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Archive for October, 2013

2014. Parent/career rant

October 29th, 2013 at 06:18 pm

It occurred to me that it's almost November. Where has the year-- and the years-- gone? I feel like my life is running away from me, and I still have so much I want and need to do.

Time thoughts led to a jumble of emotions (mostly melancholy) and thoughts about the coming year and what I can do to transition into a more fulfilling life. The next stage, as it were.

I admit this was fueled in part by the parties I went to this weekend. I met up with a bunch of women who work at the same publication I do. Of course, they are all on staff, as I used to be. I freelance for the same company, but work from home and have small children.

They didn't say anything, but I left feeling empty and sad, as if I were 'less than' they were, because I have been raising kids and barely keeping my career going by freelancing. It seems like they have developed so much and had so many more opportunities than I have because they are still at it full-time. It just made me feel bad about myself.

I never wanted to be a stay at home mom, it's just the result of the economic realities of raising children, the tax code, and daycare in modern USA. I am still sad.

I know the kids set a bomb off inside my life, I know I never wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I have to, and I know I've tried to keep my career alive by freelancing,and I'm lucky to have had the kind of job where that is at least an option, but still. It angers me that we have to make these kinds of choices. Kids shouldn't mean either or. You should be able to 'have it all,' right?

Sorry about the woe is me. I just can't seem to shake the blues.

I have had to seriously cut back on freelance in the past few months. The new school schedule for the boys is killing me. I don't have time to do anything. I thought I was in career survival mode before, but I really am now. Between kindergarten and preschool drop off and pick-up I end up with less than 1.5 hours each day to work and handle anything else that needs to be done sans children.

Basically, it means it's impossible. I've had to say no to so many freelance projects because I simply do not have the time, and I'm starting to get the impression people will give up and just stop asking me, closing those doors forever.

ARGH!!! I feel like I've given up so much, and yet the world just keeps asking me to give up more and more. It doesn't seem fair.

And, I'm stuck in a weird vortex between the in-office career ladies I met with over the weekend and the 100 percent stay at home moms, who don't work at all, and therefore don't understand the unique pressures I'm under. It's very lonely and isolating.

I need to figure out how to shake these feelings and get out of my rut. I'm to the point where I don't want to do anything but lie in bed and have everyone leave me alone, but that doesn't really work in real life!

Let me just add that I KNOW I am lucky in so many ways. I have tow healthy kids and we have jobs and food on the table. But it's in my nature to ask, is this all life is? I thought I was meant to do great things, but is it too late?

Yes, a luffa is a squash

October 25th, 2013 at 09:20 pm

When I tell people I'm growing luffa sponges, most of them look at me like I'm crazy. You'd be surprised how many people think they are ocean creatures, rather than squash!

Anyway, I had to harvest mine today because it actually snowed here yesterday. I grew a lot, now the question is can I dry them correctly so they are usable sponges.

Well, we'll see if those youtube videos are any good. Here is what we harvested, and what they look like now. By the way, the pile is nearly three feet tall.

And, we harvested a handful of peanuts. It was cool to see what they look like on the plant!

Amazon free shipping min. now $35. Boo.

October 22nd, 2013 at 08:05 pm

Darn it. I just read today about Amazon raising the minimum purchase for free shipping from $25 to $35. Considering I do a lot of my shopping on here, I'm not happy. I usually barely make the $35. Darn it!

In other Amazon news, I did my annual piggy bank purge this morning at the Coinstar for an Amazon gift certificate. I had $81.51 in there. Coinstar is free if you opt for a gift certificate instead of cash. It's a good thing, because I've noticed Coinstar upped their sorting charge from 8 percent to 10.54 percent. That seems pretty steep to me.

Our weather guy is also talking about possible snow tonight, which around here in October is crazy talk. Good thing I picked those peppers!

Holy refund, Batman!

October 21st, 2013 at 11:58 pm

We cancelled our cable TV last month, and switched companies for a lower price on phone and internet. The last bill from the old provider said they owed us $17.75 in refund.

Turns out the actual check was for $162.15. Apparently, they billed us for the month when we cancelled, plus a small part of the month before. So, Hazzah!

I also picked the last of the peppers today. We've had two nights of serious frost, so I couldn't hold off much longer. We have hot peppers out the wazoo so I have to figure out what to do with them. I might can them in vinegar, dry some, and make pepper jelly with some to give to some of my spicier friends as gifts.

Here's a pic of PART of today's harvest.

Turkey stretcher...

October 18th, 2013 at 12:16 am

We're playing a game at our house: how many meals can we make out of one 13 pound turkey?

We baked one, at some for dinner.
And so far, we have turned it into
-two full-size turkey pot pies
-leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day
-a bag of bits to make into a creamy turkey noodle soup.

Did I miss something? Funny to think you can get so many meals out of one bird. He didn't die in vain!

Wood stove shopping

October 16th, 2013 at 02:43 pm

Well, I think we have green-lighted the wood stove project. We are shopping for an insert for our existing fireplace.

I spoke to our normal chimney guy this morning. Small business, just two guys and the wife runs the office. They carry many wood stoves and will be dropping off brochures with prices based on our exact specs (they have measurements,since they've worked on our house before) this week.

Over the phone, they estimated the cost of buying the wood stove we are considering at 2,000, with the option for a blower and for the surround.

I chuckled, because this is nearly $1,000 less than the cost of the same stove at the fireplace "showroom" retail outlet where i priced them out earlier this week. $1,000!!!

Looks like it might pay to just buy directly from the installer, than through a retailer who then farms the work out to an installer.

Anyway, I'll be interested to see how much the estimates are.

We've wanted a wood stove for a long time, and have plenty of free wood to burn in it. My secret motive is to use it as back-up heat during our many power outages (none of which have been in winter yet, thankfullY) and, since DH and the kids love to build fires all winter, we can use it instead of the furnace for at least part of every day.

Looks like wood stoves have come a long way. Many are much more efficient than I would have guessed and have decent burn times per load. And, if you buy before the end of this year, they're eligible for a $300 tax credit. I'll take it!

Looking for inspiration

October 14th, 2013 at 01:40 pm

I need inspiration: I'm looking for more creative ideas to save money and be more economical in my every day life, with both time and money.

I just finished yet another round of personal finance books and found them to be a snooze fest. Once you've been at this a while, don't you kind of feel like all the advice is the same, and there aren't any new good ideas out there?

Yes, the basics matter, but really, once you are basically doing all that, the advice is slim.

Other than the mortgage, we have no debt. We max out our IRA and 401k every year. We save $2400/kid each year in a 529. We put a little in savings. We pay cash for home renovations. I grow a lot of food myself each summer, then I can it.

I feel like I'm already doing what I should do, but like it's not enough.

I've made some changes lately to reign in spending.
-Cut the cable and switched internet/phone providers (saved $70/month)
-Cut Sat./Sun. newspaper delivery ($225/year)
-Cooking at home more
-Weekly budget of $400 or less for everything
-I buy most of the kids clothes at yard sales and thrift stores, and have several bins in the next size up.

And I am making other changes that hopefully will help us meet our goal of money in the bank, money for college, and a simpler, less cluttered physical and emotional life.

-I've been clearing out garages, drawers, and basements and taking things to goodwill and finishing long-on-hold projects.

Yet, I still feel like I could be doing more, like something is missing?

Where do you look for inspiration? Do you have any ideas?

Low spend week, attempt 2, Amish money,and

October 8th, 2013 at 02:44 pm

This is my second attempt at a low-spend week.

Last week's preschool class treats, DS1's antibiotics, and my mystical diagnosis of walking pneumonia kind of blew low spending out of the water.

I feel more in the spirit this week.
Yesterday, I spent a mere $21 on groceries. I think it's a record low since having kids. We're making a lot of soups this week, using up leftover bits from last week's meals.

The weather is colder now, so soup and fresh muffins/bread are a perfect fit. Last night, I made "steak soup" out of leftover brisket, cauliflower, peas, onions, carrots, and barley. We had blueberry muffins with it.

Tonight, is corn chowder with leftover ham and the tons of potatoes I'm getting from my farm CSA.

Anyway... I read "Money Secrets of the Amish" by Lorilee Craker last night. A good quick read. The premise was good, (not so hot on the execution). It's not any advice we don't already know, but sometimes it's nice to get a refresher course, sprinkled with a few anecdotes from people who really DO know how to scrimp.


I've also instituted a few new personal rules that should help reign in clutter, chaos, money, and much else.

I've given it some thought and my priorities are simple:
-A clean, well-ordered house
-No clutter
-Everything at home in good working order
-More money in the bank/ less spent on frivolities
-Healthy, homemade food
-more efficient use of my time and resources. Less running around!

So to meet those simple goals...

Time is always at a premium, and I feel like I spend a lot of it in the car running from store to store to pick up this and that. And, I'm in a hurry, so I forget something always. (a coupon, one thing I needed, etc.).

1. I've inserted a bright blue small paper in my weekly planner. On it, I have written down the name of each store I frequent, and the essential purchases that I need to make (i.e. light bulb for oven, Lampshade for thrift store lamp) from that store. The idea is , no more running to the store multiple times. Make a list, take it with me, get everything I need.

For more difficult to find items, I might try to buy online instead of going from store to store.

It seems simple, but I figure if I have it all mapped out over time, have a master list, and designate a certain day to do all of it, I won't run around as much, won't forget what I need, AND will hopefully have the time to look for coupons for that stuff/stores before I go.

2. I made a few adjustments to the clean-up schedule around the house to keep things running more smoothly. It's so basic, it seems silly.

-I changed when we unload the dishwasher. Now, it's first thing in the morning (instead of whenever someone feels like it.)Then I can just rinse and pop the dirty ones right in. Clear sink, less visual clutter, no heap of dishes waiting after dinner.

-One load of laundry goes in first thing, too. The goal is now to complete one load every day: washing, drying, folding and putting away. That should keep it from piling up.

-Each day, I'm also trying to tackle one cluttered cabinet or drawer.

- I am making a weekly stop at the Goodwill until all of the clutter is gone. We're making real progress here. We have essentially cleared and decluttered most of the basement, and it's working it's way around the house. Things are starting to have a 'place'.

I've also promised myself I'm not buying anything else for the house or otherwise until all of the clutter is under control. Nothing in until all the junk is out.

-My shopping list (see No.1!) is now about essential spending. What do I need to buy to meet the goal of a clean/functional house? For instance, the lightbulb to replace the burned out one in the oven. What do I need to buy to finish a project that is half-done around the house?

I want to focus time and money on repairing and maintaining what we have, rather than spending on something unnecessary and never getting around to buying the stuff that actually would improve our daily lives by keeping things working. It's my plan to reduce everyday annoyances.

It's a start!

On the savings front...
I'm hoping this pared down less hectic strategy might allow us to spend less and get more into savings. Savings have really taken a hit this year. It seems like one thing after another, and we've been taking money out instead of putting it in.

The goal is to return to 10 percent savings of take-home pay, then back to 20 percent eventually. Fingers crossed.

No wonder I've been tired...

October 5th, 2013 at 02:29 pm

I went to the doctor yesterday for a check up and it turns out I have walking pneumonia! I had been feeling bad since the kids brought home a flu in late august, and apparently, it turned into something serious. My antibiotics were only $4. Much cheaper than my son's $45 prescription.

No spend week is a bust

October 3rd, 2013 at 09:02 pm

So much for no spend week. I'm so frustrated. All was on track until:

1. Its' grandparent's day at DS2's preschool and all parents need to contribute something like food or napkins to the class party. Due to crazy food allergy and all milk, eggs, nuts, being banned from DS2s classroom, I had to buy a specific kind of cupcake for the kids-- and they cost... $30 for 24. Steamed.

2. We noticed a lump under DS2's arm pit last night, so he went to the doctor today for a $20 copay. Then, needed antibiotics.

Antibiotics cost $45 WITH insurance, and now the bubblegum flavor that used to be included for free cots $2.99 extra. I'm so mad at capitalism on that one. Really mad.

So yeah. I'm pretty frustrated right now. It seems like we will never be back on track. Kids have just made our lives to complicated and too frustrated.

Low spend week

October 1st, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I'm two days in to the low spend week. All is going as planned. Yesterday was a No Spend Day. Today, we paid DS2's preschool tuition bill, and spent about $110 on groceries. Tomorrow and Thursday should be NSDs too. Friday, I have to bring a treat to school, and because a kid in DS2's class is severely and deathly allergic to everything, we have to go to a special bakery and buy special items that cost an arm and a leg. Ugh. Oh well. If it keeps a kid alive another day, the cost is worth it right?

We donated a three big boxes to Goodwill today, so the clearing out goals are being met. Hopefully we can clear more out this week.

Tomorrow, the plan is to take the kids to play with their friends at the park, and to work in the garden until dinnertime.

I picked what will probably be close to the last round of tomatoes. Not enough to can, so I'll process and freeze them. I also picked a basket of hot peppers, which I will can raw in hot vinegar.

The season is winding down, but then not really. I still have a ton of fall cleaning up and prep work that will aid in getting next season off to a good start!

The work never ends.

The kids and I decorated for Halloween today. They love it. They even waited by the door to yell Boo at DH when he came home.