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Archive for September, 2012

I've been downsized

September 30th, 2012 at 04:40 pm

Well, I knew this was coming. The guy I regularly drive told me the new schedule will start this week. That is, instead of having me drive him to and from work daily, I will now only have to drive him Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday (in the a.m.) He found someone who is willing to drive him the rest of the week for free.

I have mixed feelings about it. Glad on the one hand because over 2 hours of daily driving was wearing on me, even though it was broken up between mornings and afternoons. I was concerned about the wear and tear it was putting on my 12-year-old car, as I don't want to have to get a new car anytime soon.

But of course I will miss the money. Instead of grossing $800 a month (tax-free, I might add), it'll be just $400 a month.

Once again, i'll have to come up with something to make up for that lost income. I need a friggin' regular job is what I need.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Agway after dropping him off to get some garlic sets to plant. I use garlic fairly often in cooking and I'd like to try my hand at growing them. It seems fairly easy, as long as the voles/moles don't have a hankering for them.

I made a chicken soup today, which is always good, saving the veggie scraps for stock. Smile

Also mowed part of the front lawn and set more mousetraps. There was one I set right by the garage door, where they always come in, and I went to check it and it was completely gone. I looked around the area and nothing. That one is a mystery.

Went to a condo open house but didn't really care for the unit or the complex. I'm beginning to suspect that what I'm looking for doesn't exist.

Saturday stuff

September 29th, 2012 at 02:04 pm

It was a mildly interesting day even though I didn't get as much done as I could have.

First stop: what sounded like a huge tag sale, based on the item by item listing. There really wasn't that much stuff after all, though I did spend $1 to buy one of those old-fashioned heavy metal staplers, if you know what I mean. It was one of those nostalgia buys for me.

Next, went to the annual health fair and collected a variety of free pens, toothpaste, an apple and lots of information on ticks, the local scourge. I also got a free flu shot. Ran into my neighbor a few doors down, a dentist. I didn't think he knew who I was, but he did, and we had a nice little chat. He has the perfect yard.

It's always mildly surprised me that he lives in my neighborhood, since dentists make pretty good money and this is a neighborhood filled with hard-working people. He must be very frugal. Other neighbors' occupations that I'm aware of: p/t school bus driver, butcher at a supermarket, realtor, bookkeeper at a non-profit, a few retired folks.

I had an early roast chicken dinner and since I had to heat up the big oven, I stuck in 3 sweet potatoes, an acorn squash and a spaghetti squash as well.

I still have some freelance work to do, but I'm not in the mood. Hopefully tomorrow.

I had ordered 2 pairs of comfy sweatpants from Walmart recently, as I live in sweats all winter long, especially as I work from home a lot. They even had them in petite sizes (hooray) but the "Mediums" I got were swimming on me, or should we say, falling off me at the waist. Lengthwise, they sure didn't seem like petites, either. Who's in charge over there for apparel sizing, anyway? I know Walmart clothes are supersized, but I didn't expect a medium to be so huge on me. Luckily, I can just return them to the store, which I think will be easier than having to mail the package back. But I ordered them online becus it's often difficult to find a specific size, especiall petite. I've already reordered. For $13.71, (and that's for TWO pairs), and including the .97 for shipping, you really can't go wrong.

It's a very grey, dreary, chilly day today. Tonight, since I don't have a new Netflix movie, will likely be devoted to reading the new book I'm into.(See profile.) I've always had an interest in natural history; I picked the wrong major in college, probably, but I also did very poorly in things like Algebra, so I steered clear of a science focus.

Or, maybe I'll continue editing The Author's 2nd book. She's always scraping for money, and she owes me another $150 installment which I'm guessing won't be coming soon. Sigh. She'll pay me, I'm sure, I'll just have to wait. My #1 client still hasn't paid for a job I invoiced August 10. The gal there seems to not be very organized when it comes to submitting those invoices to Accounting. That means yet another email pointing this out.

Yippe yah hi ho!

September 28th, 2012 at 07:00 pm

That was my reaction when I picked up (via an email query) what sounds like ongoing editing of blog posts for another real estate former client of mine.

Thing is, she's a pretty good writer to start with so I'm going to have to work pretty hard to add value and thereby justify my charge!

All I need are a few REGULAR streams of income from certain key clients like this and that would make my life SO much easier.

I did apply for 2 very local jobs here near me, part-time and very likely low-paying. One's a proofreader job. But really, I don't much care, I just need some REGULAR income I can depend on so I don't go all month long scrounging around for work all the time and wondering every single month if my income will exceed expenses.

I was pretty busy today with the real estate case study job and hope to finish up the bulk of it this weekend.

The NY agency client simply amazees me that they are so slow in getting back to us and i'm starting to wonder if something is wrong. Also, the more time that goes by, the more nervous i'm getting about eventually getting paid for this. The PR agency owes me $1100 to date. It's been dragging on for nearly 2 months now. Would it be inappropriate of me to request payment for work performed so far, even though the job is not complete yet? I think that's what I'd like to do on Monday.

So it'll be another working weekend. I am NOT complaining. I may hit the church craft fair where The Author will be hawking her book, the one i edited. I'm sure she'd be happy to see me there, but the place will be mobbed. Unfortunately with that 1st book, she continued to make content changes AFTER I'd edited it, and she did NOT return it to me to check her changes. She just had it published becus she just wanted to get it done by that point. And so, on the very first page, is at least to me a blatant error. The name of a river, a proper noun, does not have the word "river" capitalized. It JUMPS out at me and looks terrible. So I cringe when I see it or she introduces me as her editor or something and I'm not sure how proud I am of that book because as I said, she rushed the process toward the end and just did some stuff on the fly. Oh well.

On Sunday there are 2 open houses, side by side, of 2 condo units at a complex I haven't checked out yet. I just can't wrap my head around $500/month common charges at my favorite complex. Over the years, and on a fixed income, that would really add up and I keep getting stuck on that expense, even though the purchase price and, to a lesser extent, the taxes, are lower.

There is also a big tag sale in town that i think i'll check out tomorrow just for hoo-hahs. Haven't done that in ages. Oh, yeah, and there's the town's annual health fair, when you can get free health screenings done and lots of free samples, toothbrushes, etc.

I went to a nice free dinner sponsored by MS drug maker Thurs. night. They had your choice of FOUR entrees: chicken, beef, pasta or salmon (my choice) with all the fixin's, buffet style, plus quite a good chocolate cake for dessert. All I had to do is listen to the same old generic, boring doctor lecture. I'm going to another one of these on Monday! It's the only time I get to eat dinner out, unless my dad's up and he treats!

After the doctor spoke they also had an "MS Ambassador" speak, someone who has MS who describes their own story with their first symptoms and how they reacted and their foray into the medical system to learn their diagnosis.

She should have been someone I felt connected to as a fellow MSer, but I didn't feel that way at all. Here she is, telling what's basically her life story, a very personal story, and she's 100% reading from note cards. So no eye contact. On top of that, happened to learn she's a school teacher, and the way she narrated her story, she made it sound like she was reading a super-cheerful story to little kids. It sounded not at all genuine to me and quite a turn-off. In fact, I slipped out the door, pretending to head for the rest rooms, but instead i left early.

The No-Heat Challenge!

September 26th, 2012 at 11:24 am

Like a big 'ol bear looking forward to some hibernation, I'm feeling a little lazy...so I'm not sure I'm doing the OFFICIAL no-heat challenge this fall, BUT I still plan to hold out with no heat for as long as possible, and I invite you to join me.

There are a lot of newcomers here, so if you're one of them, it's just sort of an informal contest we had here for the past few years to see who could keep the heat turned off (and the dollars turned on) for the longest into the fall.

Feel free to "report in" here whenever you like, as in, "As of today, we still haven't turned the heat on in [name of state.]" It's fun to track, and of course, it can make a difference what part of the US (or beyond) you live in.

Last year, on Oct 11, 2011, Little Gopher from Minnesota and Ima from Georgia still hadn't turned the heat on. I think I stopped tracking it at that point, but looking at it now, it doesn't really seem all that late. Who knows, with climate change, maybe someone can exceed that date.

And I see that in 2008, I turned my heat on Oct. 18.

So let's all shoot for AT LEAST October 11. It's only another 15 days!

Today's doings, going on a wheat diet?

September 25th, 2012 at 05:33 pm

Well, I learned late yesterday from the doctor's office that yes, I tested positive for Lyme Disease. I am already well into the 3 weeks of antibiotics AND the 3 herbs that worked for me before. The high doses of antibiotics caused a nasty yeast infection last time this happened, which was VERY hard to get rid of, so I am TRYING to take preventive action by popping probiotics twice a day and using 4 leftover herbal anti-fungal suppositories over the course of the 3 weeks, just for good measure.

I'm TRYING to avoid sugar and bread and cheese, but that's a bit hard.

Switching gear...
One thing that's been bothering me lately is how shabby and worn all the trim/moldings look around the doorways and windows here. It's an old house, so it's collected a lot of dings and dents in the wood, plus it's peeling a bit here and there.

So I decided to tackle the 2 doorways into the kitchen, since it's such a high traffic location, as well as the door (also in the kitchen) that leads to the basement.

I got out the small electric sander I've been borrowing from a friend for the past 6 months! (He hasn't seemed to be in any hurry to get it back.) I sanded all the wood down pretty good, then used some wood putty in a few spots and then painted everything white. It looks a lot better, I must say. I suppose a second coat is de riguer, but I don't know that I could muster the enthusiasm for that.

It's one small step toward getting this house on the market some day. Didn't like all the mess that electric sander made, though, especially since I had to wipe it all up so carefully in case it had any lead in it. (I was wearing a mask.)

Tomorrow after dropping J. off I think I'll pick up more probiotics at Wal-Mart (shouldn't it be kept refrigerated?) and some groceries at Caraluzzi's.

I made the most delicious Mediterranean Beef Ragout in the slow cooker tonight. I used my own tomatoes, of course. Maybe that's why it was so flavorful.

J., the guy I drive, was telling me about a book he's reading called Wheat Belly. Written by a cardiologist who feels that our obesity problems are caused by wheat in our diet, that the wheat we eat today is not the same thing as what our grandparents ate, and talking alot about the high glycemic index of whole wheat products, which everyone believes is "healthy."

Supposedly, refraining from wheat will really take the pounds off, even if you do nothing else different.

I looked it up in a glycemic index online, and I was actually very surprised that the glycemic value of whole wheat bread is pretty similar to that of white bread, and whole wheat pasta is pretty similar to regular pasta. Now, whole wheat products are still going to have a higher nutritional value, but if you consider just the glycemic value, well, that is interesting.

I might like to try a wheat-free diet for a while, once I use up all the wheat bran cereals and whole wheat pasta in the house. That may take a while, but I can't bear to throw it out.

Unusual credit card policies, Netflix, mice and woodchuck dilemmas

September 23rd, 2012 at 05:12 am

I watched my first Netflix movie last night. (See below for a recommended movie.) It has been several years since I enjoyed Netflix, and it was like hanging out with an old friend.

Anybody happen to know the maximum number of movies you can rent in a month if you watch the movie same day you get it and return it the very next day?

I'm guessing 6 to 8, but I'll be perfectly happy to have 1 a week.

I am perturbed by the Amex Premier Rewards card. The final charge of $180 needed to hit the $2,000 spending target has been held up in posting on my account online. The charge was made 4 days ago. I called about it and I believe she said she saw it was "pending." She also said that the bonus rewards aren't awarded until 6 to 8 weeks after you earn them!! This is so unlike other credit cards where they post them to you account immediately, or at least as soon as you pay the bill. So I guess I'll have to wait a while.

The other thing I REALLY disliked and thought was rather strange, is the due date that shows on my monthly Amex statements. I have noticed on each of the two previous bills I've gotten that there was a span of only 6 days from the date I received the bill to the due date.

Credit card reform laws require giving the consumer at least three weeks to pay it.

So since I had the rep on the phone, I brought up the short timeframe, and she said, oh, that's not a DUE date, that's just a "suggested" date for payment. The actual due date, she said, is 4 weeks later.

Well, HELLO. How is the customer supposed to know that? doesn't mention that anywhere on the statement. Is this misleading, or what???? I don't know about you, but I like to know exactly when the bill is due. Not when it's "sorta" due, or, God forbid, overdue, but the Exact Date It Is Due.

A recommended movie (the one I watched last night, which was very touching and sweet):

Kinamand (Chinaman) Subtitles
A middle-aged Danish man who happens to be a plumber is divorced by his wife after many years of marriage. He's become boring. Depressed, he starts to eat all his meals at the Chinese place across the street from his apartment. One day the pipes burst at the restaurant while the Dane is eating there and, since he's in the business, he repairs all the pipes for the owner. He's just a nice guy.

They get kind of friendly; he's there every day, after all, working his way through the menu. Soon, the proprietor asks him if he'd be willing to marry his sister so she can stay in the country. He agrees to do it for $8,000, the exact amount he's got to cough up to pay his wife in the divorce settlement. The woman's family stages the entire wedding, complete with photos, which they plan to use to prove the marriage is legit to immigration officials. The Danish man goes along with it all. He doesn't say much, but you can see he's got a good heart. He finds himself falling in love with the woman. And that's all I'm going to tell you!

I actually have a bit of work today, from the IT director at the private school. It's more than the usual email or two he wants me to edit; this is a proposal of some sort, several pages long. I will actually be able to charge him my going rate, which is $40/hr for editing. ($50/hr for new copy). I've had a work relationship with him for over a year now, but editing an email here or there that could be just 2 sentences long, well, I didn't start out charging more than the time it took me to edit it, which wasn't much, so at most it amounted to $20 a week. I probably should have established a minimum fee, but I didn't.

Actually, I just had a good idea. I could propose he pay me a small weekly retainer fee and in return I'd edit unlimited emails. It would create a regular income stream and I think would be better for me since there are often weeks he sends me nothing to edit, plus I could avoid the tedium of adding up very small dollar amounts and billing him for it. Not sure if he'd like the idea. What's the incentive for him? Would he barrage me with so many more emails that I'd be working for nothing? He doesn't usually send me many, maybe 2 or 3 a day at most, and usually just 4 or 5 a week. And sometimes I'm not always here to turn them around in a timely fashion.

The cats have been working overtime catching mice in the basement. I hate it because they love to bring the live mouse upstairs and chase it around, and then I don't want to walk around barefoot anymore or touch the cats when they sidle up to me. And it always happens at night, when I don't want to have to chase cats chasing mice.

If I can get them to run down the basement with it again, I often just close the door the basement and leave them with it until they start scratching at the door. Sometimes I'll find a dead mouse down there or sometimes, it's nowhere to be found, which means it got away and may crawl away to die somewhere later and then leave a lasting stink.

Either way, very distasteful to deal with, but if I DONT let the cats catch the mice, like if I blocked off access to the basement at night, well, I shudder to think about the mice population explosion that could take place.

I used to set lots of traps all the time,and I think I really start doing that again, although that, too, is an extremely distasteful business. Who even wants to handle a trap with a dead mouse in it?

I'm also limited in where I can place the set traps since the cats could really get hurt should they sniff or step on one and it snaps.

It's an old house. Who knows how the mice are getting in. Is there a hole in the outside foundation somewhere? I really have no idea.

I'm also not helping matters by having 80 lbs. of bird seed in the garage. I know rodents can smell that, and even though they can't get into the containers, I imagine it draws them in. But I really enjoy feeding the birds all winter. (Sadly, I found a dead sparrow inside the caged triple tube feeder yesterday. I don't know why it died. It was halfway through the cage. Was it stuck there? I don't think so, but who knows.)

Which brings me to yet another critter...the big fat woodchuck preparing for winter in his cozy little den about 50 feet from the house. It's a great spot, totally camoflauged by tall stilt grass, an invasive grass over a foot high now.

It's an area I eyeballed in early spring while saying to myself, I should plant grass there and then keep it mowed so it doesn't get so overgrown. Then I never got around to doing it with all the other stuff i have to do.

I noticed the woodchuck a month or so ago and never got around to a proven effective method of getting rid of him that did not harm him but encouraged him to move on: used cat litter dropped down his burrow. Now that a frost is just a few weeks away, i was having a tough time bringing myself to do this so late in the season. It's getting chilly at night, and what if he had trouble finding another suitable location? Once the ground freezes, he'd be out of luck, I think.

So I decided to let him stay the winter and then boot him out in the spring. they are voracious eaters, worse than deer in many respects, but I hadn't seen any damage by him. Until yesterday, when I noticed he had indeed been munching on my mums, now in bloom, and some autumn joy sedums, a prized plant. Grrr.

I am still so undecided about it all. The ground won't ACTUALLY freeze probably for another month, so he COULD still dig out a burrow somewhere else. and if he turns out to be a she, then I just may regret the free pass til spring.

What to do, what to do.

Oh, what a beautiful day!!

September 21st, 2012 at 12:08 pm

It would be CRIMINAL not to get outside on a day like today.

So I did.

I went to one of my usual haunts (Dido walked this trail with me once.)



There's a nice paved loop through a deeply shaded woods. Then it transitions into wide open meadow.





The trail is on the campus of what used to be a state-owned mental hospital. I believe it was all built in the 20s or 30s. Quite some time ago now, the state sold it to the town for $1. That includes the buidlings themselves as well as the roughly 1,000 acres.

Parts of the campus have been very nice renovated. Our new town hall is here, as well as a huge sports center, the organic farmer's market and the newly built dog shelter and dog run. Volunteers also planted a Victory Garden, where all the produce grown goes to the town's food pantry for low-income people.

There have been lots of surveys done about what people want to happen to this land, and the overwhelming consensus is NO housing or development, but keep it for municipal uses, ball fields and passive recreation. I don't think the housing or development has been completely ruled out as there is a certain contingent pusing for that, but this is the town's last large piece of open space left,and it's very centrally located.

On the grounds there are 5 duplexes which used to be where the doctors lived on campus.


They all look exactly the same, like this one. Each of the buildings faces a small green, so it really has a pleasant community look.

I don't know what the town's plans are for them, but work here has pretty much stopped due to a lack of funds. there are a number of buildings that are slated to be torn down, but I would love to see these rehabbed and sold as small condos. They are dilapidated now, but they would be just perfect for me. Each one has the nice sun room on the end and each also has a one-car garage discreetly tucked in the back. I would LOVE to live here!

I like walking around here. Others come here too to bike ride, rollerblade or walk their dogs. They have begun pulling out invasive barberry, known to be tick habitat, from the woods, something I suggested a year or so ago.

You've seen photos of this building before. No work done on it at all, sadly, as wood trim rots and weeds gain a foothold in the granite steps.



No freelance work of any kind today. After I drove J. to work, I came home and got some pea soup cooking in the slow cooker. So I'll have a nice dinner. I get my first Netflix movie tomorrow!

Sweet deal on Citi Forward card

September 20th, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I saw over on My Money Blog (the only personal finance blog I subscribe to these days) there was mention of a pretty sweet credit card deal.

If you apply for a new citi forward card (make sure the ofer is mentioned when you apply) and designate that card to pay for your Netflix streaming, you'll receive a credit up to $10 a month from Citi for the first 12 months. Meaning you get a free one-year streaming membership to Netflix.

It's been a few years since I had Netflix. I had the 2 a month DVD plan, which suited me just fine.

So I called Citi to see if this deal would apply to DVD rentals, or just streaming, and no one seemed to know. I talked to 3 Citi people and 2 Netflix people.

Then I just went to the Netflix website and I think I answered my own question. I realized that Netflix today no longer seems to offer DVD rentals as a stand-alone offer; they only offer it as an add-on to a streaming membership that costs $7.99 a month.Now why couldn't Netflix tell me that????

I'm really sort of surprised Netflix doesn't do DVDs anymore except in the capacity described above.

So I guess I own't spring for the card after all. I need to do a memory upgrade on my computer; it is constantly locking up and freezing on me, and I remember a computer repair guy had told me a while back to wait 6 more months and memory would be much cheaper. I want to finish up the 2 big freelance I've been working on and then let him make the upgrade for me.

I discovered unexpectedly that I could charge the $180 for the furnace tune-up to my Amex card; it was all i needed to meet my 3-month spending goal on that card, so as soon as that final charge posts (or perhaps only when I pay the bill), I'll be able to redeem muchos ($250) gift cards. It'll feel like Xmas again. Smile

At that point, I'll have earned $850 in either cash back or gift cards from assorted card offers, which is double what I earned last year.

It's tempting to try one or two more offers this year and shoot for $1,000 earned, although I do have over $500 in grocery store gift cards I should really use.

I went to cancel my Citi Thank You card and the rep pointed out that I had 2,279 points, or just a few hundred points shy of a $25 gift card, so I decided she's right, maybe hold off cancelling it for now. But I do want to winnow a card or two and close them so i can more easily track points and just maxmimize points build-up on one card rather than multiple cards. It'll go faster that way.

I did use a gift card to do some shopping at Trader Joe's this a.m. Didn't buy as much as I wanted, mainly becus i remembered my freezer is packed with frozen tomatoes and I just can't fit anymore in there.

J. is working late today and tomorrow so I don't have to pick him up til 6 pm.

Mowed half the lawn but pooped out and have to go out there again in a little while.

Another day in the life

September 19th, 2012 at 09:40 am

Last night we had a strong rainstorm that knocked out my power from about 7 pm, just around the time I was cleaning up after dinner, and midnight, when a CL&P truck rumbled down the street to replace a blown transformer.

It was just about this time last year (October, to be specific) when we had a freak snowstorm that dumped about a foot of early snow on the ground and knocked out power for a full seven days.

At least I didn't have to throw out bad food this time. Electricity is NOT something I take for granted these days, and I can only pray that we have a mild winter.

This morning, I turned in a draft of a case study I've been writing for a real estate executive who wants a certain certification. I've put in 12.75 hours so far, so that's $637, a nice piece of change and quite a bit more than the usual brochures or press releases I do for this client. I know there is still quite a bit of work to do on the case study. I feel squeamish about sending them a bill that will probably be in the neighborhood of $1,000 or more.

I know getting the certification is very important to him; he's tried a few times before to do it and procrastinated and it never got done becus he's just too busy. Just hope he's not shocked by my bill. I'm putting in the time and certainly earned it, but they're just not used to seeing dollar amounts that high from me. Oh well. I'm sure my bill will be very small potatoes when compared to other fees they pay, and receive.

Any day now the client of the PR firm should be setting a meeting time during which to discuss the draft we sent to them over a week ago. Once that meeting takes place, I'll surely be spending considerable time making revisions to the brochure I wrote, so I'm trying to do as much as possible on the real estate case study as I can before I have to switch gears and think energy efficiency initiatives.

It's good to be busy, although since both projects are ongoing, I haven't been paid anything and there will be a long delay in getting payment. Usually 6 weeks for the real estate client.

I went to the doctor yesterday and am nearly positive I have Lyme Disease again. I've already started on the antibiotics although I won't have the results from the blood test for another few days. I'm also taking 3 herbs recommended by an herbalist in a book written about curing Lyme Disease. It worked for me once before when the 3-week course of meds failed to stop the daily headaches. So I am doing both the meds and the herbs, PLUS plenty of acidopholus to avoid a subsequent UTI.

Ha! Just got an email from another client (guardian ad litem) asking if I have time to edit a report. Work actually comes to ME. I love it.

I discovered today that I could pay a $180 bill for a much-needed furnace tune-up with my Amex card, so with that charge, I've attained the magical $2,000 spending mark, earning myself the $250 in gift cards. I'll have to wait for that final charge to show up on my account online, and then I can redeem. Whoeeeeee.

I still have $64 in Amazon gift cards burning a hole in my pocket and I have yet to figure out how to use them. Anything I might like to get, like clothing (I'ld like some comfy sweatpants) or shoes, is something I've learned thru experience is better to try on to ensure a good fit rather than winging it on Amazon. There have been other things I've thought to buy, but they don't qualify for free shipping and so I refuse to waste gift cards on shipping charges. Other things, well, they cost more than $64.

I am still driving J. daily to work, but am really sort of looking forward to a break from the 2 hours plus driving I've been doing when this person he mentioned will start driving him (for free) 2 days a week. When I started driving him in late July, gas prices were at about $3.50 a gallon, and now they're up to $4.05 a gallon, a more than .50 a gallon increase. So I'm making less money doing this than before, and it's also been somewhat disruptive in my freelance work schedule. When I have big projects like the two mentioned above, I can't settle into doing them until after I get back from driving J. in the morning, usually around 8:45 am, and then I have to break from it at 4:40 pm to pick him up.

My freezer is packed with frozen tomatoes from my garden, and until I start using them in soups and stews, I can't fit a single thing in there! I realized this when I was going to take advantage of a sale on Lean Cuisine and had to pass on it becus there's simply no place to put it.

Luther and Waldo have already caught a few mice in the basement trying to escape the cold. Then they end up in the maws of my felines, who are fond of carrying them upstairs to show me their find.

As my world turns

September 16th, 2012 at 05:02 pm

Another lovely fall day, so bright and sunny. Almost too beautiful for words.

My goal was to finish writing the luxury home subdivision sales brochure on Saturday and start on the real estate certification case study on Sunday (both freelance jobs with the same client).

I accomplished the first, but kept finding other things to do than start the case study. It WAS my weekend, after all.

Instead, I did the following:
1. Continued cleaning up the vegetable garden, which meant pulling out all the tomato plants, pepper and bean plants. By ths time of year, the tomatoes get a bad case of blight,and it's important not to leave old dead leaves lying around because it will allow the blight to overwinter and return next year with vigor. So I dumped all the veggie plants onto a large tarp, which I hope to cram in my tiny Honda trunk, when the landfill opens on Tuesday.

2. Watered the two areas where I planted grass. Ho hum, I know, but it's a very relaxing thing to do.

3. Read the Sunday paper.

4. Filled the bird feeder.

5. Refilled the bird bath with water.

6. Replenished the hummingbird sugar water and then watched as it zipped back and forth among the feeding stations, apparently too impatient to wait for me to leave.

7. Made some Trader Joe truffles, aka brownies.

8. Boiled up the last batch of tomatoes from the garden, then to the freezer after they cooled. We are really winding down now.

Walked to the library and got some DVDs. The first one i watched last night was Prairie Love. A drifter driving along in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota, in dead of winter finds a man who looks dead lying in the road in front of his truck which had broken down. Frozen solid, in other words. He drags him to his own vehicle and eventually, the frozen guy comes to, but not before the drifter snoops in his suitcase and reads a bunch of love letters from a woman in prison.

Turns out the man he rescued was on his way to see her for the very first time after a 3 year penpal relationship. She's being released from prison.

The drifter decides that he's going to get rid of the guy and show up to meet the girl and pretend he's the guy who's been writing letters to her all this time.

After saving the man's life initially, he leaves him in the snow and goes on to meet the girl.

I won't tell you anymore, but it's an interesting story....

Yet another downshift in the job situation

September 13th, 2012 at 06:01 pm

So, I've been driving J. to work, and bringing him back home again, since late July, I believe. He's been paying me $200 a week/$800/month.

Quite a lot of out-of-pocket expense just to get someone to drive you to work, especially when I know he only makes $45k.

Still, he took me by surprise today when I was driving him home and he announced that through AA, there's someone he met who happens to live in his town and happens to work in the same town he does and who has generously offered to drive him to and from work 2 days a week, for free.

J. said he's totally tapped out and has a lot of bills coming up. I totally get it. So I had to be gracious about the whole thing, and while it's not finalized yet, looks like my $200/week gig will soon become a $120/week gig, or $480/month instead of $800/month.

It was the only "steady" thing I had.

Let's just hope when one door closes, another door opens. Like a real job offer from the PR agency for a regular 2 day a week, eventually 3 day a week job. That would be real money.

I just learned that my unemployment benefits will run out at the end of the year. Hey, they lasted a LOT longer than I initially thought, mainly because I continue to freelance and then report the income to the state, who then suspends your unemployment check, or a portion thereof. I originally thought they'd run out in April of this year.

One small consolation is that starting in 2013, I will then be eligible for a whole new round of unemployment benefits based on that itty, bitty little p/t job with the publisher that lasted 7 months or so. Based on what I earned, which was little, I will be eligible to receive $52 gross each week.

The universe just keeps throwing monkey wrenches in my path. So far, I've been able to rise above. Hope that continues....

In other news, I have $65 in Amazon gift cards and I can't decide how to use them. I had wanted to upgrade from a cheapie and defective DVD player an old boyfriend had bought me 8 years ago that often rumbles as it plays and is rather fickle. But it's a toss-up whether to buy a Blu Ray or High Def DVD player, and neither is compatible with the other. Plus some don't come with the cable, and i started getting nervous whether I'd know how to hook it up. Frown

As far as current work goes, here's what on my plate:
1. PR agency brochure on hold this week, but to be reviewed by all next week, with likely revisions by me.

2. I'm still editing The Author's second novel; she'll need to pay a 2nd installment soon.

3. Tomorrow after driving J. to work, i have to schlep down to town about 45 minutes away to meet with my real estate client to help him write a roughly 40 page application for a certification he really wants. This should be decent money, and I'm hoping this is the only in-person meeting I'll need to do.

4. Same company also just assigned me another project that's worth a few hundred.

So, thankfully, I have stuff to do. It's just the long-term I always have to worry about. Inevitably, things will slow down.

I like my lifestyle now very much (think: time and freedom) but future bills and how I'll pay them is a constant source of concern. And I wonder how long I can live this way.

Sigh.

I had the furnace cleaned and tuned up today, and it's ready for winter. $170 expense. Had to be done. He said it was very dirty and all out of whack. I skipped the tune-up last year. I guess I won't do that again. But once again, a technician has complimented me on my furnace. It's an expensive one, but one of the best (ThermoPride) and it has a lifetime guarantee on the heat exchanger, which is always the one part that, if it goes, basically means you'll be in the market for a whole new furnace.

I haven't watched a library movie in a long time. I think I'll try to get a Friday.

A day in the life of PatientSaver

September 12th, 2012 at 06:26 am

Yesterday:

Got up at 6:30 am. Fed myself and the cats, then headed out the door a bit early, at 7:15 am, so I could stop at the landfill on the way over to pick up J. for work.

Afer dropping J. off, I headed to Dr. Dental, where they offer cleanings, exam and x-rays for just $57 (new patients only). Even the regular price of $87 for all of the above shaves nearly half off the price I pay at my much loved, but exorbitantly priced hometown dentist, who charges $152 for a cleaning by the hygienist and a 2-minute exam by dentist.

I was a little nervous. They had 4 or 5 chairs, as opposed to my solo practitioner dentist back home. Here, the dentist himself did the cleaning using a Cavitron, basically a high-powered stream of water that pulverizes placque buildups. He assured me it was safe and effective. He finished in a fraction of the time it usually takes my hygienist; perhaps that's why they can offer a cleaning so much more cheaply.

In hindsight, I don't think he cleaned my teeth as well as my hygienist does using hand tools. There's a spot on the sides of my upper teeth, near the back (my hygienist says there are saliva ducts there) where there's always plaque buildup. I noticed Dr. Dental did not get the placque there cus i could feel the roughness still there. So I don't know what I'll do next time.

The giant flag flying in the middle of our Main Street was flying at half mast. It was the anniversary of 9/11, of course.

I had already decided to catch the afternoon matinee at the local $2 movie theater. It was so gorgeous out, I walked there and back, which was fun. The movie was the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Judy Dench. It was about one of my favorite subjects: retirement. It was cute, a bit funny and had a happy ending.

This morning, I knew I'd be driving J. in to work late as he had to meet with his probation officer. So I slept in, rising at 7:30 am and had a leisurely breakfast of pancakes with agave nectar.

I already did a load of laundry that is hanging out to dry in the bright sunshine, along with an assortment of winter scarves that smelled mildewy. That seems to happen each year in my un-air-conditioned house/closets, even though the closets have louvered doors. A few hours in bright sunshine on a dry day does wonders for them though.

I will also be putting a second coat of oil paint down on the downstairs closet floor this a.m. Luther had a disastrous encounter with the first coat 3 days ago. What possessed him to walk on it when it stunk to high heaven, I don't know, but when I came in from mowing the lawn, I discovered white paw prints on my wood kitchen floor, wood living room floor, my Moroccan rug, the bamboo matt in the sun room and the dining room table.

I managed to get it all up simply using a DRY paper towel on the sticky, rapidly drying paint. On the bamboo matt, though, the paint had gotten in between the slats, so I had to use a gasoline-based Goof Off on it. But I closed the room off afterwards, left all the windows wide open over night and by morning it smelled fine.

Luther's paws were more trouble. I had to straddle the cat, backwards and forwards, then lift his paws one by one and cut away as much as I could of the thick fur that grows between his Maine Coon toes. He was most unhappy. I know I didn't get it all. The only other thing I thought I could do was bring him to the vet and have them anesthetize him, but that seemed extreme, and presents its own risks. He is fine now. I hope he didn't swallow any of that stuff when he cleaned himself.

This is the same bad boy who chooses to poop outside the litter boxes in the basement, using the gravel in the French drain that rings the perimeter of the basement as his personal boudoir.

Flies from outside found their way into the basement, laid their eggs in his poop, and I had repeat bumper crops of baby flies who found their way to the main part of the house. I'd been swatting flies repeatedly, all over the house. It was so disgusting. I prayed for an early frost.

I am still on hold with the Dept. of Labor as I write this. The estimated wait is over 1 hour. Sigh.

Wonderful day

September 9th, 2012 at 04:49 pm

Why is it that the most beautiful weather days follow the worst weather days?

After yesterday's tornado watch, blustery winds and on again, off again rain, today was a little slice of heaven. The day dawned crisp and clear, with no humidity.

My mom was stopping by mid-morning to collect some tomatoes from the garden, but I couldn't resist slipping out for an early morning walk. Drove to the center of town, parked at the middle school and walked down past the new animal shelter.



It's such a huge improvement over the current one, a dilapidated shack wedged in between the town landfill and the railroad tracks.

Once past the shelter, the road turns to dirt, and I proceeded past the state horse guard stables.



It's one of only two left in the state, and was recently saved from the state budget axe.

I made a large loop around some corn fields; it was bright and sunny and simply wonderful.


Some old farm equipment...


...and the golden rod is in bloom.

Here's a recent salad from my garden.


After my mother left, I had an impromptu kind of Sunday afternoon. Got a phone call from a friend, took a brief nap on the sun porch, made a large hypertufa trough, picked more tomatoes, bell peppers and beans, boiled down and froze another batch of tomatoes, tidied up the garage, refilled the bird feeder, read the Sunday paper, continued editing The Author's book, mowed part of the front lawn and had a salad and nachos with refried beans, melted cheddar cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes for dinner.

It was a great day!

Tornado Warning in Connecticut

September 8th, 2012 at 11:29 am

I know, it's old hat for all you folks in the midwest, but here in the east, it's a bit unusual.

Tornado warning for most of the state until 9 pm. It's gusty outside and alternately raining and sunny, but very humid throughout.

I pulled my car into the garage as a precaution.

Update on the Pearle Vision story:

I decided to write a quick note to pearle vision online about the optician who deemed it necessary to demonstrate how to use a lens cleaning cloth to me using his personal cell phone, then handed it to me, ignoring my request for a new one. Ick.

I didn't name names, but I asked if they could mail me a cloth as I could really use one.

The store manager called me within a few hours and was super nice and very professional. He already spoke to the guy and yes, he'll mail me a new one. He happened to be Chinese, and I know that in the Chinese culture, an actual apology is considered very important.

In American culture, it is not. How many times have you had some sort of issue or overcharge at a retail store and the clerk, while she will correct the error, never apologizes? So he made a point to apologize, and he used that word, "apologize," in doing so. I'm impressed, and I will return to Pearle Vision.

New glasses and a world of difference!

September 7th, 2012 at 04:45 pm

Today I was finally able to pick up my new eyeglasses.

Wow, what a difference in my vision!

It has been a few years since I upgraded them and yes, there were 3 prominent and visible scratches smack dab in the center of the lenses on my old pair of glasses.

I hated those old glasses. Sitting at the computer I'd have to raise my head up so i was reading out of the very bottom of the lense, and this would consistently give me terrible neck-aches. If I read a book, I got into the habit of simply taking my glasses off and then reading the print from about 6 inches away.

Both the old pair and the new pair are progressive lenses, but with the new pair, I see great....far away, mid-distance, like my computer monitor and even reading a book. I can do it all! What's going on????

Was my former optometrist's assistant that much of a clutz??

But let me tell one thing the new optician at Pearle Vision did that I did NOT like, and I should have insisted...

I was trying out the new pair of glasses there and I asked if I could have one of those special cloths they give you to clean the lenses. He said sure. He pulled one out. It was wrapped on some sort of container. He began taking it out as he explained that I could use it to clean my glasses or clean my cell phone. I interrupted and told him he didn't need to take it out (I mean, I think I know how to use a cloth!!!) but he did so anyway. He also took out his personal cell phone and proceeded to demonstrate how to use the cloth to wipe the cell phone clean. Then he proceeded to give me the used cloth. And we all know how many germs are swimming on cell phones! I told him I didn't want it after he cleaned his phone with it, and he said it's ok. So I took it rather than make a fuss.

I thought about it later and I wish I HAD made a fuss. I mean, I just spent like several hundred dollars on a new pair of glasses, and then he gives me a cloth after he used it on his own phone?? Is that gross or am I over-reacting? Really gross, I think.

I turned in version 3 of the brochure for the PR agency. So far, I've grossed about $1400 (about 35 hours) from working on it and it hasn't even made it to the client yet! Incredibly tedious to me, but if they're paying me, who am I to complain?

There will still be plenty of edits I'm sure once the client sees it. I still find it difficult to anticipate whether or not I will get the permannent 2 day a week job based on my performance on this brochure. It all depends on if she thinks I'm picking up enough to do a decent job. I really don't know as I'm not too accustomed to working in this fashion, although I have worked for several agencies before.

After turning the brochure in around 1:30 pm, I hightailed it out of here to run a few errands: I returned some capris that were too big on me to Sears and got a credit, I got the aforementioned eyeglasses at Pearle Vision, got 2 cantaloupes for .99 ea at Aldi's, got a free can of Wellness and some dried salmon treats for the cats at Petco and then I went to Wal-Mart where I ended up splurging on 2 fall tops for about $25. Then I went to pick up J. at work and drive him home. He paid me today for the week, $160 for four days of driving. I also got a $40 check in the mail for a recent product study I did.

Let's talk water bills!

September 6th, 2012 at 05:49 am

Years back, I got water for all my household needs absolutely free. It came from a well with deeded rights to an underground spring located on a neighbor's property.

But the well was shallow....only 28 feet deep!....and a few experiences with coliform bacteria contamination convinced me it was time to find an alternative water supply.

So I paid $5,000 to hook up to the water company's main line about a hundred feet from my driveway; it serves a small subdivision near where I live. (I had to apply for a variance; the water company spoke against me, saying I should have the installation done a different way, which would have cost me $10,000. Luckily, the state regulators decided in my favor.)

I figured it was a much more secure source and I'd never have to worry about expensive well water issues. (Although my pump is still hooked up and working to supply my outdoor faucets with free water from the same well.)

Anyway, getting to the water bill. I usually pay about $46 every 3 months. Is that a good price compared to what you pay?

It irks me because there's so little incentive to conserve water. I am very frugal with my water use, and I see from my bill that I'm charged just $12.53 for actual water use, while the rest of the bill...$41.46...is a service charge. So my total bill this past quarter came to $54.80.

Onto heating oil prices. Here in the Northeast, we don't have natural gas lines readily available in many areas, so we can't take advantage of cheap natural gas prices these days.

But oh, am I glad I keep tabs on oil prices throughout the year. It's generally cheaper in the summer, and I did in fact spring for 141 gallons back in June when I paid $2.96 a gallon.

This morning when I called to schedule a furnace cleaning, I learned that today's price (it fluctuates daily) is $3.79 a gallon!!

Since my furnace fill-up will only get me through December, if I'm frugal, I will have no recourse but to fill up again when prices are highest, in the dead of winter. The only way to get around that would be to get a second oil tank, or a bigger one, that could hold more fuel, but since I anticipate not living here forever, I don't want to pay for that.

Helping mom declutter

September 4th, 2012 at 05:49 pm

I was finally able to schedule a time when I could drop my car off at the mechanic's and have my mother, who lives nearby, pick me up and let me hang out at her place.

I was a little anxious to get it done as I'm doing a lot more driving these days with the little driving gig I have...2 hours daily is what it works out to.

It was really just a routine oil-filter change but i had him check all the other routine stuff as well, and he said my air pressure was pretty low on all 4 tires and i'd need to replace brake pads at the next oil change. So all I spent was $45.

I brought him a box of big tomatoes from my garden.He's Portuguese, from the old country, and he and his wife thanked me.

So the car was ready around 1:30 pm, but i decided i might as well stay the rest of the afternoon at my mom's since i'd have to drive back in that direction to pick up J. from work around 4:30 pm anyway.

So I helped her begin to clear out a large storage area and then we started shredding old utility and bank statements from 2001. She has a cheapie shredder which kept jamming the way mine does.

I was checking my email at her place to see if the PR agency had commented on the big brochure I turned in last Friday. They did respond around mid-day, with a somewhat vague and yet alarming statement by the account manager that N., the owner of the firm, didn't think it was completely in line with the postiioning statement I wrote, but then she suggested just rewriting the headline and 2 lead paragraphs...by 2 pm tomorrow.

So I couldn't really start on it today, at my mother's, and I'm too tired to do so now, so by the time I get back home from driving J. to work tomorrow, I'll have about 5 hours to write the new lead. Which should be possible, althought i'll have to come up with something that sounds powerful but hits all their points but is yet unique and different and....you get the picture.

I'm a little nervous cus she also said she was going to look at the draft "now," and would send me i guess her comments on it, which she hasn't done yet. If she waits to send them to me at noon, that won't be very helpful if i'm trying to hit a 2 pm deadline.

This is the woman who has been most unhelpful everytime I have a question or whatever. Let's see if or when she comes thru with whatever additional feedback she might have. It almost might be better if she sent nothing at all.

She wanted to know how many hours I'd spent so far on the project becus they have a budget. I tallied up my time and it came to 27.5 hours, which equals $1100. Holy guacomole! We are far from done with it. The client will invariably have changes they want me to make. So anyway, this is quite lucrative. I hope the hours I've spent on it are in line with what they were expecting. It took quite a bit of time just reading and absorbing the many lengthy documents (annual report, 3 yr business plan, etc) that were supplied me. The client is brand new to me, so there was a rather steep learning curve.

This will be my top...only priority to get done tomorrow. I need to be inspired and to inspire.

Parade photos

September 3rd, 2012 at 01:07 pm

Oh, the parade was a lot of fun. The crowd was good-natured and a lot of people clapped when they saw our group, Homes for our Troops, walk by. They have an annual Beautiful Baby Contest and raise funds for disabled vets through the baby contest.

The organizer invited everyone who entered their baby in the contest to walk with us in the parade, so we had a bunch of parents with their kids in strollers walking behind us with the banner. There was also a Mercedes Benz convertible carrying the winning baby. Cute.

Anyway, I didn't take as many pix as I would have liked becus when you're IN the parade, you only really see who's in front of you, who's behind you (sort of) and the crowds lining the street. Unfortunately, we had 7 or 8 heavy Army trucks and jeeps riding in front of us, and they belched diesel fumes that all those little babies had to breathe.


This is my favorite photo. I love these ladies in their hoop dresses from the Revolutionary War era. Like us, they were waiting for the parade to begin.


Here's another shot of people getting into line before the start of the parade. We were in Div. 1 so we started off relatively early.


Here are some of the crowds on Main Street. My neighbor and I drove over to the supermarket in the center of town, where there was supposed to be a shuttle bus to take us to where the parade started, but the shuttle was nowhere to be seen, so we ended up walking there, about a mile. The parade route itself was another mile. And since I didn't drink much before leaving the house becus i was afraid I'd have to pee and not be able to, I think I got a little dehydrated becus I am very, very tired right now.


We had a small group of famlies with their kids marching with us.


Another shot of the crowds.

At the tail end of the parade, I spotted CT Senator Blumenthal on the roadside. He saw our banner and started clapping. I like him. He used to be our attorney general.

The woman for whose group we marched invited me to her house afterwards, along with my neighbor, L., and her husband. I would have liked to go, but I am so tired. I called to let her know. She somehow whipped together a big filet mignon meal and full dinner, even while she organized the parade thing!

Tomorrow I was finally able to arrange to drop my car off at mechanic, just for routine check of everything that the dealer would overcharge me for. Since I'm driving 2 hours daily now, for that driving job, I thought I should get things checked out.

But to do this, I needed to coordinate with my mother so she can pick me up and then i have to hang out with my mother until i can pick the car up later in the day. And then i go and pick up J. from work at around 4:45 pm. I hope it all works out timing-wise. At my mother's, i can monitor my email and see if I get an early response from the PR agency to the first draft I turned in on the brochure on Friday.

Credit Card Rewards: Bring 'Em On

September 2nd, 2012 at 02:21 pm

I am closing in on the final spend needed to earn $250 in gift cards from American Express Premier Rewards Card. I'm in the 3rd month and just $400 away from having spent $2,000 in 3 months.

I need to make sure to cancel this card afterwards as there is annual fee after the first year.

As SOON as I wrap up with the Amex card, I'm going to apply for the Chase Sapphire Card, which just lowered its spend requirement to $2,000 in 3 months. (It used to be $3,000 and I had until now ruled this one as too much.) Once you spend the $2,000, you earn $400 in CASH or $500 in plane tickets! (I'm going for the cash.)

Since it looks like I can meet the spend goal for the Amex card fairly easily, I think I will charge my upcoming homeowners insurance bill in October to the new Sapphire card.

I had thought that by now I would have "done" all the really good credit card reward offers, but I'm pleasantly happy to still be going after some juicy rewards.

So far, so good!

Today was more manual labor trying to dig out underground roots of the silky dogwood i'm trying to get rid of it because of its tenacous way of spreading through underground roots, with seedlings popping up from those roots everywhere in the lawn and turning it into a forest where I don't want a forest. Smile

I did also dig up a butterfly bush and a pokeberry and some spreading Mexican ornamental oregano, all contributing to the overgrown look as you drive up the driveway.

The ultimate goal is to plant grass seed in the ever expanding dirt pit I'm creating by having to dig up roots from the dogwood that extend 10 feet and more from the main plant. I know I won't get them all, but once the grass grows in i should be able to control any remaining dogwood by constantly mowing over them as I mow the grass.

Tomorrow will be the day I get to experience what it's like being Britney Spears (or any other celeb). That's because I'll be marching in my hometown Labor Day parade and will receive the adoring fans snapping photos, cheering, applauding and clapping. What's not to like there?

Today I received my official baseball cap and matching t-shirt with the name of the organization I'll be representing.

Today I made my three-bean salad, more homemade ice tea (I drink it by the gallon) and roasted some fresh beets I got from the organic farm in town. I don't think I'll try roasting beets again as it too forever and I think I should have peeled the skin off them.