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Archive for October, 2011

Major Tree Damage - Major Problems

October 29th, 2011 at 10:01 pm

The freak winter snowstorm is far from over, but I already have more tree damage than I can deal with.

They're forecasting about a foot by the time it's through tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I already have more tree limbs down than I can count.

The worst is a half a sugar maple tree that grew on an upward slope in the backyard. Half of it came crashing down, at its base, and it landed in a smaller crabapple tree in the backyard while taking a good-sized branch of another sugar maple with it.

Now the tree rests, suspended horizontally above the ground and held in mid-air by the crabapple tree.

So it would take professionals to cut it up and remove it. Thing is, I'm in no position to spend several thousand dollars to remove it. My homeowners deductible is $5,000, so we won't be going there.

It's going to be a problem.

I will have my hands full just going around and dragging and cutting up other smaller limbs that came down. There's a large white birch at the foot of my driveway which is now bowed over the drive by the snow and blocking passage. It's touching the ground. I'm hoping that my shaking off the snow tomorrow, I can get it to rise back high enough to get my car through there.

I feel blessed to still have power, although a strange, transformer like sound is buzzing intermittently over by my neighbor's wires. I'm thinking there must be a tree branch on the line.

Although it is relatively calm windwise, they're forecasting winds up to 40 and now that it's getting dark out, that's when it gets scary: pitch black, windy and lord knows how many more tree limbs to fall.

I really wish I had a pickup truck. I'm so reliant on others to help me out, and really there's just one guy who's been over with his chainsaw and i haven't really encouraged the friendship. He's just not someone I really warm up to but he has been hugely helpful in the past cutting up trees. I just don't feel I can call him, once again, becus i haven't called him in so long. Surely he would feel used, andi guess i wouldn't blame him.

I'm going to have to fine new places to drag these tree limbs or spend several years cutting them up with my little bow saw, stuffing them in the trunk of my Honda and carting them to the landfill.

A doe and her two fawns, now spotless, have wandered through the back yard to the front, looking for thee small little apples still on the ground. I think they like the instant cover created by the fallen tree limbs.

Sigh. I still haven't finished cleaning up fallen limbs from Hurricane Irene. This is a constant problem.

Major snowstorm!

October 29th, 2011 at 05:51 pm

Shot from inside my office, looking into the front yard.

I was a little late to be clued in that a major snowstorm would be occurring today, but it's here, in a big way!

gosh, we haven't even had Halloween yet and they're forecasting 6 to 10 inches. The flakes are huge.

The car is safely inside the garage and yesterday I put away the last of my outdoor potted annuals and a small wood bench on my front stoop that always gets knocked over by strong winds.

I was able to get my haircut this am at a "hair academy" where instructors work with the "student" who is cutting your hair.

I was talking to another customer waiting to get her haircut and she said she'd never had a bad haircut there, so I felt "safe." Actually, the gal did as good a job as I've ever had, and i actually liked that the instructor maybe 3 or 4 times checked how she was cutting my hair and spoke to her at length about how to go about it. It was kind of interesting and probably took twice as long as a normal haircut, but I rather liked that too. Felt like I was being pampered and cared for, and it was just $13. I will definitely return there. I had been driving down to the mall for a haircut at about the same price, I think, but that was a 15 or 20 minute drive, so this is much better as it's just a few miles down the street.

I finished off the last of my sweet potato pie and the rest of a really good soup i made in the slow cooker 3 days ago featuring pork, white beans, tomato and kale. It was really very tasty, I must say.

My daytime heat is set at 63 and I am SO conscious of the furnace kicking on and the using up of my precious (aka expensive) heating oil. Well, it can't be helped. It's 32 out there.

They are calling for occasional wind gust of 40 mph and up and power outages and downed trees with all the heavy snow as a result. I sure hope I don't lose power again. Not in these temps.

This is the white bench I dragged up from a small downstairs hallway and put in my office, mainly to entice my kitty to jump on it so he could look out the window.

A few days after moving the bench, he finally screwed up the courage to jump on the bench. But notice he's still not walking on the soft blanket I put there for his comfort! He gives new meaning to the phrase, "Scaredy cat!"

Catnip-induced silliness

These big white pines run along the roadside. Let's hope they remain upright.

Mortgage smackdown

October 28th, 2011 at 02:13 pm

I've been watching the Dow and one day last week when it had climbed to a relative high of about 11,880, I sold one of my mutual funds worth about $16,500. After receiving the money in my checking account, I marched over to my mortgage bank and presented them with the check.

I'm now happy to report my mortgage balance is just $10,582. She said it would still be another 19 months before I pay it off (assuming no prepayments), which is a bit longer than I estimated, but perhaps I can put some of my tax refund toward it.

I can't really consider selling a portion of my remaining taxable mutual fund becus it's an international fund and has been doing quite poorly amid all the hubbub about the Euro, Greece and Italy. I don't want to take a big hit when I sell the fund, so for now, I'm content to have chipped away at the mortgage to this level.

I asked the teller for two key pieces of info:
1. How much actual interest have i paid to date, over the life of the loan? (I'm in year 16 of a 30-year mortgage), and
2. How much interest WOULD I have paid over 30 years with NO prepayments?

Now granted, these numbers will change becus the loan still isn't completely paid off, but we're getting pretty near the end here and I just wanted to see.

She told me I have paid about $67,301 in interest over the 16 years I've owned the house. Boggles the mind, doesn't it? But if I hadn't been prepaying all these years, I would have paid, over the course of the 30-year loan....drumroll...$125,336.

So I haven't quite cut my interest payments in half, but pretty darn close. I'll revisit these figures again once I finally pay it off.

Houdini no more, no Costco membership renewal, the handyman, Medicare costs

October 26th, 2011 at 01:30 pm

Yesterday I had my handyman come over and address the situation with the clothes dryer hose vent which my cat pried off and climbed through to get into the garage.

It was a pretty easy and quick fix, costing me all of $39 ($9 of that was for materials). He happened to have a large piece of plywood in the back of his truck that he wasn't using for anything and he cut that down to size to fit the size of the window opening. Then he cut a round hole in it the exact diameter of the vent hole, about 4 inches. Then he bought a dryer vent, the kind that has a flap that closes over the hole when it's not in use, and he screwed that into the old window frame that was already there.

So voila. Problem fixed. Now if he wanted to, the cat could still scratch at my somewhat flimsy dryer hose and tear more holes in it. Then I'd be forced to spend money on a better hose, the kind made out of solid metal, but I'm really hoping that doesn't happen becus then I might have to have the handyman back here again to re-affix the new hose.

I got 3 new freelance writing assignments for marketing materials for an upscale new subdivision (6 homes) in an upscale Connecticut town. They're actually 3 different pages of what will become the marketing brochure, but they like to give it to me broken into smaller components, like the builder bio, the town write-up and the write-up about the community itself. It's fine by me. I interviewed the builder yesterday and also talked to the sales agent, enabling me to write about a place I've never been to.

Last week I went to a free dinner lecture at Masonicares rehab/nursing home on Medicare. It's open enrollment time now and it can be very confusing which plan is the best. So I went to the lecture (mainly for the free meal) and the speaker was great. Not only that, but he will meet with seniors one-on-one to discuss their particular situation and advise as to the best plan(s), whether it's A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc., or some combination of them all.

I gave my mother his contact info and urged her to call him. She didn't want to drive out his way but happily,he's coming to her home and she wanted me to be there too cus she doesn't know the guy, so that's what I'm doing later this morning.

Before coming back home I'll hit Costco for some milk and cat litter. Costco is raising its membership fee and I've decided it's no longer worth it for me to be a member, so when my membership comes up for renewal in December, I'll let it lapse. But in the meantime, I am stocking up on enough cat litter to last me all of next year. Their price on cat litter ($7.35 for a 44 lb box of clumping) is far and away cheaper than anywhere else. I think I go thru about 1 box of litter a month for the 2 cats, so my goal is to have at least 12 extra boxes in December, and I'll plan on renewing the Costco membership in Dec. 2012 after skipping a year.

The boxes are super heavy and i can barely lift them into a Costco cart, but i hope to get one of those flatbed carts and buy 3 or 4 boxes today. Smile

I wish I could do the same thing with the milk, but I can't. Too bad I didn't have a freezer.

I feel bad for my handyman. He's struggled financially for as long as I've known him, although he does pretty good work. There are 3 reasons for this that I can see, but I can never tell him one of them.

The first reason is that he really underprices his work. And he doesn't charge for his time spent picking up materials,nor does he inflate the price of materials he buys so he doesn't profit off them, as most contractors do. I know this becus he gives me the receipt after he buys materials so i can see exactly what it cost. He must be the only person in the world who does that.

The 2nd reason he's always broke is becus he doesn't advertise his services anywhere. The one time he posted his services on a local bulletin board in town, someone from the town called him and was asking all kinds of questions becus they wanted to start taxing his business assets, like his truck. He also doesn't advertise becus he doesn't want to get caught doing handyman work without a license, which is an expensive annual cost. We were talking about it all after he finished my job, and I suggested that he try advertising again, but in surrounding towns, not this town. That way, if a local town official happened to read it, chances are, they wouldn't bother calling my town to report him, and it wouldn't matter to them since the handyman works in my town, not their town. He thought that was a good idea.

The 3rd reason he's struggling is becus he never works steadily enough. He now has a p/t job that's a regular thing, but he's only guaranteed 12 hours, altho sometimes he works as much as 25 hours a week. Not enough to live on!So he had been renting a small (900sf) lakefront cottage for years. He always had trouble paying the rent. Then he had a very bad accident with his motorcycle but collected about $145,000 from it. You would think that would have solve all his problems. Well, yes and no. He had been renting with an option to buy. The house isn't worth much by itself. It doesn't have a septic system, just a cesspool, it has no water source itself but he uses a community well, whatever it is, it's on very steep land, though it's 1/2 an acre and it doesn't have a foundation. But it's very private and it's waterfront. So he bought the house, paid in cash.

So that alleviated that financial pressure, but yesterday he was telling me he's way behind on paying the town property taxes. For his little place, the taxes are about $3300, and he now owes about $12,000. I urged him to challenge the assessment with the Board of Appeals, given all the shortcomings of the place but he seems pretty skeptical. He's kind of a loner/hippie type, with long hair he keeps in a ponytail. I feel bad for him. He's afraid he's going to lose the house.

I have been using my paypal account now. I've had it for a while but never used it. I've used it to get paid by the guy who's having me edit his emails, as well as getting paid by the online surveys. It's just a few dollars here or there, but it sure beats waiting 4 weeks to get paid by the online survey places! What an improvement! I have it linked to my local checking account and transfer money immediately when I get it. I had been leery of using Paypal when I first heard about it, but it's been around so long and so many people use it, I finally caved in. Just like I caved in about doing online banking or using more big bank credit cards. Smile

Why I changed dentists

October 24th, 2011 at 02:05 pm

OK, I did it. I left what was probably my favorite healthcare provider and made an appointment with a new dentist later this week.

When I called to cancel the appointment I'd made with my old dentist, I made a point to explain why I was cancelling the appointment. She said she'd pass it on and sounded like she completely understood.

Still out of work, it's getting harder for me to justify spending $150 for a routine teeth cleaning every 6 months. Don't get me wrong, I feel it's very important to have the cleanings and believe it's one reason I have a pretty healthy set of wisdom teeth extractions, no crowns, dentures or anything aside from a bunch of fillings from when I was much younger and had a sweet tooth (still do).

So I responded to an ad by a dentist who was offering a "fall special" for new patients. Exam, x-rays and cleaning for $90. That's a $60 savings over my current dentist.

The woman on the line said the price would be the same without x-rays, which I don't plan to get. (Until about 10 years ago, I would always get the annual set of x-rays, per dentist recommendations. But not ONCE in all those years did those x-rays ever show anything. I suspect the x-rays helped put my dentist's kids through college, but didn't do much for me except douse my body with a whole lot more radiation than I needed.)

The woman at the new dentist said his normal price was $174, so unless he extends his fall special, I will have to return to my old dentist 6 months from now or find someone new. But even then, it still saves me $60 right now.

I do this with great reluctance because there is no other healthcare, aside from my gynecologist, that I'm more attached to with my current provider. I don't often see the dentist himself for more than 5 minutes as he gazes into my mouth. He did one filling for me a few years ago and he did have an incredibly gentle touch. I was amazed.

The hygienist who cleans my teeth is about my age and is so pleasant and talkative, that I feel like I'm going to see an old friend, one who just happens to be cleaning my teeth. I've been going to her for 16 years now, so it's hard to try someone new, but money is the issue.

I understand if dentists, like most self-employed healthcare providers, want to make sure their income stays the same or even increases. But most of their patients are seeing their income stagnate or decline, sometimes dramatically, as in my case. So while I'm not yet willing to forego my twice a year cleanings, I will take steps to reduce the cost.

it reminds me of my primary care doc, who has now sent out a second survey to his patients asking them what they think of his going the concierge healthcare route, meaning, they charge patients several thousand dollars a year and in return you get immediate access to the doctor and get all kinds of other perks. My doctor is obviously trying to eliminate the hassles of insurance paperwork while boosting his income. I wasn't thrilled with the idea. Why should I pay more money for things like on-time appointments, which I should be getting already?

Sunday stuff

October 23rd, 2011 at 10:41 pm

The day's accomplishments:

1. Lots of online surveys in the morning with a steaming cup of green tea.
2. Rearranged some furniture which always gives me a "wow" moment, as if I have a brand new room! All I did was haul an old barnboard cabinet (Sundance catalog, muchos dineros at a time when I had money) and put it downstairs against a window in a little back hallway. The white storage bench I had in that location came up to my office.

Why did I do this, battling the stairs heroically as I went? Because I thought my scaredy cat would appreciate being able to jump on the lower bench and look out the office window. He is too insecure to jump on any household furniture except my bed, the built-in benches in the sun room, and the couch.
3. Swept a ton of pine needles covering my upper driveway and deposited them in the blueberry bed. Blueberry bushes love acidity.
4. Raked more pine needles off an area of my front lawn where they always collect under a big row of mammoth white pines.
5. I actually did some paying work for the guy I found on Craig's List who has had me edit some of his emails. I earned about $10 for a half hour of pretty easy work.
6. Read the Sunday paper (and saw my mom's photo in it, related to an art exhibit) Smile
7. Organized myself for Monday chores which include groceries, a bank deposit, a dump run and Walgreen's. Handyman Billy is coming over in the afternoon to assess what he can do with the dryer vent hose/Houdini hole.
8. Vaccumed the upstairs.
9. Filled the bird feeder.
10. Picked out a slow cooker recipe (pork) which I hope to do tomorrow if I get back early enough from grocery shopping.

By the way, I'm amazed at how big name Hollywood stars...I'm talking dustin hoffman and george clooney....can still put out some really lousy movies. In the last 2 days I watched george in Men Who Stare at Goats and Dustin in a love story with Emma Thompson, and they were both were mediocre. Not sure what it was, maybe it was just the story line.

Got my $200 from Chase Freedom Card!

October 22nd, 2011 at 06:43 pm

Oh, what a lovely thing...a check for $200 from Chase Freedom credit card. The easiest $200 I ever made....

I've already started using my next card, Citi Dividend. I discovered to my delight that I can charge my homeowner's insurance with no fee (Met Life) so I put $691 on the Citi card, automatically fulfilling my minimum spending requirement for my 2nd $200 reward.

Life is good.

Also got paid $180 by the money manager today, and got another check for $50 from a focus group.

October has turned into a pretty good month moneywise. The extra income has allowed me to pay my homeowners insurance, a pretty big once a year bill, without exceeding income this month.

My cat, Houdini

October 21st, 2011 at 11:07 pm

How could a cat of this size fit through a four-inch-wide opening?

I'm still shaking my head.

A bit of a battle to get Citi to honor its $200 cash back offer

October 21st, 2011 at 08:41 pm

I got my Citi Dividend World Class Master Card in the mail today and activated it. While I had the rep on the phone, I figured I'd confirm the $200 cash back offer (if you spend $500 in the 1st 3 months) as it's not stated anywhere on the application or on the website, which makes me nervous.

Actually, the website says something entirely different: $150 cash back if you spend $750 in the 1st 3 months. Well, which is it?

Sure enough, the rep said oh no, but she proceeds to tell me that "my" offer is for $100 cash back. I pointed out that their website which i was looking at as we spoke indicated there was a $150 cash back offer.

I wrangled with her a bit, and then she put an account manager on the phone. I usually bookmark credit card offers, but i think i stopped doing that becus if the offer expires later, the link could then be dead and i'd have no proof of the original offer. So i started taking Screen Captures and saving it as a jpg, but i couldn't find the Citi card anywhere.

So i did a simple online search and found multiple $200 cash back offers for this card. I told him I was on one in particular, and i said, can i send you the link. He said,no, we don't have email here Can you fax it? You don't have email??? I don't own a fax; they're practically obsolete.

So i gave him the web address and walked him through finding it online. He finally got there and after reading the terms and conditions, saw that the offer was still current, so he said he would do whatever needed to be done to ensure I got the $200 offer, and that I'd get an email confirmation of that in a few days. (Let's see how that goes.)

But I mean, C'mon! Why should i have to renegotiate the whole thing? He kept saying, there are hundreds of offers we have out there, and they're all different. Well, gee, is it any wonder you get disgruntled customers when they learn that other customers are getting better deals than they are? I mean, the offers aren't even based on anything logical, like credit scores; they're simply different deals and if you find a better one, god bless, otherwise, too bad.

So he keeps saying, by way of excuse, that Citi has hundreds of offers out there and it's hard to keep track of them. I mean, you would think if anyone should be able to keep it straight, it would be the company making the offers. But no, he had to put me on hold, yada yada yada.

I only got the $200 offer because i was able to walk him through finding it online to verify. If I had taken the first rep at her word, I would have gotten only $100 cash back.

Buyer beware, and be your own advocate, and take screen captures of everything.

Someone was a very, VERY bad boy yesterday!

October 21st, 2011 at 05:14 pm

Thinking back about the 5 cats I've owned during my adulthood, my Maine Coon has been, by far, the most destructive and fearless cat I've owned (and also, the best looking).

Yesterday, inexplicably, he was evidently "exploring" in the basement. Although he's made his home here with me and Waldo for over 2 years now, he apparently just discovered that by jumping up from the basement floor to a two-inch wide ledge about five feet up on the basement wall, he could then walk along the wall and hop on top of the well water tank. From there, he had easy access to leap to a small basement window well. Before my attached garage was added to the other side of this wall, this was an outside wall, hence, the window.

When I bought the house, the previous homeowners had rigged up an insulated frame that fit inside the window well against the window. Inside the insulated frame and the glass window it sits up against, they had an approximate four-inch diameter circle cut to fit the diameter of a standard clothes dryer hose, and this is where I've always vented my dryer.

The washing machine and clothes dryer were at one time against the back wall of the house. I know that because you could see the old dryer vent on the back wall, but that has since been covered up by my new vinyl siding. So the little window on the shared wall between basement and garage is really the only option I have for venting the clothes dryer.

it's not a good idea to vent anywhere but outdoors, cus that's a lot of humid, moist air and I have noticed that if I don't crack the door open in the garage regularly when i run the dryer, tools rust.

So anyway, the cat somehow discovered that by clawing at the flimsy dryer hose, which is not attached to the window, just placed in the hole, basically, he could pull it out. (He's already become quite dexterious at prying open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors.) Once he did that, he saw the opening, and like a little mouse, he managed to crawl through the cut glass opening plus lots of fiberglass insulation (great) to find himself in the garage. He had to leap about six feet down to a hard, concrete floor.

Yesterday morning, I couldn't find him, which always makes me nervous. I went into the basement calling for him but didn't see him. Then I spied the dryer hose no longer inside the little opening in that old window and I thought to myself, could he have CRAWLED through that tiny opening? I went to the garage door, which opens to the basement, and Luther scooted right in. He'd apparently been trying to get back in for a while, because he'd totally ripped off a rubber door sweep my handyman had put at the bottom of my metal door for drafts. More damage.

I kind of freaked, because all summer long I've often kept the big garage door open, often overnight. If he'd happened to make his tunnel-like escape at that time, he'd be gone. I also have another side door to the garage which I've been unable to close since they put aluminimum trim around the door frame. I don't know if the door warped or what, but even with substantial chiseling and sanding of the door, it still won't close. If he had investigated that door, he could have easily pushed it open.

So yesterday morning, as a short-term solution, I began to barricade the window. I say short-term because I'm not going to want to dismantle it each time I need to use the dryer. I jammed a variety, lumber against the window, but I can't nail or screw it in place, it's all concrete there so I just tried to wedge it in place, Then I put up other obstacles that I hoped would keep Luther from pulling the same stunt again.

The window is in the top left part of the photo, and is covered with the white sytrofoam I had on hand. The large black pipe is my septic pipe which goes straight into the floor of the basement and basically prevents me from moving the washer/dryer closer to the window. There are also several poles in the way, plus the well water tank itself.

Not five minutes later, he had done it again! I was flabbergasted. I had to bring him back inside from the garage. I did more barricading, and later when i went upstairs, I could hear him scratching at something down there, trying to get through. The little escape artist was now obsessed with his new taste of freedom.

I made it clear to him that was very, very bad and chased him round and round the housewhen I caught him trying to get through the hole again. I needed to nip this in the bud.

We survived last night with no further garage forays, but I see he did attempt another adventure because a few things were knocked down out of place.

I really don't know what I'll do moving forward, as I need to keep that window free for my dryer hose. (As it it, the cat put a few holes in the hose as well.) I know I can probably find the more expensive dryer hose that doens't have the coils/ribs, is just hard metal, and that kind is much safer anyway as dryer lint can't collect between the coils/ribs. But there's no way right now to secure it firmly through the hole in the glass.

I'm thinking maybe i can get my handyman to build something the same size as the glass window, but made of wood, and maybe then it if was wood a sturdier dryer hose could be attached to it permanently.

Wasted day

October 20th, 2011 at 01:08 am

I wish I could be more gracious about the whole thing, but I was feeling pretty cranky about my wasted day today.

I had told my neighbor I'd take her to the hospital (not the local one) for her colonscopy today. I figured it would be a few hours so I brought 2 magazines to read. It ended up being a total of 7 hours from the time I picked her up (8:15 am) to the time I got home (around 3 pm).

I try to be helpful, but one thing I am most definitely not good at is waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Climbing walls. I asked the nurse finally if my neighbor was done, and she went ahead and brought me to where she lay in bed. She looked pretty groggy, but gosh, I'd already been waiting quite some time by then, so I said, wake up, sleepy head. My neighbor said, oh, it feels good to sleep. I didn't want to rush her, so i said, take your time, I'll be waiting in the lobby, and i left her. Well, i guess she took me at my word, and must have gone back to sleep again. Geez. Then an hour or so later the nurse tells me to pick up my car and wait out front, which I did. Then I waited another 45 minutes in my car. They later claimed they looked outside and didn't see me there and waited around 20 minutes, but obviously, they didn't look very hard. There were at least a half dozen cars lined up in front of the hospital, all waiting to pick people up, and I was just one of them. Oh well.

I will get my SWEET REVENGE in 3 weeks when it's MY turn to have a colonscopy and my neighbor drives me! However, once awake, I would not linger in bed knowing that someone was waiting for me. And I'll be going to the local hospital.

So it shot most of my day. I just felt grumpy about that.

It was very upsetting to read about that guy in Ohion who let all his exotic animals loose before killing himself. What was upsetting was hearing about how law enforcement found it necessary to kill most of those animals. Why they couldn't simply tranquilize them, I don't know. Very sad. They got a taste of freedom and then their lives was snuffed out.

A harbinger of good things to come?

October 19th, 2011 at 12:23 am

I spotted this little lady outside my window yesterday as I was holding Luther on my lap...

I always felt that seeing a praying mantis in the garden was a very lucky thing. I haven't seen one of these in many, many years. Maybe it means I'll get that job!

Don't know how she got up as high as my second floor window, especially with a fairly slippery surface (vinyl siding and aluminum trim). Praying mantis' fly, but they usually don't. Of course seeing her there prompted me to do some quick research online. It seems that this is the time of year they mate and the female lays eggs, dying afterwards once it freezes.

I considered taking her inside just to get her through the winter, as some people keep them as "pets" and feed them crickets and things, but I'm fairly squeamish about insects and this one ranks high on the "squeam" scale.

I guess it's a sign of a health ecology in my garden, although I did have it sprayed with some sort of pesticide in the spring as part of a Lyme Disease study. Well, actually, I don't know for sure they sprayed the pesticide; it could have been just water. I will find out later this month, but I was convinced they had sprayed with the chemical becus for the first time in years, my home has been free of carpenter ants.

I'm not going to get much done tomorrow, as I'm driving my friend to her colonscopy. I have to go get her at 8:15 am and schelp down to hospital in the rain. As you may be able to tell, I don't really feel like doing it, but of course I will. She's going to return the favor when I get a colonscopy next month.

I caved and turned the heat on tonight, for what will be just the 2nd night with heat this season. I hope to keep turning it off when I get up in the a.m. and just have it on nights, for a while.

My walk

October 16th, 2011 at 08:52 pm

I had a very enjoyable 75-minute walk around the back roads of my town.

Come with me...

There are a fair number of dirt roads in town.

I liked the dark form of these tree trunks.

This used to be an old, ramshackle garage, but then they fixed it up. I love how they did the stonework. Now that I've done the siding on my house, I'd love to do all the cement on my garage the same way.

This has always been one of my favorite houses. I can't help but stare at it as I walk by. It's small enough that I could picture myself living in it. It has a good amount of land, a great, open air porch on the side, nice landscaping and that cool fountain in front.

A flag in the cornfield. Usually, it's very peaceful when I walk by the farm. But this weekend they were having their autumn pumpkin festival and were giving pony and tractor rides and they have a corn maze. They even had live entertainment this year.

I had been thinking, gee, there doesn't seem to be a lot of color in the leaves this year, but then I saw this photo I'd taken on my computer and I thought, "Wow."

Every farm must have a tractor.

Luther and his mouse.

There's something about the morning sunlight that makes Luther look so regal.

This looks funny, like he's trying to bite someone maybe? It's actually the tail end of a yawn.

'Til tomorrow...

My kind of Sunday

October 16th, 2011 at 06:33 pm

Here in Patient Saver World, Sunday is indeed a day of rest.

My favorite kind of Sunday includes lounging around reading the Sunday paper, baking or cooking and taking a long walk.

I'm having that kind of day! I just finished whipping up a double batch of my homemade cereal and a large tray of my grandma's apple crisp, adapted for the blueberries I picked with my dad last summer. It's delicious with any kind of fruit. I also threw in an overripe pear sitting in a bowl on the kitchen table.

I just finished a hot cup of tea and am waiting for it to kick in sufficiently to motivate me to take my long walk through the countryside with my camera.

When I return, I'll get started on the Sunday paper.

In other news:

I've organized in a little grid/chart the 6 credit card cash back offers I'd like to take advantage of. I have to do one at a time since to meet some of these spending minimums, I have to use one card solely. By the time I receive my first reward from Chase Freedom, I should have received in the mail the next card I'll be working on, Citi Dividend World Master Card.

It's possible that some of these bonus rewards may go away by the time I'm ready to apply for that particular card. And it seems that different deals for the same card exist. I've seen write-ups on other blogs indicating that the Citi Dividend World MC offers both a $100 and $200 reward. I will call them before applying for the card to see which it is. It's frustrating becus if you go to the site itself, they don't mention any rewards, probably because they change so frequently or are different for different groups of people.

Here's the list of cards, in the order I plan to get them, for anyone else who's interested in doing this:
1. Chase Freedom: $200 cash back if you charge $500 or more in 1st 3 months; no annual fee.
2. Citi Dividend World Master Card: Either $100 or $200 cash back if you charge $500 in the 1st 3 months; no annual fee.
3. Capital One Cash Credit Card: $100 cash back if you charge $500 in the1st 3 months; no annual fee.
4. Citi Platinum Charge card: $75 back if you charge $75 int eh 1st 3 months.

And when (when, Dido) I get a job:
5. Citi Thank You Preferred Card: $500 back in gift cards if you charge $5,000 in the 1st 6 months and $5,000 in the next 6 months. This works out to $833 charged a month, so this would be a bit easier than meeting the Chase Sapphire requirements below.
6. Chase Sapphire: $500 cash back if you charge $3,000 in 1st 3 months/$95 annual fee waived for first year

I have a fairly busy week coming up.
Monday I go do a focus group for $50.
Tuesday I have the phone job interview and later meet a friend at the coffee shop. (It's gotten to the point where I don't even want to spend the $2 on a tea there, but the person I'm meeting is not someone I know well and so I wouldn't invite them to my home, and I figure, if I want any kind of social life, I may have to spend at least a $ or two to do so.)
Wednesday I drive a friend for her colonscopy. It would have been nice if she'd just gone to the local hospital for this, but no,she chose the hospital 40 minutes away.
Thursday I'm going to a free dinner/lecture with the same friend.


October 14th, 2011 at 07:45 pm

Around mid-day, my friend picked me up and we ran out a few shopping errands, picked up DVDs at the library and checked out a small craft show. I bought $45 worth of cat food at Wal-Mart.

In other news, I applied and was approved for a new Citi dividends card. Spend $500 in the first 3 months and get a $100 cash bonus. After that, I'll go for the Citi Platinum Select card to earn $75 after spending $75 during the first 3 months.

And if I ever get a real job again and can afford "normal" spending levels, I'll apply for the Chase Sapphire card, which pays a $500 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, something I can't do now.

Global warming and my heat bill

October 14th, 2011 at 11:57 am

Thanks to largely cooperative weather, I feel like I've been doing really well not using my heat much yet this year. There was one day a few weeks back when I turned it on, but I promptly turned it off again the next day when temps warmed up considerably.

It seemed as though I've been keeping the heat off longer this year. And so I struck out to check here on my blog.

Here are the dates I turned on heat in the previous three years:

2010: Oct. 2
2009: Oct. 12
2008: Oct. 19

So I'm doing pretty well this year, but by no means have I set any records...yet. If I can keep the heat turned off past next Wednesday, I will then have exceeded my heat turn-on dates of the past 3 years.Except for that ONE day I had it on.

Other news:

Yesterday I did a focus group and took home $65.

The day before that, I checked in as part of the nutrition study I'm in and took home $100. I've also signed up for "jury research." A company in my area recruits people like me to "hear" actual lawsuits, presented by the attorneys in the case. You then file a verdict and discuss the case with your fellow jurors. It's a 4-hour deal and you get $100 plus they feed you dinner. I've registered, but won't know if I'm chosen for two upcoming cases until and unless they call me. I would love to do this.

Early fall chores galore

October 9th, 2011 at 09:24 pm

I wanted to take maximum advantage of this weekend's unseasonably warm weather (low 80s) to do things I knew I wouldn't feel like doing once it gets cooler. This is what I did this weekend:

1. Took out window screens for the winter (it's so much nicer to look out windows sans screens) and then washed the windows, which were really dusty from when they removed/replaced my siding this past summer. A few of the screens will remain, just in case I want to open a window on another warm day, but I think we've seen the best of it.

2. Tidied up and swept the garage floor. It's amazing how dirty and cluttered my garage gets. But now I can pull my car in there, which I usually only do when there's snow forecast.

3. Moved the kayak into the basement. It was sitting out in my driveway but I figured if I didn't manage to go out kayaking this weekend, I wasn't going to for the rest of the season. (You have to wade into the water at least ankle deep, and it can get chilly.)

4. I watered all my potted perennials thoroughly, then moved them into the back of the garage to overwinter. They usually survive ok, so it'll save me time and money to keep them. The annuals I'll leave outside until the frost kills them.

5. I pulled up the rest of the veggie plants in the garden and pulled out all the stakes.

6. I swept the upper portion of the driveway.

7. I cut up and hauled away some Norway maple branches.

8. I drained and disconnected my garden hose so it won't freeze and crack the hose.

9. I was going to turn the outside water off to protect pipes in the garage from freezing, but I think I won't do that, cus I'd have to turn the well water off at the tank, which will mean I'll lose my charge and it's a pain to recharge the tank. I may lose the charge anyway. Can't remember how that went last spring. I have insulation on the pipes and the faucet head and it seems to have done ok in the past.

10. My friend Ron came over with his 90-something dad (on their way to visiting his niece for lunch) to help me remove a cheap door knob/lock that got stuck in the locked position. I hadn't been able to use my basement door, which leads to the garage, for weeks becus of this stupid Kwik-Set lock. I plan to call them tomorrow to complain. I can still lock the door with the dead-bolt backup lock I have, but I have a wad of newspaper jammed in the space where the door knob goes so that bugs don't get in the basement.

I guess I will buy a replacement at Ace since I have a $5 off coupon if I spend $20.

I have a fairly busy week ahead, with 3 driving trips.

I turned the heat on

October 7th, 2011 at 11:27 pm

The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.

I had to turn the heat on late this afternoon.

However, I've adjusted the settings to 60 degrees at night and only 63 days. It's tough, because it looks like last winter, I'll be home all day, every day. So when you sit around at the computer, you really get chilled.

Last winter I had it up much higher than I ever had before, at 66 during the day, because I thought Waldo kept catching colds. Well, he wasn't sniffling and sneezing becus he had a cold, it was becus he has allergies. So I'm afraid Waldo will be a bit chillier this winter because I can hardly afford to fill my oil tank.

It certainly does feel cozy in here now at 63. It's just enough to take the chill out of the air. I'm still wearing a heavy sweatshirt, and I've got to have 4 or 5 blankets/quilts on the bed.

Who's Caved and Turned the Heat On??

October 4th, 2011 at 01:29 pm

Believe me, I've already been tempted. But I haven't. It's been feeling mighty chilly here in Connecticut. This morning, for instance, I woke up to 62 degrees in the house.

I think we will finally see some sunshine after all the rain, rain, rain. So maybe it will warm up a bit, too.

Last night, friend and I went to see Sarah's Key at the $2 movie theater. I like Kristin Scott Thomas, but I thought the rest of the acting was just okay. It was a bit of a tear-jerker.

I'm running out in a little while to meet up with the nutrition study research assistant. Just a quick rendezvous at a fast food joint so she can give me some supplies for the coming week. Then next week I go to UConn and I get paid my 3rd of 4 installments, about $100.

I'm now registered with six online survey sites. I found an interesting site,, that ranks them all (user reviews) as to how good they are, but I ultimately signed up with those that offered cash back, or at least gift cards, as a form of payment, rather than just shopping stuff. I'm not sure if all the effort will be worth it. My goal last month, before I signed up with the extra sites and was working with just 3 of them, was to clear $150 in online survey payments each month. I only made $46 lasts month....not sure what happened, other than they don't always have surveys I qualify for. Hence my motivation for signing up for more.

I'm also about to begin editing emails for that IT director. I intentionally told him I'd bill him weekly to ensure that I get paid; he's supposed to pay me through my new Paypal account. (Gosh, I feel so with it these days, technology-wise.) He's using Google docs, which is the coolest thing. I never really looked into it before. I don't think this will pay much at all; i guess I'd be lucky to do $20 a week, but if it was steady, that would be nice.

Then again, the first time I happen to not be home when he sends me an email to edit, he may wind up letting me go. But obviously, I can't remain tied to the house on the off chance he may have a teeny bit of work for me. He said every few days he'd have something. So I think I'll get in the habit of reporting in to him each day I have a need to leave the house and just tell him the hours I'll be out. Which is what I did today.

I'm feeling a little frustrated with the money manager client. We spoke on the phone yesterday and he told me I really need to trim down the story I wrote, becus it's too long, and that he was going to send me a few changes he made. I never got it, and so I really can't begin until I see what he's done. So until I wrap this up, I can't really bill him. Although he had me cap my price at $200, or 5 hours worth of work. I've pretty much already spent that much time on it and regret agreeing to that cap, but it didn't seem like i'd get the job without it.

I haven't applied for a f/t perm job in a while, which worries me. There's just nothing out there. ESPN has its office about 45 minutes from here, and they seem to be constantly looking for editors, lots of 'em. But they want people with an interest in sports. It bores me to tears. I suppose I could fake it, I don't know. ESPN seems to be a huge organization.

Tractor show

October 2nd, 2011 at 02:57 am

Today I visited a tractor show at a local garden nursery and took some pix....

Here's the view from the road. Nice to see so much color this time of year.

This looks very much like the red farm tractor my grandfather used to let me steer while sitting in his lap. Except his was smaller. Isn't it grand?

I really like garden statuary.

I'm not even sure what these things were, but they made a lot of noise.

This is a combination windmill AND chicken coop.

Look at the bark on this tree! Gorgeous!

This is my favorite photo. It's another tree trunk, totally covered in lichens. Is it not beautiful?

I've seen this plant before, but I forget what it is.