Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hanging in there

It's been a pretty crappy last couple of weeks. We are still having major problems with DS, mostly directed at DH, but of course still affects the whole family. It kind of feels like we have been cast aside. I have been trying to email with him the past week to get to some sort of resolve, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope. It's been exhausting and I am beyond sad about it all. All total this has been going on almost 2 months and I'm feeling the effects of the stress.....poor sleep, poor appetite, weight loss, and hard to concentrate (especially at work), not to mention dealing with the ups and downs of how DH is feeling over it all.

He did share with me some news that did make me very happy. It sounds very much like he will be going back to Australia, possibly for 2 years. He didn't get me much details, other than to say he had a job lined up (and I guess work visa's are easier to obtain there than Canada) and a 2 year plan to race for a race team there. I really think Australia is where he belongs and had actually hoped he would have went back there this past fall, but the plans he was trying to make at the time fell through. Where he is now isn't exactly a place anyone I know would actually choose to make a life there (sorry Canada! offense....there are similar places in the US, too). Let's see.....where he is now is 8 months of  sub zero winter, a few good weather months to do some very low level racing (basically "hobby" racing) compared to sunny Australia, where they race 8 months out of the year and at a higher level in the sport. He didn't say when all this is supposed to actually happen, but my guess is early Fall.

Our drug infested neighborhood is still being worked on by the narcotics cops. DH went a bit nuts week before last and actually stapled signs on a utility pole between us and our good neighbor! Stop the meth! Stop the herion! Call xxx-xxxx (sherrif's non emergency #). Well, within a few days the vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic on our little road died down big time and then the renter was walking by with his son about 10 days ago and we were outside. He stopped at our fence (and we thanked him for leaving our mis delivered mail) and he said he kicked out his wife. For the next week our street was silent! Though I think the son is still involved in it.  They have apparently just shifted the traffic to the road behind us and are accessing the property that way, according to our good neighbor, who's property borders the rental property. Then renter (truck driver) apparently went out of town a few days this week (got back last night) and the traffic started to pick up again, but the cops have been around and seem to be working on it all, especially the drug house behind us.  I'm sure renter's wife will be back at some point and it will all start up again, but the quiet week sure was nice and a much needed break from all the stress.

Monday is payday and in the past whenever we got paid on a Monday the direct deposit would show up in my bank account on Saturday. Not there this morning! Boo! I wonder why it's changed. I had planned to get online, get bills paid and be done with that this morning, but now I will have to wait until Monday,

My mom gave me a scare last week. She had been dealing with bronchitis and called me one morning to say she just didn't feel well at all and called 911 and they were on their way. By the time I got over to her house (takes me about 15 minutes) they had come and gone and said her lungs sounded fine and by then she felt better. I did make her make a doctor appointment and took her in later that afternoon. I think she just woke up, felt a bit woozy, etc and panicked. I tried to let her know that she could always call me to take her to ER or urgent care if she didn't feel she could drive herself to her doctors office (as long as it wasn't life and death situation, of course).  She seems fine now and back to normal.  Guess that's a little preview of things to come as she starts getting up there in age.

I think DD and I are going to join the Y.  It's a bit more per month than I had hoped ($84 for the both of us) but if I go 12 times per month (eek!) I would get a $20 reimbursement from my health insurance company. Plus, when DD goes to college at the end of September I can stop paying for her monthly dues. I really need to get in shape and take care of myself and try to get some energy.  My mom said my uncle (who is like 69 or 70) decided to get in shape and joined a gym, lost a good amount of weight and is feeling great. I guess he changed doctors, went in for physical and the doctor asked when was the last time he exercised and my funny uncle said "oh....since like 1959". He's not overweight, maybe had 20-25 pounds or so extra and just out of shape. I'm proud of him to take care of himself like that! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mis-delivered mail and good news

So, our mail that was delivered on Saturday got put in someone else's mailbox......guess who? Yep, the drug dealing renters. Guess they have somewhat of a conscious and did put our mail in a plastic bag and hung it on our gate on Sunday.  Thank goodness they did, because rather than the several pieces of junk mail we usually get daily there were 2 very important items that were in that mail. One being the title to the car I transferred to DS and the other being a letter from the University DD will be attending that she will be getting a $2,000 scholarship. We were very excited to get that news!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

From the old days

I was putting some things away in DD's bedroom and was reminiscing of how I had re-decorated her room when she moved from the crib to a big bed.  It was so cute. Kind of a "country cute" style. The bed had a puffy patchwork quilt in pastel colors, her walls were a pale yellow. As she grew older she changed it to her own style...or I should say "styles" as she grew up. We're probably on our 4th coat of paint over the years.

But, she has left a few remnants that for some reason she won't get rid of:

This is the coat/hanger shelf I bought unfinished and white washed.  The bears were newborn gifts I had received when she was born. A lifelong friend of my mom made the smaller bear. I made the wooden bear in one of my craft phases.

The shelf and the picture still remain, as well as the dolls and little "country" knicknacks.  She's added a few of her own little things over the years, but I find it sweet that a little part of her room is still from toddlerhood.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I hate cell phones

Ugh. I have to go buy DH a new cell phone. Previously he just had an old "dumb" phone but at Christmas I got him a smart phone with a T-mobile plan. The reason being was that even though he hardly uses a cell phone, now that we have our camera security system he needed web access on a phone in order to be able to monitor our cameras and get email notifications when we leave the house. Plus, as an added bonus, the $30 a month plan with unlimited data, text and 100 talk minutes was $13 a month cheaper than the crappy Sprint basic plan he had been on for years and years.

So, I just got T-mobile's cheap Prism II smart phone. But, it doesn't work very well.  No matter what it just seems to kick itself into airplane mode all the time and it always freezes up. Add that to the fact that DH has no skills in how to use a smart phone and all it's menus, etc and none of it is working out. 

Today DD and I will be going to the T-mobile store to see what better quality of phone we can buy for him. Looks like I'm going to have to spend at least $250 for a good phone (since we are not on a contract and I won't go on a contract). Ugh.  And like DD said.....even if the phone works well, DH still isn't going to understand HOW to use it, so he'll end up telling us that phone is a piece of crap too. least I came in almost $200 under budget for groceries for the last 2 weeks, so I don't feel quite so bad having to cough up the money.

I'm sure this saga won't be over, even with an expensive new smart phone. I'll be back here in a couple of weeks saying DH still thinks it doesn't work, blah blah blah. He has zero patience to try and figure anything out, and I really don't even know how to use a smart phone (don't have one), so it will be up to DD to "try" and train him on it.  Poor girl - I don't envy her the job! But, I've been putting off this task of new phone shopping for a week, so it will be good to get it off my to-do list and be done with it.

Speaking of to-do lists. 2 more things done! I sat with DD (for all of 15 minutes) last night while she typed in her info and filed her tax return. She wanted to learn, so that was great. She's getting back $93 of the $142 she had withheld. Little girl made over $6500 last year, plus all her tips! Then this morning I finished filing my return. Got back a whopping $36. Now next on the list, is to update the FAFSA. Not that I except that to generate any financial aid.  Apparently a family income of $75,000 a year means we are just swimming in money and can afford $20,000 a year for college.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This and that on a Friday

It was an expensive week. The tree trimmer finally showed up with his crew yesterday and got our 4 evergreens and one ash tree trimmed. Those evergreens were over 120 feet tall! Yikes - that tree climber is crazy. They are all thinned out now and the ash tree overhanging onto bad neighbor's property looks much better and now we won't have to worry about any branches breaking off and falling onto his structure.  It was $1000, but they did a good job, did it quickly, and cleaned up all the mess.

I got 2 free lunches at work this week. One day was taco bar and  yesterday was Panera again. Panera has now become my favorite. I'm not much of a taco eater, but it's free, so I'll eat it :-) 

I've been writing down my food (eating at home and take out or restaurants) and misc (pets, cleaning, personal care) purchases to see how close I am coming to my $550 per paycheck budgeted amount. I was coming very close the first couple of pay periods that I was tracking it. This last payroll period I only spent $360! Woo hoo! I'm going to keep tracking it for at least a few more times. Not sure if that was a fluke or maybe tracking it has made me more aware. I know we didn't eat out or do take out much this past 2 weeks, so that helps.

I increased my 401k contribution per paycheck just a bit. $50 a month more going in. Every little bit helps and 50% of that gets matched. I think the change will take place on the paycheck at the end of the month.  If it looks like we might get a bonus in June, I'll up it again. So far, not looking like a bonus is in our near future though. At our company meeting in December the management said they were working on the bonus program details for 2014 and would get back to us all in January. That has never happened and so far our sales this year have sucked..which is probably why they haven't bothered to tell us....but maybe a carrot dangling in exact details would be what the sales force needs to get even more motivated??

DH drinks a Visalus banana shake for lunch most days, but he's been only having it about 4 times a week lately and I realized we have a whole unopened bag in the cupboard and a new one due to ship next Wednesday. I just went online and changed the next ship date to a month from now and saved $55 from coming out of my bank account this month. It hasn't helped him lose any weight (just some at the very beginning) but he really likes the taste of it and it's an easy lunch, so he likes to have it quite often.

Picked up a movie to watch this weekend from the library. The Great Gatsby. DD had mentioned some time back she would like to see it, so I put it on reserve and my turn finally came up. I so badly want to see the new Catching Fire movie that is out, but I'm not buying it and it's going to be a long wait at the library.  I may break down and treat myself to renting it on demand for $4.

I had a reminder on my calendar that I needed to order a refill for my cell phone. The $50 refill I purchased was good for a year and it's time is up next week. I still have about 80 minutes left (I am such a low user of a cell phone!) and from when I initially purchased the phone and plan a few years ago, as long as I buy a refill before the year is up, it will roll over any unused minutes. I wanted to buy it online via Target, to save the extra 5% with my red card, but just before ordering realized it's the actual card they mail you, not an email with the activation code, and I'm afraid I might not get it by next Thursday, before my year is up on the current minutes. So, I ordered it via Walmart for $49.54 and put it on my 1% cash back debit card. At $55 per year (with sales tax) my cell phone is only costing me $4.50 a month the past couple of years. The first year I had to buy a $100 card in order to get the "gold status" and have my future refills (even if I only spend $10 on a re-fill card) last for 1 year. $50 a year refill card seems to work out fine for my usage.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

So tired

We are so tired of the drug activity that just continues and continues. 54 ins and outs (cars, people walking with backpacks, people on bicycles with backpacks) day before last and almost the same yesterday. Just since between midnight last night and 11am this morning there were 16 cars passed by our house (remember, we live on a little dead end private road that serves 3 homes) and 4 walking.

DH has a scanner...the deputies and the lieutenant at the police station tell us to "keep calling the stuff in", but every time DH does he's met with less than helpful dispatchers...."what makes the person(s) suspicious?" Um....let's's 3 am.....they have backpacks on.......they don't live here....they've been in and out 3 times already, what more do you need? Then when they dispatch it he's reported on the scanner as "the same guy that always calls". Seriously?  The drug house that is kitty corner behind us has had a female outside screaming her head off at least 4 different times over the past few weeks (usually late at night). One time someone else in the neighborhood must have finally called it too (heard on scanner). The night before last she was outside screaming. So loud that 2 acres away we can hear her inside our house. After over a half hour of it DH calls to report it (like midnight). It finally gets dispatched some time later and Dh hears the cop report back that he was in the neighborhood and all was clear.....same time DH is hearing this over the scanner the female is still out there screaming! So, ya, cop lied and wasn't even in the area. After about 3 more hours of listening to it (I'm not kidding) DH calls to report it again. Then about 10 minutes later he calls back because he could see she got into the back bed of a pickup and as it was driving down the road, out the neighborhood she was still screaming. He's telling the dispatcher this and she's like "when did this happen?" It's happening right now as I'm on the phone to you! Good Grief! We found out she is the girl friend of one of the drug dealers that live in the house.Yesterday afternoon, before I got home from work, she started in AGAIN. DH calls to report it. He had the cordless phone out in the back yard and says "can you hear it?" and they reply, "we don't need to hear it" and they put him on hold for a few minutes and they come back on the line and say "well, if anything changes let us know" What the heck does that mean? It's just ridiculous. I would think a screaming insane person is enough to warrant the police investigating at minimum a domestic issue.

We have been reporting the daily activity to the drug task tip line for months now. I finally wrote in my report this morning that what in the world else could possibly be going on here besides drug dealing??? After the 2 undercover narcotics guys were here a couple of weeks ago we had some info we thought they might could use. I tried to call him and left a message and he never called back.  Like DH said to me today: if there were the same cars going in and out of a store parking lot all day, the cops would sure stop them and ask what's going on. I cannot for the life of me fathom why none of the other neighbors that aren't involved in this (there are a few of them) will not call. Half the people on our street and the one behind us are related to or landlord to the drug dealers.  The only thing our good neighbor next door has raised a finger to help is to call the Lieutenant one (maybe twice) time and that was a month ago. There are 2 houses directly on the other side of the street from the drug house behind us. I can't believe they put up with all the activity driving by their houses. The screaming woman is literally right on the other side of one of their fence. My only guess is they feel they will be retaliated against if they call in or they know DH will call, so they don't need to bother/get involved. Blows my mind that they will not report anything, especially while it's happening right in front of them.  What the hell is wrong with people?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Productive Sunday

Since I didn't have to be anywhere this morning, I just slept in until my normal time, so I didn't lose an hour of sleep. DD had to be at work, so she just went to bed earlier. She's like her mom - she loves her sleep :-) 

The weather was halfway decent today so DH and I got outside and washed my car and I started in on picking weeds. My back is feeling all the work now. We were just getting done when DD got home from work to DH got her to vacuum out my car, so all clean now.  Then they started washing his truck and it's raining on them! Ooops.  In my car was a free frisbee we had got at Petsmart the last time we bought dog food and I forgot about it. The dogs loved it - even the 5 year old couch potato was running around like crazy chasing it and chasing our other dog who kept catching it.  I got the dusting done in the house this morning and was going to vacuum after DH got up, but after washing the car and pulling weeds, I decided my back and neck has had enough for one day.

While he got started washing his truck DD and I ran over to Walmart - we both had things that have been sitting on the counter to be returned for weeks, so we each got our $10 back and that to-do item crossed off my list.Then we stopped at the auto parts store down the road for something DH needed.

Dinner is just going to be a heat up meal. A store brand Swedish meatballs meal I thought I'd give a try. We tried the boneless BBQ ribs that heat up in about 20 minutes and they are really good, so I'm hoping this meal is good too. I'll add some veggie and rolls, making an easy dinner. I'm too tired to do much else.  I did pop in some pre-made cookie dough in the oven earlier and made a batch of cookies. I have a tendency to over-bake them, but I was really careful this time and even though I thought they didn't look quite done, I took them out and they turned out perfect. I usually leave the cooking making to DD - she never overbakes and she leaves the brownie baking to me, because she always underbakes them, LOL.

Frugal things I did this week

Nothing too earth shattering!

Got a free lunch (Panera Bread) at work on Monday.  Sandwich, salad, roll and a HUGE cookie. Filled myself up good, so I wasn't hungry for dinner and just made DH a pot pie and DD had some leftovers.  Looks like from the calendar at work we get a free lunch next Monday, too.

Worked from home Tuesday - saved $10 in gas (I see gas is going up a lot this past week...grrr...)

Ordered the vacuum cleaner bags (I can only find them online) shipped to Walmart so I'd have free shipping.I waited until I had some shopping to do there to go pick up and do all in one trip.

Ran some errands while I was already out running another errand

Free breakfast with Mom

Made some dinners (instead of take out) this week - good for me since I hate cooking and am always tired by the time it's time to make dinner
French Dip sandwiches
Soup and Sandwiches
Cheesy bacon hashbrown casserole

Ordered a discounted Petco gift card to save over 25% on special dog food

Read borrowed (from neighbor and library) books

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How I just saved 26.5%

I came across this article today  on ways to save on pet supplies. Several points listed I already do (or have done) but the discounted gift card idea caught my eye. I have heard of these discounted gift card sites, but never have checked into them.

One of our dogs (due to allergies) eats an expensive brand of dog food (Blue Buffalo) that usually runs $55 for a 30lb bag.  The only 2 places around here that carry it is Petsmart or Petco. I usually get it at Petsmart, just because it's the closer store. Once in awhile it's on sale for about $5 less.

I used to search and found a Petco gift card with a balance of $66.93 with a 25.5% discount, making it $49.86 (with free shipping). I also paid for it with my Paypal debit rewards card, saving an additional 1%.  Needless to say, scoring a 26.5% discount on this dog food makes my day! I will definitely have to check out this site regularly to purchase discounted gift cards I can use towards this dog food.  It seems it would also pay to check out gift cards for other stores, if I know I will have a purchase coming up.  Gift cards to stores like Lowe's and Home Depot seem to run about 10-13% off.  Could make for some nice savings on all our yard maintenance purchases we make throughout the summer.


Simplymesince1970 asked me for the pasta penne recipe I mentioned yesterday.  I forgot to mention DD also made another new recipe that was THE BEST egg salad sandwich I have ever had!

Here are the 2 recipes she found:

and the cheddar bacon egg salad:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Updates on the budget

I dropped DS and the vehicle we transferred to him from our insurance. I sure estimated that reduction right on! It will be $70 a month savings. Plus he reimbursed me for the registration tags of $75 and that will be a yearly expense I won't have anymore.  Add that to the $200 a month in health insurance I won't be paying anymore. Next month I'm going to increase my 401k a bit. Between my 2 salary increases the past year and this $270 reduction in expenses, I'm also feeling more comfortable that if for some reason my side job ended (honestly, I'm surprised it's been this long! almost 4 years now!) I will still have a cushion of extra in the budget each month. It won't be a lot, but it will be ok.  I'm hoping to keep doing it 2 more years. By then DD will be graduated college and I'll probably have another raise or two to add to it.  Plus, when DD gets her degree and starts a job, some of my other expenses will go down too. Another $200 a month for health insurance and about $70 a month for auto insurance. Most likely she'll move out on her own and food and electricity will go down too.

We have a big expense coming up this week. Tree trimming of 5 big trees in our back yard. The tree trimmer quoted us a few months ago at $200 per tree, so it will cost $1000. Most of this is coming from what I have leftover from the $2500 birthday gift my mom gave me. It seems like such a huge expense, but I guess if I look at it that we have lived here 25 years and trees grow every year. It's a necessary job at some point. Average the cost out over 25 years and it's $40/year for tree trimming. One of the biggest trees is hanging way over our fence to our junkyard neighbor's - over his shop, so that one is definitely a must do. Our other (good) neighbor on the other side is having one of his trees just over his side of his fence done at the same time.

We also have about $150-200 worked into the budget to tune up the long borrowed lawnmower so we can return it to friend. DH wants to put new blades and do a tune up before it's returned. I think we had that lawnmower 7 years! Friend had moved and didn't need it (no yard) and ours had died. DH took meticulous care of it, always either washing it or blowing off the grass and dirt with our air hose after each use. Friend finally got his yard put in last fall, so he'll be ready to mow soon. It will also give a little more much needed space getting that out of our garage.

DD and I have a girls weekend coming up the first weekend in April. An all day Saturday thing at her university, so we will go the night before and stay in a hotel Friday and Saturday.  The girl (and her mother) that she has connected to be roommates with is also flying in (she's from out of state) so they will get to meet and Sunday we will spend the time with them to do a little sightseeing and are having brunch at a nice place. Her roomie texted last night that her mom made reservations for the 4 of us, her treat :-)  Should be a nice girl's weekend for us. I have a $50 gift card to a gourmet hamburger restaurant I was hoping we could use while in her university town, but apparently they don't have one of those in the area. Darn.

With the weather warming up our electricity bill should start going way down the next 7 months. Who doesn't like an extra $100 a month or more to add back to their budget? It all just goes to lawn/yard maintenance but that's ok. I am so ready for Spring to start!

DD tried a new recipe recently. Penne pasta, bacon, onion and fresh parsley topped with parmesan cheese. It was really good. Easy to make and smelled so good while she was cooking the bacon and chopped onions.  Tonight's dinner is going to be chili and corn bread.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Engine fixed

We went and picked up DD's car (a 2003), from the friend who worked on it, yesterday. Her total came to just over $1140 - ouch - but probably half what it would have cost at a shop. The shop we had first checked into said $1000 in labor just to pull the engine out, plus then parts and labor to fix the leak. Well, our friend found several things wrong while he had the motor out (one motor mount was completely broke in half, so he replaced both) and he put in new gaskets, water pump, timing set, spark plugs, oil and and antifreeze. I'll bet she would have ended up paying $2500 at that shop to have all that done.  Friend charged her $780 in labor and the parts totaled about $360.  She should be good to go now.........except just before she took it up there to him she noticed her drivers floor mat was very damp and then he noticed it yesterday (because it has been raining non-stop), so she has a window or windshield leak somewhere and we have no idea how to figure out where it's coming from.  Guess that's the next project. It just needs to stop raining!

Even with that huge expense and purchasing her new laptop, she still has over $5000 in the bank and the next 6 months to work and save before she heads off to college. She's just happy to have her wheels back and not be borrowing my car or having to have dad take her to school and pick her up. Tennis tryouts/season starts today - of course, that must be why it's raining :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday hello

Yesterday was payday and Friday, so double good :) I managed to come in $23 under budget in my food/cleaning/personal/pet category for the pay period.  Not a lot, but better than nothing, I guess.  Or maybe I'm just great at budgeting, haha.

Here's a funny story about the awful renters at the end of the street. The neighbor in between us is a good friend of ours. He's lived here almost as long as we have. Single guy, quiet. Pretty much just goes to work and stays in his house/shop for the most part, so I don't think the renters have ever really seen him, other than maybe at a very distance. So the other night neighbor was making his way over to our house in the dark (to check out our new LED shop light DH had put up that day, because he just bought 2 also, and wanted to see how they worked) and was smoking his cig and stopped out in the road in front of his place to finish his cig.  There is a street light between his and our properties we had put up years ago, so he wasn't in the total dark. All of a sudden he hears some gravel rustling behind him and turns around and the renter is standing there and says to our neighbor "can I  help you?"  Can you freaking believe that?!! They have people up and down our street 84 times in one day!  So our neighbor replies "Nope" and turns away. A few moments later he hears the gravel again and turns around and our neighbor says to renter "Can I help YOU?" and renter says "well, I'm just wondering what you are doing here?" and neighbor says "I'm standing on my property looking at the holes in the road".  Then the renter says "Oh, you are (name withheld)". He called us when he got back into his house to tell us and we all had a good laugh.

DD should have her car back soon from our friend working on it. He's fixing the oil leak and ended up pulling the engine out and called yesterday and said he is glad he did because one of the motor plate mounts was broke in half, so he is replacing both sides. Hopefully we'll be able to go pick it up this weekend. She also just purchased herself (for college) a new touchscreen tablet/laptop combo. $750 and she still has a buttload of money in savings, even after she will have to pay for her car repairs.

I took her the other afternoon to get her sports physical done for tennis starting next week. I guess with the new insurance it's now covered 100%, so at least that's something for my extra $400 a month going out for health premiums (said sarcastically). She only needs to take one class this last spring quarter to satisfy her high school and community college AA degree, so she is very excited about that. She's taking on online business class, so she won't even have to go to the campus. Fall quarter she had afternoon/evening classes so she worked mornings Mon-Fri, but this current quarter she had to take morning classes and switch back to working weekends. Her best friend took the job to replace her weekday mornings, but now friend has to take morning classes spring quarter so DD is going to take back the weekday mornings and best friend will take the weekend shifts. Their manager is very happy it all worked out and I'm happy we'll have some weekend time back to hang out and do stuff again.

My mom is stopping by later today to drop off her paperwork for me to do her taxes. It's usually not too complicated - she just has her retirement withdrawal and social security to claim.

I see some little buds on my flowering plum tree - spring is coming! Yay!