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Archive for May, 2017

For Frugal Texan

May 31st, 2017 at 04:05 am



Thanks for your suggestion of a treat ball to keep Luther occupied. I wasn't familiar with them but found them on Amazon.

I may get one. Luther would love them as he adores dry food (he now gets exclusively wet food), although Waldo has no teeth so crunching on dry food would be tough on his gums. Maybe I could try using just soft treats.

Luther enjoyed watching a dozen different videos of cats using the treat toy. He seemed very interested. Smile

Sunday relaxation

May 29th, 2017 at 11:11 am

It's a chilly and rainy Monday. I couldn't quite work up the enthusiasm to continue painting the bookshelves for the 3rd day straight, so I gave myself a break as it's kind of dark to do so anyway.

Instead, I:

1. Did 3 loads of laundry.
2. Changed the hummingbird sugar water.
3. Wasted time on Facebook.
4. Whipped up a batch of granola.
5. Did my monthly expense report.
6. Tidied up.

There have been unwelcome signs that Luther is getting "bored" again now that I'm away all day at work. He scratched off some wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. I found his tooth marks on my copper spoon plant and he knocked off a small cactus in the sun room. Bad, bad Luther!

I now have a pair of wave petunias hanging on either side of the front door...nice!



Happy Memorial Day

May 28th, 2017 at 05:28 pm

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.

Today was Day 2 of painting the bookshelves. I worked on it 2 hours this morning and 2 hours this afternoon. It's very tiring. My arm was killing me using the paintbrush all that time, although with the roller it was better because I can use the roller in my right hand as well as my left.

I was wearing a respirator the whole time because the paint stinks. It's hard to breath thru the respirator. I opened the windows and had a box fan running so the cats wouldn't have to breathe it all day.

I'm only about halfway done and it's possible I'll even need to buy another gallon of paint!

Aside from painting, last night dad and I went out to dinner at a fusion Chinese/Japanese place. Dad's really into good food, and he remembered 30 years ago having a delicious bass dinner at a Chinese place where they served the whole fish, head and all, on the plate, and he wanted to re-experience that again. Well, they had it on the menu and he seemed to enjoy it. Except for all the fish bones.

After dinner we stopped at Starbucks, as we sometimes do, and got something to drink, then drove to a nearby park to sit in the car and talk til it got dark. I'm so thankful to have all this quality time with dad.

This afternoon during my painting break my friend R. stopped by to say hello and to check out the bookshelves. He invited me to dinner with him and another couple in a few weeks that I have never met. So that will be fun and a break from my usual routine.

His cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. He has started an immunotherapy that involves taking his blood, treating it somehow and then putting it back in him. It costs $93,000 (it's covered) and only extends life by 4 months, he said.

When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was very fatalistic about it. Now that the drugs he was on no longer work and his PSA is rising again, he has started seeing a naturopath (at my urging) and is taking a ton of supplements and trying to eat better. He says if he doesn't see results in 6 months' time, he's going back to bacon, burgers and pizza. He probably has a year to live and I don't know much longer he will be feeling well enough to go out and socialize. I wish there was something I could do. It's a terrible thing. I will lose my oldest friend and I don't want him to suffer.

Somehow I found the energy after painting to go to Trader Joe's as I'm vegan and I'm out of beans! I bought about 20 cans of kidney, chickpea and white beans; the cashier must've thought I was crazy.

I hope to possibly finish the bookshelves tomorrow although that would be a tall task.

I may hit BJs tomorrow morning first thing before starting the painting again.

Washing out paintbrushes and rollers is such a royal pain; I'm trying something new this time. My dad left his Starbucks cup with lid in my car, and I put the used paintbrush in there, filled it with water just to the top of the bristles (don't want to rust out the metal part), then widened the hole you normally drink out and slid the handle of the paintbrush thru that, and closed the lid on the cup with the paintbrush in it.

Then I tool the 6-inch wide roller and put it in a plastic ziploc bag. Both techniques seemed to keep the paint moist during my break of a few hours, and I hope it will work overnight. If not, I have a spare roller and maybe I'd just use one of my not-as-good used paintbrushes to finish. With the roller, I'm seeing much better results with the paint job where I just use the brush to cut out all the corners and borders of the shelves and then use the roller to fill in the center and make everything uniform.

Probably more info than you care to read about painting techniques but this is what I'm up to this weekend.

Exciting genealogy news!

May 26th, 2017 at 04:30 pm

I haven't spent nearly any time at all on genealogy stuff since I was so intent on making money, first at the education job and now at the marketing agency.

So I was totally surprised to get an email from Pastor Anders from the small German town where my grandfather grew up.

I had asked him a long time ago to take a photo of the address he had uncovered as being the family home when my grandfather was born in 1905. At that time, he sent me a photo which simply showed a few modern-looking single car garages evidently being used by private home owners, with a steep slope behind it. Whatever residential building had been there, was there no more.

Tonight he provided me some details about grandpa's home, and even better, some photos he obtained from the city archives!

Interestingly, what I assume was a multi-family home was built in 1884 as an extension to an adjacent building, which was built in 1778. The owner was, guess who? My great-great grandmother, or my grandfather's grandmother! And in 1853, the older building belonged to her father, my 3rd great grandfather. So perhaps he found some advantage to put the 2nd building in his daughter's name, or maybe he was just trying to set her up in life.

Here's the building:



Not at all what I was expecting! If you look carefully you can see some people looking out the 2nd story window. For all I know (and I guess I never will know), that could be family!

In all the research I've done on both sides of my family, this was the first evidence I've gotten that anyone was anything but of very modest means! Perhaps she inherited from her father, then; the pastor's research shows one other sibling, a son.

Here is a 2nd photo; i have no idea who the family is in the foreground, but the building in the background is again my grandfather's ancestral home.



To complete this little story it would be wonderful to find out when and why this building, and possible the whole row of buildings, was taken down or destroyed. Was there a fire? Did the city want to redevelop? One can only wonder.....

I would love to ask the pastor, but he seems so busy and he has already done so much research for me, getting nothing in return. So I feel funny asking.

A new bonus credit card

May 26th, 2017 at 03:38 pm

I just activated a new $200 bonus credit card, a reward I'll earn after charging $1,000 on it in the first 3 months. Smile That means I must charge EVERYTHING on this one card. It's the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card. They asked me to disclose name of my employer, how much $$ I make and even a phone number. I provided all that without mentioning it's a contract job, and I gave the toll free number that goes who knows where, not my local office number. It's a huge company so I don't even know if they got thru to the right HR person. They did not provide the immediate online approval I'm used to, which seemed ominous, so I was happily surprised when I got the card in the mail anyway.

I managed to work til 5 today at work, even though most people left much earlier. I take all back roads home so extra traffic wasn't an issue; in fact, it was lighter.

I'm truly surprised that my credit has managed to stay north of 800 even with all these random credit cards I keep opening.

Really ANNOYED that the person who said he wanted to buy my miter box did not respond to my message this a.m. suggesting we set up the pick up this weekend.

Here comes the weekend!

May 26th, 2017 at 02:40 am

I love the long summer days...got up around 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep. (Of course I konked out last night at 10 pm).

Happy to be wrapping up week 3 of the new job today, although I want to ask if I can stay til 5 today (I'm sure others will be leaving early for the long holiday weekend) since I am already losing pay for the holiday itself and a half day the following Wednesday for a doctor's appointment.

This is what sucks about being a contractor. You don't get paid for holidays, or time out for doctor's appointments.

They had another happy hour (with alcohol) yesterday at the office around 4. I guess it's a weekly event! I chose not to go on either day because I don't think it's appropriate for someone getting paid on an hourly basis to be drinking while doing so.

I think I have a buyer for a nice miter box my mother used to make frames. The price is $25 and it's heavy duty metal; everything new now is plastic. I thought I sold it a year ago and drove 20 minutes to meet another guy, who then offered less than I'd asked for in the ad. So he was counting on me caving to the lower price becus I had driven all that way. Wrong. That pissed me off; didn't appreciate the less-than-honest tactics.

Anyway, this is my first attempt using Facebook Marketplace.

I did get my first paycheck and so after grossing $4166, I only netted $2841. The biggest deduction was for federal taxes, at $784!!

Still, this one check (for 2 weeks) pretty much covers my monthly expenses.

I want to revisit my witholdings. That little table on the back of the W4 is not very precise, IMO. Based on using that table, I am claiming 2 deductions, but I think I should be claiming 3 to have less money withheld from my paycheck. I know there's a way to fine-tune it (a calculator, maybe?) but I'm not sure. I'm very sure I'll remain in the 25% tax bracket.

This has happened to me before with higher paying contract jobs; too much is withheld, resulting in a large refund at year's end, when I would much prefer to get that money now.

The one big goal for the long weekend (heavenly) is to finish priming and then painting my new bookshelves. I primed about a third of it before using up the quarter of primer I had. And yes, it's going to take a lot of time. I would also like to ENJOY my holiday weekend and I need to hit Trader Joe's, BJs, Aldis, the dump and the gas station.

I found tiny butterfly eggs on my parsley (now that I know what they look like). Wow, that's early! I have released about 4 emergent black swallowtails this month that had overwintered from last year. Truly amazing that life inside those tiny cocoons somehow survived the cold of winter.

The idea behind raising them in an aquarium is that you are boosting their survival rate compared to the predation they'd face from birds and parasitic wasps if left to fend for themselves.

What a disappointment

May 22nd, 2017 at 04:00 pm

I thought I was getting paid today. No pay, all day, so left some messages with the agency. He replied back explaining that while he sends the time sheets in to payroll place every other Monday, I won't see the money til Wednesday. Sigh. Two more days.

Today was a stressful and trying day at work. We had a noon conference call with the client and I was making last minute changes and writing up "talking points" at 11 a.m.

Later in the day what I thought was a near perfect 2nd writing assignment drew lots of questions and declarations that certain copy was "clinical" and didn't "tell a story."

So we'll meet again tomorrow after I pull together some revisions.

I really don't think I'd want to do this permanently; people are continuously telling you what's wrong with what you've written, and this is long before the client even sees it and adds their .02. What an exhausting process, one I'll have to repeat 50 or so more times before I finish this job by September 1 (because that's about how many more writing assignments I'll have). Big sigh.

So it's disheartening. This is one reason why they're paying me the big bucks, no doubt. But still.

Saturday stuff

May 20th, 2017 at 05:33 pm

Today is the weekend I wanted to start work on my bookshelves. As they say, the prep is what takes so much time. I had a lot of caulking to do where all the corners meet, and I was using wood putty for the little nail holes. It took a lot of time, plus 2 trips to the hardware store and 2 trips to the paint store because our local Sherwin Williams "says" they open at 8 am but actually were buttoned up tight at 8:15 a.m. when I left, annoyed as could be.

Caulking is a messy job but I had noticed an influx of carpenter ants, some of whom were on the bookshelves or on the dining room floor, and I suspect they were coming it thru some of those above-mentioned cracks.

So I think I used 2 tubes of caulk. I just had no energy or motivation to do it, for some reason, but of course I want to have it done.

In addition to doing that, I did drop off some stuff at the household hazardous waste drop off site as I didn't want to hold onto it for another year. Interestingly, they took some old perfume and baby oil but not 3 old smoke detectors.

I also had to go to the dump.

My goal for tomorrow is the following:

1. Sand everything.
2. Vacuum up all the dust from sanding.
3. Prime.
4. grocery shopping
5. Fill up gas tank.
6. Think about what to make for my work week lunches.

Painting will have to wait til next weekend.

Went to dinner with dad at the Barnwood Grill, right in the center of town. It was very noisy, very busy. Dad wants to do Chinese next weekend so he can have bass done a certain way he's had before.

He has volunteered to come to my house on a day I schedule to have a water guy here to get my pump running again for my outdoor water. I have a ton of stuff planted in pots but have to carry it out from the kitchen because my pump was running last summer during the drought and would not stop, probably becus there was no water. So I turned the power off all winter but now it's still just running, so something is not right. I hope it's not expensive.

Anyway, I don't see how I could have the guy come over to troubleshoot it now that I'm working f/t again, so having dad here that day would be a huge help.

I also want to get an electrician over here to take care of some minor issues but he moonlights so I know he could come on a Saturday.

It's FRIDAY

May 19th, 2017 at 05:16 pm


And the weekend is here, just like that.


There's a family of at least 4 chipmunks who seem to have taken up residence in an old vole tunnel close to my front door. They seem unusually tame to me, and Luther's not happy about it.



Here's a slice of orange I tried feeding the black swallowtail butterfly with until the weather cleared and I released him:



Hard to believe I wrapped up 2 weeks at the new job. Pay day will happen on MONDAY and I can't wait.

There were a zillion more rounds of edits to my piece but it goes to the client Monday.

In just the 2 weeks I've been there, they've already had:
1. Thursday afternoon alcoholic drinks at 3 (I skipped this and wasn't sure it was appropriate for me, a contractor, to partake)
2. A hot breakfast this morning of scrambled eggs, bacon and French toast!
3. A gourmet style food truck and all you can eat off their menu, compliments of the company. (I checked with HR and they said it was fine to join in)

So...nice!

I have a ton of stuff I want to do this weekend. At the top of the agenda is starting the paint job of the bookshelves. Or at least the priming.

I'm totally overrun with disgusting black carpenter ants, mostly in the kitchen, but elsewhere too. I think all that rain is to blame. And I thought I had found a way to seal off my kitchen. Apparently not. I still don't know exactly how they get in. Sprinkling ant bait is also high on my agenda.

I am trying again to sprout broccoli seeds for my daily salads. I need to go to Aldi's. I have to go to the dump and the household hazardous waste drop off is tomorrow. I want to spread a bunch of mulch on some perennial beds and plant more flowers for the butterflies, and veggies for me. I need to buy the paint for bookshelves. There's a plant sale at the middle school.

I am pooped just thinking about it.

The good and the bad

May 18th, 2017 at 04:14 am

First, the bad.

I must have told myself three times to write myself a sticky note and put it on my thermostat. The note would read: Do not turn on central air without taking outdoor cover off.

You know what happened, right? Yesterday was the first of 3 very hot and humid days, up to 95 today. Before leaving for work I set the thermostat to kick on when indoor temps reached 80 degrees. This was the very first time I'd be using it since having it installed in April.

I forgot to take the cover off.

I'm not sure when the AC would have kicked on yesterday, but maybe about 1 pm. All windows were shut and blinds drawn. So it was running, on and off for about 5 hours, until I came home from work and suddenly "remembered."

The hottest it ever gets indoors without AC is about 84 degrees.

It was noticeably cooler (tho not by a lot) and drier when I came home yesterday. So it had been on and running.

I went online to look for info on whether I damaged my AC. Some people said forget it, if you run it with the cover on, it's fried, while others said there's an automatic emergency shut-off switch that prevents it from overheating, but if that kicks on it won't run again until you manually reset it.

Well, my AC is running fine. I'm not sure why it would NOT have overheated. The cover that was on it does not cover the entire unit. The bottom 6 or 8 inches are left exposed even with the cover on, to prevent condensation from building up and rusting parts all winter long.

Maybe that helped? Maybe it helped that I set the AC to run at a relatively high temperature and it didn't need to run as much as I thought?

Maybe there's an automatic shut-off switch that doesn't need a manual reset? I don't know but I am SO SO SO thankful my idiocy does not "appear" to have damaged my new unit.

I'm happy with how it's operating though I must say the upstairs is, as usual, warmer than the downstairs. I'm not sure at what temp I should leave it on while I'm at work.

The cats make do and lay low in hot conditions, but my main concern when I'm not here is protecting my mother's art from humidity. I think I have it set at 75 now and it feels okay upstairs, but I'm wondering how many $$ that's going to add to my electric bill. Which is a good reason to re-check current electric rates. I usually lock in for a year when possible, but you can switch suppliers if you find one at a lower price without penalty, if that's the kind of plan you signed up for (and I always do). So rates could have fallen since I last signed up.

I will be very interested, and a little fearful, to see how running the AC affects my monthly bill.

In other news, I'm trying to organize my work and home schedule moving forward and asked my new manager to clarify how long I'd be working for. He said the next project will probably start in a few weeks and may overlap the existing project I'm working on now. So it sounds like no break in between. They hired a 2nd writer to help.

The deadline for the 2nd project is Sept. 1 but he's not sure at this point if I'd be working non-stop or if there would be little breaks/intervals throughout (which I'm rather hoping for, so I can play catch up on personal stuff, but not if that would reduce my overall income from this job).

Thinking about it now, I guess the deadline is the deadline. So I may just need to buckle down without breaks if I want to maximize my income because if I don't do it, the other writer will probably pick up the slack and draw from my hours.

But the good news is that instead of grossing just $8800 for 1 month's work, I am looking at earning over $35,000 for 4 months' work!

I have a doc appointment end of this month so will only work a half day that day. I am going back to my neurologist about my toes on right foot. They became numb 3 years ago shortly after I pulled my hamstring and that never disappeared. I saw 3 podiatrists, who did x-rays, and the neurologist, who tested and found my nerve conduction was normal.

Now my toes feel more stiff than numb and I'd like to rule out MS, Lyme and arthritis. I don't think it's the 1st 2, really, but not sure about arthritis. I just know the toes are very stiff and hard to flex and I might say the ankle is a bit stiff too, compared to the left foot. And I also can't walk barefoot anymore or that foot becomes very sore very quickly.

Day 5 and steady progress

May 15th, 2017 at 05:13 pm

Today was the 2nd "reveal" of my copy internally, at the marketing agency where I'm doing a contract job. After the first review, she wanted me to come up with 2 more versions; at this review, they cherry-picked what they liked and asked me to make some minor revisions to 2 versions only, instead of 3.

The 3rd reveal will take place Wednesday, still internally. God willing, it will then go to the client. I'm sure I'll be sick of it by that time, but I've already finished the 2nd assignment, modeling it on the first and hoping the client likes the first.

They hired another writer, a young guy, to help me with the larger assignment that comes after this one. I guess I'm okay with that since it answers my question that yes, I will definitely be able to pick up more work at $55/hour!! Yippee yay hi ho!

For all I know, this could be my only big paying job this year. Whenever it ends, I'll be going back to my very LOW paying job with the higher education company. What a difference: $15 vs $55/hour. Which would you rather have?

I'm already planning on devoting the upcoming weekend to priming and painting my bookshelves. To clear my plate, I drove home from work a different way so I could return a top I bought for this job at Macy's.

Of course, now that I'm working f/t, I MUST go the dump and do my grocery shopping and fill up the gas tank on the weekend, but I should still have time leftover for the bookshelves.

There have been plenty of warnings on the local news that this is going to be a particularly bad tick season becus we had a mild winter and lots of rain this spring. They are right, and I am kind of freaking out because yesterday, I found a large deer tick crawling around (unattached) on Luther. I pulled it off and flushed it down the toilet. Then I called my dad to warn him becus his garden is for sure infested with ticks plus he can't see them due to his eyesight. I assumed he or the carpenters had carried the tick inside the house since the cats don't go outside.

After I hung up from dad, I was going to sit on the front stoop on a lawn chair and I found a 2nd tick crawling on the metal part. I flushed it, too. Later that day, I found ANOTHER ticket on Luther; they can't seem to attach to him becus of his incredibly long hair.

Today, I found a 4th tick again on the lawn chair, this time on the arm rest!! What is going on? The lawn chair had sat for several weeks in a shaded area of my courtyard/driveway, under the canopy of several large rhododendrons. Yesterday I moved the lawn chair to the front stoop. Could the tick have fallen onto the chair that I'd been sitting on?

It's amazing to me how the ticks were somehow transferred to Luther, whose like a magnet becus he rubs against everything. Maybe the 2 ticks I found on him were on my legs from the lawn chair and then he picked them up.

The whole thing is making me very skittish.

Bookshelves: finally done!

May 13th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

Here they are:




This is the seat/cabinet under the window. I need to buy knobs for the 2 doors.

I'm very happy with it. It came to $1600 but I have some unused trim to return for a refund, so it will be somewhat less than that.

If the rain stops, I will get paint and supplies tomorrow. I will use a good quality brush and a sponge brush to get in back of those small cubby holes above the window.

Eventually I will buy some thick foam for the cushion on seat.

After they finished up, I went to gas up my car, deposit some cash and get groceries at Aldi's. They had pints of blueberries for $1.69, which I think is a good deal. Although I remember when you could get them for $1 at summer's peak.

It's been raining all day, so this am as I was clearing space for the carpenters, I glanced at my butterfly aquarium and saw that the last of the unhatched pupa from last summer hatched into a butterfly!



I don't know how long it had been like that but I have not released it because it's so chilly and rainy. Tomorrow will be windy. I'm hoping I can release on Monday; for now, it's protected from the rain in its aquarium with screened lid, in my sunroom, with a slice of orange, some zinnias I cut from my potted plants, a water dish with marbles to perch on and a paper towel soaked in sugar water. I've check on it though and it hasn't moved from where it's hanging onto a twig from the underside. It's only about 50 degrees.

Tuesday for sure will be in the 70s and it can be released then, but I'm not sure it will last that long if it doesn't eat/drink something.

Dad's coming over tonight to see the shelves and then we'll have a great dinner at a very good Italian restaurant in town.