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Coach Coming to Stay

April 26th, 2017 at 12:08 am

Another Spring, another British soccer coach coming to stay with us!

This time it's about 10 days... no reimbursement from the Club (ugh; sometimes they really frustrate me - even $25 would help with food costs). It's a girl, and we're very excited because I met her and she loves both soccer and Harry Potter (so F's twin!).

She'll be here tomorrow, so tonight we're eating a very frugal dinner of polenta and salad. Tomorrow - chili with cornbread.

I need to get the sheets on her bed and quickly clean the bathroom (which is already clean, but you know...).

Tomorrow is a soccer practice night which is why the crockpot dinner. F's team is scrimmaging the boys' team.

In other news - her coach told me last night that his wife has basically gone AWOL (alcohol). They have a two year old, who he is now taking care of by himself. His parents are in town, and he has the two older kids to help (his daughter is on the team, too). I offered to help however I can - how could I not? I think some dinners over here would help. And I can watch the kids.

OK - need to go make a salad now, and start dumping things in the crockpot for tomorrow's chili (I put the crockpot in the fridge until morning; couldn't do it all in the morning - too crazy).

How we paid off almost $7500 in 4 months

April 19th, 2017 at 02:58 pm

Someone asked how we paid off $7500 in 4 months and I thought this would make a good post!

First of all, I have an excel spreadsheet that calculates pay down with additional principal payments. That has helped us know what we need to do to reach our goal.

Also - our regular payments are included in the $7500. The spreadsheet shows how much of our regular payment each month is interest and how much is principal (we are mostly principal now).

Here's the breakdown:

January: owe $18029
principal from regular payment - $1034
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown,
- 23.75 insurance refund from USAA, 70 gym payment for teaching,
- 312.05 net rental income from our Irish house (which was paid off a year ago; we pay an average of $400/month - one month 300 and the next month 500 but this is in euros, so it's a little more in dollars)

February: owe $16,400
principal from regular payment - $1039
additional payments -
- 150 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 extra principal (because our escrow amount went down but we're still paying the same payment
- 57 gym payment for teaching
- 532.19 net rental income from our Irish house
- 38 consigned a coat and payment came through

March: owe $14,590
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 86 gym payment for teaching
- 316.48 net rental income from our Irish house
- 67.5 D's side work

April: owe $12,910
principal from regular payment - $1044
additional payments -
- 155.21 budgeted for principal paydown
- 5.21 - my banking mistake, but I made it up in another category
- 75 gym payment for teaching
- 318.56 net rental income from our Irish house
- 75 D's birthday gift which he used part of and put this amount toward the mortgage - that was nice of him!
- 633.37 - distribution from work (long story, but I took a distribution and decided to pay down mortgage principal with it)

Now owe: $10,600

Our circumstances are very different now that our Irish house is paid off. D bought it for $100k Irish pounds (back before the euro!). We did not pay down principal since the interest rate was low; we just did regular payments until it was paid off. It is rented out to two friends. We feel ok taking $400/month out to help pay down our mortgage here. The rest of the rent money is for repairs and taxes.

If it helps, our take home pay every month is $6446. Of this, we pay $850 toward tuition and $800 toward our IRA's (we are trying for $1000). I will post our full budget soon. Not sure what other people make, but I am happy to be transparent if it helps someone!

Thinking about Mortgage Payoff

April 16th, 2017 at 10:49 pm

I am starting to think about paying off our house, and so I looked up some info on the internet.

Here's what I found:
- If you ask for a payoff amount, they charge you a fee! Well, I won't need a payoff amount - I'm just going to pay until it's done. There may be $20 or so that they owe me back.
- They charge you to record the payoff with the County - so I am going to check with the County and see what that recording fee is

I asked my bank (which is a smallish local bank) if I could meet with a loan officer about our impending payoff (probably 4 or 5 months off) and the woman said I couldn't make an appointment, that they would need to contact me. She asked if our loan was there (um, yes, otherwise why would I want to talk to them?). Then she said "So this is a refi," and I realized that she misunderstood and thought I wanted a new loan. I explained that I didn't want a new loan, that I was going to pay off our mortgage in full in a couple of months. And she looked at me blankly. But she took down my info and said someone would contact me to make an appointment.

Do you think someone will contact me? I don't. But I have a couple of months to work on this and find out what happens next.

For those of you who have paid off your mortgage (and I know it's different in different states) how does this work? Do I cancel my automatic payments? What were the fees?

I can't even ask my parents because they still have a mortgage. I have two friends whose mortgages are paid off, so I'm going to ask them how it worked. I like to know ahead of time.

PS - paid off another $75 from the gym payment for this month, so we now owe $10,600.

Financial Things Happening Today

April 7th, 2017 at 10:23 pm

1. When I was looking through recent transactions on our online checking, I saw a $10 fee charge. No idea what it is. At first I thought it might be part of our tuition because it came a day later and I called the tuition management people to scream, but it isn't them! The bank had no idea what it is either. They said I should come in and dispute the charge.

2. Nissan finally called me to tell me my airbag is in! So I took my car over there and asked them to do the service I need at the same time. The good news is that Nissan USA gave me a $250 voucher toward Nissan service (or products) and I can use that to pay for the service (it's a biggish one - 75k mile).

3. Did not get my gym payment yet (boo hoo!) for last month. I've bugged them twice already since April started.

4. French dinner tonight.... my daughter said "Isn't that just a fancy name for a goody plate?" and I didn't have the heart to tell her that even a goody plate is a fancy name - something my mom made up when I was little that meant eating all sorts of stuff from the fridge to use it up! (French dinner is cheese, crackers, olives and whatever else is in the fridge - plus a salad made from the rocket/arugula we have growing in our garden).

5. Current tv program we're watching is MasterChef (the UK one; I don't know if there's another one) on the bbc iplayer. It's hard to keep up with - three episodes a week.

6. F has started talking about her birthday party. She wants a sleepover with some friend and a sort of Harry Potter theme (they may make a "movie" with wand duels). I am looking up recipes for butterbeer ice cream but may just swirl butterscotch into vanilla ice cream. This is not going to be a costly birthday at all, so I told her I'd take her and a friend down to the mini-golf/go-kart/bumper boats/arcade place in Albuquerque on her actual birthday.

7. We are thinking of hosting a coach again for soccer camp. They give us a stipend and we end up breaking even pretty much. It's such a great experience, though... worth it even if we spend a little more. Like having a very sweet, 20-something, soccer-playing houseguest.

Holiday Update (with Photos)

April 6th, 2017 at 10:33 pm

It's been a long time since I've written anything - oops!

I guess I should give an update on our Fairly Frugal Holiday.

It was super fun! If any of you are ever in Southern New Mexico (I can't see why you would be, though, unless you live in West Texas) you should definitely see Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument.

Day 1 - Three Rivers Petroglyphs - a billion petroglyphs! It was so cool! Ate lunch from our cooler under one of the picnic benches. It was a $5 entrance fee. Went on to Alamogordo where we went to the toy train museum and checked into our hotel which had a pool. Hotel was free with my mom's points. Ate dinner from the cooler heated in the microwave.

Day 2 - White Sands (brought our sleds and it was so much fun!!). Then the pistachio ranch where we got pistachios for the people watching our pets, and also took a photo with a giant concrete pistachio, and also tried every sample they had! Then the Space Museum. Entrance for all three of us with an IMAX was $20. Breakfast was free at the hotel, and we ate lunch and dinner from the cooler. Did I mention that food in Alamogordo is... not great. So this was not just to save money.

Day 3 - Drove to Carlsbad (NM) and swam in the pool for a bit, then went to the river and got a pedal boat ($10). Breakfast was at the Alamogordo hotel, and dinner was from the cooler. We ate lunch out in Carlsbad. The hotel was free (I had a free night) and had a real kitchenette, not just a microwave.

Day 4 - Carlsbad Caverns - gorgeous and a total natural wonder! Admission was $20 total. A bargain. We had breakfast at our hotel (and ran into friends - isn't that weird? and then again in the Caverns - different friends!). We were out of lunch things in the cooler, but had some fruit and snack stuff, so we supplemented with food from the Visitor Center; it wasn't worth it. Then the long drive home. We managed to get home by dinner which was good because it was astounding how few towns there are between Carlsbad and Santa Fe. F decided to skip the alien museum in Roswell.

I didn't get any decent photos, but my husband did... but you should look it up - it's such a cool place.

The trip was a good length, and cost us a total of about $200 with admissions, food and everything.

And now we owe $10,674 on our house; the low-key vacation really helped us with the mortgage - I paid off a bunch this month!

Lunch Planning: Like Meal Planning but Lunchier

March 26th, 2017 at 11:54 pm

​I have probably told you that I have to be gluten free. This is not a choice (celiac genes, digestive issues, microscopic colitis) and I know a lot of other people have to be on a gf diet, too or choose to be so that they don't have symptoms (there are a lot of diverse symptoms).

This is my Lunch Planning (and includes my daughter's lunch plan, too). My husband is on his own, because he makes his own lunch, but I can tell you what he eats, too.

My husband:
- leftovers or a turkey sandwich (or tuna sandwich on Thursdays when I make two can's worth of tuna)
- apple
- tortilla chips
Yes, that's what he eats every day. I would get so bored.

My daughter:
she gets veggies and dip, a piece of fruit, some chips/crisps and a cookie, and then a main, following this basic schedule:
- Monday - hot lunch (this is something pre-made from the store like Trader Joe's chicken strips or potstickers in her thermos and is in lieu of the very expensive and disgusting school hot lunches)
- Tuesday - turkey and cheese wrap (in a tortilla)
- Wednesday - bean and cheese burrito
- Thursday - tuna wrap with avocado
- Friday - mac and cheese or a quesadilla with a salad (instead of veggies and dip)

My lunch plan:
I also toss in a piece of fruit and chips/crisps, sometimes carrots, too. Her lunch coordinates with mine (so if she's having refried beans in a burrito, I have them on a corn tortilla)
- Monday - one egg (hardboiled or fried), string cheese or goat cheese with chips
- Tuesday - turkey sandwich with cheese rolled in lettuce
- Wednesday - Beans and cheese between corn tortillas
- Thursday - tuna with avocado
- Friday - Salad

This meal plan limits what I need to buy each week: one cucumber, some radishes, lettuce, tortillas (corn and flour) but only once every two weeks, some cheese, one packet of turkey, one can of refried beans, two cans of tuna, an avocado, a couple of types of chips (usually tortilla chips and one other type), a couple of types of fruit. I always have eggs on hand. Oh! and something for F's "hot lunch."

Do you have to eat gluten free? Do you use Lunch Planning like meal planning?

"Back in Time" Series

March 21st, 2017 at 09:16 pm

One of my absolute favorite tv series is Back in Time... where they send a family "back in time" to cook and eat and live like another era. The first series had them going back to the 40s and then moving forward to the 90s with each day being a year. They even transformed their house!

It's a great show to watch with kids, too - entertaining but also educational. F wondered at how I survived the 70s (which I thought was the perfect time to be a kid!)

I can't believe we missed Farther Back in Time! Need to catch up fast since the final episode expires in 12 days.

Frugality (or lack of frugality which in this case often means convenience) is a major theme, or at least an undercurrent.

Speaking of that, tonight's dinner: roast potatoes and a big salad (big salad, as opposed to our regular dinner salad, has whatever is on hand, but tonight will have grated carrot, cucumbers, cut up turkey, sunflower seeds, radishes, homemade dressing).

Frugal Holiday Starts... Now!

March 19th, 2017 at 02:24 am

We haven't left home yet, but decided that our frugal holiday started today anyway.

F had two soccer games (tied one, won one) and afterward we went down to Albuquerque for dinner. Vietnamese! Yum! We decided to eat out because we won't be eating out much on our holiday next week. The food isn't very good where we're going, so we have hotel rooms with microwaves and fridges and we'll be bringing our own food.

Tomorrow we'll go back to Albuquerque to see Beauty and the Beast in IMAX 3d. And eat out again. This is part of our holiday, too.

We leave officially on Wednesday, and now I'm thinking we're very smart because that's when the weather up here turns cold. It'll be in the mid 70s down south, so we'll follow the good weather.

Hotel rooms are all FREE. My mom had points and gave them to us for two nights, and we had a free night at a Marriott hotel for the third night. Both hotels have free wifi and pools and breakfast in the morning.

Petsitting - all done by friends for FREE taking turns. We'll bring them each back something small (freeze-dried ice cream from the space museum? some alien thing from Roswell?).

We'll need to pay for fuel, admission to White Sands (but we have our sleds ready!), admission to Carlsbad Caverns and probably a parking fee at the Petroglyphs. I think the solar observatory is free.

I'm pretty happy to have a vacation... It's been a long weird winter. And we're $12,910 from paying off the mortgage. I can see the finish line, and I don't want to lose momentum, so frugal is key right now.

Are you going anywhere for Spring Break?

Saving Up for Things

March 8th, 2017 at 04:16 am

What we're budgeting for:

- F wants to go see Beauty and the Beast 3D when it comes out
- I just bought a new pillow (doctor's orders)
- Driving trip down to Southern NM (White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Sunspot Solar Observatory, Space Museum) - gas, hotel, entrance fees and prepared food to buy here at Trader Joe's and bring with us so we don't have to eat at Applebees or Chillis which none of us like (plus the prepared food at TJ's is cheaper)

Things on my mind:
- One of the projects I was counting on doesn't start until May. I have to make the money from that project last.
- When are people going to pay me? Several outstanding invoices from last month.
- When will F get her acceptance to 7th grade? Should be around mid-month.
- Need to return F's basketball uniform to the school (it's washed and ready to go back).
- I have $50 in my clothing category; I need a new pair of black leggings - big hole in my other pair. I'd love a second pair of Darn Tough socks but I can wait until next birthday.
- Need to help the 6th graders finish the treehouse at school (it's their parting gift to the school as they all move on to jr. high) - Friday?
- Need to get reimbursed for treehouse expenses
- Dog needs check up at the vet
- Lots of work to do at work so none of the rest of the previous things will get done or dealt with!

Are you saving for anything or is anything using up all your important brain-space?

Spreading out the Pain of a Big Bill

March 6th, 2017 at 11:14 pm

I don't know how much people care about the minutiae of other people's financial arrangements... sometimes I like to see how other people are handling things so that I can figure out my own finances better.

Anyway, for the record, here are the minutiae of how we are going to fit our big tax bill into the finance stream.

Federal tax bill $4033
State tax bill $411
Estimated payment for April $1649
Total = $6093

The PLAN!!
Since we have some savings and money allocated but not yet spent, we have a cushion and can pay the tax bill and estimated taxes and pay ourselves back little by little. YNAB helps with this... I've set up a category called "Estimated Taxes" that will be negative for about 4 months.

This method will allow me to maintain cash flow in my business and to maintain a good balance in our Irish account. Those two things (business profit and Irish house rental profit) are the reasons for the big tax bill.

March - Deposit into our personal account $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account, $200 from my husband's side business account
balance will now be: $4593

April - We pay the big bill. Already have $1500 allocated. Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance will now be: $3293

May - Deposit another $1000 as a distribution from my business, $300 from the Irish account
balance wil now be: $1993

June - Deposit $1000 as a distribution from my business
balance will now be : $693

We will cover the $693 with underspending in other categories, little by little.

So there you go. That's my creative accounting method, to soften the blow of the Big Tax Bill. We still have to pay it of course.

I feel privileged to have made a profit this year.

Warning: this post is only a tiny bit financial

February 28th, 2017 at 04:51 am

I guess I should get the financial part out of the way first... I had to go back to the grocery store today to get a couple of things I forgot - grrr. But... I am still well under our budget for food this month, by about $200!!!

Some misc. spending... we had to buy a new knob for our dryer (the other one broke). We use it very little, but I guess it's 18 years old. Also bought some new soccer cleats for F whose foot is now bigger than mine. She says her indoor shoes still fit.

Here is the rest of this post:
Our school girls team played our school boys team tonight in basketball. The boys have one amazing player; he got half the points (14 out of 31). They have another really great player. He got another 11 of the points. The other 6 points were made by kids who were set up by one of the other two. Our girls fought hard and scored 14 points.

Last time this happened the boys (not the two really good players who are super nice boys) talked trash the entire next day telling the girls that they lost because girls aren't as good at basketball. These are boys that are not very good players and contributed very little to the team (the coach's fault really, because he is relying on his strong players and not developing the others, but still).

Anyway, this is all background, because what I wanted to get off my chest is this: I was sitting next to a friend at the game whose son pretty much constantly harasses my daughter. I've kept my friendship with her separate from her son's poor behavior. She turned to me at half time and said "F called H sexist today!" I answered "Well, I hear he says some pretty sexist things sometimes!"

My friend said that F called her son sexist because he said he couldn't make it to the women's march. (Huh?). F said she (and several other girls in the class) said he was sexist because he was trashing them about being on the basketball team.

Do you want to hear what he said recently (besides girls can't play basketball)? This was in a debate about whether or not boys or girls are treated better. He said that girls should go to all-girls schools where they can sit quietly and learn to sew and boys should go to all-boys schools where they can be outside and play soccer.

I hears this from three separate girls (who were really mad about it) and the teacher (who I asked about it after the girls were so upset).

Well, I told the mom what he said. Maybe I shouldn't have. I said "There are two sides to every story, and you're hearing H's side, and I'm hearing F's, but this was confirmed by other people."

She said "He was probably just teasing them." And then "Well it was a debate." And then "But his father sews." And then "He doesn't play soccer."

And she said the basketball comments were just 6th grade banter. (Editorial: unacceptable banter, if you ask me; I mean really: sore winners? Who every heard of sore winners?).

I told her that it didn't really matter; there were always two sides, and as they get older the boys and girls will become friends again (editorial: they won't).

I hope she and I are still friends because I like her. But she is seriously clueless about her son. It's seriously weird because SHE played basketball when she was younger.

I know you probably have all sorts of comments on how I handled myself, but I'm not really concerned about me. I told F to just stay away from H, ignore his nasty comments tomorrow in school. I think that was the right thing to do. She needs to be secure in herself and not worry about him.

That's what I told her.

Now for all of you, the real reason he is always so mean to her: he's in the lowest math group, she's in the highest. She is sporty and active and does play soccer, and he isn't gifted in that area. She's a point guard and played 3 1/2 quarters tonight; he played 1 quarter. She gets straight A's and he is not that great at school. She has four best friends and is friends with almost all of the other girls in the class plus those two amazing basketball boys, and he constantly has friendship troubles.

So that's why I told her not challenge him or name call. Just leave it be. And that's why I said to my friend "Well, there are two sides to every story." And maybe one day they will be friends again. You never know, right?

Paying the Giant Tax Bill

February 22nd, 2017 at 11:53 pm

First, the reason for the giant tax bill:
Despite the fact that I paid extra each month for FWH and we paid estimated taxes, we ended up owing money. The wild card every year is how much profit my business makes. Because my business is an S-corp, we pay the tax on the profit as part of our personal taxes, even if I keep the profit in the business.

I did our taxes with and without the business profit, and with the profit, we end up paying just about the amount of the additional tax we owe.

So my plan is to take a distribution from my business (from the profit I guess) to pay the tax bill.

Now I have to think about 2017 estimated taxes and how to pay those. I think a combination of withdrawing money from our Irish account (since that accounts for some of the tax not covered by FWH) and a couple of small distributions from my business. The rest is from the money that D sets aside in an account for his income from side businesses (he's a children's photographer on the side).

Some Mortgage Progress, and are you watching/reading anything for free?

February 20th, 2017 at 12:08 am

A few things to report:

- I sold an old coat at consignment back in January; I was able to pick up the payment a couple of days ago. That's another $38 toward mortgage principal.

- Our mortgage payment went down (for escrow; I have no idea how they calculate that), but we left it the same. And extra $5.21 toward principal each month.

- Our team bought the basketball coach and assistant coach gift certificates (we got a certificate for the local bike shop which is owned by a mutual friend for the coach - who shops there a lot! - and starbucks for the assistant). The bike shop is next to one grocery store I go to, and the starbucks is next to the other; as you can tell, I bought the certificates. One of the moms said she'd give me her share at the party last night. She didn't and I was freaking out that I'd have to cover her, but she emailed and apologized and said she'd bring it to school on Tuesday. Phew!

- Got a new book (free, epub book of course) - the first in the Chronicles of St. Mary's series. I'm a couple of chapters in, and I like it so far. A time travel book.

- Dinner tonight is a socca (chickpea flour and courgette pancake with red onion topping).

- We owe $14,636 on the mortgage.

- I am watching Just Add Magic with F on Amazon Prime. It's a really cute show, if you have a tween, I recommend it. I like it too, but I'm sort of immature.

Are you reading or watching anything for free right now?

A Simple Day

February 16th, 2017 at 12:17 am

I forgot to take my allergy medicine today - ooops! - and realized it in the middle of the day when I was so tired. Allergies make me tired. So I didn't get a lot done today at work.

But I did do a few important things:
- came up with a floor plan for the police dept. I'm working on. The chief LOVED it, so it's a go.
- gave a price to the contractor I work with. I aimed high; he can talk me down (a little). Or maybe he won't.
- Other misc. work stuff ilke emails and dropping off a deposit check to an HOA that the owner sent to me rather than to the accountant.
- Almost finished our taxes. We owe. It makes me want to throw up. The reason: profit on my business which I have to declare on our personal taxes (Sched. K) but I leave the profit in my business. So I am going to take a distribution to pay the taxes.
- Re-did my monthly cash flow for F's tuition for the next two years to make sure we can pay for school. We need to have the mortgage paid off by October in order to make this work.

My co-worker said "Why don't your parents pay for F's tuition?" Ha, ha, ha!!! But seriously, he's not the first person to ask me that. My parents are retired; they have a nice fixed retirement income, but it's still fixed. And they very kindly fly us out to see them twice a year, which are nice vacations for us. My mom gives me $2,000 for the annual tuition deposit. They are so good to us! But they can't just pay for school!

Tomorrow is the school skiing outing. I left it up to F if she wanted to go or not; I didn't tell her I'd have to come up with $150 out of thin air. (Or more realistically, a little bit out of several budget categories). She doesn't want to go, and I think we'll go x-c skiing together instead, then meet the class at the Lodge for lunch. I'm looking forward to hanging out with F tomorrow! But I'll bring my own lunch (the food up there is gross).

Tonight - next to last basketball game. The girls are amazing! I'm so proud of them. I need to talk to the parents about getting something for the coach to give him at our party this Saturday. Any suggestions? I thought maybe a voucher to a restaurant he and his wife like?

The Coming Week

February 12th, 2017 at 07:13 pm

Every Sunday (always before noon, because you can't sell alcohol in our state until noon, so the stores are quieter), I do my grocery shopping and get gas (even if the tank is not empty so I start the week with a full tank). I really don't spend anything during the week. Weekends are my spend time.

So, I need to get up and get going, but I'm lazing around with my laptop.

The meal plan this week is:
S - tortilla espanola with chipotle mayo and salad
M - soccer practice night - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes
T - game night - crockpot roast chicken, rice, broccoli
W - game - freezer with salad
T - game - fishburgers, chips, roasted brussels sprouts
F - soccer practice night - socca with courgettes and red onion

Our food budget is my best way to save money... most of our other costs are pretty fixed.

Yesterday, F's basketball team got together at her friend K's house to play 3 v 3 and just have fun. F wants to shoot 500 (!!!!) left-handed layups today. She can do that at our hoop at home or we can go to the park if she wants to get out. (The coach has said that F is definitively a left-handed player; there was some confusion, and there has been in every sport she's played).

Tomorrow I have to drive down to Edgewood (1.25 hrs away which for here is FAR)... but it's for a new project, so YAY!

We're going to owe money for our taxes which makes me sort of grumpy. I need to just finish up the taxes, though, so I can stop thinking about it. And I still have to do our Fbar (disclosing our foreign bank account).

This coming week: 3 day school week... so I need to get busy!

Taken out to Lunch!

February 10th, 2017 at 05:14 pm

I had a meeting yesterday with another architect. I'd referred her for a project, and she took me out to lunch, which was unexpected and really nice!

I am still going to PT once a week, and I have to say it's helping! Most days I don't even feel my back at all. Which is the way it should be! Actually, reminds me I've been sitting here for over an hour. I need to go do 5 min. of stretching.

I'm back. I'm not just doing cobra stretches anymore, but also some stability exercises.

Other things going on:
- I am still helping the 6th grade with their treehouse project. I bought the wood posts myself, but I'll be reimbursed. Need to place the rest of the order early next week. I have another parent who will help me cut everything.

- I am still waiting for my airbag to be replaced. Ugh.

- Outdoor soccer practice started this week. Basketball is continuing. So it's a lot of sports right now!

- F finished her application for 7th grade and submitted it in early January. She just took the math placement test. We should hear in mid-March if she got in or not. Pretty sure she'll get in, though.

- Mortgage is at $14827. But we have a big tax bill coming up. Otherwise I would attack it relentlessly! So....I guess no tax refund to use to pay down mortgage.

- Got a check today for one of the subdivisions I work with. I like to end the week with a check!

Better than Back Surgery

January 28th, 2017 at 12:11 am

I am writing this while sitting in a very straight chair with a towel rolled up behind my back and very perfect posture. With my feet on a book (I'm too short to have my bum all the way back in the chair and still have my feet touch the floor). This is what the dumb physical therapist said I have to do.

He isn't really dumb. He's probably really smart.

I've seen other PT's and had the same back pain (lower right side) for 2 years! Since I did penalties in kids v. adult soccer (which should not be a thing because at a certain age F was waaaaaay better at soccer than I am).

But the pain stayed.

I casually mentioned at my annual physical that my back was still messed up but not super painful and I could teach weightlifting and run and all sorts of things. It felt stiff, like I had to bend over and stretch it out a lot.

She sent me for an xray right after my physical, and my spine is like a weird curvy S. She also gave me a paper to go to PT (again, but this time a different place). My friend who is an orthopedist said they are really good there.

So after 2 years of this, the new PT does some physical "tests" and I can't remember his diagnosis but I think it was a bulgy disk (or maybe it was a slipped disk). I can't remember because I was in shock: he was telling me to sit in a straight chair and not a mushy sofa or my comfy bed with this hard towel for two weeks. And the towel in the car. And these back exercises every two hours. And I can't jump rope or jump at all or run or teach my weightlifting class for two weeks. I work out pretty much every day.

Two weeks isn't a long time; I know that. But I was in denial. I was negotiating. Can I do situps? No. Can I jog? No.

I can walk. My friends are so awesome. They have all offered to walk me (like a dog!) so I don't go crazy.

I also can't bend over. Bending over (which I was doing a lot to "stretch it out") is exactly the wrong thing. My back doesn't move at all in the other direction, so my every-two-hours exercises are supposed to get things moving the other way. Like cobra pose which I've never been able to do (that should have been a clue!).

I was depressed and cranky for the rest of the day, and part of this morning. And then I noticed that I can actually get a little higher up on the cobra and my back hurts less, so now I've decided that this is an athletic pursuit in itself. I am going to be the best PT patient ever!!! (And the most compulsive).

The dumb PT says 6 to 8 weeks to heal. He put it into perspective by saying that it's either that or I keep the disk bulgy and slippy and get to the point where I can't exercise at all.

Frugal Things from this Week So Far

January 26th, 2017 at 01:39 am

1. I am entertaining myself this week by attending a lot of kids' sports games! It's actually been really fun watching F play basketball and indoor soccer. And the games have been amazingly suspenseful! They sell popcorn and nachos at both, and we haven't bought anything. F doesn't even ask, and good for her, because that stuff is gross!

2. I wanted a candy bar all day, and I did NOT buy one! Yay me! (I still want a candy bar).

3. Dinner is burbling away in the crockpot. I put it on this morning (chili) and even asked D for help (again, yay me! I don't often ask for help). He opened the cans while I made F's lunch. This will make dinner and also a dinner for the freezer.

4. I called my client to remind him of the additional services I requested (this is in addition to the other project where I already got the additional services). He told me to write something more formal and send it in; I found an old request, copied it, and now it's ready to complete tomorrow morning (somehow getting it ready is half the battle - it should only take about 15 mins. tomorrow when I'm back in the office).

5. I bought a birthday gift for F's friend online. No shipping, and I don't have to run around to different stores. It'll come Friday, and the party is Sunday.

6. My mom sent a check to pay for their part of TurboTax which we share. She also sent some money to help with F's school; it will help a ton since there is a gap between when we pay off our mortgage and when we need to give F's new school a down payment. My parents are good to me!

7. We got a gift voucher for $50 to a restaurant that I've always wanted to try from someone D helped out with some computer stuff. He wasn't expecting anything back, so what a nice surprise! I'm thinking maybe Valentine's Day lunch?

8. I was charged for a routine medical test when it's normally covered by insurance. The testing place said that it was not coded properly, and my doctor said that it was. My doctor asked me to bring the bill by, and they'd take care of it. I almost just paid it, but then I thought... no, this isn't right. I'm glad I didn't just pay (it was $100) without thinking. PS - the test was normal!

9. I sent the list of materials to Home Depot for the treehouse I'm helping design for the 6th Grade. It's their gift to the school. We'll be building on March 2nd, but I want to be ahead of the game. I called Home Depot yesterday, and they said I could email the list, which saved me a trip down there. My engineer helped with the structure, and I have a contractor who'll help us build! I've spent a lot of time on this, but I'm really touched that so many people are helping out. The kids have already raised $600, and they have a bake sale planned for Friday.

10. The spelling bee was supposed to be last weekend, but it snowed and was postponed (to this Friday). We were so happy, because F wanted to march last Saturday morning. The march here in Santa Fe was wonderful (we marched in the snow around the plaza and to the capitol). So now she can do both, although I'm not sure she's that thrilled about the bee. It's just not really her thing. She's a great speller, though; to me it's sort of odd to be really good at something you don't like. Ah well. After the march, some friends wanted to go get a bite to eat. We resisted, and got F a starbucks instead (so we spent some, but not as much as lunch would have been!)

I Whined a Little Today + Meal Plan

January 22nd, 2017 at 10:32 pm

First - here is my stupid whine: wah, wah, everyone I know has a better car than I do! Wah, wah, all I want is heated seats. And a USB socket so I can plug my phone in and listen to the music on my car's stereo. Wah! I wish I had an SUV; not a big SUV, just a small SUV.

The reality - My car is fine. It's got a good safety rating. It runs fine. Oh - and it's paid for! When I was whining, I realized that a lot of the nice cars that I see up at school are probably leased, or still have loans on them. So I'm happy with my car again.

Here's the other thing - I don't have a lot of food budget left for this month. This is partly my fault - Sprouts was having a gf sale, so I stocked up. This was a smart move, I think, since these are products I use and they were much less expensive. They're not fancy things, just basics: tortillas, bread, pizza bases and flour.

I have to be careful about the budget, though.

Here's the meal plan for the next little while to accomplish that:

S - soup and cheddar bay biscuits
(this is a soccer practice night, and we don't get home until 8! - need something easy; I will mix up the dough for the biscuits before we leave)

M - fish with aioli and broccoli
I already have the broccoli; need to use it before it goes off. Dinner is about $9 for the three of us; one of our more expensive dinners.

T - pasta carbonara with salad
Basketball game night; easy and inexpensive dinner (turkey bacon $3, pasta, 4 eggs and some parmesan - about $6 total)

W - chili with cornbread
Soccer practice night. Will have this bubbling away in the crockpot, and make the cornbread when we get home (it's an easy recipe! Since I have turkey burger, I'll use that, but last time I made it veggie; I may bulk this out with some carrots and corn). This will create two dinners: one for the freezer.

T - crustless quiche with salad
This is a basketball practice night, but if I do the prep ahead of time, D can transfer this from fridge to oven as we're leaving the practice. I chop up olives (already had a can in the pantry), cheese (I have some herbed goat cheese on hand), sundried tomatoes (those are in the pantry, too) and lots of eggs - makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day. And vegetarian.

F - lettuce wraps
I got bamboo shoots and water chestnuts on sale the other day. Add to that shitake mushrooms and a little bit of chicken (with soy sauce and other stuff I already have on hand). We all love lettuce wraps.

S - Tostadas
One of our least expensive dinners - corn tortillas, refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa, a little lettuce. Vegetarian.

S - cauliflower cheese
Already have cauliflower, need an extra cheese, maybe broccoli. This is a soccer practice night, and we'll need to eat lat. I can make the cheese sauce and have this oven ready to go when we get home (oven timer!). Another vegetarian dinner. Will probably serve with toast and butter.

M - mahi mahi burgers with chips
We usually make the burgers on the bbq; hope it doesn't snow!

T - asian meatballs
This is a basketball game night, and this can all be made in the crockpot and rice cooker. We already have turkey in the freezer and some jasmine rice (I mix it with plain white rice). Also have green onions on hand.

W - french dinner
This dinner is basically cheese, crackers, olives and a small salad. We splurge on boursin cheese. Perfect for another basketball game night, and another vegetarian dinner.

T - roasted veggies and brown rice
We already have cauliflower and red onion. I can buy a few assorted veggies. I can pop the veggies into the oven with the timer and time to rice in the rice cooker, since this is also a basketball game night. Vegetarian meal.

F - posole from the freezer and peas
This will carry us through to the next shopping day...

Budget Wins!

January 20th, 2017 at 11:22 pm

I've started like 3 entries and discarded them all. I don't have much to say. I've decided that's a good thing!

So I will make a list of frugal things I'm accomplishing so that I can remind myself that I'm still focused on our goal.

1. Made muffins (didn't buy them!) for the bake sale today.

2. F didn't even ask me for money to buy something at the bake sale; she brought her own money.

3. Watching shows for free online (we haven't had a cable bill in years).

4. Two more grocery shopping trips this month; I'm going to try to eat out of the pantry so that I don't use up the rest of the grocery budget.

5. Managed to make dinner every night this week even though F had basketball games Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and an indoor soccer game tomorrow (I have a plan for tomorrow's dinner, too). It was about having a plan in place so we weren't tempted to eat out.

6. Re-reading a book that I read ten years ago and loved.

7. Asked for additional services, and decided to ask for what I really needed rather than go low to please the client. I figured the owner (the City) could try to get my fee down. Well, they didn't. They accepted it outright!

Stupid, Minor Complaint

January 15th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

OK, this is not even that big of a deal, but I just want to get it off my chest...

So... the holiday season is over, and we did pretty well. But with presents and teacher gifts and all of that, it is definitely something you have to manage. Now that it's January, I would think that we can relax a little bit because there aren't so many parties and events and things... but NO!

#1 - F had testing last week, and there was a sign up for a "treat" and a "healthy snack" each day. I just hung back and didn't sign up, because I am always the one who signs up for everything, and I thought "let a parent who never signs up bring something." After all, economically almost every other family in the class is more well-off than we are. On Monday the PA Pres came up to me and said "We have gaps! Please sign up!!!" I sighed and told her to tell me what to bring and I'd sign up for it... so it was yogurt smoothies from Trader Joes. About $20 worth. Not a huge thing, but puts a strain on our grocery budget. Actually I budgeted it toward school supplies in the end.

#2 - Love Lunch for Valentine's day. I have a lot of work right now, so I told F to please sign us up for something EASY and NOT EXPENSIVE.

#3 - 6th grade is raising money to build a treehouse as their legacy for the school, and I am helping them with the design, and helping build it. But I still have to make 24 pumpkin muffins for the bake sale on Thursday! Ack!

#4 - The 6th Grade Ski Trip just after Valentine's day - oh my. My child doesn't downhill ski. Another friend of hers doesn't either. I told the teacher I'd take the two girls snowshoeing or something like that, and bring them to the Lodge for lunch with the rest of the class. She said "Or you could get her some private lessons before the trip." OK, so let's say we had the money for private lessons (!!!! We don't!!) - she still wouldn't be at the skill level of the other kids, so she'd be alone on the bunny hill anyway, not with her friends. Would rather have her be with her friend L who also doesn't downhill. F is a VERY good x-c skier, and she loves it; L might want to try that with us instead of snowshoe. But why this exclusionary trip? And why the expectation of parental spending on lessons?

$5 - My good friend L called me in a panic because next week is Harry Potter week at her daughter's school. Harry Potter week? Huh? Anyway, she's a single mom, and she just spent all sorts of money at Christmas, and she doesn't have the means to buy a Hermione costume. She asked if we had one (F went as Hermione a couple of years ago, but it was cobbled together from my old graduation gown, a tie of D's, an old tartan skirt I had in high school, a Hogwarts badge printed from the internet). My child was fine with that, and likes to make her own costumes, but I thought of my other friend whose daughter was Hermione a few years ago, and asked her if my friend L could borrow the (store-bought) costume. She said of course! I love my friends! So they are coordinating today.

Please, schools, have some compassion. Not everyone has the means to partake in these activities that cost money! Not everyone wants to! Maybe the activities could be more experience-based (crazy hair/pajama day or something)? Maybe they could be spread out more... Maybe we could have January off?

The good news is, we have enough that this isn't a huge problem, and I have wonderful friends who are kind enough to help out another friend they don't even know.

Still Working in the Mortgage

January 15th, 2017 at 03:03 am

I've been so busy! I've had pretty much zero time to post.

But here are the updates:

1. Still paying down mortgage principal. We have about $16,500 to go... it seems so near, but it's still a lot of money!

2. D's mum took her other granddaughter on a big trip, and she gave us the equivalent amount for F to go to soccer camp. We can now pay ourselves back a little more for that big trip!

3. We're starting to think about a trip during Spring break... this will be a driving trip in our own state: White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Three Rivers Petroglyphs, the Solar Observatory. Maybe a stop at the UFO museum in Roswell (although it's totally stupid) on the way home.

4. We got pizza last night, but we've been saving as much as possible, and buying very little.

5. We spent $16 today to use the tubs at a local pet store to wash our dog. We can't wash her at home (too big! too hairy!).

6. I've been stretching every night. But I still think I need to go to PT again. I am going to make an appt. Monday with my GP and see what she thinks.

7. Got $70 from the gym. I am loving teaching there, but they don't have a license for the class I just got recertified in. So I'm contacting another gym to see if they're interested in getting a license. It's a great class, and I've always wanted to teach at that gym. It doesn't hurt to try.

8. Meal plan is a good one this week, I think! I had to arrange it to account for basketball games on Tue, Wed and Thursday!

9. I made up the difference in the IRA limits last year, and now I owe that money to our own accounts. There is plenty in there to cover it, but I track it to pay it back.

10. I've been working on two different projects: one is a library/town hall renovation and the other is an addition to a fire station. I can't wait to bill the clients! I should be able to bill the first one soon. And I'm submitting an additional services request for the second one. One of the subdivisions that I do architectural review for has had a ton of extra work (including weekends sometimes).

Meal Planning in the New Year

January 3rd, 2017 at 01:44 am

School starts again tomorrow, and I have to say... I'm sort of sad! I had a lot of fun with D and F! (D went back to work today).

We managed to pack a lot into the winter break. Today was another basketball practice; the coach's daughter is one of F's best friends, so she came home with us after practice. We stopped at Starbucks on the way back from taking F's friend home because we got a gift card from the family of the girl we take to basketball practice during school. F got a strawberry cream something. She's still got one more drink left on the card; after that - no more Starbucks unless she wants to buy it herself.

When F was at practice, I went to Sprouts and bought the rest of this week's groceries. I did not succumb to the pretty "christmas pretzels" that were on sale in a barrel by the register. I still have a third of a cake in the freezer from Christmas dinner!

The meal plan for the rest of the week:
- posole and a salad (leftover posole will go into the freezer)
- leftover cock-a-leekie pie from Christmas (I put it in the freezer) with salad
- roasted veggies and rice
- grilled cheese and tomato soup
- sausage/lemon pasta (I need to think of something green to go with that - maybe peas)

I am toying with revising my meal planning technique. Right now we do one chickeny/turkey dinner, one thing from the freezer, one potato or egg thing, one bready/cheesy thing and one fishy thing. I am wondering if it might help with the budge to divide it up differently: one mexican thing with tortillas, one thing using rice, one potato thing. I don't know. I need to think about it.

Meal planning is always even more important when F has practices, and for January she has both basketball and soccer (indoor!).

Meanwhile, I am going to go make the lunch plan for the week for me and F. I've always planned F's lunches, but mine (even though I take my own lunch from home every day) are a little more free-form. I'm going to try planning for me, too.

2016 Recap

January 1st, 2017 at 05:16 am

Happy New Year! It's 2017 on the east coast and even though we still have 2 more hours of 2016 here, I think I need to go to bed soon!

Here's my very quick 2016 (mostly) financial recap:

- Paid off $13,198 in mortgage principal! Got our balance below $20k on our mortgage.

- Got re-certified in Bodypump (cost a bit of money, but it should pay back; I have plans for 2017!)

- Spent a lot on two vacations, but both worth it! England/Croatia in the summer, and we just got back from Pittsburgh (soccer camp for F - so much fun!). Paid in full with money we saved up.

- Managed to host our nephew for a month and stay in budget (thanks to a little bit of $ from my MIL to help host him).

- Just made up the difference between what we paid into our IRAs and the limit we're allowed ($6500 for me and $5500 for D). So we've contributed the max. we're allowed. That feels good!

- Changed our insurance plan so that we're only paying $20 more a month (instead of $200 more).

- We've continued putting $150 a month into our car savings account. We have over $14k in car savings.

- Put $5k into my SEP IRA (which is good because it means my business had a profit).

There are probably more milestones, but I am just too tired to think of any!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

December 24th, 2016 at 03:40 pm

We have always said we celebrate Christmakkah. Today that is even more true...

After I clean the house (yay), we're having latkes for lunch and then F and I are going x-c skiing. Then home for frito pies and off downtown to see the farolitos A New Mexico style Christmakkah!

I hope you all have a wonderful day today (and tomorrow!) celebrating and honoring your traditions!

Winter Break Activities

December 21st, 2016 at 11:48 pm

A pretty calm and quiet Christmas week around here...

- F had her well-check the other day. She had to get a shot (as her dr. said - the last one until college - DTap booster), but otherwise it was all good. And the visit was free.

- F is working on her 7th grade application essays (she's doing just one a day, which is great - they'll be done by the end of the week).

- It was a relatively warm day so we played basketball in the park. We invented this game that involves more than one hoop, so we can't use our hoop at home.

- We've been having lunch at home but we did go out and get a nice snack today at the Teahouse.

- D had his office holiday lunch yesterday. There was a mix-up and he thought spouses weren't going, and then at the last minute, his boss and one of his co-workers brought their spouses. Another co-worker and D didn't know this was happening. Just as well - although it would have been a free lunch, I was with F so I couldn't have gone.

- We are leaving for soccer camp early on the 26th - I'm excited! I've never been to Pittsburgh before. It's just three nights, and it should be fun. Right now the weather is warmer than it is here, but I bet it'll feel colder.

- Because we're leaving on Boxing Day, we're doing a kind of low-key dinner. I'm making cock-a-leekie pie! And roasties, brussels sprouts and chocolate cake.

- F got a letter from her Irish pen pal... they could email each other, but they still write letters. It's so sweet! Can't wait until they can meet in person (not this summer, but the summer after).

Frugal Dollhouse (with Photos)

December 19th, 2016 at 02:20 am

I've mentioned the dollhouse before, and I thought you might want to see the progress...

The kit itself was fairly inexpensive, and I think that may be because the instructions didn't match the pieces. But I was winging it a little bit anyway, and changing it along the way (in the original kit you can't see the stairs to the attic and the railings are ugly - didn't use those).

I made all of the paneling out of kleenex and dog biscuit boxes. The fireplace is made from illustration board. I did buy some inexpensive basswood strips and some paint from Michaels (with a coupon of course). I still need to do a lot of work. The stone foundation will be made from egg cartons. I have to do shingles, and I am thinking egg carton for those, too. The railings are made from toothpicks and paper-beads.

The furniture will also be made from illustration board, cardboard, etc.

I thought I'd show you the progress. This is my silly little hobby, but a lot of people like to see it! (PS - I can't figure out how to make the photos vertical - ugh!!).

Second floor hallway; stairs lead to attic, door is to bedroom. Floor is paper, railings are paper beads, door made from illustration board and kleenex boxes. Doorknob from kleenex box and paper bead and a toothpick.

Bathroom with kleenex box paneling, paper floor.

Front (still unfinished).

Kitchen looking toward entry hall and stairs to second floor.

Front door with illustration board and kleenex box door. Acetate for fan light (painted with house number in gold). Letter box is made from kleenex box and door knob is toothpick with a paper bead.

Thinking about the Holidays

December 16th, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Today was the last day of school (half day) and now it Winter Break! Yay! I am so glad to have F home with me. I wanted to watch a movie, but she just wanted to relax on her own (it's been a big week!).

- F has an indoor soccer game; in my mind this is free entertainment! Well, maybe not free.... but the money comes out of F's sports/activities in the budget. The girls won their last two games against all-boys teams!
- Nutcracker right after soccer (not sure how dinner will go... I think I have to bring sandwiches for us). F's friend Lucy is a party-girl this year - exciting!

Then the plan is:
- maybe x-c ski this weekend? It rained in town today, so I assume there is fresh snow on the hill. Free activity since F and I have our own gear.
- Lots of homemade hot chocolate (and we also got a $15 Starbucks card from the family of F's friend who we take home with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then back to basketball practice because they live super far away).
- Open basketball practice at the school gym
- Make cookies!
- Get a scone or some other sweet treat at the Teahouse if it snows.
- Watch silly Christmas specials on the BBC!
- Make cheap but cozy food - grilled cheese and tomato soup, polenta with lots of cheese, posole...
- Sneak into the office to wrap presents.

I hope your holiday is wonderful!!

Secret Santa and Other Christmas Things

December 11th, 2016 at 12:36 am

Budgeting in December.... not that easy, but I think I'm up to it!

Secret Santa - they did this in 5th grade, and now again in 6th. This time F got a kid she really likes, and it was easy. Particularly since one of her best friends is his twin sister! Twin sister gave F a list of ideas, which was very helpful. Also F knows him really well (they've been in school together since 1st grade and see each other a lot due to twin being such a close friend). We did a few $1 things and an Indiana Pacers calendar for the final gift.

White Elephant - one of the downsides of decluttering is that it's harder to find a white elephant gift. One of the upsides is that I'm used to getting rid of things! Might be a puzzle... I have a stack of them, and have only done a few of them twice.

Advisory Lunch - F promised something with potatoes. Smart girl. Potatoes are yummy, but also cheap! I was going to make twice baked so they can just pop them in the school microwave.

Basketball - The 5th/6th Varsity team was a little too big. The coach is the dad of one of F's best friends (and he's one of our best friends, too - also an ortheopedic surgeon and from Indiana), and he is awesome. His daughter is on the team with F. So he decided to split it in half, but instead of splitting it 5th/6th, he's split it girls/boys. The girls are thrilled!!! They had a practice today, and he said he excited about how well they listened and how much they improved in just one practice. None of the girls except F and his daughter has played before. The boys team will be coached by a 5th grade dad along with... the twins' dad (the Secret Santa recipient is on the boys' team).

Holiday Food Shopping - Why am I thinking about this now? Ugh. It pays to be prepared, though. I think we are going to our friends' house this year. They usually come to our house, but her brother will be here, and we leave the next day (early!) for Pittsburgh.

Christmas Shopping - I'm done! And not over budget!

Christmas Fun - Making and decorating cookies at my good friend L's house - tomorrow. And then downtown for Las Posadas: re-enactment "of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to give birth to the Baby Jesus—and throws in a few devils for good measure. Stay for carols, cookies and hot cider in the Palace Courtyard. Free." That's the description of the event from our city's tourism website. It's pretty crazy with the devils. Everyone boos loudly!

Update on Money Stuff

December 6th, 2016 at 12:55 am

Mortgage Principal - We're now at $18,300. It is starting to really feel real now that we will have this paid off within a year. Wow. Just wow.

Target Coupon - I got a $10 off coupon in the mail, but when I got to Target it didn't work. The super-nice checkout guy said "Well, I could wait for someone to come deal with this, or I can just take off an item." And he took off a $14.99 item. Again: wow! It pays to be friendly and nice to everyone; I think part of why he did that is because we'd been chatting as he rang me up. Which is not why I'm friendly and nice to everyone. PS - my family thinks I'm TOO friendly.

Free Magazines - My co-worker said he had a stack of magazines for the magazine exchange at the library and wanted to know if there were any I wanted first... I got an Atlantic, a couple of Consumer Reports and a Real Simple. When I'm done, I'll take them to the magazine exchange so they'll end up there in the end for someone else to enjoy.

Nephew - leaves tomorrow. I hope he had a good time! It's hard to tell because he's so quiet/shy/reserved. We took him up to the snow last weekend, and then to the Indian Arts museum where we made some ornaments. Then we went to this cool old mining town (now arts town) where he bought some gifts for his family. He used up all his money, so D's sister asked us to give him some money for his trip home (hopefully she will reimburse us). Dinner tonight is risotto.

Pescetarian Dinners - With our nephew here, all of our dinners have been pescetarian (and mostly vegetarian). When he leaves, we'll go back to eating some chicken and turkey, too. We usually only eat two or maybe three dinners with turkey or chicken each week. But there are meal changes I'm happy to keep, so we may try to do just one or two chicken/turkey. Here are the good changes: fish-burgers from Trader Joe's instead of turkey burgers, veggie chili with lots of carrots/celery/corn instead of turkey.

My finger - It's still sort of numb, and it's not totally healed yet; F thinks it looks gross. I can type almost every letter except c comfortably, so that's good. I'm still waiting for the "explanation of benefits" to come so that I can see if I can get a partial refund.

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