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Archive for January, 2014

A work at home day

January 30th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Today is one of those rare work at home days, this time necessitated by a middle-of-the-day visit with my neurologist, who I see once a year unless I'm having MS problems.

I'm not having any issues, so I just asked him to write a year-long prescription that could be divided into three quarterly refills so I don't have to deal with the monthly refills, which, believe it or not, is a pain. Although my new ACA health plan has the patient paying 30% coinsurance, not a flat fee, the pharma company that makes my meds is picking up most of the bill so I only have to pay $35 a month.

Truth be told, I really don't like working on the company-issued laptop. It may be perfectly fine for someone who's mostly checking email, but as a writer, I find the tiny screen much too small; I often like to have 2 word docs open side by side, and that's just not possible when you're squinting at a tiny screen.

Of course, I would never complain about this because this is what enables me to work at home on occasion. Smile

Restructuring at my company has already begun. A few weeks ago, the head of our dept. was fielding questions from employees about layoffs and other possibilities. Little did any of us know that he would be the first to be let go. They made the announcement this week, and there are a lot of people now reporting to different managers. So far, it's nothing that affects me personally.

The vegetarianism is still going well. I do have some random pieces of fish in the freezer which I will use up eventually, but otherwise, it's a wholly plant-based diet. I'm doing it whole hog; that is, no meat, poultry, fish, dairy or eggs. Also trying to minimize sugar. I remember diving in like this many years ago when I quit smoking at the age of 21. A bad habit my very best friend introduced to me when I was 16. Fortunately, I didn't stick with it long, but I felt then as I do now that after thinking about it a long time, I needed to just do it, and not halfway.

I was happy to see so many other people here are on the same path.

I sent out a press release today that I did last weekend (freelance) and then billed them for that and the bio I wrote for her. The other realtor's supposed to call me in a little while to discuss revisions to her bio.

It's been too cold to walk outside during my lunch hour at work these past few weeks, but on most days I'll walk the interior stairs, with or without my walking buddy. I usually walk up and down 12 flights, twice. My legs are like jello afterwards, but it certainly gets the heart pumping, which is good, because I usually don't even break a sweat when we walk outside.

Food ramblings and the pursuit of a vegan lifestyle

January 26th, 2014 at 04:05 pm

By some miracle of concentration, I managed to complete three separate freelance jobs on Saturday. That included interviewing 2 different realtors and then writing 2 bios and a press release.

I hadn't wanted the work to take up my whole weekend. So with that out of the way, today I went to Macy's to use a $10 gift card I got as a credit card reward. I picked out a sleeveless shell, the kind of thing you wear under a blazer or other blouse, and saw it had been marked down to $22. I was even happier when I checked out and the real price was now $9, so I didn't have to spend any money.

Also went to Trader Joe's and filled up the gas tank, then back home to do some cooking: used up the rest of the kale to make some more kale salad (with fresh squeezed orange juice, organic orange zest, scallions and dried cranberries), a basmati rice pudding with cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, raisins and cloves with pomegranate seeds as a garnish (wasn't crazy with the way it turned out), some homemade baked beans with mustard, onions and mushrooms and a black bean/rice/corn salad which is also just "ok."

You win some, you lose some. I've been able to build up a solid lineup of 4 or so soups that I hit out of the ballpark, including my homemade pea soup with parsnips (a longtime favorite), a great vegetable soup, a tomato soup with sun-dried tomatoes and unsweetened cocoa powder and an excellent mushroom barley soup. I'd like to get a few more great soups so I can rotate them all winter long with no problem. I try many new recipes practically every weekend.

I'm being very good about sticking to my new vegan routine. I do have things in the house that should not be on my new diet, like some fish, but I'm not throwing anything away. It costs too much.

Interestingly, I spend just as much money grocery shopping for just veggies, fruits and nuts as I ever did when shopping for meat and fish. One reasons is that I often buy organic produce.

I have eaten very little red meat for years now, but what gave me motivation to go all the way vegan was after getting 4 or 5 books I'd asked for, for Christmas, all on healthy eating and nutrition. Their essential message was very similar (ie, eating a plant-based diet and all the bad stuff not just about red meat, but about poultry, dairy, eggs and MILK in particular)and hearing it from so many angles, it's hard to refute that. Not that I ever did, it was just laziness and human frailties. But now that I am in my 50s, I'm conscious of the fact that this is the time when many people start coming down with serious conditions or illnesses.

I already have one pretty serious illness....MS....but I do believe that my generally healthier diet these many years has helped me avoid the more serious relapses that many MS people have. The last time I had a relapse was in 2006, so I'm doing pretty darn well. I do have Dr. Swank's famous book on diet for MS people on my book shelf, and I do want to read it again.

I must say that eating nearly completely vegan for the past 2 weeks, I feel I have a lot of energy.

If I eat out or am at someone's house where something not on my diet is served, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it and refuse to eat. But when I'm home in my own kitchen, cooking for myself, I will stick to fruits, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds. And I think very small amounts of certain cheeses, like Parmesan and goat cheese, will be acceptable.

I keep making modifications to my diet as I go. For instance, I discovered how delicious roasted sunflower seeds were, and I bought bags of them before reading that the high heat used in the commercial roasting process changes the composition of the oil and makes unhealthy free radicals. Or something to that effect. So I am transitioning over to raw sunflower seeds now. I returned a few bags I hadn't yet opened, but to be honest, it's hard for me to throw away the remaining, opened bag of roasted seeds and I'm hoping that just a little bit more won't kill me.

Honestly, the hardest change that I have yet to make is to give up pasta entirely. It's really not good for you. And I don't like whole wheat pasta at all. Pasta is my go-to food whenever I need comforting and I can eat a pile of it in one sitting.

I've been pretty successful following Dr. Fuhrman's abbreviated prescription for healthy eating:
Every day, he says, you should eat:

1. at least a half cup of some kind of beans
2. one large bowl of salad greens
3. one ounce of nuts
4. at least 3 pieces of fruit

If you only concentrated on these 4 things, you'd go a long way toward really improving your health, not only becus of what you're eating, but becus the items above are also taking the place of at least some things you won't eat if your stomach is full from beans, fruit and nuts.

Closing on a happy note, I'm thinking back to a meeting at work last Friday where my boss was telling about how right before Christmas around midnight, she had to work on a message for the bank's website about the Target credit card fiasco. She said if I'd been writing it, it would have taken me 20 minutes but it took her an hour and a half. I said oh, you should have called, but it was on a weekend, at midnight, so actually, I'm glad she didn't. But she said again that she was so happy that I was there now (so she doesn't have to write anything because it doesn't come easy to her).

A Quest for the Sea

January 21st, 2014 at 06:00 pm

This was a great documentary on free Hulu.

It's about how 10 modern-day Newfoundlanders try to live the lives of their ancestors in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Back in the 30s, there many bustling little communities along the coastline as they made a living off the sea, fishing for cod until the fishing industry collapsed and everyone left for an easier way of life.

It was very interesting, just 4 episodes. There was the 14-year-old girl who was always somewhat petulant and not really embracing a phone-free life. I personally was amazed by the vitality and energy of a 75-year-old grandmother who held her own with the others doing a lot of hard labor for 62 days.

We're in another snowstorm

January 21st, 2014 at 05:02 pm

The snow started around 11 and by 11:45 a.m i was on my way home from work. Smile

It's expected to snow all night and end around 7 a.m. About 10 inches expected. I will work from home tomorrow on my laptop.

I don't want to shovel during the workday, but I will try to get some done early a.m. and then again at lunchtime. I'll have to finish it tomorrow night in the dark, but I can turn the garage lights on at least.

I met my spend requirement ($750) for my Discover card, so am just waiting for them to issue the $150 credit. Smile

I caved and purchased 100 gallons of heating oil at $3.799, the highest I've ever paid for heating oil in 18 years. I went with a company that has a 100-gallon requirement rather than 150; I'm betting the extra .05 a gallon I'm paying will be worth it because I'll be able to buy the next 50 gallons at a significantly lower price sometime in March.

Connecting with my inner Julia Child, and the snow thrower mystery

January 20th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Yesterday I made a cauliflower leek soup. It was a little watery. I have a much better recipe that uses cheddar cheese, but I'm really trying to go vegetarian, and that includes no dairy.

Today I did much better by adapting a plain tomato soup I found at food.com. Ordinarily plain tomato soup would bore me, but I've been trying to use up the many bags of frozen crushed tomatoes from my garden.

By adding a teaspoon of unsweetened baking cocoa, some freshly ground allspice, a bay leaf and basil (the recipe already called for thyme) I really ratcheted up the complexity of the soup quite a bit. It has quite a bit of flavor and is simply delicious. To ensure protein, I also added a half cup of sprouted mung beans and lentils and about a half cup of red kidney beans. I'll bring it to work tomorrow with some croutons.

I also made another batch of granola. I use old-fashioned oats, flaxseed that I grind myself in my little Braun coffee grinder, honey, oil, Cinnamon, allspice, toasted walnuts and either raisins or chopped dried apricot. I used to also add unsweetened coconut flakes and wheat germ, but I prefer it without those two ingredients.

I have some leftover kale I should really use up in a salad as well. (I'm thinking marinated in orange juice with dried cranberries, raw onion, dried currants and toasted walnuts).

I really do love cooking healthy and trying new recipes, especially vegetarian.

As for the electric snow thrower, I noticed the last time I used it on some ice-crusted snow that I was smelling a plastic burning smell, so I stopped using it. Then I decided to try it again, thinking maybe I was imagining the smell, but within a few minutes, I smelled it again.

So today I brought it to my local Toro dealer. I was hoping it wouldn't cost too much, but he'd told me it would be $75/ hr and they'd let me know if it was a simple belt change or something worse.

They have a 5-week backlog of repairs to do!

Maybe 10 minutes after I dropped it off, they called me at home and told me they checked out everything on the thrower and they can't find anything wrong with it!

So I drove down there to pick it up, wondering how much they might charge me. Thankfully, he said there'd be no charge, but I'm still a little worried about using the snow thrower.

I have a very long driveway and use it with a 75-foot-long outdoor extension cord, so today I examined the entire length, looking for something amiss, but didn't see anything.

I guess if I use it again and it begins to smell again, I might consider getting a new cord, just to be sure. The dealership guy said it's possible it could overheat after long use, and I'm wondering whether this very small thrower, which I got about 5 years ago for $279, wasn't really intended for such a big driveway as mine.

The cost of heating oil, family matters, friends' disasters

January 18th, 2014 at 06:16 am

I've been tracking the cost of heating oil for years. Not just in the winter, but also in the summer months, too. I like to have an accurate picture in my head of where prices are going. Over time, I learned there were really just two area oil delivery outfits that consistently had the best prices, so those are the two I alternate between when ordering a delivery.

This week, their prices were $3.71 and $3.79 a gallon. In the 18 years I've owned my house, heating oil prices have never been that high. It's a record!

Online energy trend outlook reports from the federal government confirmed my fears that we are seeing record high prices on heating oil here in the Northeast. In most other parts of the country, oil is not used nearly as extensively as it is here.

Unfortunately, many heating oil companies have minimum purchase requirements of, for instance, 150 gallons. So that makes it difficult to try to time your purchases, or buy a smaller amount when prices are higher in the hopes that by the time you need more oil, later in the season, prices will have dropped.

In fact, it really irks me that they do that. When I questioned that practice with the gal yesterday, she said without the minimum purchase requirement, they wouldn't make as much profit. But then she quickly corrected herself, saying well, their truck only gets 6 miles to the gallon. But you already organize your deliveries so that all deliveries to a given town are done the same day, right? I said. Yeah, but in a more spread-out town like yours, the houses aren't close together, she said.

And so it went. As much as companies preach how "customer-friendly" they are in their marketing, they are all looking out for their own bottom line first.

Since I have just a 200-gallon oil tank, a 150-gallon fill-up essentially fills up the whole tank. In the past I toyed with the idea of buying a second oil tank to put in the garage (there's room) so I could better time my purchases, but I never got around to it and now that I hope to move at some point, I won't bother with that particular expense.

I usually fill up just twice a year. The first fill-up is always in the summer, when oil prices (and demand) are lowest. But then I have no choice but to fill up again in the dead of winter, when prices are highest, usually around January.

I've got a quarter of a tank left now and decided to wait one more week rather than have to buy at $3.71. Psychologically, it's hard for me to buy when I know prices are highest. I may not have a choice next week, but at least now there's a chance they'll dip a few cents.

It was a fairly uneventful week at work, and I got in my 40 hours. Work continues to be rather slow paced and at times, the day is very long for that reason. But my boss seems happy with my work.

Ballard Deign again has a sale on some ceramic garden seats I've always liked.



I think they're regularly priced at about $130. Now they're $99 with free shipping. So tempting, but honestly, I don't need them, I just admire their looks, and again my savings plan is important to keep in place as I could be unemployed again in July.

I love Ballard Design in general, so I allow emails from them. When I got an email mentioning the sale, I found myself scanning the sale items and found these garden seats, but I eventually left the site. At that time, the garden seats were on sale for $99, but no free shipping.

The next day, I get another sale email, and this time, it's $99 and free shipping. They must track your visits. So perhaps it's worth it to remember not to make a purchase the first time you visit the site after getting an email, because you may be able to do better just by waiting for the follow-up sales pitch.

I now officially have two nieces and a nephew. Technically, they are "half-nieces and a "half-nephew," as they are the kids of my half-brothers, from my dad's second marriage. My brother Bob married a Chinese woman and their kids have a very interesting, almost soulful look to them because of their eyes.

I don't have kids of my own. My plan has always been to leave my money to environmental charities, something that's very important to me. But there's the question of my tangible belongings and personal possessions. I would hate to see it all pawed over in an estate sale, going to strangers. So I think I may leave just my personal possessions to my nieces and nephews, although I have never seen them in person.

Before they were born, I only saw my brothers once in a blue moon. They grew up separately from me and my sister and pretty much lead separate lives in NJ, while my sister and I are here in CT. It would have been very nice to have closer relationships, but the realities of time and distance intervened.

I had once shared with my dad my plans to leave my money to charity, and I remember him saying, "Keep it in the family." But there's a part of me that resists doing that, especially since my brothers, while friendly, have never made any effort to establish closer ties, initiate a get-together or heck, even remembered my birthday with a card. Now that they are married, I notice I get Christmas cards regularly and this week I also got some baby pictures.

Spoke to my friend R. last night. He has a habit of often reminding me of all the good things I've accomplished and making me feel good about that. The fact that my house is paid off, my brand new car is paid off and I'm making good money (now).

Unfortunately, after having been helping his niece get through a divorce and search for a new house for her and her kids, the niece finally rebelled against my friend's domineering ways and told him that while she appreciated his help, she wanted to make her own decisions from here on, as it was her life they were talking about. My friend R. is extremely controlling about everything he does. That's a big reason why he and I broke up 30 years ago when we were dating. It's why his wife left him. And now his niece.

I mean, his intentions are good but he goes way overboard, crossing boundaries he shouldn't cross. Although he is using much of his own money to buy his niece a new house, he was also pressuring his sister (the niece's mother) to pitch in $50,000 and also the same with his other niece, as she and her husband are both accountants and make very good money.

That backfired as well, since the other niece has own kids' college to think about and the mother has her own retirement to think of. It's fine that my friend R., with no kids of his own, wanted to contribute his own money, but it was wrong of him to tell others in his family what to do.

Oh well. People are all so different.

And then there's the woman I work with, who finally got a visa for the man she met in Jamaica and married 2 years ago. (She's white, he's black.) Now she's got him home and he's living in her nice condo (which her parents paid for) while she goes to work (sometimes). She's a contract worker too, and her job will end in March.

She's spent many thousands of dollars on this guy, traveling to see him 14 times during the past 2 years. Since I started working there in October, she spent most of every day, when she decided to come in to work, on visajourney.com, poring over it to learn all the ins and outs of how to get a visa and answer the questions right in the interview.

She's talked to creditors she owes money to at work. She had former alcohol problems. She smokes. Her life is a mess, but she has this strangely endearing quality about her, really a naivete, that makes you want to help her. Her parents still pay her bills.

She's only supposed to be working at home one day a week, but she takes extreme advantage of our good-natured boss, who travels every other week, so she has often worked from home 3 or 4 days a week when our manager is not in.

Her husband doesn't know how to read or write (!!), so her parents are helping him get classes, so there's at least some hope he can get a job.

OK, so for whatever reason, you didn't go to school as a child. But the guy's in his early 40s now; why didn't he ever take the initiative to learn how to read and write as an adult? This guy sounds like such a loser to me and he's had the world handed to him on a plate because my co-worker is exceptionally needy and insecure and just wants someone to love her and make a baby with her.

This guy literally has a new lease on life. Flying to America was the first time he'd ever been on a plane before. And now, she tells me, he is telling her to get rid of her cat. Because Jamaicans don't keep animals as pets and he doesn't get it.

I am so, so wanting to tell her to stand up for herself and her own needs and happiness, not just his. I mean, this guy owes her a lot. He should be trying just as hard to please her as she is to please him. She's a very needy person. She calls him several times a day to see what he's doing. This poor cat is FIV positive, so it's doubtful it would get adopted very soon; everyone wants a healthy pet.

I want to tell her, look! He's in America now, so he should adapt to the American way of life, not the other way around. I hate seeing such an imbalanced relationship; to me, it seems doomed to failure. So far, I've managed to keep my mouth shut.

Ironically, the condo she lives in is one I LOOKED at in an open house when it was for sale last summer. This town is over an hour away from where I live, but I just happened to discover this lovely condo complex of detached condos in a nice, woodsy setting, just minutes from a gorgeous state park on Long Island Sound. And now I sit right next to the woman who lives there now. Talk about small world.

Cooking up a storm

January 12th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I like to minimize the number of things I "have" to do on Sundays, preferring instead to spend the day close to home, either cooking, reading or spending time online.

Today, I'm cooking up a storm. I've been inspired by reading Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman. I tried one of his recipes, an eggplant hummus with a lot of healthy stuff in it. It was on the bland side and I wound up with a good 4 cups worth, far more than I needed, but I will bring it to work with some raw broccoli and carrots.

I also whipped up another batch of my own granola.

Next, I made a delicious mushroom soup. It's not quite like a cream of mushroom soup, but it has onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, celery, barley and both button and portobello mushrooms for more complexity of taste. It was very good. Though the recipe didn't call for it, I used my immersion blender to make it more cream-like. Very good...also will use for workday lunches.

Tonight, I want to try one more new recipe, a "crustini" on crusty bread made up of cannellini beans, flat leaf Italian parsley, red onion and sun-dried tomatoes. How yummy is that??

Still inspired by Dr. Fuhrman, I returned a bottle of multi-vitamins to BJs because it had several ingredients he says aren't good: Vit A and beta carotene, iron, folic acid and copper. (I am thankful they have such a liberal return policy, as I didn't have a receipt and had opened the bottle.) Plus I bought a bottle of zinc, which he said, along with B12, is important for vegans to supplement with.

Today's the last day I'll get to enjoy my free month of Netflix. Being a reality TV junkie, I sort of got hooked on Dr. 90210, a show featuring several plastic surgeons and the work they do. Surprising that the vast majority of patients want breast implants. The face lifts, etc are much fewer and far between.

Talked to 2 friends and my mother, but didn't leave the house today except to pick up a few groceries. And there I ran into my old boss from 6 years ago when I worked right here in town. His kids are all in college now, when they were just in middle school at the time I worked for him. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met, just a kind, gentle and humorous person who was very easy to work for.

I had a light, early dinner last night with Bachelor #4. He was nice enough. My problem is that I seem to have difficulty feeling any strong attraction to men I meet in this way. I don't feel a chemistry, although he was clearly intelligent and, as I said, nice enough that I could see. I suppose I could go out with him again and see if "something develops," but then again, I wouldn't be too upset if I never saw him again. I'm wondering if I have lost my capacity for romantic love.

After saying goodbye to him, I did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, which was right down the road, and then, since the all-day rain had kept me from leaving the house earlier, I also stopped to get gas, shop at BJ's and shop at Shop Rite. So I got many of my chores done and got home around 9 pm.

Tomorrow night there's a lecture on certain aspects of our town's history by a local, well-known historian. I've always wanted to attend these monthly meetings, but when I'm working, it's just so hard for me to venture out, especially in winter, after putting in a day of work. I really have little excuse, as the meeting is less than a mile from my house. But I have a feeling I won't go even though I'd like to.

So much not to love about Wells Fargo

January 8th, 2014 at 04:25 pm

From American Banker....

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that at Wells Fargo, where employees are pushed to sell eight products and services to each customer household, staff have opened hundreds of unneeded and unrequested accounts for customers, ordered credit cards without customers' permission and forged client signatures on paperwork.

"One former branch manager who worked in the Pacific Northwest described her dismay at discovering that employees had talked a homeless woman into opening six checking and savings accounts with fees totaling $39 a month," the paper reported. After the article was published, 70 more former and current Wells Fargo employees and customers came forward with similar stories of sales of unwanted and unneeded products at the bank.

The rest of the story is here:
http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/179_5/the-downside-of-the-data-driven-decision-1064719-1.html?zkPrintable=1&nopagination=1

Why the healthcare subsidy may be a disincentive for me to work harder

January 4th, 2014 at 06:12 am

I reported my financial intentions here for the New Year, so figured I might as well report that I followed through: I did contribute $6500 to a traditional IRA, my 2014 contribution. (It was a simple transfer of taxable savings to the IRA.) I also contributed $800 to retirement savings in my new Barclay's Dream account. This came from checking, and left me with just about $1500 to pay ongoing bills, but I think I can make it til a few more pay days bulk up my checking again.

I made the contribution to my traditional IRA on the advice of my healthcare "navigator" because doing so would reduce my 2014 modified adjusted gross income enough to hopefully ensure my income remains low enough so I can indeed qualify for the healthcare subsidy. When I calculated my projected income for 2014, I was right on the subsidy cut-off border (around $46k) and could easily go above or below that by a few thousand. Making that IRA contribution, something I'd be doing anyway (although normally to a Roth) also helps ensure my income falls below $46K.

So thinking along the same vein, I've been waffling about whether I should take on any freelance writing this year. I never make that much, especially working f/t. Typically, it comes to about $5,000 gross and the net is probably around $4,000, so if doing that freelance work jeopardizes my healthcare subsidy ($300 someething a month), I don't think it's worth it.

On the other hand, if my current contract job does indeed end in July as it's supposed to, with no extensions, then I will very much be wanting to do that freelance work. So I don't want to turn away my 2 chief clients now, or make them feel I'm unreliable, if I may need that work later.

It's a little bit of a dilemma. I may do up to $600 worth of work for both clients (they won't issue a 1099 if it's under $600) and after that tell them things are getting very busy with my f/t job and I need to take a break from the freelance, but then remind them the contract job ends in July and I'm available after that.

In July, if I find out the contract job will continue, then even an extra 2 months' income will cause my annual income to increase enough so that I'd lose the subsidy anyway, so then I might as well do the freelance work too. (One thing I'm unsure of is, if the contract job is extended and I report my now higher expected annual income on my state's healthcare website, I know I'll lose the subsidy but would I then also be required to PAY BACK the subsidy I'd gotten thus far? It would seem unfair to require that since it's not like I'm intentionally under-reporting my income, and I had no way of knowing beforehand whether my contract would be extended or not.)

If I find out in July that the contract job will indeed end, then I'll definitely be wanting to do the freelance work for the rest of the year (although you can bet I'll be carefully tracking all income YTD, just to be sure. So either way, I think I'd be able to do the freelance, but only after July.

The reason why I don't think I should do the freelance work from now until July is because I could be cutting it very close, and not doing any freelance until I have a better handle on my contract job status would seem to give me some assurance I wouldn't risk exceeding $46K.

Can't remember the exact monthly amount of the subsidy, but I think it's around $350 a month. That's $4200 a year, which is around what my freelance work usually grosses. So it would hardly seem worth it to do the freelance at all. Since I only have time to do the freelance work on weekends, it would certainly free up a lot of personal time I've sacrificed for a little extra money.

As an added step, knowing I would be using taxable mutual funds to fund my 2014 traditional IRA contribution, I made sure I sold those mutual funds in December (last month), so any cap gains from the sale (which are viewed as income) would be reported on this year's tax return, not next year's.

Sound confusing? It is! All because the uncertain status of my contract job makes planning everything else very difficult.

Feedback welcome!

Homebound

January 3rd, 2014 at 07:50 am

OK, I'm officially home bound today after the overnight storm, which dropped about 5 inches of snow. It's bitter cold outside, 2 degrees. I kept the house at a balmy 64 overnight.

Because I need to be "at my desk," working at home, I can't go out and shovel til around 5:30 pm. I may just leave it til tomorrow, when it will reach a high of 26.

I have a conference call at 1 pm but otherwise am free.

After a long hold and a fair amount of wrangling with 2 reps, I was able to get AT&T to remove a $110 charge for work done by one of their technicians when I complained that I kept losing my Internet connection. I think I had a pretty strong case. I had just switched over to UVerse phone and Internet. I'm already paying for their Internet service with a monthly fee, so why should I pay extra to fix the problem? It had just been installed a month earlier. He said rather than deal with someone else's wiring, his preference would be to run a new line and install a new jack. He didn't tell me it would cost me anything. I didn't tell him to do all that work, that was his decision. All I wanted was for my Internet to work properly.

If you ever want to dispute a fee or charge with AT&T, be aware it's a lot easier to do if the charge is under $100. If it's over $100, they have to pass the call on to someone else and get special permission to waive the fee. It would have been penny wise and pound foolish to lose me as a long-time customer as I know they'll jack up the monthly phone charges in March when the promo is over. If I can't get another promo at that time, I'll be looking into Magic Jack or Ooma. Right now I'm paying $30 for phone (4 hours free monthly talk time) and $15 for Internet. That seems reasonable, and I don't want to pay any more. They send me promos for UVerse TV on a weekly basis,incessantly.

Storm rolling in

January 2nd, 2014 at 03:44 pm

They're predicting blizzard-like conditions with the wind, about 10 inches of snow and very cold weather in the negative numbers, for overnight tonight and through tomorrow.

Let's all say a prayer that Patient Saver won't lose her power, because she has no fireplace to keep the pipes from freezing. Seriously, this and falling trees is what I worry about in a storm.

I went to work today but left early, around 4, to make sure I'd get home safely, There's not much on the ground yet but lots of dire warnings. I have my laptop, so I'll be working from home tomorrow, and thank god the storm is happening on a Friday, because that means I don't have to break my back out there tomorrow night to clear the driveway for work the following day. Now I can take all weekend to do it. Frown

Work has been extremely slow, partly, I'm sure, becus so many people accumulate their PTO and take a long extended holiday at the end of the year. I feel a little better about that, and less nervous about losing the job prematurely, because I recently saw a job posting online for a manager who would manage the process of what I do and manage me.

There is a Bachelor #4 waiting in the wings. We're still in the talking stage but I suspect we will meet soon. He sounds...my god, intelligent. He's exactly my age and he gets brownie points from me because he indicated in his profile he was open to meet women as much as 10 years older than him. 99% of the time, men will be looking to date someone much younger than themselves. I found this to be true when I was in my 20s, 30s, 40s and now in my 50s, I've got grandpas in their 60s who pursue me. I really want someone closer to my own age who would be more likely able to do the things I want to do. He's an attorney, divorced after many years of marriage with 3 kids. More to come.

A nice bank money market deal for 2014

January 1st, 2014 at 06:49 am

To start the New Year off right, I just finished opening up a new online Barclay's Dream money market account. I already have a regular Barclay's money market, which I currently use for three purposes:

1. As a place to transfer money from my checking account when the balance there gets higher than I need (since I earn no interest on checking). Currently a regular Barclay's online money market earns .90%.

2. As my so-called emergency fund. It's basically liquid money. I don't dip into this too frequently, but when I have a big ticket purchase, I transfer money from here back to checking so I don't have to cash out any mutual funds. It's usually something I use for big home improvements, like my new roof.

3. My property taxes are due twice a year, and rather than let the money sit, earning no interest, in my checking account, I transfer $500 a month to my Barclay's account so the money is there when I need to pay the bill in January and July.

Now Barclay's has debuted its new "Dream" money market account (https://www.banking.barclaysus.com/dream-account.html),which gives you the following benefits above and beyond its regular money market:

1. Interest is .95%.
2. BONUS #1: You're supposed to use this account to save money for a specific purpose, whether it's for college, a car, house, retirement or whatever. Every time you make consecutive deposits for 6 months, they give you a 2.5% bonus on the total interest you earned over that time.
3. BONUS #2: Make no withdrawals for 6 consecutive months and earn another 2.5% bonus on the past six months of interest earned.

You can only contribute a maximum of $1,000 a month.

I figure I'm planning on saving anyway, to bulk up my emergency savings, so this will allow me to have a dedicated account for that; the other account will be solely for property taxes, making it easier for me to see where I stand with the segregated funds, plus I'll get a nice little bonus for doing so.