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Archive for January, 2016

Meal Planning (and Lunch!)

January 31st, 2016 at 03:49 pm

We ran into my friend N shopping with her daughter while we were in the store buying things for F's "hot lunch." (This is the lunch I send once a week with special things since the school's hot lunch is both expensive and, according to most of the kids, gross!).

Anyway, N asked what we were having for dinner this week. I had my phone with me, and I keep the meal plan in Notes, so I read it off to her.

Due to F's activities FOUR nights this week (soccer, basketball game, soccer and another basketball game) we have to have quick dinners on Monday through Thursday.

S - Chicken croquettes with salad
M - Vegetable/turkey stew from the freezer (thank you, crockpot) with toast
T - Pasta with parmesan and roasted veggies (red pepper, courgettes, red onion)
W - Fish, rice and broccoli with lemon sauce
T - Grilled cheese and tomato soup
F - Frittata with spinach and manchego

I am thinking of being a little better about planning my lunches (F's are all planned out). D brings a sandwich or leftovers pretty much every day.

Here is the loose lunch plan for this week for me:
M - leftover croquette with lettuce to wrap it in, banana
T - goat cheese on toast with carrots on the side, pear
W - leftover pasta and veggies, kiwi
T - avocado toast with radishes, apple
F - salad with turkey, pear, piece of cinnamon raisin bread

Missed Thankful Thursday, but I really am Thankful

January 29th, 2016 at 09:11 am

I missed Thankful Thursday, but I've been keeping a daily thankful note, and I really am thankful. It's been a long, strange week, but everything is good.

- F came in 10th in the County Spelling Bee! I'm even more thankful that she has a healthy attitude about competitions; it's fun, but she's happy wherever she places. And being one of the ten best spellers in our County is pretty cool!

- F loved the books I got her. She loved them so much, she read them all in two days. But better than that, she was super excited to lend them to her friend K who had also read the first two. I love that she loves to share!

- D's mum said that she will help with some of the cost of F's upcoming weekend soccer camp. My mom helped, too. They love their granddaughter!

- D's sister confirmed that our dates to visit her when we're in the UK are ok. I can't tell you what a relief this is, since she has a habit of trying to control our schedule. (Which is difficult when a lot of it is controlled by camps and other things in the summer; plus we already got our plane tickets and those dates were based on the best pricing).

I am also thankful that I have work. I am just about to call a contractor I work with that has a project for me. Cool!

This Week's Menu

January 25th, 2016 at 07:48 am

This week's menu plan was designed to accommodate three days of late nights (soccer and basketball).

S - tuna melts and leftover brussels sprouts and peas
M - chicken piccata with broccoli and rice
T - baked potatoes and roasted carrots
W - fagiole stew and cornbread
T - salad and chicken/rice soup
F - goat cheese and spinach and beet tart
S - pasta with red sauce with a salad

Next week will be "eat out of the pantry" week since it's the 5th grocery shopping weekend of the month. There is still $166 left in groceries, but it'd be nice to take some of that and use if for something else.

This morning was a little hectic, so I ran out of the house without breakfast. It's so tempting on those days to get a muffin or something, but instead I had an emergency noodle bowl here in the office, added hot water and that was breakfast instead! I am very proud, and it's actually a good breakfast.

Now I need to stock the office with another emergency noodle bowl!

Tax Refund but not Big, Another Snowflake, Spelling Bee

January 24th, 2016 at 08:20 am

So, first the tax refund. We do have a refund, but a very small one. I guess that's how you want it, right? So that you're not lending the government money all year? For some reason the state says we owe ($52), but I haven't gotten to the state tax section yet, so we'll see. I think that should be zero or a small refund, too, based on the federal, but we'll see.

I sold F's teeny tiny x-c ski gear on Craigslist on Friday to a firefighter. I dropped it off at Station 1 and saw the Chief who is not only a client of mine but has become a friend; our kids go to school together, too. Made $25 for the mortgage, took it right over to the bank, and got the bank's Friday popcorn.

Saturday morning was the County Spelling Bee. F was one of 50 kids in it (two each from 25 schools in the County). The studying was terrible, and she says she never wants to participate again! The only thing that made it worthwhile was that the two representatives from her school were her and her best friend. Anyway, she came in 10th and best friend was 5th - we were all so proud!!

Afterward, she had a birthday party to go to. Lunch and a movie. I was tempted to buy some lunch, too, but I kissed her goodbye, hugged my friend (F's friend's mom) and went home for leftovers! So it was a no-spend day!

When I picked her up, we both went over to the house of another friend at the birthday party. While the girls played, my friend A and I hung out.

On the drive home, I thought a lot about how having good friends like that (who are content just to hang out, sip tea, laugh about stuff) helps you save money!

Today: need to do the grocery shopping and then F has soccer practice (indoor!). After that she has a friend coming over for a few hours.

Feeling Better about No-Spend Spending and Still Doing Taxes

January 20th, 2016 at 01:12 pm

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post - I feel so much better about buying those books for F - they come tomorrow and she will be so surprised.

She is working so hard on learning the spelling bee words! The bee is this Saturday morning, and right afterward one of her three best friends is having a birthday party (lunch and movie).

If you have any soccer girls, the books are called The Kicks, and they were written by USWNT superstar Alex Morgan. F really loved her autobiography, too.

I cleaned up the office a little bit this morning (lots left to do, but a little bit a day will work), posted something on Craigslist and then did a bit more on our taxes. Still need to input:
- D's W2 (which hasn't been issued yet so I guess I have to wait)
- D's work 401K - will this be part of the W2?
- 1099 from energy rebates (also still waiting on this to arrive)
- Irish house rental and expenses - D is working on this
- Irish taxes - D is working on this, too

Turbo Tax doesn't care if I don't have everything. It's tracking our refund.

I know it's a bit early to start our taxes, but I'm a little over-eager! Have you started yours yet?

Some Spending, Snowflake and Taxes

January 19th, 2016 at 01:22 pm

I've been trying really hard on the No Spend Month (no unnecessary spending) but not doing spectacularly well. Some things have come up. OK, let's be honest: there are some things I've wanted to buy for F.

She's been doing so well with so many activities lately and testing and now the spelling bee this Saturday which she's super nervous about. She borrowed her friend's books that they both love, but I wanted to get them for her as a reward for staying cool under pressure. It's a series of 6 books, and the total was $41.90. They're written by one of her favorite soccer players. Here is my (sort of lame) justification: we borrow books from friends, from the library, but if it's a book you read over and over then it's ok to have some books that you own!

Anyway, I haven't been getting any snacks or treats out, eating all lunches made from home. We've eaten out only once this month.

There is lots of money in the budget, so we're fine from that standpoint.

I need to keep referring back to my "Things to Buy" note in my phone if I want to buy something.

My weakness seems to be buying things for F. It's easy not to buy for myself.

Anyway, the good news is that I got $79.25 for royalties for my book. I don't get a lot, but it's nice when I do get a check. I paid down mortgage principal with it, and we're now at $41,445.44.

Also - I finished my business taxes and started our personal taxes. No - we don't have all of the forms yet, but I already did my W2 and K1. And I downloaded all of the interest statements.

Thankful Thursday and Mortgage Progress

January 14th, 2016 at 07:02 pm

I've been keeping track of things I'm grateful for all week...

8th - I got some tulip bulbs from my client (I never get anything from clients because they work for the county/city and they're not private individuals) - so sweet, and a good reminder of Spring!

9th - We went xc skiing and then sledding, and D took wonderful photos...

10th - Finished 6 hours of continuing education already (need 15 for the year). They were all free!

11th - Finished my business taxes... it all worked out and was relatively painless!

12th - F made a goal in her very first basketball game! So happy for her! And I found a new, faster way to get to the school where the games are held.

13th - I found an old cd and was able to teach my weightlifting class with something new (well not new, but old enough that it's new again)

14th - F finished testing today! Hooray!

And I got paid by the gym, so that's another $80 for the mortgage. We are now at $41,524.69. I am very anxious to be in the 30k's...

F Made a Basket and a Frugal Dinner

January 13th, 2016 at 03:54 pm

We leave in 5 minutes for indoor soccer practice; we bought indoor shoes for F because she was slipping last week and there are several more practices (2 per week all month) AND the team decided to do indoor league in February. The shoes were on sale and the best part: they can be worn as regular shoes, too!

Last night was basketball; it was F's first game ever and she made a basket! It's a co-ed team and the boys aren't too great about passing to her, but the moms were all screaming, "Pass it to F!" She was in exactly the right place all the time (she has a knack for positioning). So one boy passed it to her, and she took the shot and made it in. After that, a lot more of her team-mates were passing to her... she made some awesome passes, too! I'll call it a success.

The hard part about all the sports is working out when to have dinner.

Last night the game was 6:30 so we ate first (tostadas). Tonight, we'll eat afterward - asian meatballs that are cooking away in the crockpot and rice (in the rice cooker).

The other thing is exercise. I designed a little 20 min. workout that we can do while the girls practice soccer - I had to modify my circuit workout because we can't (won't!) touch the disgusting floor where they practice. My friend T does the workout with me and I texted her to remind her to bring a jumprope and little weights. I love T; she is a wonderful person and a great friend, and she does these silly workouts with me! She's the one who ran with me around the horse track when soccer practice was outside.

OK, time to go... I am taking F and her friend G tonight... G's mom dropped her off because she has three kids, and it's hard to schedule. It takes a village, right? (And F is so happy to have G, and G is so happy to be here with F; they are gabbing and giggling... awesome girls!)

Doing S-Corp Taxes

January 11th, 2016 at 02:52 pm

Oh my... knee deep in the taxes for my business. I do it every year, and every year it makes my brain hurt. I am trying to remember that every year I'm glad afterward that I did it myself. But really, my mind is numb right now.

I am trying to do one thing differently - I am making a step by step list of what I do so that I don't have to reinvent the process each year.

Step 1 - compare ibank totals for each category to my annual profit/loss spreadsheet.

And now... I'm stepping away from this for an hour to go to the grocery store (somehow we only went to one store yesterday and I shop at two) and then pick up F from school. She had testing today, and I think she'll be exhausted. But no homework tonight.

Dinner is salmon with roasted cauliflower.

Snow, Beautiful Snow

January 9th, 2016 at 07:30 pm

Yesterday while F was in Geography Club it started to snow, really snow, hard! It usually takes us 17 minutes to get home, but it took 45. Cars were pulled over on the side of the road, everyone was going about 5 mph. Some cars couldn't make it up small hills. I picked a route home that was relatively flat but it was downhill because we live downhill from school. I was supposed to pick up D from work on the way home, but I had F call him and he started walking toward us and ended up just jumping in the car so that we didn't have to go out of our way.

Anyway, thanks to our snow tires and everyone being very good about leaving room for other cars and not tailgating and going slowly, we made it home last night safely. I may have mentioned that we have an extra set of rims, so D just puts the tires on himself in November, and that saves us a lot of money! We only put them on his car, and we share that car when snow is forecast.

It snowed overnight, too, and we woke up to a beautiful snowy morning! So, we decided to go cross country skiing and sledding. The roads still weren't plowed most streets but they were packed and not icy, and the snow tires were perfect.

It was a really wonderful day, and we had roasted veggies and rice for dinner.

If it's snowy where you are, be safe and have fun!

Grateful Week 1

January 7th, 2016 at 10:33 am

A week of gratefulness!

1st - ​Meghan Klingenberg - a soccer player who is world class but still has time for giving back; F can't wait to attend her camp! We signed her up as soon as registration opened (midnight, EST, January 1st!)

2nd - My friends, my support network

3rd - Finished our holiday puzzle, and forgot to photograph it, but who cares? F put in the last pieces.

4th - L's exercise class (we both teach the same class, but I love to go and goof around with her!)

5th - My daughter's friends are so wonderful! I like them the way I like my own friends; I love to see her with them!

6th - Went to indoor soccer practice, and the building was soooo cold - but my friend T whose daughter does soccer with F worked out with me - crazy jumping jacks and jumprope and step-ups outside while the snow fell!

7th - Snow, snow, snow! Woke up to a snow delay and everything was so beautiful! This is still exciting for a native Californian even after 23 years...



(A lot of it is already melted off because the sun is out... but it's supposed to snow again tonight).

No Unplanned Spending

January 5th, 2016 at 03:20 pm

I can't say we're having a "no-spend" month, but definitely a "no unplanned spending" month.

That means:
- no dining out this month (to pad up the dining budget for the trip to Phoenix, but also to put the rest toward the mortgage)
- no buying snacks or coffees (except I do have a starbucks voucher that someone gave me at Christmas, so I could use that if I wanted something)
- no lunches out (even office lunches)
- no silly toys (it was just Christmas!)
- no clothes
- no items for our home or home improvement projects

We have planned for this month:
- one cross country ski visit
- bag to store xmas tree
- mittens and a balaclava for F

We've already paid for our plane tickets to Phoenix in February, and have reserved the hotel.

Dinner tonight is posole that is cooking in the crockpot right now. It's basketball practice, so not a good night for anything elaborate. Posole is soooo good! Have you ever had it?

F is upstairs doing her homework. Sometimes I wonder if she notices our frugality compared to her friends' families. Everyone was talking about what they got for Christmas this morning at school (it was the first day back). One boy was in Aspen for a week. Another went to NYC and got an entire mountain biking set-up. Most of her friends go downhill skiing. (A full-day lift ticket for a child is $52 and $75 for an adult - not in our budget!). She's ten, and this is the age I remember starting to notice that some kids had huge houses, but she never talks to me about it.

2015 Look-Back

January 4th, 2016 at 09:51 am

I put the final numbers into my spreadsheet and found the following:

- Income increased by 13% compared to last year (yay!)
- Expenses increased by 10% (partly because we bought our tickets to Europe which is an every-other-year expense)
- Savings was up 83%!!!

- Our goal was 30% wants, 50% needs, 20% savings, and our budget was pretty much right on target
- Our actual was 28% wants, 43% needs, 28% savings - that was good news! (What is actually means is that any extra money we got went to savings).

So it was a good year, and this is the plan for next year:
- 30% wants, 49% needs, 21% savings

BIG Snowflake - I am freaking out!

January 3rd, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Driving back from REI after failing to buy her new winter gloves (that don't freeze her fingers off - we're going for mittens this time)... F suggested that we stop and get the mail (we have a ganged box for our whole street).

She brought it back to the car and listed off "boring thing, boring thing, Highlights Magazine! Yay!" And I took the "boring things" into the front seat. Well - they were NOT boring. I saw an envelope from a solar panel company... and it was a referral check! I made some referrals a loooong time ago, and sort of forgot about them. I didn't know that one of my referrals got panels!!! The check is for $500!!!!!

D is also over the moon because we had already decided that we were taking F to Phoenix to do a soccer camp with her idol/hero/role model Meghan Klingenberg. This helps so much!

Anyway, I got online and bought F some gloves that we saw at REI... and I bought them through REI, but on the website they were 50% off! We also got her a 50% off balaclava so that she's prepared when soccer starts outdoors in February (indoor is in January).

I so want to go deposit this check, but it's Sunday....

We are having our neighbor over for cake and tea/coffee because we haven't seen her all Christmas, so I need to go feed everyone lunch (big salad and garlic bread) and get the cake going...

Things we Need to Buy in 2016

January 1st, 2016 at 11:49 am

There are some planned purchases for 2016, but I am currently seeing how the numbers are in YNAB before we buy anything...

- Bag for storing the Christmas tree (last tree was stored in the original box which became a mouse bed - yuck) - we will hang from the rafters in the garage with hooks we already have - $40 (we can take this from the $126 we have in Supplies)

- Swimsuit for me (mine is great but after two seasons it's falling apart already!) - $30 (I have $13 in my clothing fund, but this is not an urgent item so I can allow another month or two to let the fund build up)

- Water Shoes for the family for Summer Trip - the beach is super rocky, and if we get shoes there, they are twice as much - saw these on Amazon for $7-10 per pair - $30 for all three of us (let clothing budgets build up for a couple of months)

- Bday gifts for F in June - thinking new scooter and a subscription to BYOU magazine - family gift fund is depleted after Christmas but this will build up and by June there will be plenty

- Wide mouth insulated bowl for F's lunch - $30 (yes, it's a lot) - small appliances is in the red by $46 after buying the Christmas tree - so we'll let that build back up and I should be able to buy this in March. In the meantime, the thermos certainly works...

Also - we have signed F up for a weekend soccer camp in Arizona with her IDOL: Megan Klingenberg. I couldn't wish for a better role model for F, and she has a foundation and a camp each year. It's going to take a little scraping to get us all there... This is an unexpected trip, and luckily Phoenix is close. I am searching for hotels, and we're having our wonderful neighbor over for cake this weekend (and we'll ask her if she can watch the pets while we're gone to avoid boarding).