Weight loss YTD = a bust. Starting weight: 146. Pounds lost year-to-date: 0.
I've been making a concerted effort to exercise more, and recorded nearly 11 hours of walking and snow shoveling this month. Most of my walking is done during my lunch break, which is just a half hour. Obviously not enough.
I finally had my first performance review at the new job. She had nothing bad to say. Afterwards, I just wanted to confirm that I wouldn't be eligible for a pay raise since I've only been perm 6.5 months. So I sent her a quick email, expecting her to confirm that and to my surprise she said no, I would be eligible for a merit pay increase but then she quickly said don't expect too much, they are usually pretty small.
I am used to negotiating pay with my direct manager, but apparently the way it works here is that managers are notified in February of the total pool of money they have, and then I'm guessing they have discretion as to how they want to divvy it up. I won't actually see the pay raise until March (which I don't think is very fair to employees). Because I wasn't expecting anything, I'd be thrilled to get 2%, which i think is about what I can expect.
I'm pretty happy with my new Roku, although there is a lot more TV that you have to pay for than free TV. I'm already paying $8 for Netflix and don't really want to shell out more, but it can be confusing looking at different channels that treat customers so differently. Some, for instance, offer maybe 4 or 5 episodes of a program free, but then once you're "hooked," you have to pay to watch further episodes. CBS News appears to be totally free, both to watch the news and also the various news programs like 48 hours, 60 minutes and so on. So that's a big plus for me. PBS also offers a fair amount of free stuff that I can see, although right now they're offering the current episode of Downton Abbey free, but since I never saw this series, I want to start at Season 1 but can't find it on that channel.
I have yet to find American Idol available anywhere, for pay or for free. And I don't seem able to watch truly local news coming from any of the big CT stations, just NY and Boston.
Despite all that, I've already decided to get a 2nd LED TV with a Roku stick which you can just plug in the back of the TV. I ordered a highly rated 28" Samsung which will become my new bedroom TV. My current bedroom TV has just a 20" diameter, so it will be a step up for me with a bigger screen. The TV that's in the bedroom now I will move down into my kitchen, so I can watch CBS News as I make my dinner, like I used to do a long time ago. There's a little nook in between the upper and lower cabinets where it just fits with a half inch to spare, but I will have to find another place for the microwave and my cookbooks.
In addition to Netflix, CBS News and a few other things you probably never heard of (Breaking Boston and Dickering Down Under), I've been watching a lot of the home shopping channels. I see HSN, my preferred channel, now has a 2nd channel.
Today I'm expecting a delivery from them of some cute little booties (hopefully should fit with a wide size) and a nifty handheld steam cleaner you can use to clean all around the house. I hope it will help me keep a cleaner house as housekeeping has never been something I've really kept up on, though I would love a cleaner home.
I updated my net worth in my profile on the side; although my investments didn't grow much, my home value did, according to Zillow, so I am inching along on the way to a cool $1 million.
Archive for January, 2015
Weight loss YTD = a bust. Starting weight: 146. Pounds lost year-to-date: 0.
Much to my relief, we are not getting the walloping other parts of the Northeast are getting (like Boston and the Cape).
I shoveled about 5 inches of snow this morning, and when it all ends tonight, I'll probably have another 5 or 6 to shovel.There's another pile growing down at driveway bottom where snow plow packs it in. Not fun, but not nearly as calamitous as predicted.
I am working from home today though.
Amazon had a cool offer on their site; buy a $50 gift card for whoever you want (including yourself) and you get a $10 gift card credit. I did it yesterday.
Not sure if you can tell from this picture, taken from inside, but the snow has begun falling. (The snow already on the lawn is from Saturday.) Note the blacktop of my driveway is still visible; it's just beginning to stick. The road is also largely clear.
The governor has ordered all state roads closed at 9 p.m. tonight and mass transit to end at 8 p.m. They are using words like "historic" to describe this snowfall.
I'll keep you posted with more photos!
I always feel better when I feel a sense of control over events, like the coming nor'easter. Now they're saying 2 to 3 feet!
After Storm Sandy, I actually made a list of steps to do if a power outage looks like a possibility. There are a lot of small things that I could easily forget. So here's what I've done ahead of the storm that's supposed to start around 11 a.m. today:
1. I made the decision to work from home today (and possibly for most of the week). I have my laptop up and running and can do just as much from home as I can at office. I also don't relish driving in snow, which I would be doing if I went in. So, at possible risk of annoying my boss, I've decided to stay home.
2. I have 2 small dinky LED flashlights but am recharging batteries for another flashlight plus my short wave radio.
3. I've filled up a few pitchers with water that would be used for drinking, brushing my teeth or even washing dishes if I lost power for a few days. They say you should have a gallon per person per day, so I will have to scrounge around for more containers to fill.
4. I've turned down the temperature in my freezer more, to make it colder. I haven't adjusted the temp in the fridge becus when I've done that in the past I ruined some salad greens. Honestly, since I've gone vegan, there is not too much in the fridge that would be sacrificed. I'm eating the rest of my salad greens today for lunch and the rest of my perishables, namely almond milk and my workweek lunches for the rest of the week, could be stashed in my cooler, topped off with snow and put on the front stoop.
The freezer has no meats or fish, just frozen veggies and some bean burritos.
5. I've got the phone number for the power company handy should I need to call them to report an outage. Actually, I've got the number memorized.
6. I have my 2 snow shovels outside, 1 at the front porch and 1 down by the garage. If I lose power, rather than let lots of cold air in the house when I go thru the front door, I'll exit out thru the basement into the garage, and that's where the 2nd snow shovel is stationed.
7. Car is safely tucked inside the garage.
8. I didn't really go food shopping this weekend, but i have plenty of canned beans, peanut butter, bread, granola bars and fruit to get by.
9. I am wearing my watch, something I rarely do but it really helps not to have to search for things, possibly in the dark.
10. I'm also prepared to fetch some of my wireless solar garden lights outside to bring inside to the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and my office where I spend most of my time. It's not bright enough to read by but I won't have to grope around with just the flashlights.
11. Gas tank is filled and I have some cash (as well as checks) should credit card things be not working in event of power outage.
12. I've checked weather.com's hourly forecast and can see that the peak winds will begin late tonight, into the overnight and through Tuesday. So tonight before I go to bed, I will crank up the heat to the never-before-experienced 70 degrees in the house. (As I may have mentioned before, I don't have a fireplace.) The theory being, if I lost power, the somewhat higher temps would keep the house warm that much longer. The cats should love it.
13. My cell phone is fully charged.
14. If I do lose power, once I have the driveway shoveled, and if the roads are sort of passable, I could drive the 2 miles to the town center where they have let people camp out in the large corridor in the past to recharge their electronics and use their portable devices. I could conceivably get some work done there, to help avoid having to use a personal or vacation day if I can't otherwise do work. The local Starbucks is a bit closer, maybe a 25-minute walk without snow, but with the amount they're forecasting, I don't think it's doable. I can't think of any other locales nearby that would have power when I didn't. Maybe the library, but they'd probably be closed.
I suppose a generator would make most of these things unnecessary. I worried a bit about the welfare of one of my next door neighbors, a recently widowed elderly woman, but I know that before her husband died, they installed a generator, so she should be fine.
One other thing I'm a little concerned about is the roof over my family room and attached garage. It's a fairly shallow grade and during other storms with wet, heavy snow, we've had problems with roof cave-ins, mostly of old barns. I have no idea how sturdy this roof is; it was built I believe in the 1990s. After one past heavy storm, I hired some guys to shovel snow off the roof but they damaged the roof shingles, probably becus they weren't roofers. I won't do that again, now that I have a roof I just put on 2 years ago. I do have a roof rake; I can't remember if it's long enough to get to that part of the roof without climbing a step ladder, which is a tough proposition if there are several feet of snow on the ground.
If you can think of anything I've missed, please let me know, no matter how little it may seem. I've weathered two storms where I lost power for I believe 3 days one time, and 5 the other, and it was no picnic.
There's a major storm coming, and Connecticut is in the bulls eye. I hadn't been aware this was definitely happening since I've been lolling around this afternoon watching TV with my new Roku, but then I got a robo call from the power company telling me to get ready.
From Patch: The NWS stated a “crippling and potentially historic” blizzard is headed our way late Monday into Tuesday. Snow accumulations of 20-30 inches are expected with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. I'm worried, of course, about losing power.
I'm not sure whether or not to go in to work tomorrow morning. Looks like a 30% chance of snow showers in the morning, which will transition into 100% chance by around 1 p.m. I'd rather not drive in the snow if I don't have to, but I could be home both Tuesday and Wednesday as well.
I just talked to my friend Ron, who provided reassurance and told me frozen pipes are nothing to worry about because outdoor temps won't get down below, well, 12 degrees at night, around 20 daytime.
He reminded me that if I really thought frozen pipes were imminent, I could shut off the main water valve coming into the house. Then, even if my pipes froze and then burst when they dethawed, I would only have a small flood, not an unending one. I guess that's some reassurance.
Well, anyway, I do hope I don't lose power. Thank God I brought the laptop home from work on Friday. I made it a rule that, regardless of the weather forecast, that I would ALWAYS take the laptop home on a Friday night, because a lot can change with the weather in 2 days, and this is a pretty good example of that.
Another bad thing about losing power is that if i lose it for the bulk of the day, I might have to use a vacation day for it since I can't work without the laptop. Even if it's not my fault.
On the bright side, I did buy a handheld Polti steam cleaner on HSN for $60. It has all these attachments you can use to clean all sorts of stuff. Since I'm a lousy housekeeper, this could make the job much easier.
OMG. I hooked up the Roku 1 all by myself and got it all working. AMAZING.
I am not a tech geek.
I didn't even need the wireless router I bought since I already have DSL with AT&T. So I can return that and get my $20 back.
I started out trying to get the router up and running but when I plugged the Ethernet cable into the AT&T modem (none available on my computer tower), I noticed I lost my Internet connection on my desktop, and the router was not correctly working anyway. (I think becus I needed a 2nd Ethernet wire and i tried using a regular phone wire, which sort of plugged into the slot but didn't "click."
I called my friend who wasn't much help long distance and we got 5 inches of snow today, so I knew I was more or less on my own.
So after unplugging the wireless router and making sure my computer network connection was again running, I decided to just try hooking up the Roku directly into to the TV. (I had been under the impression I needed to buy a new wireless router becus that's what they said I needed on the Roku website, but I guess they were assuming I was starting from scratch, without any pre-existing DSL.)
Luckily, the Roku, once plugged into the TV, searched and found my AT&T connection and from there it was a cinch. I just had to register on Roku and type in my modem password and then set up my channels.
I'm so happy! All I wanted was to be able to watch Netflix on my TV (not the computer) in my bedroom, but now I've gotten so much more with a bunch of apps and many free videos. If I want to watch a paid movie or show, it looks like it's $1, so no biggie.
Welcome to the 21st century, Patient Saver! As always, I'm a little late to the table.
I shoveled about one-third of my driveway. It took me about 40 minutes. I'll do the rest maybe later today or tomorrow. And now that I've done 3 loads of laundry and vacuumed and changed the bedsheets, I may just pamper myself by watching some free daytime TV, something I never do!
I've added a bunch of apps to "My Channels" but what I'd really like to find is some live news. I have to check out the channels. I know I have HSN and CBS and Fox and I think ABC but I'm not sure if it's just a few shows or actual news. I guess it wouldn't be local news but even national would be ok.
Weather has once again demanded that I reorder my weekend plans.
Here's the view looking out my office window to the front yard.
And here's the view of my driveway:
The white strip to the left of that smaller evergreen is the driveway. You can see the top of a telephone pole to the right of the tree.
I hope I can get at least a few of my running around errands done tomorrow, but first I'll have to shovel the driveway. Snow won't end til tonight, they say.
In the meantime, I need to do my laundry, change the bedsheets and vacuum. And since my Roku 1 and wireless router were delivered, I REALLY hope I can hook up my TV to the Roku and wireless so I can watch Netflix on the TV in my bedroom instead of my computer here in my office.
I had researched getting a new TV with HDMI cable capability or even a smart TV, but the Samsung TV I liked was $280, and so I figured I might be able to get by just spending about $75 on the Roku 1 (designed for people with older TVs with the older "composite" wires of red, yellow and green plugs). The TV I'm using is ONLY 7 years old and I always liked the picture. I only had to pay about $30 for the 2 items because I redeemed my Discover card points at Amazon. Very cool.
Maybe someday I'll catch up on all technology has to offer, but for now, this could be the ticket.
Oops. Someone turned away just as I snapped his photo.
I've been thinking of little day trips I'd like to make in the coming months. One is to the Marsh Botanic Gardens, which is really a group of 5 or 6 greenhouses at Yale. They give little tours there, and I always like to visit greenhouses or other botanic gardens in the dead of winter. It's so uplifting.
Also on my calendar is the annual cacti and succulent sale put on by a club in my area. That's not til April, but I think this year I'd really like to add to my collection with some interesting plants. That being said, my aloe and some other succulents are not looking so hot these days; they are so sun-starved. They're crowded in my upstairs bathroom which, with its south and westward-facing windows, is the sunniest room in the house.
Finally, I'd like to visit HORSE of Ct, a group nearby that rehabilitates abused or injured horses. (http://www.horseofct.org/) They often have open houses and I'd like to visit someday soon.
I have not yet been able to donate food to the town animal shelter, as I completely forgot about it when picking up a case of cat food at BJs, and once I break down the box and empty all the cans out, it's no longer convenient to transport. But it's top of mind now so next time, I will pick up an extra case.
I see that Citi is now providing FICO credit scores to card holders. Mine is 809. I've had that card since 2012 but now it will be harder to give it up. I AM anxious to unload my Susan B. Komen BOA card, just as soon as I can earn the minimum $25 to redeem points. Right now I'm at about $23 in points so maybe just one more payment cycle.
Ahh, retirement....It will be strange to arrive at some day in the not-too-distant future when I am no longer earning an income, but spending down savings to live on.
After spending a lifetime saving/earning/saving, my fear is that I'll be overly frugal like my mother is and not really enjoy my life as I could.
I try to imagine how it will feel to be officially, fully retired. How will it feel to have the knowledge that, aside from Social Security, I have no source of income? How will it feel to know that whatever pot of money I have to live on is all I'll have for the rest of my life to support my standard of living, and that I may never earn income again?
It will feel like the die is cast and there is no changing that.
Of course there is p/t work, but p/t work is often low-paid work and might not make a material difference in one's standard of living.
Will I feel comfortable making discretionary spending purchases if I am no longer earning an income?
For instance, I have really wanted to get a new couch for a long time. I have a 19-year old couch I bought used, believe it or not, and while it's in okay shape, the colors are kind of bright and hard to match things too.
I've been putting off the purchase because, well, I still have my 2 cats, and I'd freak if they got in the habit of scratching it. They don't really scratch the current couch now, but if they happen to jump on it, they do dig their claws into it.
So I'd rather defer the couch purchase for as long as possible, because each passing year is that much less scratching.
I have already made up my mind that once these cats go, I will not be getting more animals. (Of course, that's what I said when Sitka died 5 years ago but I was so miserable that 3 days later, I was at the cat shelter...it was the only way I knew I could console myself.)
But I've gotten tired of lugging home cases of canned cat food, cleaning out messy/smelly litter boxes and then lugging heavy bags of dirty cat litter to the transfer station. Not to mention the constant hair all over my clothes and the house, and my inability to have nice drapes, rugs, furniture, etc. And let's see, last year I spent $900 on the cats, a not inconsiderable expense.
I absolutely love my cats but I really feel my sense of obligation toward them ties me down and prevents me from being more social and doing other things. This is a really terrible thing to say. I haven't traveled much in the past 19 years because I always worry about them being on their own. Luther is often bored silly as it is, and then he gets destructive.
So, back to the couch....while I feel very comfortable buying a possibly $1,000 couch now because I'm working and making what I consider good money, I wonder if I still would want to spend such a large wad of cash once I am "retired?"
Hmm. I don't know. It's just a different mental outlook.
Today is a dreary, rainy day. It was icy this morning and I heard there were lots of accidents on the roads. I finally ventured out around 3 to the local supermarket as I've decided on 3 recipes to try out tonight and tomorrow for my workweek lunches. Tonight I'll be making a pesto pizza with leeks and mushrooms and tomorrow it's a sweet potato casserole and something else.
The only other things I'm doing tomorrow, which I have off due to MLK Day, is
1. Getting my physical results at the doctor's (how low is my cholesterol now that I've gone vegan?)
2. I want to use up a movie gift card and see The Imitation Game at a matinee
3. Go for a long walk, hopefully
4. Wash the salt off my car.
5. Dream of spring.
Last year I was funding a traditional 401k from my paycheck. Today I got my first paycheck after having switched from funding the (pre-tax) traditional 401k to an (after tax) Roth 401k.
My net bi-weekly paycheck has remained almost exactly the same, at about $1204! I thought I would net much more because I reduced the overall contribution from 25% to 22.5%. Yet I'm paying an extra $350 in taxes each paycheck just because I'm having to pay taxes upfront on the Roth 401k contributions..
I was paying just $476 in taxes per paycheck with the traditional 401k contributions as opposed to $825 now!
Still, I'll be netting $2709 a month in pay and with my expenses sometimes as low as $2,000, I should have sufficient cushion.
I wanted to put more money into a Roth account as I am quite top-heavy now with much more $ in traditional IRAs, and after having read a number of articles about withdrawal strategies that minimize taxes, I know I need more money in Roth accounts to do that.
Say you know you'll need to withdrawal a certain amount a year for living expenses in retirement, like $40,000. By being aware of tax bracket cut-offs, you could make sure you stay completely in a lower tax bracket by simply withdrawing whatever excess you need over the lower tax bracket limit from your Roth account. (In this case, the 15% tax bracket peaks at $37,450, so you'd withdraw the overage of $40,000, or $2,550, from your Roth.) So by withdrawing a combination of both traditional and Roth IRA/401k monies, you can minimize your taxes; over the years, it could become a significant amount. Of course, it also depends on where your income needs fall in the bracket and how much you need to live on. I mean, the 25% tax bracket goes from $37,451 all the way to $90,750. For me, knowing my annual income needs are right around $40,000, perhaps up to $45,000 if I travel, I would want to have some Roth money to withdraw to avoid bumping myself into a higher tax bracket on anything over $37,450.
Now I suppose MonkeyMama or Dido will tell you you'd be taxed at the 15% bracket up to $37,450 and only the $2,550 would be taxed at the higher 25% bracket. But if my income needs were higher, say $45,000, then we're talking paying 15% taxes instead of 25% on $7,550. A little extra attention to details would be worth it to me.
Around the holidays I bought myself a very nice mug from Stash Tea. I'm a big tea drinker so my mugs are important to me. This one had a rabbit in a woodland on the outside, and the image was repeated in miniature on the inside.
Well, I just don't know what happened to this mug. I've looked absolutely everywhere for it. At one point I had brought this mug in to the office and kept it there as my office mug. Now it's possible I left it on the desk before I locked up my drawer at the end of the work day; it's where I usually store personal possessions. So while I think it's unlikely it was stolen (becus I've left out so many other more valuable things) it's the only conclusion I can come up with, simply becus i can't find this mug anywhere.
I spent more time thinking about it than probably was worth it, but since i got out of work at 3 today, I had to scoot over to a gift shop in town where I had seen the same mug. I was hoping they might be having an after-Xmas sale and I could just buy it again. Turns out the mug wasn't on sale, but i bought it anywhere, plus the matching mug with a fox on it. (I like woodland animals I see in my own backyard.)
Although they weren't cheap, they cost about the same as they would have cost on the Stash Tea website, after you factor in shipping. So I got 2 mugs I really like. Murphy's Law being what it is, I will probably find the original bunny mug, but maybe not. Maybe someone took a liking to it and made off with it. I hope that's not the case and i sure would like to know one way or the other. I need closure.
I was delighted to fill up my oil tank today to the tune of $2.15 a gallon for 166 gallons. I haven't paid less than that since March 2009. I charged it on my new AARP card, easily hitting the $500 spend target (I only had $200 more to go), thereby earning the $100 credit.
I watched an interesting Netflix documentary tonight called Living on one Dollar. It follows 4 college buddies and economics majors at Claremont McKenna College who travel to Guatemala to live in rural poverty in a small village for 2 months on just $1 a day, which is what the average Guatemalan lives on. Wow, that was a long sentence.
I was so inspired by this simple film that I made a donation at their website, livingononedollar.org. Thanks to underwriting by Whole Foods Market, 100% of donations go to help Guatemalans through either education or microfinancing, which they talked about a lot in the film.
I'm happy that tomorrow is casual Friday, it's Friday, it's payday and I don't work on Monday.
One of my workmates was sick all through Christmas and still sounded sick last week, in her voice. She was debating whether or not to keep her follow-up doc appt and I urged her to do so. I'm glad she did, because it turns out she has walking pneumonia. She is one of those people who feels an exaggerated sense of responsibility to work late hours and do everything, be everything, never slowing down. I hope she gets well soon.
I've been extremely busy at work this week with 2 large projects and 3 different people coming at me with stuff I need to write. I was feeling a lot of anxiety becus at one point i felt i didn't know what was going on, didn't feel on top of things as i usually do, and was afraid my boss was going to say something to me because I failed to attend an 8:30 a.m. conference call. Truth be told, I had worked from home the day before due to bad weather, and I totally forgot about the call the next morning. My usual hours are 9 to 5:30 p.m ., so I would have needed to get to work earlier to make that call.
My boss never mentioned it, and she was on the call. I'm not sure why but I'm relieved. It's possible it's because she's so extremely busy herself. Or maybe she didn't feel it was that important. Or maybe she didn't expect me to attend a call outside my normal work hours, though I've done that any number of times before. Maybe she will bring it up at my first performance review at this job January 27. Makes me nervous just thinking about it.
Scary thing happened to my friend Michael, the one I went out to dinner with last weekend. He finally got around to filing his tax return for last year (he had an extension) and his tax preparer informed him that someone else already filed a tax return in his name. Tax fraud! Michael vaguely remembers giving out his SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER to someone on the phone who identified himself as a jobs recruiter, as Michael is job hunting. He didn't realize he should NEVER EVER give that out unless he knows who he's talking to and there's a darn good reason for doing so.
He's set up with credit monitoring service now, but that's like closing the barn door after the horse is let out. Makes me worry about ID theft myself. It happens so often.
Umm, after 2 weeks, I've lost 1 pound on my weight loss plan. I guess by now I'd be kicked off Biggest Losers.
I didn't take any giant steps but did a series of very small steps that could perhaps said to be the reason why I lost 1 pound. Or, it could be totally random and gained back next time I step on the scale.
I've tried to not eat 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate at lunchtime every day. I also have been trying to walk more frequently at lunchtime, even in the cold. Also, I've avoided going to the office cafe at the tail end of the work week when I run out my homemade lunches; I am sure those lunches are chock full of fat and calories.
I've noticed lately that Luther is especially bored at home alone. When he ignored the string I tossed in front of him and watched the scrunched up paper ball but did not fetch it, I knew I had to do something. This time of year they cannot go into the sunroom and catch a breeze, hear the birds sing or see local wildlife up close and personal. There is really nothing to do except eat, sleep, poop and fight with each other. So I spent $50 on the Cat Scratcher Lounge by Pet Fusion. It looks like this:
It had been on my Amazon wish list for about a year, but I couldn't bring myself to spend the money on it. Finally, I did.
It's all corrugated cardboard and I was intrigued by the many rave reviews. I poured some catnip on and inside it as an enticement, and while they indulged in the catnip for about 15 minutes, I can't say it was the cat lounge that drew their attention. Luther had just as much fun with the long box the cat lounge came in after I opened up both ends so he could crawl through it like a tunnel.
We'll give it more time, and a few more scratching lessons to give them the idea. Waldo is very attached to the vertical scratch post downstairs.
I had a nice dinner with my friend Michael last weekend. I broke my vegan diet to have some chicken there, and I also had a 2nd meal of it as leftovers I brought home. I decided to treat him since his contract job ended, so the bill was $60.