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My 2021 Expenses and Income

December 28th, 2021 at 10:19 pm

Total expenses for the year were $45,092. That's up a bit from last year's $41,000.

Top 10 Ranked Expenses:

1. Property taxes $6,792, about the same as last year.

2. Out of pocket medical: $6,253, which represented a huge increase from last year due to my menscus tear knee surgery and subsequent physical therapy.

3. Tree work: $6,223. I had one huge silver maple cabled and another huge white pine taken down, both for safety purposes.

4. Food: $4,363. This is notable as it is about $400 LESS than last year. (Each year, food just keeps on increasing, and this is the 1st time I've managed to spend less.)

5. IRS: $3,654, a new category this year since I'm self-employed now (still working for the same agency though) and so now I make quarterly estimated tax payments.

6. Washer/dryer: $2,282. This felt like a splurge but it really wasn't as I used an unexpected IRS refund. (Thank you, Joe B.) The purchase included cutting edge heat pump technology in the dryer, plus service warranties on both. I figured if either needed a repair it would be pricy.

7. Household: $1,916, a bit of a catch-all for stuff for the house.

8. Cat: $1,659. It adds up, between expensive cat food and vet visits.

9. State taxes: $1,230 (also due to my estimated tax payments throughout the year)

10. Lawn & garden: $1,193. This includes bi-weekly mowings.

Here's what my Top 10 look like in pie chart form:

What's perhaps more notable about my Top 10 list is what did NOT make it to the Top 10 this year: Health insurance, which last year cost me $3,524, substantially more than this year. (Again, thank you, Joe B.)  Also of note is the fact that my property taxes and most utilities stayed the same: electricity, water and sewers. I did go a little crazy with clothing shopping, spending $721 more than last year. I spent $490 less on heating oil and $235 less on homeowners insurance (plus $237 less on my umbrella policy) after changing carriers. Another big drop was seen in my car upkeep: $700 less compared to last year.

Income-wise, I earned just a bit over what I spent, so I ended up with a net savings of $587 this year. This is fine as I stopped contributing to savings and retirement a number of years ago after I met my retirement savings goal. My strategy is to pay my living expenses with my part-time work until I completely retire in 3 years' time. So with my paycheck, combined with an Xmas check from dad and the IRS stimulus, I was able to cover 100% of my 2021 expenses. I even managed to earn $582 in credit card rewards and $446 in freelance work from my one remaining freelance client.


An IRS Mystery

September 1st, 2021 at 12:34 am

I was reviewing my month-end expenses and investments today when I noticed an unexpected deposit of $2,900 in my checking account from the IRS. Umm, I have no idea what this is. I got my tax refund of about $300 back in March, and there aren't any stimulus checks lately.

I'll call the bank tomorrow; maybe they can shed some light on this. Just hope it's not a mistake of some sort (!) but I really can't imagine what this is!!

So, my cousin has departed after spending 4 days with me, with the main purpose being to accompany me to the surgeon's office. I got all good answers from the surgeon, so I have scheduled my knee surgery for later this month. It's artheroscopic surgery done on an out-patient basis at the surgeon's surgical center, not the hospital. For all these reasons, it's cheaper. It's also done using only local anesthesia, which greatly lessens any risks associated with general anesthesia.

I sure hope this will fix my knee injury and allow me to walk normally again. Cost-wise, I have gotten various medical codes needed so my insurer can give me an estimate as to cost tomorrow, but my deductible is $4300, which I haven't met, so I guess that would be the max out of pocket.  I also confirmed that the anesthesiologist is in-network.

It's a good thing I haven't really spent much on home improvements/maintenance stuff this year. This will be a "self-improvement"! I gave physical therapy exercises, done at home on a daily basis, a year-and-a-half, but it's only improved the knee "to a degree."  I also spent some time seeing a physical therapist in 2020, but all but the first visit was virtual with $0 copays. Then this year I tried another round of therapy with a different group, so that did cost a few hundred dollars.

The surgeon said I had done a good job increasing my range of motion with the knee, but it's still super tight and very sore if I walk for any length of time. He said the ACL tear I had in my 20s (for which I don't even remember seeking any treatment) led to the menescus tears, but that I lucked out in that I was able to get by for 40 years without a problem, which is true. But I had thought I must have caused the menescus tears during an at-home workout.

I was able to procure a free set of crutches from someone on my Buy Nothing group.

My cousin will come out again to drive me to and from the hospital, and stay with me a few days until I get on my feet. Doc said I only need to use the crutches for the day of surgery and the day after...that's it....and no special physical therapy is required, and that I can do exercises at home.

Aside from the doctor's visit, my cousin, my dad and I went out to some very nice lunches and dinners each day, and breakfast on one day. On one day, when cousin spent the day with my father, I went off with a friend to 2 garden conservancy open houses about an hour's drive north of here. They were great, and the ride up there, all via back roads, was really enjoyable. I kept passing farm stands (and a sign for fresh bread!) that I really wanted to stop for, but I was supposed to meet my friend there so didn't want to be late. She was going elsewhere after the garden tours, so I needed to drive myself. On the way from one garden to the next,  we saw a black bear in a cornfield.



A show-and-tell of Patient Saver's week in review

August 18th, 2021 at 12:24 am

I had some major tree work done earier this week, spending more on "trimming" and cabling a very large silver maple than I have on any tree takedowns in the past 25 years.  I'm glad to have it behind me. It's very hard to even see the cables, but they are there, four of them to help support the massive limbs of this 200-year-old tree.

There were 2 guys in the tree (look for the orange) and 2 on the ground, chipping.

My garden is still producing well. Picked 49 cherry tomatoes today, the only kind I'm growing since the chipmunks like to gnaw the big ones. I can no longer keep up with them by eating them, so now I can cook some down on the stovetop and then freeze them for soup.

Today was a work-at-home day with Luther on my lap, as always.

Finally, after waiting all summer, the black swallowtail butterflies have arrived, laying their eggs on the parsley plants I grow just for them.  I have caterpillars in various stages of instars on my 4 parsley plants. One plant has a dozen caterpillars while another has just 4 while one has none that I can see. They are just the cutest little buggers. There are 2 of the larger ones here in this photo. They are nearly full grown and will leave the plant soon to find a suitable spot to form their crysallises.

And finally, in the interest of show and tell, here's a gigantic elephant ear plant.

This week I'll be driving up to UConn to drop off a bunch of my mother's art that I'm donating. The hard part is cleaning each and every piece and then carefully packing it up for the trip. It will take a lot of time to do, so I'm starting it tomorrow so I don't have to rush.


This is a woven painting, one of a series she was inspired to do after traveling to Morocco.


The recipe you asked for...

July 19th, 2021 at 06:53 pm

A few of you expressed interest in the flourless, sugarless chocolate zucchini bread I recently made. Here it is.

2 cups quick oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1.25 cups banana (about 3 lg bananas)

1 medium shredded zucchini (moisture squeezed out!)

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1/4 cup millk of choice

1/2 cup chocolate chips of choice

Combine all but the chocolate chips in high speed blender or food processor. Blend well, until a very smooth batter remains. Fold in the chips.

Transfer batter to a lined pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Let cool completely before slicing. Stores in fridge for at least a wek. Can also be sliced and frozen in a ziplock bag.

Saturday stuff

July 18th, 2021 at 12:09 am

Today, I...

1. Tidied up the bedroom.

2. Planted several liriope that someone gave me.

3. Rode my bike around the block twice to help rehab my knee.

4. Made chocolate zucchini bread with zucchini from my garden. It's a no-flour, no sugar recipe.

5. Picked wineberries.

6. Did my knee exercises.

7. Remotely deposited my paycheck and the refund from my former home/auto insurer...sure got it fast.

8. Read the paper.

9. Made dinner, which was spiralized zucchini, chickpeas, peas and some vodka sauce over soba noodles. Dessert was a mango and some cut up cantaloupe.

That's really about it. I went nowhere. Very leisurely.

And the bull keeps on running...

June 29th, 2021 at 01:28 pm

I hadn't checked by investments lately but once again, now that I have, I'm so pleased at my portfolio performance. My assets (not including home or other possessions) stand at $1.24 million, up about $20,000 since May.

My Vanguard personal performance is a modest (?) 8% since inception, which for me is 2011; at T.  Rowe Price, where I still have 3 funds, my personal performance is about the same, 8.04%.

 I am very conservatively invested these days as I feel I have more to lose and less time to recoup any losses, so I'm about 50/50 stocks/bonds and cash. It's hard to believe that upon my birthday, which is coming up soon, I am eligible to begin collecting Social Security!! Which I won't do, of course. But still, something to think about.

This month my monthly health care premiums through Obamacare fell to just $56!! Thank you, Joe Biden.

I have no special plans for the holiday weekend other than a friend from my gardening group coming over to view the gardens.. and maybe have a glass of iced tea, although I think the current heat wave will be over. With this heat (and today is the worst of it), I can do little or nothing outside, and so much needs to be done. Poison ivy is out of control this year and I now have a dedicated shovel I use to knock the vines down out of the trees and cut the vines, too. In theor, rinsing the impervious surface of the shovel off with the hose should wash off the urishol, but I don't take any chances and am careful how I otherwise use that shovel.

Most of the yard work around here involves either 1. Weeding, 2. Hacking back the overgrowth and 3. Watering not-quite-established perennials planted earlier in the year. I planted a new large perennial bed in the back 40, but my hose doesn't reach it, so any watering I do there is done with the bucket brigade.

My neighbor adjacent to me is, for the 2nd day, chainsawing tall trees on their property. I listened to the whine of those  chain saws all day. (Their son is in the business.) It's a shame, because there's a small brook that runs through there and all kinds of animals, including bobcat and coyotes, follow that stream, shaded and cooled by those trees.

I have this lovely wildflower, which I identified as ragged robin, growing in my lawn. It's native to Britain and Ireland, but while it's attractive to bees and butterflies, it's considered invasive here. I had giving away seeds to people in my gardening group but then had to tell them it's invasive. I, personally, will still encourage these in my lawn as I just love it. The wispy flowers are borne aloft on leafless stems, giving the appearance of them floating in air.

June, what a spendy month

June 28th, 2021 at 09:37 pm

I feel like lately I have been spending money left and right. I just tallied expenses up and it's not quite as bad as it felt, but still it's $3,464 for the month of June, which is $750 more than I earned! Fortunately, I have a surplus year-to-date in income vs expenses of $3,000. The important thing is to cover the majority of my day-to-day living expenses over the course of the year, so hopefully it will all even out.

June's non-routine expenses included: Q2 IRS and state estimated taxes of $1,066; $505 in out of pocket medical copays related to physical therapy for my knee, eyeglasses and doc visits for dermatology and vertigo. Also very high was the $433 I spent on food, although this does also include toiletries and things like vitamins, dental floss, sunscreen and eyedrops. Finally, I went overboard treating my friend to lunch for her birthday; with tip, the bill came to $74! But it was a very nice lunch. Smile

I've been very active the past year or so with a local FB gardening group for our town only.  Someone decided to have a party so we could all get together and meet for the first time. It was fun; about 25 people showed up, and it was outside. I can't say I didn't think about COVID, as no one wore a mask, but there aren't many Trumpers in my state and our positivity rate is about 0.44%. Some people brought food or drink, while others brought plants to share!

A little bit of pampering

June 3rd, 2021 at 03:25 pm

After the long, self-imposed self-isolation, I decided to "treat" myself to something that wasn't really a necessity...I saw a dermatologist about removing 2 things from my face.

Our face, after all, is the first thing most people see.

I had a small, discolored patch on my right cheek which I already knew was not cancerous, but unsightly to me. She froze that off but since it was entirely cosmetic, I had to pay $100 (in addition to the $60 copay for the office visit).

The 2nd item was on the same side, something I thought was a mole but was kind of "in the way," along the jaw line. She said it was actually a wart (!!) so she cut that out, too, and I am to keep vaseline and a small band-aid on it to keep it moist for 4 or 5 days. This, she said, she could process through my health insurance; I'm not sure, but I may end up paying full freight on this, too, since I haven't met my deductible.

But I don't regret having done it, and I did, in fact, schedule a free consultation with their esthetician to learn about their various "light" procedures that could improve your skin. I had a microdermabrasion done years ago, and I thought it was an improvement, and now I am 20 years older and the sun has taken its toll, so any little thing like that could help!

Containing the growing things
I've been spending most of my available time working in the yard. All the recent rain we've had has turbocharged every living thing here, and suddenly, I feel "behind schedule." I keep a running list of yard chores, and try to knock them off, one by one. Last night, the chore was pulling Virginia creeper vines off my mountain laurel. It'll be good for an other month or so, and then I'll have to do it again. Frown

All hands on deck
I've started a new kind of physical therapy for my knee injury (menescus tears) and have seen her twice so far; 3rd visit is today. She's what is called a "manual" physical therapist, meaning, she does mostly hands-on work rather than solely focusing on exercises.

They also have me using a homeopathic topical cream, used widely in Europe, directly on the knee, which is said to be antiinflammatory. I'm highly skeptical about its efficiacy, especially after reading an article discrediting the cream, but since I spent $30 on it, I will certainly keep using it. It's called Traumeel.

In the worst case scenario, if I end up having to do knee surgery (which itself is no guarantee of good results), I will definitely need physical therapy after that, so it just occurred to me I should "bank" some of my permitted physical therapy for this calendar year. My insurer covers the bulk of up to 40 sessions per calendar year, though I still have to pay a $30 copay. I may want to limit my current physical therapy to 10 sessions. I am booked for 4 more sessions, so 6 total at this point.

No pergola
My British neighbor had told me he would build my pergola for me this summer, but now he can't because he said his mother in England is being abused by her caretaker and he's flying out there next week and doesn't know when he'll return, but when he does, he'll be bringing her with him.



Dealing with mom's old tax returns

May 29th, 2021 at 04:48 pm

It being an uncharacteristically chilly and rainy Memorial Day weekend, I decided to tackle the unenviable and rather thankless task of shredding my mother's old tax returns.

I've just taken a break from shreding 1984-1986, which fills up one kitchen trash bag. In those days, they plastered your Social Security Number on every page of every document, and my mother being a meticulous recordkeeper, I have quite a few staples to remove before shredding all these pages.

Friends, if you want to mak it easy on your heirs, or whoever wraps up your estate after you're gone, please do them a favor and don't staple papers together. Paperclips are much easier.

I'm going to retain the last few years' of returns, "just in case."

While my mother was still alive, there was a time I helped her shred a few years' worth of old brokerage statements. That was just the tip of the iceberg, and I knew that either way (shred now or shred later), all these old documents would fall to me to deal with.

Playing medical catchup from 2020

May 28th, 2021 at 12:50 am

Today was a long day.

It was the day I had scheduled a long overdue dentist appointment for my elderly father. He already knew he had a cracked tooth, and I suspected there might be more problems, which there were. In fact, his dentist declined to schedule the cleaning and instead referred us to a periodondist due to dad's excessive plaque buildup.

But first, dad wanted to see the local barber, so I dropped him off there to lose his Santa Claus beard while I did some grocery shopping. Picked him up, then we stopped for lunch and afterward that, I brought him back to his apartment so he could brush his teeth, then went to the periodontist, who wound up not cleaning his teeth because they said he badly needed scaling.

Medicare doesn't cover dental work, and this won't be cheap. The x-rays alone were about $300, and by the time we're done with the 2 2-hour visits for the scaling, it'll be about $1700. I think scaling is where they clean the teeth below the gumline, and I vaguely remember my mother had to have this done, and she said it was extremely painful. I'm not going to tell my dad that, obviously, and I do really hope he tolerates it better than my mother.

Dad has the money, but he's a real tightwad. Luckily, he didn't balk at the price, maybe because they told him he'd already suffered significant bone loss.

So I have the 2 appointments scheduled for dad in the coming weeks, but  unfortunately, we have to travel further to their other office. I've also scheduled about 6 visits for my own physical therapy since my knee is still not better. Suffice it to say, there's a lot of doc visits in our future and I'm completely inundated with medical forms of every stripe.

I have not been able to get any of my hoped for home improvements going this year. My mason is not following through with his estimate despite my repeated requests for it. He is slammed. My electrician's father passed and so he is dealing with estate matters. He's referred me to his cousin, but I really prefer to wait for him. Super nice guy. I haven't even attempted the bathroom vanity replacement because I'm assuming there are shortages, delays and higher prices.

I'm recovered from my 2nd case of poison ivy this season. There's a lot of it growing around my yard, and the industrial strength vinegar weed killer I'm using doesn't work as well as one would hope.

I got a beautiful patio set (2 rockers and a stationery couch) from my Buy Nothing group. It's wrought iron, and there was some old rust on it. I wanted to repaint, and my neighbor suggested some paint made for painting directly over rust (assuming it's not peeling), no sanding needed. It worked really well. Took me about 5 rounds of touch up but it looks like a brand new set now. I also found some plastic plugs for the ends of the rockers, which are hollow, so they would catch some water inside them every time they rained.

I had already aquired a bunch of cushions from Buy Nothing in anticipation of eventually finding a patio set, and am short just 2 cushions. Stopped at Christmas Tree Shop last week but they were out of the pattern I wanted.

I also shopped at Whole Foods and Aldi's. It was great to get out and do that. The positivity rate in CT has been under 1% for a while now. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the country. A friend of mine was to get her first Moderna shot a few weeks after me, and I just recently learned she felt so bad after the shot that she never go the 2nd one, which I think is a big mistake. She said she felt tired, and out of it, for 6 weeks, but she has thyroid issues, too.


To replace or not to replace?

March 23rd, 2021 at 02:36 pm

Vacuums, I recently discovered, are no longer a relatively inexpensive home appliance. After having some problems with my current one, I was thinking of springing for a new one, but this is not an easy decision when many vacuums I looked at cost many hundreds of dollars.

I've had my Eureka canister vacuum for 11 years, judging by its label.  I like it because it's lightweight, doesn't use disposable bags and does a relatively decent job in vacuuming.  Now I seem to have lost about 50% suction. I spent quite some time looking for a clog, but didn't find any. This included dropping coins through the disconnected hose to see if the clog was there (nope), and I even unscrewed the machine itself, looking for a clog. Nothing worked. Most online sources say to use a broom handle to poke through the hose, but a broom handle is not long enough to go all the way through the hose.

I have had this vacuum repaired before, for not too much money. I plan to call that repair shop this morning to get a price, but at the same time, the retractable cord on my Eureka has recently begun slipping, so it doesn't stay pulled out, so you lose a lot of cord length as you vacuum. A real nuisance.

The other issue is that I recently broke off a hinge on the cap that you can open/close to empty the contents. It still snaps back on with a clasp on the other side of the cap, but you have to be more careful when emptying the contents.

So basically, 3 issues here: 1. Lost suction, 2. Broken hinge on cap, 3. Retractable cord doesn't stay retracted.

I also have another, even older Eureka canister. I think this one could be over 25 years old. It works fine, except that the on/off switch doesn't work, so to turn it on, you have to plug it into the outlet.  It also uses disposable bags, which can be hard to find since it's such an old model. I've had that on/off switch repaired and it only stayed fixed for a time. I've kept this one in the garage, mainly to vacuum my car, and now I'm using it until I decide what to do about my other Eureka.

To get another canister with the same features i have now and like with my newer Eureka (retractable cord, HEPA filter) but with bags, and going by Consumer Report, which says the highest performing brands are Miele and Kenmore, I'd have to spend about $220 on a Kenmore that is not bagless. (The only Miele on Consumer Report's recommended list that was a canister and bagless cost $900.)

Update: I called the vacuum repair shop and the deal is that you have to drop it off, wait an estimated 2-3 weeks (!) for them to look at it (they're evidently in demand), and then they call and give you an estimate. They're located in a part of downtown where it's always hard to find parking, and the further away you park, of course you have to lug the vacuum with you.

At this point, I'm inclined to get a new vacuum. Both my vacuums, I'm pretty sure, I didn't spend more than $100 each on.


Second Chances

March 15th, 2021 at 10:48 pm

So, as I alluded to in a post several weeks ago, I did in fact receive a great deal of art I'd donated 4 years ago to a local non-profit. As mentioned,  I had mixed feelings about receiving it all: I was glad to get some of it which I regretted gifting a little too generously, but also felt a bit burdened by what to do with all this art, knowing I don't have the space for it.

I reached out to a specific department at Univerity of Connecticut to see if they'd have an interest in a certain portion of the art that, because of its subject matter, seemed fitting for possible donation to this department, and happily, I received an affirmative response today from the director.

We're scheduling a meeting to discuss it further. Really, the only caveat on my end is that I want to ensure they have some sort of public spaces where the art could be displayed and viewed by faculty and students; if it ended up being hung in staff offices, that would not be what I'd want.  This time around, it will just be a dozen pieces going to this particular entity. I will be more careful about which ones I let go.

If all goes as planned, I envision myself delivering the art to Hartford (about an hour's drive) after I receive both my vaccines, which should be late April. (I'm scheduled for my first shot this weekend.) I'll probably take my father with me as he's always looking for somewhere to go.

We had some beautiful spring-like weather here and I got some yardwork in, but already have my first case of poison ivy for the season, on my hand.

Oh, and for the first time ever, I was able to remotely deposit my paycheck from home instead of having to make a special trip to the bank to deposit it. It was so cool! Welcome to the 21st century!

Getting back on the bonus credit card bandwagon

March 4th, 2021 at 03:26 pm

Warning: I'm in a chatty mood, and this is a lengthy post. I've created sub-heads to help organize the content if you feel like skimming.

Credit card bonsues

So, I used to enjoy applying for credit cards with a nice upfront bonus of $100 or $200 after spending x amount of money in the first 3 months of owning the card. It was such an easy way to make some extra cash, and often I'd try to time my application for the card right before a big bill, like my car and homeowners insurance, was due. That way, I could earn the reward in a single transaction.

Problem is, I'm not very good at cancelling cards once I earn the reward, and then I realized all these extra cards were actually helping to boost my credit score, which stands at about 823 now I believe. It was improving my ratio of available credit to how much I actually charge at any given time.  Doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but the credit reporting bureaus love to see someone with tons of available credit but who doesn't use it. This I remember from my years of writing about credit and credit cards (and all things debt/credit-related) at probably one of my favorite all-time jobs for an internet marketing company.

Anyway, with 13 open credit cards (not including my 2 store cards), this helps keep my score high, especially given that the bureas nick me a bit in my score due to the fact I paid off my mortgage years ago and so have no installment credit.

I haven't applied for a new card in ages, though, because a few years back I decided to put a credit freeze at all three credit bureaus, making it that much more difficult for some yahoo to commit fraud in my name.

However, I do already have a credit card with US Bank, and since I'm an existing customer, they sent me an offer for their new Signature credit card. It has no annual fee and comes with a $200 bonus once you charge $1,000 in the 1st 3 months.

So of course I sprang for it, but unfortunately, I forgot to temporarily lift the credit freeze I had in place. Totally forgot I had that. Lifting the freeze is much easier these days than it used to be, whether you do it by phone or online, but when you don't remember the credit limit available to you on an unnamed credit card you opend 11 years ago (this was actually one of the security questions posed by an Equifax agent on the  phone when I couldn't log in), it gets a bit frustrating.

Anyway, I finally lifted the freeze and told US Bank, who resubmitted my application. I wasn't expecting much. I've actually been turned down for a credit card once or twice in the past, and I wasn't really sure why.

Lo and behold, I've been approved. Yay! I'm back on the credit card bonus bandwagon. What's incredible is that the credit limit they're giving me is $18,700. Who needs that much credit. Once, I added up all the available credit I have through credit cards and it was over $100,000.

Eking out some savings in heating oil

In other news, I'm keeping an eye on heating oil prices. Prices drop lockstep as temperatures rise, and that welcome process has already begun. It was $2.40 a gallon on Feb. 24 and yesterday it was $2.23.  I still have a bit more than a quarter tank left, so I'll wait another week before reordering.

The way I see it, heating oil is like electricty: the quality of the product you get is exactly the same no matter how much you pay, so you may as well pay the lowest price you can find!

Early spring chores

Yesterday was fairly warm (45 degrees) so while it was a workday for me (I'm on call, essentially, throughout the day), I snuck out around 2 pm to try to clear a path through the brush to get to a small dogwood I noticed was getting choked by bittersweet vines. It's in an overgrown area along the road, and I noticed it while driving by. I remember doing this once before, but can't recall how long it's been. A year? Two years? In any event, if you don't cut back or dig out the vines, they will kill anything.

This is the best time to do the work, before the foliage and ticks are out. I did actually clear a path and get to the dogwood, but just as I was getting into it, my coworker texted me and said I have a job for you. So I had to hustle the 200 feet or so back to the house, do the work, then I went out again to continue trimming, and darned if she didn't text me again about 10 minutes later. There are many times when I can go hours in the afternoon with no work at all. Today is chilly again, in the 30s, so I'll have to wait til next week to continue and finish the job.

But it feels good to have begun some early spring jobs I've given myself. I'm looking forward to being able to tackle so much more because I'm working from home now, and have lots of down time.

New York High Line trip still up in the air

Seems like a long time ago that my friend and I signed up for a bus trip to New York ($100)  to spend an afternoon walking/shopping the new High Line, a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. I rarely go into the city, but it seemed like a fun thing to do, and my friend was game.

Then COVID struck, and the bus trip was rescheduled to this May. We both agreed we wouldn't feel comfortable sitting in the close quarters of a long bus ride unless we'd had our vaccines. It may be a close call whethr or not that happens by May. My 1st shot is scheduled for Mar 21, which means the 2nd one will be around April 21, if all goes well. My friend hasn't been able to schedule yet. Even then, with more contagious variants circulating, I'll still be wearing a mask.

Lunch 'n Learns

I am technically a senior now (not in spirit), so sometime ago I  signed up. It's just $20 a year, and there are lots of good reasons for doing so. Now I've begun taking my father to their "Lunch 'n Learns," a creative way to keep seniors connected/engaged but still COVID safe. Once you register, you can drive up to the main entrance at the senior center and they hand you a bagged lunch through the window. You park in the parking lot and tune in to a certain radio station where you can hear their speaker present a program on various topics while enjoying your "drive-in" lunch, which sometimes was a hot(ish) meal of salmon or chicken, not just a sandwich.

My father enjoyed it very much. Maybe because the lunch is free, but also because it's somewhere to go. We have one tomorrow. My town takes very good care of its seniors. They allow people from other towns to join for just $5 more a year, so dad was able to do so.

Physical fitness, fasting and weight loss

I keep hearing about how many people have gotten out of shape during the pandemic because they're home more and presumably eating all the time? For me, it's been just the opposite. I"m actually lighter than I've weighed in 11 years, and at 127, I weigh now what I weighted in my 20s. I'm able to walk on most days before my work day starts. Granted, the 10,000-step goal is rarely achieved, but I do walk at least a half-hour when I walk.

The real reason I've lost over 20 pounds, and kept it off, is because every Sunday, I do a 24-hour fast. I have an early dinner Saturday night and the fast begins after that, so I don't eat again til the following evening. Everyone says oh, I couldn't do that, but it's really not too hard. The magic of starting the fast right after dinner is that you go to bed feeling fairly satiated, and by the time you wake up, you're already 60% through the fast.

I will tell you why I am so motivated to continue doing this, probably for the rest of my life: I have a family history (2 generations) of dementia, and research into fasting shows that it induces something called autophagy, which is a process by which the brain is essentially cleaning itself up, getting rid of damaged cells and so on. There's still not enough research, but what they already know suggests it could delay or prevent dementia. Even without this, fasting offers a ton of benefits, although most people do it for weight loss.

For me, the weight loss was a secondary, but still welcome side benefit. What's amazing to me is that I've still lost weight even though, when I eat dinner following the Sunday fast, I consume ALL the calories I would have eaten throughout the day in a single sitting. I don't have to, and sometimes I'm more than full, but I want to be sure to get, for instance, a day's worth of calcium. Because your body can't absorb more than about 500 mg of calcium in one sitting, I do break up my post-fast dinner into 2 meals, with the 2nd meal, which includes a small amount of fat, like in nuts, and a calcium supplement, taking place 4 hours after dinner.

Balancing losing weight with preserving bone health

It would be very tempting to allow myself to lose a few more pounds, to get down to about 123-125 lbs (clothes would fit GREAT), but I dare not do so because a year ago I learned I have osteopenia. Losing weight after menopause is a very bad idea UNLESS you are building muscle at the same time. Am I building muscle? I sure hope so. Since learning about the osteopenia, I've been weight lifting at home with an hour-long workout routine (3x a week) I devised myself, using exercises gleaned from various online resources, especially those geared toward the over 50 crowd and those who are concerned, like me, about bone health.

I won't know for another full year whether all my hard work has had an effect on my bones, since that's the earliest I can retake the DEXA scan.

So it's ironic...I finally discovered the surefire key to losing weight, something I sought to do all my life, and now I have to temper or balance that with not getting too small because it could have an adverse effect on bone health. The amount of weight you carry around is an issue. If you're over 5'4" and are on the heavy side, you likely won't have to worry about osteoporosis.

Here again, family history is a warning to me to do everything I can to avoid my mother's scenario, of first being diagnosed with osteopenia, then, years later, with osteoporosis, and years after that, of multiple falls that lead to her hip fracture that led to her less-than-full surgical recovery that led to, I believe, a premature death at 81.

Osteopenia/osteoporosis is so endemic among older people, yet I believe physicians really don't counsel their patients on what they can do about it.  My mother never really exercised, although she claimed she got plenty of exercise, but she didn't understand how profoundly important exercise is. Walking alone is not impactful enough to spur bone-building. Bike riding does nothing. You need to be lifting weights or regulary hopping/jumping, as I do, on one foot. Or jumping rope. Or running. A lot of things most older people are afraid to do.

Look at me. I always considered myself pretty active, and on weekends I would often be found going on long hikes in the woods, riding my bike or kayaking. Yet I still have osteopenia. Why? I believe because, if I'm honest with myself, I've spent my entire adult career in sedentary desk jobs, with sedentary longish commutes, so even with all the weekend warrior stuff, the fact is, I was still sitting around for a good portion of my waking time.

This is one reason I plan to return to mowing my own lawn this spring. Because pushing that mower around an acre of lawn is great resistance exercise...I've never heard it mentioned in a medical journal, but it's got to be good for bone health.

Let's talk groceries

March 2nd, 2021 at 03:28 pm

So it's been a while since I last compared grocery prices. A tedious process, to be sure, and prices certainly change from one season to the next. I knew in a general sense that I was paying more at Stop & Shop for most of 2020, but the ease and convenience of getting groceries delivered to your trunk, with the added security of knowing I wasn't exposing myself to the virus, was just great. (And I'm still doing it.)

I save all my receipts, so I spent just a bit of time comparing Stop & Shop prices to BJs. Pre-COVID, I would also shop Trader Joe's, Shop Rite, Aldi's, Whole Foods and Caraluzzi's and even Big Y (I'm an equal opportunity shopper), but my grocery world shrunk to just the 2 grocery stores last year. I like the wide aisles at BJs and I always go between 8 and 9 am, but trunk deliveries are even better.

Of the dozen or so food items I regularly purchase and for which I have data on from both stores, EVERY SINGLE ITEM was cheaper at BJs than Stop & Shop. In most cases, not by a ton, and so you'd have to shop there consistently to really see a difference. There is also the $3 delivery fee for each Stop & Shop curbside pickup trip you make, plus I started tipping the young girls who brought my groceries out to me. I figure they deserve it given what they make.

I was able to schedule my 1st vaccine on Feb. 28, and it's scheduled for March 21. Yay for me!

It's the Moderna shot, the one my father got. But I have to go to a different location that I suspect may not be as hassle-free. It's an outdoor drive-through clinic in the parking lot of the mall. They only started there yesterday, so they'll have 3 weeks to iron out the kinks, hopefully.

I'll give myself one week for the first vaccine to kick in and do its thing, and then I plan to say bye-bye to Stop & Shop and hello to Aldi's, Trader Joes and BJs.

I spend serious amounts of cash on food. Last year, if you're curious, I spent $4,754 on groceries. And that was a decrease from the year prior. It was my #3 expense.

Five Years Later, a Chance for a Poignant Do-Over

February 24th, 2021 at 12:31 am

Following my mother's death 5 years ago, I was faced with the challenge of gifting and/or selling a good portion of the vast art collection I'd inherited.  I donated a ton of art to a local not-for-profit group that ran a public health clinic for people with no health insurance. I thought it was a good choice, since many people would be passing through their doors, and my mother was a compassionate person.

Last year, I began to feel anxious about all the art I'd gifted this organization after seeing accounts in the local paper saying that the group had changed its focus, moved its offices outside of town and would no longer be running a health clinic. I wondered what would happen to the art and even considered contacting them, but decided against it because the gift was made, no strings attached (although I had made it clear my chief aim in gifting them the art was to ensure that others could continue to enjoy and appreciate the work).

Imagine my surprise today to find a letter in my mailbox from this group, saying they could no longer display my mother's work and asking my what my wishes might be for it. I will call them first thing tomorrow and schedule a time to retrieve it all.

God knows I have nowhere to put it, except a small spare bedroom that is already pretty full of art. But although I still need to dispose of art, even before the prospect of retrieving this particular trove came along, I am feeling a sense of elation and relief. For, truth be told, I had regretted gifting them as much as I had, and wishing I had held onto certain beautiful tapestries and woven paintings. At the time, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of art I had. It was clear I just couldn't hold onto it all, yet it is a slow and difficult process to sell it.  Currently, I only have some of her other work in a single gallery, and even that one, I'm sure, has been closed or barely operating for much of 2020.  To do a better job of marketing it, I would need to devote a great deal more of my time to researching, and then approaching, appropriate galleries that specialize in this particular kind of art. And after a time, I just needed a break from doing that, so I moved onto other things.

Who would have thought, 5 years later, that I would get a chance for a "do-over," a chance to reclaim some cherished possessions I didn't think I'd ever see again? Hopefully, this time I will be able to have a more level-headed approach in figuring out what to do with each piece. If I could just set myself a goal of finding ONE new gallery to exhibit at in 2021, I would feel I'd made some progress.

In other news, I attended yet another webinar last night, this one sponsored by our library and featuring a woman who had just published a book about 19th century female serial killers in New England. How's that for a niche? At the end of her talk, she said she wanted to gift one copy of the book to one of us, and I won the book! She even signed it for me. I hope to receive it in a few days and I expect that after I read it, I will gift it to someone in my Buy Nothing group.

I'm bringing my dad for his 2nd vaccine this Thursday; our governor has decided to depart from CDC guidelines and starting Monday, they will be offering the vaccine to those in my age group, and will go strictly by age groups (oldest, then younger) moving forward. (This, after most first responders and those age 75+ have received their vaccines.) YAY.

Our state continues to have a very low COVID rate below 3%, so I went ahead and scheduled 3 doctors' appointments that are long overdue. Surprisingly, though, when I asked each scheduler if the doc and all their staff had been vaccinated, one said "most" had, but the other 2 said no, not necessarily. I'd assumed that people working in the health care field would be better informed about vaccine safety, but I guess my assumptions were incorrect.

A Taxing Thursday

February 18th, 2021 at 11:10 pm

The good news is, I filed both my federal and state tax returns today.

The bad news is, I won't be getting that $2200 federal refund as I thought, simply because there was a single figure I failed to carry down to another line (regular taxes owed), so I mistakenly initially calculated only my self-employment taxes! Unfortunately, not carrying over that one figure meant I had to redo much of my return as it related to my self-employment, so it took a good part of today to fix. I did also notice at the last minute that I'd forgotten to claim my Foreign Taxes Paid, so I was able to do that.

The bottom line is, my federal refund will be just $337, while I owe the state $486.

Filing my federal taxes is always kind of wonky. Although I qualify to use free tax software, I prefer to do it myself, using only the free fillable forms provided on the IRS website. 

As I've learned in past years, if you have a zero on a line that should have just been left blank , they'll reject your return without providing a clear explantion, leaving you to figure it out. This time, it was rejected because I put  0 on a line for alimony received; this year they have an "error tool" that's supposed to make figuring out the error easy, but naturally, it was not working. Luckily their error code contained the words "alimony" and "divorce," and since I am neither, I remembered those lines on p 2 of the 1040 form, took away the 0, refiled and hoped for the best. It worked, and the return was accepted.

I really need to now revisit both returns and try to calculate, in very rough terms, what my quarterly estimated payments should be, and this should be easy since I now earn a fixed weekly amount that does not vary. Trying to navigate the federal form is just ridiculously complicated, at least for me. I'd rather ballpark it, even if it means overpaying a bit. I really wasn't off by much for 2020, although I only had one quarter of self-employment. State-wise, I didn't make any estimated payments, and though I owe no interest penalty on my underpayment, that likely wont be the case after a full year of self-employment in 2021

It's been snowing all day, and by the time it ends tomorrow, we'll wind up with a mangeable 6-8 inches.

The month's challenges

February 12th, 2021 at 11:29 pm

Today was a day spent working toward eliminating various frustrations that have been confounding me in recent weeks.

I brought Luther to the vet yesterday and got a prescription for an inhaler medication for his feline asthma. The vet told me it would be cheaper to buy from a Canadian pharmacy, but wasn't much help in steering me toward one or another.  (Prior to this I tried putting Luther on a grain-free diet as I'd heard this could be causing his allergic reaction, but after 6 weeks, I saw no improvement, and he's been fighting me daily as to what food he'll eat. Food he ate the day before may be a food he turns his nose up to today. Vet said food allergies are not nearly as common as marketers make you think, but then he also said best to avoid feeding him beef, chicken, dairy and wheat, so that doesn't leave me much.)

I finally placed an order with one Canadian pharmacy, for about $40, which included shipping, for a med that cost over $200 here in the states. It's the same medication, Flovent, that's used with people.

After placing the order, I began feeling uneasy about the transaction, which I did over the phone, because I gave them my bank account number. They don't take credit card numbers, and while the other option was mailing a check, it's going to take between 3-5 weeks to get the med as it is and I didn't want further delays.

I called my bank later and they basicaly said the transaction is as secure as my trust in this particular company (whom I don't know from Adam). If I didn't want to close this account and open a new one (I will need to refill the prescription on an ongoing basis), they suggested opening a second checking account or a money market account in which I would keep the bulk of my money, and then only transfer to the checking as need. So basically I could limit the amount of my day to day money that would be exposed to this kind of risk. I Should have asked the question, but I guess, unlike a credit card transaction, the bank does not bear the loss in case of fraud.

This is what I'll do. I do already  have an online money market elsewhere, and I am pretty sure their rates are better than my local community bank, but I would rather keep this money local to me, so I'll do the paperwork online and have an appointment set up for Tuesday to sign some stuff.

Another headache: I started my taxes. Usually I more or less "copy" how I did the previous year's taxes since things don't really change much from one year to the next, but in the 4th quarter of last year, I became self-employed (still working for the same company) and now have new tax forms to deal with. Guess I'll have to dig thru old tax returns in the attic tomorrow to see how I filled them out. Yuck.

Headache #3: For over a month now, my keyboard has had lots of problems, like, intermittently,  it won't type various characters, or it types a letter 6 times in rapid sucession when I only typed it once,or it won't type at all. I bought the computer just a year ago and extended my tech support subscription just to make sure this problem was fixed. I was on the phone with them no less than 6 times for excruciatingly lengthy calls. Finally, the last time we spoke, they agreed to send me a new keyboard/mouse, which I got today. So far, it seems like it solved the problem. Why did we have to drag it out this long before I got the replacement keyboard? Ugh.

Other accomplishments today: Along with the cat inhaler med, I also ordered, from a different company, a special mask that fits over the cat's head and lets you administer the drug easily. I hope he doesn't hate it too much. I did some laundry. Right now, a pot of homemade vegetable stock is simmering on the stove, and when it's done, I'll be using it to make some potato and garilc soup. It's the 3rd recipe I'll be trying from a big soup book I got via my Buy Nothing group. I hope the soup is not too bland; all it has in it is 2 HEADS of garlic, potatoes and stock. Maybe I'll add tomato to it. EArlier today, I made a 2nd batch of some really good pumpkin-barley pudding so as not to waste an opened can of pumpkin puree.

In other news, I was able to get my father to an area clinic to get his first vaccine. I went very smoothly. I didn't know what to expect, so I gassed up the tank, but it turned out to be indoors and no real wait at all.

Oh, that's wierd. I see most of my entries for 2019 are missing. WTF?



Tuesday Tales

April 9th, 2019 at 01:03 pm

I scheduled my annual advisory checkup with T. Rowe Price for next week. It's just a phone call where they do a little fact-finding about my goals, and then they follow up with nicely detailed recommendations for fine-tuning my portfolio and perhaps making little adjustments to my asset allocation.

I'm always curious to hear what they recommend. I've done this before and followed their advice. It doesn't mean you have to allocate to their funds, and there is no charge if you have a certain minimum invested (again, doesn't have to be with T. Rowe Price.)

Most of my assets are now with Vanguard, but I have left my 2 taxable accounts and a small SEP-IRA with T. Rowe as I didn't want to create a taxable event by trying to transfer those monies over to Vanguard.

The guy I was counting on to assess all the hard-to-access nooks and crannies in the foundation where mice could enter, and then do all the sealing, is so busy he can't get here right away, and I'm farther out than he needs to go for new customers. Apparently, he's quite busy in his own area. He didn't say no not at all, but he said it may take a while...which means this will hold up my insulation job, and actually, the garden window job too, because I'm reluctant to spend on other things til I know just what he would charge.

I suppose I could proceed with the new insulation since cellulose is treated with boride, which repels pests, but I'd much prefer to do the sealing first so I'd be assured mice would not foul the new insulation. I'm feeling committed to doing it this year, and want to keep my mental momentum going, but I will wait...for a time... for sealer guy.

In the meantime, I have another insulation company coming later this week. I'm feeling better informed about my options now and just want to see what they say.

I'm due for an emissions test on my car, which in CT only happens every few years. Will do this week. I should be receiving a check from the auction house soon for the old books I auctioned off. The guy who gave me those books in barter has decided he wants to grow elderberries so he can make elderberry wine. And he has promised to have me up when they drink the wine! I told him I'd be happy to get a bottle of elderberry wine included in our next barter.

My Amazon Prime expires today, and I'm not too worried. Once my .99/month Hulu expires in the 4th quarter, I will investigate Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime and likely go for the most economical route.

I'm going to the town's genealogy club meeting this week, as the focus will be on researching NJ relatives. Also on my schedule this week is catching the last showing of Green Book at our $3 theater, and walking with a friend after work at least once.

I was able to do a fair amount of yard work this weekend, which included raking up all the twigs and small tree branches under the old apple tree, which was cut down, in preparation for grass seeding, which I'll do later this week.

I cut up (by hand), about 8 feet of an old picket fence to take to transfer station, and cut back the old stems on a bunch of sedums around the front yard and driveway areas. I transplanted 2 small cedar tree seedlings growing in the wrong places. Still a ton more to do, but at least I'm making progress.

Expensive home improvement projects

April 7th, 2019 at 12:47 am

Did some raking today, which made me feel so out of shape. Now I'm enjoying a toasty 75 degrees inside because I've turned the heat off and am running my kerosene heater. We may not have too many cold nights left, so I'm trying to use up my emergency power outage kerosene stockpile.

I'm still very busy getting quotes from contractors for various projects. Attic insulation is #1 on my list. The 1st guy wanted to do the spray foam for $3900. The more I read about it, the more I didn't like it, from an environmental/health point of view. And it all boils down to the technician's expertise. They mix 2 chemicals together on site, and if they get the ratio wrong, the stuff won't cure right and you'll be breathing in the outgassing for months.

The 2nd guy wanted to do rigid board foam, which would be somewhat better because these are pre-manufacturered and less chance of something going wrong. But he wanted over $7,000!

I did more research and decided I wanted the old-fashioned blown-in cellulose, which is nontoxic, a recycled product and even repels rodents because it's treated with borax for its fire retardant properties.

I had trouble finding guys who still did the cellulose, because they can all charge much more to do the spray foam, and it is, legitimately the most energy-efficient product out there. But I'm willing to give up a few points in R value for a more eco-friendly product.

After sharing my thoughts with spray foam #1 guy, he came back to me with an estimate of about $1500 for the cellulose, which he kept trying to talk me out of when he was here, but I think he realized that instead of losing my business entirely, he may as well quote me a price on what I wanted from the start.

However, he said he'd just blow the cellulose in over my existing insulation. I know the fiber glass batts I have are filled with mouse droppings, and I don't like the idea of putting brand new insulation over mouse droppings.

So....I'm trying to get a different guy out here who would do a whole home assessment to determine points of entry and then give me a price on completely sealing the home. He's not cheap. I tried to get him out here last year, and although he didn't, he said his cheapest price is $3,000. He got great reviews on Angie's List. He's not an exterminator, and appeared to be the only guy who did what I was looking for: someone to prevent entry, not simply kill them with baits or poison, which I could do myself. He crawls around the foundation, basement, roof and it's the kind of very messy, dirty, filthy job I suppose a homeowner could try to do themselves, but I sure don't.

So, although it's hard to swallow so much $$ for an "invisible" home improvement, I'm thinking I should bite the bullet, and the thousands I would have otherwise spent on pricey spray foam insulation could be applied to the house sealing instead.

I've decided to drop out of the "Mastering Aging" program. I've been to 3 classes and really haven't learned anything new. It's all very basic stuff. This past week the topic was nutrition, and the dietitian speaker said a number of things challenged by a few people in the audience. I didn't think she was very well-informed.

Tomorrow I'll be attending a meeting on building a pollinator pathway here through town. Similar to a wildlife corridor that provides shelter and safe passage for critters, the pollinator pathway is a continuous swath of native nectar sources for endangered butterflies, like the Monarch.

Beautiful Saturday

March 30th, 2019 at 06:14 pm

After a VERY busy Thursday/Friday,I set myself a few early spring yard work chores for today and finished one of them: deadheading all my sedum Autumn Joys. May not sound like much but it took 3 trips with the wheelbarrow to dump all the clippings at yard edge down at the far corner of the yard.

Now just relaxing with a cup of green tea and dark chocolate. I hope to make a transition from drinking black tea and sometimes green and white, to green and white entirely, due to the health benefits of the latter. I love my teas!

I had a contractor over this morning to look at a double-hung window I'd like to replace with a garden window, aka greenhouse window. It's in a short hallway on the first floor in kind of a dead space, with a bathroom door to the left and a closet door to the right. A garden window in this spot would receive both southern and western light and my cacti/succulents would love it (not to mention Luther), and it would free up my bathroom, which is where most of my plants spend the winter.

He's also going to give me a price on installing a pergola. Found one on Amazon (12 x 12') that was the same model as one I saw at Lowes, but $600 cheaper. It's maintenance-free white vinyl. My biggest concern is how it would stand up to the occasional high wind hurricane.

I also got prices from my mason for several different jobs, but his prices are so high, so I want to shop around, and truth be told, I'm not even sure what my priorities should be this year.

For instance, I should really beef up my attic insulation. I had an energy audit done 8 years ago and was told i had about R-22 insulation when I should have R-49. I just never got around to it.

I'll probably make that the first priority and maybe do one other thing, either the garden window or the pergola.

Took my car for an oil change at dealer, and replaced the battery.

Saw my dad yesterday and baked him a lemon pistachio quick bread at his place, which came out super dry and not very good. I've never used his oven before, plus I made several substitutions, so I'm not surprised.

Is anyone else having problems once again posting photos? I can't seem to get it to work. I get the image code but I don't see the image itself anymore.

Two fun developments

March 23rd, 2019 at 10:16 pm

So, as mentioned earlier, I applied for a volunteer editor job with, an organization I greatly admire and a group through which I regularly make micro-loans.

First I was asked to do one test, then another. I had a perfect score. Now I've been accepted and have begun editing profiles! I'm still in a 2-week training period, and there are a lot of things to learn with their particular editing platform, along with various things to look out for and style preferences, but all in all, I think it will be enjoyable.

The 2nd "fun development" is that about a week ago, the auction house that will hopefully be selling 2 old books of mine (which I received as part of a barter arrangement with my neighbor) has posted the full contents of its next auction (next week) online. My books are among the offerings.

So if someone wants to bid early, ahead of the live auction, they are free to do so. Bidders can come from anywhere in the world. I've been checking the auction site every other day to see if anyone may have placed an early bid on my books, but there were no takers, until today!

Someone has placed a bid of $200 on them. The auction guy said their value is more, but since I acquired these books without paying for them, I'll be happy with whatever I get for them. Although I admire their "look" and great age (1500s), I think I'd appreciate the cash more.

My mason has come back to me with higher-than-expected estimates for 2 of the jobs that I might end up doing this year, so anything extra to defray that cost would be good.

I've also pretty much decided not to repeat the organic cedar oil sprayings in my yard for ticks this year. Last year, I think I did 3 or 4 sprayings at $110 a pop. Most times I found a tick in my yard shortly after the spraying, and they did return for a repeat spraying as advertised, but I still have to wonder if any amount of sprayings actually decreased the population.

Equally important to me is not inadvertently killing other insects. Given the state of the environment at a global level, I don't want to make it worse in my neck of the woods. But ticks are also a serious problem here, so it was a tough decision to do it. And now I've changed my mind about it. So although it was "organic," I won't spray again.

I successfully grew 2 young milkweed seedlings last year from seed I collected, and I am hoping they survived the winter. They're planted in a large brushy area where my 3 white pines were taken down, and I hope to plant more perennials attractive to pollinators there this year.

I still have 3 black swallowtail butterfly chrysalises I overwintered in the back of my garage. I don't want them to emerge too early in the relative warmth of the garage, so a week or so ago I put them outside in a shaded area of my driveway that stays cool.

My neighbor and his chain saw guy came by last weekend to do the cleanup of many big white pine branches that came down in an ice storm from another white pine I have. I pitched in. My neighbor himself can't do that kind of work anymore because he hurt his back. I was glad to get the cleanup done, but I am still left with some raking to do of much smaller debris, which I'm hoping to do tomorrow as it should be up to 60 degrees!!!

At some point, a winter storm brought down another branch in the backyard that nicked the side of my tool shed and knocked 2 small shutters off the shed window. I am hoping that with a ladder I can put them back up, also tomorrow.

I'm actually really looking forward to some early spring chores. There is so much to do. Get a metal rake and pull out all the old compacted leaves clogging a storm sewer on the road right by my driveway. Cut down a sapling in the wrong place by the mailbox. Cut back all the sedum heads from last year.

In my 2nd "Mastering Aging" class, they had some representatives of Union Bank there talking about a variety of finance topics. I've been a little bored so far as I'm not really learning anything new, but I'll hang in there and hope that changes soon. The 1st class was really just an orientation of what was to come.

I've gotten in the habit of picking up groceries for my dad before heading over there, and then bringing something for lunch too. He is getting physical therapy only twice a week for 2 weeks, and then they want him to go the facility, where I think they can do more for him. His apartment doesn't really have much space for him to practice walking, and I'm afraid that when no one is there, he tends to sit around. At the same time, I would be very worried if he started venturing outside without anyone there to make sure he's safe. He's still using a walker and moving very slowly.

I also vacuumed for him, watered a bunch of plants on high shelves (you actually need a ladder to get to them), and generally tidied up. My natural impulse is to do as much for him as possible, but I think I need to hold back just a little and let him do things that are in fact doable, because he needs to move around more and regain his muscle tone.

His therapist arrived while I was there the other day and I thought he made a lot of good observations, correcting various things he saw my dad doing as he put him through his paces (shuffling more than walking, and relying on his arm strength too much when he leaned on the walker to rise from a seated position, instead of putting his full weight on the leg that had the surgery).

I have to say I am loving my p/t work schedule (this is my 2nd year doing that). Each day is different and filled with interesting activities. I am always on the lookout for new and interesting things to do. And I am so thankful I can make extra time for my dad, who never complains and maintains his good spirits.

Today I made a dairy-free coleslaw as well as a sun-dried tomato hummus. I'd include a photo, but once again the photos don't seem postable.

A meeting of the minds

March 21st, 2019 at 01:16 pm

Yesterday I had an appointment with my neurologist. I mentioned earlier how his staff insisted I needed to see the doctor (new to me) every 3 months, even though I said I was feeling fine and not having any problems. It was "protocol," they said.

He peppered me with a lot of questions while reading my charts simultaneously, and followed that up with a brief exam, after which he declared, I'll see you again in a year. I guess his staff was a little overzealous. This caused me to go off my meds, because they wouldn't refill the prescription until I saw him again; all I could do was move my appointment up by a few weeks and cut into work time to see him.

As I was checking out, he rummaged around and gave me a 2-week supply of the meds to tide me over until the prescription can be filled. This is not unusual for many drugs, but the one I take is exceedingly expensive. It can take a week to get the mail order prescription going again. He pointed out the prescription expiration date was December but said it was probably still good. I agreed. Hey...a 2-week's supply at retail would cost me about $1,500.

Yes, since the patent expired, the price has actually been going up, not down. There are some generic versions now available for about one-third less money, but my doctor recommended I stick with the brand drug since the generics don't legally have to be identical. Same ingredients, different amounts.

I very carefully chose an insurance plan this year that would ensure my med would be covered. Although I now have a $250 drug deductible to pay, and my cost to see any kind of specialist is going to be $115 per visit instead of the $50 I paid last year, it is still worth it to me to pay this for as long as I continue to be on this particular medication.

I continue to believe that the best health plan involves paying attention to diet and exercise to improve your chances of not having to see a doctor in the first place.

This morning is the 2nd "Mastering Aging" class I'll be attending, and then I'll be returning to the same library with a friend for the "Best Public Gardens in the Northeast" program. She wasn't feeling well yesterday, so I dropped off some herbal remedies for her and will check in with her later today.

This afternoon I'll be back home and putting in an extra 4 hours of work time, from home. Yesterday I learned the person who shares my job was going to be out the rest of this week and there seemed to be some miscommunication and no one seemed to know about it. So I volunteered to pick up the workload today, and possibly tomorrow, if I can squeeze it in around some other things I need to do.

I want to spend some time with my dad, who is still convalescing at home now. He is in good spirits, at least when I am there, but he did express a longing to "be a productive member of society, if not for others, at least for myself." Which was his way of saying he didn't want to end up just vegging out at home and requiring others to look after him.

I tried to assure him as best I could on that account, explaining that it can take many months to completely recover from surgery. With my own surgery from 10 years ago, they told me wait at least 6 weeks before returning to work, which I thought was nuts. I returned to work after 3 weeks but found that by noon I was really lagging and just plain running out of energy. Fortunately my employer was very understanding and let me work half days for a period of time until I regained my strength. And of course, I was half my dad's age.

I wrote earlier about doing the little test sent me after I volunteered for an editorial position there. I admire the work they do and thought it would be interesting to volunteer edit a few hours a week. So I did the test, which took about an hour. I found out recently that I aced the test, scoring 100. Now they want me to do another, different kind of test. It's due tomorrow, so I need to make time to do that today also.

The little clump of snowdrops given to me by a friend, which I planted around the base of a large white pine, are now in bloom and slowly spreading.

My daffodils and tulips are also a few inches above ground. So great to see!

Thursday things

March 13th, 2019 at 09:13 pm

I made another Kiva microloan today to Nino, who lives in Georgia, in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, so she can finance her second semester toward earning a bachelor's degree.

When the loan is eventually repaid, I can reloan the money to another deserving student or entrepreneur seeking to improve their life.

Women in other countries just don't have the same opportunities as we do. Helping someone complete their education is probably one of the best uses for my charitable dollars.

I greatly admire the Kiva organization. A year or so ago, I applied for a volunteer editor position there. Lo and behold, I got a note from them recently asking me to take a little test measuring my ability to read and review some sample portfolios. If I am offered a position and then undergo their training, I'd be expected to work at least 2 hours a week for them for at least 6 months.

Tomorrow I begin a free 10-week course at a local public library on "Mastering Aging." It covers the whole gamut, from Social Security and retirement saving to issues surrounding housing and social aspects for people approaching retirement age. I'm looking forward to learning more and am hoping it's not too basic and that it holds my interest.

I also volunteered to write an article for the local newspaper as part of an Earth Day series of stories; my article will focus on sustainable shopping. This Saturday is the group's first litter cleanup of the season. I'm happy to be getting busy with this group, although I still, for the most part, won't likely be able to attend many of their meetings since I usually work late on the nights they meet.

This Friday I may also attend a youth climate march in Westchester County. I think it important to demonstrate, with numbers of bodies on the streets, support for stronger action in the area of climate change.

I have a relatively new neurologist I'm seeing; last year, I had to leave another doc I'd been seeing for about 20 years because they were no longer in network with my insurance. But I discovered today that my new doctor expects me to see him every 3 months, even if I'm not having any problems. My old doc, in comparison, only required me to come in once a year, and then he would renew my meds for an additional 12 months.

On the face of it, it would seem the new doc is just trying to generate extra income for himself, but for me, the additional 3 annual visits would mean paying $200 in copays each year instead of $50.

What's more, his staff would not renew my meds, which need to be refilled, until I go there to see the doc. They don't know I have a small stockpile of meds to cover me in just these kinds of situations, but it really bothers me that they think this is OK. The appointment is scheduled for next week, but they still won't renew the meds, so they're basically holding me hostage until I see him.

This complicates my life, so I called my old doc and learned that he now has office hours at a certain center one day a week, and that med center, at an area hospital, accepts all insurance, including mine.

However, that location is less convenient, and since i work on the one day he's there, I'd have to take off from work, which I don't like to do because I can't easily make it up.

For the time being, I'm planning on keeping the appt with the new doc for next week. If he insists I see him quarterly, as his staff did, I may try proposing twice a year, instead of once a year, as a compromise. But 4x a year when I'm doing fine seems a little excessive to me, and I'm not sure my insurance would even cover 3 so-called "follow-up" visits? If he insists, I will probably stay mum, to make sure he doesn't renege on refilling my prescription, but then not return to him and go to my older doc instead, next time around.

I would probably just make a point to always schedule an appointment with the old doc 1st thing in the am to minimize time lost from the job. I start work later than most people, so this is mostly doable, although I'd be driving in 2 totally different directions...not ideal, but quarterly visits kind of irk me. There is also the risk that the old doc, who is now working at this MS center, might have to follow certain protocols of that center, and maybe he would no longer let me slide with once annual visits. I guess I may just have to find that out.

Sunshiney day

February 28th, 2019 at 03:20 pm

The end of the road, during one of my workweek lunch break walks.

I did my investment report a day early, and I like what I investments have continued to rebound nicely. In fact, my net worth is the highest it's been since Feb 2018 (which was my all-time high).

The macro look at the month of February shows that year-to-date, I've spent about as much as I've earned. I was ahead last month, but in February I had 2 big expenses that wiped out the January surplus: a $650 state tax bill and $448 to pay for this season's CSA organic farm market share.

I happened to get out of work early last Tuesday, which gave me the opportunity to attend the meeting of a local environmental action group in town. It's something I wanted to do for a long time but I rarely get out of work in winter early enough to make their meetings, but now work is easing up a bit (as it usually does for the summer).

I was promptly tapped to manage the group's litter pickup days, which they do monthly all season long. So today I'll be driving around to the town's parks, schools and other public places to do a trash inventory so I can organize the next cleanup. I'll also write a press release for the paper and Patch to invite public participation.

I've also decided, on a personal level, to no longer purchase single serving beverages. Not that I buy water, soda or other sugary drinks, but I did on occasion like to buy a case of Bai, which is sweetened with Stevia. I wrote them a letter but otherwise will just stop buying it.

Seems like a nice group. Two of their other big issues have to do with eliminating plastic grocery store bags and the pollinator crisis. I think they're also talking to local restaurants about plastic takeout stuff.