Home > Archive: April, 2013

Archive for April, 2013

Tiring Day

May 1st, 2013 at 12:41 am

Well, I thought this could be a mostly relaxing day of yardwork in this fine spring weather we've been having, but...not exactly.

In the morning, I did some miscellaneous yard work. I started laying down the newspaper and then the mulch in one perennial bed.

I decided I should do my mother's housework today. I had plans to vaccum her entire condo, dust and mop the floors, but truth be told, I pooped out after doing the dusting and vacuuming. The vacuuming was quite tiring as I had to keep lifting and moving things out of the way, and I also had to keep bending down to vacuum where the carpeting meets the baseboards. Very dirty. The carpeting is shot, actually but my mother has SO much stuff in there I can't imagine being able to replace that carpeting.

My mom has a show coming up in Litchfield, so 60 pieces are gone and out of her place. I couldn't tell the difference myself. The show lasts 2 months; hopefully she'll sell some art.

After doing the housework, I ran off to a doctor's appointment. A pulmonologist. It's been a bit of an odyssey to try to figure out why I have had this unexplained cough for 3 or 4 years, at least. PCP ruled out lung cancer with some chest x-rays. She also ruled out asthma. Then she referred me to an ENT guy, who after having me do the overnight pH test, ruled out silent acid reflex. The pulmonologist is leaning toward a post-nasal drip issue even though I can't feel any drip at all in my throat. He wants me to try two things, a nasal spray and the equivalent of a netty pot, if anyone knows what that is. Supposedly the 2 together will really clear out your nose and sinuses. Then I have to get a spirometry test done in 3 weeks, unless I see such great improvement with the cough before then, due to the meds; if that happens, then I can cancel the test. I hope I have the discipline to do both meds; the one involves breathing in liquid and doesn't sound so pleasant.

I came home after that and got my lamb stew going in the oven. Then I finished mowing the lawn. Then, because they're warning of frost tonight, I put about a dozen heavy pots of lettuce and annuals back in the garage and covered my tulips with a tarp and covered all my little pea plants and lettuce in the garden with an assortment of pots to protect them from frost.

Hopefully this will be the last time this happens.

Tomorrow it's back to work. On the way there I'll deposit some checks, pick up those meds and collect more free mulch from the landfill.

Wrestling with my yard

April 29th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Yesterday I made good progress wrestling small portions of my yard back from Mother Nature who, if she had her way, would entangle the entire 1.5 acres in a thicket of impenetrable greenery.

The birds would love it; I don't.

I have an elongated island in my front yard that contains exactly this: 5 peonies, 1 birch tree, 1 wiegela, 1 butterfly bush, 1 beauty berry and an assortment of smaller perennials including sedums, blue milkweed, lamb's ears and clematis. Right behind the island I planted some gray (silky) dogwood and a nannyberry.

All great plants if you want either color or berries (for the birds). However, the gray dogwood was a poor choice for a suburban yard. Once it's settled in, it happily spreads by underground roots. And so it began doing its thing. Long, thin sprouts began popping up all over the island bed. It's attempting to colonize the whole island. So I had to make a hard choice...I sawed down the tree and pulled up a bunch of those seedlings. Those seedlings are all attached to long underground roots, so I'm sure I haven't gotten them all and they will return, but I had to make a decision about the source of my problem: the mother plant.

It's all about trying to turn a high-maintenance yard into a low-maintenance yard. I brought this on myself.

I also hacked away at a large burning bush I hadn't had time to cut back last fall. Everything was getting so bushy and overgrown in this island bed and I need to be able to mow around it. I also pulled out a large bittersweet (invasive) vine that had ensconced itself in the wiegela, and I also see a large bramble shoot in there that I somehow need to get to without hacking away at the wiegela.

These docile-looking tulips often distract me from the more menacing plants that call this place home.

If ticks didn't exist, I'd just lean in there and let my head and body be brushed by assorted branches as I pulled the thing out, but having had Lyme disease 3x now, I am extremely careful about doing that sort of thing. There is deer poop all over my yard, and deer (as well as mice) are primary carriers of deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

Yesterday I also saw a woodchuck dive into a burrow close to the house. I have to dump cat litter in there again. I haven't been able to properly bury that burrow because of its location at the corner of my rectangular picket fence, where all the gooseberry with thorns grow. Sigh.

The clock is ticking. Every day, plants in my yard grow another 12 inches. There is no such thing as leisurely, civilized gardening around here. It's a war I'll lose if I miss a single day's opportunity to weed, hack down and mulch heavily. AT least that's how it feels...and it's only April!

Now is the very best time to get a handle on some of this stuff because it's not brutally hot, insects are not a problem and you can better see what your situation is when not everything is leafed out yet.

I have a relatively open schedule today. I want to get a haircut with a $6 coup at Great Clips, but after that, I'm free. I will walk out there and Do Something. I have only to look around and dozens of jobs present themselves to me.

At least yesterday I got the rest of my lettuce and peas planted, as well as some basil.

April: A Banner Month, financially speaking

April 28th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I decided to wrap up my income & expense statement for the month of April a few days early. I can see it was a banner month, financially speaking.

Despite spending $834 on a nice new computer and an unexpected $275 on new brake pads and calipers, I was still able to come out ahead by $1200.

Not an easy thing when you're working part-time, but I had a great month for freelance income ($1191), plus all my other little sources of income, like credit card bonus rewards ($111) and various product/medical studies plus some great refunds or gift cards ($40 from Dell and a $50 refund from Puritan Pride for some returned vitamins) really added up.

I was especially happy with the $40 gift card from Dell, which came with an additional 5% off, simply for calling and asking them if there was a way to lower the cost of the computer I was ready to purchase online.

I was also impressed that my return of vitamins to Puritan Pride even included several bottles I had already opened. Still got the refund on them!

It's a beautiful day out there. I may need to do the inaugural mowing of the season. I was sort of waiting til I heard one of my neighbors mowing, but heck, the grass looks like it's getting high.

On the list of things to do: take apart my old computer tower and remove 1) the newly added memory, if I can find it and 2) the hard drive, so I can smash it to bits with my hammer before recycling at the dump.

I also need to wade into the fenced garden. Have to get the weed whacker charged up.

I was able to find a different appliance place to install a new range hood for just $10 more than the first guy. But I have to wait another week for them to come. I decided to call the first place to complain about the no-show guy, and spoke to someone there who said it sounded like he was doing the job on his own time, on the side. I didn't know that and wasn't given a choice in the matter. I'm not sure it mattered. The person I spoke with had no-show guy call me later. He was very nice on the phone and said he thought we agreed he was coming THIS Wednesday, not last Wednesday. I choose to believe him. I think it was an honest mistake by both of us....a lesson learned for next time, be sure you are both clear on the agreed upon date. It could save a lot of hassle.

I also want to get a handyman guy I know in town to come over and repair/replace my picket fenced garden, the one that's all overgrown. It also occurred to me that maybe one way to get rid of all the vinca and weeds is to rent a rototiller; it would make pulling up all that vinca by the roots so much easier. Still a job, but....


April 26th, 2013 at 11:12 am

This past week I had called around for prices on a replacement range hood. Nothing fancy. I got what I thought was a good price on it: $89 for the product itself and another $60 for installation.

"Tony" and I scheduled a time last week on the morning of one of my days off for him to come and do the installation. He called the night before and said he couldn't make it so we rescheduled for the following day at 6 pm. He said "Perfect, I get off work at 6 so I'll be right over after that."

That was Wednesday night. Do you know he never showed up? I keep looking out the window, rushed through dinner so he wouldn't catch me in the middle of it. Wondering what happened. Called the office number I had for him but it just rang and rang; not even a recording.

He never showed, and worse, in my opinion, is that he never even had the courtesy to call to say he wasn't coming.

I figured MAYBE the next day he'd call with some sort of explanation, but nope. Haven't heard a peep from him! Very disrespectful, IMO.

So Thursday morning I initiated a "dispute" with my credit card company and told them I wanted the $80 charge cancelled since I never received the product and in fact the guy has gone AWOL. I received a notice this a.m. from the credit card company that the charge has been cancelled.

So that's that. Now I'll have to start all over again to try to find a reasonably priced installation. The one place I'd called years ago wanted $150. I'm just surprised at the actions of this other guy since the company, family owned, has been around for years. The guy I placed the order with over the phone was the same guy who was going to install it. Anyway, good riddance.

I'm also thinking of finally getting around to having some fencing fixed/repaired. It's just a waist-high, wood picket fence that is rotting in places.

Here's a portion of it.

I don't think it requires total replacement, just portions of it. It comes in 6 foot lengths. I don't know what kind of wood it is, I'm guessing pine (?) but it's a nice, weathered gray, and of course the new wood needs to weather gray as well or it will look ridiculous. I may have Bill the handyman do it. If I can get away with spending $100 or less, I'll be satisfied.

Looks like we had a frost last night. I hope it hasn't zapped my many tulips. This is the FIRST year in 18 years that I've had them (!) because last summer I cut down some overgrown shrubs near the front entrance and in their place, the only place in the yard protected from deer, I planted tulips.

Each year, these hyacinths seem a little bigger.

I posted a bunch of perennials and my hypertufa for sale on Craig's List 4 or 5 days ago. So far, no takers. It may be a bit early.

I got a coupon for a $6 haircut at Great Clips in my news circulars the other day. Perfect timing, I really need a haircut.

My co-worker and I went in and talked to HR about getting on the company health plan, as part-timers. I doubt anything will come of it. They could replace us in a heartbeat but they'd have to retrain. Nothing lost, I suppose.

The same woman (my coworker) brought in her adorable English springer spaniel puppy, just 9 weeks old, to work yesterday. Really, really adorable.

I realized I have 2 Home Depot gift cards worth about $36. I had been saving these solely for vegetable seedlings, mainly tomato plants, but I AM tempted to use some of it for 3 small perennials in the area I recently dug up invasive vinca. There's plenty of perennials around my yard I could divide, but I feel like I've done that many times over with the same plants, and I'd like something new.

This weekend I also need to plant the rest of my lettuce, put out the hummer water (the males arrive first, as early as late April, according to my records) and in desperation, I will try painting the stubs of awful invasive brambles too hard to dig out when growing in pachysandra with RoundUp. And a haircut is definitely in the plans.

It's 7:24 am and I just have one more day of work to get through. It's so boring and unfulfilling and mind-numbing. Hate it.

Two of my other co-workers were telling me they found what appeared to be a large bear print on a walking trail right behind our office building. Yesterday I walked and looked for the print and found it; they'd marked it with a stick and day-glo tape. It did indeed look like a bear print, either that or a very large dog with very long claws. That's why I think it's the former. I must admit to feeling a bit squeamish after inspecting that print, and finding 4 or 5 other more faded prints nearby. I think bears are more active at dusk, but who knows? These trails can be completely deserted when I walk there. They're not at all far from civilization, and in fact, I can walk briskly to the left (before it narrows into a much smaller trail) or to the right trail and back to work in exactly 30 minutes, my lunch time.

There are periodically photos in the local paper of assorted wildlife including black bears, wolverine and bobcats.

More common are coyotes, wild turkeys, foxes, woodchucks, possums, skunks and deer.

I rarely see rabbits because there are too many cats roaming around.

Every once in a GREAT while there's an errant moose that wandered down from Canada. There was just one time I saw a pheasant in my yard.

I saw a coyote pup in my yard 2 summers ago eating apples fallen from the tree and there was a large, unidentified cat-like creature (pointed, feline face and long tail, solid tan coat) I saw in my backyard before I startled it and it ran into the woods.

And once, my neighbor up the hill behind me saw a human being laying down on their lawn, sleeping!! She called the cops, then called me to warn me. He moved on before the police found him, but that was mighty strange as my neighbor's place is set well into the woods, up the hill and off the road. We don't have homeless people around here that I know; this is a small town. Maybe he was drunk. or something.

And so it begins, again

April 22nd, 2013 at 10:57 pm

This photo I took today makes me laugh. It appears as though I have a whole army of daffodils marching down this hillside. I DO have a lot of daffodils, but not as many as this picture would seem to indicate. Smile

As soon as the growing season really sets in, I'm in a kind of losing battle trying to stay on top of my yard. I need to wrestle control of a large, fenced in garden that unfortunately is being taken over by invasives like vinca, pachysandra and even wild oats (which I planted) is making aggressive inroads where it's not wanted.

This afternoon I spent some time and with considerable effort, managed to clear out the vinca from a very small garden bed on the outside of the fenced garden, where I had pretty black-eyed susies as well as strawberries (which I have never enjoyed because whatever little berries they produce are quickly consumed by chipmunks or birds). I felt forced to pull everything out becus that's the only way to also eradicate the vinca.

Not sure what to plant in its place, a sunny spot that gets afternoon sun. I have so many sedums, so while that would be a good choice, I have enough of them already. It needs to be deer-resistant and I don't want to spend money so it needs to be a division from something I already have! It needs to be tidy and not too bushy cus I have a fairly narrow walkway beside it.

It occurred to me that 4 little boxwoods would look nice there, but of course I'd have to buy them.

I have so much more vinca inside the fenced area. I am determined to get a handle on this unruly patch of land this year, even if it means using the mower in there over the vinca and pachysandra and the wild bramble shoots and....everything except the blueberry bushes. I also still have a single dwarf cherry in there I'm not sure if I'll keep.

The dwarf cherry is not really that small... It's a magnet for bees and readily proliferates, thanks to birds that eat the cherries and drop them all over the yard. This is the time of year I realize I have little cherry trees all over the place; you can only tell now cus they have these pretty little pink flowers but otherwise blend into the landscape and become invisible.

Right now it looks quite pretty in bloom but with its branches, it's hard to keep the area weed-free. I also have a large mulberry tree in there and an assortment of perennials.

When I bought this place 18 years ago, the area was all nice green grass, but with my grand plans and visions of a cute little garden with brick walkway and fountain etc, I tore it all up. Now it's a huge effort to maintain and I never have the time with all the rest of my yard demanding my attention. How I would love to have it all planted in grass again that I would only have to mow to keep it looking tidy.

The guy who was supposed to come and install my new range hood tomorrow a.m. had to reschedule, which may be just as well since tomorrow is going to be a fairly busy day. I have to drive out to Yale to do the first in a two-part study on food and self-control ($145) and after that I have a dinner meeting to attend. I've invited my friend R. to join me as he lives nearby.

In the a.m. I'll be going to the dump with a few more logs (the bane of my existence, will I ever get rid of them all?) and I want to get a few containers of free mulch, which helps keep the weeds down in my many perennial beds. It's essential, in fact, and with some Preen, it will cut down on backbreaking labor.

I got my new Chase Sapphire card today. The reward on this one, $100, is more modest than others, but the spending target, $500, is also fairly easy to hit.

Technologically up and running

April 21st, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I spent the better part of a day getting my new computer set up.

First, I transferred all my Word files and thanks, Frugal Texan, for the tips about bookmarking. I did set up Diigo, but there was so much to read and I was feeling impatient about getting the computer up and running, so I'm sure there was an easier way for me to transfer those bookmarks (with Diigo). Anyway, I think I got most of them.

That was on Friday night. Yesterday morning, I set up the computer itself. I always feel high anxiety when I have to do this, but it went pretty painlessly, although Dell has just too many instructions for everything. If I read everything, I'd still be reading now.

At first I freaked cus when I checked to see that all my Word documents were on the pre-loaded Word. When I clicked on the folders, they were empty. Oh no. What a pain it would be to have to hook up the old computer again. But luckily, I realized that I couldn't see the documents because I hadn't "activated" the pre-loaded software with my product key. Once I did that, they magically appeared.

I did fail to transfer over many photographs; however, they're still on my camera card so right now, I just don't feel like it. There was still so much organizing to do and putting docs and bookmarks back in folders and so on.

But I am happy with my new speakers and 21.5 inch monitor. The one I use at work is 24 inches, and if I had known how much I'd like using it, I would have spent the extra money for those extra few inches. But still, it's nice, big enough that I can have 2 docs up on the screen at the same time, which I could never do before with my older square screen.

I "test-watched" "Pickers" on Hulu last night just to make sure I could, and it ran beautifully. You don't know what crap I'd been putting up with the every 5 minutes screen freeze-ups. Maybe it was the motherboard, really don't know.

My only beef with this new computer is that the document preview function in Word is still not working! When you go to open a document, it's very, very handy to be able to see portions of that document in the preview panel before you click to open, like when you're searching for something specific, it saves you the trouble of having to open everything up.

When I feel an unusual amount of patience, I will call Dell and ask them why that stupid thing doesn't work with their system. I remember reading of a way around it but it wasn't that convenient. I think when you go to attach a doc, rather than simply open it, that you can read it. Oh well.

I am getting a new range hood for over the stove on Tuesday. It's nothing grand, like those stove to ceiling hoods I've seen. This one's a Broan and will be a near exact replacement for what I've got now. The one I have is SUCH an eyesore, all rusty and so on. It works fine, though I rarely use it. I just want something that looks "presentable" for when I sell this place.

I would have done it years ago but when i called a different place, their installation charge was something like $125, which was more than the actual cost of the hood. The guy who's coming Tuesday is only charging $60.

I have done such a good job of conditioning myself not to spend money, but I think I need to push past my reluctance to do so to get certain things around here done. It would be fine if I didn't plan to sell, but since I'd like to, there's nothing standing in my way except a ton of deferred maintenance around here.

Looks like another bright and sunny day here. Yesterday I managed to cut back all the dead sedum stalks as well as some butterfly bush. I'd like to plant some peas and lettuce in the garden today.

Also would like to vacuum out my car, badly needed.

I had to cover up all my tulips last night with plastic buckets and a tarp because it was going down to 33 and I didn't want to risk them getting zapped days before their bloom. It's the first year i 18 years I've been able to grow tulips. They're planted in the ONE spot where deer aren't likely to go, close to the foundation near a landing and stairs. I can also block it off pretty well each night with a lawn chair I have on the landing.

Can't wait to see them bloom.


April 18th, 2013 at 11:18 am


Another Thursday, the part of my life I wish would go faster, when I work at my boring proofreading job. My time, and my life, are my own from Saturday through Wednesday mornings.

Next Tuesday my new computer should be delivered. I just hope it works flawlessly, is easy to set up and is everything I hoped for. I can't get rid of the one I have a day too soon. But I'm wondering if I should try to remove the added memory my computer repair guy installed? Thing is, i have no idea what it looks like, and if he did it of course he'd charge me. So maybe I'll just bag it.

I remember last time I changed computers I lost all of my many bookmarked websites, so I want to save those too. Does anyone know of an easy way to do that other than painstakingly writing down each URL? I don't think a cut and paste will work with bookmarks.

I've more or less decided to delay further thought of a new car until the end of the year. Winter is when I've purchased new cars in the past and I think dealers are more eager to make a deal with you during a time that's usually very slow.

While I have the money, buying a new car is not just about the purchase price. It's also about the insurance, various state fees and of course our lovely car tax here in Connecticut. Barring further high cost repairs or getting stuck on the road, I will hang on to the Honda a while longer. It runs perfectly fine; it's just the unforeseen parts that go without warning that concerns me.

Still waiting for a check from a product study i did in early April, but it looks like April will be a good income month, despite higher-than-average expenses related to car repairs, healthcare and the new computer.

On my list of things to do this weekend is to restart my hypertufa activities. If it's not warm enough, I may not feel like making the hypertufa, but I have several that I'd like to photograph (ideally, with plants in them) and then post for sale on Craig's List. I'm just curious if I'd have any takers, and hypertufa is usually priced ridiculously high, mainly because it takes a long time to cure and so on, I guess. I don't think I'd want to sell them with the plants in them, yet they'd look far better to be photographed that way, so I'd have to keep repotting some poor plants without mangling them too much for each photo shoot.

I also have two outstanding writing assignments to do which have been hanging around only becus the subjects haven't gotten back to me; one's a builder and the other is a realtor I need to talk to about a new condo complex.

Well, it's 7:18 am and I guess I'd better start getting ready for work.

Crazy busy weekend

April 14th, 2013 at 08:45 pm

I left my part-time job early on Friday as I had a longstanding eye doc appointment for 1 pm. I squeezed in some extra time at the office on Wednesday and Thursday, so I only lost 1.25 hours worth of work. There was something going on along my driving route, though, with fire trucks all over and really backed up traffic so I had to do a big detour but I managed to get there only a few minutes late.

My eyes are fine; have to return in 6 months. (This is all becus my higher than normal eye pressure is indicative of glaucoma, although some people apparently just have high eye pressure.) Glaucoma can be controlled with eye drops, but the important thing is to catch it early. I have not been diagnosed with glaucoma but he wants to keep an eye on it. (No pun intended.)

Anyway, after that I hit the grocery store to use up $10.84 left on a pre-loaded Visa card I got as part of a rebate for buying Norton Anti-Virus software. The card wonít work if the charge exceeds the balance left on the card. I grabbed a gallon of bleach and a jar of marinated artichokes. I knew thereíd be tax on the bleach, a non-food item, and CT sales tax increased to something like 6.35%, but I didnít have a calculator with me. Do you know the charge came to EXACTLY $10.84? That was pretty cool.

After that I stopped at the auto parts place for a pair of front brake pads which cost me just $50. On Saturday I went over to the home of the woman who shares my proofreading job; her husband is a mechanic and works from home. Both the dealer and my motherís mechanic had already told me that next time I came in Iíd need to replace the 2 front brake pads, so I knew I needed them. From my files, I saw that front brake pad replacement cost me $170 at the dealer in 2002; my friend said she thought heíd charge me $50, cus thatís what he charges per hour and she didnít think it would take him more than hour.

So I was hoping for ďa deal.Ē The two of us chit-chatted over tea in her very Victorian house and later went for lunch at Paneraís while he worked on the car. When he started to take apart one of the brakes, the caliper broke in his hand. It and the other caliper were totally rusted and needed to be replaced, he said, but he wasnít sure he could get the additional parts on a Saturday. Oh great. I had plans to leave later that afternoon around 4 pm for a dinner get-together in Nyack, an hourís drive away, to meet family to celebrate my dadís 80th birthday. And it would be the first time Iíd be seeing my 2 year old niece.

He did get the car fixed, but instead of a total outlay of $100 (the parts Iíd purchased and his labor), I wound up spending $275 becus he also had to replace those calipers. She told me itíd cost me $600 at the dealer. I know the dealer charges about $100 for labor, but I checked the price of the front calipers at and for the two it was just $87. I donít know exactly how much time he spent on it, but Iím not seeing the ďhugeĒ cost savings. So it cost $87 for the calipers, $50 for the pads I bought = $137, so looks like he charged me $88 for labor. He probably was cheaper than the dealer (remember, the dealer charged me $170 just for brake pad replacement 10 years ago), although I donít think their charges would approach $600. Unless they really, really mark up parts far in excess of 100%.

When I drove over my friendís to pay for the work, she invited me to Sunday dinner but I had to decline as I still had work to do at that point. Iím sure Iíll see her soon as theyíre adopting a new puppy this week and sheís invited me over to see it.

We've also decided that the 2 of us will approach the HR person at our p/t job to push for health insurance coverage for the 6 month period between June 30 and Dec. 30, for me because my COBRA runs out June 30 and Obamacare health insurance coops don't begin til 1/1/14, and for my friend's husband as well, who lacks any coverage whatsoever. They're happy with our work, we're making close to minimum wage and from our standpoint putting us on the company plan would cost them little or nothing, altho a friend of mine disagrees. I figure we have nothing left to lose although I kind of doubt we'll have success.

I learned later from my office friend that one of her husbandís buddies wanted to meet me, based on no more than seeing my car in the driveway and finding out that it belonged to a friend of his friendís wife who happens to be single, is around his age and lives in town.

Our family dinner was nice, but once again, the choice of venue was not greatÖinside a very noisy restaurant inside a very noisy and crowded mall. The parking was difficult. Everyone in our group of 7 had to shout to be heard. The place had like 20 TV screens going, adding to the noise. I wasnít terribly impressed with my parmesan-crusted chicken or the cold garlic mashed potatoes. When I tried to hand over $50 to my brother, who sat on the other side of my father, my dad returned the $$ to me and said donít worry about it, so I knew then that even though my bro was putting the tab on his charge card that my dad was going to reimburse himÖfor his own birthday dinner!

In between all this fun stuff is the reason for my post heading. Friday afternoon (doesnít it always happen on a Friday?) I got a call from my chief freelance client about a huge job they wanted me to do, but it all had to be done my Monday (tomorrow). They had negotiated the price with a local daily newspaper to take up most of the advertising space in an annual real estate pull-out section. I needed to write 4 half page articles on various new condo or single family home projects as well as update 4 that had been used last year.

This involved calling 8 different realtors to interview them about the chief selling points of each complex, and doing that on a weekend in such a short timeframe would normally be a challenge, but fortunately my contact had prepped each realtor in advance of my call, so all but one ďcooperated.Ē (One hasnít returned my call so I wrote what I could based on the dedicated website for that particular community.)

Anyway, Iím glad as always for the work. Iíll earn $600 for Iím guessing maybe 10 or 12 hours of work, plus I have 2 other writing assignments unrelated to this that I havenít even started. Will save that for tomorrow. Sure wish this happened more regularly!
I also got a call Friday from a place where I applied for a junior level editorial job last December. The guy said he had saved my resume and now there was another opening or a writer/editor which Iíd be better qualified for, but could I look over some of their websites and give him my ideas for improving them. Once again, hard to ignore a request like that if I seriously want a crack at the job, but it is annoying to feel like theyíre picking my brain for a free consult. They have 5 mags/trade websites in the field of alternative energy.

So somehow I need to refresh my brain and spend a few hours doing that in time for his callÖtomorrow, you guessed it.

Decisions, left and right

April 10th, 2013 at 02:04 am

First off, I want to say again that my wrist is about 90% better! What an amazing turnaround. I was really worried for a while there, but once the swelling subsided it was SOO much better.

As for the title of this blog post, not sure whatís gotten into me, but I decided somewhat impulsively to buy a new computer. The computer I have is about 3 years old but from very early on Iíve had nothing but problems with it. Itís a Dell desktop. The problem that has me gnashing teeth is that it frequently freezes or locks up, whether Iím on a Word document or surfing online. Nothing I will do will knock it back to life so I am forced to wait, sometimes for several minutes or longer, until it cycles through whatever it is doing.

I brought it to a local computer repair guy twice and he still didnít fix it, though he charged me $100 to add more memory. I think Iíve got 8 GB in it now which is very substantial for a non-gamer like me. My plan had been to bring it back to him, hopefully without having to pay him more money, but it is extremely difficult for me to find some down time to bring it, and he prefers it early in the week which I tried to accommodate so I could get it back in a day. But I wasnít sure I wanted to bring it back becus I suspect he just added more memory as kind of a knee-jerk reaction without really trying to duplicate the problem. Maybe it's the motherboard? I really don't know.

The other longstanding problems include the Dell printer, which I bought at the same time as the computer, very often not working. Iíll often get an error message saying there is no communication, and the only way to resolve that is to keep reinserting the printer driver and doing a repair/update. This was also something I attempted to resolve with Dell support; they sent me a replacement printer but the replacement does the exact same thing! The other problem with the printer is that if you have more than one sheet of paper in, it will often jam up so multiple pages go thru at the same time. So I have to constantly hand feed one page at a time to avoid paper jams.

The other problem thatís always bothered me is that when you go to open a Word document and you look at the list of documents, you normally are able to read the documents before opening them in the preview panel. My preview panel has never worked. Itís quite a handy feature.

Anyway, the computer is a huge source of constant frustration and so I took the easy route out. My new computer is 6 GB, Inspiron 660 and I decided to keep Windows 7 as Iíve read about a lot of unhappy Windows 8 customers. MS Office will be pre-loaded and I also got new speakers since my old ones here sometimes buzz, AND the real treat is a new monitor, a 21.5Ē screen. It was all a lot of money but by calling them on the phone instead of simply ordering online I got them to knock off $75. The printer I will keep for now as Iím trying to keep costs down (sort of). The new monitor should be a delight when I watch my Hulu movies.

The other decision I made today is that (thanks to all your input) I am NOT going to Kennebunkport with my controlling friend! Bottom line is that while I am willing to spend the big bucks on a vacation, even while being underemployed, itís important to me that Iím getting a good value for money spent and in this case I felt I was already being forced to make compromises, in terms of destination and departure time (it had to be this one week becus my friendís sister had put in for vacation for a certain week).

Yet another big decision coming thru to possible fruitionÖ.a new car!!

This has been on my horizon for years now. I drive a 14-year-old Honda and while it runs great, I donít really want to push my luck. I had one close call when the fuel and gas lines rusted out and I lost my brakes; luckily, I was driving in my motherís condo complex and no other drivers were around, so I was able to coast to a stop, but I canít imagine what could have happened if I was on the road somewhere.

The car has 136,000 miles on it and I suspect it has many more. Itís just that Iíd rather not take unnecessary risks driving such an old car. Itís already made me feel a little reluctant to go visit my dad in Jersey because I donít want to do the 3-hour drive by myself anymore in case of a breakdown.

I hadnít really made this a front burner issue consciously, but something clicked in my head today and just whispered, ďdo it.Ē

Without having examined the cars or done a test drive, Iím kind of set on a 2013 Ford Fiesta S hatchback. The S is the cheaper version. The hatchback I really, really want becus it seems much more practical for hauling stuff than my tiny trunk is now. And the Fiesta I want becus it gets great gas mileageÖ39 highway, for a non-hybrid vehicle.
Iíd love a Prius, donít get me wrong, but I read an article that said for a Prius or other hybrid to really pay off, gas prices would have to get up between $4 and $5 a gallon, given that most hybrids have about a $5,000 premium for the technology. If I had the money, Iíd get one anyway becus Iím an environmentalist, but I have to think more practically.

So maybe next weekend Iíll take the Fiesta for a test drive. Like a lot of sub-compacts, the car doesnít seem to have much personality, style-wise, at least not all souped up with the extra that I canít afford. My priorities really are GREAT gas mileage and a hatchback.

Itíll be in the $15,000 range; my carís got various dings and dents, but itís cosmetic; I should be able to trade it in for at least $2,000. I think Blue Book value was $3,000 OR $4,000. So t the least the trade-in would bring it down to about $13,000. I may also get a $750 cash back incentive and I will probably pay cash. In the past Iíve sold my old cars myself, but this time I donít want the hassle or the discomfort of driving around with some stranger OR letting some stranger take off in my car. I know that buying a one or two-year old car is probably a better value, but I don't like the idea of possibly inheriting someone else's problem and since I only buy once every 10 or 14 years, I figure I should get what I want.

I suspect that part of what's driving my flurry of decisions is the fact that I feel so stymied in other aspects of my life right now. I am trying to be a caregiver to my mother, and she just isn't budging on some things right now, frustrating me. My job search...well, nothing happening in that department either. The desired marketing and sale of my house? Another big fat zero, nothing happening.

Vacation Vacillation?

April 8th, 2013 at 01:10 pm

An old friend of mine (ok, old boyfriend) was in the habit of going up to Kennebunkport, Maine every summer with his now ex-wife. They had a favorite inn he liked to stay at. My friend is not really the outdoorsy type, like I am, and has gotten kind of stodgy. He says he mostly just spent his time there hanging out at the inn, reading and going online. Umm, you could do that at home, for a whole lot less money! But of course, the scenery is beautiful, and this hotel is right on the water, not far from the Bush compound.

Now that his ex is out of the picture, he still wants to go up there in June and wants some company. So heís invited me to come along, along with his sister. I have been dying to go somewhere and in fact, my last vacation, also to Maine, was about 5 years ago! I have skipped vacations becus I have been out of f/t work for so long, but now I have an opportunity to do something fun.

The thing is, it would be very expensive and if I had my own way, I wouldnít have chosen Kennebunkport, which is especially pricey. Another unfortunate thing is that we'd be pretty much locked into going on one particular date in late June, when my friend's sister, a nurse, has already put in for time off. It just so happens that this is the cut-off time when many of the hotels up in Maine consider it the start of summer (higher) rates. So this 4-day period includes just 1 night at a lower rate becus it falls in the "shoulder" season and 3 nights at full rates in the peak summer season.

My friend and his sister want to stay at this very expensive inn which costs $250 and up per night. Since weíd all be getting our own rooms anyway, I came up with the idea of trying to find another less expensive place nearby that would allow me to save $$ on the room. I donít plan on spending much time there anyway.

The cheapest place I could find was a simple motel that still costs a fair amount; with the 7% state tax, it comes to $142.50 a night, or $610 for the 4 nights weíd be up there. Meals, of course, would be an additional cost, and while I donít have to have full course dinners each night, I would like to sample the famous lobster roll sandwiches at $13.50.
Otherwise, it seems like a fairly quiet town, so after doing some research about things to do, I would mostly just want to wander around with my camera on the beaches and around town. Maybe do a walking tour or rent a bike. My friend said heíd drop me off wherever I wanted to go, like the nearby Rachel Carson wildlife preserve in Wells. I could spend 3 or 4 hours there enjoying the trails and then theyíd pick me up for lunch, for example. Not sure what his sister would want to do, but this would enable each of us to do what we wanted and still have company.

If I were planning a trip myself, I wouldnít be going to this particular destination; there are many places closer to home (this is 4 hours), far less expensive and with more interesting things to do. However, if left to my own devices, I wouldnít be going anywhere, so this is what I have to work with.

The arrangement is atypical, but if we didnít do this I could easily see myself being very unhappy at spending so much money and then not getting to do things I enjoy. My friend is not athletic, isnít a walker and has a fairly short attention span. My interests run more to the out of doors and communing with nature, especially with a camera.

This kind of points to the other reason for some hesitation on my part, because my friend can be very controlling and set in his ways. I have no doubt this was largely the reason his ex divorced him. He likes to call the shots at all times, and to me, that can be positively stifling. So initially, before he told me heíd invited his sister to come along, I was thinking a vacation with just the 2 of us wouldnít work. Now that heís invited his sister, I could see her being a kind of buffer who would probably keep me and R. from butting heads quite as much. Sheís very easygoing and a few years older than me.

So, would you do it? Iím mainly concerned about spending so much money. With meals, and probably chipping in for gas, weíre probably looking at $1,000 for 4 nights up there. I think I could get my neighbor behind me, the one who just got a job I told her about, to feed my cats each day.

The little motel I found looks clean and simple. Itís the kind of place where the door opens directly into your room. Normally I think Iíd be a little nervous about staying alone in a place like that, but this is hoity Kennebunkport, and Iíd make sure my friend watched me enter the room at night before they left. The room has its own bath, a TV, mini fridge and microwave. So I would bring a cooler full of fresh fruit snacks, tea and cereal so I could save money on eating breakfasts out.

I checked availability and I think they still have rooms; some of the other places I checked seemed already pretty well booked in June.

I would probably want to try to finagle it so that I had a new credit card bonus to work for on this trip, and since my friends don't do credit card rewards the way I do, I could charge their meals to my card and have them pay me back. So I could probably shoot for one of those cards with a higher spending target than I can hope to shoot for with my normal expenses.

Sunday stuff

April 7th, 2013 at 10:08 pm

A very quiet Sunday. I had plans to get a lot more done, but somehow I just didn't feel like it. Part of it I know is my aching wrist. Holding anything heavier than a few ounces hurts. I will monitor and see how it feels tomorrow.

Here's what I managed to do:
* A trip to WalMart where I used a coupon to get a half gallon of almond milk for just $2.18, along with some other odds and ends. It didn't cost me anything cus I used a prepaid Visa card I got as a rebate for buying Norton anti-virus. The card had $60 on it.
* Bank deposit of 2 checks
* Library: took out 4 DVDs

Tomorrow's going to be up to 68. I may try to do some light, one-handed yard work. Yesterday was my dad's 80th birthday.I feel blessed that he's stuck around when many of my friends' fathers have passed.

I discovered one last container of frozen homemade pesto sauce, with my homegrown basil of 2012 in the back of the freezer, so I enjoyed one of my favorite meals last night.

Tomorrow's priority is interviewing a realtor about a new development so I can write about it, hitting BJs and getting postage stamps. Also getting some estimates on finally getting someone over here to chip up a pile of pine logs taking up space in my driveway. I can use the mulch.

Broken wrist?

April 7th, 2013 at 01:13 pm

Iím wondering if I could possibly have a broken wrist from having lifted a log in a weird way Thursday night.

As mentioned earlier, I was doing some yard work after work that day. The log I picked up was not the heaviest Iíve ever handled, but as I walked toward the wheelbarrow to dump it in there, I think I was holding my arm out extended, away from my body, and I could feel the pain as I did so.

I finished up the work shortly afterwards and pushed the wheelbarrow into the driveway. It wasnít til the following morning when I sat down to my computer at work that I realized how much my wrist ached. Iím thinking itís the swelling thatís causing that, and thatís why it didnít hurt so much initially?

My wrist is still super, super painful today, 3 days later. Iím typing with just 1 finger on that arm, and it hurts even to hold a fork or spoon in that hand. Itís my left hand and yes, I am left-handed.

It occurred to me that I could have broken my wristÖthatís how painful it is. So I did some quick online research and while they say wrist fractures are the most common place to break a bone, it usually happens when someone falls down the stairs and lands on their hand, or due to a sports injury.

I canít decide whether or not to go and have it x-rayed. If itís just a torn ligament/tendon, Iíd rather not spend the money. On the other hand, they say if you think you might have a break itís important to get it checked out quickly becus if the bone isnít set in the right position, it will heal that way and you could have lingering problems with it.

My range of motion with it right now without pain is next to nothing. Over the counter pain meds are helping quite a bit, but without taking them, itís nearly intolerable. Last night I went to bed without taking another pain med and it really interfered with my sleep, so I got up around 2 am to take a pill. Donít know if I should wait a few more days to see if the swelling recedes or try to schedule something now since my off days from work are Mondays and Tuesdays.

Spring finally is here (and family matters)

April 6th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

OK, this photo was not taken recently, but my daffs are springing up quickly, so what the heck!

The temps here will be getting into the 70s by Monday, thankfully a day off for me, so ee-ha!

My left wrist is positively killing me. On Thursday night, it was still relatively mild, so after work I spent a half hour or so picking up heavy logs (the remains of a few trees that came down in winter storms), putting them in my wheelbarrow and unloading them in the driveway, where I'll then be able to put them in the trunk and to the landfill.

There was one log that didn't seem like the heaviest I'd ever picked up, but I must've bent my wrist a certain way because by Friday morning at work, it was really, really sore, and still is today. Using the mouse and typing probably aggravated it. I got some aspirin there at the office and that made a huge difference, but today the pain is still intense. I hope it will heal without the need for any more doctor's visits.

It's taught me a lesson...I'm not 30 anymore and have to be careful lifting things like this. I'm always very good about lifting things with my back and have never had back problems, but I happen to have very thin arms and narrow wrists. I act like I can do just about anything and that's simply not true.

A while back I spotted an ad in the Sunday paper that seemed like it would suit my neighbor to a T. A local synagogue needed a bookkeeper. My neighbor used to work as a bookkeeper for another temple. How many people could say they've done that? I told her about the ad, she applied and now, a few weeks later, she called to tell me she'd gotten the job!

She's thrilled becus she'll be making double what the other temple paid her and also quite a bit more than what she was making at another job she'd picked up to get some money coming in while she and her husband prepare to sell their house and move out of state. Her husband lost his job.

So I'm very happy for her. I wish it were so easy for me!

I have another small freelance writing assignment. Also am expecting, at some point, a roughly 35-page court report that will need editing. I want to stop at BJs, deposit a check, vacuum, and check out bulk bin grain prices at the health food store.

I've been trying to find a reasonably priced estate attorney who can name me durable power of attorney for my mother should she become unable to handle her financial affairs.

I explained to my mother the importance of having this in place, but she balked when the few attorneys I called quote prices in the $300 range. I told my mother I would split the cost with her if I had to, and couldn't help but feel annoyed when she said that was very generous (considering I'm not working full-time and my mother can afford it, she's just frugal). But I was afraid if I didn't, this would never take place.

I also wanted my mother to name me executor rather than my older sister, who I've mentioned before has distanced herself from the two of us and doesn't have much to do with us except for major holiday dinners. My sister has a high school education. I went to law school (though I didn't graduate) and have worked many years as a financial/personal finance writer, so who would you think is better qualified to act as executor? Plus my sister complained a lot when she was executor of my grandmother's estate and really didn't like having to do it. My mother's response, when I explained all this, was to say well, if your sister doesn't want to do it, then she can just have you do it. Then you two can split the money you would have otherwise paid for the attorney to draw up the paperwork. Umm, mom, it doesn't work that way. If she is legally named executor, I can't simply trade places with her and do it.

I am worried that my mother will never come around to doing this. Now that her sciatica and arthritis have eased up a little, she's back to focusing on her next art show. The whole power of attorney thing is just not a priority for her. It's hard for me to schedule an appointment becus she always has doctor's visits or other stuff going on.

Next weekend, the 4 of us kids and assorted significant others are meeting at a restaurant at a mall to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday. I know he thought he'd never make it this far becus I remember him saying something to that effect years ago, probably because his father died relatively young, of a stroke, in his late 60s.

I'm concerned about the hit I'm going to take money-wise, because both my half-brothers are bringing their wives, and they can't be expected to pay, plus we're treating my dad, of course, and I know everyone likes to drink and have a good time. It might be tacky and tedious to ask the waitress to make up separate checks.

At the same time, I guess I should be grateful that the older of my two brothers (who's actually 10 years younger than me) thought to include my sister and me in my dad's birthday celebration, because we've never really spent much time together. The two "boys," as I still call them, were from my dad's second marriage, after he and my mother divorced when I was very young. I drifted apart from my father in those years when they were growing up, and while I would have loved a closer relationship with my brothers, the gulf between us has never really been bridged due to so much non-contact in those critical early years.

That brother will have his two-year-old and wife with him; she's already pregnant with her second child. And the other brother I believe is getting married this weekend in a justice of the peace ceremony. I think they're getting married becus she finally conceived through in vitro. They were already living together but I understand the relationship is not a perfect one. I heard all this secondhand; my dad tells me about it sometimes, and I also keep in touch with my dad's former girlfriend, K., even though they broke up a year ago.

She is still upset about the breakup, which my dad initiated, mainly because K., his ex, just has a very pushy, in-your-face kind of personality. While I really like her, I like her in small doses, and I know she would drive me nuts if I had to live with her. My dad (and my sister and I) are much more laid back in the way we interact with others.

So while I understand why my dad finally broke things off, after they were together 15 years, I worry about him more now too since she moved out and he's on his own. He was very attached to her two dachshunds, and shortly after they left, his old cat had to be euthanized. So the house must seem very quiet.

I'm not sure how he spends his time these days. I know he goes to the local diner for breakfast every day. It's an important social thing, as he meets at least one buddy there. There were more, but I know some of them have died. K. says he watches a lot of daytime TV and falls asleep in the chair. He used to be involved in a Reclam the Bay thing in his area that involved growing baby clams for "release" into the Barnegat Bay.

K., for her part, spends a lot of time with her dogs. She got both of them trained and certified as therapy dogs and takes them to area hospitals, nursing homes and hospice to see the patients. (She's a former nurse, so doing this kind of thing does not upset her, as it would me. In fact, she gets a lot of satisfaction from doing it.) She always enjoys telling me how her dogs react in different situations, and to different people. She's a breast cancer survivor and I think she also had/has thyroid cancer and is pre-diabetic, so she's certainly had her share of health problems.

I saw a really fascinating Netflix movie last night called The Class. It was about a French teacher and his students in a really rough neighborhood in Paris. The film stars the real-life teacher, who evidently also wrote a book about his students. The students in the movie are not actors; they're real-life students. You see these kids constantly test him, and it often seems like everything is on the verge of collapsing into a state of classroom chaos. He just barely holds the kids in line even though they would probably push the average person over the brink. I gave this film a rare 5 stars (the max).


April 1st, 2013 at 11:29 pm

This morning I had a dentist appointment in a neighboring town. It was about a 30-minute drive, all to take advantage of a new patient special: cleaning/xrays/exam for just $95. This must be the 4th new dentist I've been to in the last 2 years, only to take advantage of these "special" prices because I can no longer justify paying $150 for a cleaning at my long-time dentist here in town. I still want good dental care, and I don't think I'm comfortable going to a university where students do your teeth.

So I'm driving home from the dentist, my head full of thoughts about whether or not I'll return to them in 6 months. (They did a good job, but if I return in 6 months, the price will be their standard price, which is $150, not including x-rays.)

I was already in my home town, driving on a secondary, two-lane highway a bit past noon when a car approaching me from the other direction, maybe 500 feet from my car, suddenly and without warning careened into a guardrail with such force that the car went airborne, just as I was coming abreast of the car. I had no time to really think but I remember swerving to the right breakdown lane to avoid being involved in the crash but at the same time I kept driving in case someone behind me plowed into me. I couldn't see what happened to the car after that, but I turned in about a quarter mile down the road and called 911. The police car with siren went past me as I continued on my way home.

That was pretty scary. It seemed so surreal. There were no blaring horns or other warnings of anything unusual going all happened so quietly on a clear and sunny day. The driver must've been going 40 or 45 mph, but when it hit the guardrail on its right, I actually saw the car lift up sideways on its left wheels and fly up about 4 or 5 feet off the ground. It was like a stunt you might see in the movies.

The first thing I thought is that the driver was either texting or talking on the phone. Or maybe someone had a heart attack and just lost control of the vehicle. I don't really know. I hope they're all right.