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Archive for April, 2012

No more grocery shopping til August!

April 30th, 2012 at 11:11 pm

That's because I needed to charge up my Citi Thank You card, so I purchased $200 worth of Trader Joe's gift cards and $300 worth of Shop Rite gift cards, along with my usual groceries.

I calculate that brings my total spending up to about $1300, so I anticipate I may still need MORE gift cards in the next few weeks.

I regret having to do it this way (for the $250 rewards), because next month I'll be faced with one whopper of a credit card bill totalling about $1500. And I'll have to pay it in full.

Oh well, lesson learned. If you're going for the rewards, take it seriously. Don't waste the first month's worth of spending on another credit card, as I did.

There was a full page ad in the local paper by a local law firm looking for people to do a focus group/mock trial, and they'll pay $100. I was interviewed over the phone and then supposedly they'll let you know either way. It's this Friday night. I'd love to do this.

Also unsure whether they'll let me do the poll work again at the 2nd budget vote. No one's gotten back to me.

I had a reason to talk to the temp agency that offers my health insurance through COBRA. June 1 there's going to be a big increase....11.5%, she said, in my premiums. SO NOT looking forward to that. I had calculated a 7% increase, but no, we're higher than the national average.

I'm kind of freaking out a little becus the unemployment benefits that i so carefully calculated would last til mid-June may not last past next week!

When i called in to report my weekly earnings, they said the state unemployment rate fell below the critical 8% threshold, which means federal benefits end or something. It depends on whether you're on the federal EB program or state EUC program, and i have no idea which one i'm on, or which "tier" (1 of 4) i'm on. I have to call in tomorrow, if the system will let me. I may have to wait til week's end. I'm super nervous. Shit may be hitting fan sooner than I planned for.

Just now got word from a recruiter I know about a 4 month temp job for someone going on maternity leave. It's an hour drive, no matter, would love to do it. Full-time, would be good pay, and I could switch to Aquent's health plan when i started the job so that, after the 4 months of work ended, my COBRA (i believe) would start anew. Right now, my COBRA ends June of next year; I'd like to reset the clock for another 33 months so i at least don't have the loss of COBRA as another worry. I know the letter she sent me about the job is a form letter that surely went out to a bunch of people she felt were qualified, so who knows what my chances are. Will call her tomorrow.

Aside from job anxieties, it was a pretty good day today. Besides hitting Trader Joe's and Shop Rite, I returned some DVDs at the library. I finally got around to watching Twilight, just so i can stay abreast of pop culture, and actually, i liked it very much. This prompted me to check out the 2nd and 3rd sequels, Eclipse and whatever the other one is called. I'll be watching the 2nd tonight. Smile

Speaking about movies, it's amazing how you can get a whole lot of star power and have a total flop of a movie. Like "The Walker." It stars Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin and Kristin Scott Lewis (did i get that name right?) I mean, all 3 great actors, but this was one SNOOZE of a movie. i didn't even bother watching it all the way through.

Yardwork-wise, I was able to sow some grass seed in 2 medium-sized areas of my lawn, one where pachysandra was making a mess of things and then another area that used to be part of my veggie garden but no longer is since i needed to move the fence further away from a tree that's growing a little too well. If I didn't sow grass (like i need MORE to mow?) it would be weeds, so....

Sowing grass seed is actually hard work. Pulling out weeds, loosening the soil and raking it smooth, putting hay over it so the birds don't get the seed and then watering it....frankly, i'm exhausted.

What I would like to do tomorrow, my last free day before going back to work, is move a small viburnum I planted a few years ago (3?) in the wrong place, where most of the sun is blocked by larger shrubs. It's also in the middle of the lawn and just another thing to have to mow around. I'd like to move it to a spot that opened up in the back yard, against the stone wall. A tree came down in a major storm and it would seem to be a good spot for it.

Here's one of the bluebirds frequently seen in my yard. They're nesting in the box... hope you can see it...shot through the window...

Skating on thin ice

April 28th, 2012 at 03:26 pm

So after spending $80 on virus repair last week, I was debating whether or not to ask for reimbursement from my p/t employer. I don't think I'd ever have gotten the virus if I hadn't been doing work-related research on a particular website for them.

I told them what happened this past week, without mentioning how much I spent for the fix, and I noticed the editor didn't offer to pay anything anyway. Maybe it didn't occur to her, but in hindsight, I guess I'm glad I didn't bother to ask, because the 4 of us (editor in chief, her #2 person, who does both payroll and stuff in the publiations dept., me and the other person who is also project editor like me) got into a rather frank conversation about the state of the publishing company.

It was the first time they'd had such a candid conversation with us. The building is for sale. There are 2 owners: 1 would like to see the company continue, in some form, while the other seems ready to retire. (They are both of retirement age now.) The building is huge, old, energy-inefficient and kind of falling apart.

The editor in chief said we know you guys are underpaid, well, guess what, so are we. And we don't know how long the company's going to last. She said she's mentioned several times that she'd be interested in continuing the business maybe under a new business model, where everyone was able to work at home f/t so they wouldn't need a brick and mortar location, or the expenses associated with it. She and the #2 person have been with this place for 20 years or so, and they both have a lot of accumulated know-how and knowledge.

They're working now on doing some modest upgrades to our ancient computers to enable us to work at home more than what we're doing now, but the owners don't have much to spend on it.

Right now, the publisher also still does writing workshops and conferences as well as the books we do, and it's only the books that are at least breaking even or making a modest profit. So that's good. But I am feeling this teensy little job, which nets me such a pitiful, but at the same time, essential amount of money, may also be in danger before too long.

It's hard to say. I am still looking for f/t of course, but it could still be some time before that happens. And this job, although it pays just $15/hr., (and which was something i considered beneath me when i first took it), is proving to be more and more essential to my everyday survival.

On the same day as we had that conversation, the other project editor confided in me that she was having difficulty fitting in the work at home when she was supposed to becus she's involved in a lot of work with her church and volunteer stuff and she gets sidetracked, plus she has kids. I privately thought to myself that, much as I like her, how great it would be if she resigned or something and I could convince the editor in chief that I could handle the additional work. I sort of doubt the other woman would give up the job entirely, but you never know.

My dad paid an unexpected visit up here. He stayed at my sister's and took the 3 of us out to dinner at the diner last night. I took home a roast pork, which I'll have for lunch or dinner tonight.

Then he came back this a.m. and helped me offload a small pile of brush at the landfill and at the same time load a small pile of mulch (yes, more mulch) into his pickup. I would have liked to take more, but I felt kinda bad having my father shovel mulch at his age. We dumped that in my driveway and then the 2 of us loaded another pile of cut firewood from my driveway into his truck, using a ramp and hand dolly which really saved our backs.

Now of his 4 children (2 sons, 2 daughters), I've been out of work the longest. My sister works, but she is just scraping by, and the older of my 2 brothers is the only one who seems to be doing pretty well. He works for a pharma company now, i think.

The younger of my 2 brothers (actually, they're both half-brothers), was an auto mechanic who worked in someone else's shop, and was let go. He also managed the repair shop and all the other mechanics and was pretty good at it.

He's been looking for a similar position without much luck for a few months now, and my dad said he's decided he might be better off trying to buy an existing repair facility and going into business for himself.

As my father pointed out, my brother's former boss charged something like $85 an hour for labor, while my brother was only making $25 an hour. He has all the skills needed to run his own place, but lacks the money to buy an existing business. So my father said he's thinking of helping my brother out by taking out a home equity line of credit, with the stipulation in his will that, should my dad pass away before the money is paid back, which is probably likely, that my bro would have to repay the money back to the estate so that everyone still gets one-quarter of my dad's assets, which my dad estimates would be $200K total. (In the same conversation, he said the bank where he applied for the Home equity line figured his house is worth about $330K now, so i guess my father forgot about the house when he said $200K? Hmmm)

i never had such a frank conversation with my dad before about this stuff. I told him it was very generous for him to do that and that I was sure my bro would be very excited, and that this could really launch him in his own business. I am not sure how it could be enforced that my brother repay all the money to the estate, but it's not for me to pass judgement on what my dad does with his money, anyway.

I have my first case of poison ivy for the season, with some on my arm and my ear, which is driving me crazy with the itchies.

I met a very nice woman about my age who was also a poll worker when i worked during my town's budget vote. We have connected on Facebook and she asked me to help her out with a fundraiser she's doing for wounded vets. Which I will do.

I also really hope I can work the next referendum vote since the budget was voted down. It was a modest increase, about 3.5%, but the board of education was trying to make a case for spending more money at a time when school enrollment is down and they are actually talking about mothballing 1 or more schools becus they dont need the space!!! All this at a time when many like me are still struggling and out of work or underemployed.

So I really want to work the next election too, cus i need the cash. I left a message to that effect at the registrar's office and asked them to call me back to confirm I could, but they never did, and each time i tried calling Friday, I got their machine. So I'll have to try again on Monday, or maybe I'll just walk in there.

I am just starting my 3rd month with Citi Thank You card and have only managed to charge about $800 of the $2,000 i need to spend to earn $250 in gift cards. The grocery gift cards are fine, but do i really want to purchase possilby $1,000 worth of grocery gift cards? That will really throw my month to month expenses out of whack.

BPA here, not there

April 23rd, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Just to follow up on another post, I did some quick research on which brands offer BPA-free can linings, and which do not.

For the record, Muir Glen, Amy's and Whole Foods STILL USE BPA can linings. Trader Joe's only offers BPA-free for corn, beans and canned fish and poulty but BPA chili, soups and tomato products.

Hain Celestial, which owns Healthy Valley, Earth's Best and Wesrtbae, and ConAgra, which owns Hunts, helathy Choicdr and Heinz, have STARTED using BPA free cans for certain products, but not all.

Nasty virus

April 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 am

Not me, my computer. Last week I was supposed to work my usual 2 days in the office, 1 day at home, but because they were having some computer issues there, they directed me and other editor to head home early and work from home the rest of the week.

Which was cool, until, later that afternoon, I was doing research on a particular website and i suddenly got bumped out of the site. Then I started getting mutiple error messages with dire warnings, like "Warning: Extremely unstable." Everything I tried to do only seemed to make things worse, and then I was directed me to a website hawking virus repair, so I finally gave up. The virus actually wiped out ALL of my Word documents, Excel, Powerpoint, and oh yes, even My Computer and Control Panel. And IE. The only thing left was my Firefox. All I could see was a big white space where those programs used to be when I hit Start/All programs. I can't tell you how scared I was, since the last time I backed up was 2 years ago. No excuses for that.

So I called a friend who recommended a local computer repair place and I got it down to him right before he closed on Wednesday. I got it back Friday afternoon and he saved all my files, although they are now in different places and I haven't had time to rearrange stuff. I also had to recreate all of my IE settings and favorites, but that was small potaotes compared to what might have been.

He charged me $80, which I considered a bargain, plus I paid another $40 for 2012 Norton Anti-Virus. Umm, no, I'd let an old version expire without renewal. He said having had anti-virus software installed wouldn't necessarily have prevented the virus from infecting my computer, and he also said there isn't a virus program out there worth more than $50, so don't pay more than that, ever.

Another place I'd called had quoted me a price of between $150 and $200. At least I was able to pay wtih my Citi Thank You card, which I'm still trying to charge up to meet my spending goal.

So the virus really threw off my whole schedule, and I'm only now feeling back to normal. Instead of doing my publishing job Wed/Thurs/Fri/and part of Saturday, I ended up working a bit on Friday but also part if Saturday and all day today.

I was feeling anxious to try and get it all done by tonight, because I need tomorrow to do a variety of things, including grocery shopping, because then on Tuesday I'll be a poll worker all day long and won't have time to do anything else, and then it's back to the publishing job on Wednesday.

Yesterday, I took a bit of a break and a friend of mine picked me up and we headed north to attend an artist's opening reception at a gallery/frame shop. The artist happened to be my mother, and I hadn't told her we were coming, so she was surprised, especially so since she hadn't seen my friend for a good many years. We stayed and chatted with her and the gallery owner for a while, which i guess was a good thing becus no one else showed up while we were there. And R. ended up buying one of my mother's pieces for his niece and let me charge it to my Citi card while giving me cash for it. And the gallery owner got a cut on the sale with a commission, so 3 of us benefitted from R.'s one act. Oh yeah, and his niece gets a present!

On the way home, we stopped for a few slices of pizza.

We're getting some much needed rain today, but it sure is dark and dreary, and a bit raw. Feels like March.

I made some banana walnut bread today. Watched an interesting movie last night, Across the Universe. If you love Beatles music, this one's for you. It's kind of like a rock musical with a movie plot.

Not really looking forward to Tuesday, but I'm doing it for the money. It's a long day, 5:15 am to 8 pm, and you can't leave the building but you're still responsible for your own meals, except breakfast. Some people have a spouse who will bring them their lunch or dinner, but I'll have to figure out something to bring that doesn't require cooking (no stove). Just a sandwich or something.

The amazingly dexterious Luther

April 18th, 2012 at 12:12 am

Luther has a penchant for prying open closed doors, anywhere in the house.

He started in the kitchen, finding the cabinet doors quite easy to pop open.

The first time I came home to a kitchen full of open cabinet doors, I thought someone had entered the house and helped themselves!

Now, I have to keep the cabinets above the refrigerator closed with a rubber band.

Cus if Luther got in there, he'd probalby knock down the CFL bulbs I have stored there. Not good, with the mercury they contain.

He's even figured out how to open this cabinet! (Sorry, out of focus.)

Along with this barnboard cabinet. Notice the latch on each is a little different.

And this is my darling Waldo, looking so peaceful and relaxed.

Monday doings

April 17th, 2012 at 03:10 am

The gymnast.

Today was a pretty good day. I did start off the day with a wasted trip to Aldi's, just the second time I've been there since they opened last year. I was attracted by a cheapie outdoor plant hanger, which I never got becus the sales circular I saw it advertised in isn't good for another week. About 80% of aldi's is processed food in a box, jar or can, but I did pick up some cheap onions and sweet potatoes.

I went to browse Home Goods with my $25 gift card, wandering up and down every aisle. While they had the usual pretty dishware and glassware, I saw nothing that I felt I MUST have, and was surprised I might be leaving the store without buying anything. That is, until I saw something I really liked, a pagoda-like structure, vaguely Asian, that stands about two feet high. Not sure if it's meant for the outdoors, but that's how I'm using it, in one of my perennial beds near the blue milkweed and lamb's ears. I'll have a shot of it tomorrow. I really love it, and it was just $25. I'm embarrassed to say what I spent several years ago online for a much smaller pagoda elsewhere in my yard.

in other news...

I have a gazillion daffodils in my yard becus the deer don't like to eat them, and just a single red tulip. Where I got that bulb I don't know, but when I planted it, I figured it had the best shot at surviving if I planted it near my front door. True, the deer don't come quite that close, but chipmunks do, and most every year, that little tulip grows and grows, inching taller, getting ready to bloom and then CLOMP. I find it beheaded one day by the darn chipmunks that patrol my yard. In 17 years, I don't remember seeing it bloom.

Until 2012...

Saw another good movie tonight, The Savages. A grown brother and sister (she's from NYC, he lives in buffalo) are forced to spend time together when their elderly father ends up with dementia and they have to find a nursing home for him. It's not totally depressing, and it's really more about the relationship between the brother and sister. Very realistically done, I thought. They weren't close to their father, in fact, they hadn't seen him in years, and they each come to grips with their unhappy childhood in different ways. It's got its sweet spots.

I also managed to fill in two woodchuck hole with some sod I was digging up as I expand the vegetable garden. I hope and assume the burrows were vacant when I filled them; I guess I'll know tomorrow if the clumps of sod are moved. Although I must say as I stuffed the sod down the hole (don't worry, there is always an exit hole, too so I'm not burying anyone alive), I thought I smelled a faint whiff of...skunk. But no one came out, so I don't know. Like I said, I should have a better idea tomorrow when I inspect the holes.

So I continued work in the vegetable garden, planting another row of lettuce and working to dig up the sod. I also had to dig a ditch to put in a strip of flashing, about 6 inches wide, in an attempt to deter the many moles I have. They're really getting out of hand and are making a mess of my yard, but I don't think I want to use the usualy pellets or spray, which are usually made of castor bean oil, since it is poisonous. and I've read that if you miss a spot when you apply it, the moles will all huddle in the area that you missed, and I don't want that to be my veggie garden, which I can't spray. so I could make matters worse with that stuff. The other alternative is live traps (or not), and I think I'm moving closer to trying that, much as I'd rather not.

Anyway, I don't have enough flashing to put all aorund my veggie garden, and it's a lot of work diggintg the trench/ditch to fit in in the ground.

I had the soaker hose going for a bit watering everything and discovered that the reason why the 2 previous soaker hoses I had burst could be becus I used them during the heat of the day. Apparently, very hot water will damage the hose, which is made of recycled car tires. I don't know why it would be any different than a regular garden hose, except that it is porous and i guess a thinner material, which lets the water soak through, rather than spray into the area. This is the whole point of a soaker hose. Having water seep into the ground is better than getting leaves wet, which makes it easier for plant diseases to start and spread.

But anyway, the directions said don't run it with very hot water, which I can deal with if I remember to just use first thing in the a.m., but then it also said not to have water just sitting in there, becus i guess again, the sun will heat it up and possibly damage the hose. But for gosh sakes, most people use these in a veggie garden, which is going to be in the SUN, and it isn't at all convenient to have to pick up and drain the whole hose each time you use it. There's got to be a better way. I may call the company to discuss.

Paying taxes with credit card

April 16th, 2012 at 10:44 am

I thought this was an interesting story about paying property taxes with a rewards credit card. Can't say I thought about doing it, but it's interesting to read.

Credit card progress, gift cards, a movie review & other stuff

April 15th, 2012 at 01:05 pm

I seem to be creeping along at a snail's pace as far as earning my way to $250 in giftcards from Citi Thank You card.

Checked my balance this morning and I've only spent $479, less than a week away from closing out Month 2 in my 3-month quest to spend $2,000.

Part of the problem was that I got off to a very slow start in Month 1, because I had already received this new card and was still spending on another card to wrap up rewards on that one. So I got this one a bit prematurely, and I only spent $45 on this one in Month 1.

The only regularly recurring bills that let me pay with a credit card at no charge are my car insurance, homeowners insurance and phone/Internet bills. And of course I charge all grocery and gas purchases.

I'm going to revisit some of my other utility expenses, even the mortgage, to see if I can pay usign a credit card. Even if I incur a service charge it would be worth it. There may have been one or two bills I initially avoided paying with the CC due to a service charge of some sort, but a dollar or two doesn't matter, given the reward I'm shooting for.

At least now i know i have a backup plan, grocery store gift cards, if I have to.

Tomorrow I will be hitting Aldi's for just the 2nd time since it opened in my state. It's a little out of the way, maybe 30 minutes. I will also hit Home Goods to see if I want to use a $25 gift card I got from MyView.

Now MyView is the only one of about 5 different survey companies I do surveys for that offers gift cards only. I prefer cash becus it helps with living expenses. This is the 2nd gift card I've gotten from them and both times, I never got the card in their 4 to 6 week timeframe, and I had to get after them with emails and it was an all round pain in the neck. It took almost 8 weeks to get the card and i don't think i want to bother having to hound them for it. You're completely at their mercy. I have one more Home Goods gift card due in a few weeks and I'm quite sure I'll have to go through the same process, although I asked the customer service rep was it too much to ask to get BOTH gift cards at the same time, even though I redeemed them separately. Apparently, yes, too much to ask.

Thus far in 2012, I've earned $115 in gift cards, for either Home Goods ($50) or Amazon. Earned thru participation in either MyView surveys or a Communispace credit card forum.

I must admit that gift cards are a LOT more fun to spend and use, but really, I prefer cash, becus it goes right in my checking account to pay bills. Boring, but essential.

I currently also have $30 in amazon gift cards to spend, and this time I'm trying not to rush as I think I could do better than get $25 worth of black licorice, which is what i did last time. I have after MUCH browsing, decided on 2 books but there's a little left over and I'm trying to avoid or minimize shipping charges.

The books are:
1. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, true story (on the best seller list) written by a woman who lost her mother and goes on a long hike to come to grips with it, and

2. Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health

So tomorrow it's Aldi's and Home Goods and Tuesday I have brief training session for poll worker stuff on April 24, a bank deposit and getting more mulch.

Today, I'm not going anywhere. My only goals are:
1. one load of laundry
2. plant lettuce
3. pick up the house or other yardwork, if i'm up to it.

I saw another really good movie last night, Snow Angels.

When I see a movie I really like, I go online AFTER I've seen it to read what others have said about it, and I was surprised with this one that comments went to one extreme or another: either the reviewer loved it, or they hated it.

I picked this one up in a rush at the library, at a time when I knew I wanted another week's worth of movies to watch, but didn't have time to linger. I think the library was closing soon or something. So anyway, I just looked at the cover of this one and decided to get it. The cover has a picture of a pretty woman and another image of a man standing over and behind a kneeling woman. There was no way of knowing what the movie was really about, so all the twists and turns of the plot really took me by surprise and probably added to my enjoyment. It's a little dark, but if you don't mind that, definitely worth watching.

It's been 2 weeks since I interviewed for the news reporter job and haven't heard anything. I'm disappointed. Guess I didn't get it. Never head back from recruiter about United Health Care job and haven't heard back from client about more legal editing, which I thought I'd have this weekend. Also haven't heard a peep from real estate client.

So I need a break. It usually happens, just when there's absolutely nothing on the horizon, something pops up and I'm back in business.

Universe, I'm ready. Lay it on me.

Maybe not a smart move to save $ on phone bill?

April 14th, 2012 at 01:55 pm

I was irked to see my AT&T phone/Internet bill today for $50. It went up by $5, and I never make long distance calls on it.

But it went up last month as well, and when it did, I spoke to customer service and she found a $5 promotion which she applied to the bill and said it was good for a year, so my bill was to go back down to $45 a month ($21 for the land line and $25 for the Internet).

That $21 a month for the phone does NOT include long distance, but it's been no biggie becus I've been in the habit of buying prepaid phone cards at about .03 a minute, and I figured it was cheaper to pay that only when I make long distance calls, rather than paying a fixed monthly fee when I really don't make a lot of long distance calls.

So when the bill went up to $50 again this month, I called to complain and she said oh, the person you spoke to last month probably didn't see that you're already getting a $5 loyal customer discount and you can't tack on more than one.

Then she told me about their Emergency use only plan, which is just $7.45 a month (compared to the $21 I'm paying now for the phone portion of the bill). With this plan, all incoming calls are free, as are local calls out, but any long distance calls I make are .41 a minute, which happens to be the rate I would otherwise be paying under my existing plan except that I use those calling cards with a toll free number.

So, not sure if this was the right move, but I went for the Emergency use only plan. I don't have a cell phone, so i might be restricting myself too much, but i really liked the idea of reducing a monthly bill by over $13 a month.

I specifically asked about the calling cards i use with the toll-free numbers, becus i rely on these to make any long distance call. She said with the toll free number they'd be charged at .03 a minute.

So yeah, it would be on top of the roughly .03 a minute i alreaday pay for the calling cards themselves, but i still think paying .06 a minute per call will wind up being cheaper than a flat monthly fee that's assessed whether i use the phone or not.

Put another way, i could make up to 450 minutes of long distance calls a month (7.5 hours x .03/minute = $13.50, using my calling cards) and still pay no more than i'm paying now, and probably less. I find it hard to believe I would spend that much time on long distance calls.

If I didn't have the calling cards to use for long distance calls it wouldn't make sense, so if that customer service rep was wrong about toll-free numbers being billed at .03 and i actually got charged at the .41 a minute rate, then I'd have to switch back. She said long distance is anything where you have to dial a 1 before the number. But you have to dial 1 before a toll-free number, but maybe that's different.

What do you think?

Credit Card Strategies

April 12th, 2012 at 11:40 am

I recently had a "lightbulb" moment when I realized that I COULD get the Chase Sapphire rewards card and not have to wait til I was employed full-time to be able to spend $3,000 in 3 months.

There are 2 reasons for this:

1. As someone pointed out here, if I find I'm running short of the target spending goal, i can always buy grocery store gift cards.

2. I took a look at last year's monthly expense sheets (you never know when these come in handy) and I could see that I usually pay my car insurance (1/2 of it) in July and my homeowners in October.

So if I time my application for the Chase Sapphire card in mid-July, I should be able to cover both big bills, which together come to just under $1,000. So that would be one-third of the target spend right there.

Right now, I need to focus on my current Citi thank You preferred spend, and again, I just might need those grocery store gift cards to hit the target.

If I do just the citi thnak you card and the sapphire card, I will have exceeded my target of $1,000 in cash and gift cards earned from credit card rewards in 2012.


I can't stand looking at spam

April 12th, 2012 at 11:31 am

Can someone please get rid of this junk?

Dumb credit card question

April 10th, 2012 at 07:15 pm

So I'm currently working to charge up $2,000 in 3 months on my citi Thank You card.

This is sort of a dumb question, but I've never done this before and I'm thinking maybe I could do this as I'm concerned I might not be able to spend the $2,000, as most of my utilities, for example, don't accept credit card there some reason I can't pay for one credit card bill by using another credit card to pay for it?

I usually pay all my credit cards with a personal check.

PS's 2012 credit card rewards, YTD

April 10th, 2012 at 01:36 pm

Well, since we all seem to have credit cards on the brain, I thought I would tally up my 2012 credit card rewards thus far in 2012.

February: Discover Card, $150 cash
March: Citi Dividend VIsa, $200 cash
Anticipated in May: Citi Thank You, $500 in gift cards

Total so far: $350
Total in 2011: $425

2012 Goal: $1,000

The cash I've earned so far has just gone toward paying my general living expenses. If I were working, it would be nice to treat it as fun money, but alas, that's not in the cards right now. It's more like survival money.

Today's my last free day before returning to p/t job tomorrow. So the only thing on my agenda is to collect another carful of free mulch at the landfill and spread it on the perennial bed running alonside my driveway.

I also want to call a contact who recruits people for focus groups for a certain company, to see if there are any going on.

Yesterday I spent several hours working in the veggie garden. There were already a lot of weeds growing in it and I needed to plant 6 baby broccoli seedlings my sister gave me on Easter. Last year, my broccoli was deccimated by worms making pinholes all over the leaves. A flying insect lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves and they feed from there.

So after reading about using tulle netting, the kind used for a bridal veil, as a cover for things like broccoli (it prevents the insect from laying its eggs on the plant), I priced it out and using a coupon was able to get 5 yards of white tulle for about $7. If it helps me get a bumper crop of broccoli this year, it will be worth it. It was a challenge to set it all up since I needed poles to hold the netting aloft over the seedlings and I didn't want to spend more money on poles, so i just made do with what i have and weighed down the tulle on all sides with small rocks.

It looks like a floppy eyesore in my garden, quite frankly, and my neighbors are probably wondering what the heck it is, but again, if it does what it's supposed to do, I don't care.

So I got the broccoli in, and also wrapped the base of each stem in tinfoil to prevent cutworms from mowing them down at the stalk. (You learn these things the hard way.) And I also planted pea pods, then hauled my very long hose down about 75 feet to the garden and gave everything a good watering. It's been very dry around here.

Today, it would be nice to get the lettuce in.

On my trip to get the tulle yesterday, I also stopped at Petco for a free can of Science Diet cat food, picked up some groceries on sale at Shop Rite and got another week's worth of DVDs at the library.

On the job front:
There's NOTHING going on right now, either freelance or otherwise. Waiting to hear on the news reporter job. Waiting on the legal editing work. So 2 things pending, but that's it.

I asked a friend of mine with a camcorder if he would be willing to tape me in a mock interview and play the part of a prospective employer. I'd like to watch the tape and try to pinpoint weaknesses.

I'd had a lot of interviews, maybe 1 a month or 1 every other month, but no offers. I know it's partly due to the sheer number of others in the same boat, but I also think I could greatly improve my interviewing skills. It seems I'm too easily thrown by chance factors out of my control, like, I don't feel a 'connection' with the person who's interviewing me, or I get an unexpected question, or like, at my last interview at the commercial real estate appraisal company, the guy interviewing me was so damn attractive and suave, it made me nervous!

I think I should be good enough at interviewing that I AM in control of the interview process and do a good job regardless of the other person's personality or other superficial things.

My unemployment runs out June 19.

Super Easy yummy Easter dessert

April 7th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

If you need to make a quickie dessert for Easter, here's a delicious and easy one. I've posted it before, but it bears repeating:

Dark, milk or white chocolate chips: Melt it in a microwave safe bowl. I think I use 1 cup.

Mix 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts into the chocolate mix. Take spoonfuls to cool on a sheet of wax paper or something and stick in fridge for 10 minutes til cooled.

That's it. They're delicious!

It's been an uneventful Saturday. I finished up my part-time work for the publisher's here at home today. I work in the office 8 hours wednesday, 8 hours thursday and then i usually split my 9 remaining hours at home on friday and saturday.

Did some yardwork during the warmest part of the afternoon, spreading the rest of my mulch on various perennial beds. My summer could revolve around mulch, its acquisition and distribution. Ha!

Lazed in the sun room with the kitties, chasing a squirrel off the bird feeder and admiring my mulch. I even hung the hummingbird feeder becus I noticed in my bird journal that one year I spotted a hummingbird as early as April 26, and since they always return to the same area as the previous year, I wouldn't want "mine" to go hungry should they catch an early flight north.

A friend of mine, a Republican, really annoyed me by sending me a chain email attacking Jane Fonda ("never forget") for her anti-war efforts during the Vietnam War. I mean, perfect timing! Crucify the woman on the eve of Easter for something that happened 40 years ago. Has he never done anything he regretted during his youth? She apologized. Get over it.

The Author asked me to write a reviewer blurb for the back of her book, so I wrote that today as well. She sort of hinted that I could use whatever title I wanted, but I don't feel right saying anything than what I am, so it's "Patient Saver, Project Editor, The xxx (name of publisher). Although Project Editor is a fairly junior level title, compared to Managing Editor, Editor in Chief or even Senior Editor, the name of my publisher does have a little cache, I think, since their name does not really sound like a publisher. It has "Institute" in it. In addition to offering books to help wannabe writers (2 of which I'm updating) they also put on those old-fashioned correspondent type courses thru the mail where you are assigned an editor and do various writing assignments. They do some workshops, too, I think.

I touched base with the social worker about the next 2 legal editing assignments; won't get the one til end of next week.

My main client, the real estate company, has been extremely quiet since mid-February. Haven't heard a peep out of them.

I heard from a recruiter Friday about a contract job with United Health Care for about 8 months. I'm sorry I couldn't muster up more enthusiasm over the phone, but I applied for a job with them a few months back, also thru a recruiter, and I think they withdrew that job or something. But she's presenting me to the company. They want someone with a healthcare background, which I don't have, but you never know. I did a long time ago work for what is known today as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (a very interesting job, but company relocated to Chicago area). Our thing there was combatting insurance fraud like staged car accidents, slip and falls, arson, workers comp cases, etc.

Not a whole lot else new. I enjoy watching everything coming to life again, little green leaves forming on trees, daffodils and hyacinth in bloom, my cherry trees already bloomed and faded.

Tomorrow is dinner at my mother's. I'll make that dessert mentioned above.

Happy Easter!

When it makes sense to switch vendors to save a fraction of a cent.

April 6th, 2012 at 11:50 am

There are certain markets out there that are fiercely competitive, and consumers stand to benefit if they recognize this.

A few examples are phone and cable service. Another is electricity, at least here in Connecticut where the industry was deregulated a number of years ago in an effort to lower electricity costs to consumers.

Just a few months ago, on New Year's Eve, as a matter of fact, i devoted some time to studying various electrical providers and their rates on the state of CT website. I picked the cheapest rate, at that time, 7.98 per kilowatt hour offered by Dominion Energy. At the time, it was a cost savings to me as I had switched a year prior to Public Power at .099 per kh.

So I signed up, figured I had a good deal (it was a fixed priced locked in for 1 year) and promptly forgot about it.

That was just 3 months ago, and then yesterday my mother alerted me to the fact that another provider, North American Power (NAP), was offering electricity at 6.49 per kh.

Back to the state website I went, and I saw that NAP was offering various unspecified promotional deals, but their standard rate was much higher.

So I went to the NAP website and read the Terms of Service, which said that promo rate was only good for 3 months and then the rate would go variable.

So i advised my mom not to go with them; however, while on the state website, i saw that Dominion, the company that now provides my power at 7.98 pher kh, was offering electricity at 6.98, good for 1 year.

I called them this morning at around 7 am and was surprised someone answered the phone. I was prepared to be disgruntled and to end up switching to another provider, but when i said i was a current customer and saw their lower rate on the state website, he said i could "re-enroll" in the new program, no problem. Which is what i did.

Now the difference in my total monthly charge for electricity generation between my old rate and the new one is just $2 and change, but I figure, electricity is electricity. The product is identical, regardless of where you get it, so why pay a PENNY more than you need to? A lot of people go running around and waste gas to save a few bucks at one store or another; i figure it's surely worth the effort when i can achieve the savings in 2 minutes on my computer.

I am sure that electric providers count on the fact that most people, once they switch, tend to forget about it and move on with other things, so lesson learned here was, if you snooze, you lose. If I hadn't bothered to check the state website for current rate offerings, i'd never know I could get electricty more cheaply than I am now, even when the cheaper rate is offered by the same company I'm now getting my power from!

Free turkey

April 3rd, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Shop rite had a deal going this past month where, if you spent $300 in 4 weeks, you could have your choice of a frozen whole turkey, frozen turkey breast, lasagna or tofu turkey.

Last week my spending was only up to $210, but today after my latest job interview I went armed with a calculator and managed to spend $93, just enough to earn my frozen turkey breast. It's nearly 7 lbs and usually goes for $12, so I was pleased.

I don't usually spend that much in a month, but i purchased double on a lot of things and didn't have to much trouble.

The interview went fine, but the guy i met with was really just a gatekeeper to screen people and if the newsroom people like what he has to say about me, they'll call me in for a 2nd interview.

I intended to tell the guy i was really mainly interested in the p/t copy editing, not the news reporting jobs, but when i inquired about the former, he said that would just go along with the f/t reporting job, to make sure it's full-time. It is a job with benefits though. I had assumed it would pay too low for me to consider, even without a mortgage, but when he told me that, i decided to just keep my mouth shut and keep my options open for as long as possible.

I really would be extremely surprised if the job paid any more than $35k tops, but to get benefits and heatlh insurance i might be tempted to take it anyway.
He wasn't asking any tough questions, so it made it easy for me to just play along.

I made a 4th trip for mulch this morning. Tomorrow it's back to work. Notice my mortgage balance. I'm getting excited about its shrinking size.

And another thing....

April 2nd, 2012 at 09:26 pm

I had another outside-the-box thought today.

I signed up to be a poll worker again in my town's April election. I should have signed up to work the presidential primary, which also takes place in April, but when she mentioned that on the phone, I was thinking November and figured I had time. So I'll call her back tomorrow to sign up for the 2nd as well.

But then I got to thinking....what's to prevent me from being a poll worker in neighboring towns as well? They all seem to have their town budget votes at different times.

I called one town's registrar and she said that while there used to be a law that you had to live in the town where you worked, they did away with that law. But their vote is tomorrow and they have all the poll workers they need.

I called a local small city but they they have a different form of govt and don't have a spring election.

Then I figured I might as well wait til tomorrow before I call anywhere else becus I don't actually know the date of my hometown's budget vote. I don't think they've set a date yet, but of course I want to make sure the dates don't conflict.

The other day I saw an interesting job posted for a writer/biographer to work for a personal injury law firm interviewing clients and writing a narrative that would be used in court by the law firm. While the job was just too far away for me to consider (an hour, plus driving as far north as Albany to visit with the victims), I did write the law firm to see if this was something law firms typically have a need for, becus I figure I'd be very good at it, and I'm already editing reports for the social worker/guardian ad litem in Massachusetts who is doing the same kind of work, except that she's interviewing various parties involved in child custoy cases. But by editing her reports, I've been able to see what kinds of questions she asks and how she writes them up, etc.

Someone from the law firm did respond back to me and briefly said he thought what they did was very unique but you never know. He declined to share their payscale with me. Smile

So I did also shoot off letters to 4 or 5 big law firms in my area, basically proposing the same thing as this one ad. I emphasized my qualifications and well, you never know. I'd be interested to get any feedback at all, but I don't know if they'd bother.

I went for my 3rd mulch pick up at the landfill the other day. I found a recent load of very clean, very new chips. Looks like hemlock. It's a very light colored wood and really stands out in my beds but I need so much more!

Here's where I've been digging:

I want to get some more tomorrow morning....nobody take my mulch!

Oh, and if you're interested, here's where I work, the p/t publisher's job:

It's a very bucolic setting. I work in the left wing and my window looks out on the left. It used to be a boys boarding school and also an arts colony at one time. Originally was a private home.

I've gotten kind of hooked on watching this webcast:
check it out during the daytime and you'll see the male and female changing guard over the eggs they're sitting on, and you'll see either bird swoop in with large twigs and branches and then they rearrange the nest. It's really amazing. here's the link:

Just leave this window open with speakers ON and you can catch some amazing stuff.

I made some honey-glazed muffins today with walnuts. They're just ok. My orange/bran muffins are much better, I think.

I got my 5 lbs. of black Scotties' licorice delivered and have gotten kind of stuck on them. Probably not great for the teeth, so I sort of suck on them like hard candy rather than chew.

Tomorrow's my interview at the newspaper. I've sort of decided already that what I'd be interested is whatever copy editing they have, but not the reporter jobs. You do a lot of running around as a news reporter, and a lot of it is at night for meetings or on weekends, when you might like to have the time to yourself. I did it when I was younger; not sure I have the stamina to do it now. It'll be my job to convince them I'm perfect for the copy editing job.