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Archive for January, 2015

All sorts of stuff

January 31st, 2015 at 10:49 am

Weight loss YTD = a bust. Starting weight: 146. Pounds lost year-to-date: 0.

I've been making a concerted effort to exercise more, and recorded nearly 11 hours of walking and snow shoveling this month. Most of my walking is done during my lunch break, which is just a half hour. Obviously not enough.

I finally had my first performance review at the new job. She had nothing bad to say. Afterwards, I just wanted to confirm that I wouldn't be eligible for a pay raise since I've only been perm 6.5 months. So I sent her a quick email, expecting her to confirm that and to my surprise she said no, I would be eligible for a merit pay increase but then she quickly said don't expect too much, they are usually pretty small.

I am used to negotiating pay with my direct manager, but apparently the way it works here is that managers are notified in February of the total pool of money they have, and then I'm guessing they have discretion as to how they want to divvy it up. I won't actually see the pay raise until March (which I don't think is very fair to employees). Because I wasn't expecting anything, I'd be thrilled to get 2%, which i think is about what I can expect.

I'm pretty happy with my new Roku, although there is a lot more TV that you have to pay for than free TV. I'm already paying $8 for Netflix and don't really want to shell out more, but it can be confusing looking at different channels that treat customers so differently. Some, for instance, offer maybe 4 or 5 episodes of a program free, but then once you're "hooked," you have to pay to watch further episodes. CBS News appears to be totally free, both to watch the news and also the various news programs like 48 hours, 60 minutes and so on. So that's a big plus for me. PBS also offers a fair amount of free stuff that I can see, although right now they're offering the current episode of Downton Abbey free, but since I never saw this series, I want to start at Season 1 but can't find it on that channel.

I have yet to find American Idol available anywhere, for pay or for free. And I don't seem able to watch truly local news coming from any of the big CT stations, just NY and Boston.

Despite all that, I've already decided to get a 2nd LED TV with a Roku stick which you can just plug in the back of the TV. I ordered a highly rated 28" Samsung which will become my new bedroom TV. My current bedroom TV has just a 20" diameter, so it will be a step up for me with a bigger screen. The TV that's in the bedroom now I will move down into my kitchen, so I can watch CBS News as I make my dinner, like I used to do a long time ago. There's a little nook in between the upper and lower cabinets where it just fits with a half inch to spare, but I will have to find another place for the microwave and my cookbooks.

In addition to Netflix, CBS News and a few other things you probably never heard of (Breaking Boston and Dickering Down Under), I've been watching a lot of the home shopping channels. I see HSN, my preferred channel, now has a 2nd channel.

Today I'm expecting a delivery from them of some cute little booties (hopefully should fit with a wide size) and a nifty handheld steam cleaner you can use to clean all around the house. I hope it will help me keep a cleaner house as housekeeping has never been something I've really kept up on, though I would love a cleaner home.

I updated my net worth in my profile on the side; although my investments didn't grow much, my home value did, according to Zillow, so I am inching along on the way to a cool $1 million.

Storm downgraded to only a foot of snow

January 27th, 2015 at 08:19 am

Much to my relief, we are not getting the walloping other parts of the Northeast are getting (like Boston and the Cape).

I shoveled about 5 inches of snow this morning, and when it all ends tonight, I'll probably have another 5 or 6 to shovel.There's another pile growing down at driveway bottom where snow plow packs it in. Not fun, but not nearly as calamitous as predicted.

I am working from home today though.

Amazon had a cool offer on their site; buy a $50 gift card for whoever you want (including yourself) and you get a $10 gift card credit. I did it yesterday.

Checking in with snow beginning to fall

January 26th, 2015 at 08:16 am

11:15 a.m.


Not sure if you can tell from this picture, taken from inside, but the snow has begun falling. (The snow already on the lawn is from Saturday.) Note the blacktop of my driveway is still visible; it's just beginning to stick. The road is also largely clear.

The governor has ordered all state roads closed at 9 p.m. tonight and mass transit to end at 8 p.m. They are using words like "historic" to describe this snowfall.

I'll keep you posted with more photos!

I'm ready for the storm

January 26th, 2015 at 05:25 am

I always feel better when I feel a sense of control over events, like the coming nor'easter. Now they're saying 2 to 3 feet!

After Storm Sandy, I actually made a list of steps to do if a power outage looks like a possibility. There are a lot of small things that I could easily forget. So here's what I've done ahead of the storm that's supposed to start around 11 a.m. today:

1. I made the decision to work from home today (and possibly for most of the week). I have my laptop up and running and can do just as much from home as I can at office. I also don't relish driving in snow, which I would be doing if I went in. So, at possible risk of annoying my boss, I've decided to stay home.

2. I have 2 small dinky LED flashlights but am recharging batteries for another flashlight plus my short wave radio.

3. I've filled up a few pitchers with water that would be used for drinking, brushing my teeth or even washing dishes if I lost power for a few days. They say you should have a gallon per person per day, so I will have to scrounge around for more containers to fill.

4. I've turned down the temperature in my freezer more, to make it colder. I haven't adjusted the temp in the fridge becus when I've done that in the past I ruined some salad greens. Honestly, since I've gone vegan, there is not too much in the fridge that would be sacrificed. I'm eating the rest of my salad greens today for lunch and the rest of my perishables, namely almond milk and my workweek lunches for the rest of the week, could be stashed in my cooler, topped off with snow and put on the front stoop.

The freezer has no meats or fish, just frozen veggies and some bean burritos.

5. I've got the phone number for the power company handy should I need to call them to report an outage. Actually, I've got the number memorized.

6. I have my 2 snow shovels outside, 1 at the front porch and 1 down by the garage. If I lose power, rather than let lots of cold air in the house when I go thru the front door, I'll exit out thru the basement into the garage, and that's where the 2nd snow shovel is stationed.

7. Car is safely tucked inside the garage.

8. I didn't really go food shopping this weekend, but i have plenty of canned beans, peanut butter, bread, granola bars and fruit to get by.

9. I am wearing my watch, something I rarely do but it really helps not to have to search for things, possibly in the dark.

10. I'm also prepared to fetch some of my wireless solar garden lights outside to bring inside to the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and my office where I spend most of my time. It's not bright enough to read by but I won't have to grope around with just the flashlights.

11. Gas tank is filled and I have some cash (as well as checks) should credit card things be not working in event of power outage.

12. I've checked weather.com's hourly forecast and can see that the peak winds will begin late tonight, into the overnight and through Tuesday. So tonight before I go to bed, I will crank up the heat to the never-before-experienced 70 degrees in the house. (As I may have mentioned before, I don't have a fireplace.) The theory being, if I lost power, the somewhat higher temps would keep the house warm that much longer. The cats should love it.

13. My cell phone is fully charged.

14. If I do lose power, once I have the driveway shoveled, and if the roads are sort of passable, I could drive the 2 miles to the town center where they have let people camp out in the large corridor in the past to recharge their electronics and use their portable devices. I could conceivably get some work done there, to help avoid having to use a personal or vacation day if I can't otherwise do work. The local Starbucks is a bit closer, maybe a 25-minute walk without snow, but with the amount they're forecasting, I don't think it's doable. I can't think of any other locales nearby that would have power when I didn't. Maybe the library, but they'd probably be closed.

I suppose a generator would make most of these things unnecessary. I worried a bit about the welfare of one of my next door neighbors, a recently widowed elderly woman, but I know that before her husband died, they installed a generator, so she should be fine.

One other thing I'm a little concerned about is the roof over my family room and attached garage. It's a fairly shallow grade and during other storms with wet, heavy snow, we've had problems with roof cave-ins, mostly of old barns. I have no idea how sturdy this roof is; it was built I believe in the 1990s. After one past heavy storm, I hired some guys to shovel snow off the roof but they damaged the roof shingles, probably becus they weren't roofers. I won't do that again, now that I have a roof I just put on 2 years ago. I do have a roof rake; I can't remember if it's long enough to get to that part of the roof without climbing a step ladder, which is a tough proposition if there are several feet of snow on the ground.

If you can think of anything I've missed, please let me know, no matter how little it may seem. I've weathered two storms where I lost power for I believe 3 days one time, and 5 the other, and it was no picnic.

Nor' easter coming

January 25th, 2015 at 03:43 pm

There's a major storm coming, and Connecticut is in the bulls eye. I hadn't been aware this was definitely happening since I've been lolling around this afternoon watching TV with my new Roku, but then I got a robo call from the power company telling me to get ready.

From Patch: The NWS stated a “crippling and potentially historic” blizzard is headed our way late Monday into Tuesday. Snow accumulations of 20-30 inches are expected with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. I'm worried, of course, about losing power.

I'm not sure whether or not to go in to work tomorrow morning. Looks like a 30% chance of snow showers in the morning, which will transition into 100% chance by around 1 p.m. I'd rather not drive in the snow if I don't have to, but I could be home both Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

I just talked to my friend Ron, who provided reassurance and told me frozen pipes are nothing to worry about because outdoor temps won't get down below, well, 12 degrees at night, around 20 daytime.

He reminded me that if I really thought frozen pipes were imminent, I could shut off the main water valve coming into the house. Then, even if my pipes froze and then burst when they dethawed, I would only have a small flood, not an unending one. Frown I guess that's some reassurance.

Well, anyway, I do hope I don't lose power. Thank God I brought the laptop home from work on Friday. I made it a rule that, regardless of the weather forecast, that I would ALWAYS take the laptop home on a Friday night, because a lot can change with the weather in 2 days, and this is a pretty good example of that.

Another bad thing about losing power is that if i lose it for the bulk of the day, I might have to use a vacation day for it since I can't work without the laptop. Even if it's not my fault.

On the bright side, I did buy a handheld Polti steam cleaner on HSN for $60. It has all these attachments you can use to clean all sorts of stuff. Since I'm a lousy housekeeper, this could make the job much easier. Smile

Roku rocks

January 24th, 2015 at 11:48 am

OMG. I hooked up the Roku 1 all by myself and got it all working. AMAZING.

I am not a tech geek.

I didn't even need the wireless router I bought since I already have DSL with AT&T. So I can return that and get my $20 back.

I started out trying to get the router up and running but when I plugged the Ethernet cable into the AT&T modem (none available on my computer tower), I noticed I lost my Internet connection on my desktop, and the router was not correctly working anyway. (I think becus I needed a 2nd Ethernet wire and i tried using a regular phone wire, which sort of plugged into the slot but didn't "click."

I called my friend who wasn't much help long distance and we got 5 inches of snow today, so I knew I was more or less on my own.

So after unplugging the wireless router and making sure my computer network connection was again running, I decided to just try hooking up the Roku directly into to the TV. (I had been under the impression I needed to buy a new wireless router becus that's what they said I needed on the Roku website, but I guess they were assuming I was starting from scratch, without any pre-existing DSL.)

Luckily, the Roku, once plugged into the TV, searched and found my AT&T connection and from there it was a cinch. I just had to register on Roku and type in my modem password and then set up my channels.

I'm so happy! All I wanted was to be able to watch Netflix on my TV (not the computer) in my bedroom, but now I've gotten so much more with a bunch of apps and many free videos. If I want to watch a paid movie or show, it looks like it's $1, so no biggie.

Welcome to the 21st century, Patient Saver! As always, I'm a little late to the table. Smile

I shoveled about one-third of my driveway. It took me about 40 minutes. I'll do the rest maybe later today or tomorrow. And now that I've done 3 loads of laundry and vacuumed and changed the bedsheets, I may just pamper myself by watching some free daytime TV, something I never do!

I've added a bunch of apps to "My Channels" but what I'd really like to find is some live news. I have to check out the channels. I know I have HSN and CBS and Fox and I think ABC but I'm not sure if it's just a few shows or actual news. I guess it wouldn't be local news but even national would be ok.

Its a snow-covered world out there

January 24th, 2015 at 05:53 am

Weather has once again demanded that I reorder my weekend plans.



Here's the view looking out my office window to the front yard.

And here's the view of my driveway:


The white strip to the left of that smaller evergreen is the driveway. You can see the top of a telephone pole to the right of the tree.

I hope I can get at least a few of my running around errands done tomorrow, but first I'll have to shovel the driveway. Snow won't end til tonight, they say.

In the meantime, I need to do my laundry, change the bedsheets and vacuum. And since my Roku 1 and wireless router were delivered, I REALLY hope I can hook up my TV to the Roku and wireless so I can watch Netflix on the TV in my bedroom instead of my computer here in my office.

I had researched getting a new TV with HDMI cable capability or even a smart TV, but the Samsung TV I liked was $280, and so I figured I might be able to get by just spending about $75 on the Roku 1 (designed for people with older TVs with the older "composite" wires of red, yellow and green plugs). The TV I'm using is ONLY 7 years old and I always liked the picture. I only had to pay about $30 for the 2 items because I redeemed my Discover card points at Amazon. Very cool.

Maybe someday I'll catch up on all technology has to offer, but for now, this could be the ticket.


Oops. Someone turned away just as I snapped his photo. Smile

I've been thinking of little day trips I'd like to make in the coming months. One is to the Marsh Botanic Gardens, which is really a group of 5 or 6 greenhouses at Yale. They give little tours there, and I always like to visit greenhouses or other botanic gardens in the dead of winter. It's so uplifting.

Also on my calendar is the annual cacti and succulent sale put on by a club in my area. That's not til April, but I think this year I'd really like to add to my collection with some interesting plants. That being said, my aloe and some other succulents are not looking so hot these days; they are so sun-starved. They're crowded in my upstairs bathroom which, with its south and westward-facing windows, is the sunniest room in the house.

Finally, I'd like to visit HORSE of Ct, a group nearby that rehabilitates abused or injured horses. (http://www.horseofct.org/) They often have open houses and I'd like to visit someday soon.

I have not yet been able to donate food to the town animal shelter, as I completely forgot about it when picking up a case of cat food at BJs, and once I break down the box and empty all the cans out, it's no longer convenient to transport. But it's top of mind now so next time, I will pick up an extra case.

I see that Citi is now providing FICO credit scores to card holders. Mine is 809. I've had that card since 2012 but now it will be harder to give it up. I AM anxious to unload my Susan B. Komen BOA card, just as soon as I can earn the minimum $25 to redeem points. Right now I'm at about $23 in points so maybe just one more payment cycle.

Dreary rainy day that lends itself to thinking

January 18th, 2015 at 01:59 pm

Ahh, retirement....It will be strange to arrive at some day in the not-too-distant future when I am no longer earning an income, but spending down savings to live on.

After spending a lifetime saving/earning/saving, my fear is that I'll be overly frugal like my mother is and not really enjoy my life as I could.

I try to imagine how it will feel to be officially, fully retired. How will it feel to have the knowledge that, aside from Social Security, I have no source of income? How will it feel to know that whatever pot of money I have to live on is all I'll have for the rest of my life to support my standard of living, and that I may never earn income again?
It will feel like the die is cast and there is no changing that.

Of course there is p/t work, but p/t work is often low-paid work and might not make a material difference in one's standard of living.

Will I feel comfortable making discretionary spending purchases if I am no longer earning an income?

For instance, I have really wanted to get a new couch for a long time. I have a 19-year old couch I bought used, believe it or not, and while it's in okay shape, the colors are kind of bright and hard to match things too.

I've been putting off the purchase because, well, I still have my 2 cats, and I'd freak if they got in the habit of scratching it. They don't really scratch the current couch now, but if they happen to jump on it, they do dig their claws into it.

So I'd rather defer the couch purchase for as long as possible, because each passing year is that much less scratching.

I have already made up my mind that once these cats go, I will not be getting more animals. (Of course, that's what I said when Sitka died 5 years ago but I was so miserable that 3 days later, I was at the cat shelter...it was the only way I knew I could console myself.)

But I've gotten tired of lugging home cases of canned cat food, cleaning out messy/smelly litter boxes and then lugging heavy bags of dirty cat litter to the transfer station. Not to mention the constant hair all over my clothes and the house, and my inability to have nice drapes, rugs, furniture, etc. And let's see, last year I spent $900 on the cats, a not inconsiderable expense.

I absolutely love my cats but I really feel my sense of obligation toward them ties me down and prevents me from being more social and doing other things. This is a really terrible thing to say. I haven't traveled much in the past 19 years because I always worry about them being on their own. Luther is often bored silly as it is, and then he gets destructive.

So, back to the couch....while I feel very comfortable buying a possibly $1,000 couch now because I'm working and making what I consider good money, I wonder if I still would want to spend such a large wad of cash once I am "retired?"

Hmm. I don't know. It's just a different mental outlook.

Today is a dreary, rainy day. It was icy this morning and I heard there were lots of accidents on the roads. I finally ventured out around 3 to the local supermarket as I've decided on 3 recipes to try out tonight and tomorrow for my workweek lunches. Tonight I'll be making a pesto pizza with leeks and mushrooms and tomorrow it's a sweet potato casserole and something else.

The only other things I'm doing tomorrow, which I have off due to MLK Day, is

1. Getting my physical results at the doctor's (how low is my cholesterol now that I've gone vegan?)

2. I want to use up a movie gift card and see The Imitation Game at a matinee

3. Go for a long walk, hopefully

4. Wash the salt off my car.

5. Dream of spring.



My incredible shrinking paycheck

January 16th, 2015 at 02:32 pm

Last year I was funding a traditional 401k from my paycheck. Today I got my first paycheck after having switched from funding the (pre-tax) traditional 401k to an (after tax) Roth 401k.

My net bi-weekly paycheck has remained almost exactly the same, at about $1204! I thought I would net much more because I reduced the overall contribution from 25% to 22.5%. Yet I'm paying an extra $350 in taxes each paycheck just because I'm having to pay taxes upfront on the Roth 401k contributions..

I was paying just $476 in taxes per paycheck with the traditional 401k contributions as opposed to $825 now!

Still, I'll be netting $2709 a month in pay and with my expenses sometimes as low as $2,000, I should have sufficient cushion.

I wanted to put more money into a Roth account as I am quite top-heavy now with much more $ in traditional IRAs, and after having read a number of articles about withdrawal strategies that minimize taxes, I know I need more money in Roth accounts to do that.

Say you know you'll need to withdrawal a certain amount a year for living expenses in retirement, like $40,000. By being aware of tax bracket cut-offs, you could make sure you stay completely in a lower tax bracket by simply withdrawing whatever excess you need over the lower tax bracket limit from your Roth account. (In this case, the 15% tax bracket peaks at $37,450, so you'd withdraw the overage of $40,000, or $2,550, from your Roth.) So by withdrawing a combination of both traditional and Roth IRA/401k monies, you can minimize your taxes; over the years, it could become a significant amount. Of course, it also depends on where your income needs fall in the bracket and how much you need to live on. I mean, the 25% tax bracket goes from $37,451 all the way to $90,750. For me, knowing my annual income needs are right around $40,000, perhaps up to $45,000 if I travel, I would want to have some Roth money to withdraw to avoid bumping myself into a higher tax bracket on anything over $37,450.

Now I suppose MonkeyMama or Dido will tell you you'd be taxed at the 15% bracket up to $37,450 and only the $2,550 would be taxed at the higher 25% bracket. But if my income needs were higher, say $45,000, then we're talking paying 15% taxes instead of 25% on $7,550. A little extra attention to details would be worth it to me.

Around the holidays I bought myself a very nice mug from Stash Tea. I'm a big tea drinker so my mugs are important to me. Smile This one had a rabbit in a woodland on the outside, and the image was repeated in miniature on the inside.



Well, I just don't know what happened to this mug. I've looked absolutely everywhere for it. At one point I had brought this mug in to the office and kept it there as my office mug. Now it's possible I left it on the desk before I locked up my drawer at the end of the work day; it's where I usually store personal possessions. So while I think it's unlikely it was stolen (becus I've left out so many other more valuable things) it's the only conclusion I can come up with, simply becus i can't find this mug anywhere.

I spent more time thinking about it than probably was worth it, but since i got out of work at 3 today, I had to scoot over to a gift shop in town where I had seen the same mug. I was hoping they might be having an after-Xmas sale and I could just buy it again. Turns out the mug wasn't on sale, but i bought it anywhere, plus the matching mug with a fox on it. (I like woodland animals I see in my own backyard.)

Although they weren't cheap, they cost about the same as they would have cost on the Stash Tea website, after you factor in shipping. So I got 2 mugs I really like. Murphy's Law being what it is, I will probably find the original bunny mug, but maybe not. Maybe someone took a liking to it and made off with it. I hope that's not the case and i sure would like to know one way or the other. I need closure. Smile

I was delighted to fill up my oil tank today to the tune of $2.15 a gallon for 166 gallons. I haven't paid less than that since March 2009. I charged it on my new AARP card, easily hitting the $500 spend target (I only had $200 more to go), thereby earning the $100 credit.

Happy Friday!!!!!!

It's the almost weekend

January 15th, 2015 at 05:59 pm

I watched an interesting Netflix documentary tonight called Living on one Dollar. It follows 4 college buddies and economics majors at Claremont McKenna College who travel to Guatemala to live in rural poverty in a small village for 2 months on just $1 a day, which is what the average Guatemalan lives on. Wow, that was a long sentence.

I was so inspired by this simple film that I made a donation at their website, livingononedollar.org. Thanks to underwriting by Whole Foods Market, 100% of donations go to help Guatemalans through either education or microfinancing, which they talked about a lot in the film.

I'm happy that tomorrow is casual Friday, it's Friday, it's payday and I don't work on Monday. Smile

One of my workmates was sick all through Christmas and still sounded sick last week, in her voice. She was debating whether or not to keep her follow-up doc appt and I urged her to do so. I'm glad she did, because it turns out she has walking pneumonia. She is one of those people who feels an exaggerated sense of responsibility to work late hours and do everything, be everything, never slowing down. I hope she gets well soon.

I've been extremely busy at work this week with 2 large projects and 3 different people coming at me with stuff I need to write. I was feeling a lot of anxiety becus at one point i felt i didn't know what was going on, didn't feel on top of things as i usually do, and was afraid my boss was going to say something to me because I failed to attend an 8:30 a.m. conference call. Truth be told, I had worked from home the day before due to bad weather, and I totally forgot about the call the next morning. My usual hours are 9 to 5:30 p.m ., so I would have needed to get to work earlier to make that call.

My boss never mentioned it, and she was on the call. I'm not sure why but I'm relieved. It's possible it's because she's so extremely busy herself. Or maybe she didn't feel it was that important. Or maybe she didn't expect me to attend a call outside my normal work hours, though I've done that any number of times before. Maybe she will bring it up at my first performance review at this job January 27. Makes me nervous just thinking about it.

Scary thing happened to my friend Michael, the one I went out to dinner with last weekend. He finally got around to filing his tax return for last year (he had an extension) and his tax preparer informed him that someone else already filed a tax return in his name. Tax fraud! Michael vaguely remembers giving out his SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER to someone on the phone who identified himself as a jobs recruiter, as Michael is job hunting. He didn't realize he should NEVER EVER give that out unless he knows who he's talking to and there's a darn good reason for doing so.

He's set up with credit monitoring service now, but that's like closing the barn door after the horse is let out. Makes me worry about ID theft myself. It happens so often.

Lost: 1 pound

January 14th, 2015 at 05:12 pm

Umm, after 2 weeks, I've lost 1 pound on my weight loss plan. I guess by now I'd be kicked off Biggest Losers.

I didn't take any giant steps but did a series of very small steps that could perhaps said to be the reason why I lost 1 pound. Or, it could be totally random and gained back next time I step on the scale.

I've tried to not eat 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate at lunchtime every day. I also have been trying to walk more frequently at lunchtime, even in the cold. Also, I've avoided going to the office cafe at the tail end of the work week when I run out my homemade lunches; I am sure those lunches are chock full of fat and calories.

I've noticed lately that Luther is especially bored at home alone. When he ignored the string I tossed in front of him and watched the scrunched up paper ball but did not fetch it, I knew I had to do something. This time of year they cannot go into the sunroom and catch a breeze, hear the birds sing or see local wildlife up close and personal. There is really nothing to do except eat, sleep, poop and fight with each other. So I spent $50 on the Cat Scratcher Lounge by Pet Fusion. It looks like this:



It had been on my Amazon wish list for about a year, but I couldn't bring myself to spend the money on it. Finally, I did.

It's all corrugated cardboard and I was intrigued by the many rave reviews. I poured some catnip on and inside it as an enticement, and while they indulged in the catnip for about 15 minutes, I can't say it was the cat lounge that drew their attention. Luther had just as much fun with the long box the cat lounge came in after I opened up both ends so he could crawl through it like a tunnel.

We'll give it more time, and a few more scratching lessons to give them the idea. Waldo is very attached to the vertical scratch post downstairs.

I had a nice dinner with my friend Michael last weekend. I broke my vegan diet to have some chicken there, and I also had a 2nd meal of it as leftovers I brought home. I decided to treat him since his contract job ended, so the bill was $60.

Frustrating day, wine coming soon

January 10th, 2015 at 01:37 pm

I got out the door this morning fairly "bright and early" for me, around 9 a.m., in order to attend a 9:30 a.m. Alzheimer's support group. It's been something I've been wanting to do for a long time now, but somehow I come up with reasons not to go. There are plenty of them on weekday nights, when getting me to go out after work is like getting a flea to dance on the head of a pin. This was a rare support group that meets on a Saturday. Or so I thought.

I had a general idea of where it was, across from the hospital, but then I couldn't find it; luckily I had my cell phone with me and their phone number and I finally found it, although the guy who answered the phone there does NOT know his street names.

I walked in, only to learn there was no support group. No one could really tell me anything except that there was no support group that day.

(When I got home later I found the online listing, on the state of CT website, and emailed it to Maplewoods so that somebody might take some initiative to get the wrong listing down. I also discovered by calling another support group that the 2nd group also no longer meets. Gee, does anyone care whether their listings are accurate? I fired off an email to the state of CT as well.)

From there I decided to visit an Asian food market in search of reasonably priced Lycium berries, known as goji berries in higher priced American stores. It was in a part of town I don't usually go into. Although the hours were clearly posted on the door and they should have been open, they were closed. Sigh.

I managed to fill up the gas tank and hit Trader Joe's before the usual Saturday crowd arrived. After that, I saw lots of big prominent signs advertising a pottery sale, so I took a little detour to track that down; the signs led me to a pottery studio. Guess what? They too were closed. So annoying! Does no one care???

I called the studio also when I got home to ask why no one was there and she said "oh, the sale was for the month of December...and the 1st week of January." It almost sounded liked she added "the 1st week of January" so that it wouldn't sound so bad that she left the signs up. There's really no excuse for that. Very inconsiderate if you ask me.

I'm meeting my friend Michael for dinner tonight at a very good restaurant here in town. We've been friends since around 2007, maybe, but rarely see each other because both of us are always working or running around doing other things, and he lives about 40 minutes away. Now his contract job has ended so he has the time. Perhaps not the money, so I may treat him to dinner. And that's where my glass of wine is comes in...

He is a very unfrugal person and in fact, to look at his financial health is very sad to me. Divorced with 3 kids and older than me, he still rents a house in a very expensive town and I notice when he buys himself stuff, it's always top of the line. I don't see how he will ever be able to retire. He helps his grown kids out a lot when he should be taking care of himself.

My dad got mad at me for mailing him a pair of long johns from Macy's after he was telling me how his legs are always cold. He must've told me not to do it again 3 times. They only cost $10 for gosh sakes. Some people just don't understand that it makes you feel good to help other people sometimes.

Am hoping tomorrow will be a more relaxing day. I hope to see "Wild" at a matinee. (I read the book.)

Finding a charity I can call my own

January 7th, 2015 at 02:13 pm

When I was much younger and making about the same money as I am now, I felt that I had so much $$ I didn't know what to do with it. Seriously. Of course I was saving a lot, but I also started donating $100 a week for a while to my favorite charities, rotating among wildlife organizations, the Nature Conservancy, Bat Conservation International and local animal shelters.

My job history has been somewhat erratic. I'm certainly not one of those people who works 20 years at one place. The jobs have come and the jobs have gone.

Now I'm back to making what for me is good money, though strangely, I don't feel that I'm swimming in money as I did in my 30s. And that's even without having the mortgage anymore. Maybe it's because I've experienced several layoffs and some very long periods of un- or under-employment that's served as kind of a warning that the money can go away very quickly. Also, I think I have more experience understanding how incredibly expensive even "simple" home repairs/maintenance/remodeling can be.

Still, I am wanting to give back in a way that is meaningful for me and I am very loyal to my town, even more so since 12/14/12. I noticed in the paper there was a writeup about how our brand new municipal animal shelter was looking for donations of food, towels and toys. I was surprised that a town-funded shelter would be in need of such things, so I called them just now and they told me the town takes care of the essentials, but they don't consider toys essential and they go through towels quickly.

So while I cannot adopt any more animals, I think I will adopt my local shelter. When I go to Wal Mart for cat food (which seems like something I'm doing constantly, regardless of how many cases I buy at one time), I'll start picking up an extra case for the shelter, and I know I have some extra old towels I can donate as well. It's a start.

Actually, this idea morphed in my head because while the new shelter was finished well over a year ago, i have yet to get down there and check it out, something I've been wanting to do. Having some donations to drop off give me the perfect excuse to show up!

I got an email from the organic farm where I was a CSA member last season. They were telling people they could sign up for next year (I won't) and invited feedback, so I wrote a fairly lengthy and detailed note about why I wouldn't be joining the CSA again but I also talked about the many wonderful things about it.

The main reason I'm not doing it again is becus we couldn't pick up the food until 1 pm Sunday afternoons. That left me with the very tail end of the weekend to decide what recipes to use (based on what I got) and then run out and get missing ingredients, and then try to cook up as much as possible on that one afternoon because I have neither the time nor energy to be doing much cooking during the work week.

I really did wrap my entire weekend plans around the Sunday afternoon farm pick-up.

I also mentioned being disappointed that after they said they hoped to provide a dozen eggs every other week, we wound up getting eggs just ONE time. Even worse, when I went to browse their little store, I saw they had eggs in there. I'm sure they just wound up with too few eggs and didn't have enough to go around for the CSA members, but in my mind, since CSA members are paying up front for an entire season, they should be given preferential treatment over those who just come in at will and buy from their store.

But I also said how incredible their produce was and how it really felt like Christmas morning each Sunday when I made my little trip to the farm, wondering what I'd be getting that week. And how they are one of the top 10 best things about my town.

The farmer's wife wrote back a very nice note. She said I gave her a lot to think about and was apologetic about the eggs. She said she wasn't going to promise any eggs this season, and then if people wound up getting some, it would just be a pleasant surprise. I wanted to explain to her that while that's fine, last summer what she should have done was offer some sort of explanation to customers (which they didn't) becus I'm sure there were others besides me who wondered about the eggs and then saw them in the store. It just made things a little worse. But I didn't want to press the point so I just decided to drop it.

Down to -1 Tonight

January 7th, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Brr...temps falling rapidly. With the wind chill, it will feel like -18 at midnight.

I hope my car starts tomorrow morning.

I worked at home today after getting my annual physical this morning. I'll have to go back in a few weeks when they get the bloodwork results on my next day off, Martin Luther King Day. I am curious how my numbers will look after eating largely vegan for the past 6 months or so. I'm hoping my cholesterol is way down from my usual 180 or so.

One Kings Lane very efficiently credited my BankAmericard for the $60, on account of the shattered Foo dog I received. The other foo dog (it was a pair) it just fine, so I think I will just stick with that. I was already having buyer's remorse after ordering those things anyway, so very happy to have the $60 back in my pocket. It was one of those what was i thinking moments.

I also got my first quarterly $25 credit on the BOA Better Balance Rewards card, which credits you $25 EVERY quarter, as long as you charge something every month. So yeah, it's $100 a year, and every year after that....so i will never give up this card, as long as I continue to get those rewards. After 10 years, I would have earned $1,000 from doing what I do anyway...charge most of my expenses. A real no-brainer.

I also need to get crackin' on my new AARP Chase card to earn $100 back on it after charging $500.

In between work, I squeezed in a dump run and vacuuming.

I have lost no weight on my weight loss plan, 7 days after starting. The dead of winter is a really tough time to diet. Not making excuses. I have been exercising, but not any more than I usually do, and I can't say I've really cut back on portions. Sometimes at night I'm still hungry after dinner, so I'll have an apple, but then I'll still be hungry after that, and I'll have something like dark chocolate-covered dried cranberries. Too much sugar.

It's the small things that make one happy

January 6th, 2015 at 04:42 pm

I continue to derive simple satisfaction from seeing the inside of some kitchen cabinets after I tidied them up.


All I had to do, really, was get rid of about 5 or so old coffee mugs I never use.


These are some/most of my glasses.


Ahem...but then we have this monstrosity...my refrigerator! Badly in need of an intervention but I always put off cleaning it because I would waste so much energy my keeping the door open and cleaning it. Frown

I was talking to my dad last weekend and he was complaining that his legs are always cold. He's a diabetic. I was going to buy him an electric blanket until I read all the warnings about diabetics using them and getting burned. They are not advised for diabetic use. So I settled on a pair of long johns on sale at Macy's and had them shipped directly to him. It's only Tuesday and he already got them. He called tonight to thank me and told me not to do that again. Smile And he said he already uses an electric blanket. I told him about the warnings.

Tomorrow I'm getting my annual physical. Not only is it free under Obamacare, but I will actually get paid $50 for getting it via the health and wellness incentive benefits offered by my employer and Cigna. Plus I will work at home tomorrow to make it easier to get the physical, so a win/win/win all the way around.

I walked 30 minutes on my lunch half hour for exercise today; it was cold but I'm glad I did it.

Slurpy Sunday

January 4th, 2015 at 11:10 am

Yesterday we got an inch of a "wintry mix," meaning a very wet snowfall.

Yet today is very mild, well into the 40s, and this is to be followed very soon by the icy cold blast now covering the rest of the country. So I KNEW I had to get out and walk today as it will be the warmest day for the rest of the week.

I should have worn some boots, but was too lazy, so I slopped through this for most of the 35-minute walk:



Evidently, I'm not the only one walking today.


A bend of the path.


This is our municipal center, which I pass by after getting off the walking trail on the way back to the car.




In other doings, I returned my neighbors' bread machine and regained some more space in the kitchen cabinets.

I also made another batch of granola, which should keep me munching for 2 weeks, and I made a berry cobbler so I could use up the rest of the fresh cranberries I bought around Christmastime. I also used up a bunch of frozen organic berries I got from BJs. The cobbler/crisp came out really well; it's the same recipe I use for making apple crisps, except that I cut the cooking time in half since berries don't need an hour to soften as the apple slices do.

I started a big project taking all my tried and true recipes which are now handwritten on little 3 x 5 index cards and kept in a small kids' lunchbox, and typing them up on 8.5 x 11 paper and putting them in plastic sleeve protectors in a 3-ring binder. Those little index cards are just too tiny to read, let alone squeeze in all the directions.




Exercise

January 3rd, 2015 at 05:28 pm

A wintry day out there, so had to settle for 18 trips up and down the stairs, indoors. Hey, if I didn't plan on documenting it here and being accountable to YOU, I wouldn't have done it.

Also, watching Biggest Loser on Hulu helps to motivate me.

A good day for cleaning

January 3rd, 2015 at 10:48 am

In the interest of full disclosure, housekeeping is not my thing. I love having a neat and tidy house, but cleaning up around here is not often top priority, and so I do a somewhat "slap dash," cursory job of cleaning up.

We're due to have a "wintry mix" arriving here around 3 pm today, and oh wow, it's already started snowing.

I had been wanting to go to the Downton Abby Tea at the library today, but it was just a popular event it's completely filled up. I KNEW I should have signed up for it (it's free) but I often don't like to "commit" myself, and this is what happens. Sigh.

But anyway, somehow this morning I got involved in cleaning out certain kitchen cabinets. I think it started as I was putting away some Christmas decorations. Also, becus I bought that really very nice set of new dishes for $23, I decided to donate to Good Will my set of blue dishes that I think I got from HSN maybe 6 or 7 years ago. I packed up all the dishes in a box along with 5 or 6 coffee mugs I don't like or need, and I also decided to offer back to my neighbor a used bread machine she'd given me a year or so ago.

So doing all this I rearranged stuff in my kitchen cabinets and created quite a bit more space.

I was debating whether to keep some of the stuff for a tag sale next year, but decided against it. Things like dishes and mugs don't sell that well and it's SO much work for negligible $100 or so profit.

Today FedEx delivered something I ordered from One Kings Lane before the holiday. It was a set of 2 turquoise ceramic "foo dogs," in the style of ancient Chinese foo dogs that guarded the palace gates or whatever. I like Asian stuff and the color would be great in my family room, which i'm redoing in gray, turquoise, silver and white. The foo dogs are a good 12 inches high.

I noticed the delivery guy was in and out of my driveway very quickly. Perhaps the tinkle of broken ceramic when I picked up the box was a clue why he high-tailed it out of here. And yes, while the box inside a larger box appeared well packaged with air pacs on the sides, there was no cushioning above it, and sure enough, one of the foo dogs was completely shattered, too much so to glue together.



Fortunately, altho One Kings Lane prominently states all over its website All Sales Final, NO Refunds, the rep quickly told me the full refund would be charged back to my credit card. She didn't require the return of the broken piece or the pix I'd taken, so I was very happy with that since I still get to keep the one foo dog.

The good & the bad

January 2nd, 2015 at 04:07 pm

The bad news: I had pasta with pesto sauce for dinner.
The good news: I did 13 flights of stairs just now, in addition to what I did earlier today.

It's just too cold again today, with a high of 32. For many years, I didn't mind going out to exercise in winter if I was properly bundled up. Now, I'm not even sure that would do it. I'm just disliking the cold more and more.

My father, who is diabetic, is complaining of very cold legs. I was going to buy him a heating blanket or pad, but i've been reading about how that's not a good idea for diabetics because they have no sensation of heat and could be burned.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experience for this?

Happy Friday

January 2nd, 2015 at 08:55 am

This a.m.'s weigh in: 145.5

Walked up and down the stairs 12 times, enough to get the heart pounding. Will plan on doing more later in the day.

Working from home today. Had a conversation with my neighbor. She gave me a used bread machine that her son didn't want, about a year ago, and i tried making bread in it once but it came out overdone and I haven't felt the desire to try it again, so I offered it back to her.

It takes up a lot of space in my cabinets and I think given my limited time, I'd rather have the cabinet space back again.

January 1

January 1st, 2015 at 01:34 pm

Wow, I spent over $200 at BJs today. I got some very nice sturdy metal shelves ($25) that were a snap to put together (literally). And you can buy additional sets to snap onto these, in various configurations. I may buy another set.

I want to use them for excess food storage. I hoped to fit the shelves in a little nook halfway down the stairs leading to the basement, where I now store my cooler, but alas, the shelves were too high to fit there, and they were bumping into the underneath of the stairs that go to my 2nd level.

So for now, I stuck the shelves in the only closet I have on the 1st floor, the coat closet.



Probably not ideal, but the basement itself is, well, pretty dusty and dirty, and the cats' litter boxes are down there.

(Some day, I would LOVE to clean that basement from top to bottom, but with the dusty litter boxes, it's sort of a lost cause. I know they sell those litter boxes with the cover on it, which does contain a lot of the dust, but it also concentrates the odor. Maybe I can investigate better litter boxes with higher sides to contain the mess.

If I had a separate table to put the shelves on, it could work, and my dehumidifier does a good job of keeping the basement dry all summer. But right now all I've got is the old workbench which is filled with old paints and work tools.

I do like to keep my onions, garlic and potatoes down there as it is cooler and dark, and you're not supposed to refrigerate those.

I also bought a set of pretty dishes dirt cheap at BJs for $23 (on sale). It's a 20-piece set that serves 4. What I like about the set is that it has 2 different sized plates, and 2 different sized bowls. And NO mugs, which I don't need.

They are white with a nice ribbed pattern reminiscent of the Jadeite I and my grandmother had years ago.

I noticed a few new organic things while I was there, including organic ketchup and some hard-to-find organic apple cider, which I scooped up.

So, the cupboards are full. Always a comforting feeling. I filled up the gas tank too, while I was down that way, although it only took $5 or so, and dropped off another bags of odds and ends at Good Will.

I TRIED to go for a walk afterwards, but even with my mittens, scarf and hat, I was freezing and turned around to come back home. It's in the high 20s, some of the coldest weather we've had this season.

In place of walking outside, I will go up and down the stairs inside my home as many times as I can. (I've done this before.) I will go and do it now.

I did 18 trips up and down (counting each way as 1). There are 12 steps. I was winded after 12. I should keep doing this and build up my stamina. How many can you do, fellow dieters? Establish your baseline and then see if you can do better incrementally.

Is losing weight harder than saving money?

January 1st, 2015 at 05:43 am



In answer to my own question, yes, most definitely. For me, losing weight is much, much harder than saving money.

So here's the ugly truth. I weighed myself this morning to set a starting point for my weight loss goal for 2015. It was worse than I thought.

Starting weight: 146 lbs.
Target weight: 130 lbs.
Weight loss goal: 16 lbs
Deadline: March 31, 2015

I guess it's been a FEW weeks since I last weighed myself. Geez. Could holiday goodies add an extra 6 lbs??

Any middle-aged woman out there will tell you that losing weight is very, very hard. There's something about approaching menopause that keeps the pounds sticking to you like butter.

Still, I should be able to lose 1.3 lbs. a week. If they can lose 10 lbs a week on The Biggest Loser, surely I can do this!

Happy New Year, everyone!