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Archive for May, 2016

Sunday doings

May 30th, 2016 at 07:04 am

Yesterday was a super warm and muggy day following on the heels of same the day before. However, there was a small breeze in the afternoon and I found it so comfortable in the shade of my new side patio that I brought the book club book out and did something I rarely do during the daytime, with a small bowl of green grapes and the rhododendrons above me in bloom.



I also bought a few more pots for the Stairway to Heaven and filled them with impatiens, which will soon be overflowing for the resident hummingbird population.

I also did some yard work, weeding, and tidying up yesterday and I see that the onions I planted a week or so ago are sending up thin shoots.

I also had fun with my new toy, a Black & Decker blower, very lightweight to carry, that makes cleaning off all the leaves/spent flowers that fall onto the driveway from overhanging shrubs a BREEZE to clean up.

This particular chore would probably take me at least a half hour to sweep up the old-fashioned way; now it's literally a 5-minute job.

On Friday evening I drove over to friend R.'s condo and we hung out and talked with his dog. I tried to help him print out some stuff from Aviation Week which he wants to use for the helicopter museum he's been involved with for years. I had more luck when I tried to do it at home. On the way home from his place around 8 p.m. I came upon a massive snapping turtle lumbering across the road. The females risk life and limb to cross roads at this time of year to lay their eggs. I pulled over to the side of the road to ensure no one hit it, but the other drivers seemed very considerate and willing to wait, so I got back in the car. What I SHOULD have done is snap a photo but forgot I had the camera with me.

I also spent more time on the family tree research and this time discovered 2 sisters of my paternal great grandfather on my grandmother's side.

Also found more addresses I can check out in person, where my maternal great grandfather lived in Garfield, NJ, for instance. Occupations like "wire tester," "caster" and "mill worker" abound, reflecting the industrial revolution of their time.

I also now have the maiden name of my great great grandmother, another Irish name, as well as the name of my great great grandfather. They all appeared to have remained in one county of Northern Ireland until they emigrated to the US, which makes it easy to spot other connections to the tree.

The June meeting of my town's genealogy club, the final meeting of the season, is, with perfect timing, to focus on how to use the "new" ancestry.com. Perfect!! I have fumbled my way around with it but I am sure there will be a thing or two I can learn from this meeting, so I can't wait!

I've continued to implement the recommendations of the T. Rowe Price CFP. It really has been fine-tuning, nothing major. I somewhat diversified my small cap allocation to now be 9% in both small and mid cap stock. I also diversified my largely investment grade bond allocation to include a small, 3% allocation to high yield and 6% to international bonds. I still have 21% of my total bond allocation in investment grade bonds.

My short-term/cash allocation remains at 10% while I got rid of the REIT (a sector fund) and ratcheted up my international stock allocation from 15% to 18%.

Family research is so exciting

May 27th, 2016 at 06:32 pm

Last night I spent a few hours fleshing out what I knew about my great grandfather and his 8 kids. All the kids except my grandmother were born in the US; she was born in Ireland. Hers was not a happy childhood, due in large part to her father.

I'm sure getting away from her father and starting a new life with her husband in New Jersey must have seemed very appealing to my grandmother. The rest of the family and all her siblings remained in the Philly area where they were born.

Probably one of the biggest successes of my few hours of research was finally learning where in Ireland my great grandparents were from. They came from a small hamlet called Derrytrasna in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Today it has just 250 people residing there and it's largely agricultural from what I can tell.

My other big find was the maiden name of my great grandmother, which opens up a lot of further research using that family name.

It was quite thrilling to be able to view and then print out copies of the original World War II draft registration card of my great grandfather, for instance, which revealed that the patriarch feared by the entire family, who was often drunk, was just 5'4" tall and weighed 154 pounds. He had blue eyes and dark hair with a "ruddy" complexion. Who would have thought you could capture information related to physical appearance by researching the family tree?

I relied on 3 primary sources to get myself started on ancestry.com; 1st, the "mini" family tree I wrote as a term paper for a college course. I relied on my letters to grandparents as a source of information for this project. I also got a great deal of info from a single letter I received back from my great cousin Peter in Reichenbach, Germany. He passed away a few years ago which I deeply regret; i remember him telling me he was the last surviving H....in Germany.
My 3rd and final source was my dad, who provided little details as far as the names of my grandparents' siblings, a detail I hadn't captured prior to this though I remember hearing certain names here and there.

I was getting so excited last night about what I was learning and I wanted to tell someone about it. It was then that I realized the only person I could share this with whose enthusiasm would equal mine was my father, so I drove over there this morning to share all the details.

He suggested we spend the night at a cheap hotel in the area of New Jersey where he grew up, and where all of my grandparents lived. We could look up some of the houses they lived in during their earlier years (before I was around), although to me it would be more interesting to check out the family home in Philly since it involved an earlier generation. This is what I love about my dad; at 83, he's still up for an adventure! I checked Zillow for all the addresses I had and the ones in Philly must be in a very bad neighborhood as they are condos now going for about $160K a piece. Or maybe real estate prices are just that much lower there, I'm not sure.

I found photos of the address where my dad grew up and the house (actually, 2 attached condos now) was built in 2015, leading me to realize that the original home must have been razed. The Philly rowhouses mentioned above were built in 1900 and they still stand.

I even printed out a copy of my great grandfather's death certificate, which reveals an amazing amount of information. He was 75 when he was hit by a car at a specific, named corner in Philly, brought to a hospital with a fractured forearm and that led to bronco pneumonia. The "informant" listed on the certificate was a name I recognized as one of his sons, and the address also correlated, so I could positively assert this was correct.

There's a lot of detective work involved in figuring out if the over one million records that pop up when you type in a relative's name is in fact your relative. That's why it's helpful to have any kind of info like birth dates, marriage dates, death dates, names and ages of siblings and the like.

I even have the name of the vessel my great grandfather came over on from Ireland, to the port of NY. (I found it much easier to focus on researching 1 person at a time, that's why so much focus on this one person for now.) And life several others I researched, he had just a 5th grade education. He listed his occupation as "Laborer."

Looking at the lives of my grandparents, they all were able to make comfortable lives for themselves by working hard. The ones who had the most success included my paternal grandfather, who was an auto mechanic and owned his own gas station, and my maternal grandfather's brother, who owned an insulation business. Which is just reinforcement of what we all know already, that the real money is to be made, not by working for others, but by working for yourself.

Of all my great grandfather's children, only one went to college, at LaSalle University in the Philly area. After graduating, he worked at the post office but was fired for some reason. After that he became a teacher but only did that for a period of time. After that, he became a bar owner and that was his most successful endeavor. My dad remembers him telling him that the illegal slot machines at the bar were the biggest money maker.

It would take another generation, my dad's, before more descendants got a college degree.

As for my dad's father, the one from Germany, I briefly mentioned to dad that I had just stumbled upon a concentration camp record from Dachau, which coincidentally was the one I visited when I was in Germany 30 years ago. It listed a Friedrich H. (my last name) as having been brought to that camp as a prisoner in 1942 and the homeland was listed as "Germany/Austria." He died there but there wasn't information about when. I don't know if he is at all related (there seemed to be plenty of others with the same last name although you would think it very unusual), but since he appeared to be German, I wondered if that meant he must have been Jewish. Unless he was a German caught doing something pretty bad, like helping Jews escape? (My grandfather was Lutheran and so all of us became Lutheran also.

I know that outside of Germany, they were putting certain eastern Europeans and gypsies in the camps, but I hadn't thought they did that to fellow Germans. Definitely something to continue looking into but the problem is that I don't speak or read German, so this is a big stumbling block in my research. That's why I quickly searched to researching my grandmother's side of the family since I knew it would be in English.

Aside from this, I bought 2 cucumber seedlings at a local farm and later in the afternoon i drove over to my friend R.'s place where we sat on his front lawn with his dog as I told him all about the family tree stuff and other things. I just got home a little while ago.

I hope to stay pretty close to home this weekend without having to drive all over the place on errands, but I will be going to yoga locally tomorrow and getting some free compost at the landfill. And definitely spending more time on the family tree.

Holiday plans, probate roundup, patio pix

May 26th, 2016 at 05:02 am

I'm working from home today and I have tomorrow off, so my 4-day weekend has almost started! It will be an easy day, although yesterday in the office was pretty busy.

I have a week off coming up in mid-June, and I'm planning on having a garage sale to try to sell a lot of odds and ends of my mother's. I think I'd like to try to spend some time this weekend starting to bring things to the garage and pricing them. At least this time I have plenty of shelving and tables (also my mother's) which I can spread out on the driveway and use for the sale.

My friend R. has been asking me to come visit him in a town about 40 minutes from here. I was thinking since I have extra time off, this weekend would be a good time, but he works 6 days a week (not full-time, just 3 or 4 hours a day). So he wants me to come at probably the worst possible time during the entire long weekend, 5:30 pm tomorrow night! I'd have to leave at about 5 pm during rush hour when the crazies are out.

I have always butted heads with him, but we've been friends for 30 years now. He has insisted there is no west to east traffic on a certain road i would need to take to get to his place, even though i know that to be untrue since i drive it to commute in to work 3 times a week. He wrote in an email that I was "overreacting again to a nonexistent traffic problem." Which pissed me off, so now I don't want to go. It somehow often devolves into a contest of wills and he is always quick to externalize the source of the problem: me, overreacting. He is definitely pushing my buttons; he may as well be doing what Trump did, referencing me having my period or something.

This week I started physical therapy again for my numb toes on right foot. The numb toes developed after pulling my hamstring last spring, but I only went to physical therapy for 2 visits before my mother's health declined and I had to stop.

So I'm committed to going this time for a full month, twice a week, to give it a fair shot at possibly helping with the numb toes. I am not especially optimistic since it's been over a year now, but I feel it's worth the time and expense to give it a fair shot.

I have daily homework exercises to do too, twice a day, which I plan to be diligent about. It's 6 different exercises that stretch the tendons in the back of the leg and for symmetry purposes, I'm doing them with both legs.

This past Tuesday night I went to see The Race at our local one-screen movie theater. It's about the life of the athlete Jesse Owens. It was pretty good.

I'm entering 3 smaller pieces of my mother's in another art exhibit, this time at a frame shop in her hometown; she was very fond of the people there so I feel good about showing there. It's not going to sell if it just sits at my place. The fee is $20 for 3 pieces not to exceed 24" in length and the theme is "Summer." I've already picked out the pieces: one is a woven tapestry of tulips, another is a paper abstract of flowers and the third is a "woven painting" of sailboats on the sea. The drop-off isn't til early June; it would be great if something sold.

So far in the veggie garden I have a few rows of onions very recently planted, along with 2 good-sized eggplant seedlings I put in this past Monday. I also have basil, peppermint and 2 cherry tomato seedlings in large pots in my driveway.

I am wanting to get cucumber seedlings next, along with some elephant ears which I thought would look great with its large foliage against the corner by the stone wall and paver driveway. I've set up a small table out there with 3 chairs and it looks quite inviting.


Here it is in the early morning light. You may not think it looks like much, but this is so much nicer than the ugly gray asphalt that was there before!



The dark area behind the chair in the middle is the stone staircase leading to the backyard. This whole area does get early morning sun but for most of the day, as the sun turns in the sky, it is quite shady, cool and inviting. That's why I have a pot of impatiens hanging in the rhododendron. Which by the way is going to look really spectacular when it's in bloom in another week or so.

The table has a round 36" diameter top and the 2 concrete legs were actually the base of a concrete bench I used to have but the bench was chipped and damaged when a tree fell on it during a storm, so I got rid of it but kept the base, which really works great with the glass top.


On top of the table you can see 8 or 9 very round stones. I picked these off a beach somewhere (for the life of me I can't remember if it was a beach in Costa Rica on the Nicaraguan border or somewhere near Montreal, which is not on the coast(!) so really can't recall exactly where) but I will always remember that because when we returned to the US, the customs officer inspecting our trunk saw them and really yelled at me. However, he did not take them away from me. I did feel bad (I guess it is like people picking up seashells, which someday will be gone if everyone keeps doing it), but I have always loved using them in my garden displays.

I'm also seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as far as probate goes. I'm saying that because I'm nearing the end of the 5-month period of time you have to give any creditors to step forward and present any outstanding bills. I'm pretty sure we're done with all bills except for one last one from her accountant; i'm still waiting for him to complete the estate tax return for state of CT, which is due June 28. In July, I'll be able to file the next form with probate, which lists outstanding claims/bills paid, not including funeral expenses and accountant, which for some reason are to be listed on another form that comes a little later.

I spent some time last week comparing the total balance of assets upon death, subtracted bills paid and final expenses, and while it was off by about $1,000, a trip to the bank and a helpful banker there helped figure things out so everything balances out. I am hopeful to be able to disburse remaining assets of about $88K to my sister and myself as beneficiaries. (We started out with about $108K in her checking. This was the money left over from sale of her house, but I had a few big bills to pay to the nursing home (about $12,000) and state of CT for reimbursement of Medicare withholding (about $7,000).

She had quite a bit more money in May, when I first moved her to assisted living, but assisted living, and then the nursing home, quickly ate into her assets during just a 6-month time period before she died. It makes me sad, just becus of how the system works to suck up what would otherwise have been our inheritance. I knew this all along and I don't begrudge the nursing home/assisted living payments for services rendered, but the sheer size of the bills is scary frightening and seems disproportionate, I guess, when you consider how quickly $6,000 a month bills will erode a nest egg.

If I had my way I would have moved mom to assisted living earlier because she was having lots of problems and it was all very scary trying to deal with it, but she didn't want to move and so for probably a year I was there on my weekends and on the phone with her a lot trying to manage things that were increasingly confusing to her, like bills, new locks on the door she couldn't figure out, how to use her thermostat, an air purifier and the like. There were so many little crises concerning things that previously had not been confusing. But mom resisted not just moving elsewhere, but even having an aide come to the condo a few times a week to help her. She was used to her independence and I can't say I blame her, but at the same time, I knew she badly needed help.

In hindsight, if I had moved her earlier, it's very likely I'd be looking at a much smaller estate now, if one existed at all.

The big picture: mom's total assets before moving into assisted living were about $110K in savings and the condo sale netted out at $129K, for a total of $239,000. My sister and I will have received a total of roughly $89,000 each by this fall, which represents about 75% of gross assets before we incurred all the bills.

So once again I find that mom unknowingly preserved more than half her estate for her daughters, something I know was always firmly in the back of her mind. Thank you, mom.

Once I complete that particular responsibility by around September, I hope, I can breath a sigh of relief it is done. I can then continue to focus on showing and selling art for some time to come, certainly through 2016.

Back from the Poconos

May 23rd, 2016 at 06:20 pm

Thought you'd like to see some pix of my trip to the Poconos to meet up with Dido on the Delaware River.



Here's where we stayed, with direct frontage on the Delaware River. Also within walking distance was the nation's oldest (circa 1800) wire cable suspension bridge. While waiting for Dido to show up, I walked across that bridge from PA into New York state and back again in about 20 minutes. Smile




Some bucolic views from the bridge overlooking the Delaware River.

We had a great lunch in a cute little town yesterday and then wandered down the very small main drag and aw this, which I think is a grain elevator:



Before heading home today, we went to Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, PA and we wandered around the beautiful gardens for a while.






Walled garden




How interesting to see a bust set into the stone wall of the home, which once served as the residence of a Pennsylvania governor.


Scrollwork detail on garden gate


One of two ivy-covered towers



On the drive home I found an inch worm crawling on my left hand as I drove on the highway. I was able to transfer it to my right hand, and then to a fabric sandwich baggie I'd brought some fruit in, which I laid on the passenger side floor of the car.

I stopped for gas and at a local garden nursery form some veggie plants before arriving home. I looked for the little inch worm but could not find him and worried that he'd bake to death as the heat inside the car built up once I got out.

I fed the cats and gave them some TLC, pulled off a heavy shirt I was wearing, as well as a tank top and put on something lighter to garden in. I sat down on the bed for a minute and lo and behold, the inch worm was on my left hand again!! How did that happen???

I brought him outside.

All is abloom now

May 20th, 2016 at 01:13 pm

May can be such a spectacular time of year for all things that bloom.

Taking center stage in my yard is a doublefile viburnum that was just a wee stick seedling about 15 years ago.

Now we have this show every spring:



This shrub is really huge; actually, it is the mama shrub and many smaller seedlings gone wild surrounding the original plant, growing wider in circumference with each passing year.

I have to prune the branches when they begin to overhang the driveway on the right.





I went out there today to get these pix and the bees are loving it. It must be like a beacon for them. As dusk approaches, all becomes dark, except the brilliant white of this viburnum still stands out.

My Money Scripts

May 20th, 2016 at 02:30 am

My results:

Money Avoidance = 2.20

Your score on the money avoidance scale suggests that you do not exhibit significant money avoidance beliefs. In fact, research has shown that your score on this scale is similar to those who have been identified as wealthier, wiser, and more highly educated.

*Money Worship = 4.00

Your money worship score suggests that you endorse money worship beliefs.

At their core, money worshipers are convinced that the key to happiness and the solution to all of their problems is to have more money. Individuals who score high on the in the area of money worship are more likely to have lower income, lower net worth, and credit card debt. Yikes.

Money Status = 1.71

Your score on the money status scale shows that you do not hold money status beliefs.

Money status seekers see net-worth and self-worth as synonymous. They may pretend to have more money than they do, and as a result are at risk of overspending.

*Money Vigilance = 3.50

Your money vigilance score indicates that you endorse money vigilance beliefs.

The money vigilant are alert, watchful, and concerned about their financial welfare. They believe it is important to save and for people to work for their money and not be given financial handouts. Research has found that higher money vigilance scores are positively associated with higher levels of financial health.

All kinds of stuff

May 17th, 2016 at 05:22 pm

I recently signed up for Ancestry.com. I really haven't made any startling discoveries yet, or traced beyond my grandparents' parents, information I already had, but it's still a thrill to verify certain information and see your great grandparents' signature on census rolls when your grandmother was just a little girl.

My grandmother was a bit of a storyteller, so when I interviewed her for a mini family tree project when I was in college, I wasn't sure how much of what she told me was true. Her parents were from Austria and supposedly my great grandfather on my mother's side made clocks and music boxes for this guy, Franz Josef I.



So I've known all along I'm a bit of a mutt, with Polish, Austrian and Russian on mom's side and German and Irish on dad's side. But hopefully I'll learn more. I really haven't had time to learn my way around Ancestry.com or dig for something new, I just reviewed their "hints."

After work today I had an EMG test done on my right leg/foot. It's a nerve conduction test and I wanted to see if I have any nerve damage that's causing my toes to be numb since last year.

It was kind of an unpleasant test where he was sticking little needles in my leg and sending electrical impulses that made my leg or foot jerk. Of course, compared to the 2 or 3 spinal taps, I've had, this was nothing.

The tests showed that everything is normal, which is sort of good news cus no permanent damage. Doc said i could have a pinched nerve or sciatica, which "could" be helped by physical therapy. But he said if it doesn't improve in a few weeks, it probably won't ever, and I'll just have to live with it. He said usually they figure out what area to focus on by whether the pain you're feeling is relieved, but in my case there's no pain at all, just numb toes that came on shortly after I pulled my hamstring in that leg last year. I began physical therapy then but could not continue it beyond a few visits because things were getting worse with my mother and I had to focus on that.

Thursday I have to drive into New Haven with 2 colleagues to hear our company chairman talk. Blah.

Today we met for a pizza lunch as a send-off for a woman who worked for us as a contractor for about 3 years, then was let go, and after about a year of being unemployed, finally found a job in Columbus Ohio. She is driving out there next week to find an apartment to lease in about 3 days and starts the job end of May! Not much time to get ready! I did that when I entered law school in my 20s and had to find an apartment in the Boston area in a single weekend. Needless to say, the place I found was kind of a dump, but the price was very cheap. I just didn't have time to look longer.

So I have this gorgeous new driveway that everyone compliments me on. However, there's been a problem with the asphalt portion. Down in one corner near the road, the GRASS is GROWING through the asphalt.

My feeling is that the asphalt is too thin. He wrote on the invoice that they'd lay 2 and 3/4" of compressed asphalt and this is maybe a quarter inch tops in that area (and looks on the thin side everywhere else, though maybe not quite so bad as this spot). So no wonder.

Luckily, the guy hasn't left me high and dry. He sent his man up 2 weeks ago and to my surprise the guy used a blow torch to melt the asphalt and presumably kill the grass.

But now the grass is back so I called the contractor again and to his credit he immediately called me back. His son is graduating this weekend but he promised to come up and see what's going on next weekend, so I'm satisfied with that.

This weekend I have a fun little excursion to a little town in PA, about a 2-hour drive, where I am meeting a fellow blogger from here! I don't know yet if she wants me to say who it is, so I won't. It's just a fun little trip that is just one overnight becus we both have pets that prevent us from going on a longer trip. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery, some good conversation and maybe a hike...weather looking cooperative. Smile

Dad and I saw The Revenant last weekend. It had a rather gruesome bear mauling scene, but otherwise, not a bad movie. Leonardo was pretty good.

I met a nice woman at the Mindfulness lecture I went to who was a book club member,so it's motivated me to start attending that group and reading their books, which I'm doing now.

There are so many groups I want to get involved with in my hometown. It sort of reminds me of college, where you could join any club you wanted! It is kind of a liberating feeling.

Making good progress spending toward my target bonus on my new TD Bank card. I've already spent $952 on my way to spending $1500 and haven't even gotten the 1st statement yet, so I'm in good shape.

I hope to plant onion sets in my garden this weekend.

Getting involved in my community

May 14th, 2016 at 04:45 am


All the lovely phlox are in bloom alongside my driveway. Everything looks great.

In 2015 my goal was to attend at least one meeting or event a month, as a form of social outlet. I never hit that goal because I was taking care of my mother, and even when I had time to go to something, I was too tired, both physically and emotionally.

This year, I kept that same goal up on my sidebar and I've hit that goal out of the ballpark!

There is SO much to do in my hometown. In all my 20 years here, I mainly hit most of the fairs, festivals, craft shows and that sort of thing. I made it to the evening book club a few times but that was about it. I worked full time, and there were some jobs that entailed a very long commute. One job I had for 7 years involved a 75-minute commute which was really exhausting.

I'm doing much more in town now; keeping busy is helping me get past my mother's death, which is still on my mind when I am not doing anything. So it's best to keep busy.

The big reason I can start doing these things is because I still have the 2 work at home days I started when my mother was ill, and I wanted to see her during the day, during the week. Now that I'm no longer going to the nursing home on my lunch breaks or after work, I've found those 2 days at home open up so much extra time in my life. And not having to commute on those days means I also have more energy and interest in doing things right after work.

For most of my working life, work and the commute were so draining that I had little appetite for doing anything else during the week, the result being that I crammed everything I had to do, personal errands and stuff around the house, on the weekends.

This past week I went to a talk on mindfulness at the library. It was presented by a man who was very upfront about his struggle with depression and anxiety, which led him to mindfulness as a way of living more fully in the present. It was pretty interesting and gave me a little more insight into how to achieve it, because my mind is always going in a million directions.

There's a young man in town who has begun organizing volunteers to plant a grove of fruit trees along our new walking trails. No particular reason why, he just wants to do it, though i remember a quote I read where he said he just wants to make my town "as close to heaven on earth as possible."

There are a lot of wonderful things happening here, and many of them came about following the dark days of the 12/14 shootings.

The families of many of those children have formed different groups that pursue various things, depending on the special interests of their child. One of the little girls was a big animal lover, so there is a foundation setting about to establish a new animal sanctuary in town. It was also this group that sponsored the meeting I attended on how to care for your pet rabbit.

Next weekend is a traditional Irish music concert at the meeting house. I would love to go to this and am looking for someone to go with me.

Our town's forest association is busy eradicating invasive plants from some of their land holdings and I donated some of my perennials that I was selling to the forest association which they already planted in an open field they intend to turn into a wildflower meadow. It's on a main road so I will see it often.

We have several different garden clubs in town, another one of the groups I eventually want to get involved with. One of them is responsible for caring for all the little gardens that occupy our traffic triangles. I would like to see them establish a flower garden at a largish "traffic triangle" at the intersection of two of our paved walking trails. It would be so nice to see a pop of color amidst the woods. In any event, I'll be hitting their big spring plant sale next Saturday.

My dad wanted to see The Revenant (which I think will be a little bloody/violent) so I'm taking him to my town's single screen, $2 movie theater, which I think he'll enjoy. This is the 1930-built old town hall which is in the middle of a fund drive to replace the original balcony seats in the theater. I donated $150 and my employer will match it.

After the movie, we'll do a late lunch somewhere and I would like to run up the gallery to pick up the latest framed pieces. But first, this morning, I am going to yoga class, the church tag sale, the library (so I can get next months' book selection), WalMart, gas for the car, the pet food store and Lowes, for some veggie plants and maybe some lavender.

A lot of things to do, and I am really enjoying it.

Good news on the retirement front

May 10th, 2016 at 12:59 pm


Earth's Treasures

Today I had my follow-up call with T. Rowe Price Advisory Services.

Here's the big picture rundown:

Based on my total annual savings (which they erroneously recorded as $37,500 annually instead of $31,000 annually), they recommend that in my 1st year of retirement, I withdraw $35,455 as income ($2,955 a month) instead of $43,000 a year ($3,583 a month). Every year thereafter I would adjust for inflation.

This is not too much of a biggie to me since I've been generally aiming at between $40 and $43K income in retirement.

They did not include Social Security income at all, so whenever I do decide to begin collecting SS, it will just make things that much easier.

They also did not factor in any inheritances, other than what is already in my accounts.

They are not suggesting many changes, only fine-tuning, in my overall and current asset allocation of 61% stocks, 25% bonds and 14% short-term investments.

They're recommending 60% stocks, 30% bonds and 10% in short-term investments. So they are mainly suggesting I move some money that's now in "cash" into bond funds, for upside growth potential.

Based on what I told them about my investment preferences, they're recommending I remain in a "balanced" portfolio.

Getting into more detail:
Domestic stocks: Increase my mid cap and international exposure by 3% each, decrease my sector/specialty exposure (a REIT and healthcare fund) from 6% to 0%.

Bonds: Decrease investment grade bonds by 4% and increase high Yield by 3% and international bonds by 6% (i currently have no exposure to international bonds or high yield).

Short-Term Investments: They recommend I decrease my short-term investments, which includes my CDs my online money market accounts as well as my Vanguard money market, by 4%. I would still have nearly 2 years of living expenses, or $80,000, in short-term investments after doing so.

She's going to make some final adjustments to her numbers based on my correcting her on my annual savings, along with new info on the 401k employer match I received (an extra $3536 which I guess I can count on annually) and then I'll be able to access it online again. The revised report will have suggested retirement withdrawal amounts each year, which includes adjustments for inflation, so I don't have to trouble my math-challenged brain.

They will also check in with me annually or I can contact them in the interim if there are any big changes to my financial life, like a layoff, inheritance being finalized, etc.

In other news: I met with local florist today and she chose 5 of the 8 pieces of art I brought to exhibit for sale in her shop. They are priced on the high side, so not sure how they'll do. Each time I draw up a little contract agreement, I do a better job of it! I also created some take-home bios for anyone who purchases a piece, so they can learn more about the artist.

Also followed up on the first real estate brokerage I contacted about long-term art exhibits in their offices. It probably wouldn't work there because they don't have extra wall space, but she asked me to send jpgs and prices anyway, which I did. She meets and knows a lot of people so she could possibly send them my way maybe.

In the meantime, I've decided that each week my goal will be to do at least one tangible thing to find new markets or further market my mother's art. It all takes a fair amount of time. So next week my goal will be to contact a 2nd real estate brokerage in my hometown, with the same query/offer about showing my mother's art. This idea had been suggested to me by someone at the art association who knew someone else who had done pretty well selling their art in this way. I would focus on the larger pieces for the brokerages since the smaller stuff can go in various gift shops/galleries.

I still have at least 2 more local shops in mind that I might like to approach. Also, the florist suggested, since I had mentioned how some of the art might appeal to interior decorators, of an interior designer who just set up shop in Sandy Hook Center. Couldn't find him online so will go down there in person to get the name.

I'm getting plenty of activity at my new suction cup window bird feeder, but it's driving Luther nuts as he lunges toward the birds each time he sees them. So they're a bit more timid that usual and I'm debating whether to move the feeder elsewhere.


My new windchimes, made out of grandma's silverware.

Mother's Day hike

May 8th, 2016 at 12:21 pm

After all the rainy weather of the past week, the sun came out around 1 p.m.

Perfect timing. I sold another $28 worth of perennials and was ready for my hike at the Audubon Bent of the River.

A red-crowned sparrow greeted me in the parking lot:



I decided to head for the Cascade Trail as it promised a small waterfall.



There were small boardwalks like this one as I traversed a small brook at the bottom of the waterfall.



As I got deeper into the woods and headed upward in an s-shaped curve, the trail narrowed and became more indistinct.



The lovely Cascades..



After all the rain we had this past week, everything was draped in lichens and mosses.



The loop back was a quiet woodland...




...followed by one more boardwalk that meandered alongside the riverbanks where I saw swallows nesting in the sandy bank.



A great diet and exercise tracker from the USDA

May 8th, 2016 at 07:28 am

I see a lot of you are talking about various diets and like me, you probably want to lose some weight.

I came across an excellent USDA site for this years ago and really like it then, then lost track of it until I searched for it now and found they revamped it so it's even better.

Check out supertracker.usda.gov

You can get all sorts of detailed information about the nutrient/caloric makeup of different foods, but what I really like about it is that you can keep an online food and exercise journal while inputting your goals and so on.

You have to enter the foods you've eaten one by one, with an estimated amount/volume, so it can get kind of tedious if you eat something you made yourself that has a lot of ingredients. So for breakfast this morning, I had my usual homemade granola, but I'd like an accurate measurement since mine is very low fat. So I had to individually add oats, raisins, walnuts, olive oil, flax seed, etc. So it looks like my usual granola breakfast comes to 871 calories, or close to half what my daily intake should be given that i would like to lose 12 lbs.

And just from entering the ingredients of my breakfast granola, I can see from their bar chart that I've reached X% of my recommended fruit target,, etc. This is where I don't like the program, becus the USDA is using their recommended guidelines which I disagree with when it comes to how much dairy, protein, salt, etc I should be eating. In fact, based on the fact I ate a whole banana and about 1.5 oz of raisins, the site indicates I've reached 91% of m y daily fruit allowance!! Obviously way off for a vegan, who is going to load their plate up with fruit, veggies and grains and eliminate the dairy entirely. So far I don't see a way to customize the program to eliminate certain things you don't agree with.

The exercise portion of the website is just as detailed.

You can monitor and track your progress with their nifty charts, etc. IMO, this is even better than the Vivofit I spent $99 on which most of the time has trouble syncing with their website online.

However, the USDA site only allows you to input how much you walked, for instance, by time spent, not distance traveled in steps, as the Vivofit does. You have a choice on the USDA site of choosing from about 6 different paces, eg, 2.8 miles per hour, but there's no guidance given on how to estimate how many miles per hour you walk, so I'm just guessitmating.

So anyway, I'm very excited about this really detailed program. You just need to set up your profile to get started..

My newest toy

May 8th, 2016 at 05:09 am

I've had gazillions of bird feeders over the years, but this is the first time I've tried a window feeder with suction cups.



I was a little skeptical at first about how well those suction cups would stay adhered to the window, but they actually seem quite sturdy. Sturdy enough for a cardinal to perch on, in addition to the house finch shown here and some black capped chicadees.

I think the birds are still a bit wary, possibly because Luther may have lunged at them more than once. If I see a bird come to the feeder, I'll turn off the indoor lights so it's lighter outside than it is indoors, and thus harder for the birds to see me.

I've been a bird watcher for about 20 years, ever since an old boyfriend turned me on to it.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I am hoping this day won't be too difficult. We just had another passing rain shower but it's supposed to be sunny by mid-afternoon. Before the sun comes out I plan to head outdoors to an area Audubon sanctuary for a solo hike. I've only been there a few times, probably because, at least in the past, they requested you "schedule" your visit so they could be sure there was no overcrowding at the sanctuary! It's a pretty big place; in fact, the last time I hike there with a date, we got lost, and it was a very long walk back. But having to schedule it just seems like a real nuisance. I'm just going over there today; it's doubtful many people will be on the trails with the dark and rainy weather we've been having and it being Mother's Day.

I sold another $20 worth of Amsonia Blue Stem and some Jacob's Ladder yesterday. I would say selling perennials on Facebook tag sale sites, especially this time of year, is extremely easy, easier than selling most anything else.

Tuesday tasks

May 5th, 2016 at 06:52 am

I've decided to enter the invitational art exhibit put on by the Easton Art Council here in Fairfield County later this month and into June with a lovely paper abstract by my mother. You can see the piece I'm entering here:
http://paulareneemulti-mediaart.blogspot.com/

While it's just a two-week show, I decided to enter anyway because there is no entry fee and they are only asking for a 20% commission on "sold" items, which is pretty reasonable. Its soft pastel colors are a good choice for a spring show, I think. My mother priced it at $400.

I'll be dropping it off this weekend and hope to attend the opening reception May 21.

Working from home today.

Early this morning I brought the car to local garage to see if they could get to the bottom of the slow air leak I have in a back tire. I've brought the car to Town Fair Tire probably 5 times since last winter, and still the "low air pressure" light comes on every so often.

Happily, I didn't have to leave the car at local garage as I envisioned; they replaced the valve stem so I'm hoping this will finally fix it. Although Town Fair advertises free tire repairs, even if you didn't buy the tire from them, I have to wonder how carefully they do those repairs. You get what you pay for, maybe?

I am trying to make better use of newfound time right after work when I work at home (and also on my lunch break). When I work from home, I am fine heading out after work since I've been sitting inside all day at my desk. I'm also not feeling tired or stressed from the usual commute.

So today on my lunch half hour I'll run to the local cobbler to see if I can get some shoes repaired, and right after work at 5 I think I may head for BJs. These are things that would normally have to wait until the weekend, so by doing them midweek I not only avoid the weekend crowds but free up that precious weekend time for more pleasant activities.

Monday moanings

May 2nd, 2016 at 05:19 pm

I am still dreadfully itchy from my poison ivy.

Just a month after getting a brand new driveway, half paved and half pavers, I noticed GRASS growing up through the asphalt near the bottom of the drive by the road!!!

This can't be right. The contract said he was to lay down 2 and 3/4 of an inch of asphalt but it sure doesn't look that deep to me.

I was wondering how difficult it was going to be to get the contractor back out here after I paid him. I procrastinated a little, but called him tonight and left a message. Five minutes later, he called me back and we talked. He said he'll be up in a few days to look at it and said they'd take care of it. He asked if i could take some pictures and send them, which I've already done.

It's not a lot of grass, but in 2 areas I see a half dozen or so blades coming up. GEEZZ! If the grass can come up that easily, I really worry about the pachysandra on one side of the driveway, which can grow through anything.

In my mail tonight was yet another Medicare statement regarding of my mother's medical bills. I am so sick of getting these statements. They are not the bills themselves since that would come from whatever creditor was involved, but i can never make heads or tails of these bills or when they will end becus of overlapping time periods. This latest bill says I "may" owe another $333 or so to 2 different medical supply companies. It's possible I don't. Maybe I should call them tomorrow but I kind of feel like just sticking my head into the sand. It just stresses me out and I can't wait for this process to be over. To be getting bills from November and December on May 2 is a little ridiculous.

Oh, one more thing to moan about: my low air pressure tire indicator came on AGAIN this a.m. on my way into work. It's been an ongoing problem for at least 6 months. Each time I go to Town Fair Tire where they advertise free tire repairs. Well, i guess you get what you pay for becus I've had the car over there at LEAST 5 times for this same problem, same tire. The last time was 2 weeks ago and they told me they found a tiny piece of metal in the tire. Before that, they said it was a nail. Before that, they said it was the valve stem leaking air. Strange that all that should happen to this one tire. Maybe they patched it and the patch didn't hold and they're embarrassed to admit it.

On my way home i stopped at a nearby Sunoco station and he checked the tire and said it was the valve stem leaking but couldn't replace it becus the tire has an electronic sensor on it and he wasn't sure if owner had the right one for my car or would have to order it. So I have to call tomorrow morning and try to get it taken care of on my work-at-home day.

Sunday doings

May 1st, 2016 at 01:12 pm

The piece I picked up yesterday, my latest framing, is the abstract birdcage at right.



I had the other 2 at left framed previously. All told, I believe I've paid to frame 6 large pieces like these.

I got another good idea for selling some of the larger pieces. Someone at the arts center yesterday told me about a woman in my situation; she had inherited a lot of art from one of her parents. She was able to sell quite a bit of it by approaching a local realtor and hanging the art in their offices, for sale. I am not sure having colorful art to adorm their office walls is enough motivation in itself without having to offer them a commission or not. I wouldn't really be interested in another obvious thought, letting realtors put my art in various open houses. Becus the more you cart it around, the more your risk dinging, denting, or dirtying it and once that happens, you can't sell it. So I'd rather hang it in one spot.

I guess to sweeten the pot for the realtors, I could offer 10% of the sale price. Unless they know the art business, they wouldn't know the usual commission for a gallery sale is 3o% or 40%. So maybe 10% would seem reasonable, considering they're not doing anything to market it except give it the exposure to buyers that I don't have.

Rainy and rather raw weather has forced me indoors today. So instead of tackling some much needed yard work, I....

1. Made a small pot of pea/lentil soup. Usually I cook up enough to feed an army Smile but today my goal was to use up small amounts of split peas and lentils sitting in the cabinet. I have about a ton of various rices, wheat berries, etc. sitting week after week in the cabinet; some was from my mother's kitchen. I hate to throw food away and dry goods tend to last a pretty long time, so I'm making a concerted effort to really start using more of it.

2. Last week I bought a beautiful eggplant at Whole Foods and am only getting around to cooking it today. It doesn't do much good to buy great produce if you wait til it's looking worn around the edges to use it. I'm making baba ganousch.

3. The hummingbird(s) is back! Refreshed the sugar water today.