consideration based simply on salary. So this is the big question.

Last night we saw Sully, the movie about the United Airlines pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson River in an emergency landing. It was pretty good, with Tom Hanks playing Sully.

I want to go back to the movies next week (with dad) to either see the Snowden movie or Paper Lanterns, a movie about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during WWII. The latter one is one-night only.

My revised projected income/expense scenario

September 14th, 2016 at 04:09 am

Whenever I have a major change in income, I like to update my Projected Income & Expense Sheet; it helps me develop a roadmap for the months ahead.

As anticipated, the weekly unemployment benefits I'm now receiving (yes, I discovered 4 weekly checks had been deposited in my checking account already...i thought this would be delayed another month due to my severance) will help me squeak by on essential expenses for the 6 months I can expect to receive them, thru January 2017.

But just barely.

Unemployment benefits in CT for someone with my previous income are $598 a week gross, or $520 a week net. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

My total essential monthly expenses come out to $1,936. (Thank goodness I paid the mortgage off years ago.) I think that's a pretty accurate figure since I based it on the average of the first 8 months of my actual expenses in 2016, year-to-date through August.

Seems like nearly every expense rose at least a little, and some things, like my car insurance and food, rose a lot. However, I anticipate getting a fairly significant discount on the car insurance after signing up for Safeco's "Right Trak" program when my policy renews in October.

My food costs seem astronomical for a single person who doesn't even eat meat or cheese (I'm budgeting $300/mth though I have spent more!), but I do buy a lot of organics. I know I can scale back some of the pricier things I buy. I just need to be more careful, and go back to doing more of my shopping at Shop Rite, not Whole Foods! (Not that I shopped at WF often; it was more of a treat, maybe once every 2 months.)

My biggest single expense increase is my health insurance (no surprise there), which went from about $175 a month while I was employed at the bank for both medical and dental to $513 a month, sans dental, now. I will probably go with the Affordable Care Act during open enrollment this November, though I am worried about how competitive prices will be after hearing how United Health Care and Connecticare both are dropping out of the marketplace. Not sure how many insurers that leaves (maybe just one??), but it is never good to reduce the competition! They were all so eager to do this becus they envisioned millions more captive policyholders who would be required by law to buy their health insurance. Now they find they're not making as much money as they thought, so they want an out. Doesn't seem fair if people still are legally forced to buy health insurance.

I'm fairly confident I will benefit this winter from cheaper heating oil prices. I filled up my tank this past summer and that should last me through December with just one more fill-up needed to get through the worst of winter. (Furnace tune-ups have risen quite a bit over the years; I get it done every fall. This year it will cost me about $170.)

So as mentioned, I will do okay through January. I have NOT included any freelance income in my calculation, to supplement the unemployment benefits, because unlike last time, I no longer have the one big freelance client I had before, a real estate brokerage I used to work for. I basically cut the cord when I joined the bank.

It would feel awkward reapproaching them now because what I basically did in my last contact with him was to tell him I couldn't do a job when he gave it to me. It was ghost-writing a long magazine article, something I did every quarter for him. I should have told him in advance so he wouldn't be left in the lurch, and that's why I feel guilty, but I was working f/t at the bank by then and just wasn't thinking that far ahead.

I have just 2 small clients now; one gives me fairly regular work but it pays peanuts and the other is more substantial but rarely gives me work. I am looking for other freelance opportunities, of course, along with p/t, contract and perm jobs. I find that Craig's List is a surprisingly good source of freelance gigs.

Of course, to make ends meet, I'm following the routine I developed last go-round: eliminating entire categories of spending, including clothes, dining out and purely discretionary stuff like that. I'm allowing myself 4 haircuts a year but only when Great Clips has their sales.

Still, I am loosening the reins a little, allowing for my $5 yoga classes on occasional Saturdays.

Working the polls on Election Day for some cash

September 13th, 2016 at 05:24 pm

Last Saturday I got a 40-page document to edit from a freelance client. Editing her work is always slow-going as there are a lot of punctuation issues.

Anyway, I was plodding along today and she sent me ann email asking how it was going; I told her I was not quite halfway through and did she have a specific date she needed it by. She replied back she had to send it in tomorrow at 2! I had figured I'd wrap it up by the end of the week.

I was able to finish it up today, thank goodness.

This morning I attended a meeting at the registrar's office about working in the polls on Election Day. Yes, I will be paid $175, but the day will stretch from 5:15 a.m. to 9 p.m., we cannot leave the premises for any reason, yet they don't have a fridge or stove to make lunch or dinner. (My district votes in the middle school gym.) So you must bring your meals in a cooler or have someone you know bring you food during the day, but for voter fraud purposes, they would have to bring you the food when they come to vote, because once they vote, they won't be allowed back in again.

My cats will be fed in the morning but then go without their normal meals til I get home.

I've done this before; the hardest part for me is getting up that early; by November, it will be dark, too, which I hate. I'll have to use an alarm clock. But (sigh) I am a master at making money when I don't have any, and this was one of the little tricks up my sleeve through my long period of unemployment during the recession.

They're expecting a 90% turnout because it's a Presidential election.

Today's walk

September 12th, 2016 at 08:40 am

Just a local nature center, 60 minutes.

If you build it, they will come:

Luther likes boxes and enclosures of all kinds, and even an 8/5 x 11" copy paper box will do.

I began editing a 40-page assignment from a guardian ad litem who gives me freelance editing to do, very rarely now, so I especially appreciate this assignment.

Last night Dad and I watched The House on 92nd Street, a 1946 spy thriller that was said to be a groundbreaker in that genre back in the day. The reason we watched it is because had said he remembered seeing the German-American Bund camp he attended as a child, in the movie, but we did not see it. Perhaps the movie was edited. We did see a very brief glimpse of a compound which he said looked familiar, but I don't think that was the whole thing.

I see that my sister cashed/deposited her inheritance check, so I went to the bank this morning to close out the account, the very last step in the process. There was $7 and change in interest accrued since I filed the final statement with probate court telling them the amount of the 2 checks I would write. I can't imagine this extra $6 will cause any problems.

I just made 4 micro-loans

September 10th, 2016 at 11:01 am

I had heard of Kiva.org before, but for some reason when I saw someone posted something about it on facebook today, I rather impulsively went to the site, browsed the many people seeking a small loan, and made 4 $25 loans.

Maybe partly because, just like with the donations of my mother's art to a few non-profits, I want to do good things with my inheritance besides just my retirement.

Kiva has a 97% repayment rate. If it turns out any of my loans are not repaid, I'll chalk it off as a one-time contribution. If they are repaid, and I have every hope that they will be, I will keep reusing the money to make new loans.

You can choose which category of loan types you want to browse. I have a soft spot for women entrepreneurs, and would like to encourage them to achieve financial independence (just like me).

So I donated to a retired woman in Moldova who wanted a few hundred dollars to repair her chicken coop fence. She supplements her retirement with money raised from selling chicken eggs. Her son and grandkids live with her. I liked the photo of her holding one of her chickens.

You get to read a little about the person and why they want the money, along with a photo of them. Since I recently learned from DNA testing I'm half eastern European, I felt good making a loan to a Moldovian resident.

I also made 2 small loans to 2 Ugandan women, one of whom wanted money to purchase organic fertilizer for her farm.

I also made a loan to a Pakistani woman who is a weaver (like my mother) and she wanted money to buy fabric scraps she could weave into yarn for sale. I liked the idea of recycling.

These are real people, with real needs, and if you like the idea of really seeing how your donation will be used (or whether it will be simply absorbed by some faceless charity for administrative costs), Kiva is perfect. Fully 100% of your donation goes to the person you're donating to; Kiva will ask you to add on a small fee to cover their costs, but you can choose not to add that fee if you like.

There were many more people i would have liked to help. Many in countries like the Philippines wanted money for water filtration systems or a latrine. It's very sad that so many in today's world still live in what we might consider squalor.

These are not handouts, these are loans to be repaid. What a great way to help those less fortunate. I may be unemployed right now, but I have been blessed to live in a country like the US with a college education and the ability to buy my own home and support myself these many years. There are others int he world who want to do the same, and sometimes they just need a little leg up.

Insurance savings

September 7th, 2016 at 06:04 pm

I paid in full for my car and auto insurance today, totalling $1,526. I always pay in full, even though it hurts, because you get a discount for doing so. I used a credit card (just a normal, non-bonus one) but I should get some kind of points for it.

My agent felt I was over-insured a bit on the house, so we achieved some cost savings there, but he said I seemed a little low on the car, so we beefed that up.

My overall costs are about the same, but when the plan actually renews in October, Safeco (part of Liberty Mutual) will mail me the Right Trak gadget which I'll drive around with for 3 months. No matter what, I'll save an additional 5% just for signing up for the program (that's at least $44), and I have the potential to save up to 30% ($266). You can track your progress online and see how much you're saving, so to me that's fun and very motivating.

It's based on total miles driven, time of day you drive and how fast you brake and start. These are easy things to control so I'm confident and hopeful I can reduce my car insurance down from the current $887 for a 3-year-old Honda.

Next year, I will probably drop my collision, for which I'm now paying about $250, so that would be a big cost savings, though not without some risk.

Another day of not feeling like I accomplished very much. I did some reading for my job search, attended another webinar and got some groceries and gas. I am simultaneously taking webinars on looking for a job and visualizing my future retirement lifestyle. I much prefer the latter, naturally.

Lunch today was finishing up my delish baba ganousch with some healthy crackers (yes, there is such a thing) along with my homemade coleslaw. Dinner was a half cucumber and about a half cup of kidney beans with some salad dressing, along with a half a cantaloupe and a half pint of some really good non-dairy salted cashew/caramel ice cream. Didn't feel like cooking or fussing in the kitchen, I guess.

I'm supposed to be walking 6x weekly and have fallen a bit short of that at times, sometimes for no good reason. I think I have better success when I get out first thing in the morning to do the walk; when I leave it for end of day, I wind up lacking the energy and am thinking more about supper than anything.

Am disappointed I haven't heard back from the Lutheran pastor I emailed in the small town in Germany where my grandfather grew up. Maybe he's busy and will get to me eventually.


September 6th, 2016 at 05:44 pm

I haven't slept very well in the last few nights. Each night, the cats have been catching baby mice, which means there are probably a few more somewhere in the basement. Thus far they caught 3 baby mice 3 nights in a row and I caught 2 full grown mice in traps. I feel I need to make sure I get them all or they'll start reproducing. It's strange they would come into the basement when it hasn't been that cold yet.

I am feeling kind of wiped out today. My dad asked me yesterday if I could find a local Nissan dealer and follow him there becushe was having a problem with his battery draining and not recharging. Somehow, it turned into an all-day thing today.

So this morning I drove to dad's (15 minutes) and from there we found the dealer, about 20 minutes from where he lives. We waited there an hour for them to diagnose it, which they didn't do before their lunch break, so by then we left and went to lunch ourselves, back in the town where dad lives. Then he said to just drop him off at home becus he didn't anticipate them calling very soon and he didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic so he was planning on picking up his truck tomorrow.

I dropped him at his place and was going to leave, but i saw him hesitate. Turns out he didn't take his house key from the dealer when he gave him the car key! (I know he felt bad that i would have to drive him back to the dealer, but i did take advantage of the situation to remind him i had suggested months ago that he give me a spare key. Or at least get a spare made and leave it hidden somewhere.)Sigh.

So we knew we'd have to go back to the dealer after all, but first he said let's kill some more time, and why not get the meds for your cat, which I told him earlier i had wanted to do, so that was another drive in another direction. On the way back onto the highway, I pulled into our town's new animal shelter to show him the nifty outdoor cat shelter. It's about the size of a shed except the walls are all screen so the cats get the feeling they are outside.

We were about ready again to get on the road to the dealer when they called my dad and told him the remote starter he got after he bought the truck was somehow draining the juice from the battery but that he would need to bring it to whoever installed it to get it fixed. And that since the remote starter was an "after market" add-on, it would not be covered by the trucks's 3-year warranty so my dad would have to pay the $175 diagnostic charge, which they charge by the hour.

We get to the dealership and they have it all put back together again...with the after market remote starter. Dad and i both agreed this was not a good idea, becus he'd be taking his chances of the battery draining again and he'd be stuck somewhere. So we asked them to disconnect it, even though at the moment, they said, it was working perfectly fine.

We had to wait another half hour for them to disconnect it. Anyway, I finally got home around 4 pm.

Oh well. I'm happy to help dad out; he sure has helped me out many times.

I have a variety of little errands beginning to pile up, but nothing that can't wait.

Sunday doings

September 4th, 2016 at 04:46 pm

We've had such a spate of gorgeous weather...not even Hurricane Hermine took away the day's sunshine.

So today was the 3rd day I worked on clearing out the brambles growing in the pachysandra and looming over my side yard. I am pretty much finished with it. It's not perfect, but so much better. There is quite a bit of poison ivy growing near my 3 or 4 blueberry bushes and a few bittersweet vines I could not get to behind them. I sprayed it several times with the vinegar/salt spray.

I did a lot of reading today, just sitting outside on the front porch, a book we'll be discussing on Thursday.

I also went for an hour-long walk in the late afternoon.

I saw a bunch of yellow butterflies puddling on a dirt road in the sunshine. Interesting.

Had dinner with dad last night at his favorite place. Shared with him my DNA results and he agreed to get his tested too; this could shed some interesting light on my results, and we can see how his and mine compare. So I will order the test for him, but first I want to call Ancestry and see if I can get a further discount. I was told a while back they can be pretty flexible.

I stumbled upon what looks like the official home page of the city of Reichenbach, Germany, where my grandfather grew up. I "liked" the page and sent a note mentioning I was researching my family tree but hadn't gotten that far becus i don't speak German. They asked me if I wanted the contact info for the clergyman in Reichenbach, and when i said yes, they sent me a name and an email of the Lutheran pastor there who they feel certain speaks English. Just like that! I doubt my local Chamber of Commerce could be so accommodating.

I had forgotten how in Europe, the churches were the keepers of old family records. I will be very excited to write him this week. I would like to get the address of my grandfather's family there, in case, down the road, I manage to make a trip to Germany again. I could have easily gotten it from grandpa's brother's son, who I briefly corresponded with a number of years ago, but he unexpectedly died. He was in his 60s. I remember him telling me he was the last H*** in Germany. He did not have any children.

I feel I'm learning so much about my family. Ancestry is a big part of it, but not all of it. Each little discovery seems to lead to something else, and I have yet to feel I've exhausted all avenues.

Dad's also got a problem with his battery not holding a charge so I'll be going with him to a Nissan dealer on Tuesday; hopefully he can schedule an appointment for that day. I also need to pick up more meds for Waldo.

WE get so few of these beautiful days here in CT, with low humidity and blue, blue skies. I sat outside wtih my book and an iced tea just enjoying my surroundings and the sound of the crickets. I filled the bird feeder and the chipmunk brazenly ate his fill just 10 feet from me. I enjoyed watching all sorts of bees, some huge carpenter bees, lots of honey bees (wondering if from someone's hive around here tho I don't know anyone who keeps hives) and others, all buzzing around my autumn joy sedums turning a little more pink each day.

I was surprised to see a hummingbird going after my gazania daisies:

My Luminosity subscription expires in 2 days. I have made regular use of it but I can't justify renewing it when I'm not working, so I'll have to lose the games cold turkey.

I thought my dad was going to let me clean his apartment, for pay, but he has again said he doesn't need my help. So I'm going to have to drop it. He's more independent than my mother was, and I find I can't so easily talk him into things. I suspect it's a chivalrous thing, that he doesn't want to make me do housework for him.

Yardwork day

September 2nd, 2016 at 04:26 pm

Here's a very interesting article about the role luck plays in making you wealthy.


Yesterday and today were great weather days, so I decided to use them to do something I've wanted to do since the spring: cut back the invasive brambles growing in the pachysandra on the north side of the house and threatening to creep ever closer to the house.

The situation got pretty bad because last year, when my mother was ill, I did next to no landscaping or gardening.

I also never had gloves thick enough to prevent the humongous thorns from sticking my fingers, but now I have some leather ones which work great.

I worked on it 2 hours yesterday and 4 hours today. There is still more to do but I did cut nearly all of the brambles down to about 2 feet high, and after cutting up and then dragging off the cuttings in my wheelbarrow to dump in the brushy perimeter of the yard (multiple trips), I set to work digging up the stumpy canes where possible.

Not easy work when you're digging in well-established pachysandra and no doubt they'll be springing up in the spring, but I feel I have retaken control of the situation. It doesn't look so overgrown and unkempt. My back is killing me becus throughout all this work i kept all cuttings at arm's length so I wouldn't brush it against my body...possible ticks.

I aborted the effort around 5 pm when I did found a tiny tick on my hand. I went in and took a bath and submerged myself for a while, just in case there were any others I didn't see.

I applied for another job today and did 2 loads of laundry. I air dryed 1 of them on 2 racks I have outside. The 2nd load was my work clothes worn when i was cutting brambles, and those i will put in the dryer as the heat will kill any ticks. Yes, I'm a little paranoid, with good reason, after having lyme disease 3 times.

I've met my spending target for the $200 bonus on my BOA MLB card. I guess I'll need to wait til the next statement is due in about 3 weeks.

I'm reading a book called The Wolf Border for next week's book club. I picked another full size eggplant from the garden. A fat woodchuck has discovered my 3 large pots of string beans thriving in the heat of the driveway. They had small stringbeans on them. The plants were absolutely perfect and unmarred for many weeks now.

I had plastic fencing wrapped around the pots, but the woodchuck stood up on it and began mowing thru it from the top. Luckily still plenty of stringbeans left. I moved them temporarily to the garage overnight, but they won't get enough sun there so I moved them today to my stone stairs at front entry. It's the last stand as I have nowhere else to put them. Generally speaking, I don't think most animals like stairs too much. I put some potted herbs in front of the stringbeans and that's about all I can do.

My DNA Results

August 31st, 2016 at 06:52 am

A hard day's night, and working like a dog.

I joined Ancestry.com a few months ago and after doing some family research and some road trips with dad, I decided to plunk down $99 for a DNA test that could further enrich my discoveries.

So to begin, my 2 paternal grandparents were born in Ireland and Germany, while my maternal grandfather was born in Austria. My maternal grandmother was born in the US, but her parents were born in Czechoslovakia.

So you would expect to see in my DNA roughly 25% representing each of the 4 ethnicities.

But my results showed instead that i am about 50% Eastern European, 20%, more or less, Irish, 7% Scandinavian, 6% European Jewish, Western European 6% and 4% or less Iberian Peninsula, Great Britain, Italy/Greece.

Due to intermarriage, migration and war, Ancestry does not list most countries individually; they list regions instead. Ireland is one exception because it is relatively isolated by the seas.

So put another way, I am 96% of European descent. But where's the German part? That was a surprise, however, I know my German grandfather's family was from a little town called Reichenbach which is in southeastern Germany, very close to the Czech border. So it could be possible if I went back a few generations in his family that I might discover they also came from Czechoslovakia. I really don't know, but this is a guess looking at the map.

Another thing to remember is that just because something like my German lineage didn't register much, it doesn't mean I'm not German; it just means I didn't happen to inherit many German genes. Also to keep in mind that Ancestry. com gives you a range as well as an average, based on multiple DNA checks. So while my "average" Irish lineage is estimated at 20%, the range of possibility is 7% to 33%.

When you get the DNA test done, Ancestry.com automatically checks their vast database of other subscribers, and it came up with 29 individuals who were "extremely high," "high" or a "good" chance of being related to me as a 2nd, 4th, 5th or 6th cousin. Looking at some of their family trees, I get all twisted up when i try to figure out how exactly we might be related, and not everyone makes their family tree public. I did write to 3 people inquiring about it. There was only 1 person whose tree had a name shared by someone in my tree, on the Irish leg of my tree, so I did write to them. It's all very interesting.

It could be very helpful to have my dad do his DNA test, because if there are any shared matches with other people between us, that makes a much stronger case we are related to that person.

I have learned so much about my family since deciding to research my family tree, and I really haven't gone further back then 3 or 4 generations. There is just so much to learn and one thing leads to another, from the road trips with dad to his childhood hometown to the DVD I bought that we still plan to watch that has footage of a German-American bund camp in New Jersey that he attended. Reading up on these bund camps and their role before and during WWII was very interesting and all new to me.

Conversations with dad and going through my mother's old childhood photos also led to new insights.

Last night I did the mock jury duty focus group. I can't talk about the case now but it was a very sad case involving a lawsuit against several doctors and a hospital. We all agreed they were negligent but differed in how much and how much $$ should be awarded, to the tune of about $7 million. I would think the hospital would want to settle out of court becus it inspired a lot of sympathy for the plaintiff.
They fed us a very nice hot, catered meal and paid us in a single $100 bill as we left.

Several of us were annoyed because when we arrived in the parking lot, we saw you had to pay to park and the people running the focus group mentioned nothing about that. When we inquired, they seemed unsure if the meter maids came around after 5 pm or not. Since they're in the business of running focus groups, you would think this was something they would know, but they didn't. So a few of us had to go back outside and pay $5 to ensure our cars would still be there when we left the focus group.

Today I'm meeting a friend for lunch, someone else who got laid off.

Yesterday I made a decent dent in cutting back some incredibly invasive brambles growing in my pachysandra (also invasive) and threatening to encroach on my lawn on the north side of my house. I cut the brambles wearing some leather work gloves, the only gloves I've ever found that allow me to pull out brambles without getting stuck. I cut the brambles about a foot high and then sprayed the cut ends with a vinegar/salt/dish soap solution to inhibit regrowth if not kill it. I hope to continue this work this afternoon after my lunch.

A trying day

August 29th, 2016 at 01:01 pm

Last night, letting me know it's time for dinner.

I tried to renew my MS prescription and of course I immediately ran into problems doing so with the changeover of my insurance from employer managed to COBRA managed, by Sentinel Benefits.

Express Scripts tells me my policy is inactive, even though I sent my COBRA paperwork in to Sentinel and I see they cashed my premium check. The Sentinel rep said she straightened it out so i call Express Scripts back and this time they tell me my pre-authorization by my doctor, which is usually good for a year, expired.

I talk to my neurologist's office and later she calls me back to say they have a letter on file from Express Scripts saying my pre-authorization is good through October 2018. So what gives??

Meanwhile, I get a letter from Sentinel in today's mail telling me my next premium isn't due til Jan 1 2017, it will be in the amount of $30 a month and to use the enclosed coupons, which were not enclosed. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

I call back Sentinel and after a while on hold, she told me there was "an internal glitch," aka human error. Instead of cancelling my dental insurance as I had directed (which was for $30 a month), they cancelled my medical and kept the dental. Which accounts for all the wrong numbers.

I'm waiting to hear back from Express Scripts with hopefully some resolution so I can order my med. I hate this kind of stuff. It's taken up half my day. Can't people just pay attention and do their job?

This morning I donated 19 more pieces of mom's art to the mom who is spearheading the construction of a new animal shelter in town for abused and neglected animals, in memory of her daughter. She came over and was super nice. We hugged about 4 times and she gratefully took all the art; i had told her she could pick and choose if she liked. Most of the art was what i would call small, meaning around 10 x 12" in size, except for three pieces, which were larger. It was one large framed sunset over water photo and the rest were oil or acrylic painted, mostly of flowers and trees, and one with water fountains.

She invited me to meet her at the building site, all woods now, this fall and she would show me around where everything will be. They'll start with small farm animals and companion animals first. They will do outreach to veterinarians. They hope to have construction completed next year sometime. It's the kind of place I might like to spend time at, even without donating the art, or even volunteer.

So all told, I've donated 67 pieces of art to two non profits. I also gave 1 dog photo to my mother's neighbor, its owner, after his dog, the subject of the photo, died. He was very grateful.

It didn't occur to me til very recently that both of the non profit groups I decided to donate to were each founded by parents who lost a young child, and both of these groups are named after the child. I didn't plan it this way, and in fact it was a process that took me most of the past year to get through. I just felt these were two organizations that both mom and me could believe in, and would want to support. And I think it no accident that when you lose someone very dear to you, it can be healing to pursue a venture, or some kind of work that helps others. I know that donating mom's art just feels good.

Thinking about it now, this just gave me another awesome idea. What if I approached my town's high school with the idea of establishing a small annual scholarship to be awarded to some worthy student pursuing a career in the arts? I love the idea as a way to keep mom's name alive, although I don't have unlimited funds. Maybe I could do a $1,000 scholarship for a few years, but then what? Maybe there are more productive things to do with that money. I don't know, just thinking....

I also gave 3 or 4 pieces to my cousin and have 2 more to give her that she picked out if she ever invites me down to Jersey, a trip I've been wanting to make all summer.

So I've donated or given away many more than I've sold. Since mom was ill late last year, I exhibited her work in 6 shows and nothing has sold yet thru a gallery. I did sell 2 pieces myself to coworkers at the bank, and I sold another half dozen very small pieces at one gift shop.

I now have her work in 2 galleries/frame shops (they knew mom very well), 1 crafters' coop (new) and 2 gift shops. I should do more but I have so many things to do I often feel overwhelmed with stuff and end up doing very little. The newest outlet, the crafters' coop, did invite me to send jpgs of mom's larger work so I want to do that next. At least probate is over. Still, I am often torn between spending time marketing mom's art or looking for a job.

At least between the donations and the art out on exhibit, my house is feeling much more "livable," though there is still too much art here.

I had a 2nd butterfly emerge 2 days ago. I've been watching for the next one and moved the aquarium into the house, but so far, all is still.

I can't believe it's 4 pm already.

First butterfly emerged!

August 26th, 2016 at 04:06 pm

So we went from fat caterpillars about a week and a half ago....

to my first butterfly, newly emerged and drying out its wings.

I had checked on my 8 chrysallises yesterday several times throughout the day, and all was quiet. This morning around 8 a.m. I went into the garage and found this first butterfly quietly sitting and no doubt getting its bearings.

I took all the branches out of the aquarium so it could more easily fly out but it seemed to be having a little trouble getting airborne. So I got it to climb on my hand and then after taking a few selfies... Smile

i gently transferred it to a sedum in my yard.

But then my batteries ran out and I had to race inside to get more, and I think my presence scared it a little because before I knew it, it had fluttered above me in the air, headed toward some large rhododendrons.

It was all very exciting.

Eight more to go!

Court room focus group

August 26th, 2016 at 09:01 am

Hooray...I got a call out of the blue from a focus group company that specializes in reviewing actual pending lawsuits. I vaguely remember registering with them 4 or 5 years ago but this is the first time they called me.

They are hired by the attorneys representing either the defendant or plaintiff to see how a jury might react to their case. What they learn from the focus group may affect how they present their case.

It's next week, they feed you dinner and pay you $100. Smile It happens to be in the town where I used to work so I know exactly where it is.

1st butterfly emerged!!

August 26th, 2016 at 06:25 am

So we went from fat caterpillars about a week and a half ago....

to my first butterfly, newly emerged and drying out its wings.

I had checked on my 9 chrysallises yesterday several times throughout the day, and all was quiet. This morning around 8 a.m. I went into the garage and found this first butterfly quietly sitting and no doubt getting its bearings.

I took all the branches out of the aquarium so it could more easily fly out but it seemed to be having a little trouble getting airborne. So I got it to climb on my hand and then after taking a few selfies... Smile

i gently transferred it to a sedum in my yard.

But then my batteries ran out and I had to race inside to get more, and I think my presence scared it a little because before I knew it, it had fluttered above me in the air, headed toward some large rhododendrons.

It was all very exciting.

Eight more to go!

Wednesday wisdom

August 24th, 2016 at 05:47 pm

So today I wanted to re-register/reactivate myself with a few area focus group companies. Of the 3 I worked with in past years, one no longer has an office near me.

So in addition to reactivating the other two, I did a search online for "CT focus group companies" and wound up registering for another 4 or 5 more I hadn't known about. So hopefully this will results in some small income.

Tonight I went to an MS dinner meeting sponsored by a drug company. It's not the drug I take but I like to stay abreast of all the MS drugs should I ever need to use them, and so I don't need to just rely on my doctor's advice.

Plus it's a free dinner. Smile And I enjoy the social aspect of meeting others there and even practicing my public speaking by asking the doctor questions. This one was at a hotel about 35 minutes away and I must say, everything at the buffet was excellent, including the mushroom salad, chicken, mashed potatoes and broccolini and apple crisp for dessert.

I made a habit of seeking out these meetings when I wasn't working in the past by going on the drug makers' websites.

I attended a Networking with Linked In webinar. She went thru a lot of important stuff very quickly but it's apparent I need to spend a LOT more time on Linked In, especially to identify my "target" companies. Right now, I don't really have any target companies, ie companies you've decided you want to work for.

Tomorrow, dad may possibly come over in the afternoon so we can take some large boxes of art supplies that won't fit in my honda up to a certain gallery owner who said she'd take them.

This is one thing I really like about not having a regular job. Every day is a little different. It's not the same boring routine.

I also need to cook up the 2 eggplant i picked, to make more baba ganousch. Once I find a recipe I like, i stick with it. Smile

Terrific Tuesday

August 23rd, 2016 at 06:07 pm

Terrific from the standpoint of, it was one of the best weather days of the entire year and it motivated me to get some stuff done, including:

1. Vacuuming out my car and cleaning the trunk mat

2. Attending a Linked In Basics webinar

3. Went to ophthalmologist for annual dilation (fun)

4. Changed the hummingbird sugar water.

5. Made a double batch of granola.

6. Hung the new bamboo shade for my sun room door after it was delivered.

I did not have time to walk, and after the dilation it was still too bright.

All of my caterpillars are now hanging, suspended and upside down from a small mountain laurel branch or parsley stalk. Still hopeful at least some will emerge within days so I don't feel such a sense of responsibility for keeping them alive over the winter.

I made plans with another woman laid off from the bank to get together for lunch next week. The funny thing is, we sat just over the cubicle wall from each other and we were, for a while, on the same "team," but we never really got to know each other on the job. Mainly because for a very long time I sat in a different aisle than most of the people in my group.

My town has hired a company to go door to door as they update house records for the 10-year revaluation. They want to get inside your house and look at it from top to bottom. My place is such a mess and truth be told I resent the intrusion, so if I happen to be home when they come, I'll tell them I'm on my way out and don't have time. Because if they see anything that's changed inside, it will probably cause an increase, not a decrease, in the valuation. I haven't updated much of anything inside anyway. But I just would rather not have them come inside here snooping around.

I need to start thinking of ways to generate income. It will be harder this time around because at some point not long after I got the bank job 3 years ago, I turned away my one main client. He was having my ghost write these quarterly magazine articles for him on the housing market which were quite a lot of work and although I had raised my rates I still didn't feel I was getting paid fairly for them.

I had been mulling over whether or not I should tell him I couldn't freelance anymore since I had the f/t job, and then he called me to write the magazine article. I should have given him some sort of notice, but I just couldn't write anymore of these stories, so I turned him down and explained I couldn't do it anymore. I always felt bad about possibly leaving him in the lurch, but to be honest, that's the risk you take with a purely freelance writer, right? I had suggested to him years earlier that he was giving me so much work, why not hire me on a perm, p/t basis? He declined, said it wasn't in the budget, etc. but he probably knew he was getting quite a lot from me for a lot less as a freelancer.

But anyway, I would feel funny approaching him now for work and I know he found someone else to do the stories anyway. I essentially don't have any regular freelance clients, just 2 clients who are very, very sporadic.

I just haven't felt especially alarmed or motivated as I have been in the past when laid off. I know it's because 1. I just inherited a bunch of money and 2. I feel so close to retirement that psychologically, I guess i feel lazy or something. But I definitely still have expenses! Health insurance being chief among them.

There is an interesting fair coming up in my area that I never went to before. It's a volunteer fair where any groups that need volunteers set up a booth and talk to you about the opportunities. I would like to have something good to do that I could put on my resume, meet new people and feel good about what I'm doing. So I plan to go. I think it's this weekend.

I picked 2 luscious eggplants today from my one plant and there are STILL 4 other eggplants growing. This is one productive plant!

Monday musings

August 22nd, 2016 at 01:25 pm

This morning I met with the owner of a new shop I hoped would take some of mom's art for exhibit and sale. Success! She took 4 of the 6 I brought with me, ranging in price from $175 to $425. This makes the 5th outlet for her art so I'm hoping that eventually, SOMETHING will sell.

Unlike the handcrafted jewelry and other stuff at the store, she said she would give the art 6 months to sell, instead of three. Becus people don't usually buy art for other people as it's such a personal thing. This was her opinion.

She takes 40% of any sales. She is Scottish. I love her accent.

She had told me on the phone she had very little wall space so everything must be small. Once I was there, I had mentioned I had a lot of much larger pieces I was finding it hard to sell becus most retail shops don't have a lot of wall space. She said she had one large space behind the cash register where up to 4 larger pieces could go. She invited me to take jpgs of my larger pieces and send them to her with the dimensions. The wall is lime green, so I don't know.

Plus a larger piece is going to require a higher price, and she had already told me the price points for her kind of gift shop are lower than art gallery prices, which I perfectly understand. That being said, she mentioned one artist who did very well selling stuff and it ranged from a guess a few hundred to $1200, but her art was truly unique and different. She she is very careful to take only items she really feels will elicit "wow" reactions.

I stopped at BJ's on the way home and got both gas and groceries.

When I got home, I cooked up the second half of the 26 lbs. of plum tomatoes I bought yesterday. I'm just waiting for the last of it to cool before freezing it in plastic freezer bags. I will be well stocked for winter soups and veggie chili, which I love.

I did a load of laundry and since it's an exceptionally lovely day out, I hung it all out on 2 folding racks i have in the driveway.

The last of the 8 caterpillars is showing signs of looking to form its cocoon. The first one did so on Aug. 13, not quite a week-and-a-half ago. I'm checking daily to try to catch the metamorphosis if it happens.

Not much happening on the job front as far as good jobs to apply for. I am continuing to attend various webinars; tomorrow I'm doing one on Linked In Basics. I also am still meeting with my job coach weekly, and my resume is looking much better.

All the money from my inheritance cleared the bank so I was able to direct some to existing mutual fund investments as well as 3 new laddered CDs of 3, 4 and 5 years in length. The APY is abysmal at 1.55%, 1.65% and 1.75%, respectively but I have to put it somewhere and I don't want it all in the stock market and this laddering affords me some access to the money should I need it. (This is not my only cash money available.)

It's disappointing how certain websites once lauded by the personal finance media can let things go neglected. Networth IQ for several years now will not allow you to update your age, income or job type in your profile. This is especially important info when a big part of the fun of this site is comparing yourself and your progress to others in your own age range, occupation, income, etc., so if this info can't be updated, the whole site is useless, as far as I'm concerned. I sent them another note this week but never got responses on it in the past. Maybe they're being sold too.

Another road trip

August 21st, 2016 at 05:51 pm

Me, dad and R. went on our third road trip together. This time, we visited Chester and Essex, Connecticut, two quaint little towns along the Connecticut River.

There was a fun little Farmer's Market going on in Chester when we arrived.

My dad grows elderberries, so when he saw this guy selling elderberry syrup, he got talking to the seller and I think was hooked on buying it before learning the price was $20 for a small 8 oz jar. But he bought it anyway.

Then we had lunch at a pretty nice restaurant. It was a tiny place; when I walked to the rest rooms, I basically walked right through the kitchen.

After this we swung by where the ferry departs from one side of the Connecticut River to the other. The ferry holds about 6 cars only. On the other side is Gillette Castle, a fun place to explore.

From there we went on to Essex and had an ice cream cone at a place recommended to us by the people who sat next to us at lunch. She recommended the strawberry ice cream in particular,and dad didn't regret getting it...it had real strawberries in it.

During the trip we stopped at a farm stand and we all bought something. I saw this box of roma tomatoes and wound up buying it becus it seemed like such a good deal. It was filled to the top when I bought it.

I paid just $15. Dad said it had to weigh at least 15 lbs. When I got home, just becus I was curious, I weighed it. It weighed 26 lbs! So I got a whole lot of tomatoes for .57 a lb. I cooked down about 12 lbs of it tonight. I'm freezing it all so I can use it to make my soups and chilis this winter.

It's now raining pretty hard so i ran out because I was afraid the caterpillars would get soaked again. When I got home from the trip I sopped some rainwater that had collected in the bottom of the aquarium and accidentally jostled the parsley and one of the caterpillars fell into the water. I scooped it up in like 2 seconds and lay it down on the dirt but it looked dead. I ws horrified. I remembered reading that if this happens, don't toss the caterpillar out. Just let it be. Sure enough, I checked on it again a half hour later and it was no longer in the dirt.

But it was really raining hard so with a flashlight in the dark I went out and very carefully lifted the entire aquarium and carried it inside the garage, at least for the night. It keeps raining too much. The rest of the caterpillars all look like they're ready to turn into chrysalis anyway so I may keep it in there for a while as I keep doing daily checks to see if any emerge.

I thought this was an interesting picture...the old and the new....

Eight months later...

August 19th, 2016 at 07:01 pm

I got a surprise notice in today's mail: the probate court formally accepted my estate financial report and decreed that I distribute the remainder of the estate.

I was so relieved. Since I began this endeavor last January, I was never fully sure I could handle executor duties on my own, with no legal counsel, and there were probably 3 times the court returned forms to me they said were incorrectly completed. If you peppered court clerks with too many questions, they would tell you to consult a lawyer, which was the last thing I wanted to do.

Although it was what I'm sure would be considered a simple estate (2 beneficiaries and 1 single asset, a checking account...thank god I sold the condo beforehand), it still took 8 months to complete.

We recently had elections for probate judge and I was sorely tempted to write a letter to the editor since in all the endorsements the candidates received and in everything they said, NOTHING was referenced about the lengthy probate process.

Granted, there's not much that can be done about the 5-month wait for anyone who's owed money to step forward, but the additional 3 months seems excessive to me since I know I never delayed doing my part and submitting various forms by more than a day or two. And then, on top of that to have to pay a $900 fee, which as my dad pointed out, is really just a tax for the privilege of having them muck things up. I know there's a reason for all of this but I just wish it was a more efficient system.

I've been really anxious to finish this process as another step in moving forward with my life. Today's notice in the mail indicated I could.

I wasted no time. I went to the bank because I only had one blank check left, and I needed one more so I could write two checks, one to myself, one to my sister.

After that, I deposited the check I wrote to myself at my own bank and dropped my sister's check in the mail. Driving home, I silently thanked my mother once again for this unexpected windfall. My total inheritance, including the mutual fund distribution I already received earlier this year, is $92,381. I am humbled and grateful to receive this gift and I want to use it wisely.

I can't begin to imagine how my sister will feel receiving the identical gift when she treated my mother so badly for so many years and turned her back on her for the last 8 months of her life when she had Alzheimers. What kind of daughter does that? I don't know if she's capable of feeling guilt, remorse or any regrets.

I would never have thought it possible that my family, fragmented due to my parents' divorce so many years ago (and why I suspect my sister was so angry with my mother, decades later, believe it or not), could ever be more split up than it already was. But because my sister declined to get involved....at all...in caring for my mother during her illness, or even visiting her in the last 8 months until i told her she was in hospice, I've been too angry to deal with her. We have barely spoken since my mother's death. She knows I am angry with her but has chosen not to try to talk to me at all, which is still something that shocks and upsets me and makes everything worse. It tells me she would rather not have a relationship with me than have to deal with the discomfort of trying to clear the air and help me to understand what happened.

Since dad is living in an apartment above her barn, on her property, he spent last Christmas with her. On Easter, I got no invitations from him or my sister, so I invited myself to join my friend R. and his sister and nieces and their kids. But I can't expect to do that every year, so the thought of the upcoming holidays...any holiday.... is just dreaded and dreary, because I honestly have no family now except dad.

I don't want to create a big tug of war trying to get dad to spend a holiday with me.

But back to what I'd been talking about, the inheritance...calmer thoughts...Unlike years back when I "blew" a small portion of an inheritance I received from my grandmother on some very nice but overpriced cabinetry furniture (an entertainment center and matching oak bookcase from Renovation Hardware), I will be investing all this money with no current plans to spend it.

The only thing I can think of is that having this extra money might make it easier for me to consider having the masons back here next spring for a third time, this time to redo the deteriorating brick patio in the backyard.

I have to do something about it as weeds spring up between the bricks and grow so rapidly after every time it rains. It's a constant chore to weed there and if I don't, the entire area will be overtaken. It would be wonderful to have them do it, but it would likely be another $10,000 based on what he charged me for the front stair redo and the paver driveway. Gosh, I could put his kids thru college!

Although the back patio is exceptionally private, I don't spend a lot of time back there now that the upper half of my paver driveway functions as a jumbo-sized patio, and I have happily puttered away many hours watering my potted veggies and flowers, and more recently, watching my black swallowtail caterpillars in their aquarium home.

With the new blower I bought this year I can clean off all the leaves that fall in about 5 minutes and keep it perfectly clean. Whereas the back brick patio is always unkempt looking, weedy and probably has ticks creeping about.

I've been saying for years I want to sell this place and buy a condo, but honestly I am always looking at condos coming on the market (I have various email alerts set up with area real estate brokerages) and I rarely find any condos that offer everything I want. Actually, my current home has nearly "everything I want," except the property is a lot of upkeep. I already have someone mowing for me, which costs about $1,000 if he mows weekly, but even with that there are is constant weeding of various perennial beds, cutting back aggressively growing vines and shrubs and periodic take-downs of huge trees required for safety reasons. So I continue to waffle.

Today I also got 2 checks from my 401k so I wrote a memo to Vanguard with detailed instructions for their investment (totalling about $55k) and they'll go out in tomorrow's mail. Once the 2nd half of my inheritance clears at the bank, I'll have to carefully consider where to stow that. Being unemployed, I will likely keep a greater amount liquid in an online money market than I would normally, so I can access it easily if required.

But the best case scenario for me would be to find a job within the next 6 months. I've been gradually attending more job search webinars with the consulting firm my ex-employer engaged for me, and it did motivate me to totally rewrite a much stronger summary statement on my resume. I made other more minor formatting tweaks they recommended as well.

I have more webinars scheduled and am especially looking forward to 2 courses on how to leverage Linked In during a job search.

So, I am feeling rather flush with cash but have to remind myself how long I'll remain unemployed is a big unknown. And this time around, I won't be able to do freelance writing for the real estate company that gave me so much work in the past. I gave that up when I got the job at the bank 3 years ago and I know he found someone else to do the job. It would feel awkward to approach him.

I do have a few money-making ventures lined up. I will be a poll worker on Election Day, but that's not til November, obviously.

I have one small client I still edit emails for, but that's a very, very small check. I have another client who was going to have a legal report for me to edit but she never sent it on so not sure what happened there. She may have gained a deadline extension and is still working on it.

I am keeping an eye out for interesting studies which around here are put on by Yale or U Conn. And now that I have my car and homeowners insurance bill, I'll be looking for another bonus rewards credit card to compensate for some of that expense, ideally by $200 but I would settle for $150 or even $100.

On the caterpillar front, a 3rd caterpillar has begun to form a chrysalis. Interestingly, the 1st to do so is hanging suspended underneath a grayish brown twig I put in there, and the chrysalis itself matches that color perfectly. The 2nd chrysalis hangs suspended under a green parsley stalk and that chrysalis is green. The 3rd chrysalis still sports caterpillar colors of green and black stripes with yellow dots but it will change by tomorrow, probably.

So I started with the terra cotta pot planted with parsley. When that was all eaten up, I added a narrow mouthed container filled with cut organic parsley, then the other. Narrow-mouthed so a caterpillar doesn't accidentally fall into a cup and drown.

The remaining 5 caterpillars alternate between feeding on parsley leaves and resting. Resting and feeding. Feeding and resting. What a life. I tucked them in for the night with a new batch of parsley and they will have all the green leafies they could want. If you're a caterpillar, at least, life is good.

Today's walk...

August 18th, 2016 at 05:12 pm

...was very abbreviated because 2 large dogs were barking furiously at me and seemed a little too eager to have at me. I've heard of dogs leaping over invisible fences, so I turned around.

Feeling lazy, I turned in at the police station, where there is a small gem of a park facing Main Street. It's really very charming and is filled with unusual plantings. It's probably no more than 2 acres in size.

It had been awhile since I've been here. The last time was probably 3 or 4 years ago, with my mom.

The iconic water fountain which my mother loved, photographed and painted.

Fall is near.

Kids love climbing on top of this fella.

There's a small grove of river birch.

I attended another webinar, this one on personal branding, and met with my coach. We went through my resume line by line and I am making a few changes.

Caterpillar Report

August 18th, 2016 at 05:50 am

There are 6 "getting large" swallowtail caterpillars up and about. There are now 2 chrysalises. I've marked my calendar so I can keep a close eye on things when they might emerge as butterflies, so I can catch it all with my camera, though honestly, now that I'm not working, I check the aquarium several times daily because I love watching them.

In addition to the 8 caterpillars, there were two more very small caterpillars but I'm afraid I may have tossed them when I snipped off a few small pieces of parsley plant so I could more easily sop up rainwater that collected in the bottom of the aquarium without disturbing or jostling other caterpillars on parsley branches. I looked for and found the parsley branches I tossed, but no caterpillars. It's possible they're still in the aquarium.

Can you see the chrysalis here? There are 2 branches in the aquarium. Look at the one on the right. See how it's v-shaped. Look at the branch on top and you'll see a weird oval-shaped thing hanging underneath it. That's one of the chrysalises.

I got a little yard work done after 5 yesterday. I wanted to cut back some shrub foliage that was touching the front of my house. It was getting overgrown. Well, in doing so I discovered an underground burrow, which I'm pretty sure is where one of the 2 rabbits hanging around here made its home. As with the woodchuck burrow a few years ago, it's a little too close to my home for comfort. Literally, one foot from the foundation. And to prove my point, it looks like the little rabbit did some digging in another spot right at the foundation. I live in an old house and I don't need bunnies in the basement!

So I cut back the overgrown shrub to just a nub. It will grow back; it's impossible to kill. The bunny will have time enough to find another home before winter sets in. Critters around here sure do seem to like living in close proximity to humans. I guess the walls of the house feel "safe."

Not much happening on the job search front. I've applied for only 10 jobs since my last day of work nearly 3 weeks ago. It feels like ages since I've been gone! I feel I should be applying for more jobs, since it's a numbers game, and in fact I haven't heard back from anyone. But I've seen very few jobs I could do.

I've attended a few webinars at the outplacement consulting group and will continue with weekly meetings with my assigned counselor there. I guess it's helpful but I don't really feel motivated, that's the real problem.

I am also somewhat distracted by other competing things I want or need to do: wrap up probate (totally out of my hands now), get back into researching family tree stuff and continue disposing of mom's art, which I am doing...in the next 2 weeks I'll be meeting with and donating up to a dozen pieces at the new local farm sanctuary (construction starts next year on their building) and meeting with a new shop to sell art.

I continue to be amazed by a single cucumber plant in my driveway that has gifted me with 15 cucumbers so far and is still going strong. Those soft, store-bought cucumbers have nothing on these. My lone eggplant is also going full guns with no less than FOUR small eggplants growing now and numerous other blossoms. I've already harvested 2 eggplants. Let's pray the voles don't destroy the plant.

I harvested what I could of my onions which had pretty small bulbs. I'll cook them all up in one batch with rice or something.

My one potted tomato plant petered out and is done. I have one cherry tomato plant doing pretty well. I'm tracking produce of all and will summarize everything in a few weeks. Late-planted stringbeans are now loaded with blossoms. Everything's in pots because of voles, which no fence can deter since they go underground and pop up wherever they like. To try to exterminate them would be a massive job since i have an acre and a half.

My 401k rollover check should be on its way to me now; I wish it could have gone directly to Vanguard but it hasn't.

I sent in my check for my 1st month of COBRA. It's going to be $513 a month as I decided to drop the dental insurance.

I heard the scary news that Aetna has pulled out of most states' ACA offerings. I'm afraid this will raise rates this November for those who remain, at open enrollment time. I can save a lot of money in 2017 by switching to a lower cost plan for $300-something instead of $513/mth at ACA, but I'm very worried about security and stability of my plan and having it work as seamlessly as my current plan.

To top things off, my longtime GP decided to turn his practice into a thing where you have to pay an annual lump sum figure in order to get his undivided attention and top notch care. I knew he'd wanted to do this years ago becus I responded to some telephone surveys he did and I said in no uncertain terms I thought this was a terrible thing for patient care because it turns quality healthcare into something only wealthier people can afford.

I called in to see what the fee was and while I don't remember it exactly, it was well over $1,000. I assume that would be in addition to the usual co-pays.

HOWEVER, i almost always see the nurse practitioner in his practice, and the office said she would NOT be a part of that plan. I see her for my physicals and minor ailments like a bad cold or poison ivy, etc. But I really should be seeing a doctor, and should have a GP to turn to if I need one for something more serious. Although I'd wind up seeing a specialist if that were the case. I really like the nurse practitioner. So I don't know. I'll be skipping next spring's physical if I'm still unemployed.

I'm not quite halfway toward meeting my $500 charge goal on my Bank of America bonus credit card. I'd like to wrap this up fairly soon so I have time to get another bonus credit card, maybe one with a higher charge required as my homeowners and car insurance come due in October. I could meet a big chunk of any big charge goal in one fell swoop. Otherwise, I'm mostly limited to groceries and gas while I'm unemployed.

I've been thrown off the normal exercise schedule I'd been building by the extremely hot weather of the last 2 weeks. It's still muggy, but in the 80s, not the 90s, so I did squeeze in a small walk last night, and want to go for a longer walk this morning, while the day is still young.

Another Jersey road trip with dad

August 16th, 2016 at 03:11 pm

Dad invited me to join him on another trip to Rutherford, NJ, where my half-brother lives, so dad could collect his mail. In the eyes of the state of NJ, he is still a New Jersey resident. There was something he was waiting to see, and although it would be far simpler to have my brother mail dad his mail every week or so, dad prefers to drive 2 hours to get it. I think it gives him something to do.

So I joined him. It was more quality time with dad, that's why I went. But first before leaving we shopped at an exorbitantly priced organic grocery store where my sister, the health nut, has encouraged dad to shop. We bumped into someone who noted that the medium-sized zucchini she was buying was costing her $6 and from there we had a conversation where she told us her recipe for eggplant parmesan. She was younger than dad, but older than me. Turns out she's had a lot of auto immune health problems and thus she's shopping at this grocery store. Dad eventually went on to shop while I continued chit chatting with this incredibly nice woman, who gave me a hug. It was just one of those random encounters where you feel perfectly at ease with a total stranger and can tell them anything.

We dropped the food off at dad's apartment and then continued toward the Tappan Zee Bridge. I really prefer to drive when I'm traveling with dad and take every opportunity to do so, but he was behind the wheel and said I could drive on the way back. For the most part, he seemed to do ok except that while I anticipate things by looking ahead at people braking, I don't think dad could see that far in the distance and so he often didn't slow down til rather late, but that could just be me, back seat driver.

We arrived at Rutherford; my bro and his family were on vacation on the Jersey shore but B. knew dad would be coming for the mail, which he leaves in a basket inside their screened porch. Well, the porch door was locked. The window was open and dad could SEE his mail in the basket but could not get to it.

Sigh. I suggested to dad he might do well to get a spare key to B.'s house so this kind of thing doesn't happen. I doubt he'll follow up on doing that.

After that, we had lunch at the diner on Rt. 46 and then took a drive up to the "Paterson Mts." which was frequently scrawled on the back of many old b/w phots my mother had saved all these years filled with friends and boyfriends who seemed to have a real fondness for this place. My dad bluntly told me it was where everyone went to "make out."

Today, it's known as the Garret Mountain Reserve. We actually found an old stone tower featured in my mother's childhood photos(!) and I would have liked to explore it and get out of the car but it was a one-way road, I knew dad has trouble walking and so I let it go.

After that we pulled up to the lookout which dad was also familiar with. You get a bird's eye view of the city of Paterson, NJ.

Not quite Manhattan, but still impressive. At night it must be something to look at.

After that, we just headed home and dad continued to drive, much to my chagrin.

It was kind of a wasted effort as far as his getting his mail, but I consider it priceless, like other trips I've taken with him now. We talked A LOT and I have a deeper understanding of my parents' marriage, and why it came apart. It's very sad it all had to happen the way it did. My life could have been very different.

Unlike my sister, who dad agrees is a very black-and-white person who forms an opinion quickly and never deviates from it, I believe in gathering as much information as possible when forming any opinion, and even though the truth hurts, I would rather illuminate my understanding of life events with The Truth.

How many caterpillars do you see in this photo? There are four.

A view from the top of Garret Mt. Reserve of the very urban Paterson, New Jersey, pop. 149,000 and the state's 3rd largest city.

Driving home with dad on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which they are rebuilding.

My elephant ears are doing great in this heat, but they were SUPPOSED to be a dark purple color and I was very disappointed to get solid green!

My gazania daisies are looking very lush and healthy becus I am being more conscientious about daily waterings.

Not sure how best to pull off the baby plants but i guess i should before winter.

Last night's early evening sunset, when I was surprised to see the moon out so early.

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