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Archive for February, 2013

The dialogue in my head...

February 26th, 2013 at 04:02 pm

I took out The Author out for lunch today, for her birthday. Geez, we both had just soup and salad plus tea/coffee, and it came to $41. Oh well. A splurge for meÖ.

Iíve been applying for a lot of jobs lately, most of Ďem contract jobs. Many of them have writing assignments they want you to do, and you could spend a few hours on it, possibly for nothing. But thatís the way the ball rolls these days. Iíve lost count how many times Iíve done that.

An agency called me tonight about another job, a temp, one doing internal communications copywriting for a consumer packaged goods company right down the road from me. Iíd jump at it since itís so nearby, and if it was for at least a few months at decent pay, Iíd probably have to quit my proofreading/blogging job. Things could then become dicey again once the temp job was over with suddenly no income at all, but Iím inclined to take on that challenge. $12/hr just isnít working, and the company will be furloughing me anyway, all summer.

Iíve lined up an interview with the agency on Monday, forgetting that I have a doc appointment that morning. I should be able to do both, but I will be really running around that day unless I can push it back by an hour.

The day before is my motherís birthday, so that means I need to plan a lunch for 3 of us before then.

I have a ceramic tile floor in the bathroom where the grout is very dirty/stained/old looking. I found a product at Home Depot made for whitening the grout. It looks very much like a magic marker and you more or less just paint the grout lines between tiles. My tiles are only about an inch square, so this has turned out to be quite a job! Once I did a few grout lines, it made such a stark difference: bright white vs. brownish, so I have to continue til I finish them, but Iím not sure I like the way it looks. The stuff you paint on, well sometimes you have to go over the same area several times cus the stuff doesnít flow out evenly. I just hope it doesnít look strange when itís done. Itís hard for me to judge becus I keep comparing it to what it used to look like. Anyway, Iím only about half done and I worked twice on it for several hours.

I also used the tile adhesive to affix 2 loose tiles on the floor; after another day, I can grout around the tiles; that to me will require a bit more skill to get the grout in some very fine cracks. Hopefully with the putty knife I can just press it down in there.

I went for a walk around the block but REALLY had to push myself to get out there. I walked a few days ago also.

I feel like I got a decent amount of stuff done overall these last 4 days: scheduled a dentist apt with a new place that charges ďjustĒ $95 for new patients. Dentists are the last healthcare provider I want to jump around with, but this is a cost-saving measure for me. I just canít afford to pay my favorite, longtime dentist $152 for a teeth cleaning, sans x-rays. This will be my THIRD new dentist in the past 2 years.

I did a small bit of decluttering of files and paperwork. I have 4 2-drawer file cabinets and I think thatís too much. 2 of them I have to keep (theyíre in the attic) as they contain 30 years of writing samples that I use on interviews. The other 2 cabinets keep the usual other kinds of paperwork and Iíd like to edit one 2-drawer cabinet into a single drawer in my computer work station, but not sure thatís gonna happen.

I bought a ďhappy lightĒ with some Amazon gift cards a few weeks ago and have been disappointed not to notice any improvement in my mood/energy after using it up to an hour each morning. I always thought I had seasonal affective disorder.

Weíre expecting some messy weather tonight into tomorrow (sleet/snow/freezing rain) so I may not go into work early as I like to do on Wednesdays. I forgot to ask her if she wants me there early anyway; maybe Iíll email her after I see how bad it is.

I have a dream...

February 24th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I want to moveÖ

A lot of you already know that. Iím looking to downsize a bit from the 1650 square feet I have now into a somewhat smaller space, and I also want to eliminate my exterior maintenance duties.

Being a real estate copywriter, looking at real estate is sort of a hobby of mine. I like to keep abreast of whatís available and in which direction prices are headed. Iíve been looking at condos for literally years now, but have yet to find more than one complex, really, that seems suited to what Iím looking for: a 2-bedroom, preferably ranch unit of about 1400 sf with central air, gas heat and some sort of private outdoor space where I can still garden and hang out. Newer construction not more than 30 years old with updated kitchen and baths. In the neighborhood of $250K.

Iíve also considered a small, updated ranch with a small yard but they seem hard to find around these parts. I think for builders, a big house = big profits, so most ranches around here seem dark and outdated.

Today I was researching and writing about the town of Madison, Connecticut for a real estate sales brochure Iím doing. Madison is a small, leafy suburban town, fairly affluent, and in those ways is pretty similar to where I live now. But itís also on the shoreline and is where Hammonasset State Park is, the stateís largest, with 2 miles of coastline as well as great biking trails (all flat, unlike much of the state), boardwalks, a nature museum and lots of saltwater inlets to put in a kayak or canoe. Iíve always been a big outdoorsy person and so this would really agree with me.

Madison has also been on my mind of late becus The Author mentioned that she and her husband might rent a house there for a year or so while they try to sell their house here. She loves Hammonasset, and in fact we were supposed to go bike-riding there last summer but never did.

Anyway, I went on a realtor website and did some quick research. To my surprise, I found several condo complexes in Madison that may be just what I was looking for: DETACHED CONDOS. They seemed to have a lot of outdoor privacy and open space. Not only that, they were within walking distance to town and beaches PERFECT. I love the idea of being able to walk to town without having to jump into my car all the time. And they were in my price range or a bit higher, around $279K.

My area here only has one complex Iím aware of that has detached condos but it has a reputation for not being well-built. I know there are tons of them on the Jersey shore because my dadís ex-significant other bought one of them. It basically looks like a small single family house with a small yard.

So, hereís the plan. As soon as the spring weather breaks, I may contact a realtor and spend a half day with them showing me some of the different complexes, to see if they look as good in person as they do online. I would also plan a few excursions on my own, or maybe with The Author, to scope things out in town generally.

If I moved, I could take my freelance work with me, of course, for it goes where I go. But Iíd still need some kind of regular work. I figure Iíd be no worse off than where I am now, which in my opinion is NOT a reasonable (under an hour) commute to any of the stateís urban jobs centers like Hartford, New Haven or Stamford. Madison is much closer to New Haven. Iíd have to give up my $12/hr proofreading job, but that job is very unimportant to me anyway. Surely I could find something to take its place.

My mother, of course, would be very upset with me. My relationship with her has often been difficult. She is kind of a needy person and I often feel Iím still attached to the umbilical cord with her. You might call me a terrible daughter, but the thought of moving over an hour away where she could no longer call me daily is sort of exhilarating. I am concerned about caregiving issues; my sister is nearby but never gets involved with my mother, but dang nab it, for once I would like to make a life decision based on whatís best for ME.

If I did end up moving, I probably would not inform my mother until things were fairly well finalized, for I know she would give me a lot of grief about it and make me feel guilty for leaving her all alone.
I am aware that Madison is also further away from my dad, who will drive 3 hours and back in a single day just to visit with me and my sister where we are now; but in reality, he will be 80 this spring and I donít think he has many years of driving left, given his vision problems.

I donít feel Iíd be leaving a lot of friends behind. My favorite neighbors behind me are putting their house on the market next month and moving to Tennessee; The Author and her family are moving to Delaware; and while I have a lot of acquaintances, I donít feel I have many other close friends right here in town anyway.

Moving there would sort of feel like starting over for me, for I donít know a soul in Madison. Hopefully, I will have learned some lessons from when I moved all by myself to Springfield, Vermont to accept a job as a news reporter. Springfield was a small, family-oriented farm community and the only friends I ever made there were other reporters who, like myself, were hired from out-of-state. Despite strong introvert inclinations, I would need to push outside my comfort zone to get involved in local groups and get to know people.

Anyway, for the firsts time in my new home search, I actually feel excited about the possibilities. A move still might not happen for a few more years (it might be better if my older cat passes on before a move) but it will give me more time to make repairs here and wait for further appreciation.

In other newsÖ
Been doing a ton of writing lately. My boss at the proofreading job asked me to write 2 blog posts related to college graduation (my employer makes/sells high falutiní diploma frames, some priced at as much as $250!). So I spent 5 hours and wrote 2 very good ones, one a roundup of 2013 commencement speakers at different schools/universities and the other a look at interesting college commencement traditions. I think sheíll like them.

Then today I did the Madison write-up, which is for a sales brochure for a new condo complex in that town. I also need to do the same kind of write-up for the town of Cheshire. Tomorrow, I have 2 phone interviews to do, one with a developer who blew me off Friday after Iíd left my proofreading job early just to talk to him, and the other with a realtor who can tell me more about the complex.

I also have a test writing assignment for a job I applied for though I donít even know if I should bother since the job didnít specify if it was remote or on-site, and itís located too far away for me to commute.


Talking to a realtor

February 20th, 2013 at 05:27 am

So my idea was, TRY to get started on my lengthy punch list of repairs around here and also try to rule out condo complexes in the area simply by driving through them and eyeballing them from the outside. I'm very particular about what I want and I need some kind of place with private outdoor space. A place you could go do a bit of gardening or feed the birds without a dozen different pairs of eyes watching you as soon as you step outside.

I figure, why waste a realtor's time at this point.

However, I've kind of been drawn into a conversation with a realtor after I randomly asked one online if she could identify newer complexes that offered a decent amount of outdoor privacy. I know they exist.

There are 2 I like very much, both in Southbury, about 15 minutes east of me. One of them I may still end up buying there; built in the 80s, award winning design, woodsy, feels like a single family home, very large and private decks out back (maybe about 12 x 12), a small front yard. They do have electric heat which I'm not crazy about.

While it's not age-restricted, it's just down the road and part of a larger community that is age-restricted, and for some reason, the complex I'm interested in still tends to have mostly older residents and I'm thinking I may not want to surround myself with that. Still a little too young!

The idea appealed to me earlier on, probably as a result of longstanding issues I've had with one neighbor here over noise. I figured noise should be a non-issue if I lived in a senior complex. But it could also be somewhat depressing and it would be nice to have people in my age range to be friendly with.

The other community I like in that town was built around 2006; gorgeous on the outside, upscale, very nice landscaping, lots of curb appeal. Also very nice on the inside, gas heat, lots of light, but the obstacle here is the price, which runs somewhat higher than I want to spend.

but back to the realtor, we've been trading emails and i've been perfectly frank with her that my thought is currently to wait til 2014 while i do repairs here and look at complexes. She's recommended a few complexes and sent listings but they are way off the mark.

There is still the town of Shelton, about 40 minutes east of me; actually, it's a small city but is very suburban. They have lots of jobs there and large corporate parks and also tons of condos. Very low taxes compared to most other towns around here.

A friend of mine lives there and has encouraged me to move there and we've done some drive-by tours of complexes but again, nothing positively sang to me. Probably due to the distance, what I'd need to do is commit a half day or so to spend with a realtor who would show me the insides of some of these places.

I need to feel excited about several different complexes so it will motivate me to get going and do what I need to get my house ready for market. Otherwise, finding an upgraded and well-kept small ranch with vinyl siding on a half acre or less would be an alternative. Preferably gas heat and more or less level lot. Perhaps you can tell that I want low maintenance.

To move or not to move, that is the question

February 19th, 2013 at 09:53 am

Today I compared some key annual costs of home ownership versus condo ownership.

On the home ownership side, we've got:

$0 common charges (I mow and shovel my own driveway)
Property taxes: $6600
Oil heat for a season: $1200 (fluctuates often, depending on price of oil)
Homeowners insurance: $600 (saved myself several hundred by going with another carrier last year)

On the Condo side of the equation, we have:
Average common charges of complexes I'm considering: $2400, or about $200 a month; some are more.
Avg. Taxes: Around $4200
If I go with gas heat, I'm conservatively guessing about 25% less than fuel oil costs, so $900 a year.
Homeowners insurance: About $200

So my annual costs for these items is just $700 more when living in a single family home instead of a condo. Not a great deal more, IMO. Of course, I'm not factoring the many and miscellaneous other repair and maintenance cost of owning a home, whether it be replacing a hot water heater or whatever.

Also, I'd expect to pocket between $40,000 and $50,000 upon the sale of the home, which I'd have left over and add to savings after paying cash for the new condo.

I guess it still wouldn't be a bad idea to stick around a few more years. It would give housing market prices a little more time to recover.

I paid $209,900 for my house in December 1995; today it's worth about $299,000. And yes, it is paid off. At the peak of the market, in 2007, it was valued at $435,000. So right now, the house is valued at about midway between what I paid for it and its high in 2007. Still, there's a nice $100,000 gain, more or less.

As for lifestyle matters, I do enjoy having a largish vegetable garden, big enough to freeze homegrown tomatoes and other veggies for the winter as well.
I do enjoy picking wild berries in the backyard in July. If I buy a condo, I will have room (and hopefully, sun) to grow a few dwarf cherry tomato plants in pots, but not anywheres near the scale of what I do now in my fenced garden.

The headaches about living here include the ongoing grind of mowing all summer and shoveling myself out in winter. I may investigate a rider mower; would love a battery-powered one but they are rather pricey. The other big issue is storm outages and many fallen trees, which freak me out and cost a lot to clean up. There's also the issue of possible worsening MS relapses, which would be easier to deal with in a one-level condo, although I've done fantastically during the past 25 years with it.

Every time I think I've made up my mind that yes I want a condo or no I don't, then I start waffling about it again, sometimes after hearing other people warn me about dealing with noisy neighbors in a condo. Something I'm certainly not used to, but I'd be going to a fairly upscale complex where I hope loud parties and such would not be common.

February 19th, 2013 at 09:35 am

Some days just fly by....

February 18th, 2013 at 05:40 pm

...like today.

After breakfast and my usual leisurely cup of tea at the computer, I headed out relatively early to check out some condo complexes I hadn't seen before. To see if I might like to live there.

Lake Place was rather nice; some of the units sit right on a large lake, although many of the units are across the street. Nice complex, nice landscaping, and the roads looped around so it wasn't all cookie-cutter buildings, but I still can't get used to the real densely populated units in a relatively small area, which these are. I didn't rule it out though.

Checked out another complex which I did rule out because it was in a town that, while nice, just feels too out of the way for me and the complex itself (an adult community), well, it felt like an adult community, for some reason. And I may not be ready for that.

Then I did some grocery shopping, made a bank deposit and stopped at Home Depot to pick up a few things, including supplies to reaffix two loose tiles on my bathroom floor. I'll have to wait til the weekend to do this little job as the tile adhesive needs 2-3 days to dry, and I may want to shower for work; once the weekend rolls around, it doesn't matter.

I had a yummy chipotle black bean burger for lunch today with a raw red onion slice, pickles and ketchup on one of those thin rolls. Mmmm.

Try as I might, I couldn't get my client to call me to discuss a blog I'm writing for him, nor has he responded to the mostly finished draft I sent him. I also need to start on a sales brochure for a new community, but again, like pulling teeth sometimes to get basic contact info. Everyone's so busy.

I heard back from a Craig's List job poster about a freelance job writing content for a website. The pay was extremely good, which makes me a little suspicious, if only becus so many outfits pay so little. They suggested a test article on a certain subject (probably to me and a zillion others who likely responded to the ad), and I wound up spending a few hours writing a 1,000-word story that I think reads pretty well. Let's see if they respond further.

Never heard back from the local employer who said they wanted me to come in for an interview. I think it's really poor form to reach out to an applicant and then never respond again as the person tries to schedule an interview date. But of course, you can get away with bad behavior over email or the Internet.

The rest of my day was taken up by a slew of emails from The Author, who is getting ready for a writer's conference in eastern CT. Also a bunch of phone calls (at least 4!) from a friend who wasn't sure how to report p/t income to DOL. He lost his job years ago and after driving a limo for a few years (and hating it) he next took the exam to become a state marshall; they serve papers on people caught up in foreclosures, divorce and so on. Not my cup of tea, but anyway, that's what he's been doing.

Tomorrow I need to go with my mom to BJs so I can get a 2nd card on her membership. But first thing in the a.m.,before I head out, I hope to reach the realtor i need to interview about the new condo community; I sent her an email tonight to try to schedule the interview time, but naturally haven't heard from her.

It can be challenging trying to squeeze in all my freelance work into 2 days out of 5 (although I often work weekends, too).

I've been doing really well eating "healthy." Fresh fruit or nuts for snacks. No red meat, just fish, chicken, eggs, beans, nuts for protein. Maybe I could do better on the veggies. But no processed foods, soy milk in place of dairy milk, I haven't had Kozy Shack pudding in over a month and no soda at all. Watching the sugar and wheat, though not eliminating it.

I'm going to have my after-dinner grapefruit now.

The pros and cons of job-sharing

February 16th, 2013 at 07:15 am



Good 'ol SA did it again....I posted an entire entry and it simply disappeared....

As many of you know, I share a p/t proofreading job with another woman. She works on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings while I work Wednesday afternoons, Thursdays and Fridays. We share the same cubicle. We share the same phone as well, so that means we have the same password and can listen to each otherís voice messages.

OK, I lied. There are mostly cons to sharing a job with a co-worker, at least in my position. While we do the same work, we donít share each otherís work. So if, say, Iím away for several days, itís not like sheís going to pick up the slack for me, or vice versa.

Itís a pretty small workspace so neither of us can have too many personal doodads around as itís just too much clutter. And we need to keep the workspace clean when we leave after our three-day stint. (In the first week, she did leave a few used tissues behind for me to find, but after I mentioned it to her, it wasnít a problem anymore.)

As is my habit, I keep a small bag of toiletries in a drawer at our desk. It contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, aspirin and chapstick. At some point yesterday, I went into the bag and used the chapstick, and as I was putting the cap back on, I noticed a single strand of red, curly hair stuck onto it. My co-worker! Big ewww factor.

My co-worker is 65 years old, very personable, outgoing and friendly. She told me sheís got 4 degrees, including a Ph.D. in psychiatry, and once worked as a sex therapist. She recently retired from a long career as a public school teacher.

I initially decided I wasnít going to say anything to her but would simply take my bag of toiletries home and not keep it there anymore. But then I changed my mind and sent her an email to her home address this morning, updating her on some things that were happening at the office.

I didnít want to say anything to her at the office because not everyone who works there is very professional, and since my coworker has a loud voice, I didnít want to provide new fodder for gossip. At the tail end of my note, I said by the way, I noticed a red, curly hair stuck to my chapstick, etc. and that while I donít mind sharing a cubicle with you, the items in the bag are personal and I donít want to share them, ok? I didnít write it in an accusatory manner, just straightforward and to the point.

I was curious how she would react: would she deny it or quietly accept what Iíd said? Well, she emailed me back this am and flatly denied ever having gone into the bag and said the red hair wasnít hers. I thought some more about how that red hair could have gotten in there and I suddenly remembered that on Friday afternoon, I had a backache that was killing me (my own fault, comes from leaning forward away from the back of the chair when Iím feeling rushed). It was so bad that I disregarded how filthy the carpeted floor might be and I lay down in the cubicle on the floor for about 5 minutes, which helped quite a bit.

Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe I picked up my coworkerís hair when I was lying on the floor and then the hair dropped into the chapstick when I was using it. Sort of an unlikely scenario? Maybe itís more likely her curiosity got the best of her one day and she snooped in the bag to see what was in it. Whether or not she actually used the chapstick, I don't know. But even a Ph.D. is not immune to certain human impulses like that one. I guess Iíll never know.

Getting the momentum going

February 14th, 2013 at 03:29 pm

I wrote a long post a few days ago that went into the nether world as soon as I pushed the "Save and Publish" button.

Anyway, this last snowstorm really solidified my determination to sell this house, something I've been talking about for a while but haven't done much to prepare for.

I'm thinking next spring would be a good time to do it. I'm just getting too old for all the snow shoveling, climbing extension ladders and getting on a roof to shovel snow as well. And I'm too cheap to pay someone, I guess.

The thought of all that would need to be done around here to get the house in shape is truly overwhelming. It's all on me. Sigh.

To try to build some sort of momentum, I did, over the course of a few days, build a punch list of things that need fixing. I think I have close to 50 items. Some are very simple; some are more involved.

Then I recently learned that my friend M. is no longer working the contract job he had and is looking for work. He's helped his dad with a lot of handyman stuff on some rental units they have, and I suggested to him that he help me with my list. He could use some extra cash, I'm sure. However, I'm not sure that he's super reliable, so if he doesn't step up to the plate, my neighbors behind me who are putting their house on the market next month are using a really great handyman pretty much round the clock. I could also call him after March, I think. He charges $25/hr, which I guess is "reasonable" for handyman work and odd jobs.

Some of the things I can do myself but I've procrastinated on many for a long time becus I don't really enjoy doing them, mainly becus I'm not terribly skilled and often reach a point where I say Now what? or otherwise don't know what to do.

I'd like to try to do at least one item from the punch list each week; with roughly a year before I put the house on the market, that would give me about 52 weeks to get everything done, and as I said, I have just about 50 items on the list.

I'm still not really sure where I would go, but I would want to stay in the area. I'm leaning toward a small 2-bedroom condo rather than a ranch house.

One more day in the long slog of work at the p/t job. One thing I have really learned these last few years of scrounging for work is that just because a job is lower paying, doesn't mean it's proportionately easier to do. In fact, the last 2 p/t jobs I've had are probably more demanding than my usual line of work, which pays so much better.

What is so depressing is that I bust my butt at this p/t job and at the end of the day am quite wiped out, but i know I accomplished a great deal. Yet my miserly paycheck does not come close to reflecting the amount of energy put into the work. Bleh.

The great dig-out begins

February 9th, 2013 at 09:48 am

By the grace of God, I did not lose power during the storm. For that, I'm extremely grateful. I'm less enthusiastic, however, about the amount of snow dumped on the driveway. It's over a foot, less than two feet. Maybe about 18 inches or so.

I put on some long john's and headed out to start up my small electric snow blower. The bottom of it sits just a few inches off the ground, so it's really not meant for deep snow like this. I had to keep pushing and pulling it across the top of the snow, going back and forth until I got down to asphalt. It was very tiring to do, but probably not as tiring as shoveling.

The wind kept gusting periodically, and changing direction constantly, so every time it did, I got cold, wet snow blowing in my face.

Then I had to keep tromping through the snow to break it up, which made it easier to run the snow blower over it.

I spent about 2 hours out there and I did get about 3/4 of the driveway done. The part near the road is the worst, and I always have to do it by hand becus my 75-foot-long electric cord doesn't reach that far, plus the snow plows really pack it in.

I also shoveled my front steps and landing area.

So I've come in and am making lunch. Exhausted, mostly my arms. But I saved my back. I'm allowing myself 2 hours to rest inside before going back out again, this time with my roof rake and a small aluminum step ladder, to rake the snow off the lower 2 feet of the roofline, to avoid ice dam problems.

I'm going to get soaked all over again, but it needs to be done.

I have to do it today becus it's getting down to single digits tonight and that snow pack will harden, making it much harder to rake off.

I doubt I'll have much energy after that to finish shoveling the driveway down by the road, but it would be nice. Otherwise, will have to do in the morning so i can get out of here and do my thing.

I cut up a sweet potato and am baking sweet potato fries right now.

My knee-high rubber boots are wet, as are my jeans and long johns. I have other boots, but they're not at all high. May have to resort to putting plastic bags around my feet to keep them dry.

UPDATE:

Ugh. I went back out a second time this afternoon. I thought it was important to do the roof raking, and indeed, the sunshine had already started melting snow above the gutters, but by mid-afternoon, things had cooled down and baby ice dams and icicles had already formed over the gutters! I raked the lower foot or so of the roof, even got the darned extension ladder out, dragged it through the snow and set it up to chip off some of the ice. Finished shoveling in front of my garage also and did a little down by the road, but left the rest of that part for tomorrow.

I used the plastic bags but got soaked anyway from the knees down. Tonight I'm chilling with a movie and in lieu of the hot chocolate, it's decaf tea and some dark chocolate.

The blizzard has arrived

February 8th, 2013 at 11:04 am

They're predicting up to 2 feet in my area, though Boston could be getting 3 feet!

It's coming down now at a steady clip with a few inches on the ground; the worst will be overnight.

I am mostly concerned about losing power. I turned my heat up a few degrees, and will turn it up still further this evening when the winds pick up. I figure if I do lose power, the house will start off that much warmer.

I was able to bring work home with me and worked from home today, but it only took me 3.5 hours to do. I'd been hoping to get in a full day's work.

No matter...i have to distribute a press release for a real estate client today, and I still have his blog to write, too.

I've got sunflower seed and suet in the bird feeders and they're going nuts over it. As a special treat from my sister, i have a small bowl of handpicked hazelnuts and hawthorn berries for them too. They seem to be ignoring the bright red hawthorn berries.

I have my batteries for the radio ready, and my 3 flashlights. I should have gotten a new snow shovel when i saw them at WalMart for $7, but I skipped it. All I have is a plastic cracked shovel; not sure how long it will hold out. Really, should've gotten a new one when I had the chance. Oh well.

I got a call from a recruiter this morning, first time in a very long time, about a job i'd just applied for. A technical writer job at GE, temporary. I had to pass on it becus it was for only 1 month. If i took it, i'd have to quit my $12/hr p/t proofreading job. The GE job would pay much better, but after 1 month, I'd be left with nothing.

I mailed off my tax returns yesterday and am expecting $940 back from federal, and $46 back from the state. I'm thrilled.

I need to recalculate my withholding, though, because I hadn't noticed that my little part-time job was deducting NOTHING from either state or federal. I mean, I know I make very little there to begin with, but I still don't want to be stuck with a big bill at year's end. I'll have to specify a fixed amount, not ideal for my variable hours at that job, but still closer to what my actual deductions should be.

Question for a tax guru

February 4th, 2013 at 01:56 pm

I have a question for Monkey Mama or Dido or anyone else who really knows their way around a tax return.

On Schedule A (deductions), Line 10, you're supposed to report the interest you paid on your mortgage loan. Because I paid off my loan mid-year, I only paid $253 in interest in 2012. The bank issued me a combined 1098/1099 statement, but it did not report that I paid ANY interest on my mortgage. When I called the bank to find out why, she said they don't have to report anything under $600.

So my question is, do I still report I paid the $253 on Line 10, or should I report it on Line 11?

The instructions for Line 11 say that if you did not receive a Form 1098 from recipient, report your deductible mortgage interest on line 11. I DID receive the Form 1098, but as I explained, they didn't report the $253 in interest paid.

Instructions for Line 11 go on to say that if you bought your home from the recipient (does this mean if i paid off the mortgage?), be sure to show on line 11 the recipient's name and employer ID #; if i don't, i could be subject to a $50 penalty.

I guess I could try calling IRS tomorrow, but would rather avoid that particular pain if I can...

...soon to smell the aroma of fresh-baked bread...

February 4th, 2013 at 06:45 am

I did my barter with my neighbor. She got some booze which frankly I have no use for, and she gave me a bread machine she'd given her son, which he said he used only once.

I hope it works okay. I noticed the clear plastic window on the top is all scratched up, and I have no idea why that would be. I thought it rude to ask about that, since I am getting it free, and truth be told, she was going to give it to me anyway, regardless of whether I had something to trade her in return.

So maybe today I'll pick up all the special ingredients....the buttermilk, bread flour and dry yeast.

I bet "heads" for the Super Bowl toss and watched just that portion of the pre-game to see if I won a free pizza from Papa John's. I did! Hopefully will get the voucher emailed to me some time today. There's only one Papa john's in my vicinity, a 15-minute drive, but I guess it's worth it!

I enjoyed chit-chatting with my neighbor yesterday over tea when we did our barter. She's really great at scouring thrift stores and finding great deals (sometimes with their own repainting and refinishing), and yet her home always looks so upscale and luxurious. She's actually doing a lot of thrift store scouring these days because they're putting their 5,000 sf house on the market next month and she needs inexpensive, but good looking furniture to stage it.

She mentioned she has a ton of books and an 18-piece set of china she'll have ready for me if I want either/both next time I'm up there. She doesn't want to have to wrap and pack all the individual pieces of china (she has 2 other sets) and it wouldn't be practical to have to ship on Ebay. So I could be the lucky recipient. I haven't seen the china, but I really like her taste in general, so it could be very nice. As for the books, I have no idea what she likes to read, but I would be very interested to browse thru them.

So, I am going over to one of the places she mentioned today becus I can't resist. Just looking.

I have to run over to see if I can fix my mother's computer problem. I also need to get windshield wipers at WalMart.

I started my taxes but along the way discovered that the bank that held my mortgage never sent me the mortgage interest 1099-INT, and my chief freelance client never sent me a 1099 either. I'll have to call both. I mainly just need to know how much mortgage interest I paid this year as I already know what I earned from the freelance client.

I'm seeing The Author for tea on Tuesday.

Had a long talk Friday night with the woman who shares my job with me. She pretty much shares my feeling that they are getting the grand bargain of the year having us do their tedious and boring work for $12/hr. The same rate of pay for a bagger at Stop & Shop, I recently noticed.

Weekend bliss, a barter arrangement

February 2nd, 2013 at 09:23 am

Ahh, the weekend has arrived.

Although I only worked on three days this week (as usual), I took home work for the evening each night, and including this weekend, so I worked about 30 hours instead of the usual 20. I want to take advantage of it while the work is there; I will be furloughed, or work very few hours, come June, and that will last until fall. Hard to imagine I'll still be there at that time, but things have a funny way of working out.

I'm happy to see my investment portfolio is doing quite well in the bull market of the last two months. In the month of January alone, it gained $19,330. In December, it gained $4,200 from the month before. Nice.

I'll be starting my taxes this weekend. I went out of my way to the IRS field office in nearby town last week only to find even the IRS did not have any instruction manuals, just the forms. I had TRIED to call in advance to ensure they had them, but wouldn't you know you get a recording; no live person answers the phone. (The library didn't have anything either.)

I guess I'll just have to refer to the manual online. Not my preference, as the whole process seems so complex I often circle, underline and otherwise mark up my instruction manual to guide me. Hmpgh.

For 2013, I'm already in the red to the tune of $1,039; however, that's because I chose to pay off a $2,900 sewer loan that would otherwise have another 6 years to go. I would have come in well under expenses in January had it not been for that sewer loan thingy. I guess it will all even out in the long run, and of course I will save around $400 in interest. It was due to some of your comments here that I finally decided to pay it off. Comments specifically to the effect that the loan, small as it is, could make the difference between a perspective buyer going for my house or someone else's. So it's gone now.

A rather shocking discovery: the zeal with which I hit BJ's since a new one opened here led me to spend $500 on groceries, just for myself, in January. I usually try to keep it under $235.

Well, I am well stocked with all my favorite foods: a lot of frozen teriyaki chicken, salmon, chipotle bean burgers and bean burritos in the freezer, and quite a few canned goods, cat food, a case of toilet paper, you name, I bought it.

I'm making pretty good progress at greatly reducing sugar in my life. And just now I dumped all mu white flour; no more quick breads for me, I'm afraid, at least not until I can find some bread recipes using something other than white or wheat flour. Chalk it all up to the book I'm currently reading. See side panel.

My neighbor and I are going to barter. I cleaned out my liquor cabinet on a whim and decided I wouldn't ever drink it all, so she wants my vodkas and rum. In trade, she's giving me a gently used bread machine that her son used only once. So I really need to find some healthy grain flours to cook with. It was the book "Wheat Belly" that convinced me to lay off even whole wheat breads.

While waiting to hear from said neighbor about the liquor, I went and also offered it to The Author, who also took me up on the offer; luckily I had enough to give to both. So I'll be giving her the Jim Beam, the Irish cream liquor, the Frangelica and whatever else is left. Will see her for our usual coffee shop get-together on Tuesday, but she won't return to Demitasse, the coffee shop in Sandy Hook Center. Maybe one day she will. Those shops needs our business. She'll have another payment for me for the book editing. Yay.

In the month of January, I made $276 in "miscellaneous income," so I'm off to a good start. That includes:

Focus group, $100
Credit card bonus, $105
Online surveys, forums, $46 (Amazon gift cards)
Credit card gift card, $25 (Home Depot, saving it to buy vegetable seeds and seedlings for the garden)

I may go out this afternoon and try to prepare (aka saw) more logs (from Superstorm Sandy) in my driveway, small enough that I can pick them up and put them in my trunk to go to landfill. Each week I haul 4 or 5 of them. Little by little. I kind of sneak them off there becus if they're more than 4 inches in diameter, you're supposed to pay to dump them. Mine are probably 6 inches, and I don't want to pay. So there. (Other pieces are probably 20 inches in diameter. Really huge.) Otherwise, I have to pay big bucks to have someone come out and chip it all, which I'll likely have to do for the really huge cut wood anyway. And I don't want to ask my dad for help anymore; he's really too old to be doing that kind of work although he's got the pick-up truck. I have thought of barter, but don't really have something to trade. If I have to pay to chip some of it, at least I'll have mulch for the rest of the season.

I need to fine out if the superbowl will be on the radio. cus I want to watch the coin toss and see if i won a free pizza!