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.
Archive for October, 2011
The freak winter snowstorm is far from over, but I already have more tree damage than I can deal with.
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!"
These big white pines run along the roadside. Let's hope they remain upright.
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.
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.
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.
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 teeth....no 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?
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.