Home > Archive: May, 2013

Archive for May, 2013

Looking for Ways to Charge Up the Chase Sapphire Preferred

June 1st, 2013 at 12:20 am

This morning I returned just one of the summer tops I bought at Macyís and since I was there, I purchased another $100 worth of capris and summer tops at Macyís and Coldwater Creek. Not my usual modus operandi, but I havenít clothes shopped in 3 years, and Iím determined not to look like a middle-aged woman with no fashion sense with all these 20-somethings Iíll be working with. I put it all on my new Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. I need to charge $3,000 by end of August to earn back $400 in gift cards.

After the mall, I hit Trader Joeís. It was super hot today, up to 91 degrees, so I brought a small cooler with ice paks to keep the food cold. Also put it on the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Later in the day I went to pick up my new Honda Civic. Was able to pay $1,000 of it with the Chase card. (Thatís the most theyíd let me charge, in addition to the $1,000 deposit.) Iíll post a photo of her tomorrow! The salesman ran through all the controls in the car, but of course I quickly forgot most everything. I will be carefully reading the manual, to be sure. The car even has a camera mounted in the back bumper so when you put the car in reverse, you see an image of the ground behind you. I think itís meant to make sure you donít run over anyone; it will likely be a standard feature in all cars one day, I think.

I donít think my old kayak rack will work with the new car, especially since I got it with window visors to keep out the glare and rain. They disassembled it for me and I have it, but I guess I wonít be kayaking on my own anytime soon since Iíll have no way to transport the kayak unless I meet another kayaker. This kind of bums me out, becus I got so much enjoyment out of kayaking, but truth be told, Iíve been going less and less since I bought my kayak in 2007.

After picking up the car I headed to A.ís to show it off to her, and we had already planned to go out to dinner. We went to an old favorite of mine, an Italian place I havenít been to in years due to my frugalness by necessity. She wound up treating me to the dinner to celebrate the new car and the new job. I paid the tip. But I was able to charge the whole dinner on the Chase card as well.

Also tonight I charged my water bill on the Chase card. So Iíve had the card less than a week and have already managed to charge $1,260 on it. I had hoped to also charge my new car insurance, which would help hugely in reaching the target spend, but my agent told me it would be significantly more expensive if I treated it as a new policy, since I wanted to charge the full $770. Instead, itís just being treated as a modification of the existing policy, so Iíll get a bill for just $93 to pay. So anyway, I still need to charge $580 for each of the next 3 months. That seems doable when you consider groceries and gas and maybe some more clothes shopping for the job. The only other non-recurring charge I can think of is my $80 dump sticker, which comes up for renewal in June. I can also charge the phone/Internet on it too, each month, although at least one of those phone/Internet bills I want to charge on my Americard, since they have a deal, good thru June 30, where you get a $15 gift card if you charge just one phone/Internet/cable bill on it. Seems too easy to pass up.

I might consider getting two new faucets for the upstairs bathroom. The hot water handle on the one faucet locked up ages ago and canít be used, while the plug thingy in the sink on the other faucet is beginning to rust becus I made the mistake of leaving that sink filled with water for my old cat to drink from. If I ever sell the place, those things will need to be fixed, so why not pick out some faucets now at Home Depot and then have a plumber do. I could charge it. There are probably other small home improvements or items I could buy for the house if needed. Now that Iím making better money, I will allow myself to consider that.

Nothing much planned for the weekend, besides mowing. Itís very, very hot here but I have NOT opened any windows yet this year at all (!) because Waldo has had such terrible allergies each summer. He had a lot of trouble breathing and I disliked traumatizing him by taking him to the vet for a shot. His breathing is fairly good now. Iíve been checking the pollen count daily, waiting for a day I can open the windows, but the pollen count has largely been ďHighĒ or ďModerate.Ē When it becomes ďLow,Ē Iíll open the windows. I need to get through one more warm day tomorrow, up to 86 I think. Starting on Monday, temps will moderate to the 70s.

Potential Income Scenarios

May 30th, 2013 at 02:13 am

Itís great to be earning real money again!!

For three-and-a-half long years you've heard me whine about how little money I have and how far I have to stretch it. I'm afraid you're in for a lot of posts about what I'm going to do with a lot more money soon!

So Iím playing with various scenarios for potential income at my new job. Itís based on an 8-hour day with a half hour for lunch and working either 3, 4 or 5 days a week. This week I worked just 2 days and next work Iíll be working 3 days.

3 days a week = $765 gross a week
$3315 gross a month
$2592 net monthly
$600 discretionary income

4 days a week = $1020 a week
$4420 gross a month
$3315 net monthly
$1315 discretionary income

5 days a week = $1275 a week
$5525 gross a month
$3990 net monthly
$1990 discretionary income

The discretionary income is money left over after paying my minimum monthly expenses of around $2,000. This money could be saved or spent, or some combination of the two. It does not include money earned from my freelance work which I hope to continue in some form.

By working full-time, you can see my discretionary income more than doubles, from $600 monthly to $1990 monthly. Seriously wonder if I can do that, though todayís commute was a more reasonable one hour both ways.

Oh, the possibilities.

Today was much like yesterday except that I got to edit a roughly 40-page document in the afternoon. She seemed to like my edits. Iím done for the week. Hooray! I suppose I may have to wait another week before getting paid for this week. But itís fun to note that in 2 days here I grossed more than I would have made after 5 days at that other proofreading job I had.

Day after tomorrow, I pick up my brand new car!!

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to catching up on mowing, getting a cashier's check from the bank for the car payment and doing some other housekeeping stuff here. May also swing my girlfriend's (my former job share person) to show off the car Friday.

Insurance agent gave me prices for the new car insurance based on a $500 deductible, as well as $1,000, $1500 and $2,000. I went with the $2,000 since I've never filed a claim and don't intend to start, and I want to bring that soon-to-be-recurring annual expense DOWN.

A stupid thing happened with one of my credit card payments. I sent payment in a while ago and they informed me the payment was rejected. I checked and realized I'd left off the first 3 digits of my bank checking account number. Luckily, I had made the payment very early on so there is no late payment fee, but if I want to use that account again, I now have to get the bank to indicate on their letterhead that this is the correct account number, etc. Kind of a pain, but i have to go there tomorrow anyway for the cashier's check so I can do this at the same time.

Still no sign of the return of $500 deposit from Ford dealer! I have to call Chase again tomorrow to find out what's going on with that. I'm still concerned.

Also tomorrow I HAVE to go to landfill which I missed doing last week.

First day of work: surprises

May 29th, 2013 at 01:15 am

I survived the first day of work. It was tiring.

It took me an hour to get in there but an hour and 25 minutes to get home on account of very heavy traffic on the Interstate. To give you an idea of the congestion, it's only 33 miles. I took a different route this time which probably cut in half the amount of time I spend on the Interstate, but it probably would not be workable to take all back roads and avoid it entirely.

Just this morning, before leaving for work, I idly calculated my daily gross pay and I was surprised to see that the gross pay for a 3-day work week would be $3,536 a month, more than enough to get by and have some savings to spare. (Remember, no mortgage now.) The gross for a full 40 hour week would be $5,893.

I recalled that the hiring manager said at the interview she needed someone there 5 days a week, on site and that they really needed two new people, not just one. So I had the impression they were swamped with work.

So imagine my surprise, shortly after arriving there, when the hiring manager is showing me around and I wanted to clarify my work hours for this week and next, ie, that this first week Iíd only be working two days (so I can tie up some other loose ends) and then I would start in full-time the following week. Thatís what the plan was and what I discussed with the recruiter.

But the hiring manager said oh, no, we decided weíd have you work just 3 days a week to start and bring you on full time down the road. Didnít anyone tell you?? I said NO! No one did. Iím not sure exactly WHO was supposed to tell me but I imagine someone from their HR should have communicated that to the recruiter, who would have told me. But someone dropped the ball.

Imagine how upsetting that could be to someone who really needed full-time work. I had, after all, quit my p/t job already! In hindsight, I could have conceivably kept both jobs, although in truth it would seem to be very unworthwhile to hang onto the lower paying proofreading job I had.

And truth be told, after experiencing that awful commute one day, I am relieved that they want me to start at three days a week. It could actually be ideal for me, the happy middle between dealing with the long commute and still having some free time and sanity. I might never want to do any more than that! I wonder how long theyíd want me at 3 days a week?
I really feel so out of the loop on this when youíd think Iíd be first to know. At least give me a chance to discuss it with you.

Aside from that, it was a rather uneventful first day. I attended two brief meetings and came away understanding very little of what was discussed. The marketing group is very young. I think Iím the oldest one of the bunch. I did some simple proofing and spent most of the day reading stuff on their website, as directed by my manager. I hope I can find some people to connect with/relate to; as I said, the people there are very young.

They use Macs there and so that took some getting used to. I used one at the last f/t job I had, but that was back in 2009. They also use Google Docs which Iíve used before, but donít really understand well. So thereís a lot of new stuff to get used to.
One funny thing is that the same HR woman who worked with me when I first joined my last employer in 2008 also did the same here! In fact, about 10 people from that last f/t employer of mine migrated over to this company. I didnít know any of them well, but I did recognize some faces.

One More Day of Freedom

May 26th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I got a lot done today:

1. Went to TJ Maxx to see if I could find some capris or other summer pants for the new job, but found nothing. I had so much better luck at Macy's last week.

2. Mowed the grass.

3. Made a lamb casserole, and since I had the big oven going, I threw in the last of my sweet potatoes and also made a double batch of granola, which tastes better toasted.

4. Got an early start this a.m. with Anita, who shared my job at the p/t proofreading job. We had breakfast and hit an outdoor flea market but that was a bust since it was pretty chilly out and there were hardly any vendors.

5. I vacuumed both floors.

6. I continued editing the Author's 3rd book, Tainted Glass.

Tomorrow is my last day of "freedom." I really need to use the trimmer on the fenced in garden, to keep it in check. But I ran out of string; hopefully, fitting the new replacement string in there is not a big deal.

I see that the zucchini, cucumber and squash seeds I planted never germinated. All this chilly weather may have dashed that from happening. So enough with the seeds, it's Memorial Day Weekend already. Tomorrow I'll pick up some seedlings and plop them in the ground.

I've told 2 of my freelance clients I'm starting the new f/t job. They both handled it well. My #1 client said well, we have a certain rhythm going, you know the business and you have the fastest turnaround, which is so important in this business. So they're fine with me doing their jobs just on weekends. The other client said he was excited for me and that he'd "take what I can get" as far as more limited editing availability.

I want to spend more time perusing my new employer's website to really absorb their "voice."

I'm all organized as far as the car goes, and was able to push back my pick-up day to Friday instead of Thursday. That gives me a little more time to get the new Chase Sapphire Preferred card in the mail. So of the 3 cards I ordered same day, the 1st I already hit the spend target (when I paid for the car deposit), I'm working on the 2nd card right now and will get that 3rd one, the biggie, sometime this coming week.

I have a half a bag of organic potatoes that sprouted and I'm going to plant a few of the spuds in the front yard and see if they take off. There's no more room in the fenced garden, but I'll just plant potatoes anywhere that's sunny and see if the deer/woodchucks overlook them.

Leveraging Bonus Reward Credit Cards with a Car Purchase

May 25th, 2013 at 07:39 pm

Gee, what a difference a dealership makes...

I headed out this morning to the local Honda dealer. They werenít the lowest Internet price given to me via email among the half dozen dealerships Iíd contacted, and I WAS prepared to drive 45 minutes out of my way to one of two other dealerships that had more or less tied for lowest price.

But the spread in prices among the 6 dealers I'd contacted was really not as big as you might think for such a big purchase ($437), so I figured Iíd try the local dealer first. I was already armed with Kellyís Blue Book and Edmundís ideas of a ďfairĒ price, and so I only needed to get the dealer to agree to come down about $200.

He began by explaining that their ďInternet priceĒ was a non-negotiable, no-haggle price and the lowest they could go. After I ignored that statement and explained that I needed him to come down $200 more (to be in line with the KBB price), he agreed without any fuss. (Maybe I could have gotten more off, who knows.)

I got the window visors I wanted and $1,000 for my 14-year-old Honda so the total cost to me was $19,970 (including the window visors, sales tax, registration fees and my trade-in) for a 2013 HF sedan (auto transmission, cruise control, remote entry, radio/phone controls on the steering wheel, CD player, low tire pressure sensor) which gets 41 mpg highway (This is approaching hybrid mileage without the hybrid price tag.) The total price was exactly the price KBB indicated was a "fair" price.

Plus, I had applied for THREE new rewards credit cards last weekend, hoping Iíd have them in time to use for partial payment of the car. (Taking a tip from Monkey Mama, I think, I made sure to apply for all 3 at the same time to avoid being turned down because one credit card company interpreted the other recent card acquisitions as evidence I'm desperate for money or something.)

I got one of the new cards yesterday, an Amex Blue Cash Every Day card, and that was really the only reason I went out car shopping today instead of next week. By using it for the deposit, I was able to earn an immediate $100 cash back from Amex in that single transaction, and if I get one of the other two cards in the mail by next Thursday, I can earn at least another $100 back by charging another $1,000. (The max they would let you charge is $2,000.) The dealer said Iíd have to pay for the rest of the car with a cashierís check, but thatís ok.

The other 2 cards Iím waiting for are the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card (get $100 back after spending $500 in 3 months) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (get $400 back after spending $3,000 in 3 months). Now I never thought I could spend $3,000 in 3 months with the Chase card, but if I charged the $1,000 for the car next week, Iíd only have $2,000 more to spend in 3 months, and there was a time once before, I believe, where I was able to hit a $2,000 spending target in 3 months while being unemployed. Now that Iíll be working, starting next week, I should be able to spend more money on things like gas, definitely. Weíll make it work. I can always buy a ton of food. Hey, and I forgot! I can charge my new car insurance on the card!

The question is, will I get the card in time to use it Thursday? I applied for it online last Sunday and instead of an immediate approval like I always get with new cards, I got an email saying it would take some time and they'd let me know in 30 days by mail if I was approved. Maybe they had a problem with my self-employment income? Not sure.

But then when I was looking at my other Chase accounts online, I noticed the Chase Sapphire Preferred was listed there with a $12,000 limit! But I still don't have the card. Rep said it takes 5 to 10 business days and by Wednesday afternoon, and given the holiday, only 7 business days will have passed. I suppose I could delay the car pick-up one more day, til Friday, but if I didn't get the card in the mail Thursday afternoon, I'll just have to pay using the other credit card I was approved for, assuming I also get that one in the mail by then. If I wind up not using the Sapphire Preferred card for the partial car payment, I would probably just cancel it becus that's a pretty tough spend target without the car payment and there's a $95 fee after the first year. So might as well not hang onto it.

I could have taken the new car home today, but Iím delaying it til next week on account of those credit cards rewards, plus I want to see how much I can get the insurance quotes I got down by raising the deductible from $500. And I also have to wait to get a cashierís check too.

I start the new job Tuesday, and had already arranged to work only Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week so I could wrap up loose ends. So Iíll have Thursday and Friday off next week and can pick up the car and take care of that. They said theyíd remove the kayak rack off the old car. At first, I was going to have them install it on the new car, but he wasnít sure it would fit and then I started thinking Iíd probably not want to scratch up the new car with a kayak or even just installing the rack, so for now, Iíll take it home with me and keep it off. But then that means I canít ever go kayaking unless I go with someone else who has a truck or rack themselves.


Iím pretty well satisfied with the car purchase and was amazed how different this experience was from the Ford dealer. The sales rep was super laid back and very easy to deal with, not pushy/aggressive in the least.

Health insurance hoop-jumping with a pre-existing condition

May 24th, 2013 at 03:37 pm

Since my Cobra ends 6/30/13, Iíd been focusing on what my options were. Iíd assumed Iíd have to go on Charter Oak, the state high risk pool plan at $589/month. But then I got this new contract job where I start work Tuesday, and like most recruiter employment agencies, they offer health coverage to their contract employees. I went to check it out and saw they offered 5 options for health plans but all but two of them required you to be a New York resident. Of the two, one was a high deductible plan which didnít suit my needs and the other, well, I spent quite some time yesterday filling out their application, reviewing the plan benefits and talking to a rep. I had a lot of questions as this plan is offered through a union which you have to join to enroll in the health plan and there was a ton of forms. But I thought the monthly premiums were pretty decent, at ďjustĒ $500 (compared to the $562 Iím paying now thru Cobra), plus you had to pay one-time union dues of $95.

Then, I learned very late in the game that they donít provide prescription drug coverage for the drug Iím on for the MS! Iíd have to pay out of pocket to the tune of $4,000 a month for this very expensive drug. (It used to cost about $1,000 a month when it first came out, but the drug-maker will lose its patent soon and is trying to recoup its R&D costs now, especially since 3 or 4 other drug-makers have released, or are about to release, an oral form of this medication, which will obviously be much more popular with patients than needles).

But of course thereís no way I could pay $4,000 a month for Copaxone, so after spending all this time preparing to apply for the union plan, I had to back out and return to Option B, which was the state Charter Oak plan.

That application will go out in todayís mail and the rep told me I should be able to be effective on it July 1.

Now yesterday when I spoke to a rep at my current Cobra plan, he suggested delaying my payment for the last and final month Iíll be on the Cobra (June) until late June. If I could avoid seeing a doctor or otherwise incurring any healthcare expenses, then he advised I simply donít make any payment for June at all. Although I usually would mail payment a week before the first of each month, they have a 30-day grace period for receipt of payment, so as long as the payment was postmarked by the last day of June, they would accept it and retroactively cover me for month of June.

If I didnít incur any healthcare expenses for June, then I could just skip payment for June entirely and be accepted onto the new state plan effective July 1. Under HIPPA rules, as long as thereís no interruption in healthcare coverage for more than 63 days, they canít deny you coverage for a pre-existing condition like MS. So my 30-day lapse in coverage wouldnít affect my coverage moving forward AND I would have avoided paying for the last month of my COBRA in June, and as it happens they increased the fees from the $562/month Iím paying now to $770/month, incredibly.

Iíve been stockpiling my expensive Copaxone meds for years just to ensure I have the meds I need in exactly this kind of in-between jobs scenario. While it looks like renewing my meds down the road wouldnít be a problem based on what I just said above, I was always nervous about this becus this drug is incredibly expensive. But by ordering my meds a little earlier than really needed, Iíve been able to accumulate a 7.5 month supply of Copaxone. (The expiration dates are long out, so no problem there.)
In fact, I was able to reorder the drug yesterday and already have it delivered. Now usually this particular mail order pharmacy would only give me a 30-day supply at a time, even though my neurologist writes me a prescription good for a year at a time. So I was surprised when I got the shipment that they included 3 months in it instead of 1. They must have changed their policies. Many other pharmacies DO ship 3 months a time. So that really helped me with my stockpile.

At least thatís one thing I donít have to worry about til probably October, which is when open enrollment begins for 2014 and the new healthcare exchanges made possible by Obamacare. At that time, unless Iíve gotten a salaried job that provides benefits like health insurance, I foresee myself shopping around once again for health insurance. It would be nice to get something cheaper than $589 a month under Charter Oak, but who really knows. I also noticed that the Charter Oak plan does not include my neurologist as an in-network provider, so while I have plenty of medication supply left to see me through 2013, if I had an unexpected MS problem/relapse, Iíd have to find a new neurologist.

Luckily, since Iíve been going to a bunch of physician lecture/dinners sponsored by the drug company that makes Copaxone, thereís a doctor I like and have become familiar with who is on the Charter Oak network. Heís maybe 30 minutes away, further than Iíd like in the middle of a MS relapse, but it would work.

I canít believe Iíve had to devote so much time to figuring out this whole health insurance mess. Mainly because Iím 1. Lacking in employer sponsored health coverage and 2. I have a pre-existing condition that requires expensive drugs.

Health insurance coverage, and how I saved $767 today

May 23rd, 2013 at 07:16 pm

Ugh. Itís incredible to me that I had to spend 6 hours of my day today on health insurance coverage. As you know, Iím in transition, job-wise. However, I was told of a way that will likely save me $767 in premium coverage.

Hereís the deal. Iíve been on Cobra, like, forever. Iím paying $562 a month but itís that time of year for re-enrollment or whatever, and monthly premiums are rising to $767!!! However, my eligibility for Cobra ends June 30 regardless, and Iíve known all along Iíd have to find something else. I THOUGHT Iíve have to go on the plan of last resort, the state plan for low-income people, which goes for $589/month, and then stay on that through the end of the year. After that, I hoped to pick up a better plan vis a vis Obamacare.

However, with the new job, I can get health insurance through the recruiter agency, but it wouldnít be effective until July 1, and the paperwork has to be in to them by June 10. The new plan will represent something of a cost savings to me at $495 a month. Itís through a union, though, so I have to join the union and then pay a one-time $95 fee for union dues.
Since Iím not effective on the new plan until July 1, I still need coverage for the month of June. When talking to the customer service rep for my current Cobra plan and after explaining my situation (that I have only 1 more month to stay on Cobra), he reminded me that thereís a 30-day grace period for the premium payments.

That is, while I normally would send in my payment for June coverage in late May (like right about now), he said if I felt I could avoid seeing a doctor or incurring other healthcare expenses in June, that I could possibly save myself the $767 for the last month of coverage that I need with Cobra.

With the 30-day grace period, I can delay payment for the month of June to as late as June 31 and still be covered, retroactively, if I needed it. As long as my premium payment is postmarked in June, Iím covered.
I went ahead and ordered another 30-day supply of my MS meds today so running out wonít be an issue. I had a doc apt I just rescheduled in late June, but I can reschedule it for July when Iím on the new plan. So I should be able to get through June with no medical issues.

I'm so glad I talked to this guy because I would have never thought of that on my own.

What's going on..

May 23rd, 2013 at 01:21 am

So, last I checked, the $500 deposit at Colonial Ford has NOT been returned. Credit card company said it could take 3 to 5 days, which would bring me to Friday, so Iím just trying to sit tight and be patient. I donít see why they would say they would refund it and then not do so because it would just make the customer (me) more irate. It would be playing games when there was no benefit to them to do so, unless they actually thought they could keep the $500.

AnyhooÖÖIím collecting prices from a half dozen area Honda dealers. The prices are all in the same ballpark with not much more than a $400 difference between them. However, Iíve come to the conclusion that all this effort on my end is pretty much a wasted exercise since when I finally go in to test a 2013 Civic, when the dealer learns that I will NOT be financing the car, they will likely try to make up the lost profit from financing by low-balling me on the trade-in value.

I could go in to test drive the new Civic anytime this week, but I applied for THREE bonus/rewards credit cards last Sunday after someone commenting on my blog reminded me I could pay for the car that way and easily stack up some nice rewards. However, while I know I could use a card for the deposit, they may not let you pay for the whole thing with a credit card. The purchase agreement I had for the Colonial Ford car said in big letters that you had to pay with cash or a cashierís check.

So of the 3 credit cards I applied for, I was immediately approved for 2; the other indicated the approval would take longer and theyíd respond back via mail. Not sure what the problem was there; perhaps my self-employed status? I didnít like the idea of disclosing my new employerís name and phone numberÖtoo invasive, so I just said I was self-employed, which I am. I applied for all 3 cards on the same day so that credit checks done for 1 or 2 wouldnít affect the 3rd. I donít know if Iíll be able to use them for the car, but Iíll have them next week, so thatís why I was thinking of delaying the next step in the process until then.

I noticed that Executive Honda, the dealer with the lowest price, has 40 reviews listed on Yelp, and every single one of those 40 reviews gives them 5 stars. Now I'm sorry, I don't believe these were made by legitimate customers; I'm quite sure the dealership has employees make up comments like this. Many of them list the sales rep by name and use words like "magnificent" and "fantastic" to describe their experience. Yeah, like, umm, I don't think so.

This morning I had an appointment to have a test done to see if I have asthma. You have to keep breathing in this substance which basically narrows your air passages so if you did have asthma, youíd have trouble breathing. The machine has to register at least a 20 to indicate you have asthma. I only registered a 9. So I donít have asthma.

My dad decided on impulse to come up for a visit from Jersey. 3 hour drive. He took a wrong turn after going over the Bear Mountain Bridge and ended up getting lost for a while, but he got here around 2 pm. He showed up in his new Kia Soul, which is cute, and he let me drive it as we went to my sisterís to drop off some plants for her (he brought me a dozen tomato seedlings heíd grown from seed) and then we went to the diner for lunch. We hung out at my house afterwards for a bit, but then he left around 4 pm to drive all the way back there!! I keep saying stay the night, and I donít know how you do it, but he doesnít seem to think itís a biggie. Iím sure he hit rush hour traffic on the way home, too.

After he left, I drove up to my neighborís behind me to return some milk and tea bags Stephen left behind at my place when he come over the other day for a long visit. Ended up gabbing with his wife for an hour or so. They are like the best neighbors youíd ever want to have. Their house is listed and they had a realtorís open house a few days ago (the reason for Stephenís visitÖ.he had to vacate the house).

After that, I went back home and mowed the lawn (still not done). Also planted half the cherry tomatoes.

I offered some of them to my friend The Author in return for a bunch of carpet remnants she offered me. Sheís been working at a carpeting/tile store and theyíre getting rid of tons of discontinued remnants which she said make great bath mats. Any other uses you can see for these things? I want to get some but not sure what Iíd use them for.

I picked off 2 adults tickets off me as I was planting my tomato seedlings. Not sure where the heck they came from.

Today was the perfect kind of day and a great example of why I love my unstructured time so much, which is only possible when you donít work full-time. I didnít have any of the things I did today on my ďagenda,Ē but all in all, it was an enjoyable and pleasant day.
So this one Honda dealer has offered me the lowest price of all on the Civic HF. Itís actually the dealer invoice price, and all theyíre adding to the ďout the doorĒ price is sales tax, registration fees and $400 conveyance fee. The only place where I see them making any money is the conveyance fee. Consumer Report lists this as one of their ďunavoidableĒ fees but said you should question the charge if itís higher than $300.

The other fee is registration fees - varies between $118 and $188 depending on if you are transferring plates or registering new. But according to Consumer Reports, the conveyance fee is for processing documents that establish your title and registration. So why would they charge for that twice? Hmm.

Oh, yeah. So after I met my friend the recruiter at Starbucks this past Monday night to sign all the paperwork for the new job, I gave my notice to my p/t proofreading $12/hr job. I explained that my new employer wanted me to start right away (day after Memorial Day next week) and that since work was so slow, I'd like to not have to give notice since I'm car shopping.

I learned through A., who shares my job and cubicle there with me, that my immediate manager L. was taking it personally and didn't like that I hadn't come in to tell them I was leaving. I suppose I could have but in truth i had a feeling L. would react badly to it, like a personal affront

I knew everyone would be asking for all the details about where I was going. There are some people there I was pretty friendly with. It would be awkward to put those people off with vague answers about where I was going, but if i told 1 or 2 people, it would be like telling them all. And call me paranoid but I wouldn't feel comfortable letting L. know where I was going in case she wanted to badmouth me.

So while J., L.'s manager, wrote me a brief, one-line email saying good luck with the new job, I never did hear a word back from L.

My neighbor Stephen said don't worry about it. You have to worry about yourself, not them. I felt all along this employer was taking advantage of me due to the low rate of pay, and while I allowed that to happen, becus i needed the money, I guess i never felt i owed them much respect, becus in that regard, I felt they disrespected me. Employers will boot you out the same day they lay you off, but somehow they still expect 2 weeks notice if you're leaving them.

I think L. considers herself a likable boss, but in truth I really resented the way she treated me when I gently declined to make any more sales calls. If they want someone to make sales calls, then hire someone to do it; don't make me do every single grunt job wherever there's a labor commission offered to boot.

She was positively badgering me to do it and for some ungodly reason she had to bring the whole thing up and rehash it all the following week after I thought we'd put it behind us. She seemed to find it remarkable that an employee would "just say no" to work they requested you do. While I would be careful when I said no in a full-time position that I actually cared about and paid decently, this job was so low-paying that I felt there wasn't much risk of being fired, and really not much to lose. They know that my counterpart and I are way overqualified and doing a much better job than they've experienced in the past when they filled these positions with summer interns.

The conversation with the dealer

May 20th, 2013 at 02:54 pm

So I called Colonial Ford this a.m. The main sales guy was with a customer, left a message with him. His mgr. out today. So after not hearing back from sales guy, I asked for Wanda, who was the one who had me sign the purchase agreement.

Victory #1: I said etching was never discussed, i didn't sign it or agree to it. First she says it's mandatory, then I read her the law out loud (eg, that i don't have to pay it) and she fairly quickly said they could take that off.

I said, well why did you just tell me it's mandatory? She quoted me the law number and said she's show me when i came in. I have a different law number here in hand so it doesn't really matter; I still don't have to accept it.

So, just to be clear, CT law does REQUIRE a dealer to offer etching service but it's optional and the customer can decline the charge.

So if someone was not paying attention, when she said "it's mandatory," if you hadn't already investigated the law you might not realize that while it's mandatory they offer it, it's not mandatory that you accept..

Then I brought up the $820 add-on charge for the "comfort upgrade package" (this included heated seats, alarm, some moldings). I said that when i built the 2013 (same model) on Ford's website with the exact same options/add-ons, the heated seats, alarm and moldings are INCLUDED in the base price!

So why was i paying $820 extra, i asked her. She said that even though it said on the Ford website that those features are "included" as standard features on the Ford "build your own" website, that they will also be listed as separate line items. Maybe that is so. The price when i built it online, after including tax, incentives and trade in, came to $19,994 vs the $20K i had negotiated with the 2012 model. But shouldn't i be paying LESS for a 1-year-old car, even if it hasn't been driven?

Victory #2?? I told her i thought this was all deceptive sales practices (thought not illegal) and that I wanted my deposit back. She didn't dispute that but said ok. I asked her when she would do that transaction and she said i don't know, i have to find out from my sales mgr. I asked her to let me know. She said ok.

I am a little surprised they didn't say you won't get your deposit back. It says you lose it on the back of the purchase agreement. Maybe that news will be delivered by the sales mgr. or maybe they will back down more easily becus i mentioned calling Ford Motor Co. and DMV to "clarify" things.

What do I make of this? I think that they are just skirting the edges of what's legal here. While what they're doing is not illegal, it is deceptive.

They say things like "it's mandatory," that lead you to believe something that isn't really true. If I hadn't challenged it, I'd be paying $200 more for useless etching, and i think they count on at least a portion of customers to fall for that. I didn't even challenge the $399 conveyance fee. I don't have the energy. I just want out. Once I get my deposit back, and I'm still anxious that i will, i will STILL file a complaint with DMV (i already printed out the form) to complain about how this all went down. You practically need a degree to go head to head with these sharks.

And then, after learning SO much about car-buying, I will head over to the Honda dealership. Hondas maybe boring (I've had 3 in a row now) but they are very reliable.

Monday Morning - Before the Call

May 20th, 2013 at 12:39 pm

At this point, while I wait for dealership to open, I'm still not sure if I want to keep the Fiesta or not.

It's possible, IF he takes off the $199 etching fee, that I will keep the car.

However, I found something else that concerns me.
On my copy of the window sticker for the 2012 Ford Fiesta SES, there are 3 options shown. One of them is an extra $820 for the comfort upgrade package, which includes the heated seats, alarm and some moldings.
I went back to Ford Motor Co. website and ďbuilt my ownĒ 2013 Fiesta Titanium. (The Titanium is the new name for the highest model in the Fiesta line; it replaced the SES). I noticed that the heated seats, alarm etc are all included as STANDARD in the 2013 model. So why am I paying $820 for it in the 2012 model????

The dealer may respond yeah itís included in the 2013 model, but itís more money, too. When I finished ďbuildingĒ my car online using all the same options and add-ons that are on the 2012 Fiesta I purchased, it came to $19,994 (which includes sales tax, all incentives and my trade-in value), so thatís about the same as the $20,000 price that I negotiated with the dealer.

Itís that $20,000 figure that, when broken down on the sales agreement, includes the $199 for etching.
I remember the dealer saying at one point when the cost was down to $20,426, what will it take for you to buy this car? If we bring it down to an even $20,000, will that seal the deal? I agreed.

So now they may say, look, what do care whether it includes etching or not, because youíre still paying a total of $20,000, which I am. Itís just that when they wrote it up on the purchase agreement, they list the price of the car at $19,280, sales tax $1188, conveyance fee $399, etching $199 and transfer fees (DMV paperwork) $101.

I canít figure out why they chose to list the car price as a lower figure on the purchase agreement and included those extra fees in there when they could have just said $20,000 for the car, period, since thatís what I said would work for me.

Buyer's remorse - reneging on the car deal

May 19th, 2013 at 04:32 pm

OK, while all of you have been congratulating me, I am feeling more and more upset about the whole new car purchase deal. Donít get me wrong, the congrats was just what I wanted to hear to reassure myself I didnít make a mistake. But that nagging feeling didnít go away.

When I got home yesterday, I was still feeling nervous about the whole thing. As I read through the contract I had signed, I discovered a $199 charge for windshield etching on the bill that I hadnít even seen when I signed it!

OF course, there was also the $400 ďconveyance fee. Both those fees were PREPRINTED on the purchase agreement. When ďWandaĒ handed me the contract to sign, she took her index finger and, pointing to each handwritten figure on the form, she detailed the price and various options, sales tax, etc, and said out loud the calculations for each, totally distracting me from the preprinted fees. Well, I saw that conveyance fee and didnít challenge it, but totally missed the etching fee.
Hereís how that line read: (Optional) Anti-Theft window Etching
I have been offered Anti-Theft Window Etching

Thereís a line below where it appears youíre supposed to sign to indicate you were offered it and declined. Some quick online research told me that etching fee is a widely used dealer tactic to basically pad their wallets. Many police stations do this for like $20 or even for free. Iím quite sure now that line item is required on the form, however they did not even bring it up with me and I didnít sign it, though I did sign the contract.

Here's a portion of the contract. I just deleted my personal info at top and bottom and yes, my signature is at bottom. Notice, too,that they failed to fill in the warranty information at left side.

So I donít like feeling like I was being taken advantage of after already knowing I bought considerably more car than Iíd planned to, but the etching fee just put me over the top.

I not only donít want to pay that, but I donít want to buy the car from them, either.

Problem is, I had to give them a $500 deposit, and I will probably lose that money if I walk away from the deal. Although their sales tactics are unethical, I donít believe they are illegal or even fraudulent. Iím not really sure if I can get my deposit back based on the fact they didnít bring up the window etching before giving me the contract to sign. I should have read it, and I didnít.

I will call Motor Vehicles and Consumer Protection to clarify it. I will call Colonial Ford to request return of the deposit. If they refuse, which they likely will, I will also call Ford Motor Co. to complain. I did this once years ago with Honda Motor Co. over some big repair bill I got from the dealer, and they did make contact with the dealer, who then gave me a partial discount on the bill because of it. The car maker is concerned with how dealers treat their customers, since it reflects badly on them as well.

After all this, I again looked over the proposed purchase agreement (which I HADNít signed) from the first dealer I saw. He didnít try to sell me a higher end version of the car I didnít want and really, the car was just the ďmiddle roadĒ model (Basic: S, Mid-Level: SE and High End: SES) with auto transmission. I got the same discounts as I got at the 2nd dealer. It was a decent price at $17,321. I just balked when they offered only $800 for my Honda, although he had indicated before I walked out that he could probably get ďa few hundred moreĒ for my Honda if that would seal the deal. So if he did that and I also got them to knock off their stupid ďdocumentĒ fee of $75, then I would save an additional $275.

Then, if I found another upfront bonus reward card to apply for, get it in about a week, then use it to partially pay for the car, thatís an easy $100 back in a single transaction. I could use other rewards cards to wrack up points as well, as some of you have suggested. (Good suggestion, the money will be in my checking account anyway after being transferred, so why not?) So my loss would not be $500, it would be $125.

What do you think of all this? I felt so angry and stupid for so easily falling for some of the oldest car dealer scams around. Me, Patient Saver, whoís usually so careful about stuff like this. And the more I think of, I know I wonít likely use half that high end tech stuff in the SES model, donít need a moon roof AT ALL, and could do without heated seats and leather at that.

Doing without all those nice extras would put $2390 back in my pocket, or $2265 after losing part of that $500 deposit.

7 hours at the dealer later, I bought my new car!!!!!

May 18th, 2013 at 08:49 pm

I am either the biggest fool or got a great deal. Honestly, Iím not sure which it is.

Now most people donít walk into a car dealership alone, but thatís exactly what I did. I didnít feel like possibly waiting or coordinating with friends or family, and I was of the mindset of being on a mission to accomplish a car purchase as quickly as possible so I have it to start my new job. I also was hoping to make a deal this weekend and not have it drag into next week.

I did a ton of research online, and I had already decided I wanted a 2013 Ford Fiesta SE, although I was also leaving room for the possibility of test-driving a Prius today. That didnít actually happen as I bought a NEW 2012 Fiesta SES.

I THOUGHT I knew exactly what I wanted after all that online research and comparing of costs and options, but itís amazing how quickly you can start waffling, especially when you see how nice these cars are in person. And once you allow yourself to start doing that at the dealership, it quickly becomes very confusing becus youíre wanting to compare apples to apples but there are so many individual numbers to include. On top of that, Iíd been feeling like Iíve ďdeprivedĒ myself of most luxuries, certainly over these last 3.5 years, and overall I lead a very frugal lifestyle.

So I guess that was the perfect segue that helped contribute to my buying beyond what Iíd planned when I arrived at the 2nd dealer. (The first dealer guy was a youngish guy and after spending a long time, I balked when he offered just $800 for my Civic, so I left.)

At the 2nd dealer, they had one Fiesta SE on hand, but they also mentioned they had a 2012 Fiesta SES, which is the top end of the Fiesta line. So I said Iíd drive the 2012 model first. (Never did get to the 2013 one, but I had already driven that car at the first dealer.) They let me test-drive the car by myself.

OK, so I fell in love: Itís a white car with black leather seats trimmed in contrast piping, a moon roof (this I donít care about), and FORD Sync/Bluetooth that responds to voice commands and lets you do hands free with your phone and a bunch of other stuff; I think it has built-in navigation. Heated seats, Sirius radio, ambient lighting...Warranty is 3 years/36K and 24/7 roadside assistance. I thought it was so cool that the car has a built-in UBS port in the console so I guess if you want to copy music onto a thumbdrive and then plug it in, you can do that. Iíll have to figure out how. In all honesty, the very basic cell phone I have now will NOT work with the Ford Sync system, altho I can still do hands free. I could upgrade to a better phone. Maybe a little later. The mileage is 39 highway/29 city. It has a very sporty spoiler.

Option-wise, there were some things I liked very much, like the leather seats and the spoiler, but they all come in packages that contained other things I could care less about, like the moon roof.

Do you see where Iím going with this? I bought the car. But since I started out wanting just the base SE model, no frills, I quickly became tripped up with all my calculations since while I had checked Kellyís blue book and Edmundís for ďfair market priceĒ for the base model, I hadnít done that with the bells-and-whistles model.

However, I got $1500 in rebates/incentives, which I thought was pretty good. And this is a 2012 model with only 100 miles on it; it was never pre-owned, it was just leftover inventory. I do think they ripped me off some on the trade-in value of my 1999 Honda. According to online sources, I shouldíve been able to get $1400 to $1800 for it and I got just $1100.
So, after sales tax, 2 rebates, the trade-in of my Honda and all fees, we settled onÖ.deep breathÖ.$20,000 even. The MSRP on it was $21,780.

I could have gotten more if I tried to sell the car myself, but I didnít want the hassle or inconvenience, and this way, the dealer handles all the motor vehicle paperwork so I donít even have to go there.

Months ago, after doing my research, I figured that after getting everything I wanted, Iíd spend between $17,000 and $19,000, but that was before taxes ($1100), but also didnít include my trade-in. Plus, for the first time in my life, I got all the bells and whistles, not the basic model. And I must say, I enjoyed driving the car.

Now if I had bought a 2013 Fiesta SES instead of the 2012 Fiesta SES, I wouldnít have gotten quite so much in dealer incentives. Also, Iím hoping buying a year old car will mean my car tax will be lower, but I donít know.

I have to contact my insurance agent Monday and have him fax a temp ID card for me to the dealer and then once my money transfers arrive in my checking account, I can go get a bank check and pick up the car. Iím hoping to do that Tuesday, Wednesday at latest.

Phew. Iím feeling a little unsettled and am hoping I wonít have buyerís remorse. Iím used to spending the least possible amount, and this time, I allowed myself to spend a few thousand more due partly to being tired of the whole process (7 hours at 2 dealers) and, I admit, excited about things like leather seats.

I know, I knowÖrealtors do that with houses all the time. You go into it saying this is my price range and then they show you homes maybe $40,000 more, hoping youíll like it so much youíll go for it. Itís exactly what happened to me today, but I DO like the car and think Iíll enjoy it. What may bother me more is the higher insurance costs and car tax i'll be paying! Plus I will no longer want to haul filthy dirty tree logs and stuff to the dump.

I will post pix when I have it home!

Potential savings at the new job

May 17th, 2013 at 01:00 am

So my monthly gross at the new job will be $5893. The net should be around $4,225, based on an online net pay calculator I used.

My monthly gas, car insurance and CT car tax will all work to increase my monthly expenses, but I figure my minimum monthly expenses should stick to around $2,000, give or take. That means my potential monthly savings could range from between $1500 and $2,225 a month, or between $18,000 and $26,700 a year.

I donít know if the recruiter agency offers a tax-deferred 401k-type plan. If they do, Iíll contribute, but only if itís tax-deferred. Otherwise, I could contribute a bit more to my SEP-IRA, which I havenít always funded these past few years cus I had no money to spare. Any additional savings will have to be taxable savings.

Disciplined as I am, I know Iíll feel a strong urge to loosen the purse strings after my long, self-enforced penny pincher ways. I mean, look at me, Iím already talking about buying a new car! Well, that was needed anyway, and all I did was push up the purchase by 5 months or so since I was planning on buying late in the year. I also need to get a bunch of new clothes. Itís business casual, thank goodness, but Iíve been working in my jammies for too long. And then thereís a long list of deferred maintenance around this place to think of.

I want to try to keep doing my freelance writing. I really have only one steady client who gives me the bulk of my work on a regular basis; they are pretty flexible with their deadlines and so if I can do their work on the occasional weekend,that would probably work.

Recruiter did say they offer a health plan to contract workers, but thereís a waiting period. Depending on how long the wait period and how much it costs, I might switch to it. Right now, Iím paying $562 a month for Cobra, but that ends June 30. Then Iíll have to go on the state plan, the plan of last resort for low income unemployed people or people who canít otherwise get health insurance. That plan costs $589 a month although the copays and deductible are a bit lower than what I pay now. If the recruiter plan is significantly better, Iíll switch, but if not, I only need to stay on SOME plan til the end of the year, because in 2014 I can buy health insurance on the open market regardless of where I work and God willing, itís more affordable than any of my choices now.

Just as I was writing my last post I was able to finalize an agreement to meet with recruiter Monday night at 8 pm in a town thatís about an half hour drive from home. Heís coming from work in NYC to meet me with all the paperwork and forms I have to fill out. Once I do that and have everything in writing, then I will give notice to my p/t employer, probably via email to 2 people late Monday night. While I will give them ONE weekís notice, Iím really hoping not to have to do that at all since theyíre rather slow right now and I need the extra time to buy the new car, buy new clothes and get ready. But I would feel like a cad if I didnít give them some notice, even if it is a p/t job that pays $12/hr.

In hindsight, it was really helpful and fortuitous that I happened to know the recruiter for this job very well. This was the guy who I worked side by side with for nearly 2 years when we were both writers at the same company in 2008-2009. We were about as close as 2 co-workers could be, and even sat right next to each other. I wasnít consciously thinking of this when I was negotiating the pay rate, but I know him to be the kind of guy who doesnít enjoy negotiating things and I sensed his strong desire and maybe some anxiety to wrap up the whole job deal today/tonight. My hunch was right, becus after I accepted verbally, he told me he was flying out of state to do something with his daughter and I guess will be gone over the weekend. So he probably really wanted to close this deal to secure his commission, especially as heíd also mentioned he had gotten this employer in the door, and it was the first time heíd done that. So this would be a coup for him, I would think. Iím glad I stuck to my guns and didnít just accept the lowered pay rate without fighting for what I wanted. Thatís something I would have done years ago but I learned the hard wayÖ.and I repeat, the very hard way, that you need to be your own best advocate at times like these, and vague assurances of other benefits down the road, which is what he was giving me, really mean nothing if you donít have it in hand.

My life has just changed dramatically; did I make the right decision?

May 16th, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I had a 2-hour interview this morning and had an offer in hand this afternoon. After dickering back and forth about the rate of pay, we came to a tentative agreement.

What was the sticking point? When my friend the recruiter told me about the job, he said the pay was $35/hr. Then when the offer was made to me, it had dropped to $33/hr, and he didnít really explain why. I kept asking why, who lowered the pay rate, was it his firm or the employer? He indicated it was the employer and said heíd try to push for partial work at home to compensate for that, but he wanted me to accept the job first, so that means no leverage if you donít talk about work at home til afterwards.
I finally got him to agree to $34/hr. I mean, it would have been a $4100 drop in pay before even starting. The employer had said theyíd been looking to fill the opening for a long time, so now that they found the right person, how could they justify lowering the pay? Almost like a bait and switch, if you ask me.

Still not sure if my friend the recruiter was being straight with me on all of that. It could have easily been his firm that figured most employees would agree becus they need the work. I am happy with the pay (it comes out to $70,000 a year, but with no benefits, no paid holidays, etc) although I have a LOT of concerns about the commute.

My friend the recruiter kept saying yeah, but you can always negotiate a higher salary when you get a perm job offer, but what the heck? If theyíve got an employee working on a freelance basis, why would they spend oodles of extra money on benefits when they really donít have to? Unless the job market suddenly improved in a big way and they were afraid Iíd jump ship for something better, I donít think a perm job with benefits is in any way guaranteed. Hence my reluctance to cave too quickly on the rate of pay question.

As for the commute. I took the easiest way in there this am in terms of not wanting to get lost, and it was bumper to bumper on I95. Youíd be traveling at highway speed and then all of a sudden traffic comes to a complete halt. Very stressful. Very long 1.25 hours. I really worry that I wonít be able to do that twice a day. Seriously.

I will try other ways to go next time. They want me to start day after Memorial Day. Once I get the offer in writing and paperwork signed, which wonít happen til Monday at earliest, I will give notice at p/t job and can give them a max of 1 week notice. What Iím really hoping is that since this is their slow time I can just leave. I need that time to buy a new car and buy new clothes. Luckily, it is casual dress, but still need a better wardrobe. Iíve been working in my jammies for a long time.

My 2 cats are in for a shock. I feel sad for them becus they are so used to me being here and as it is, they get so bored. Thatís why Luther picks on Waldo and bites him too hard. Heís bored silly.

So, as maybe you can tell, I have mixed feelings about all of this becus of the commute, but feel I just have to take the job becus after 3.5 long, dry years, my unemployment benefits run out like, um, next week. I couldnít have called it any closer!
All this time while I job searched, I never even considered jobs in Stamford becus of the long commute. I know a lot of people do long distance commutes, but Iíve always hated it. It sucks up too much of my personal time and exhausts me and all around lowers my quality of life.

So the plan would be to just suck it up and start the job, try to catch on as quickly as I can and maybe in 6 months, when I feel Iíve demonstrated my value and expertise, approach them about working at home 1 or 2 days a week. Preferably 2.

If they donít go for that, my days there would probably be numbered. Iíd try to stick it out for 1 or 2 years but I hate the whole lifestyle. Couldnít go much longer. (Iím honestly not even sure I can do their style of writing. Itís much more abbreviated than what Iíve done.) Pithy product descriptions instead of magazine articles or sales brochures. Very different. And the quality of their writing there is already very good, so Iíd have to work even harder to add value.

In the meantime, I already scheduled a test drive at local Ford dealer to drive a Ford Fiesta Saturday. May also test drive Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic. Will probably go new again. I think Iím entitled since the car I drive now is 14 years old. I will sell a bunch of mutual funds tonight and the money will be in my checking account in 3 or 4 days. After I decide from the test drives which model I want, Iíll call all local dealers and ask for their very best price. I want to avoid haggling and will just go with the lowest bid.

My head is spinning. My lifestyle is really going to change drastically. I hope itís worth it. Terrible to say that after 3 years and 8 months of p/t or underemployment and drastically scaling back my lifestyle, but I donít know. Donít know if anyone else goes through this kind of angst in this kind of situation.

Productive day

May 15th, 2013 at 12:02 am

Iím glad I didnít do the poll worker thing today because it wound up being a pretty busy (and productive) day.

And I'm glad I stopped using that nasal spray that was making me feel so drowsy/groggy. I guess that means I'll need to proceed with the bronco provocation test next week to rule out asthma, becus I can't say the nasal spray, meant for people with post nasal drip, did much of anything to alleviate my cough.

But getting back to the productive day:

I spent all morning pulling my portfolio together for the Thursday job interview. Having worked all my life as a writer, I have a ton of writing samples, and I like to tailor my portfolio to the job. Itís something I can do because Iíve written soooo much stuff and in fact I have 3 file cabinets of writing samples in the attic! So I think about what kind of writer theyíre looking for: business to business or business to client, retail, corporate, what field/subject matter, long form/short form, etc.

Also, as it turned out, I was finally able to connect with a realtor I was playing phone tag with for well over a month. Or shall we say, he wasnít really trying to make himself available. Anyway, I got what info I needed from him and wrote up my thing, so that was good to clear my plate.

I also mowed the lawn, or did 40 minutes worth of mowing, which is about as long as the battery will last between charges. Tomorrow morning before I go to work (at 1 pm) I hope to wrap up the mowing.

My British neighbor also stopped by to pick up some heavy logs that have sat in my driveway since Hurricane Sandy. Heís been loading 4 or 5 at a time in his truck and taking them back to his house to burn for me in a big fire pit they have. How nice is that? The wood canít be burned in a fireplace, as itís pine, and itís way too large to chip, unfortunately. It was a bit of a barter situation but I think I got the better end of the deal, as all I did for him was summarize some research I did on how to sell stuff on Amazon.

Once, a few years ago, before he had the fire pit, he was burning his own wood and the grass was very dry and caught on fire. The burning grass caused a TREE to catch on fire and apparently, the flames could be seen from the road. His house is set up on a hill, way back. So someone called the fire dept. It was at night and I remember the fire dept. was shining big spotlights up at my house and around here. I had no idea why at the time as I didnít know about the fire.

My neighbor was burning the wood at night becus youíre supposed to get a permit if you want to burn a fire and he was trying to avoid that. Maybe not the smartest thing in the world. The fire dept. never did figure out where the fire was, becus my neighborís son was yelling at his dad about the fire and they were able to douse the tree with water from a nearby pond he built. Itís a good thing, becus he would have had to pay a fine plus cost of having 3 fire trucks come out.

Heís the laid off toy designer. He is working with the Chinese to start his own business. He conceives and designs, the Chinese will manufacture the products. It could be extremely lucrative. Anyway, their house is finally ready to go on market next week and he gets bored around the house so heís been coming down to chit chat every once in a while. Since he has to stay away from home while the realtor open house is going on next week, he offered to come over and use his chainsaw to cut up a pile of pine branches that fell in another location of my yard and then use those branches to help get the bigger logs to catch on fire.

I keep telling him he doesnít have to do all this, but he seems to want to help. I had gotten an estimate from a guy on what it would cost to chip just that one pile I mentioned. Since he didnít OWN a wood chipper, he said the cost to rent one for a day is $350, so it would cost quite a bit more than that to have them do it. Way more than I wanted to spend. So maybe my neighbor and I will do it together. Iím just a little worried about ticks, cus itís in a brushy area. I had wanted to invite him for lunch when he comes by next week to do it, but I sort of would rather not have him come in the house after working in the tick-infested brushy areas but I donít think I can tell him that. He doesnít think itís a big deal. Maybe heís immune, who knows? If I could get him to eat lunch in my house BEFORE we do the work, that would be good, but Iím guessing itíll wind up being the other way around.

Last night I was just randomly looking at my gray hair in the mirror when I saw something black and I said OMG, could that be a tick? And it was. When I tried to brush it out of my hair with my hand, it really clung to my scalp but I don't think it was "attached." It takes 24 to 48 hours for them to burrow in and be capable of transmitting the virus. Anyway, it was DISGUSTING to find that thing. I flushed it down the toilet. Creeped me out as I HADN'T done much yardwork that day, only mowed the lawn. Every once in a while when I mow, a small tree branch may brush against me, and I remember that happening with a tree branch touching my head once or twice. Must've been how i got the tick in my head cus i wear boots and often spray them with DEET.

I just colored my hair, in preparation for the job interview. I still have more mental prep to do, but the portfolio is done. I can do it tomorrow night.
I also ran out to vote in the town budget today and stopped to deposit some checks at the bank. I watered my many potted plants and sprayed some poison ivy I saw.

Catching up

May 13th, 2013 at 11:43 pm

So frustratingÖyet another instance of Saving Advice eating my entry.

Short version hereÖ..

Lo and behold, my recruiter friend somehow managed to get me an interview with this employer I was telling you about this Thursday. Itís an online retailer specializing in high end home furnishings and furniture. Retail. Iíve always worked in a corporate or journalism-type environment. But somehow he did it.
Frankly, while I appreciate fine design, I know nothing about it, so I really donít feel qualified. And in this high unemployment environment, most employers can still demand a near perfect match for jobs they seek to fill.

The pay would be greatÖ$35/hr. Itís a full-time job, but a contract job. They already turned down several people the recruiter referred to them. Term is sort of unclear. I think at least through the summer. My friend emphasized more than once the possibility of it morphing into a perm job, but of course many recruiters routinely say that to entice job candidates when thereís really no suggestion of that being the case. Just a hunch on my part.

But since the recruiter is a friend of mine that I worked side by side with for nearly two years in 2008-2009, I donít think heíd feed me a line if it werenít true.

The biggest downside right now is the commute. One hour and considerably more in traffic. Funny thing is I will only need to travel on a total of 3 roads to get there: thereís highway #1 (a traffic-clogged 2-lane highway), then the Interstate (also notoriously traffic-clogged most of the time) and then the employerís road, right off the highway.

I noticed they list their ďstudioĒ hours as being 10 to 6. Many employees in this city and in Hartford stagger their work hours to relieve some of the congestion on the main highways. It would also be great for me since I wouldnít have to stagger out of bed at some unearthly hour. It would be so civilized, even if that meant I got home that much later at night.

If I got an offer for the contract job, I would quit my p/t proofreading job which I started in November. Even though it might not last beyond the summer, itís a risk Iím prepared to take. I mean, weíre talking the difference between $1400 a week and $240. If nothing else, I believe it would also reset the clock for COBRA and allow me to get my health insurance that way through yearís end, until I started up with a new healthcare exchange via Obamacare. Right now, my COBRA is due to end June 30, at which time Iíll have to go on the stateís last resort plan and shell out even more per month than Iím paying now.

I wonder if my immediate manager has guessed that Iíve been doing a few job interviews here and there when I told her Iíd be in late due to an ďappointmentĒ I had.

Another thing I'd like to do if I got this job is go ahead and buy that new car I've been thinking about. It's a lot of driving to do with an old car. But there probably won't be time to do it beforehand. Sounds like they'd want a fast start.

I had to cover up all my lettuce, peas and tomato plants in the garden as weíre expecting widespread frost tonight. I used an assortment of plastic sheets, buckets and plastic pots to do it. Kind of a big pain. I hope the many flowering shrubs around here weather the night ok.

I re-erected the bluebird box today in a new location after having taken it down when some undesirable English sparrows began nest-building. I hope they have since moved on and can lure the bluebirds back. Itís in a new location in the front yard thatís not quite so close to brushy, overgrown areas, which is good, but I canít monitor the box from the front stoop, which is not so good. Iíll need to keep an eye on it to see who shows interest.

Well, for the past 1.5 weeks or so I've been taking this nasal spray medication (twice daily) to see if it improves my cough, which doc thinks is probably silent post nasal drip. I can't honestly tell any difference but i'm beginning to wonder if this is one of those situations where the meds are worse than the symptoms. I cough maybe an average of once an hour, which isn't terrible-terrible. But these meds really seem to make me groggy in the morning and sort of in a brain fog all day. Like, I can function, but I just feel like I'm struggling to focus and stay sharp becus of the meds, and I don't like it.

I had WANTED to give it some more time, only to be able to diagnose my cough issue decisively, but now with this job interview coming up on Thursday, I think I'm going to stop taking it now. I need to be alert for that interview.

Free afternoon

May 12th, 2013 at 06:52 pm

Happy Mother's Day to all of you. We've already wrapped up our Mother's Day luncheon, hosted by me.

I made a cold salad with edamame, grape tomatoes, corn and black beans with a dressing and red onion as well as my cheddar/cauliflower soup and a homemade chocolate pudding for dessert (NOT out of a box). My sister brought her salad using violet flowers and kale flowers. Rather crunchy. She also brought a dessert made of chia seeds and coconut. I also had an appetizer of pear slices dipped in butter/cheddar and then ground up pecans. The pecans didn't quite stick to the pear slices, so i probably would make this again.

My sister brought a dozen eggs each for me and my mom, and she offered to cut down a mostly dead apple tree and dogwood for me. (She wants the firewood.) But maybe not til fall.

I spent most of the weekend creating a new Facebook page for myself as well as a Pinterest account. I did this not becus I have a real interest in doing so, or the time, but because I've known for a long time I need it for job prospects. Aside from the blogging, it might appear to prospective employers that I have no particular social media skills, and so many employers want a write who can do that stuff too.

So I spent hours setting up basic pages for myself which will become more robust over time with pithy comments and so on. I am not using my real name on them but will list them on my resume. The Facebook account will be thematic, centered around my interests in gardening. That's a nice, non-controversial and non-personal way to go with Facebook. The account I used to have was possibly hacked into as I could no longer log in and it kept asking me if I was "Simba." So I shut that down.

This afternoon is free and I'm thinking I should continue weeding and prepping my vegetable garden. I need to plant zucchini.

My sister told me she was a garden nursery recently where she noticed a sign that said they would come and dig up any unwanted pachysandra and tidy up the place when they left. Possibly even pay for it. I have OODLES of pachysandra here I'd love to get rid of so this place could be heaven-sent. I am calling them tomorrow!!!!!!

I love Spring!!!

May 11th, 2013 at 12:19 am

I have long said that May is the prettiest month here, and 2013 is no exception.

My 6 white dogwood are in bloom now. This one is just outside my office window. In fact, I leaned out the window from inside to snap it! There is something so ethereal about dogwood flowers...maybe because the trunk of the tree is so slender that it often appears to me as if the flowers are floating, suspended in the air.

This is the view south. Most of what you see here, actually, is my neighbor's property. There's a stone wall that divides our property but it's pretty much shrouded in green already. AT the very bottom of the photo you can see a sliver of my driveway. I also shot this out my office window. The view is made possible due to the fact that a humongous white pine that previously blocked part of this view came down during Hurricane Sandy. (I'm still cleaning up the remnant logs from that.)

I got an email today from an address I didn't recognize, yet this person seemed to know a fair amount about me. But the email wasn't signed. It was a job offer. I was pretty wary about it until I checked the phone number from NYC online and realized it was a friend of mine, a fellow writer and someone I worked very closely with for 2 years at my last full-time job.

He was laid off a year before me and eventually found new work as a recruiter. He's very much a people person and a really great, all-round guy. Truth be told, we flirted a fair amount and I dare say if he weren't married...

Rest assured, nothing happened beyond friendly conversation. We shared identical jobs and sat next to each other, so of course we talked a lot. Sometimes, we even escaped the office and took a half-hour drive without telling anyone! He was very unhappy there, I think partly because he always struggled as a writer and I don't think that's his natural vocation.

Anyway, we lost touch during the past few years, but he was reaching out to me now with a contract job that could turn f/t. I think it's f/t and he said it would "only" pay $35/hr. I sent him my resume and some links to writing samples and he was very enthusiastic about it, saying he "had a good feeling" about it. I personally think it's a long shot becus the job (writing) is in a field I have no experience in: retail, modern furniture and accessories. However, I have done a lot of copywriting about high end real estate and design/construction trends, so who knows. The other problem is that it would be a very long drive, over an hour, and that's what most concerns me.

However, at this point, I may just go for it, even if I don't stay forever. Maybe I could just stick it out for a year or two. I need to get out of this financial rut I've been in. There's always the possibility of a partial work-at-home deal.

So guess we'll see if I get any feedback early next week. I'm afraid to even dwell on it too much becus as I said, I don't feel I'd be the very best candidate they could likely find for this particular job.

On Tuesday I will be working 5:15 am to 8 pm as a poll worker. $175 cash for a very long day, but I do also enjoy seeing all my fellow townspeople file in to cast their vote on the town budget. It's old-fashioned New England politics which I am so very familiar with. For years I covered things like this as a news reporter. I guess I know a fair number of people here in town, even though it usually seems like I don't.

I just finished planning the Mother's Day menu, which will be here at my house. Just a lunch, not dinner. My sister will bring a salad and dessert, while I've decided on an appetizer of pear slices dipped in a mix of cheddar cheese/butter/lemon juice and then finely ground pecans. The main course will be creamy cheddar-cauliflower soup and a cold salad consisting of corn, black beans, grape tomatoes and edamame beans with a dressing. I'll make an easy dessert, too, a real chocolate pudding using dried cocoa, almond milk and bittersweet chips.

Therapy dogs

May 8th, 2013 at 02:47 pm

I came across mention of a book recently, a first-person account of a woman and her therapy dog who visit nursing home patients. I looked it up on Amazon and just had to get it for my dad's longtime ex girlfriend, who has two dachshunds which are certified therapy dogs. They visit the local hospital, patients in their homes and hospice patients.

Then Amazon's clever marketing reeled me in as I saw on the order page they also had a book written by a man who owns 3 dachshunds, and the "life lessons" he's learned from them.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't do something like this since K. is an avid reader and who knows if she already had read the books, but both of these are new releases due out in mid-May. I could have waited til Christmas (I missed her birthday back in March) but again, I didn't want to run the risk of her getting the book before I had a chance to ship them to her.

K. was a nurse for many years, before she retired, and she's very devoted to the whole therapy dog thing. It's a big part of her life. And, she is a dachshund lover. So how could i NOT get these books for her?

To pay for the books, I used up most of this month's Amazon gift cards I earned for my participation in 2 online forums. I know she will enjoy them both.

The saga with the range hood continues. As you may remember reading here earlier, it was supposed to be installed yesterday, but it came out of the box with a big dent on the front, so they had to reorder. He had told me if it rains, I can do it tomorrow (today) morning, which would have been perfect as I don't have to return to work until 1 pm. But the shipment hasn't arrived as anticipated so now we're shooting for tomorrow morning, 9ish, which means I have to arrive late for work. I hope to stay after 5 to make up the lost time. If...and that's a big if, the guy gets here on time, it will only take 15 minutes to install. He already took the old one away, so now I have a big hole in the wall to the outside. It has only a flimsy vent to keep out the bugs, plus a towel I stuffed in there.

I have someone coming over in a little while to give me a price on fence repair/replacement. Hopefully it will be more the former than the latter, as I don't really want to spend more than $100 or so but I may have to. Plastic fence would be nice, but that would be even more money, I'm sure.

It's been raining intermittently, which is very good. We so needed the rain here.

On my way home from work I'll stop by Stop & Shop to pick up organic green pepper and celery so I can make my pasta/sun-dried tomato salad to serve as lunches for the rest of the week.

Before the rains come...

May 8th, 2013 at 12:20 am

I was running around like a crazy woman trying to get stuff done before the rain comes, late tonight. It's supposed to linger for a while.

I finished mowing the lawn. Check. I planted cucumbers, yellow squash, sunflowers and soybeans. Check. I ran to Home Depot to pick up my new mower blade and also 3 tomato plants. Check. Planted the tomato plants, put newspaper down around them and then put the lawn clippings over the newspaper. This is important, since without mulch, dirt splashes up on tomato plant leaves and causes that black spot fungus to spread, I put a healthy dose of ground up eggshells in the bottom of each hole, but I forgot to put a tinfoil collar around each stem to protect against cutworms.

The only thing i forgot to plant was zucchini squash.

The guy came to install the range hood. He got the old one out, brought the new one in, still in its box. As we took it out of the box, we saw there was a big dent in the front of it. Damn. No range hood today. However, he called into the office and that guy reordered the hood and should get it tomorrow morning. Since it will be raining they won't be installed the central air, which means he should be able to come and install my range hood. Cross my fingers.

I went to the dump and got more wood chips. The pile is really dwindling. Didn't have time to spread it.

This corkscrew willow is finally starting to take off. Its growth habit is very similar to a Harry Lauder's Walking stick except its a willow.

This is a shrub variety of a magnolia.

The crabapple are in bloom. I have three.

These are actually the flowers of two different crabapples that are side by side.

Tiny clusters of flowers are starting to form on the lily of the valley.

My peonies are also coming along, though no flowers yet.

I'm trying to grow lettuce in pots this year, as well as in the garden.

The strawberry plants I potted up two years ago finally have tiny flowers. Could I possibly get a berry before the birds??? Maybe so, since I keep these pots in my driveway. Have to watch out for chipmunks though.

Good news, sorta

May 7th, 2013 at 12:52 am

The ďgood news, sortaĒ refers to an email I got today from the woman I share my job with, that our employer has decided to keep us both working 20 hours a week through the summer.

The original plan, as spelled out to us when we were hired, was that weíd be furloughed for the summer months and brought back in the fall.

So at least my work hours/income will be reliable; Iíd been wondering what was going to happen when this particular source of income dried up in the summer, especially given that my unemployment is due to finally end in 2 weeks time. I guess they discovered they get an awful lot done with two $12 an hour people.

Do you sense the ambivalence? The job is a snooze and bores me silly. And my immediate manager annoys me. But itís helping me get by. (Never had I thought Iíd be here this longÖabout 5 months nowÖ.but anywayÖ.)
Speaking of incomeÖ

I spent the bulk of today at Yale-New Haven Hospital to take part in a clinical study looking at gender differences in how people respond to food cravings. I had to be there at 7:30 am without having had breakfast. Basically, they starved me and then put a bunch of tempting food in front of me while I was very, very hungry, didnít let me distract myself by watching TV or doing anything, and then wanted to see if I could keep from eating when given a financial incentive to do so (of course I could, Iím a Saving Advicer!)

They were drawing my blood every 15 minutes for a 2 hour period and had me answering questionnaires about how I felt. It was very boring. They said my blood pressure was very good, and in fact it kept dropping while I was there. But I earned $145, plus they paid for my parking, which is a real pain in New Haven. Between that and the one-way streets, I keep forgetting why I donít like driving in there.

While I was there, I remembered how the last time I stayed at Yale New HavenÖa world-class teaching hospital, mind youÖI was there for surgery and wound up with an infection that extended my stay. Of the dozens of nurses, aides and other assorted personnel who made their way to my room, I remember that only ONE washed her hands at the little sink just inside my door, despite prominent signage there that all should do so.

So this time Iíd forgotten to check to see if my nurse was following protocol. When she left for lunch, a 2nd nurse took over, and this time I made a point to see what sheíd do. The door to my room was closed. I noticed when she walked in that she was wearing gloves and she came over with her little tray and prepared to take my blood. I said, arenít you supposed to put on a sterile set of gloves before taking my blood? She said, oh, I just did. I said yeah, but you had to touch the doorknob. She didnít say anything but she didnít look happy. She complied. I explained how Iíd gotten an infection years earlier at Yale-New Haven and so I was probably more aware of the problem than many. She said, ďUnderstood.Ē But I mean, címon! Patients should not have to tell nurses why itís important.

After that, I made a point to check what she did, and then what my original nurse did when she returned from lunch. Each time, they put on their new gloves in front of me, so I was satisfied. (Although one time the first nurse put on the gloves and then proceeded to write something with a pen with the gloved hand, which Iím sure contaminated the glove.) You canít be too careful! Especially when I remember reading in the fine print of what I had to sign to be in this study was that if I was in any way injured during the study that they would treat me, but that the cost would be on me!

When I got home from Yale, I got a call from the registrar of voters, who wants me to work next Tuesday in our townís second budget vote. I wouldnít have bothered to call her if she hadnít called me, becus this is another thing Iím ambivalent about. Because itís an incredibly long, 14-hour day, from 5:15 am to 8 pm at night! But again, I hate to pass up a chance to make money. From this Iíll make $175. It comes out to about $12 an hour.

I mowed the lawn this afternoon, knowing weíre in for a period of rainy weather (much needed) starting on Wednesday, after which everything around here will really start sprouting.

Tomorrowís chores mostly revolve around yard work. I need to pick up a new mower blade at Home Depot. Need to finish mowing, and then do weed-whacking. Need to finish planting the rest of my veggie seeds and run to Agway to get tomato plants. Would be very good to get everything in before the soaking rains expected for rest of week. Iím also supposed to have my new range hood installed, though Iím annoyed they havenít called to let me know when tomorrow. So Iíll have to call them. And work the rest of my schedule around it. Want to get more free mulch from dump while supplies last.

Only the Nose Knows

May 4th, 2013 at 11:08 pm

So, since my visit to the pulmonologist, I've been doing a prescription nasal spray twice daily and a real adventure: a nasal wash. AKA, a netti pot, or in my case, a netti bottle.

It sure is a strange sensation to squirt 8 oz. of saline water up your nostril and have it come out the other nostril! Hope that's not "too much information," but I had never heard of such a thing.

The doc suspects I have post nasal drip (even though I feel nothing), and this is one way of seeing if he's right. If, in less than 3 weeks, the combo spray and wash lessens my cough, then I can feel free to cancel the spirometry test. (I think that's what it is.)

If it's not "silent" post nasal drip, he said, it could be a mild form of asthma.

This could be one of those cases where the treatment is worse than the symptom. Just for the heck of it, I've been keeping a "cough diary" to record how frequently I actually cough, and to see if it lessens over time. I do seem to cough more in the a.m. than p.m., which again would indicate post nasal drip since i guess all that stuff collects overnight.

Despite the wierdness of it all, I prefer the nasal wash becus it's relatively benign, vs the nasal spray which comes with a long laundry list of warnings/possible side effects. However, it's a nuisance to prepare becus you're supposed to use distilled water or absent that, boil water and then let it cool.

I've been watching the hummingbird feeder but still no sign of the hummingbirds' return. The same ones return to the same summer spot year after year, and their absence makes me wonder if they died. Hummers live for a few years in the wild.

I also put out my copper bird bath but I believe the solar pump is kaput. It was always rather fussy and easily clogged. It is lovely when it runs, though. I may get a new one if I can remember/figure out where I got it from.

I planted some more basil today, and the lettuce and peas are coming up, but very tiny. Our frost-free date is not for another 1.5 weeks, but I've check the weather report and there's no sign of nighttime frosts so I think we're home free. Tomorrow I'm going to plant my beans, squash, zucchini, cukes, etc. I may also go to Agway for tomato seedlings.

I made a double batch of berry bread today using frozen organic berries I get from BJs. I saw English sparrows nest-building in my 2nd bluebird box so I chased them away and took down the nest. It needed a good washing anyway. I hope that by keeping it down for up to a week, the sparrows will move on and then I'll try re-erecting the box in a more open area of my front yard. I just don't have that much room, but I think it was too close to a brushy area before, so it always attracted wrens.

I did a bit more mulching today using free mulch I got at the landfill. The yard looks great, but it's very early in the season. I need to get more mulch at one time or make more trips to the landfill, but they're not open again til Tuesday now. Once a week is not cutting it; I'll be mulching til Labor Day at that rate! I can bring home about one wheelbarrow full in my car at one time.

My daffodils are already spent, and the tulips and hyacinths are not far behind. The dogwood (I'm down to 6 now, all white, sadly) and lavender ground phlox are in bloom and the azalea and crab-apple look about to burst open.

Killer wren

May 1st, 2013 at 03:23 pm

Last year I remember reading about how vicious wrens can be, but until today, I hadn't really witnessed it.

First off, I like wrens. These are the common everyday house wren I'm speaking of. They have such a melodic call.

They nest in either or sometimes both of my 2 nest boxes each year, although in recent years, I've had bluebirds who occasionally get to nest in one of them, like last year. I would say 80% of the time its wrens that end up with the boxes and 20% of the time its bluebirds. (Once I had an English sparrow but I took the box down rather than have them nest there.)

I have a decent view of the box in the backyard from my sunroom. I was just out there when I noticed a wren popped inside and kept sticking its head up and out the hole, with a small piece of straw in its bill, which it unceremoniously dumped each time. It was clearly trying to clear out another bird's nest, something that didn't surprise me as I had seen a male bluebird hanging out around that box just yesterday.

However, I know that many male birds begin building more than one nest to entice the female; the female will ultimately choose which one she wants. I figured the bluebirds could still take the box in in the front yard.

Then I saw the wren fly down to the ground below the box and raise its head up and down rapidly in a staccato movement. I saw a flash of blue. I jumped to my feet and ran out to scare it off. But it was too late. The wren had pierced a bluebird egg with its bill. I saw the shell of what must have been a second egg on the ground.

The male bluebird was by minutes later; it must have seen the broken shells on the ground because I heard a distressing, chattering call as it flew away.

I chased the wren away twice more when it returned to the box, but obviously I can't keep that up and if the wren wants to nest there, I guess it will.

Very sad. I have no shortage of wrens around here, but it is a pure pleasure and a privilege to see flashes of brilliant, indigo blue around my yard all summer when the bluebirds are nesting.

As for the front box, I had noticed bluebirds in that area quite early on but I wanted to insert some fine mesh wire on the bottom of the box to prevent a certain kind of flying insect from laying its larvae there. The larvae crawl up and attach themselves to the baby bluebirds' legs and are parasitic, sometimes causing the death of the baby bluebird. The wire mesh prevents the larvae from crawling upward to the nest. When i went to insert the wire mesh, I was surprised to see an already half-built bluebird nest, and I'm afraid I partially destroyed it when I inserted the wire mesh. I haven't seen bluebirds there since. So inadvertently, I may have scared off the bluebirds from that box.

I was thinking of moving the nest in back so its further away from the scrubby, brushy areas that wrens favor, and more in an open area, which bluebirds favor. But there aren't many open areas of my yard where i don't have to mow weekly, so that would represent a disturbance to the bluebirds. And, I'm not sure if there are any more eggs in that box. If so, I don't want to move the box as the bluebirds might not return to it, but as it is, the wren will likely dispatch of it anyway.

Lamb Stew Recipe for Lucky Robin!

May 1st, 2013 at 11:17 am

I have made this for years. I love lamb, and this is a great recipe. If you try it, let me know how you like it.

The recipe is super easy, and I'm going to give it to you from memory. There are only a few ingredients.

Slice up 2 cups of carrots and 2 onions and saute in olive oil for a few minutes. It's not necessary to brown them.

In the meantime, prepare a pound or so of lamb stew meat, cut up into chunks, with fat removed. Actually, any kind of lamb will do, but the lamb stew chunks you buy at the store are easiest to prepare. Put them in a plastic bag with 2 tablespoons of flour and a tablespoon or so of rosemary, salt and pepper. Shake and turn upside down to distribute the flour and coat all the lamb chunks with the mixture.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the carrot and onion from pan and use a bit more olive oil over medium heat to sear and seal the lamb chunks on each side. This should only take a few minutes.

Add 1.25 cups of chicken stock to the pan and return the carrots/onions. Bring to a boil, then transfer to oven to cook at 325 for 2 hours.

That's pretty much it! It's hard to mess up this recipe and I often adjust it according to what I have on hand as far as quantities.