Home > Archive: January, 2012

Archive for January, 2012

The Dying Gaul: A+

January 31st, 2012 at 07:21 pm

Wow, what a great movie this was.

If you appreciate a great plot, well-developed characters, great acting and an unpredictable storyline, you'll really like this movie.

i had never heard of it before and didn't recognize any of the actors, so I wasn't expecting much.

I was so fascinated by it that i even watched the alternate ending on the DVD and deleted scenes, something I don't usually do.

I'd love to discuss parts of it with someone here as I missed some of the dialogue, but I hate to give away much of the plot.

OK, here's just the beginning storyline:

A beginner screenwriter has just written a story based on his relationship with his gay lover, who recently died of AIDS. A big Hollywood film executive tells him he wants to make it into a movie, and that he'll pay him $1 million for it. But there's one catch: he doesn't think the story, as written, will have mass appeal, and he wants the screenwriter to change it to a heterosexual love interest, not a gay one.

This poses a big dilemma for the screenwriter, becus the project was personally meaningful. He decides to do it, and he ends up spending more and more time not only with the film exec, but with his wife. The two gradually become fascinated with the screenwriter, for very different reasons.

What I liked so much about the movie is how each of the characters is only gradually revealed you you, layer by layer. So the movie starts off with three very bright, sophisticated individuals, and as certain secrets are themselves revealed, each of them acts in very unpredictable ways.

Turns out what i thought was worn rear brake pads was bits of rust and corrosion from a rusty wheel drum flaking off. Cost me $50 for it to all be cleaned, so i consider myself lucky there.

It happened again (shiver)

January 30th, 2012 at 10:57 pm

When I was about 22 years old, I had recently graduated from college and was living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. One night my girlfriend and I (she had gone to the same school I had) were at a bar and met a really cute guy. My friend ended up dancing with him that night, but I ended up dating him for a while. He even lived with me for a short time when I was lonely after moving up to southern Vermont a few years later for a newspaper job.

At the time, I probably didn't exercise the best judgement about men. I liked him because 1. he was handsome and outdoorsy and 2. he drove the cutest little MG convertible, a stick shift, which he let me borrow or drive on occasion.

However, it was just a total mismatch. I was a young college grad, a bit brainy but adventurous and finding my way in the world, and he was a carpenter with a really pronounced Boston accent.

Things ended up badly after I decided to break things off with him and made the mistake of telling him I wanted to date other men. He twisted my arm up behind my back in a painful way while we argued in a restaurant parking lot. He said he wanted to hurt me the way I had hurt him. I thought my shoulder was going to pop out of the socket. Someone from inside the restaurant called the cops when they heard me scream, he took off, the cops arrested him for attempted battery with a deadly weapon (his car), yada yada yada. I've told this story here before.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. I'm in my 50s now. Around 5 or 6 years ago, he somehow tracked me down. My phone number, anyway. I don't think he knows where I live except that it's Connecticut. So every year since then, on Christmas, birthdays, sometimes Easter, I'd get a call from him all cheerful and wanting to talk about old times.

I really want nothing to do with this guy. I told him I was married just to get him off my back. Didn't work. I told him in no uncertain terms not to call back. I hung up on him several times, only to have him call back and act all hurt. One time, he happened to call when my then boyfriend was over, and I put him on the phone just to scare him off.

So this past year, when Christmas and then New year's went by with no call from him, I figured I was finally home free.

Wrong. He called today. The last person I expected in the middle of the day, as I was finishing up some freelance work. He says, hey, how ya doing, in a real friendly way. I said, Who is this? And when he said, "Mike," I said, I told you not to call me again, incredulous that, in fact, he had. He said, oh, I've been having dreams about you and I wanted to see if you were ok. I said I was fine and quickly ended the call.

I'd thought about reporting him to the police, but to do that, I'd need to have his phone number. He gave it to me before, but I never bothered to write it down becus I knew I would never want to call him back. Each time this happens, I say, well next time, just ask him straight out for his phone number and then once he gives it to you, tell him you'll give it to the police if he calls again. But he caught me by surprise today and so of course I forgot to do that.

I also considered that even if I did have his number, it might not be such a good idea to hand it over to the police, because if the police called him, they would have to identify themselves as "X-town Police Dept." Which would reveal the name of my hometown.

While it's easy enough these days to find someone's location online, I don't think he uses a computer. He's always worked as a carpenter and roofer, so it wasn't part of his vocabulary.

I need to look up how to block a given phone number. That's probably the best thing. Should have done it a long time ago, but the calls, while unsettling, are infrequent enough that I don't have that code you dial near the phone at any given point in time.

I sort of feel sorry for him becus often when he calls he sounds down and depressed, but gosh, if you want to dig out of a depression, the worst thing to do is reminisce about people who used to be in your life a good 30 years ago; better to find someone new!

He acts like it's perfectly fine to reconnect with someone from your past, but he seems to forget that's ONLY all right if the other person wants that too!

it gives me the creeps.

On a positive note, I'm feeling much better again today and finally getting rid of the cold. I also was able to knock off 2 of the 5 freelance jobs I got from my client: a blog summarizing all the positive housing news in the press of late, and a press release, probably the 5th one I've done for a new single family home subdivision that's been selling very well since they began construction early last year. They've been building it out in three phases, about 10 homes in each phase. Each time I do a press release, I need to come up with a new news hook for the release; otherwise, it'll just sound like an ad and the paper might not publish it.

Tomorrow I've got to bring my car in to get the back brake pads done. I usually go the dealer, but decided to try a mechanic my mother really likes. Could be cheaper than the dealer, but my experience last time I went elsewhere than the dealer was that the local car repair shop was just as pricey. But I'll give this guy my mother uses a shot. But to do so, I've got to drop it off, have my mom pick me up and then hang out at her place until the mechanic calls with his prognosis and price. I sure hope it doesn't take all day. At least at the dealer,there's a pretty comfortable lounge/waiting area where you can get some free coffee, watch TV or work on your laptop, if you have one. Perhaps that's what the dealer's high prices are paying for. We'll find out.

Tomorrow at my mother's, I hope to begin work on the 3 remaining assignments, 2 standalone bios for 2 execs and a write-up about the division as a whole, to be used both in-print and online. They're trying to go head to head in certain states where they're not just up against other real estate companies. In those cases, no big deal, they just gobble them up and take them over. But in certain cases, the competition works more like consulting companies, so my client, a real estate/mortgage/insurance/relocation company, needs to position itself as more of a marketing agency with the resources of the brokerage behind them.

I was having a little trouble conceptualizing everything so I'm glad I called to discuss all this with the marketing director there. They usually just give me stuff with not much direction, which is fine with me, and is only something I think I can do because I worked on staff for this company back in 1988-1990, and again for 2 years around 2000, so we have some history together. But every once in a while, I need to ask a few questions. Smile

Did I just ruin my chili?

January 28th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I was in the mood for some turkey chili today, so I got the whole thing going this morning. It's been cooking on "Low," since 9 am and is supposed to be done at 8 pm, in another 2 hours.

I was feeling nervous about the beans, because I used dried beans. About 2 cups black beans and 1 cup red kidney beans. I know from past experience that you really need to cook them in WATER, not chicken broth or any other kind of liquid other than water, becus they just won't cook.

But that's exactly what I did, hoping it might work. The only liquid I had in the chili was about 2 cups of very watery tomatoes i had frozen from last summer's veggie garden, and I was hoping that would be enough.

So I decided to taste it now, and while the black beans are ok (I must have partially cooked them before freezing them) the red kidney beans, which I soaked overnight, are still pretty hard after 8 hours of cooking!

I read on the plastic bag for the kidney beans that you need 4 cups of water to cook them til soft. So I hated doing it, but I heated up 2 cups of water and added that to my lovely chili, making it very watery. I'm hoping the beans will absorb all that extra liquid.

I turned the temp to High and am hoping that will do the trick in another 2 hours. Either that, or I'll be eating dinner around midnight.

What do you think?

Did I ruin my chili?

January 28th, 2012 at 11:21 pm

OK, I've been cooking this chili since 9 am. I was worried that the dried beans I used wouldn't cook right; it seems you really need to use water to cook them, not chicken broth or other liquids.

I decided to taste some now to see, although it's got 2 more hours to go. The black beans are ok; I got them from the freezer, and it's possible I partially cooked them before freezing them. (Can't remember.) But the red kidney beans are still quite hard!

I looked at the bag and it said cook a half pound in 4 cups of water. That's a lot of liquid. All the liquid I had in the chili was about 2 cups of watery tomatoes I'd frozen from last summer's veggie garden. Plus I added a few tablespoons of a jarred pasta sauce. And I used half a pound of the kidney beans, or about 1 cup.

So, I hope I didn't ruin it, but it seemed I needed to add more H20 to the chili. I hated doing it, but I added 2 cups of hot water, which has made it really watery. I'm hoping those beans will absorb all that water.

What do you think?

I also turned the temp to High; it was on Low all day.

On the mend

January 28th, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Well, geez,this cold seems to be taking forever to run its course. I believe I have a little more energy today and am hoping by tomorrow I will really feel better. There are periods in the day I can breathe through my nose, which is a relief.

I ended up getting that p/t job as project editor at the publisher's. I start Feb. 6. Not really looking forward to it; it's all about the money, which is minimal, but better than nothing.

So I have one free week before I begin working 3 days a week for them. I've noticed a sound in the right rear of my car when i step on the brake, and I assume it's worn brake pads. So I want to get that fixed before I start this job. The Honda dealer said it would be $300. I also emailed a friend who works p/t at a service station. He had once told me he could get me a discount on common car repairs, so now we'll see what he can do.

I also have a few freelance jobs backed up that I haven't attended to due to being sick. Three or four assignments with one client. A blog, a press release and 3 bios. OK, that's five.

I've had some turkey chili going all day in the slow cooker. I used dried beans and I sure home they will cook. Most of the liquid is from some watery tomatoes from my summer garden, from the freezer. They were soaked overnight, but not cooked, but it's been going since 9 am so again, I sure HOPE they will be soft and cooked becus fishing them out of everything else would be a chore.


January 26th, 2012 at 04:54 pm

i had a job interview lined up for this Friday for a web copywriter....a "real" job with salary and benefits...really looking forward to it, but I was trying to get a hold of the woman who had called me just 2 days ago to set up the interview time to see if i could reschedule it for early next week, due to my cold.

I really wanted to be 100% when I present myself as a candidate for the job,and I knew I also needed several hours to prep for the interview and pull my portfolio together.

I can barely keep my eyes open and I'm breathing thru my mouth with dried up snots in my nose, hardly the image I want to present them.

She wasn't in when i called this morning a little after 9, and i was surprised i didn't get a call-back relatively quickly. So i called her back a little before noon. When I said, I'm really looking forward to this interview, but i've come down with a bad cold, could we possibly reschedule, she said oh, that's ok, i was going to call you anyway.We've decided not to hire for this position at this time. Something's come up and we've just decided not to hire right now. But I'll keep your resume on file, etc.

What is going on???? Every job I think I have keeps slipping from my grasp.

So looks like I'll have to settle for the p/t job grossing $375 a week. That is, IF I get it.

I got another job interview

January 24th, 2012 at 07:38 pm

Just got a call from another company whose job posting I responded to last week.

It's a FULL-TIME SALARIED WITH BENEFITS job as a web copywriter with an Internet marketing company.

It may not be a perfect fit, but I'm pretty sure I'm at least a 75% fit. They want someone with diverse writing experience doing web content, press releases, blog posts and articles. That's definitely me, and just like what i did at my last f/t job at a personal finance consumer website.

They also want someone who knows both AP and Chicago style. I know AP.

They want someone who knows basic HTML for linking and keyword research and writing SEO copy. I can do this, although I guess we were spoiled at my last job becus there was a dedicated person who did all the keyword research for us writers.

But they also want someone with knowledge of Hoot Suite, Facebook, Twitter etc. Although I have accounts with Facebook and Twitter, I don't at all feel fluent in them and rarely use them.

So the interview's set up with 2 people for Friday afternoon. It's about a 50-minute drive. Of course, it would be far preferable to the publishing job.

And as I feel like the imminent end of unemployment benefits is looming overhead, along with an expected big jump in the cost of my COBRA in June, the timing, if I got the job, could not be more perfect.

How my interview went

January 24th, 2012 at 05:50 pm

Just back from my interview at the publisher's this morning.

I think it went pretty well, better than expected. You have to remember that when I saw that, after the editor in chief had emailed me to ask if I'd still be interested in the job after they decided to change it from full-time to part-time, and then they posted the position on the job boards anyway, I actually felt a little betrayed by that.

Well, I'd forgotten to consider that they are looking to hire TWO p/t project editors, so even if they had decided in their heads they wanted me,they still needed to post the other position.

When I walked in there, the editor in chief was talking to another gal who works there, and the other person stayed there thruout my "interview," which was more like a friendly conversation and the editor showing me on her monitor what the files and filemaker docs looked like and how they updated them. It was a quick breeze-through, of course, and it would require some training.

While I certainly have learned not to count on ANYTHING, it did sound like they had sort of already decided before I arrived that they planned on having me fill one of the two openings.

I felt comfortable enough that toward the end of our talk, I decided to be very transparent about what I perceived to be my shortcomings as far as this job goes, and that is, my lack of knowledge about Quark and Filemaker. So I asked if it might make sense, if I knew I was going to get the job for instance, if I enrolled in an online tutorial for either or both programs. They basically said no, it's not that hard.

Then I said, gee, even if there was one of those Quark for Dummies books or another Quark or Filemaker manual lying around the office, if I knew I was getting the job, it would be great if I could take it home so i could study up on it before starting, just to try to get a leg up on it.

The editor swiveled around in her chair and picked up a Quark manual on her desk and waved it in the air. I felt comfortable enough saying in a kidding manner, Does that mean I have the job? They both laughed, and editor said she had to talk to her boss first.

When i left and was saying goodbye to both, the other gal said "See you soon." So I got pretty good vibes.

It may simply be becus, as the editor acknowledged at one point, it's hard to find good people when you're only paying them $15/hr. Yes, i confirmed that is still the rate of pay, but she pointed out that I will have more money in my pocket becus the company would be paying my FICA taxes and treating me as a regular employee, not a freelancer.

she said they're moving away from freelancers because there were some problems with availability. Some of the freelancers had small kids and not all were "invested" in the job the way they would like them to be, and some freelancers' work was inconsistent with others. So for all those reasons, they want to hire 2 p/t project editors who would be responsible for a total of 3 (not 2, as I thought) annual directories. the editor said she didn't feel that one person could do all 3 directories full-time becus it was just too much work. So that alone may have been the reason why they changed the job from f/t to p/t. I had assumed it was a purely money-saving move.

She wants to make a decision next week and have both positions start on Feb. 6.

So it looks fairly positive. It won't at all be an easy job. Learning new software always makes me feel a little apprehensive and it looks like it would be the ed in chief herself who would be training us; she tends to race through stuff very quickly, so this has me feeling even more nervous about it.

At least for the first month, they'd want us to work at least 2 full days in the office and then the third day could be at home. Sounds like down the road, it could be more work done at home, but it would require a lot of copying and updating the database on flash drives and bringing that back and forth, a little inconvenient. They have extra Macs so I could just bring one home and keep it there for when I worked at home.

So we're looking at $375 gross a week, 3 days a week, and of course that would supplement my existing freelance work. It won't be enough to live on once I lose my unemployment benefits in April but for now it will be ok. And of course if I start Feb. 6, it will further delay the end of my unemployment benefits I would think at least through May.

My monthly net after taxes would be about $1343. The bare minimum I need now to pay expenses is $2300, so once I exhausts unemployment benefits, I'll have a sizable shortfall of $957. Once my mortgage is paid off hopefully some time next year, my minimum monthly expenses would drop to $1740 and my monthly shortfall would then drop to just $400, which I can more realistically make up for at least partially with my other freelance work.

Put another way, it's certainly not a "cure," but it will slow the loss of blood.

In other news, I think I'm getting a cold. Hopefully will be rid of it prior to any work start date.

I also heard back from the husband of the husband/wife realtor team for whom i wrote that blog post. They only anticipate getting new blog posts once a month! It doesen't surprise me on the one hand, as the real estate market is still very slow. But no shot at this being anything other than a small $50 monthly injection into PatientSaver's household.

Keep on truckin'. That's all you can do.

Work as a tonic for what ails you

January 23rd, 2012 at 10:41 pm

There's nothing like work to perk me up if I'm feeling gloomy and pessimistic.

And now I have some.

Here's what's going on in the next 2 days:

* 2 phone interviews lined up with 2 guys with my oldest (real estate) client; i need to jazz up their bios as they're trying to emphasize their marketing prowess to builder clients.

* the interview with the publisher for the p/t job

* Also, I wrote a blog/article for a Century 21 husband/wife team on "pitfalls to avoid when applying for a mortgage." These were the people who offered the really miserly rate of pay and I was able to talk them into "trying me out" for 1 story at $50. They assigned it last week with a couple of keywords and I turned it around in a day; took just under 2 hours. I got word back today that he really liked it. Which allowed me to gracefully segue into my next question, which was ideally, how often would they like to get fresh content for their blog? I'd love to make it a regular thing. Even 1 a week would be great, at $50 a pop, = $200 extra a month. Fingers crossed. I don't know that they'd want to commit that much money to a blog, especially given that business is very slow, but you never know.

And my dad and SO are coming up Wednesday for the rest of my firewood, and then we'll go out to a nice dinner.

So a busy next two days. I'm in a better frame of mind now. Smile

I've spent a good part of today prepping for my interview; I also got out for a walk around the block and used my snow rake to get the snow off the lower few feet on the roof, having learned how damaging ice dams can be. There's not much snow up there now, but it will refreeze tonight, so just to be sure I have no problems, I got out there with an aluminum step ladder and it was pretty easy.

An interview tomorrow with the publisher

January 23rd, 2012 at 02:22 pm

I pretty much mentally wrote off anything happening with the publisher after seeing that they reposted the job, in its latest reincarnation, on the job boards.

But she contacted me this morning to continue the email exchange from last week about my coming in to talk to her about it.

So it's set up for tomorrow at 11.

Based on the latest job description, I don't feel I will likely be the most qualified candidate, as I don't know Quark or FileMaker, the two programs they mentioned would be a plus. So the only edge I think I have is the fact that I did a portion of the work as a temporary worker and I'm a known quantity. I will have to convince them I can learn new software quickly (which I hope I can).

My old friend R. is still telling me not to accept $15/hr., if that's what the pay is, and to hold out for $25. I usually really hold his opinion in high regard, but in this case, I think he's a little removed from the work world and is a little off base here.

This is a small outfit, so she just may tell me the pay rate right at the interview, just as she did when I interviewed for the contract job. (I'm guessing it'll be $15/hr as a worst case scenario and will be pleasantly surprised if it's any better.)

My thinking is, if that's all they've decided to pay, they won't likely budge. It's not like they're a huge company. I'm guessing they have less than 25 employees. I think they might be a more inclined to adjust pay for a f/t position, but for p/t, I'm guessing not. So we'll have to see how it goes.

I will also need to assure her that 20 to 25 hours a week is "fine" with me, and that I'm content with that kind of arrangement for the long run. Obviously she won't hire me if she thinks I will bail for something better later on. My mindset is to take whatever I possibly can, even while knowing this won't be enough for me, especially at their low pay rate. So it's possible if, down the road I get the job that I will likely at some point have to leave for a better job and leave them in a lurch, but you know what? Not really my problem; employers do that to employees all the time, with no notice at all. It's how the game is played.

It's snowing

January 21st, 2012 at 07:10 pm

We have about 4 inches on the ground and it seems like it's winding down. I see a snow shovel in my future.

Just wanted to say thanks again for the incredibly kind and encouraging words from all of you on my latest job-related disappointment.

It was odd that she never got back to me on Friday after I answered her email that yes, I was still interested in the scaled back (p/t) job and when next week would you like to meet?

This a.m., I saw that they had posted the job on CareerBuilder. I guess that means I'm not a shoo-in and that they will be going through the whole candidate selection process once again.

I toyed with the idea of reapplying on the job board just to reaffirm my interest, but heck, she knows I'm interested. It kind of would feel like groveling. Instead, I applied today for an editor job doing puzzles for a small publisher about 50 minutes away. This job is full-time and offers benefits, so though I sense it also would be low-paying, I applied due to the medical coverage and normal benefits.

As soon as I pay off the mortgage, money will be less important than medical coverage. Of course, I still want to make as much as I can because I will reach my financial goals more quickly, but in terms of getting by, I can do so with a very low salary IF they offer standard benefits.

I've been having these anxiety dreams, usually in the form of me driving in a car and losing control. Either I can't seem to find the brake pedal or, more often, the car is careening backwards off a cliff or rolling down a hill, and I know that in a few split seconds, the car will hit a tree or something and I'm scared out of my mind. Or sometimes, I dream that I've witnessed a crime or have another urgent need to call 911 but the phone won't connect the call or I wait and there's no connection or I get an interminable busy signal and I keep running to look for other phones to try or to spot a police officer and time is running out.

Last night I made a pretty good frittata with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, caramelized onions, fresh basil and I think it was about 5 eggs. It would have been even better with bacon or ham, but I've given up processed meats for health reasons. Asparagus might also be a nice addition. It was super easy to make and even fit in my toaster oven.

I am still feeling very negative about employers in general. I think what happened is the publisher didn't realize that by asking me if I'd be interested in a full-time job, it really, really got my hopes up. And then it was just sloppy of them to have done so, becus it then turned into a p-t job. I suppose they could care less how it might personally affect a job-seeker, and she probably doesn't realize how much I WANT and NEED a f/t job, but still. Get your act together first before putting out feelings to possible job candidates.

I'm trying not to dwell on it but it may take another day or two. I guess it hurt a little more becus I've already worked with these people and would hope they'd be a little more ... human about it. It's like dangling a carrot in front of a starving person and then saying, hmm, well, I don't know, how about a half a carrot? But you know what? Maybe I won't give you any carrot at all, I really have to think about it.

Trying to climb out of a box with no openings

January 20th, 2012 at 03:58 pm

I'm so f****** tired and exhausted.

You remember the small publisher I did contract work for back in Nov/Dec. The editor in chief more recently asked me if I'd be interested in a full-time, in-house project manager job and that she'd get back to me early this week, as soon as she "worked out the details" of the job.

I spent a lot of time crunching the numbers to see if I could survive on $40 or $45K, the amount I was guessing they'd offer. I wanted to make sure it was doable, and to be prepared if and when an offer came.

I finally heard back from her this morning. They've decided to turn it into a part-time staff position, which means they would take out FICA taxes but there would be no medical benefits. It would be 20 to 25 hours a week, 2 days in-house, 1 day at home. And I'm guessing it would still pay just $15/hr.

She said it would be research, writing the listings and using Quark, but also learning FileMaker and occasionally interacting with editors at various publications.

I'm like, totally demoralized, crushed. I thought I could finally escape chronic unemployment. I guess not. I just can't go on like this. They want to bleed you dry.

If I made between $300 and $375 a week, I guess this would again extend my dwindling unemployment benefits. At this point, I don't even know that they'd hire me, becus I don't know Quark (not sure she's aware of this) and I don't know FileMaker.

I'm just really so upset. I feel like every door I knock on is shut in my face. Full-time, salaried jobs with benefits just seem like an unattainable mirage that's always just beyond my reach.

I can't think of an exciting title so this will have to do

January 20th, 2012 at 01:22 am

I spent $76 this a.m. grocery shopping at Shop Rite. That's a LOT for me. They had those little Polar fruit in a jar things on sale for $1 each, so I decided to try a few, and I'm rather pleased. There were just 3 ingredients in it: pears, sugar, water, and it's not overly sweet. What's more, the pears were pretty firm, not mush like the Del Monte fruit cocktail I grew up with. It's a good way to work more fruit in your diet during the winter. I think I'll go back for more while they still have their sale.

I also splurged a bit on a quart of Kefir, which is so good, plus the Kozy Shack puddings were all on sale. I love my puddings!

I'm feeling a bit twisted and demented because I HAVE NOT HEARD from the editor in chief at the publishing company who was supposed to contact me early this week to schedule a time for me to come in to talk about the project manager job. I just dashed off an email to her. They seem to move slowly over there, but I hate the waiting game. It sounded so positive. I'm going to scream if she says anything negative about it.

I responded a few days ago to an ad for a freelance real estate blog writer, and they wrote back tonight asking me my rate. Turns out they're a husband and wife realtor team with a well-known brokerage in the Hartford area.

I'm so tired of getting backed into a corner on "my rate," as it's invariably too high for them to consider or so low it's not worth doing. So I sidestepped answering that and said it depends on how much research is involved, whether I'm doing phone interviews to get some quotes, etc. etc. I invited her to tell me what she had in mind, and I was once again galled and floored when she said she could they could manage $25 for a 350-word story.

Hardly worth the trouble, but I wrote back, hiding my anger and explaining that as she saw from my resume, I have 10 years of experience as a real estate copywriter and nearly 30 as a marketing writer. And maybe they could get a college kid to do it. But then I threw caution to the wind and said I would be willing to write a relevant, meaningful and topical general interest, 350-word real estate story, with their keywords, no interviews of anyone, for $50 and invited them to try me out on one and see how they like it.

So they agreed to do that. We'll talk tomorrow. If I could get them to work with me and do even 2 stories a week, that would work out to $400 a month, which would be very helpful. And I could do it all from the comfort of my home.

Warning: Rant ahead. I remember when I worked at the website at my last perm job, I managed a team of 4 freelance writers. Well,none of them were professional writers (and it REALLY showed, the writing was atrocious) but they all had the subject matter expertise, plus we were bound by a contract to work with them. So I was stuck with them basically, but I remember that we paid them $275 for a a 350-word story, which was a GREAT rate of pay, but just $75 for a blog post, which was too little, and just out of sync with the article rate. But anyway, you see how even $50 is a pittance. But like a lot of others, they go to these online sites like elance and see there are writers in places like India or China who offer to write a story for $5 or $10. You get what you pay for: local irrelevance and someone who wants to practice their English skills. End of rant.

I met The Author yesterday at Starbucks and she paid me the final payment on the first book. Expecting to get Book 2 in the next week or two.

Back in November, I ordered an economical Hamilton Beach hand mixer for i think about $25 at Amazon. I couldn't figure out the proper way to insert the beaters, even after reading their instructions,and I may have ended up bending them somewhat cus now when i insert them and turn it on, they click together, touching each other.

So I called Hamilton Beach and explained the situation and she agreed to mail me out replacement beaters at no cost, once I showed proof of purchase. So I am pleased, as I like the mixer. It got very good reviews. I certainly don't need a $300 stand mixer.

I am now charging up cashback credit card #4 and waiting to get the bill for #3 (Discover) so my cash back there will be awarded. I think you have to pay the bill first before it appears online.I was able to charge my car insurance to the new card so I think the new one will add up quickly to $500.

I think I will try making my first ever fritatta tomorrow with a recipe I saw somewhere, using sun-dried tomatoes, onions and eggs. I'll omit the bacon/ham.

I got a few bank statements today that I'll need to do my taxes, but still waiting on 2 contract employees to send the 1099s.

I finally replaced the hard-to-find battery in my garage door opener after doing without it for months. And all this time it was at Ace Hardware. It will be the only way I'll access the garage now because the basement door is so drafty, I decided to seal it up pretty well by stuffing foam insulation all around it with a butter knife, but obviously it won't stay in if I open the door.

Seize the Day - A Movie About Money

January 18th, 2012 at 02:38 am

I came across an old Robin Williams movie at the library and watched it tonight.

It takes place in the 1950s. Robin Williams plays an uncharacteristically serious role, no laughs here, of a salesman who quits his job after his boss gives away half of his territory to the boss' son. Robin's wife has already left him, and taken their two kids with her. He's on a downward spiral, quickly running out of money, and in desperation, entrusts most of his life savings to a friend (Jerry Stiller, who plays the father of Seinfeld in Seinfeld) who assures him he can get rich trading commodities.

You know what happens next. He loses it all. Throughout the movie, Robin manages to portray a desperate man who's teetering on the edge. He pleads with his dad for help, or just a kind word, but his father refuses to lend him money. Over and over again, his dad tells him he's nothing without money, and he's so ashamed about his son's career failure that he lies to his friends that his son makes in the high five figures.

In the last scene, Robin stumbles into a church because he thought he spotted the commodities trader, who disappeared after losing Robin's savings.. He slumps into a pew where a funeral is taking place and he breaks down, sobbing, while the mourners assume he must be a close friend of the deceased.

It's an interesting movie if you like Robin Williams or if you'd enjoy, as I did, the shots of the NY Stock Exchange and the archaic trading boards, along with the old hotel with its baths and saunas. There are an awful lot of familiar faces in the movie, though I don't know who they are.

I want your best tuna recipes

January 18th, 2012 at 12:16 am

Tuna's cousin, Tina.

I'm not the biggest fan of canned tuna, but it's an easy way to get more fish in one's diet, and recently, I bought about 6 cans of tuna on sale. Plus it's a cheap meal.

Does anyone have any really good recipes that make use of canned tuna? It has to be really good, cus like I said, I'm not crazy about it, but it's okay.

The usual ways I make it are:

1. In a sandwich
2. In a salad with macaroni, celery, grated carrot...
3. Melted on an English muffin with cheddar.

I always get the chunk tuna in water because it's said to have lower concentrations of mercury than solid white tuna.


Why 15% isn't enough: a must-read for everyone trying to save

January 17th, 2012 at 02:16 pm

I came across this excellent article

Text is and Link is The Atlantic via My Money Blog. For anyone trying to save, particularly for their retirement, it's both a warning and an inspiration.

It's the kind of story I could see myself bookmarking and reading later, when I need a kick in the pants.

Monthly savings allocation if I get that job

January 15th, 2012 at 06:13 pm

I suppose this is like counting my chickens before they're hatched, but I can't resist calculating how much money I can put toward various savings goals if I get that job.

Believe it or not, not being able to pursue my various savings goals has been one of the worst things about being out of work, in my mind. I'm an extremely organized and disciplined person who has aggressive goals and thinks long-term, so this aspect of being out of work, just when I'm at the point of reaching significant financial milestones, has been particularly painful.

It will be a bit of a challenge given that it will surely be a low salary offer. I may be playing it a bit more conservative than I need to here, but I'm guessing the offer, if I get one, will come in between $40 and $50k. I like to play it uber-conservative so I'll be pleasantly surprised if it's more, or even simply on the high end of that scale.

My savings goals are as follows, in ranked order:

1. Throw extra prepayments at the mortgage to pay it off asap. Balance is now under $10,000.

2. Rebuild my emergency fund to at least $10,000.

3. Restart contributions to my retirement.

I've used an online net pay calculator to help me determine my net pay at $40K, $45K and $50K and including deductions for health insurance premiums (I'm estimating $200 a month, though I really have no idea. It could be less, but it is a small company so I doubt they have a premium plan).

Assuming they have a 401k plan, I've decided to go with a 6% 401(k) contribution, or whatever minimum percentage is necessary to get an employer matching contribution. It would be foolish to turn this down so no matter what, I'll contribute the minimum necessary to get the match, which is usually 6%.

That being said, retirement contributions come in last among my 3 savings priorities since I'm already off to a very good start (see sidebar) and I'm itching to rid myself of a 6% mortgage loan I never refinanced when rates dropped (and couldn't, while I was unemployed).

So, if I get $40K, it'll be:
$100/mth in mortgage prepayments
$200 into the 401k
$100 into an emergency fund

If I get $45K, it'll be:
$200/mth in mortgage prepayments
$225 into the 401k
$100 into an emergency fund

If I get $50K, it'll be:
$300 in mortgage prepayments
$250 into the 401k
$100 into an emergency fund

Notice that as the projected salary increases, my mortgage prepayments and 401k contributions rise but the amount going into the emergency fund remains the same.

If they have any kind of waiting period to start contributing to the 401k, the money I would otherwise have contributed to it will be divided equally between the emergency fund and the mortgage prepayments.

This savings schedule will be very, very hard to keep to, but I think it's in the realm of possible.

I just looked at my checkbook to confirm that, back in 2006, the last time I worked a job making just $50K, I was in fact contributing between $100 and $200 extra toward the mortgage each month.

And after years of always maxing out 401k contributions at 15%, I recall limiting myself to maybe 5% contributions at that time, when I started that job, becus I wasn't sure how tight money would be. But in the 3.5 years I was there, I remember that I'd always get exactly 3% raises each year, so as my salary increased to $51,500 at the end of year 1, to $53,045 by end of year 2, and then to $54,636 in year 3, I did increase my 401k contributions back to 15% at some point. And I recall still saving a little on the side. (I was still doing a little freelance writing on the side, which helped.)

Now this savings plan I've worked out will only need to be in play for about a year, after which time an important thing happens: my mortgage will have been paid off. Once that happens, I'll have an extra $700 to $900 monthly (depending on actual salary), which was previously spent on prepayments and regular monthly mortgage payments.

I'd like to reinsert a little breathing room into my budget at that point, and that may have to happen regardless, should unexpected expenses arise, but I'm aiming for the bulk of that freed up money, like $500 monthly, to continue going toward both the emergency savings fund (which doubles as a new car fund for me) and an upped 401k contribution.

Having taken the trouble to crunch this and work out all the details, i feel more confident that this new savings plan is doable and that I can indeed pursue and achieve my greatest financial goals.

If I've overlooked anything obvious, let me know!

Of course the job might not work out at all, or I get the job but they don't offer health insurance (shudder to consider that) and/or a 401k plan. It sucks when you can't even rely on the basics. (Just an example of how US employees can easily get shafted, compared to Europeans or others living elsewhere with greater employer protection.)

But anyway...
As far as I can tell, the company has not yet advertised the job(s) on the online job boards. I think they have just worked out what they want to do in restructuring how the work gets done, meaning, no more use of freelancers and bring it back in-house. And I'm guessing that the editor would like to avoid the hassle and time spent posting the new positions (2 project managers) and going through the whole interview/selection process again so soon after doing same for me and the other contract worker. I'm guessing, and counting on her natural reluctance to go through that whole laborious hiring process, when she considers how easy it would be to give the job to the contract worker (me) who did it on a temporary basis, because I've already demonstrated I can do it and do it efficiently.

And while the editor who trained me (and whose departure precipitated this job opening) sent me an irritable email questioning why I indicated I couldn't find info on one particular listing when the other contract worker (who was mistakenly assigned the same listing to update) FOUND the info on the website, this unpleasantry was followed up by 2 or 3 subsequent emails thanking me for powering through the listings as quickly as I did.

So I'm hoping this perfectly positions me to get one of the two project manager jobs since I did the same job most recently as a freelancer.

There's no better way to get a job than to have at it before it's advertised to the world! It's happened to me at least twice before. And I got the vague idea that that other woman who was freelancing, and with whom I trained with, was not necessarily available on a full-time basis. Better for me.

So. I think I have a decent shot at it, although at this point, I know very little about the job except that I updated a decent portion of this annual director as a freelancer, probably over 300 listings. (It contains 1850 listings total.) So the job is managing the entire update process for this one directory, which may require a little more work besides simply updating the listings. I will most certainly be able to learn Quark, not a bad thing on my resume. I stumbled along with it when I freelanced, but it was relatively easy to do as the templates had already been set up and I had last year's directory to go by.

I do have a variety of concerns: It could be mind-numbingly dull work. (It's not really writing, just updating listings.) The office environment is depressing. The editor in chief could be difficult to work with. But none of this will keep me from leaping for this job to escape the unemployment rut.

(The pluses, as I've mentioned before, include casual dress, a reasonable, 20-minute commute and the oft-touted "flexible hours" that have been mentioned to me although I have yet to learn what that really means. Some places say they have flexible hours and all that really means is that they permit you to leave work for a doctor's appointment.)

If I find no better jobs, I will stay there for years. But in a worst case scenario, if I only stay a year and achieve my goal of paying off the mortgage that much earlier, then that will be a huge advantage moving forward because my monthly living expenses will be that much lower, making it easier to find any future jobs that will pay my living expenses, and also freeing up money otherwise spent on the mortgage that I can now plow into retirement savings (and a new car fund).

Today's doings

January 15th, 2012 at 12:50 am

This am I went to a free talk on feeding the birds at a local Agway. I had gone to the same talk last year and got a free 5 lb. bag of mixed seed, so for that reason alone it was worth it. I've been feeding the birds for about 20 years!

It was nice to see a mixed group of about 15 people. It just seems so few people I know do anything like bird feeding, or vegetable gardening. It's all about video games and fancy electronic systems.

Anyway, they had a decent price on suet, so I picked up a 12-pak. As I was walking out the door, I also noticed a very good deal on something new called "suet pellets," which are little balls about the size of a pea that are made of suet and bits of seed, held inside a mesh bag with a handy hanger. They were selling 2 for $1 and had 12 oz. compared to the 11 ounce suet cakes I'd just bought on sale for .67! So I bought 4 of the suet pellets and am considering returning for more.

In the parking lot, a man who'd been at the talk said he'd never tried bird feeding before becus he'd been told you had to attend to the feeders every day, and he sometimes went away. I assured him there was no reason he had to "attend to" the feeders every single day. The birds won't starve if the feeder is emptied. Now hummer feeders are a different story. On very hot, humid days, the sugar water can get moldy in 2 or 3 days, so you've got to be religious about refreshing the water regularly.

I stopped at the library and got 6 more DVDs after learning at my last visit that there is no longer any limit to the number of DVDs you can take out at one time. The librarian said that yes, i could take out 20 DVDs at a time if i wanted, but it sure would be a big late fee if I didn't get them back in time. I think they increased their late fee to something like $2 each.

I'll watch one of those tonight, as soon as my banana walnut bread is done. It's baking now. I also bought some ingredients for a slow cooker recipe I'm trying tomorrow with chicken, black beans and sweet potatoes.

My mother had a recent big sale of one of her woven paintings, and after reducing the price at the customer's request (they do that all the time) and paying off the gallery its share of commission, she'll still net $2,000. So she's shopping for a new kitchen stove (hers is 26 years old) and new kitchen floor and possibly, replacing the carpeting in the bedroom with linoleum or something better for her dust allergies.

Family time: A good time was had by all

January 13th, 2012 at 06:45 pm

My father decided that yesterday afternoon would be a good time to come up from Jersey and visit me and my sister, and get a load of firewood from me.

He was traveling halfway up Jersey from the shore where he lives to go to a dentist appointment. (The dentist is the brother of my dad's late wife.) So he figured he'd be halfway here already.

I met the two of them for dinner at a new local restaurant. We'd tried to go there before, but it was too crowded, and for good reason. The food was very good. I had two large chicken cutlets topped with melted Gruyere cheese, a fig puree and rosemary. Very different and yummy. (I took half of it home with me and just enjoyed the leftovers for lunch.)

For the first time in his life, my dad grew a beard. He looks so cute and fluffy! Just like Ernest Hemingway.

What made the dinner especially nice is that my sister was especially talkative. I can only chalk it up to her having had her hip replacement and not being in so much pain, which she put up with for several years, becus she's very anti medical establishment. More than a little ridiculous, but anyway, that's how she is.

She mentioned that at the book bin at the landfill in her town, she came across an old copy of The tightwad Gazette III and saved it for me, along with a slow cooker recipe for pear bread pudding and another bag of her own dried pears to use in the recipe. Wow. She hasn't done anything like that in a while. You know, show thoughtfulness.

For my part, i brought along a jar of sorrel, made in Poland. Just 2 ingredients, sorrel and salt. Sorrel is a weed that commonly grows around here, but I never saw it commercially sold before until I noticed a new line of Polish bottled foods at my local Xpect Discounts. Xpect Discounts is a regional chain that attracts a somewhat low income customer base, and they have a wide assortment of ethnic foods, which I'm always interested to browse. You never know what you'll find there. anyway, I gave the sorrel to my sister, who was curious about it.

My dad spent the night at my sister's and was supposed to come over this morning to help me bring a load of brush to the dump and then load up his truck with the firewood. He said "bright and early," so I was expecting them around 9 am and becoming concerned when they didn't show. My dad has macular degeneration, and can't see well enough to drive at night, so I calculated we'd have to be done with the wood and have him on his way by 1 pm so he'd get back home before dark.

He and my sister went to breakfast at some out of the way place, so he didn't get here til 10:30 a.m. My sister's still not fully recovered from her surgery, so she stayed home. We loaded about a third of the wood and could see it all wouldn't fit, so he said he'll come back up again with his sig.other She is facing a breast biopsy in March and just had thyroid cancer surgery and now has to do radiation for it becus she carries a certain gene and this is an aggressive form of cancer. Sigh. She's had a lot of health problems.

So I sent Dad on his way around noon.

I think I will spend part of the afternoon reading the Tightwad Gazette again, which I'd been wanting to do anyway after seeing it mentioned a number of times here and elsewhere online. It's such a classic book; I am sure I've forgotten many of her tips.

It's been very quiet work-wise since the start of the new year, although I edited a few emails for the IT director.

This could be the big break i've been waiting for...

January 10th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Shortly before Christmas, I finished up that contract job for the small publisher. I returned their Mac computer right after New Year's, and while I was writing a little "thanks for the work, please think of me next year" note to the woman who trained me, another gal who was there said, oh, don't bother, she's left the company.

This came as a surprise to me since the woman who'd left had been hired full-time only this past summer. She held the f/t job I'd originally applied for before they gave me the contract work.

So instantly I thought, I'd love to take her place. With that in mind, I left an extra nice note for the editor in chief.

This morning I get an email from the editor in chief, explaining that the trainer (and another woman) had left the company. She may not have known that I already knew. Anyway, she said they'd been planning on changing the way they updated their two annual directories. Instead of hiring freelance writers like me to update it each year, they were thinking of making the 2 people who left project managers in charge of each directory. Now, of course, they'd need to find someone to replace them and she was putting out feelers to see if I'd be interested in the job, which would be full-time, in office. And I presume WITH THE ALL-IMPORTANT BENEFITS.

So of course I said yes, yes and yes. She said she needs to work out a few details on it yet and will be in touch with me next week so I can come in to discuss it further with her.

Just think....a full-time job.

I am so excited, even though I know that this job will pay very low. If it paid in the $50s, I'd think that was great, even though that's still very low compared to what i made in the past. But over 2 years of unemployment has a way of redefining your expectations.

As long as I could pay my bills and have health insurance, I'd be thrilled. My COBRA alone is $469 a month, which is a huge cost to me, $5628 a year,and this will most surely go up in June when the plan turns over for another year.

The great thing is that I have not lost sight of one of big money goals, which has been paying off the mortgage. Once my mortgage is gone (and I have just $9,000 more to go), it should make living on whatever lowly salary they might pay at this place even more doable.

I would still hope I could save a modest amount for retirement, have my health insurance premiums cut in half and then just coast toward retirement.

Getting this job could end a lot of pain for me. I would bring my lunch to work every day to avoid costs there.

I'm not sure how interesting the work would be if it's basically doing what I did when I did the contract work, but I Am Not Complaining. Plus I have a concern about how easy the editor in chief is to work with, and the offices there seem very dreary and depressing to me. We all know that publishing is a dying field,and this place, as mentioned before, has offices decorated circa 1950s with ripped carpets, dingy walls, and lots of old file cabinets from the Eisenhower administration. But it would still be a lifesaver for me.

In other news, I interviewed today for a freelance job writing property descriptions for multi-million homes. It seemed like a perfunctory interview; no idea whether she liked me or not. This is a subsidiary office of my oldest client, but they run their own shop. Everyone who works there looks like a model. It's a little intimidating. I have long thought that the most attractive women gravitate toward real estate.

I'd have to go down and view the property when the photographer went to take pix, so as to minimize inconvenience to the homeowner. it would be a bit of a schelp, about 45 minutes, to this area. It's a very ritzy area, CT's "gold coast," as they call it. I'd also have to dress up just to look presentable since i'd be meeting with the homeowner.

Got a bunch of free paint

January 10th, 2012 at 03:01 am

I noticed on Craig's List a woman in my town was giving away a bunch of free paint. all different colors, some full gallons, some less than full. Take one, take all.

So i went over this morning and she let me pry open the lids to check out the colors. I took about 10 gallons; a pretty periwinkle, a rose color, white, a sage green. All interior wall paints. I passed on the bubblegum pink and the brick red and the Ralph Lauren barn red. Who could put those colors on a wall?

But anyway, paint sure can be expensive...not that I would buy Ben Moore any more. I have a sinking suspicion i may not have enough Glidden to finish painting my spare bedroom. I have 3 quarts of an icy cool blue and I won't buy any paint to finish it if I do run out; can't justify it right now. I'm hoping one of the softer pastels I picked up today would complement the blue on the first wall. Not sure at this point. Maybe the rose will.

The Author asked me for a price to edit her 2nd book. This one should work out to be about 276 pages, as compared to the first one which was 407 pages edited! Holy mother of God! It was a long book. I gave her a price which I guess she's ok with because she said I should have it in a few weeks.

I have an interview tomorrow for a p/t or freelance job. i won't even go into detail about it becus it's not worth talking about unless I get it.

Wednesday my dryer will be delivered and I may have the Author over here on Friday so I can see the first book bound and collated. It's now in the hands of three avid book club readers for their impartial opinions/feedback. The first one, I'm told, loves it.

My mother stopped by today and I traded her 4 cups of organic sprouted legumes (lentils, azuki and something else) for a big bag of dried cranberries. I also gave her a bunch of crossword puzzles from newspapers that she likes to do. I told her I would steam clean her wall to wall carpeting, as she's having major allergy problems and wants to pay to have her ducts cleaned, which i think is a waste of money. I bought a steam cleaner a few years ago and used the thing once or twice, so might as well put it to good use. I'm sure the water will be black, as those carpets have never been cleaned.

I also saw someone posted a freebie on CL for flat file cabinets, the kind used to store blueprints or architectural drawings, which my mother would LOVE, but got no response, so someone else must've gotten them. They're in the same town where I'm going for my job interview tomorrow, about 45 minutes south of here, so it would've been perfect.

Who's been eating my food scraps?

January 8th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Every other night or so, or toward the end of the day, I put out food scraps for the critters.

It's mostly uneaten canned cat food that Luther and Waldo, being well-fed indoor cats, tend to waste. When it sits out all night uneaten, I take it away and dump it into an empty Lean Cuisine dish and often collect other scraps during the day, including stale crackers, bread crumbs and stuff like that.

I've assumed that something like an opossum, skunk or raccoon was eating it. Not sure that deer would go for cat food, although coyotes would.

This afternoon I put out a small dish with cat food and some pizza crusts. I happened to look out there just now and what should I see chomping down on the food? A neighbor's cat!

I assume it was a neighbor's cat, not a stray, because it looked well fed as far as I could tell, and not scrawny. It had no collar. While I often see 2 or 3 different local cats around here, I don't think I've ever seen what I would describe as a true homeless stray. Although I noticed it apparently ate the 2 pizza crusts; not sure a cat would eat those unless it was really hungry. And it spent quite a bit of time licking the plate, though I imagine that a cat fed only dry food would really relish the canned.

Last night, I even put out a small amount of salmon. I had some for dinner and put aside a small amount for Waldo, who is fond of it, but he ended up eating only half of it. So instead of throwing it out, I put it out with some cat food. Wonder if the same cat got that too or if I have more than one visitor?

Bit the Bullet, Ordered a Dryer

January 8th, 2012 at 02:38 pm

Since my electric clothes dryer went kaput about a month ago, I've been stalling on buying a new one, even though I found a cheap one at Home Depot.

Just hate to spend the money. Another unanticipated expense.

However, the dirty laundry is piling up, and though I find laundry dries pretty quickly in the dry, indoor heat of my house, I knew I couldn't rely on drying my clothes that way forever, or exclusively. And I knew that delaying the purchase wasn't really providing me with any benefit.

So I sprung for a new dryer last night, since Home Depot's free delivery expired later this month.I had checked Craig's List for used ones; most of the ones I saw were 1. sold as part of a washer/dryer set, and 2. much more expensive, upscale brands, so that their asking price of around $300, while probably quite good for an LG or a Bosch, was the same price I'd pay for a brand new dryer with a 1-year warranty. And being single, I don't really know any pick-up drivers who could get a dryer home and help set up.

I know that Hotpoints are on the low end of the appliance scale, but of all the major appliances you could buy, quality and brand are probably least important in a clothes dryer, at least to my way of thinking.

I've always bought Whirlpools, so this and the washing machine I replaced last summer are the first non-Whirlpool appliances I've ever bought.

I got a basic, no bells and whistles Sears Hotpoint HTDX 100EM. With the new (required) power cord and new (required) hose vent, plus sales tax, delivery, set-up and takeaway of the old one, it comes to just $352, which seems pretty cheap to me. This particular model got hundreds of customer reviews, who rated it 4.2 stars out of 5. My old dryer, a Whirlpool, was also a very basic model, so luckily I'm not used to anything better. The old one lasted 16 years; let's hope this one does as well.

It's been a very quiet start to the new year as far as freelance work goes. I finally heard, and got some work from the IT director whose emails I edit. In my generally paranoid state when it comes to employment these days, I even went so far as to check his school's website to make sure he was still listed as IT Director! I was afraid I hadn't heard from him becus he was laid off, since there seemed to be a lot of mea culpa type emails to the rabbi that I edited for him!

I haven't heard a thing about the transcriptionist job and so have to assume that, once again, I didn't get that particular job. Might be just as well, although I would have done it if I'd gotten it. I'd written a long-winded post yesterday about all this and titled it, "Bah, humbug," becus that's pretty much how I was feeling yesterday. I lost the post when I hit the submit button, as others have done here. I'm sure there's a bug in the system that causes it, but I don't have the time to invest in talking to Jeffrey or Nate about it.

A friend of mine, another longtime unemployed person, is starting a 6-month contract job in Hartford tomorrow. He lives about 45 minutes south of me, and Hartford is a good 50 minutes northeast from here, so I shudder to think what his daily commute will be like. But the money will be very good, and he desperately needs this job. He's behind on his rent, behind on a lot of bills, etc. He's sort of going through a slow motion breakup with his Norwegian girlfriend of 4 years. She just said she wanted a "separation" of undetermined length and purpose, and from everything he tells me, it's clear she's trying to do a "soft landing" breakup. I've told him that several times so that he doesn't invest any more emotions or money in the relationship, but I don't think he wants to hear it. His other friends have said the same, he said.

I told him to just focus on the new job and don't let himself be distracted by relationship issues. Just concentrate on making his new employers happy and doing the best job he can. He agreed, but he's a very anxious and worried person, although given his circumstances, it's understandable.

I am anxious to get started on my new taxes as soon as possible, but have to wait for 1099s from 3 firms, plus my investment earnings from T. Rowe Price, several banks, and the Dept of Labor.

I really want to get my hands on a print version of the federal tax form and booklet, but they're not mailing them out to households anymore, and my library always seems to get them so late.

Productive day in many ways

January 4th, 2012 at 12:45 am

Here's what I did today:

1. After waking up late, (around 8:30 am) so uncharacteristic of me, I had my breakfast and then headed out to return the Mac to the publisher's where I did the contract work. Neither the woman who trained me or the editor in chief was in (seems they never are) but as I was writing a little note to the trainer, another gal there who'd I'd met before told me that the trainer had found a new job and left last week! That was a bit of a surprise, since she held the f/t job I'd originally applied for last summer. So she was only there 6 months. I'm sure that she left either for more money or because the editor in chief seems a bit bitchy to deal with. Anyway, bitchy or not, that presents some further possible job opportunities for me, so I was sure to leave a nicely worded, "don't hesitate to call me if I can help again..." type note for the editor in chief.

2. Stopped at Target to pick up 10 Lean Cuisines at a great price of $2 each, plus I got a $5 gift card for my troubles, plus I can use the codes inside each box toward the magazine subscription I want to earn through their rewards program. (I've already decided to pick up another 10 for another gift card when I'm down that way on Thursday.) And I do find LCs handy for a quick lunch when I don't feel like cooking.

3. After Target I stopped at CVS for 5 cans of tuna at .59 each. I wouldn't be running hither and yon for such small savings, but it's very nearby.

4. I also stopped at the PO (on my route) to mail off a UBS cable to the research assistant with the nutrition study that I'd forgotten to give her at my last visit.

5. Another quick stop at local grocer for a 4 lb. bag of oranges ($3), zucchini (.99/lb) and salmon ($6/lb)

6. After a quick (Lean Cuisine) lunch, I did the 2nd coat of "Pebble White" paint on the window trim in spare bedroom. I can see that I will still need a THIRD coat cus it looks just a bit blotchy in certain areas; the somewhat dark teal color the trim used to be is the reason. I'm thrilled/relieved that after much procrastination, I'm finally making some progress on one of several undone interior updates here.

7. In the realm of cooking, I made a delicious salmon corn chowder (I indulged Waldo with some salmon, which he adores) and now have a blueberry crisp baking in the convection oven. It's my grandmother's recipe; have used it hundreds of times, usually with apples, but sometimes with blueberries or blueberries/peaches. Or with wineberries. I just cut back on the butter and sugar to let the natural sweetness of the berries come through. Really tasty.

I guess that's about it. I found a large plastic sheet to put over my firewood and protect it from getting wet. It's very cold out today and tomorrow, too.

I haven't heard about that transcriptionist job and am wondering if, once again, I will have reason to think I will get it only to find, inexplicably, that I didn't. I have mixed feelings about the job in any case. If I compare it to the publisher's, the pay is about the same but the publisher's is a MUCH easier drive. And the publisher is much more amenable to work at home arrangements while the other place isn't. Although after many years of working, I trust my hunch that the editor in chief could be problematic to deal with. Although if I remained freelance it wouldn't matter much. However, it would be heavenly if I had a shot at a job with health insurance.

Tomorrow I'll be headed for the library to read the weekly paper I gave up, get some free DVDs and see if they have tax forms yet. Then the 3rd coat on the trim. I'm on a roll.

Free stuff I got in 2011

January 2nd, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Since I am an inveterate list-maker (it would likely take years of therapy to understand why), here is my list of stuff I got for free in 2011, via online survey product testing, online forums and other sources.

6-pak of flavored Propel water
4 rolls toilet paper
Box of Kleenex
3 rolls Charmin Extra Strong
1 tube of Tomís of Maine toothpaste
About a half dozen free Teva-Neuroscience dinners plus free lip balm, sunscreen, pens, tote bags
22 free cans of Halo cat food
3 cases (24 bottles each) of bottled water with returnable deposits (via my town, after Hurricane Irene)
4 rolls of Angel Soft toilet paper, plus 10 $2 off coupons (She Speaks)
Facial cleanser, moisture tint lotion with SPF, lip balm and eyebrow pencil
2 boxes kitchen garbage bags (40 bags total)
$35 ($15, $15 and $5) in Amazon gift cards (credit card forum,) Redeemd $12 for 1 yr sub. To Kiplingerís, redeemed $21 for hand mixer. Balance $2.
Another $40 in Amazon gift cards from same forum. Redeemed with $2 balance above for a pair of navy slip-on Grasshopper sneakers and 2 packets of soybean vegetable seeds!
3 Masonicare free dinner/lectures
2 rolls paper towels (Nov)
15 lbs of pine-scented kitty litter (Nov)
Full container of Downy fabric softener (Nov)
$60 redeemed via PayPal for participation in another online forum on sustainable dairy products (Nov)
3 sample vials of Dolchi & Gabana perfumes
Another roll of Bounty paper towels (Dec)
About a dozen laundry detergent packets
$25 Sears gift card (from My Views) used to buy for 13.5 lb bucket of cardinal bird seed and paid for most of one very nice pair of thick boot socks

Some pretty good "deals" this week

January 2nd, 2012 at 08:08 pm

I'm not one to go running around to every store in town just to get this week's "deal," but I noticed a number of sales I decided to hit at some point this week, since most of these stores are not really out of the way. These are mostly national chains, so I figured I'd pass on the news to you if you haven't gone through the circulars:

Shop Rite has rice milk on sale for .99. It usually goes for $1.59 at least. I like to have a few of these on hand in case my power goes out, since you don't have to refrigerate until you open it.

Shop Rite also has progresso soups on sale for about $1.09 a can, or 10 for $10.88. I see they also have a very low price on their Friskies canned cat food, 24 for $9. usually they're at least .50 a can, on sale, and higher at the regular price.

If you already buy Lean Cuisines and participate in their online rewards program, buy your next 10 at Target's for $2 each (regularly priced $3.50 and higher) and get a $5 Target gift card to boot. I never buy these at full price; the sale price is usually $2.50, so this is just icing on the cake.

CVS has Bumble Bee chunk light tuna for .59 each! The chunk light has a lower mercury content than normal solid white tuna.

Staples has $5 off your in-store purchase of $25 or more, so i think I'll buy 2 printer ink cartridges and use that coupon.

And finally, I see that Walgreen's has a buy 1, get 1 free deal for Estroven, which completely eliminated my hot flashes. (If you haven't experienced a hot flash yet, ladies, consider yourself lucky. You'll be there some day.) I am trying a cheaper bottle of straight black cohosh to see if it works just as well as the Estroven formula, which also contains enough vitamins to function as a multi-vitamin (except it lacks much calcium) and green tea, which is already a part of my diet.

Had a nice visit with R. and my sister, and Ralph, R.'s dog, who frankly has always been an anxious little terrier with separation anxiety. All the pizza places we hit were closed, so we ended up at Shop Rite and he got 3 Amy's pizzas, which weren't bad. I think my sister enjoyed catching up with him after not seeing him for a good number of years.