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Gratitude Post, frank expenditures, hot tip to some SA bloggers

January 10th, 2013 at 01:11 am

For the past hour I have been feeling contemptuous of things that are beneath my contempt level, so this gratitude post is corrective action.

Today I am happy for:

1. Lunch walks with the spouse for errands. My favourite person, my favourite activity in which we are both erect.

2. We did not lose electric power during last night's wind and rain extravaganza.

3. I am doing well on the 8000 IU daily dose of Vitamin D3 for December/January. I am considering asking for a blood test when next I visit the doctor, preferably before March 15, so I can determine if my body's storage of cholecalciferol is adequate. My friends 110 mi north are taking only 2000-2500 IU a day, except for one who is taking 10000 IU and he says he genuinely feels better for it. After a six-week bout with a grisly virus that left me feeling like the walking dead five years ago, I am grateful for my decision to megadose on Vitamin D3. I have not experienced any toxicity problems.

4. eBooks available through my city's library system. I finally read an eBook for the first time ever, this past week. Having a lighter laptop with a longer battery life may have something to do with my adapted reading habit: I like taking it to a cozy overstuffed chair without fussing around behind the chair to plug in the adapter.

5. The late great operatic space alien/pastry chef Klaus Nomi concocted an easy lime tart recipe. That did not stop me from messing it up my first time (evaporated milk =/= condensed milk), but I will certainly make it again soon. Wanna try it yourself? (music not included)

6. Waking up without pain, at a proper time.
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I am not off to a great start in 2013, financially. Every day seems to be an expenditure unplanned. Replacement tire, news subscription, mattress pad, DH's spree at JC Penney (completely tongue-in-cheek here, I do not begrudge my man some major mark downs of new clothes, especially when his annual clothing budget is $200/year), other things I have kvetched about here. I did make half the credit card statement's balance due, the rest to be paid two weeks later.

A gift to you whose workflow of opening an Add Entry link and filling the Entry Text box to publishing frequently outlasts the 20-minute window, I tell you of Lazarus, a text recovery browser extension (I use it for Chrome, but here's a Firefox add-on link that preserves your text so you need only click on the pale green ankh on the upper right of the text box to reclaim your golden thoughts!

$20 Challenge

January 3rd, 2013 at 08:05 pm

I won a 2012 dead pool, officially (yay!) and received payment today. Great change can start small and gradual, so very early in the year I begin with some small differences:
1. "Extra" money is divided among: investments that will get 3% or more this year; debt with APR of 3%; budget cushion money; and fun money.
2. Eating every 2 - 2.5 hours. Already I am experiencing more energy.
3. Mindful gratitude for gifts several times a day.
4. Acceptance that things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better. And sometimes inconvenience and discomfort is part of getting better.

The Day in Gratitude

December 28th, 2012 at 04:55 am

1. My spouse brought his work phone with us.
2. Although the spouse took WA-543 instead of WA-539 (Lucky Robin knows what I am talking about), we still managed to get downtown in time for me to renew my passport.
3. The Prius Map feature allowed me to show my spouse he erred in thinking WA-543 was a recently developed WA-539.
4. Border officials do not grill me when I tell them I am renewing my passport.
5. I had eight minutes left in getting back to the car before our time expired.
6. Fiamma Burger's "B'ham'burger." Enough said. (Lucky Robin knows what I am talking about)
7. A man consciously stepped back from the open elevator to let me in first. This has not happened for years. I was taken aback, then flush with gratitude and of course thanked him. Wow.
8. Antlers and red noses on the Translink buses.
9. Spouse bought LAMY ink cartridges for my fountain pen while I was waiting at Passport Canada.
10. May have seen the greatest ever Vancouver Canucks team player driving his BMW into Vancouver!

Everyone was polite and kind today. These greases of the social machinery really buoy me, you know?

9999, plus Merry Christmas

December 24th, 2012 at 10:17 pm

The car odometer is now at 9999 miles.
Despite long lines, people were in good cheer at the supermarket. We braved the crowd because we needed eggs, pie crust mix (we're having tourtiere), butter, and I wanted some Market Spice (orange-cinnamon) tea.
Plus I needed to get my passport out because I am renewing it.

My Christmas present to you: Music can induce feelings of euphoria. Research here includes 40 tracks used, most popular/effective music asterisked


Trans Siberian Orchestra performs Nutcracker Suite - after forty seconds my brain waits for Freddie Mercury.

Remember, the Drug Enforcement Agency cannot come for your playlists, and this info is legal to share across borders. Enjoy!

Balancing Thoughts, Cocooning Christmas

December 24th, 2012 at 01:32 am

I guess the debt collectors read the last post. I answered the phone, was very sweet and clear and polite with them and they were sweet and clear and polite back, answering my request for the company name and telling me they would remove my number. I guess they figured that the person who requests contact information for them but insists the person they're asking for has never had this phone number might be planning to send a Debt Validation letter. Really, the validation letter is a favour to them.

Sad irony: the one family who can stand us (we're bookish introvert rationalists on various points of the autism spectrum -- i.e., socially awkward wackos) is avoiding debt collectors: they have changed their e-mails and phone numbers. I mailed them twice with our e-mail addresses and phone numbers, but they have not taken these cues to contact us -- was I too subtle?

I am sad that I live in a culture where apparently I can't appreciate and celebrate what I do have in common, other than genetic material, with relatives, but instead be grateful for loneliness and isolation as an alternative to hearing racist jokes (my niece and nephews are ALL biracial: our kid happens to be the only white one and he's the only one with recognized dual citizen status), or anti-immigrant rants (hey, I am an immigrant, why are you saying they are bad?) or treatises on how more violence will help to curb violence.

Why do families have to act tribal and cast out people who've had unique experiences? I am not talking about addictions, criminal history or sexual perversions, but experiences like trying out a different church, or growing up in a broken home, or growing up urban or rural, or moving to another country, or living without television.

I did have some great conversations with non-relatives today, about holidays and noncontroversial subjects. For that, as a positive experience to build against the daily shelling of social anxiety, I am grateful.

Grateful to have the opportunity to drive to my home country for a day to renew my passport.

Grateful to come across the expression: "'It's the end of life as we know it' said the caterpillar; 'it's the beginning of life as we know it' said the butterfly."

The spouse received an Odd Lot Buyback solicitation for his old employer's stock. He is considering selling to apply $$ toward the car debt. I may liquidate a stock of a company I don't much like for the same reason, or to help spruce up the house.

Bonus Question: Did I miss a widget or scripting hack to prevent the Chinese F*M*L*-----.com spammer comments?

Blessed by debt collector calls

December 20th, 2012 at 05:06 am

Yes, you guessed correctly: some scofflaw deadbeat applied for credit with a phone number that actually is mine. I have had the number for five - six years. The one time I answered a call from Oklahoma I asked how many years old the contact information the caller had was, and she said she'd remove the number from her records. Way to not answer my question.

Then a 800- number called, which from the Web I could trace to a debt collector. I haven't answered, because they've called when I had fewer than twelve minutes remaining on my cell phone. But tomorrow starts a new usage cycle, and when they call, I am gathering contact information. The company with the 800 number has a branch office in Oklahoma.

Then I will use the Debt Validation letter method, and send my letter registered with return receipt.

For now I am keeping a file, with a printout of my phone bill, and documenting times and dates and caller information, and bookmarking websites on small claims court procedures.

The last time I had to deal with this I had the Attorney General's office intervene. This time I have car payments to think of, and the information that this one debt collector has paid out in small claims courts before, and paid $121000 in telecommunications and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations.

And so it snows

December 19th, 2012 at 09:54 pm

I am thankful there are people other than my creditors who are willing to have me in their lives.

I am thankful that the former coworker who dismissed all of us female workers as stupid b*tches is incarcerated for a different, more horrible transgression. He has shown himself by his felonious acts and odious conduct to be a manic sociopath misogynist.

I am thankful for peppermint mochas that are easy to come by as I walk through the melting snow, my socks fallen down below my heels in my rainboots, and the effort of the library staffer to track down all the items on hold for me so my trek was maximally productive.

I am thankful for finding addresses I shamefully have been lax in entering in my address book. I would much rather have solutions and strategies for my disorder than excuses, believe.

I did not sleep well even with my new pumped up, fluffed up pillow. The barista thought he was doing me a favour sneaking an extra shot of espresso in my drink.

Gratitude

December 15th, 2012 at 02:53 am

1. Made chocolate chip cookies, in part as an act of gratitude, but mostly because of past sugar and carb cravings.

2. The house did not burn down after SOMEONE left the SPACE HEATER UNATTENDED AND ON this morning downstairs.
I turned the heater off, because I am not interested in sky-high electricity bills, and not interested in seeing the house destroyed.

3. New "QI" episode today and being downloaded! Last week, the all-male panel and host made like they were going to show their cox to the audience before "technical difficulties" affected the broadcast. A Reverend is on this episode, so let us hope of no cox repeats. Prof. Brian Cox of course is a welcome exception.

I Learned How to Pay for a Car Today

December 11th, 2012 at 01:06 am

My friends were slackjawed to learn yesterday that we drove our car off the lot before presenting the complete payment for the automobile. "I can't believe they let you pay just $8800 before taking it home," said a friend who bought from that very dealer.
Her remark made me wonder if maybe we should have gone to the credit union last week to officially apply for a loan.

"So how then do you buy cars when you haven't yet applied formally for a car loan, and you buy at a date or time when the dealer cannot directly and immediately contact your lender?" I did not ASK to take the vehicle home: I was fine with picking it up in a few days.

I figured we would apply for the loan formally at some point, after the inspection and insurance, and the credit union would mail payment to the dealer. We visited the credit union today to get the loan and experienced a delay due to the "new"/"not new" status of the car, where we saw a cheque drawn for the balance of the vehicle. We borrowed 25% of what we were approved to borrow, so we knew acceptance was a foregone conclusion. We were to bring the remaining payment to the dealer.

"New" - present year model of vehicle.
"Not new" - previous title, 9500 miles on car.

So today I did drive to the dealer to bring in the cheque and a thank-you note for not sending the cops or repo men after us. To be hilarious (they have BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and Lincolns in the showroom) I showed up in my furs. I am relieved we were not reminded by the credit union or the dealership in a "what is wrong with you you car thieves" kind of way.
I feel this car purchase has just begun to change our lives.

I may even call the insurer today to remove the old car from our policy. I have to fax the insurer some documents anyway. But we have eleven minutes left on our phone for the month (family health emergency, car sales, car purchase, regular phone call home for DH), so I will download, install and run Google Voice.

Feeling poor but not broke: I bought a luxury down pillow from Pacific Coast, it has an outlet ten miles south of us, for 15% off, plus getting shipping free for ordering today. I am not sleeping, and I think the limpness of the pillows may be contributing to that.

Menu for the Week
Baked Chicken, from Nourishing Traditions
Chicken Noodle Soup, La Fourchette Cookbook
Spaghetti Sauce from Nourishing Traditions served on buckwheat noodles
Gourmet Succotash, from Nourishing Traditions
Foiled Pot Roast Eat Better for Less Money, with leftovers served with ratatouille for a casserole, perhaps with a winter root medley.
Red Bean & Quinoa Chili, from Feeding the Whole Family

Gratitude List
1. Learning new ways to protect my privacy, identity and anonymity online. Considering the lengths US and Canadian politicians are going to to transform the Internet to be that less of an open, unrestricted space, finding and using these options will be key for me.
2. The Portlandia crossover with The Simpsons, so I can view through Homer and Marge's eyes how we must appear to my relatives. My extended family is not hip at all. My immediate family is "punk in the head" without external signifiers like neon hair, leather, metal, ripped clothes, or tattoos -- it is all inside. DH's family is brainy and quietly subversive so we are at least 67% normal in their eyes. The hipsterish Springfield is not that far-removed from Seattle, especially when Homer remarks about how it's cloudier and cooler. At that point we doubled over. We saw these clips online, as we do not own a television.
3. The credit union representative and the dealership associate did not blink or yell at me for showing up a week later with the remaining car payment.

Sunday Submission

December 10th, 2012 at 03:47 am

Washed my hair with baking soda paste: did not even wet it first, just glopped it onto the scalp and started scrubbing. Then rinsed off in apple cider vinegar diluted with water. The hair is so soft: I had been using argan oil shampoo and conditioner regularly and the oil accumulates near the roots after several consecutive cleanings.

What I am grateful for or to:
1. A full stomach. I made beef stew, and DH made dumplings. Excellent combination on a wet December day (if you live above the 45th parallel north, that is).
2. New York Times weekend crosswords.
3. The boy helping to decorate the tree, and doing it properly.
4. B & O Espresso for not closing up when its lease expired, but for planning to move closer to where I live, and giving us 20% discount coupons for use in their new place in January.

I now act on a request for some bath recipes. Here are some recommended for cold days and for the panicky/stressed:

Hot Ginger Friction Rub
3 Tbsp. almond oil
2 Tbsp. witch hazel
1 cup water
1/2 oz. fresh or powdered ginger

Steep ginger in boiling water for 20 minutes. Mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ginger water with the oil and witch hazel and massage directly into wet skin while in the tub. Use a loofah, brush or coarse cloth to massage lotion in briskly. Remaining ginger water may be added to bath if desired.

Buttermilk Bath
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup orange flower water
2 tsp. almond oil

Combine ingredients, heat gently, and pour under fast-running bath water.

Jasmine Bubble Bath
1 Tbsp. mild liquid soap
2 tsp. oil of jasmine
2 tsp. witch hazel

Combine ingredients and add directly to fast-running bath water.

Car sold!

December 9th, 2012 at 01:23 am

Whoopee!

So that tops my gratitude list today!
Adjunct gratitude: spouse sold under stated price but not ridiculously so -- would you believe people were asking for 45% under the posted price? I could have traded in for that. I have enough to pay for the computer I bought last month now.

What else: no waitlist for a popular barbershop in town, so boy had a good haircut. Prices have gone up though.

Also, grateful to have three books to pick up from the library today: NW by Zadie Smith; Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon; Dear Life by Alice Munro.

Bonus: Alaskan Sockeye for $7/lb for dinner. I am grateful for that too.

The Buyer's Remorse Begins

December 5th, 2012 at 02:03 am

I had researched for eighteen months, planned even longer, for affording a vehicle. This Prius is $6500 above my comfort level, but we are likely to have it for twenty years. I took it to my favourite mechanic for inspection: it needs an oil change and that will cost double what I am used to paying.

I may have a vehicle worth $23K more than our old car, but I do not feel $23K happier. I feel poorer. I am trying to enjoy a gimlet so I can brave the call. My husband tried to jolly me through the purchase process: "You're always like this when we buy anything priced over $300." [True. It took me thirty-six months to buy Sure-Fit covers for our catclaw-frayed furniture.] I look at the car in the driveway and do not feel ownership: I feel that I am driving an elderly aunt's or step-parent's vehicle while they are away on holiday.

Today I vowed I would call our insurer to add a policy for our new purchase and I am too much in a caffeine crash to do it. Yet it is against the law to drive the vehicle uninsured. A serious conversation with my family is due. My kid still has a case of the "I want I want". The old heap needs to be sold. I need to get a job but my kid needs to be nagged into doing his homework. Consequences do not affect his tiny but still forming mind. Adjustments must be made all around.

Things I am grateful for:
1. Permission to do the sudoku on the cafe's newspaper. Other people worked on the crossword, someone does the word jumble regularly (I did it too, but I used my own piece of paper to work it out). Someone at this cafe was irked to come in one day, pick up the crossword, and find I had been at it. "Oh, SHE's been here," and walked away. That the irked customer resembled the one who killed four people at the cafe May 30 has not left my mind ever.

2. New Winston Breen book by Eric Berlin. Yes I read middle-school lit based on mysteries and puzzles: a lot of it is clever and well-written and I wish we had more writers like that in the adult fiction camp.

3. Group family hug I got when I said I had a case of the sads giving so much money to the downpayment and to vehicle insurance.

Update My husband called to arrange for insurance while I cleaned up the kitchen. I caught a word on the comments I had not used: "enjoy", as in "enjoy new purchase." I have not yet "enjoyed" the vehicle: I was oh-so-cautious driving it on the test drive, and too much of a mess to drive the Prius home, although my spouse did give me dibs, and still skittish taking the car out of the auto service place. I have never had a new vehicle with a market value this high, never had a car loan this high. I should add that I am a faultfree driver with a long, excellent history.

Sixteen years carry many automotive improvements and new features, and the Prius right now strikes me more as a personal hovercraft with its digital display, bells and whistles. The one feature I thought was really groovy was the km/h-mph converter button: perfect for the spouse when we go to Canada. Me, I do mph/kmh instantly: it is the fluid ounces and millilitres that mess me up. And the USB port for our music. Man I dig it the most!

Things I Am Grateful For Monday

December 4th, 2012 at 04:33 am

1. DVDs for making boot media disks and system repair disks. Never too early to make backup materials for your data.

2. The miracle of music that can change mood, and the brain's memory storage that can recall that mood-changing music in times of distress and stress and general duress.

3. Antisepsis as a modern medical practice. Reading Candice Millard's Destiny of an Empire, I learned that doctors thought nothing of leaving pus, blood and dirt on their surgical coats, nor of probing with dirty fingers bullet wounds.

Bought a New(er) Car Today

December 2nd, 2012 at 11:42 pm

It is a 2012 Toyota Prius III. We bought it for $22000. Its MSRP was a little above $24K but as my good buddy bought her Camry Solara at the same lot earlier in the week we received a 9% discount. We are not the first owners but the vehicle has under 9500 miles. And the previous owner is local so no Frankenstorm Sandy rejects.

We arrived at the lot with an eye to purchasing the advertised 2010 Toyota Prius III with 24K miles as it was within our budgeted amount. This one, not so much in the budget but I can sell our current car for $800. We did not buy the 2010 Prius as it had already been sold: absolutely no bait and switch though. My spouse said that before I mentioned my friend bought her new car here we were offered $22K as the dealership specializes in European luxury vehicles and the discount is an incentive to move the vehicle out from the lot.

A Yelp review is pending: we had excellent service and I owe my friend a gas card or something nice in exchange for getting a good deal. She told us that the car dealer ship has salaried workers who are laidback, but one does not get to negotiate unless one owns the dealership.

My nerves are frayed right now from test-driving and shelling out for the car. I am going "gakgakgakgak" like the aliens in Tim Burton's film "Mars Attacks!"

Mehs, Whas and Yeahs

December 2nd, 2012 at 06:51 pm

Wha: Neighbour's dog passed away, I will guess of old age or natural causes. As she was no longer able to go inside her house at will, and wandered outside during normal sleep hours to whine, and whined when her owner momentarily disappeared from view, I guess she suffered from age-related deteriorating cognition. We had lived beside the dog for ten years and know she was well-behaved, so we put up with the whining during the day (but we made sure the owner woke up and suffered wakefulness along with us at night) in her last six months. She was an Irish setter who lived to be at least twelve, so a long and mostly happy life then. I really hope the neighbours do not get a puppy: their children are too young and they do not have the energy or time to properly raise and care for a baby animal. The owners did not even figure out that old animals have low tolerance for being out in the cold, as their bones hurt.

Meh: missed Safeway $0.30/gallon gas reward by forty cents, and today I still do not have everything I want/need for a good week of food.

Double-Meh: credit union's 2.34% auto loan promotion expired Friday. At best we can get 2.74% now, because we will borrow under $30,000. That affects how much car we can get. I need to get cracking and convince myself the $$$ in our account is for spending on a newer car as our vehicle needs to be retired.

Grateful for (yeahs):
1. Other places in the house I can go sleep when my spouse's noises wake me.
2. Having the bed to myself when the spouse figured he was not going to get back to sleep immediately after tending to the cats.
3. Having exact change when visiting the post office to mail cards yesterday.
4. Household being quiet until I woke up.

Wha/Meh: mortgage payment still has not posted. The money has been debited from our account that is for sure, but our balance is not updated.

Making homemade bath and scrub goodies for my debt group today.

Dec update plus The Grateful Three

December 1st, 2012 at 03:54 pm

Grateful for:
Canadian Living subscription gift from my stepmother.
first Christmas Card of the year, this time with a request for a visit, from my stepfather.
Online banking showing the ortgage payment posted today, at the deadline. Updated balance is not reflected.

Contrarian git that I am, I aim, though I am sure I will miss, for as many immaterial or cheap/simple things for gratefulness. I heard William DeVaughan's "Be Thankful For What You Got" yesterday. I do not drive a great big Cadillac with gangsta white walls, but do I need one? I can still stand tall. Naturally I type this on the eve of splurging for a newer car but it will not have killer rims nor a sunroof, but stability and/or traction control.

It's the last day of November, and I feel fine

November 30th, 2012 at 03:42 pm

Today I am grateful for:
1. Payday. So grateful to have $$ to throw at the credit card balance.

2. Trees. Japanese do something called shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing" for health: walk among trees. People suffering from depression have experienced a lift in cognition after a 50-minute walk in a forest. Mushrooms, salmon, big trees, coffee: all these in my environment to help alleviate the winter gloom. We have tall evergreens where I live, and for that I am glad.

3. The older gentleman at Cafe Racer who suggested "The Graduate" when the young barista asked us what film available from Netflix we should watch. I had seen "The Graduate" decades earlier but now that I am closer to Mrs. Robinson's age I see how very funny it is in its deadpan way.

Bonus grateful things: ability to edit blog posts. And that Cafe Racer is still around after that awful incident earlier this year.

Today's Gratitude List

November 30th, 2012 at 03:39 am

1. Hot water for shower.
2. DH came with me to Costco for shopping. Costco waits 3-5 days before cashing cheques so we wrote one (we have under $100 in chequing). Found 75 oz tub of Nutiva Coconut oil for $22. Considering an 14 oz Nutiva coconut oil jar goes for $11 you bet I jumped on this!
3. Did not need to run out for impromptu meal of pork chops with cabbage (red) and apples.
4. Found my BECU thumb drive and mp3 player. Not bothering with iTunes on this PC.
5. wowitsawonderfullife's idea to make this a frequently occurring theme.
6. Good and timely Costco parking and shopping trip.

Lagniappe: Is it baking season? Here is a unique film on how to make a cake, as demonstrated by children.

O Little Post of Gratitude How Rare We See Thee Here

November 29th, 2012 at 01:28 am

1. Car Service gave me $5 for a mocha (they have a coffee machine). I had asked for $5 to be added to my bill so I could get a mocha but that would muck up accounting.

2. My son received a half-dollar for sharing with the gold dealer a little-known fact of the Declaration of Independence signing.

3. I did not get drenched nor was hit by a car while walking on this grey gloomy day.

4. My expensive medications were paid for fully by my our Health Savings Account.

5. I was allowed to activate my new computer's copy of office 2010 after uninstalling it on my old PC by a call to Microsoft. I saw that I still had Office Ultimate 2007 on the old PC.

6. Bed Bath & Beyond honoured my $5 coupon postdated as I furnished a receipt.

Participated in Cyber Monday

November 26th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Picked up NHL Slapshot at $40 discount, plus $0.50 for Target discount, plus free shipping. Between this and the Don Cherry book plus two Rock Em Sock Em Hockey DVD compilations (one of them free and unopened), my tot should manage through the lockout.
So far that is all the Cyber Monday shopping I can manage.

Am choosing to use Costco for the used auto purchase. Researching new car ideas thanks to the bounty of suggestions from using the site forum.

Eagle-eyed kid nets us two dollars

October 19th, 2012 at 12:17 am

A change return receptacle at the U-Scan kiosk in our closest supermarket had two dollars. My child asked for 50% of the proceeds as a finder's fee and I gave him a dollar. A reminder that my kid is the best person to go shopping with: he always has an eye for freebies. He directed my attention to some free bottled water and cookies offered by our Credit Union for International Credit Union Day.

Not much to report: had coconut carrot curry soup as an entree earlier in the week, unscheduled but tempting, and it was delicious.

What to do with my $1: HELOC? Savings? Credit Card? Wait for a mate and then look for a bar that offers Chicken Crap Bingo?

Small miracle today

September 29th, 2012 at 12:11 am

Expected to pay $140 for cut and colour, only charged $60. I tipped $15, as I did have a bang trim. But now, ha ha! we have enough left over to have both the males of the house get their hair cuts and to tip.

Saw a 1962 McCall's issue today at the styling salon. Man, those magazines were large! And they were more general interest, with top-shelf fiction, and humour from Johnny Carson (one month before he replaced Jack Paar on _The Tonight Show_) and Art Buchwald. But we can't have nice things like that now. Would love to dress the way Suzy Parker did, but good luck finding size 10 or size 12 vintage...

Off-topic day: dead people, weight loss

September 21st, 2012 at 04:44 pm

101 days until my list is due for Fantasy Celebrity Cemetery 2013. When I see the competing lists I see five that I perceive to be stronger than my list: that is, I would throw away three of my lingering picks for any three on their lists.

Secondly, I have lost fat! I have not weighed myself, but I can see my toes even when I look down past Mounts Baker and Rainier, I look only three-four months pregnant instead of five when I view myself in the mirror, and my waist is a half-inch smaller. I attribute this to the coconut oil and the qigong exercises where I stretch and redistribute my energy. I now take 2-3 tablespoonsful of coconut oil daily, in coffee and tea.

I picked up Dr. Joel Fuhrman's _Eat to Live_ but it owes so much to the now-discredited China Study by T. Colin Campbell, its quickie weight-loss diet is low in protein and healthy saturated fat, and there is no mention of coconut oil, or hormone rebalancing to stabilize the cortisol and blood sugar so not so much fat is created. Also nothing about magnesium.

Problem is, highly caloric nuts and seeds have lots of magnesium; so do spinach and cocoa powder. But I could wean myself from caffeine by doing half-coffee and half-cocoa with coconut oil in the afternoons, hmmm...
The nuts and seeds have lots of fiber and very little sugar, so that is helpful. My vitamin and mineral supplements skimp on the magnesium: not sure why, supposedly the majority of people in this country are magnesium-deficient.

Food shopping today

August 25th, 2012 at 09:58 pm

Safeway, a West Coast supermarket chain, is now very competitive and introduced Just 4 U Savings for card members. The savings are substantial enough for me to enroll. Today we three shopped at Safeway and our bill came to over $100, which is rare for us as we shop $60 here, $30 there, among six different food markets. But we saved 26% off our food bill PLUS 30 cents a gallon off our next vehicle refuel. We bought tritip roasts, ground beef, whole chicken, pork chops, lots of produce ($3 savings for us as we bought over $15 worth). And some carbonated fruit juice and club soda (I know, I know, but juice is at 18g sugar per serving, and we use the club soda for egg creams and for our own grenadine-and-lime soft drinks or pair it with scotch, and our summer limit is one soft drink every two weeks). Enough food to last us for ten days, barring dairy and bread.

Took my stock investor/debt group friend to Mutual Fish Company, where I bought a whole salmon, two whole trout, ginger and spinach. She bought some sashimi and scallops. Fresh as the public market, but cheaper.

I blog about this because my friend and I are trying to cut down on our food bills. It turns out she and I both share our vision of the ideal job (no, it is not putting thumb tacks in Jell-O for $1000/hour).

I will return to Safeway as we apparently forgot the Hockey News yearbook. Maybe I can justify the return by grabbing some yakisoba noodles and bulk spice from the chichi supermarket three blocks away.

Here is an article about superinvestor Warren Buffett.
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Worked on some gentle qigong exercises for weight loss and the qi rushed from my head so fast, despite my slow directed motions that I felt dizzy and nearly passed out. The qi moved into my palms and heated them up to a feverish temperature. I have taken qigong before but it was Soaring Crane and I did not have weird experiences. This was from Dominique Ferraro's book _Qigong for Women_, an exercise for weight loss and energy balancing for some organs' meridians. The qi "heat rush" is apparently a desired effect. I do read that this qigong can be powerful when used correctly and with full intention, so in future exercises I will make sure the animals are away or out of the room and open a window, one that faces a tree.
I try not to be too woo-woo, and have a healthy skepticism, but I have felt the effects of energy medicine firsthand and know they are real, and so have other people who do tai chi, kung fu, qigong, and other similar exercises.

Happy Father's Day

June 17th, 2012 at 06:26 pm

Just made biscuits and sausage gravy for brunch. Will make steak for dinner.

The day before was Bloomsday so I had a James Joyce cocktail at a very busy (two hour wait if you arrived at 7:15 pm) oyster bar. I saw the film "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" at the budget cinema, with no horrendously expensive pop or popcorn or candy.

I forgot what we entered as an acceptable deductible for health savings accounts but I am a little regretful it is high. I just paid $306 to my optometrist, $200 of that from the health savings account, and now the podiatrist is charging me $243 to show and tell me I fractured a toe. I have $19 left now in the HSA, so I must pay. The consolation being that when my medication needs a refill my deductible will be met. I will scramble for crash savings.

A bonus: if my spouse books and stays at a budget-conscious chain hotel, at least twice by mid-August, we can get a $50 gift card in addition to 15-20% discounts.

Almost interesting: the difference between the sum of HELOC payments made and the mortgage payments made is $3.60. As I cannot sustain $680/month HELOC payments the mortgage will have taken the lead.

I use the credit card to charge entertainment my brother's family wants: good tickets to a baseball game, market food tour. A Missouri-scale flood of expenses. I wonder if they will reward me by selling a Canadian gold coin to me without the premium.

$7.11 interest over six months of CDs. I could cry.

now we are six

June 7th, 2012 at 04:03 pm

Possibly yesterday it was my blogoversary. I am not sure. Could have been Saturday.

What I am celebrating today: I succeeded in paying off the roof from the Home Equity Line of Credit. I borrowed $3500 last June and here we are back at $13400.

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina, Nightmare Abbey. Finished The Sisters Brothers: I started it before May 30, and found the violence hard to take after Wednesday. I didn't have as much problem with the violence in Lady, Go Die!, the sequel to Mickey Spillane's _I, The Jury_.

I may try collecting spare change to pay for the higher escrow payment (higher real estate taxes). By collecting I mean beyond what falls out of pants in the washer and dryer. My kid is pretty good about wading into water pools downtown to fish out cash. You should see how surreptitious we are at the Butchart Gardens and Kubota Gardens. I need to find new places. I've read that vending machines are good but I don't see many of them. Maybe I will try those at Safeway. I also look under photocopiers. Places to try: parking lots, bars, fast food outlets (not likely).

Fast food -- we looked in my kid's science notebook and saw a table of "what I know about fats" and "what I learned about fats" and half the notes were diatribes against McDonald's. I never taught my child to hate McDonald's, but I never took him there other than for preschooler birthday parties. The adults we know think it is strange for a child to be that vehement in actively disliking a fast food chain and I agree. He doesn't feel this way about Wendy's or A&W.

Two Year Schadenfreude anniversary

May 26th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I started tracking the values of twelve properties in my region, including mine: ten in my city, one in the same county, and one in a different county. My criteria for tracking: did I work with the individual homeowner, were we close in age? One I stopped tracking last year because the house was sold. One condo, one townhome, ten houses. Replaced that with a 3 bedroom house one town over.

COUNTIF(Houses with depreciating equity): 8
My equity went up by 0.17% over two years. That's with a 20-year mortgage, then a 12-year mortgage. Only two people refinanced over that two-year period. One refinanced four times over 100 months prior to May 2010, so she's probably due.
Median mortgage paid: $10702.96 from inception of mortgage. $16167.38 average.
Loan to Value ratios vary from 109.79 to 43.62.
Percent of mortgages paid year to date: 2.6683% to 17.2567%. I'm ranked fifth from the top, not bad for nine months mortgage.
Median mortgage balance remaining: $257614.13; average is $253945.84.
The Median Mortgage Debt in my state is $225581. This is one of the most expensive counties for real estate.

Median equity: $64205.97; average $69271.85
Median Value of Home Equity nationwide is $181189, so you can tell we suck bananas here. Lengths of mortgage range from 179 months to 9 months. Lengths of home ownership range from 179 months to 70 months.

Median equity percentage: 21.07%; average 21.78%.

Pleasant Surprises

May 9th, 2012 at 03:23 am

Zillow has undervalued my property by 30%. It did this by losing the first eight years of market price data for our house and halving the square footage of our house.

The real estate agent says she can price and sell our house at $90K above what I thought we could get for it.

DH has already started spending his life insurance returns. Admittedly so have I: I paid $140 of our credit card debt and put $60.24 toward the HELOC, and the Lord and Master bought a digital camera from a pawnshop and is shopping for a laptop. But I parked 90% of the money in the money market account like a good financial steward.

Got a nice message from the proprietor of a Bellingham bookstore I reviewed on Yelp.com: my review was that I enjoyed the shop and really wanted to buy something I needed but couldn't find certain authors in stock. Another store had what I needed but it wasn't as welcoming. His message was essentially that he found my review comments helpful, but some authors aren't to be found (I was looking for Gore Vidal) because they go in and go out very quickly.

It's assuring to know I have enough $$ to get the house up for sale and to live in an apartment hotel, that I can apply for a bridge loan or a contingency loan, and even if I get turned down I can use my available credit to corral a downpayment while I wait for my home to sell.

Four-month progress

May 3rd, 2012 at 04:04 pm

January 1:
HELOC $14771
Savings 10473
Gold & Silver 11918

Savings Goals:
Car Replacement: 3000
Roof Replacement: 3400
Tax: 1787
Laptop 400
Saint Louis 1200

-----------------
May 1:
HELOC $13700
Savings 14768
Gold & Silver 12350

Savings Goals:
Car Replacement: 1200
Roof Replacement: 2000
Tax - done! Gold star!
Laptop - done! Gold star!
Saint Louis - done! Gold star!

$3400 savings goals reached
$4300 savings increased
$1071 HELOC decrease

$96 left in chequing account. I hope Target National Bank hasn't received/processed my payment yet, although I understand it's prompt that way.

Birth and Death and IKEA

April 18th, 2012 at 04:54 pm

my birthday rolled around. Parents dead for over a decade so they're no fun. Nifty presents are all colourful: Raoul Dufy print mug, flowers, rainbow Swatch watch, a mystery book. And now a double-scoop of custard: Kit Kat plus vanilla! Five-star Yelp review comin' up!

Deaths: Dead Pool 2013 is already slated, thanks to recent announcements, plus a NY Times online feature about obituaries, including dead pools, so now I have rich sources of names. I'm envious of the people who made their dead pool lists as global and varied as possible: mine was mostly US-based. My friend who gave me the Dufy mug is ranked ten on a big deadpool, I am languishing at position thirty-seven, eighth from last. No money is involved there though. Happy with my current position on a money dead pool.

I'd been secretly hoping I'd get a 38-point bump by today on my for-money list. I am sure I am not the only one.

Dead Pool UPDATE: Dick Clark passed. He's on my list. I better let the fair administrix know.

Thanks for the birthday greetings and wishes! I only wish I had the stamina and focus to keep cheer every day and pass it around as well!

Finished the second of Kyril Bonfiglioli's Charlie Mortdecai crime novels: this one is not so much fun, less violent and more domestic than the first, Don't Point That Thing at Me.

Close to broke again (but not poor) after a trip to IKEA. Hoped to pay with credit card, balance well into the three digits after birthday dinner, gifts, and auto repair and maintenance charges, but didn't have a PIN. I did get a coupon for $1.08 off my next IKEA purchase, and the kid had a fun time at the cafeteria: all the Swedishness reminded him of Team Alfredsson in the NHL All-Star event, where at least six Swedes from Ottawa and Vancouver were on Alfie's team. And what Canadian teams made it to 1st round in the playoffs? That's right, Ottawa and Vancouver. Fortunately IKEA is cheap and I didn't buy more than what I could carry. IKEA's having a "living room event" next week: maybe I'll finally get that Ektorp sofa bed and matching chair.

Scrabble players, according to a University of Calgary study, really are smarter than most. I feel this is another handicap preventing me from employment. Maybe the real handicap is not knowing what jobs are available where puzzle-solving and pattern recognition are valued and earn ample compensation. Too many people I see at school and at shopping who are hired ignore, disdain and yawn or foolishly argue and lie. I used to think it was me, but I've had great experiences at other places and think I must have crossed the divide into "those kids are rude and have no sense of privacy" codgerdom. I'm happy with that.


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