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Archive for March, 2015

Meal Plan and Accidentally Bought Lunch

March 31st, 2015 at 12:16 am

The meal plan for the week was based on not having things that we want to have when D's mum arrives next Monday.

- tuna melts and salad
- crash potatoes and asparagus (on sale!)
- chinese night! general tso's chicken, spicy cabbage and rice
- cornbread and salad
- mexican eggs with toast
- zucchini socca
- matzo ball soup and deviled eggs and broccoli

Friday night is Passover and Sunday is Easter... we celebrate both in our house so this is a big weekend. I found gluten free matzo meal and decided to have matzo ball soup. It was a splurge, but I haven't had matzo ball soup in forever!

Today I brought a seriously stupid lunch (leftover soup but not enough to really be a meal, strawberries, berries that turned out to be moldy and dried apricots) so the office bought me a little tray of sushi. I didn't pay for it (well, at least not directly). I hate when that happens. I need to plan better tomorrow.

Starting to Think about the Garden

March 29th, 2015 at 04:24 pm

The weather is really nice, and D's mum is coming out in a few weeks, which has me thinking about our garden.

Today:
- buy some soil at Home Depot (see if the outdoor rugs are out yet)
- shop vac old leaves
- sweep
- think about sewing new cushions (I have the foam and fabric)

Next Weekend:
- build a small wall to hide the bbq

I need to call my good friend G who is an amazing gardener to find out when I need to put out vegetable plants here in the high desert (we could easily have another freeze). I've tried starting from seed, and when I put out my poor plants they all died. So I'm buying starter plants at the nursery.

The plan:
- lettuce mix (this you can actually start from seed)
- zucchini
- tomatoes
- thyme
- spearmint
- green onions

It's not super ambitious, but I'm not exactly the best gardener.

We've decided to bbq when D's mum is here, too, because the weather is supposed to be good, and that will be a treat for her, coming from England. And I need to wipe down the outdoor table so she can have her tea outside.

We did a lot of work on the garden last year and just have a little farther to go... I love it out there.

Gym Money, Soccer and Staying within the Grocery Budget

March 27th, 2015 at 07:59 pm

I was going to deposit my $84 gym money next week, but it's Friday and the bank has popcorn! So I'm going today.

Then I pick F up from school, take her to tennis and then soccer (this is the big sports day). It's pretty nice out, so I'll probably do one lap around the horse track at soccer.

Tonight: frugal dinner of soup and garlic bread.

Tomorrow: out to dinner with friends. We're going to our mutual favorite, a small locals place. That's a big deal in a tourist town like this! Much less expensive and better food. But it's not downtown, so tourists don't find it.

It's nearly the end of the month, and I'm itching to do the end-of-the-month summary to see how we did (pretty well, I think!). I bought gas today, because I was driving to a town about an hour away and I don't like getting low on gas. But we're still within our gas budget.

One more grocery shop for the month, and there's still $382 in groceries! So the remaining money after that shopping trip will beef up our "unexpected medical" and "household repairs" categories. D was supposed to call his mother to find out if she has any diet restrictions right now. That way I will tailor the menu plan in two weeks (when she arrives) for her. This will affect next week's meal plan because I don't like to repeat too much. I also want to know what she likes for breakfast, snacks to have around...

Hope everyone has a great weekend! I'm definitely looking forward to it!

House Two Doors Down Under Contract

March 26th, 2015 at 08:02 pm

The housing market in our small city has been really weird. Things weren't selling, and what was on the market was really weird or overpriced.

I don't make it a habit of keeping track, except that a good housing market usually means more work in construction which means more work for architects! I weathered the last economic downturn pretty well, but that was mostly because I don't design houses (I do mostly civic/public buildings). That slowed down, too, but not as much.

This morning I learned that the house two doors down from us is under contract. I didn't even know it was for sale; it must have just gone on the market. It was being rented out because the owner moved around the corner (same neighborhood); I didn't know the people who were renting it (it hasn't been that long). I can't wait to have real neighbors! There are only four houses on our street.

Anyway, the really good news is that it sold for $720k! It's a little larger than ours (maybe 2500 sf and ours is 2300). It has a little bit nicer view, too. But this is really good news for our equity! I've been figuring our house is worth $500k, but I think it's probably a little over $600k. I built it 16 years ago, and with the lot and an addition about 9 years ago, we've paid $300k total. We owe just under $57k.

I should be less nervous about money given the equity in our home, but you have to have somewhere to live, and you can't eat your home, right? Plus equity could disappear as the market changes. So I'll just continue being frugal.

Gym Money and Easter Basket and the Tooth Fairy

March 25th, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Hello, I'm the tooth fairy. Well, at least at this house I am. The secretary at school told me "F has a surprise for you!" and it turned out she lost her tooth at school. She showed it to her close friend/deskmate who thought it was a blob of hot glue! Anyway, the secretary gave her a little treasure chest container, and she brought it home for the tooth fairy (reminder: that is me). Amazingly, I am actually prepared! I have a set of secret ink pens that the tooth fairy can give F under her pillow tonight. This was as stocking stuffer I forgot about and decided to keep on hand. There is also the tooth fairy certificate which I just printed out.

Now, the thing I'm not prepared for is Easter. Did I mention that I am also the Easter Bunny? The New Mexican Easter Bunny is a jackrabbit named Tomás. I don't want to spend a lot on Easter, and F still has candy from Valentine's day. I don't have a lot of time to go to the store, either. Tomas always leaves eggs around the house so that F can go on an egg-hunt when she wakes up on Easter Sunday, and I have the eggs which I rescued from last year. I think maybe the solution is some japanese erasers from Amazon. There is budget money for these kinds of holidays, but I think $20 max!

I did get some money from the gym today ($84) which will go toward our mortgage principal. It was a fun class today... I really love weightlifting, and what I teach is weightlifting set to music, which is even more fun!

The bad thing is that I have some very tight muscles, and it's pulling me out of whack. I went to the chiropractor yesterday, $60, and I have another appointment with someone different (who fixed my friend's problem) on April 14. I am going to ask for an assignment (stretching? exercises?); I will work hard if I know what to do! I'm going to go stretch right now!!!

Big Snowflake - Thank you, Chase!

March 25th, 2015 at 12:13 am

I checked the Ink Cash rewards on my Chase Card (this is my business visa) to find that I had accumulated $140! I guess I've too been busy to keep track, because I usually cash out at $50!

Anyway, they now deposit directly into an account, and when I see it, it'll go right to the mortgage.

I ran around like crazy today. Lots of work, a long meeting, had to take D to the car place (it was $87, less than expected, so that's good) and then the Egypt Fair up at F's school (where the kids all shared their projects on Ancient Egypt - F did transportation; all of the kids walked in to "Walk Like an Egyptian" - ha!).

There wasn't much time for lunch, but the meeting was right near our house, so I went home and had 15 mins to heat up some leftover pasta.

F and I splurged on ice cream at Baskin Robbins; $3.25. That was to celebrate her excellent Egypt report as well as getting a head start on her next book report. She read Greenglass House, a newish book about a mystery in an inn. I read it, too, and we both loved it. Her project is going to be a floor plan of the inn. It's almost like Clue! Different people and objects in different rooms.

Now.... I guess it's dinner time. Sausages with rice and broccoli.

Update after a Week's Holiday

March 23rd, 2015 at 11:52 pm

We were away for a week for Spring break - but we're back!

I got a ton of work done today, and I also made a trip to the bank to deposit the other half of our tax refund (state refund). Along with that, I deposited some snowflakes from selling some old technical books that I was considering tossing. I'm glad I didn't - I got $63 for them!

So I put 1128 toward the mortgage principal today; we've paid off $5104 this year.

Paying off the mortgage is crucial to paying for F's school (when she enters high school). We ended up getting $750 in tuition assistance this year (and it's really $1000 because we also don't have to pay the $250 finance charge since we're getting assistance; if you don't get assistance and pay monthly, it adds this charge - ugh).

The bad financial news is that I'm still getting bills for the endoscopy I had to have in January. I paid $422 at the time of service, and I thought that was it, but nooooooo... I've gotten two additional bills, one for $150 and another for $60. There is only $78 left in my "medical unforeseen" category. I need to beef that back up!

So... more good financial news: We did not spend much on our spring break trip. We stayed with my parents, so we just bought food.

I am hoping we can stay on budget when D's mother comes to visit from the UK in April. We have one dinner out planned, and one visit to the Tea House for a treat (I like the scones with lemon curd) and one potluck dinner with our friends at our house. D will probably also take his mum out to lunch one day. So that's pretty much our eating out budget for the month, but oh well! She's coming a long way.

We're trying to figure out some free entertainment, too. She'll want to go to the Plaza and probably buy something from the Indian jewelry sellers. She wants to go shopping for jeans, too. We can tag along since these won't be our purchases.

She can't really hike or walk too much (she uses a crutch), but she will go to F's soccer practices and Saturday game (they have a cart to take her to the fields) and her tennis lesson. And she'll go with me to pick F up from school. Not sure that's the best entertainment...

Any ideas?

End of the Weekend

March 8th, 2015 at 09:43 pm

It's almost the end of this long four-day weekend. We decided not to go x-c skiing today so that F could play with her friend. They are in different grades, so they don't see each other at school, and after this week it's Spring Break. We are going to CA to see my parents and her family is going skiing in Banff.

Another friend of F's is going to NYC and another friend is going skiing in Telluride. Wow! Those are some fancy vacations! I am pretty excited about our vacation, too. My parents live in a really nice area, and since we stay with them lodging is free! We're taking the train out, and from my parents' house we can just walk down the street and see the LA Marathon go by. So that's Sunday's activity. My mom is buying all sorts of food for our stay. We're going to Knott's Berry Farm one day with my 26 year old niece (F is over the moon! They looooooove each other!).

The train, by the way, was the same price as flying and includes a sleeper car and meals on the train. We booked early since they have a sort of tier system.

Other things to mention:
- I signed up for the local pool this summer and got a $15 discount since I was one of the first 60 to sign up.
- I bought some socks at Target for F and she realized it said "pack of 7" but there were only 5 (good spot, F!). So I returned them. They were out of this style at the store, so I bought them online and for some reason no shipping charge. I have no idea why.
- I just finished my state taxes and we're getting the last part of our solar PV tax credit. When the money comes into our account it will go right into the mortgage principal.
- I stopped by the office today and saw that I'd gotten two checks; yay!
- I also ran 1.5 miles from the office (it's a really nice run; less hilly than running from our house)

It's about 3:45 now, and I have about 1 hour to relax while the girls play... I'm going to go watch a show on the BBC about The Knowledge (that is the test that you have to take to drive a London taxicab).

I hope you all had a great weekend!

i was "perfumed" at Target!

March 7th, 2015 at 11:46 pm

I got "perfumed" at Target today. It was from pushing the cart (it's my hands that smell). It's so strong that even after using germ stuff, washing my hands three times, rubbing with a lemon... they still smell! I am so grumpy! Now I'm going to have to sniff the cart handles before I use them.

Anyway, I bought F some shorts (we are going to CA for Spring Break and I realized her summer clothes don't fit!) $8, some foil and kleenex and wipes.

I also went to the grocery store this week and had a pretty good week. Total was about $75.

I am going to go wash my hands with baking soda; be right back.

I'm back; it didn't work.

Dinner tonight is Apricot Chicken with Basmati Rice and Broccoli. I'm going to go get started on the sauce to take my mind off my stinky hands.

Big Mortgage Pay-Down

March 7th, 2015 at 01:18 am

We received our tax return money yesterday, so F and I went to the bank today (popcorn Friday!) to pay down principal.

This was a big pay-down! The return (federal) was $3104 and I put the entire thing toward principal. Our balance is now $57,917. If we don't put any more money toward principal, we own our house in February 2020.

I promised D that when we went below $50k we would have a nice meal out. According to my spreadsheet that happens in September.

Anyway, in the car on the way to F's tennis lesson, we had a big discussion about mortgages and interest and principal. She was pretty into it! I wish my parents discussed these sorts of things with me when I was a kid...

Got our Tax Return and a $0 Electric Bill!

March 6th, 2015 at 12:31 am

Our tax return money was deposited into our account and we got a notice about the portion that we decided to take as an Amazon credit. We opted for $200 to be Amazon and they added another $20 to it for taking that option (snowflake!). We'll use the Amazon credit for regular purchases, but the $220 (and the rest of the tax return money) will go to mortgage principal.

It makes the accounting a little weird, but whatever. We use Amazon for most of our purchases (bday gifts, birdseed, dog tooth treats, everything). So I just need to track those purchases as if they showed up on our visa.

Besides our tax return yesterday, we got our February electric bill. And it was ZERO dollars. Actually it was negative $1.32 but they won't cut checks for less than $20, so we need to wait for it to build up. You know what we'll do with the check when we finally get it of course. Mortgage!

New Project, Had to do a Midweek Shop and No School Tomorrow

March 5th, 2015 at 01:32 am

It was the kickoff meeting for my new project today. You'd be proud of me: I stood my ground about our upcoming vacation (which I noted in my proposal to them). I said I wouldn't work on holiday, so that week did not count toward the schedule.

I ended up doing a midweek shop this week, which I never do. I really can't remember the last time. I bought some staples we ran out of (olive oil) and sour cream for tonight's dinner. I would have ended up buying these during the weekend shop anyway, so it is what it is.

While I was there, I picked up a prepared salad for lunch (which I also never do). I will get reimbursed from the office since the reason for the salad is that the kickoff meeting went so long I missed lunch.

Today F went to see the psychologist. She was great, and F came out of there seeming like a weight was off her shoulders. I think it was just the act of letting someone else in on her secret anxiety. So we have an appointment next week, and we've reserved the slot for the near future. The cost was $10 (insurance!!! yay!).

Tomorrow: parent-teacher conference at 8:45, and for the first time I'm dreading it (in the past it's just been "F is a joy to have in class and very bright"). I want to talk about F's schoolwork, but I know the teacher wants to talk about the anxiety (I'm not guessing - she emailed me). I'm just going to tell her that F has just seeing someone so maybe we can check back in a month after she's seen her 4 or 5 times. Her work notebook is sent home every other week and I look at everything and sign off and send it back, so I know the anxiety hasn't affected her work (she's getting all A's).

After the conference I need to go match a stucco color; F said that was fun and she'd help. Then I'm teaching spinning, which F definitely wants to go to. Then we'll have lunch together.

Friday is a no-school day, too, and F has a friend coming over. Maybe I'll get a little bit done while they play.

A Few Snowflakes

March 3rd, 2015 at 08:12 pm

I popped into the bank today to deposit a check (side income) for D and the office rent check from my office-mate and also to pay down $174 on the mortgage.

On the way, I stopped at the post office to mail a bunch of old books to bookbyte. I should be getting about $50 for them, and of course that will go to the mortgage. Anyway, the books were HEAVY and the post office is up a series of steps. Ugh. But as I was piling my three boxes up in an orderly way on the hood of my car, I saw my friend R (he's the husband of my friend L). R is an archaeologist, and super nice! He carried my books up the steps and into the post office for me. On our way in, I saw another friend who is the mother of one of F's soccer friends. Soccer starts soon, so we'll get to hang out on the fields.

It was a reminder that I like living in a small city.

I ran today, too, and smiled at a lot of people, but didn't see anyone I know. I run from my office downtown, and it's mostly tourists after a certain time of morning.

Now I am busy making plans for F for the long weekend. She has Thursday and Friday off for parent-teacher conferences. Our conference is Thursday, but the rest of the day is free. And we're going running together with a friend of mine (that we met in the NICU when F and her son were both born preemie). That'll be early, too, while her son is in school, since she is very certain he wouldn't want to run with us. Friday afternoon is tennis.

Last weekend was pretty blah, so I'm trying to find fun activities and playdates.

Maybe x-c skiing, too.

Our Not-Very-Exciting Weekend

March 2nd, 2015 at 12:26 am

F is super bored, but I sort of think it's ok to be bored sometimes so that you can learn how to entertain yourself... she's decided to do an art project. I know a lot of families that do something extraordinary and fun and fantastic every weekend. But we don't have the money or the energy for that!

D and I had to take some time to request another look at our tuition assistance situation. We had to analyze our Dublin house and send that info to the Financial guy at school.

I had to clean the house. Yesterday was a snow day, and I had to buy groceries for the coming week.

It was all very frugal and low key.

Our weekends are not keeping up with the Joneses!

Actually, next weekend we have plans to go x-c skiing. And the following weekend we are going to CA for Spring Break. So that all seems pretty exciting! Sometimes you just need a boring weekend and some down time.