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Archive for November, 2010

It's soup day

November 28th, 2010 at 08:40 pm

I hadn't planned on making soup, but I went to Costco yesterday and was forced to dethaw a large bag of frozen zucchini chunks from last summer's garden, just to make room for what I got at Costco.

So...there it was in the fridge, ready to do something with but not looking too appetizing. I was afraid I'd end up with a watery mess on my hands, but it turned out pretty good.

I used some Trader Joe's sweet potato bisque as a base, blended the thawed zucchini into a lumpy puree and added that, plus a lot of sauteed onions and garlic. I also poured in about a half cup of grated peccorino-romano cheese. It's colorful, and i didn't even need to use the light cream I'd bought.

Today was the best kind of weekend day, a stay-at-home day where i didn't have to drive anywhere.

I did 10 minutes on the indoor bike (hey, that's double what i did last time!), then I went outside to refill the bird feeders. Then I swept up a bunch of leaves that always collect at the top of the driveway, and I swept up others parts of the drive, too. I raked leaves elsewhere (not too much), scrubbed a whole lot of bird poop off my car, then came inside to make that soup.

Yesterday i helped my mother unload her art from another show and carry it upstairs. I also got my 25-mile ratchet check after my tire rotation. I have to do it one more time after 500 miles.

I saw outside by the feeders that 2 different birds got nailed by a local hawk. I guess the hawk needs to eat too. Looked like it may have been a titmouse or chickadee.

I also spent some time decorating the house for Xmas. I have a lot of decorations that never make their way down from the attic, but I did put up one tabletop tree with ornaments, a ceramic light-up tree my grandmother made for me years ago and i decorated my "mantel" with greenery so it sort of looks like a woodland scene with birds, berries, sheep and little children dressed in their winter coats and scarves. It's the top of a glass bookcase I have that looks like it could be a mantel.

Outside, i picked up a birch branch that came down in a storm. Its branches had grown very twisty and curvy, so i stuck it in an elongated planter I have and threw a few ornaments on it. It's sitting in the driveway, at the stairway to the front door.

Oh, yes, I did 2 loads of laundry, too.

Estate Planning With Ron

November 27th, 2010 at 02:01 pm

I have very few friends. But here's the kind of conversation I have with the few friends I have:

Ron is telling me how he plans to dispose of his assets, during and after his lifetime. He thinks he'll be gone within 10 years, due to the prostate cancer. He has no children, and the woman he married twice (once before she left him and once after she left him) lives in her own condo but comes to visit the dog regularly.

He has two nieces. We went to visit them yesterday. When Ron and I were dating, many years ago,we spent a lot of time with his nieces. They were about 10 years old or so then, and I was about 29. Ron was 40.

Now his nieces are all grown up, married,with cute little kids. The older niece is doing very well; she and her husband are both CPAs with good jobs. The younger one is a school teacher who married her blue collar husband when she became pregnant. Ron didn't care for him much, he mostly did odd jobs while his niece is a first grade school teacher.

Ron has helped them out a lot with money when they needed it. His niece wants to have a 2nd child, but her husband said he wanted to save for a big barn to house all his trucking equipment before that. So Ron has made them an interest-free loan of $40,000 which may not be paid back if he dies too soon.

So Ron, I think, isn't really giving them money for a barn, he's giving them money so that Megan can have what she wants: a 2nd child.Don't ask me why the 2 are connected, but i guess it was money issues.

He plans to leave all his money to his nieces and draw down the equity in his house thru a reverse mortgage. After his death, he said, his wife can have the house to live in, mainly so that she can take care of the dog. (They don't allow dogs where she lives.) But she won't get much money out of it becus he'll have drawn down most of the equity out by then.

He realizes now that she's not really his partner, and probably won't be. He's finally realizing he's not getting much out of the relationship with her. He doesn't feel he can rely on her to dispose of his belongings after he dies, so he's made that a stipulation as part of the $40K loan he gave his younger niece, that they would have to agree to dispose of his material possessions.

He's still legally married to his wife and he's on her health plan til he turns 65 in a few more years. She had a slew of very serious health problems which he helped her with; now she's on disability. He was comparing my personality with that of his wife, wo's very different from me. He always makes me feel good becus he says out loud his assessments, which are that i've worked very hard over the years, i have a nice house and live in a nice town and now i have a very good job.

He's very good at validating the stuff you've done well. You're a spark plug, he said. A spark plug! Ron, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me! I'm a spark plug! I actually got Ron to laugh, something that's hard to do these days.

After the cyber knife surgery failed to eradicate Ron's cancer completely, Ron went on estrogen hormones a few months ago, which is supposed to suppress the growth of the cancer. He can only stay on that for 3 years, and then it stops working. So he has to spend 3 years hoping they come up with something else that will work becus that's pretty much his last option. In the meantime, the estrogen is making him put on weight, and he already was overweight to begin with. He's growing small breasts.

And, I learned yesterday as we were driving home from his nieces, he also has a sleep disorder that makes him suddenly feel like falling asleep.

I remembered back to when we dated that he always fell asleep at night within minutes of his head hitting the pillow. Once, he even fell asleep during sex.

He kept saying it was sleep apnea, but i think it has a different name. He started fighting falling asleep as he drove us home. It might partly be due to the estogen, I'm not sure.

But I realized he was falling asleep becus he started slurring his speech as he was talking. At first, I thought he was having a heart attack. I looked at him and could see he was struggling to keep his eyes open. He opened the window for fresh air, and i put my hand on his arm to shake him. I was scared to death. He said he would stop at the Dunkin Donuts a few exits down the road and wouldn't pull over. We made it to Dunkin Donuts, he got caffeine and seemed better. He agreed to take the back roads the rest of the way home so we could avoid the highway, and then he even agreed to let me drive. I was greatly relieved.

So that's how we made it home. Now I have something new to worry about, that my friend's going to crack up the car someday.

Joan of the Arch, here it is...

November 22nd, 2010 at 02:04 am

Joan, for some reason I can't post a reply to my own blog. I had the same problem trying to comment on someone else's blog today, but anyway....

it's called a Bell bicycle trainer. Here's a link to where Amazon is selling it...

I think it's too chilly for outdoor riding now, Apprentice, but maybe we get an unexpected warm day...

I was thinking a TV would be good, but there's no room for the bike in my bedroom or kitchen where I have tvs. There's a cable hook-up in the family room, but i close that room off in winter. I may consider having a cable line installed in the spare bedroom. Or maybe i should just have it done in my office. Hmmm, ill have to think about that one...

My Indoor-Outdoor Bicycle

November 21st, 2010 at 10:04 pm

OK, here it is, all set up in the spare bedroom.

I donned my sweat pants and, to be honest, just a bra (I was planning on working up a sweat) and hopped on this morning. It was pretty easy to pedal without real hills to worry about, so I put it in the lowest gear possible, the kind you'd use if you were going down a really long hill.

Even then, I could tell it would probably take a while to really get my heart pumping. It was a little on the noisy side, like a pretty loud hum. I think it scared Waldo. I want to try putting some extra carpet padding I think I have in the attic under the trainer to absorb some of the vibrations and make it quieter.

So after about 10 minutes of mindless pedaling, I got bored and hopped off. I hope I can put in more time without getting bored. If I were doing it at a gym, i know from previous experience that personal "pride" keeps me exercising longer, cus you don't want to look like a wuss. Of course at home, it's so much easier to bag it, as my very first 10-minute ride demonstrates.

Well, good thing I didn't sink a lot of money into this......

I spent all day today indoors. Just didn't feel like going outside in the 40 degree weather. I enjoyed just puttering around the house doing different things plus, taking a very long mid-afternoon nap felt quite luxurious. I'm really enjoying indoor time now that I'm not forcing myself to freeze my butt off at 62 degrees or so. 67, I'm finding, is very livable. I think it will be worth a couple of hundred extra bucks if that's what it ends up taking. Doesn't sound very frugal, does it?

Normally, an oil tank fill-up in the summer will last me til early January, but I suspect I will be filling up in December. We'll see.

I was trying to help my mother pin down what kind of pressure cooker she wants for Xmas to replace the one she's had for 44 years! 4 quart, stainless steel, 2 handles...

I bought my dad a cookbook filled with slow cooker recipes. I didn't know he was using a slow cooker, but it came out in conversation a while back, so I hope he would use the cookbook, I don't know. It was only $8.

November doings

November 20th, 2010 at 09:03 pm

My friend left for Florida early this a.m. for a week so I'm on my own this weekend.

I feel like I accomplished some cool stuff, aside from the usual chores.

I stopped in at a church fair and saw that one of the items in the silent auction was a (used) thingamajig that converts your regular bicycle to an indoor stationery bicycle.

I have really been wanting to avoid the usual winter weight gain this year and had been pricing these items online to the tune of $150 or so.

Now if you know how silent auctions work, it's pretty easy to get what you want. You can just place your bid toward the end of the auction, which is what I did, for $22. Then because it was just another half hour before they gave away the auctioned items, I sort of hung around and kept my eagle eye on that particular item. Cus if someone else signed up to bid, I could just bid again...they only required that subsequent bids be in at least $2 increments higher. But no one else bid after me, so I got it and I even got it working after dragging my bike up from the basement to the spare bedroom upstairs. It seems pretty sturdy; I hope it doesn't damage my bike in any way. So i saved quite a bit of $$ on that thing.

Now I have to use it!!!!!

After getting my big ladder out last week to caulk a leaky window, it appears to have held through a recent rainstorm. But I awoke early one a.m. last week during that rainstorm and i thought to myself, gee, that rain sounds like it's IN the house. And in fact, it was dripping through another window, this one in my bedroom.

So this a.m. i caulked up the 2nd leaky window. I've done this many times, altho it's usually the other window in my office. The caulk seems to hold for a few years, and then it leaks again. But anyway,the bedroom window was MUCh easier to deal with becus i was able to climb out my bedroom window onto the relatively flat roof over the family room to do the work. No ladders.

I also filled up the gas tank (weekend ritual), got a large, interesting bluish glass vase at Home Goods and groceries at Shop Rite. I treated myself to a big piece of wild sockeye salmon, which i'll share with the cats tonight.

I interviewed with HR at the company I'm doing the contract work with, for the perm job. It wasn't much of an interview, he only asked me 1 or 2 questions, so i'm hoping that's becus he knows they want me.

It's still a little unnerving becus they interviewed several people from the outside for the 2 positions. I hope it's not for the one I want. Still in "wait" mode, as in, I'm waiting for an offer sometime this month or next.

Does anyone have experience doing temporary contract work and then negotiating for the perm position? What I don't know is how much higher or (likely) lower the perm salary may be compared to the temp job? I'm making $104K now. How much would you advise I ask for?

Since starting the temp work in mid-September, I've been nearly doubling my mortgage payments and have started to save money on top of that, altho only $500 a month and I think I can increase that amount.

I'm not sure where my mortgage balance is now, but the goal is still to get that thing paid off ASAP so i can fully concentrate on retirement saving, the ultimate goal being to retire well BEFORE age 60. Like age 55 would be great, but I would have to really ramp up the savings to do that, and not sure it's at all possible.

I am taking Tgiving and the friday after off and am really looking forward to the first time off since starting the job, but it will also mean the paycheck after the next one will be substantially smaller as that will just be a 24-hour week, not 40.

If I end up getting the job, it won't really matter, but it will matter a lot if i don't becus i'll be impoverished again and need every penny.

I spoke to my friend Ron briefly today while i was waiting to collect on the silent auction thing...we may go for a little road trip on Friday after Turkey day to visit one of his nieces, who has a baby now. i haven't seen her for many years; she was just a young girl when i was dating ron....she probably has only memories of me and him always arguing. That's something i regret. Ron and i are opposites in many ways, but he's a good friend now, albeit one i seldom see these days.

feeling energized...

November 13th, 2010 at 09:54 pm

Last week I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper opposing the proposed construction of a new 6-bay fire station near my neighborhood. It's very close to a busy intersection that is bumper to bumper during rush hour and in a residential area.

The fire company's current fire station has structural integrity problems and for some reason they don't want to rebuild in that location, nor do they want to go to another area of town where's there's plenty of space, a road that's equipped to handle fire trucks and no residential nearby.

A chiropractor who's involved in fighting the proposal saw my letter in the paper and called me last week, asking if I'd be willing to help collect petition signatures.

Of course i said yes, so i spent about 2 hours this afternoon walking around my neighborhood getting signatures. I feel energized by all the support and positive energy I got from people. 8 out of 10 signed the petition.

Then I had to run home cus my mother was meeting me here at 4 pm for us to exchange a few things. Then as she was leaving one of the neighbors who got my note in the door called me and said they wanted to sign, so my mother gave me a ride down the road to their house and back.

Do you remember my telling you that the company I'm working for as a contractor for 3.5 months terminated the other writer on day 6 of his employment? Well, the 3rd writer has also been let go, although they're giving her until the end of the month. (She was supposed to stay til end of December and of course, she, too, was hoping for a perm job after that.)

So that leaves me. The have yet to offer me the job on a perm basis, but I'm counting on their doing so. They had advertised the job externally as well. I plan to ask about what's going on before Thanksgiving. The other writer is upset but she's also a very upbeat person.

I happen to like the other writer. We have a few things in common: we're both around the same age, not married, no kids, and we both are into eating healthy and hiking. Altho she's very outgoing, I am not.

In the meantime, i was able to access the healthcare coverage options for employees on the company's intranet site. It had all the info on the plans except the prices, which vary depending on what grade level your job is. (Why would that be? Have higher paid employees pay more, maybe?)

But they have so many choices: 5 different health insurance plans, 2 dental plans and 2 vision plans, plus the health savings accounts. Carrrier is Aetna/CIGNA. I've never had them before, but anyway, you get to choose a plan depending on whether you want 90% coverage and higher monthly premiums or low premiums but higher co-pays, basically.

Today, prior to my signature-collecting, i got up on a ladder to try to address a persistently leaky window on the 2nd floor. The ladder is BARELY long enough for me to reach the top of the 2nd floor window and i hate getting up there. It's really not safe, but there's no one else to do it.

As has been the case before, i examined window trim where I'd caulked before and for the life of me couldn't see any obvious spot where the water was coming in. When it rains heavily, it drips from in between the inside window and window trim. Generally my caulking lasts a year or two, and then it starts leaking again. So I caulked heavily on the outside anyway. This will be the very last weekend, I'm sure, when it will be warm enough for the caulk to dry, so I caught a lucky break. Assuming that caulk plugs up the leak. Otherwise, I'd have to deal with the problem until spring.

After dealing with the leak, I reattached 2 loose house shutters, mowed up all the leaves in the backyard, got my car serviced at the dealer (oil/filter change, check brakes and battery) and picked up some groceries at Shop Rite. I also topped off the gas tank and did a load of laundry.

Which takes care of most of my chores, so tomorrow is fun day when i go to a craft show with a friend.

Sunday Doings: Yoga, cooking

November 7th, 2010 at 09:44 pm

The boys were really spoiled by having me around all the time this past year when I wasn't working. So now that I'm back to work f/t, I actually feel guilty, after leaving them to fend for themselves all week long, when I run around and do my assorted errands on the weekend.

So this weekend, I invited a friend over to show me her yoga moves. She's been trying to get me interested in it for years, but in the past I'd always figured that if I was going to dedicate some time for exercise, I'd want to do something cardio, and get more benefit, out of it.

But yoga seemed like just the ticket after acquiring a stiff neck from sitting in front of the computer at the office. And I figured Luther would appreciate having the extra companionship.

So we spent a good 1.5 hours doing yoga positions in my living room with classical music on in the background. I do really like how loosened up I feel. I have a lot of strength from mowing the lawn and such, but I've lost a lot of flexibility over the years, I think.

I let my friend sample the chili cooling on the stove (made with homegrown tomatoes and dried beans). We also had some organic apple cider and a berry crisp I made using blueberries and wineberries I picked in the yard and froze. It was yummy.

My friend M. called earlier in the day and we had a long conversation. He wanted my opinion on whether he should declare bankruptcy and how it would impact his credit. He's about 30K in debt. He's back to work now, too, but his is also temporary and unlike mine, where I have a good shot at the perm position, his will probably end at the end of the year. He's working in the city and making very good money, at $60/hr. but no health insurance.

Now it's getting dark and it's not even 5 pm How depressing.

Breathing easier already

November 6th, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Ahhh. I bought myself a Filter Stream HEPA air purifier.

Never considered getting one before, but now that I've got my heat on (forced hot air), it sure blows a lot of dust around. Add 2 shedding cats to the mix and I figured it might be a good idea.

Anytime I change the bed sheets I see all kinds of dust particles floating in the air, and it occurred to me i was breathing that stuff in.

With the cats, I really should be vacuuming weekly, but I tend to vacuum maybe once every 3 weeks. Housecleaning's not really my thing....

I went to the Energy Star website to pinpoint which brands and models were the most energy-efficient. There's quite a wide range. Some of them cost more to run than a refrigerator!

I got a very good one and I'm very happy with how quiet it is, too. What's more, it has a built in reservoir and you can put in different air fragrances. It came with 3: lavender, citrus and grapefruit. The lavender was too strong for my taste but the others might be nice.

Today was a pretty decent day. I went to Wal-Mart and stocked up on another month's supply of Fancy Feast, ($75) bought a pair of work slacks (dark purple) at Marshall's for $17, browsed Home Goods, topped off the gas tank and picked up some hairball treats for the boys.

I lounged around the house enjoying my free time and did some laundry and also vacuumed. I refilled the bird feeder and the suet feeder. Nothing too strenuous.

I'm feeling very liberated since telling that old freelance client of mine it might be a better idea if he wrote his case study himself, and that I'd still be happy to "polish" it for him. I was relieved when he wrote back and said the same thought had occurred to him, so no hard feelings, I'm off the hook and editing is a heck of a lot easier than starting from scratch.

My work weeks sure fly by pretty quickly. Still, I'm very much looking forward to my first time off when Tgiving rolls around. I'm taking the Friday after off too, and am looking forward to an extended break. I won't get paid for it as a contractor, but I'm feeling somewhat more confident i'll get the job in 2011 anyway, so why not take the holiday time off and enjoy it.

I've really gotten to like the other temp writer who was hired, and it's looking like only one of us will end up staying into 2011. I'm hoping it will be me, but I will miss her. I hope we can solidify our friendship so that we stay in touch afterwards.