Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Easily Amused!

I'm one of those folks who still (gasp!) has cable. In spite of regular comments and emails both suggesting I cut the cord and asking why I haven't I remain a devotee. Until you can stream ALL sports including overseas sports live, I'll be in said system. With the bundle. The cable bundle remains a dedicated budget line item-and yes, it's my biggest non rent regular bill. By far.

Yesterday, I had a visit from the trusty cable guy.

Some of you may remember in a past "five frugal things" post that I mentioned working out a deal to lower my cable bill-by 70 dollars. As a part of that deal, I also got an increase in Internet speed to a gig. I could have also gotten door and window security sensors but around this house, with three different schedules, the security system would be on about five hours. We'll look at something more sensible, like perhaps a Ring and then sensors on the very back windows.

Anyhoo, the cable guy. He hooked up a new modem. He also gave the other two TVs that are not in the main room new boxes. The best part however, was that he gave us "talking" remotes. Now, if you have had one of these for awhile, you probably don't see what the big deal is. And if you don't know-put simply, you just tell the remote where you want to go. Or who you want to watch. Or what you want to listen to. You can say "Bette Davis" and it will pull up every Bette Davis movie on the screen-live, recorded or on demand. You can say, "find me a comedy" and it will give you all kinds of options. The list goes on. 

All you do is push that blue button and talk!

in the words of my son "Oh, my God, I have a new toy!". Eventually, obviously the newness will wear off, but let me tell you, right now that baby is getting a workout. By all three of us. Technology, it can be a joy. Or a toy.

As if that wasn't enough, I've been wearing my Fitbit at night in order to track my sleep. My goal is between seven and nine hours, aiming for the higher number, and most days I succeed. Each morning when I go to the app, as well as telling me the basics (my much total sleep, how much time awake, how much time REM sleep and so on), it gives a nugget of advice.

On Sunday I woke up, and as well as sharing all the statistics, the little app ad a kernel of wisdom. It said "alcohol can affect sleep and increase restlessness". Which wouldn't mean much. Except that the evening before I had had a small glass of white wine, the first alcohol I had drunk since my mini sip of Christmas champagne.

So seriously. Did the wine change my heart rate. Does the ever lovin' Fitbit have a sensor for chemicals?  Does Big Brother live?  Or is it simply a casual coincidence?

Inquiring minds want to know. Or maybe not.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday Things-Running On Empty Edition

Thank you everyone for your reasoned responses to my previous post. I am always happy to see that we can, in fact discuss issues without throwing things at the walls and mainly without making absolute and generalized statements.

This morning I was up a little after eight. I managed to get between six and seven hours of sleep-divided up. I slept from about nine forty five until twelve thirty and then from about three fifty am to a little after eight am. I probably could have gone back to bed but I figure a regular day is the best thing for good sleep tonight.

For those who are familiar with such things (mainly Catholics and Episcopalians I suspect) last night was the watch, and I always volunteer for what is generally the worst time, from one to three am.  Before that time you can simply stay up, and after that time, depending on the hour you go to work, you COULD simply get up early and head to the office.  Which would not be so bad, except for the night before I also had a bad night (which I rarely do any more), and I'll be ready to have that Sleepy time tea with Valerian and crash this evening. Such is the life of a restless sleeper

Meanwhile, a few things from this past week:

1.  I changed the yarn I'm making my top with. I will definitely be making something with the purple, but I'm making my little Dallas top now with the multi color yarn. I'm using a size larger needle than the yarn requires, so it may be a teeny bit lacy, requiring nude underneath, but that's okay. I have two or three other tank or almost sleeveless type patterns so that color of purple will certainly get used. 

2. Yesterday before our happy hour, I walked along the reservoir behind the restaurant. I figured I'd experiment with some outdoor walking that was on pavement. I won't be doing that again. My doctor had suggested that flat walking was best,and he was right. The sloping ups and downs were a strain on my knees and lower right leg especially. Never mind the pavement. I got in my six thousand steps, but it was painful and I certainly cannot walk today. In the future the outdoors is for casual enjoyment and exercise will be inside, I'm afraid. 

3. I finally pulled out a few Easter things. The little display holds various hand painted and batik style eggs I've collected over the years, and the little rocks were painted by a friend in my gals group who has a real talent. Decorations keep getting more minimal every year, this year I did not even have an Easter wreath. I suppose I should get at least a chocolate bunny for the adult kid and sister! My Easter bunny mini quilt will just be done by Easter, but since I'm making it for a future gift or to have from year to year, I'm not letting it bother me. Besides, Easter is not over on Easter Sunday by any means!  

4. I was trying to decide on a new TV show to watch next, when today, the new season of Bosch, popped up. That should keep me busy for awhile. I also just started reading the Nevada Barr Anna Pigeon books, a new author for me. I love when I find a new author-but when it's someone prolific who first started in 1993 the cultural differences can be a shock! I'll let you know what I think after I've read a few.

5. I've decided that while I will be more aggressive on the tracking portion (separating food from personal products and so on) for a couple months on the spending side I'm not going to create a budget as such. I have been making some small changes on the food front, as well as in other areas, and will share more about that next week.

6. There is a large possibility that my son will move to Texas post graduation. Nothing is written in stone yet, but he likes the lifestyle and climate better there than in Colorado and really followed me here because of being at loose ends. He would probably start out by living with my daughter and her husband. This really enforces my decision to spend three weeks to a month in Texas at least three times a year, if not more. Something I had been planning but not talked about out loud.  To that end I have been looking at Airbnbs that allow long term rentals, meet ups and social stuff in that location and trips and places to explore. But more about that later.

7. Finally, unlike me, when my sister cooks she generally "cooks". Since she works on the weekends (the joys of working in the landscape business, especially in April, May, and June), yesterday she made a half leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, asparagus and so on. Which makes up for my not cooking and/or throw it in the slow cooker style on occasion.

I've been to Good Friday services. We have piles of leftovers (that lamb, pork chops and deli chicken), so my day is fairly free. Tomorrow is my my nephew's birthday and I need to pick something up along the way. Sunday is Easter and we'll spend that at home I expect. I also may need to pick up that chocolate bunny.

Happy Easter, all!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Insanity, It Never Ends

Update: It looks like this poor young woman is dead, whether at her own hand or the FBI's we know not yet. This is a tragedy on so very many levels. That she wasn't reported, that no one got her help, that she could travel this far and do this........

Today, for those not aware, almost every school in the greater Denver area is closed. That's a frightening number of schools. Schools which were closed yesterday and will be closed today, and tomorrow, who knows?

Closed because of a young woman, a senior in high school who lives in Florida. Who made creditable threats, arrived in Colorado on a plane from Florida. And immediately went into a gun store and purchased a pump shotgun and ammunition. No questions asked.

Her father says he thinks that perhaps "maybe" she has a mental problem. Now, I am not one of those "the parent's should have known everything" type as such. But darn it, if your kid lives with you, surely you have some idea if they have a mental problem. Or if you kid is storing an arsenal in your garage. Unless you live under a rock. 

More importantly, there is something wrong when you can just go to another state, buy a pump shotgun and ammunition and walk out-no questions asked. Now before the comments start, I am not anti gun. I am the wife, and sister in law of military people. I am a former military people. I have been the beneficiary of many hunters and in fact survived on donated elk when my now 40 year old daughter was a preschooler and I was changing careers and broke. My son regularly goes to the mountains to a shooting range. I have many friends who own guns, handle them responsibly, and are good examples of gun owners. The list goes on.

I am however, opposed to a system that is less stringent than getting a driver's license.  Almost nobody needs a gun in the same day, and I can say fairly assuredly that no one non military needs a pump shotgun or an automatic rifle in the same day, or even the same week. We make people who want to drive a multi-ton car or truck take an education course, and prove that they are physically qualified. We also are unafraid of removing or limiting that license if said car is misused.

The fact that we are not willing to do that at the minimum when it comes to gun ownership is astounding to me.

And completely insane.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Facing the Budget as it Is

So as often happens in the budget process there's good news and bad news. 

The good news?  I am no longer subsidizing tuition payments at an expensive college. Six thousand dollars a semester is off my plate. Which is good, because that was really pushing it and I was not meeting some of my other obligations. As far as assistance to offspring, he's lived here for five years, I paid tuition two years, and while I may buy him things now and again and he still lives here as needed, no more. To be clear, he cooks, cleans, contributes works full time and goes to school full time and works very hard. And makes no demands. Ever.

The bad news? You knew there had to be some. I'll be increasing expenses in a couple areas. There will be increased rent and some past due obligations to family that can now be paid. Since I rent from family and do not want to be one of "those" people, I'm increasing my rent as well as obligation payments to family. This will add $300 to the outgoing pot. I'd also like to be able to pay more than my share of other expenses like groceries and such in house, to help my sister be able to actually save some pre-retirement money. She will have no pension or savings other than SS. Not through her own fault as such.

The other biggie is the medical thing. I suspended my $125 a month Federal health insurance to take on zero cost Medical advantage plan. I promised myself that I would put that amount into a separate savings account for future medical expenses. That my friends, has not happened. So that's another change that needs to be adjusted for. I probably will up that to $200 and treat it like my own health savings plan if you will.

After the new budget, my numbers are still really good. If I've done my math. Truthfully, I had not realized how much I was spending on helping kids, between tuition and their times of unemployment. 

To be clear, I don't regret that on some level, because they work very hard study very hard, do things around the house really hard-and hopefully because of that have a good start on life. I don't wish this to turn into an adult kid discussion here. 

But I also believe that the best thing I can do for my kids is to take care of ME, financially, physically and all the rest. So as of today, my financial direction is moving. 

I am not a good financial manager (duh). When my late husband was around he did it. But darn it, that was ten years ago. I can do this. I have to do this. I have things I want to do, and things I need to do.

As such, I want to re look at expenses in the $1200 that is "Barbara's pot of spending", which includes food, eating out, clothes, entertainment and fun (an all encompassing category), personal care, hobbies (in this household that does NOT fall under entertainment), and that "misc" category which includes gifts and other such. There is no charity category as most of my charity is doing and making, which fall under the others. Nor is there a travel category right now, but that will change, at the expense (was that a pum?) of all those other catgories.

My next "Barb's money" post is about the biggie: food. Food out and food in. And how to cut the food in when the primary cook doesn't cook as such (yea, he did all that as well) and wants to eat fairly healthily. Believe me, I look forward to all you have to offer in your wisdom.

Hit me! 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday-The Monthly Book Club, Pie, and New Projects.

Actually, calling it a book club is a misnomer. While we do discuss books ( in a mainly friendly fashion ninety percent of the time) we also have been known to discuss the problems of the world, or at least our little corner of the world.  Today's discussion ran the gamut and included a long and rousing discussion as to  who was most likely to be the last man-or last woman-standing on Games of Thrones. I'm going with the Night King  on principle.  I also figure Dani dies at the hand or her own dragon, and that Jamie kills Cersei, but that's a topic for another day. 

This month's book was The Paris Architect.  Some of us liked it, some of us didn't. My  opinion was that it was a decent book, but I feel like in the last year or so I've read an excessive number of book about the Nazis, especially the Nazis in France. Be it the Nightingale, All the Light We Cannot See, The Lilac Girls, all were fantastic books-I'm just ready for something a leeetle bit more uplifting, you know? Or at least a different genre. 

Meanwhile, this evening we have three, count em three pies in our house. Scary, no?  My sister eats sweets for breakfast and bought herself a bakery pumpkin pie. Then she used one of her two days off to play with her new toys: Cast iron baking pans and a books on cast iron pies and cast iron baking. A day and half later I have a lemon creme brulee pie baked in a large cast iron skillet, a strawberry pie. And that poor partial pumpkin pie that's hiding in the fridge. Thankfully, the strawberry pie is going to someone else's home, and she'll finish the pumpkin pie. I'm left with the lemon, and making every attempt just to have a small sliver every night. We'll see how that one goes. 

I finally started on my new knitting project, and after playing with a variety of colors, ended up using the purple. I rarely make stuff for me, and I was really looking for a tank, but this one has the off shoulder thing, so it'll be cool-and it will be fast to work on. It's too dark now to get a any good lighting but tomorrow I'll share my project.

Happy Weekend, allQ

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Balancing......Breakfast on Broadway

So, as I promised some of you, I wanted to talk about my balance/no fall class that I mentioned previously. When I first got to the classroom and found out the first two weeks were mainly about just talking (and watching a movie), I had hesitated to stay. I thought it was mainly exercises. But I had promised my daughter.

And after the second week I'm glad I stayed. While the first week was a lot of paperwork and organization, we also got to meet everyone and find out why they were in this eight week program. The ages vary and our reasons were different. One is a 60 year old gal who had a knee replacement and is not walking evenly (and doesn't want to go under the knife again) and her husband is there to support her. There are guys and gals who have fallen. A 72 year old woman who had both her knees replaced at the same time (they did an epidural and wanted to give her just one). And there is me, who has fallen once down the front steps, fallen once on a local outdoor mall street (although we now know that was as much about the uneven payment as anything else). and who is nervous about falling again-but not about to stay home because of it. 

This week's exercise was about our thoughts and concerns how realistic they were, and how we would address verious real life situations. For example a friend who has front steps and no railing invites us  over, we can't walk because the roads are slippery, and a host of other issues. I've already handled the first case. I have an every other week bible class at the home of a couple who have made their garage entrance friendly but not the front porch which has about six very wide steps with no railing. I simply call before I am coming and Bob comes out and gives me his arm. When I leave, he goes down the step in front of me and I place my hand on his shoulder. Almost all of us in the class are unwilling to stop being active, but we want to be careful. We also talked about discussing falling and aging in general with our kids. I was surprised to see that some were concerned adult kids might want to limit activity, because my kids are all about my going and doing and being independent. Anyway, it was a very interesting two hours.

The next few weeks are more about movement including fall prevention exercising (apparently one nurse can make herself fall on cue), being willing to ask for help, being willing to accept help (for example, my washer cannot be moved upstairs, so I can go up and down but not with laundry. I require help with that, and I ask for it). Other classes are about habits that can make you fall (I tend to look down when I get out of a chair as I push myself out of it, which is the original reason my daughter wanted me to take this class, and it's a habit I need to change), making the house safer as far as things on high shelves, and a bunch of other things. At this point I'm happy I made the commitment, if not for now, for in the future.

We also talk about getting stronger so that we can get up or grab if we fall. As as many of you know I do fifteen minutes of arm strengthening daily and the same with my legs. I'm sure there will be much to learn and share. 

Since another one of my gals group is also in my class, we went out for lunch.....err....breakfast afterward. If I have to be somewhere and leave my house by nine thirty, I''m probably not eating breakfast. And if I don't get breakfast food at breakfast, then I need it somewhere else throughout the day!  I figured we should try a place that was always packed on the weekends. So off we went to-you guessed it-Breakfast on Broadway. A place that advertises breakfast, lunch and Bloody Marys.  We stuck with the breakfast and no bar, and I ended up with french toast with eggs and sausage and my friend had an extremely large breakfast burrito.  A little pricey but delicious in the extreme. Next time I'm up for the Cointreau cream cheese stuffed french toast or the Hawaiian Benedict. I am nothing if not adventurous when it comes to food.

Time for an obligitory dog picture. See that little squirrel head on top of the wood fence on the other side of my metal fence? He (or she) knows darn well that the coon dog can look and climb and bark to no avail and takes great pleasure in the torment, The two of them must have been like that for at least 45 minutes.

Needless to say the rest of my day was spent walking off said lunch, getting groceries in advance of the next cyclone blizzard or whatever it will be called, and enjoy the 78 degree day, or the calm before the storm.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Frugal Things

It's been more than awhile since I did one of these, so we'll see what I come up with!

1.  I got a rewards certificate from my favorite store (Christopher and Banks) for twenty dollars. I also got a call last week telling me that since I was considered a VIP during this weekend's friends and family sale, I would get fifty percent off everything. I ended up getting three spring tops, a pair of crop pants, and a long spring cardigan. I also took a trip to a local Clothes mentors consignment store. While I rarely find my kind of "spring" colors there in clothing, I do find many accessories including scarves and earrings for a couple bucks each.

2. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but I sat in my studio/office and made a list of every craft item or tool I had, including yarn, paint, paint brushes and so on-as well as a list of partially completed projects. Then I made a large list of stuff I could make, or finish making with little to no additional supplies. I actually am low on fabric (although I have a whole pile of seasonal half yard cuts that I will turn into tote bags or something). I tend to do this something like quarterly. Since I've promised myself that this season I will take at lest one or two paid, fun craft classes a month, I'm trying to keep my craft inventory in some kind of check. (by the way, I didn't get to the flower class, so I'll try it myself. Instead I'm gonna try a painting on canvas or  glass painting class in the next week.

Although I will no longer be paying tuition for my son, I have his graduation issues to address, a daughter's wedding in the fall (I'll pay for the catering and her dress, there will be no showers and such), and a whole road trip in September. So I'm looking for ways to  amuse myself cheaply for the next few months.

3. I've been using my slow cooker to cook what may be non traditional slow cooker food with groceries bough on loss leader prices. I made slow cooker barbecued chicken thighs with a large family pack that cost five dollars (the trick is to put a small amount of barbecue sauce and cook them on high for about four hours. Then they end up being the really dark sticky skin thighs instead of just cooking in the sauce).  I did the same with Italian sausage and peppers. Both gave meals for two days at a very low price. I do a pile of summer cooking in my slow cooker (not just soups and stews) and will try to share pictures starting next week (boneless country ribs).

4. I've moved to mainly using Kroger Clicklist or Walmart Pickup or Walmart delivery for my groceries. I don't love walking the grocery aisles (even for produce). My experience with all three is that both the meat selections and the produce choices are very good. This avoids my habit of running up and down all the aisles, and adding things like large bags of sweet and salty nuts and such to my cart. They honor the sales flyers and take coupons. A win-win!

5. While I am not the plant whisperer/gardener/digger in the dirt as such, together we agreed that this year would mainly be maintenance in the three level back yard. For the last five years we have (she has) dug through weed barrier, created new gardens and seating areas, planted trees and done a great deal both in terms of labor and purchasing. Obviously we'll maintain the yard, and of course we will buy plants (many in pots to go on the large brick fireplace in the patio). Along with that, we will put off updating slowly failing no longer pretty pergola until fall. I'll get a shade to put over the top of it (we continue to be unable to decide whether to cover and fix it in place or turn the patio into an L shape and move the covered area there. No point in spending much until we've made this big decision).

6. My gal's group mainly makes an effort to lunch at places with many options $10 and under and our happy hours tend to be at places where the snacks are reasonable and those that just want a drink (or lemonade or iced tea) feel comfortable. However, I wanted to add some mainly free or even lower cost type items. So starting in May (if not sooner) I will be including easy walks that end with a coffee type get together, afternoon coffee and chats and plans for those who want to knit, sew, draw or craft.

7. I changed from my previous insurance to a Humana Advantage zero cost plan. My first experience with prescriptions is that 90 days of each of my drugs went down from ten dollars to two dollars. Believe my I'll take it. This new practice is a senior specific practice and so far I'm very pleased and will write at least one post about the experience when I get a chance.

8. I've mainly redone my budget. Both because of the lack of tuition payments and because of some lifestyle realities. I plan to share the whole thing in the next week or so, but let's just say it includes dedicated craft/hobby, dining out and entertainment, clothing, and "home comfort" categories. Part of the frugal budgeting process is knowing thyself and any extra in these categories (and I am sure there will be extra many months) will go into the "sinking fund at large". I have learned that I need dedicated categories for everything rather than a large spending fund.

9.  I spent $25 bucks to get the good car wash for the first time this year. Because part of getting a car to last to 2000 miles is to treat it well-both the mechanics and the interior and shell. My car's undercarriage and tires thank me, I am sure.

10. I was contacted by a local dental school student who needs patients. Since my needs are out of the ordinary, I will be a good fit. I've had some sort of dentures, bridgework, or device since I shattered my jaw and lost many teeth when I was eighteen. The combination of a woman with few teeth of her own,  who may need new dentures, who has a previously shattered jaw that occasionally gives off bone splinters and who has had so many dental procedures that she cries walking into a dentists office is too big a challenge to ignore. And obviously, it saves me a bunch of money-since we all know dental insurance, especially for seniors, sucks!!

Have you had any frugal maneuvers lately?  Happy Sunday all. Go Virginia!!