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Archive for December, 2016

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.

New Work and... F Won the School Spelling Bee!

December 2nd, 2016 at 03:24 am

I was starting to panic a little bit about not having a lot of work right now. It's the scariest part about having my own business. Yesterday I looked at the legal notices online (nothing) and called a contractor I work with a lot ("I will definitely keep you in mind").

Today... I got an invite to submit a proposal (no guarantee of getting the job, but at least there's work out there!) for a museum renovation and then the contractor called me back to say he had a not-too-huge (but big enough!) project with him. About $15k fee, so that's good. And the fire station addition is starting asap!

This is all good news! I am no longer panicking about next year. If I can do these jobs now and get some more work in the spring I'll be set.


Other stuff:
- Just got Stephen King's 11/22/63 from the library on my phone. I love the library.
- My finger is a lot better. I can now type most letters with it (not c or v... ouch).
- Today was the school spelling bee and F.... WON IT!! Wow! Last year she came in second. She and her good friend L (who came in second) will be going to the County Bee. I am so proud! I made carrot cake for her (as requested). She won with two off-list words (after they'd spelled all of the study words correctly): solarium and zamboni (if you get your word right and the other person doesn't, you still have to spell and additional challenge word correctly to win). Other words she spelled correctly: physicists, phrenologists, perpetrator.