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Archive for June, 2018

CD rates are rising

June 29th, 2018 at 01:23 pm

As I was doing my end-of-month expense and investment reports (I'm down $10,000 for the month), I noticed that 2 of my laddered CDs are coming due in August and September.

This is part of my cash position, and the idea behind laddering CDs is that each time you renew one of the CDs in your spread of 4 or 5 CDs, all taken out at different times, you can improve your rate of return based on current rates.

I checked bankrate.com to see how much better rates are since I got these 2- and 5-year CDs which are currently earning 1.35% and 1.98% APY, respectively.

I was happy to see Barclay's is offering 2.85% on its 5-yr CD, but I can do even better than that: a 5-year CD with Connexus Credit Union earning 3.25%.

If you don't meet the criteria for becoming a member, based on where you live or where you work, you can just pay $5 to join. SmileSo in late August I'll open up a new CD with Connexus with $10,000 from a maturing Barclays CD, and in September I'll consider opening up another CD with them with $8775 from a maturing State Farm CD.

After so many years of ultra-low bank saving rates, 3.25% actually sounds good.

As it turned out, I worked a nearly normal work week this week, as work was slow. So I left at my usual time after a half day on Wednesday, and yesterday I worked from home for just an hour and a half hour today.

Today is the start of very high temps in the upper 80s and 90s. Sun/Mon is supposed to be the worst, with high humidity.

So far I'm making do in the house with onlyl the ceiling fans running, as I anticipate I'll need the central AC Sunday/Monday and am trying to keep costs down.

The other day I noticed that my Aldi's $20 shelving system (purchased last summer) partially collapsed because I put too much weight on it. I'm thankful none of my plants crashed to the ground.

So that's destined for the landfill but in the meantime, I decided to use one of the old plastic shelves I kept from my mother for my outdoor plants. I mean, plastic won't rust, and the rain won't rot it like wood, and these are much more sturdy than the Aldi's shelves (although this year I bought a different set of shelves...;metal...from Aldi's for the same cheap $20, I think, that I really love, although they were a pain to assemble).

So I unloaded all the paint cans and other stuff on the shelves, which I'd been using in the basement (because the basement tends to be damp, so plastic works well there too), and lugged it to the back patio. It may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but it provides lots of shelf space and kind of acts like a "wall" delineating the outdoor seating space.

I have several pots of parsley on the top shelf, which I don't think chipmunks will climb. They kept periodically marauding the parsley (which I'm growing for black swallowtail butterflies) right on my front stoop. So the plastic shelves (about 5 feet high) will do a much better job of protecting my parsley.

I still have to watch it with the weight, and I decided some of my larger terra cotta pots can't go on it, but that's ok. I would love to buy another set of metal shelves like the other set I got this spring, but it's a seasonal item at Aldi's, I guess, and I haven't seen them there since.

The same shelves are being sold elsewhere for $60, and I don't want to pay that.

After watching a You Tube video, I decided I felt confident enough to pull off leaves and deadhead my Black Prince Echeveria. Once callused over, the leaves can be used to form new pups (plants) and I can replant the top of the plant I deadheaded. Truth be told, I'm not sure any of the leaves will root because they are all kind of yellowish looking; I wasn't watching it and it got a lot of rain recently. We'll see.

I also planted some wandering Jew cuttings I had sitting in water on the kitchen windowsill which I salvaged from a plant I nearly managed to kill. These plants are so easy to grow; I remember them from my teenage years. Not sure what I did wrong, but am trying again with the rooted cuttings.

So that's about how my day's gone; I haven't done anything much or gone anywhere, yet it was kind of enjoyable just the same.

June --a spendy month

June 28th, 2018 at 06:18 am

As expected, I am in the red for month of June spending, coming in at a whopping $11,740 spent due to the redo of my new patio. I budgeted $5,000 for home improvements, so technically, I exceeded this line item by $4200.

If I don't include the patio redo at all, then my spending came in at a reasonable $2540, just $24 over this month's income. (It helped a bit that I had 5 paydays this month instead of 4.)

Still, I spent a little too liberally in the categories of "household," (the new fountain for patio), clothing ($100), entertainment (my Ancestry renewal, at $100, and taking dad out for Father's Day, $83), and over $100 on various annuals, hanging baskets, grass seed and so on.

So year-to-date, I wiped out my modest savings of $4300 and am now at -$7385 YTD. I hope to return that to the black by year's end.

We got lots of much-needed rain this morning, with more to come, with strong thunderstorms, this afternoon. I was able to bring all my cacti and succulents inside this time, because invariably they get soaked, even sitting under the front entry overhang.

Today's agenda includes filling up the gas tank and a stop at BJs and Aldi's. I saw a cheap laundry cart on wheels that's narrow and meant to fill the space between washer and dryer. Just $8, and I was thinking this could be good for some of my cacti, which tend to be in small pots. It's small enough I could easily lift it to sheltered area when it rains. That's my thought, anyway.

This week's doings

June 27th, 2018 at 04:05 am

My bank is doing another fun promotion to try to get me to use my debit card. If I make 5 purchases with it in the month of July, I'll get a $10 Amazon gift card. Easy peasy.

I had another tick spraying yesterday. Organic cedar oil. You can smell it after they leave. So far, I don't really think it's been that effective, but in fairness, I have so many critters running around here (like chipmunks and deer) that probably keep reinfecting things that maybe it would have been worse without the spraying.

I stuck around to meet the guy to at least reinforce I want them to be as thorough as possible, and to ask him to avoid spraying anything flowering, even though he said their studies have shown bees aren't hurt by direct spray.

So I'm not sure it's worth it; it's $100 a visit, but anytime I see a tick I just call Tick Ranger and they do a respray at no charge and come within a few days time. So far I've had 2 resprays and 3 paid sprays. I'll reassess whether I want to continue this next year at the end of the summer/fall season, I guess.

I got some great ideas from a FB group I belong to about how to beautify the ugly well cover that I incorporated into my back patio design. (I wanted to connect the patio to the stairs leading to my drive, so I had them do this circular walkway around the well.



Anyway, the best idea I got was to cover it in mosaic tile, an idea I love, but I'm not sure I'm up to the task. I've always wanted to try mosaic tiling.

Something like this:


I'm usually too impatient for the finished product to enjoy the journey. But, a mosaic there would really be a highlight of the whole patio area, and it would be meaningful if I did it myself. Anyone here ever dabble in mosaic? It needs to be weatherproof, obviously, but I understand they sell frostproof grout.

I'm connected to town water supply now, but when I connected, I kept my outdoor faucets tied in to the well. A decision I never regretted since it ensures I can use all the water I want for car washes and garden irrigation for free. So it's only used on a seasonal basis and I've never had a reason to remove the very heavy concrete cover to get into the well, except to note how low the water had gotten in very dry years.

If I did have to remove the cover after installing a mosaic, I would just need to be very, very careful that whoever moved it did not chip an end while doing so.

I'm working a full 5-day week this week as my counterpart is on vacation. UGH. I miss my free time. Hopefully, the rest of the week will not be completely full days.

That's about it. I've been revising the whole should I eat seafood thing by checking the latest research. I'm mostly vegan, but probably a few months back began a habit of eating wild sockeye salmon once a week. There are a lot of sources saying I should eat fish twice a week, and I was considering upping the fish meals with only "clean" low mercury fish like either more salmon or pollack or herring, but then I go to other sites that say until we have cleaner wild or farmed fish environments, it's best not to rely on fish for omega 3s and take a micro-algae supplement instead. It's really hard to make a decision given all the conflicting evidence.

We all got to see the new Lab puppy at the office yesterday. He's very cute.

New face at work

June 20th, 2018 at 05:59 pm

It was a quiet day at work today. The co-owner husband and wife left for Mississippi, where they are adopting a blond lab puppy, just a few weeks after losing their beloved Golden Retriever. The first dog was named Dylan, after Bob Dylan, and this puppy shall be called Bowie. Smile They are bringing him back on the plane, and are nervous about doing that.

I will get to see him when I return to work on Monday. They always bring their dogs to the office so they're with about 8 or 9 of us animal lovers all day log. And the hired dog walker comes daily (or did for Dylan).

My manager, in the meantime, is on a business trip to Munich. I'm SO jealous.

Next week, the person who I job-share with wants the week off for vacation, so I will be working 5 days next week. Frown I didn't really think I could say no, but at least a few of the days will be not full days. But I'm sure it will feel like a VERY LONG WEEK. Ugh.

Today, I couldn't resist buying this teeny tiny cactus at Aldi's for just $1.99.



Someone in my cacti FB group told me it's a torch cactus.

I really do love cacti and succulents, though truth be told, my long-term success rate with them is only 50/50. Some do well under my care, and others slowly die. I enjoy researching care instructions, but even then, it's somewhat hit or miss. I hope this one will be a keeper.

My dad asked me to take him shoe shopping tomorrow, and after a trip to DSW (or maybe New Balance), I'll have him stay for lunch.

The valve stem on one of my tires has been leaking air and needs topping off every 2 weeks, so to replace the whole thing, Sunoco wants to charge me $60. Which I think is a lot of money for a valve stem! I don't think I have much choice though, and who has time to go shopping that around? Sigh.

I spent way too much time trying to lessen my online presence. Specifically, I googled my name and was shocked to see that many data mining sites list my complete address, phone, the names of my parents and much more. Having to hunt and search for an opt-out method (each site is different) is a real pain in the neck. One site requires proof of residence and that you email them a scanned image. I hope junk mail's sufficient because that's all I felt comfortable sending. I complained to BBB about one site because they provide NO phone number contact on their site, and my email to them came back undeliverable.

I got thru about a dozen sites and I'm sure there are more. Google your own name and see what you find! I've done this before, but apparently, I only scratched the surface.

Shingles vaccine, part 1

June 15th, 2018 at 03:49 pm

I've been reminding myself to get the shingles vaccine at age 60, but somewhere along the way, I've been hearing that insurance companies will cover it 100% for anyone over 50. So I figured, what the heck, why wait? Might as well do it now as I could get shingles at any time. I did have chicken pox at the age of 16.

There was a New York Times story about the vaccine where the author said you had to have a prescription for it, but I found that not to be true after calling Walgreen's and CVS. Walgreen's told me they were temporarily out of the vaccine due to a distribution problem, so I then went to CVS.

It was pretty easy: I just walked up to the prescription window and announced my intent. The woman had some trouble figuring out what to type in her computer, but eventually got it, and I got my shot.

The pharmacist warned me it would not be a great weekend for me, that a lot of other people were complaining about flu-like symptoms and headaches, achiness and tiredness, and a very sore arm, and some even chose to defer getting the shot until a better time.

I did have a mild headache but that's about it...so far. And yeah, the arm is a little sore. I'll have to go back for the 2nd shot within 2 to 6 months' time.

I'm glad I'm halfway done with this particular chore, because I've heard of several cases of very bad shingles, and the vaccine is supposed to be 97% effective. (That being said, I read that if you have MS, the vaccine is somewhat less effective.)

So a few weeks ago I saw first-of-the-season cherries in the supermarket, but they were a jaw-dropping $8.99 a pound. I passed. Today I saw cherries again the store, and the price had come down some, to $6.99 a pound. I passed, again. I love cherries so it's hard to do this, but I'll wait til they're truly "in season."

Today I had been thinking of going to Ikea, but truth be told I don't really "need" anything. I had it in mind to look at plant stands and cacti there.

I decided against it and instead did mostly a little of this, a little of that: some weeding and cutting back of spent bulb leaves, reading, quality time with Luther, wasting time on Facebook and not much else, but I enjoyed it.

I've missed this season's The Bachelorette due to spotty TV reception, but then remembered I can watch it online, so last night I enjoyed the premiere and tonight it'll be the 2nd episode. I am a sucker for reality TV...not all of it, but some.

Yesterday I did my grocery shopping at Aldi's and filled up the gas tank. I also stopped at Christmas Tree Shoppes, where I got a new doormat (for back patio entry into sunroom) and one of those metal garden hoses. (I hate the heavy rubber hose that always kinks, and those fabric ones I also loved, alas, they burst very easily.)

Ants: Problem and Solution

June 13th, 2018 at 05:47 am

Monday I worked late at the office and got home around 9 pm to find a swarm of about 20 or 25 carpenter ants on my kitchen counter. I had left a small amount of leftover sugar water in a cup on the counter after refreshing the hummingbird feeder.

I took a deep breath and squelched the impulse to kill them all, ASAP, and instead I set out some Terro liquid ant baits. I'd forgotten I had these and so they were well over a year old. They had leaked out of the unopened containers but I put them out anyway, on little index cards to catch any spill-over. The ants quickly took to them.

The next morning, there were still ants feeding on the Terro, but not as many as before. When I came home from work that night (yesterday), there were just 2 ants.

But even more amazing is this: About a week earlier, I was actually hearing crinkly sounds coming from either underneath my upstairs bath window or from under the roof shingles where the roof of garage/sunroom meets the bathroom wall. I had a feeling it was ants because I'd noticed dead insect parts dropping through the ceiling of the sunroom below that area several years earlier, but had sealed up a crack in that area with caulk and foolishly, perhaps, never really did anything else.

But with that crinkly noise, it seemed an ant nest was thriving inside the wall, and I reluctantly decided it was time to call an exterminator, who would probably want to drill holes through the wallpaper in my bathroom to dust them.

But after I put out the Terro ant baits in the KITCHEN, there was no crinkly sounds coming from upstairs bathroom wall!

Apparently, the ants were traveling from the side of the house by the bathroom to the back center of the house on the back wall to kitchen. In fact, when I had the swarm of ants going after the sugar water, there were enough ants coming and going that I could finally see where they were coming in: they drilled 2 tiny holes in a corner of trim by the ceiling above the kitchen door.

No wonder when I looked around at night with a flashlight I could find no ant trails leading to the house...they were already nesting elsewhere inside the house.

10 stars on Amazon for sure!

Weekend visit

June 11th, 2018 at 04:27 am

I had Dido come up for the weekend and we had a nice visit. We crammed a fair amount of stuff into just 2 days.

I made a nice lunch for us when she arrived, and after that we strolled around the 4th annual Catherine Violet Hubbard Butterfly Party & Adoption Event. They had many dozens of rescue groups there trying to place everything from cats and dogs to bunnies, ducks and llamas.





After that, we walked over to the municipal center where there was an opening reception for an art show by a local woman who owns a vineyard in town.



I did a brief driving tour of my town, pointing out various points of interest.

We met my dad at home for drinks on my new patio, except that it was still a little too warm outside, so we settled for the kitchen table. Smile

Then it was off to dinner at the trendy new restaurant at the end of my street, right on Main Street. The chefs are British/Italian.



After saying goodbye to dad, we squeezed in a walk around my neighborhood.

Next day, we did a longer walk on the walking trails and hung around more and chit chatted before Dido headed home.

Weekend fun

June 9th, 2018 at 06:46 am

"Dido" is now winging her way to my place for a visit. She should be here just in time for lunch. Smile

It will be a short overnight visit so I haven't planned too much. What's nice is that the 1st 3 activities all take place in the same location.

1. A walk on our paved walking trails.
2. The butterfly party and pet adoption event.
3. Art exhibit
4. Drinks on my new patio.
5. Dinner out with dad.

Here's the new patio, after I "decorated."




What you see is the well cap, which I'm pretty much stuck with, so I decided to have them do a circular walkway around it that leads to an old set of stairs going to the driveway.

The pagoda on top of it is only missing its top; I found it at the landfill and brought it home. I stuck a flower pot in the top instead and will maybe put some vinca vines in there so the vines cascade down and soften the concrete look. Can't plant too many flowers because the woodchuck will eat them. If anyone has any other ideas for softening/beautifying the look of the ugly concrete, let me know!


I really like the 2 rattan-look planters. They are actually some kind of vinyl, so they'll stand up to the weather, and were just $20 each at Aldi's. The flowers were actually more expensive.


I just bought this fountain for the patio and I really like it. A pump sends the water bubbling up to the top, where it then overflows and cascades to the lower level "cups" you see. I threw some colorful marbles in there just for fun.

Since it's a plug-in, I have it near the one outdoor outlet I have, which conveniently is close to the kitchen window, so I can hear the sound of trickling water if I listen carefully at the sink. Smile


Here's a little garden inside the paver walkway, filled with ground phlox, mostly. After selling all my other perennials back here, I decided to keep the phlox. It's not looking so spiffy at the moment as they pulled out and killed a lot of it but should be fine next spring.

Nearly there

June 6th, 2018 at 05:58 am

The Great Patio Rebuild is nearly done. I was super happy with everything, but when I got home last night and saw their latest progress (Day 4), I noticed that different parts of the patio were noticeably pitched in a way that I didn't want.

The large rectangular-shaped patio is slightly pitched, which I asked for to ensure rainwater doesn't drain toward the house/basement.

But then when they did the small square path around the bird statue, that also pitches toward the house, and it looks a little funny. Then the circular path around my well head (the path connects with my stairs going down to the driveway) pitches in another direction, toward the stairs. It all made me feel like I was on a ship and everything was slightly tilted one way. I don't want want visitors to feel unsteady on their feet.



So I talked to the mason last night and again when he arrived this morning, and we worked out a solution to the tilted square walkway. It will take them about an hour to fix that and hopefully it will be nearly level.

As for the circular path around the well head, that can really only be made level when I have the stone stairs redone (next year), due to the terrain, unless I wanted a small step inserted right at the circle, which I don't want.

It's all a little tricky, with certain drawbacks or benefits to doing things a certain way. Like, whether the mower can do a clean cut over level stones, or whether I'll have more trimming to do against stones that aren't flush with the grass.

Well, we'll see what Fiscal Fitness girl thinks when she gets here.

I am eager to have the masons finish up and tidy up the loose ends so I can "decorate" a little with some planters and patio furniture, along with a fountain that should be arriving today.

Work zone

June 1st, 2018 at 12:37 pm

The long-awaited patio rebuild is underway. What a mess!

They arrived just as I was getting ready to leave for my friend's house to continue helping him declutter his condo. Basically so his family doesn't have to worry about that. His PSA levels are sky-high (around 2200 when "normal" is 2 or 3). Things don't look good for him.

We cleaned out his small attic and I also went with him to WalMart where he wanted to buy a new mattress for a new twin frame he bought so he can sleep downstairs and not have to climb the stairs. I brought boxes of stuff to Good Will afterwards.

So it was just as well I had somewhere to go for a few hours at least because having major work done at my house kind of stresses me out.

They have made amazing progress in just 1 day. They are 4 or 5 over-50, topless Macedonian men with heavy accents working for the kid who now runs the show after having learned the masonry trade from his dad. They work like dogs; I hope they are paid well. If the price I'm paying is any indication, they are.

All the materials were delivered by heavy truck on my new driveway. Hope it stands up. There are pallets of pavers on my lawn. Sure hope it survives. And there's a large pile of old bricks also on the lawn which is making me cringe.

They have already excavated a neat, large rectangle about 6 inches down. They had to excavate becus the siding on the back of the house is only a few inches above ground, so if they didn't dig it out, the new pavers would be up against the siding, which I didn't think would be a good idea.

So they'll be dumping a large amount of dirt nearby on the north side of my house where I've been wanting to plant grass but which now has a lot of vinca and some poison ivy. I have a feeling both of those will easily survive several inches of soil being dumped on them so it may be pointless to sow grass seed when I know vinca will be popping up through it. I use a vinegar/salt/dish detergent spray to kill poison ivy (slowly) but vinca has a waxy coating that is impervious to sprays.

They unearthed a strange old pipe coming straight up out of the ground a good 10 feet from the house. No idea what it is; maybe part of the makeshift drainage system previous owners rigged up. I have come across an old house gutter they buried underground in an effort to divert water from the house.

So the finished patio will actually sit lower than the rest of the yard (kind of like an amphitheater?), and they'll use some Belgian blocks to edge it off. I hope it looks okay. A little hard to picture. They are also sloping the patio every so slightly so any rain runoff will flow away from the house.

I am hoping the whole thing will be finished in less than a week, in anticipation of Dido's visit next weekend. Right now it's quite the construction zone. Update: He said it will be done by Tuesday, or just 4 days!

Here's what it looked like "before."



This shows the overall size and dimensions of the patio. It's going to be huge!


One of 2 large piles of the old bricks on my lawn. He said they'll be gone tomorrow.


I told them they could dump the excavated soil here, where I don't have much grass growing and where there are a lot of potholes from various plants dug up


This shows how much they had to excavate. They will also be doing a little square walkway around the bird statue. I hadn't originally planned on making this part of the project, but I ran out of steam digging up all my plants back here and at the same time couldn't bear to see my phlox destroyed, so he agreed to do this part at cost...because I recommended him to at least 3 people who have ended up hiring him. Not to mention this is my 3rd big project with him (and not the last).

So anyway, the little square will be one step up from the main patio. I think it'll be fine.

My unfortunate lawn is suffering under the weight of several tons.



Staging area for I don't know what.