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Challenge of Dealing with Disappointments & Drawbacks

July 20th, 2015 at 01:51 pm

I am a week away from departing for the homeland. This week I eat down the stores and learn how to responsibly dispose of the food, detritus and distractions that are not good for us. I was going to plan an exercise regimen but maybe burning the calories as a human whirlwind may be more constructive. With the weight loss my hormones are rebalanced: an estrogen dominance thickened my waist, an estrogen deficiency brings the return of hot flashes. The release of body heat, perspiration, hormones and ketones was a heady scent-stew that sent my cat racing into our bedroom, right for ME, to check up on me. Cats are insanely gifted at smelling things.

I have learned that my returned right to vote has been overturned by a province's Court of Appeals -- not the province I most recently lived in, but the nation's capital happens to be in that province.

Also learned that I need more information and to share more information with my optometrist. We are stymied by insurance's irrational and unexplained restriction on quantities for renewal. My plan B, with doctor's blessing, was to head for a Canadian pharmacy, but the optometrist wrote out quantities for over 90 days, which Canadian pharmacies will not fill, and furthermore I require a Canadian physician's approval for filling the prescription. My field of vision and intraocular pressure remain stable: I won't qualify for a seeing-eye dog anytime soon.

The circumference and weight loss is still working, even though I remain wary of its drawbacks. Down to 40 inches, or 101.6 cm in the hips, and 32.5 inches or 82.5 centimetres in the waist. Not low enough to buy new clothes. The family is not touching much of the refrigerated leftover starches I made for them. We have learned so much about metabolism of carbohydrates, gluconeogenesis, insulin resistance, glycine, trace minerals, benefits of bone broth, intermittent fasting. One man improved his glaucoma with a ketogenic diet but his personal experience and three paragraphs of Adelle Davis' _Let's Get Well_ are not a sufficient base of evidence for me. The man suggests he may have had undiagnosed diabetes, the symptoms of which reversed with metabolic adaptation. Adelle Davis suggested supplementation with wheat germ, fortified milk, lecithin, and B vitamins. Milk gives me stomach cramps though.

The interesting thing is until I went on this low-carbohydrate diet I was going through butter at the rate of a pound a week. Butter is fat, and is important for keeping a high ratio of fat to carbohydrates. But because I'm not using it on pasta, potatoes or bread, and instead for eggs and vegetables and with olive oil for sauteing animal protein, I seem to have a lot more of it. The vegetables I eat now: cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, celery, leafy greens don't use so much butter, except for green beans.

Debt-wise, some karma monkey is chucking wrenches into my works to pay off the car loan: buying new tires for the bike, bimonthly utilities, semiannual vehicle insurance, a new computer to take up north. The good news is if we switch to T-Mobile, we can use our phone on Canada networks. Right now I lose $1.25 in minutes cash per month on Canada's 911 service fees. And the Canadian dollar is dropping. I'll still be buying dairy on my way to the border though.

I'd been paying so much attention to macros and summer reading I haven't been inputting my numbers.

Midmonth narrative for April 2015

April 20th, 2015 at 08:09 am

I finally went on vacation: a four-day jaunt to the West Coast. I am kind of already on the West Coast, but I mean the kind of Coast where you look out into a vast grey sea and understand the next land mass directly west is that needle-looking Russian island just north of the Japanese island Hokkaido. Sure, one can look out directly west from San Diego or Newport Oregon, but Tofino is more west. Reno is west of Los Angeles, even. We hiked through Wild Pacific Trail: perfect for beginning hikers and walkers of all ages, with many magnificent views. Also ate at one of the top ten restaurants in Canada, believe it or not. We saw the Cézanne exhibit in Vancouver as well.

So now I have that to pay for, and can focus on motorcycle maintenance, and a new phone. I'd been eyeing some e-readers, but I'd rather have a new wardrobe. I'm transitioning to those dyed hemp loose clothes the over 40s like to wear, with the colourful complementary scarves. And a proper haircut. Maybe even highlights. Saving for a mattress. Everything about me cries for updating.

We also decluttered a bit! I found on our state Attorney General's website a calendar page of recycling events. On Saturday we released from our house dead electronics and my brother's big box of academia. He won't miss it, and his widow knows better than to ask for a big box of paper written in a foreign language to be shipped across the ocean. However, I would like my mom's recipes back, if she hasn't recycled them. Also recycled are my printer ink cartridges. With some energetic soundtracks and the warmth of Mr. Sun, I could see my way to making my house less of a candidate for "Hoarders."

Just learned of the Reddit content pod "Eat Cheap and Healthy". Wonder what else I've been missing.

Some good news: mortgage is 30% paid. If I didn't refinance the 1999 mortgage at all, I'd be at 30% paid on March 2015. After sixteen years of a 30 year mortgage, I would reach 30% mortgage paid. Insert gulp.

A pittance of successes, plus a finances reboot

November 16th, 2014 at 05:41 pm

I seem to have lost a spark. Read then, if you dare, this plodding narrative.

This whole burning & burying the brother episode led to a surprise: a credit limit increase to $21000 on one card, the day after I paid back the last of the amount. What this does to my credit utilization ratio is probably close to nothing: I still get so-so credit card offers, and ThirdFederal routinely sends me mortgage offers I can't qualify for.

Albertson's is having a meat sale: I amazingly purchased about ten pounds of fish (sole - $7/lb), pork (BOGO), chicken ($1.99 bnls skls per pound), stew meat, and steak (BOG2). I intended to buy animal protein under $5.00, so this was a windfall for me. I saw this golden oldie and Miz Pat's Pork Roasts recipe request, so am feeling more optimistic about feeding my family for under $3/plate.

I am starting my finances from scratch after my Spending in September and October. I keep a debt repayment/assets spreadsheet and am, sigh, $4000 under from the beginning of September. I have a fair bit in gold and silver, and that's tanked along with the Canadian currency I maintain "for emergencies", as the US dollar is so strong. Apparently some of my stocks like IBM, ONNN and GILD have dropped significantly in value as well. I'm happy I didn't buy PCLN, and that I managed some BRK-B purchase while it was still under $140. My first clue should have been how cheap the Yen was compared to my first trip to Japan. The good news is that I have run out of brothers and parents to bury, I guess.

If I can brave the dark and cold, I can get $100 for participating in a focus group on Thursday. I have too many wants for the $100 to cover. Birthdays, heating bill, a handful of hot soaks in a women-only sauna and hot tub place, Christmas gifts, maybe even Amazon Prime for a year...

Oh yes I am also currently in the lead in a Dirtnap for Dollars competition. Fortunately for me the lead competitor, who had four people in common with me on her list, disqualified herself by not ponying up the $20...

Menu for the Week -
Monday - Roast Sirloin
Tuesday - Chicken Tonkatsu
Wednesday - Cottage Pie? Leftover Roast Beef?
Thursday - Solo Sole. Guys can have whatever. Or I'll eat out, knowing I'll be getting $100...
Friday - Red Lentil Curry for real this time
Saturday - pork maybe? who knows. The mind reels. Especially after a few toots of Gentleman Jack (my bro's friends and I toasted him in a sendoff with this. I learned how to ask for aspirin in Japanese the morning of the funeral.)

Halving a Debt Time, Glad You Are Here

October 15th, 2014 at 07:55 am

For some people in the Atlantic Provinces, the month is half-over. My HELOC is, after an eleven-dollar adjustment, at half; my mortgage is a little more than half of my original 1999 loan of $184450, which in turn is half of what Zillow says my house is valued. Car Loan, not halved yet, but I've paid more than half of the car's retail price.

I did halve my credit card balance, by paying all of the October Statement. I booked the Japan return flight on that, and went to Nordstrom Rack (I can do a smart thing on occasion) for funeral clothes. Funny thing is that I had the presence of mind to call my credit union to ask for permitted charges from Japan merchants, but I never used my credit card there. I brought Yen but the Yen I purchased at face value were collectors' items (think Susan B Anthony dollars or silver certificates, or King George VI-era minted coinage) and no Japanese national was going to let me spend it! The women shouted "Sugoi!" (super, amazing) when I brought the bills out of my wallet. I also had an American national for a host who has a USD account so we did some arbitrage. I came home with: Hong Kong Dollars, Japanese Yen, United Arab Emirates Dirhams, American Dollars, and Canadian Dollars. I was not much loved at espresso shops, rooting about and finding every coin except those with white Presidents on them. My son had to buy me coffee with his birthday money (embarrassment).

I wrote earlier about smartphones. I probably could have used one in Japan: I didn't have constant access like what I'm used to in the US, and that caught up with my family when I returned to North America. My husband had the good sense to pack my laptop and drive it to BC (while our kid was at school! how great is it to drive to another country and back during your child's school hours!) the day after I arrived in Canada so I could communicate better and not be at the mercy of the hotel's desktop PC.

I'm fed up now with Virgin Mobile, and don't like that 7-11's SpeakOut Canada doesn't accept US credit cards (I have to show up at a Canadian 7-11 to buy minutes). We'll be investigating smartphones and a T-Mobile plan. Thanks to everybody who contributed useful information and explained their reasoning for going with the plans they have.

At one point yesterday we had $11.20 in our chequing (checking) account. Good thing the "House Master" as my sister-in-law puts it (we all know in real life our cat is the House Master, right?) gets paid in two days, and that we have turkey leftovers and wild sockeye salmon at $5.00/pound.

Thanks to all of last post's commenters

September 23rd, 2014 at 08:56 am

I'm kinda relieved now I am not already over the Pacific. I've just been reading up on Japanese funerals. Bluesfemme kindly filled me in on the pearls, but now I have to get hosiery and a black handbag, maybe a nice Ambien prescription. Sleeping was hard last night. I exchanged some money for the "funeral envelopes" (I did this for the wedding years earlier) but fear it is not enough. I don't think this is the right time for me to be stingy, and maybe I should expect to be in debt for a month or so.

Anyway: $1576 Canadian after taxes to fly to the Far East, no awkward transfers in Honolulu so Ambien can send me for 6 to 8 hours.

An American is going to greet me at the airport and take care of me at least partly so I don't burden my sister and her family too much. I do not know if my brother had a will. He made mention of making me executrix last year when he had a health scare. I'm scheduled to stay a week. This would've been open-ended if there were a will and I would have to take care of things. I think intestate decedents leave half the estate to the surviving spouse, don't know if Japan government takes the other half.

Japanese funerals cost $25000 USD on average. I think I might have a heart attack of my own. I don't know if I'm going to offend by putting as much as I can afford (the maximum) in a funeral envelope, or if I'm going to be surprised with a bill for funeral expenses.

Today's Special

February 11th, 2014 at 04:03 pm

We went to a different supermarket today because one location is three blocks away from a superb butcher shop, and I figured if we didn't get a good deal on food at the supermarket we would go to the butcher's.
Most items we bought at the different supermarket were below what our regular supermarket charges. I saw some fellow "school parents" shopping there too, always a good sign. Got NY Strip steak for $5/lb; veal scallops for $7.33; I might start shopping at the other supermarket's location closer to us more frequently and start scheduling moments to view its online ads. Our regular supermarket offers gas rewards, but going three miles away for shopping we saved, even with the $1 we spent on gas there and back, close to 20% what we'd spend at the regular supermarket, and saved 1300% more than we would have earned in gas rewards.

Today my spouse received an offer in the mail to move the car loan to my credit union. My credit union, so 1.5 stars out of 5 that I keep accounts only for the privilege to throw my bling in its safe (I rate the credit union two because it has its own parking lot, is the closest establishment where I can get a safety deposit box, and the staff attitude is pretty good), offered 3.04% for seventy-two months. Yeeeeah right. First, we have under 75% LTV, not 81% LTV as the credit union guesstimated; a "green" and "new" car; and I'm not ever going to happily consider extending a car loan to seven years past its purchase. All three factors should earn us a 1.79% APR according to the credit union's website if we want a car loan paid off in four years. Mailed offers are the scratched-out-of-the-rectum crud.

As for yesterday's forum post, I can only say that I had close to an anxiety attack, and I am still antsy but the idea of spending under $10 to reward myself on something calming like wild orange oil, or an Income Tax Cocktail, ameliorates the horror of either doing pencil & paper, or using TurboTax. I dealt with this attack by using my home made orange vinegar with baking soda for some bathroom floor grunge cleaning, and at the end of the day dabbing lavender oil drops on my feet and on my pillow.

I should offer a prediction poll.
Paulette will _______________ the IRS
a) owe more than a thousand dollars to
b) owe $750 - $1000 dollars to
c) owe less than b to and feel ashamed for moaning about
d) get money back from and feel ashamed for moaning about

I will tell you I have owed every year for the past six. I seem to remember paying over $800 last year.

Sochi Savings Challenge now $31

TAXES ARE DONE. The ANSWER is D! For DOPE! DELUSIONAL! DIMWITTED! DELICATE!

Deadbeat Kindle Reads, plus Budget Drawback

January 15th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Today on Money Saving Mom I lucked into a time-limited offer of free licenses for Kindle eBooks. Titles I downloaded include Frugal Living: Powerful How To Advice on Living Frugal..., Dirt Cheap Organic, Paleo for Beginners and The Ketogenic Diet. I don't have a Kindle but downloading Amazon's Kindle-for-PC application was completely free, without adware, and fast.

I also visited my favourite drug store for amazing deals ($3.30 savings per toothpaste tube) on Tom's of Maine toothpaste. Adding $7.60 (two tubes) to the 52-week Saving Challenge.

I slipped a bit: we got the fundraiser Guest Bartender date wrong last night so we consoled ourselves with dessert takeout from the supermarket. Sugar doesn't do me any favours, but with 1200mg alpha lipoic acid daily intake I can handle an eclair or half a Pop-Tart without waking all sweaty in the dark. So I had an eclair. I did wake a few times with weird, weird dreams ("oh look! a human corpse. Someone should clean that up."). I walked it off today.
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I froze some orange peels earlier in the year. Today I took some out for thawing: half are in a jar of vinegar for cooking use; I will scatter orange peels around my food plate because we have a lazy, greedy cat who lurks on a dining chair ALL DAY, and gets belligerent when we eat. The peels will repel her. If I can manage some vodka, I could extract oil from the remaining peels to use in the bath. When I can manage the cash to buy a microplane grater, I have additional uses for them. Orange peels are good to use as kindling or to throw in a fire. Here are more ways of using orange peels around the home.
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Update for Sadness: My son's complained a few times about the $40 clarinet we bought him in August. We brought it to a local instrument shop for possible repair, but were advised that abandoning it and renting would be the better way to go. My child has a concert next week. We are back to renting, but it's $8/month cheaper than where we last rented. We agreed on some pad protectors (my child paid for those) and a cleaning case (the woman wasn't up for haggling with the $22.13 cash I had with me).

Payday Frolics

January 10th, 2014 at 05:46 pm

Deadbeat Follies

Turned in one empty 12 oz bag of Starbucks Coffee for a free 12 oz drip, and hubby used his gift card from work for Starbucks for a break time. We bought flour, vanilla and cane sugar.

Estimating we'll spend close to $600 on groceries, having spent $199 over the past eleven days. I was tempted to spend more $$, but that would entail getting into the car and driving, so I opted to walk to our nearest supermarket for only bread and milk. I find that walking with reusable bags to Target and our supermarket is a great way to restrict food spending to what we can carry.

This week's 52-Week Saving Challenge Deposit will be ten dollars ($4.98+4.25+0.80, rounded down). Paltry sum, but I know what expenditures lie ahead. At least it's a double-digit sum, and at least the rusty cogitation wheels are creaking with a smidgen of industrial creativity grease.

For decluttering recipes, Susan Pinsky, author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD, suggests trying a recipe within a week of receipt. All of the recipes from the backs of food products, printouts from Epicurious, Yummly, about.com, et cetera, are to go into an accordion folder. I tried putting my photocopied recipes in a binder with tabs but the binder was too small. Pinsky recommends tossing cookbooks too but I am not ready for that. Ninety percent of my cookbooks are from the old country. Who tosses out a perfectly usable copy of The New Basics or The Joy of Cooking or The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook?

Link du Jour - How to Live Like a Royal Person, by Thor Harris. Expletive-rich, so not violating any sort of copyright by reposting the whole thing here. Chances are excellent you've used most of Thor's list anyhow.
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Water/sewer/yard waste/recycling bill now $231, because rates have gone up AGAIN. I can't even be all **HULK SMASH** about the rate hike because we're paying $90 less per bill than the typical house, and we ARE the typical house.

$100000 principal paid, plus Holiday on Ice!

December 24th, 2013 at 05:12 pm

Went ice skating today. Have not done this in over thirty years and it shows. I'm used to a bigger rink and there were so many young children with walkers that I didn't trust myself to pick up speed. It's a Christmas miracle there were no collisions. Some of us set blade to ice for the first time ever, and although we wore out fast, we all want to do this again.

Beautiful blue sky, we could see the peninsula and the water: another Christmas miracle there. Bought ingredients for Osso Buco: it's just us this year, but I still want something special if not gluttonous, so Osso Buco it is, plus blood oranges for juicing and Quebec/Vermont maple syrup for pancakes.

The supermarket was busy, the parking lot packed, but everyone was in good spirits -- Christmas miracle number three. A woman who staffed the till at a local retail shop recognized us. She noticed me after she muttered a four-letter-word in the spices aisle, and had looked over to see if my son had heard her. Good times!
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I pulled the trigger so to speak and threw some extra principal to our home equity line of credit. Officially now we have $100000 paid toward the house and unofficially I am 102 months and a bit ahead of schedule.
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Merry Christmas Festivus End-of-Year Gaiety. I hope my blog can let registered users comment okay.

Spending now to save later

October 20th, 2013 at 08:54 am

But not really... the West Coast supermarket strike looms. Supermarket parking lots were full yesterday, but rather than gather provisions with the crowd, we thought to use our remaining independent-grocer and "green product" coupons that expire October 31 and order a 31 lb. bulk-box of meats from one county up. The independent grocery was so quiet and there was no wait for service, so we chatted a little with a checkout person about the impending deluge. The independent grocers have better music, believe it or not. I feel that Kroger/QFC tries to get rid of me with the music it plays.

I did notice that the independent grocery prices were not as low as Safeway's and Fred Meyer's, but I know where the cheap vegetables can be had. I don't know how long the strike is going to go on for, but my food budget will be highly uneven as we bulk-shop and eat down the remains. I feel we can last one three-month-supply of sugar, coffee, quinoa, canned vegetables and toilet paper at Costco, literally run to Target for last-minute incidentals, and head to ethnic markets (Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean) for good deals on oils, beans and to Pacific Food Importers for spices.

Rudimentary Food Plan
Sunday: leftovers, maybe with udon.
Monday: That Hungarian Goulash thing
Tuesday: Lentil Soup
Wednesday: Black Bean Soup
Thursday: Spaghetti con Tonno
Friday: Red Bean & Quinoa Chili
Saturday: Wieners & Sauerkraut
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Our favourite video store is struggling, and to be honest, I'd been watching films and TV shows on YouTube and European websites and from our local library; however, these films and TV shows I watch online are not available (yet) on DVD. I feel everyone except corporations is struggling, so we renewed our 10-rental-pack. Maybe I need to budget 3-5% of our takehome income for "saving the struggling" like schools.

This week we learned that my mom's old Hobart KitchenAid food processor is missing two shafts. I've had her 1979 12-cup processor for fourteen years but used it only three times because the set-up seemed arduous and let's not kid, 20 lbs is a heavy weight for a food processor. I scouted the Web to find out what the attachments not shown in the KFP-700 manual were, then learned that Hobart recreated its model and accessories for other companies, so we could still get shafts, although they are pricy. I do want to use all four slicing discs, and I don't want to use the "Whole Body Feed Tube" every time I want to shred carrots or cabbage so maybe I'll treat myself and experiment with the KFP-700 recipes. I kept thinking "hmm, seven minutes to assemble a food processor, or seven minutes to hand-grate or use Cutco knives on vegetables. Which is faster? Which involves less cleanup?"

Lowered Expectations

September 15th, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Although we used half as much water as last year our water bill came out to be about the same. This tells me the recycling and yard waste got pricey.
I'm on track to exceed paying 7% of my total debt by December 31. That is a lowered expectation as none of my debts have amortization periods longer than 12 years.

What isn't a lowered expectation is the reward I dangle for the boy if he manages to score in the top 10% of kids in his grade for end-of-course state standardized test performance. This year he gets a treat of his choice as he actually did that in one tested subject. So a little budget blowout.

I originally offered him tickets to a NHL game at the city closest to us but found that the cost of tickets before service charges and Harmonized Sales Tax is $115-$160/person. This doesn't include food, souvenirs, currency conversion premiums, parking, gas or overnight stay (closest hockey city is in another country). Plus the tickets sell out fast. I dunno why Pittsburgh, a city with half the population, can afford two of the priciest NHL players in the league (Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby) and have half the ticket costs of Vancouver, yet have Stanley Cup rings, and in Vancouver one defenseman took a salary cut (earning 12% of what Malkin or Crosby earns) to extend his contract with the franchise. The Vancouver Canucks hockey club has 400+ consecutive sellouts in an arena with over 18000 capacity, so you can't tell me there's no interest in hockey up here.

My kid said he'd be fine going to the other country and having treats at a 1940s-style soda fountain/ice cream parlour , with rickeys, malts, egg creams up there (they even dress like soda jerks with the paper wedge hats and smile when you call them soda jerk). We do not have Farrell's or Brooklyn Farmacy or Serendipity 3 or Crown Candy or The Fountain on Locust or anything fun like that. Our favourite custard place within 3 miles of us is closing at the end of the month.

The political action company left me alone, two days after my previous posting. Wonder if they read it.

I vowed to put my found money toward debt repayment: I've managed 27 cents. I am no baselle. The supermarket where my son and I scavenge the self-check stations has now put multiple bright yellow stickers on each station reminding shoppers to pick up their change. Probably because of us. There are some university students renting a house down the street who almost always spill money on the sidewalk. My kid found a $10 Canadian bill in downtown Vancouver so he's a prodigy. I take him with me for grocery shopping because his superpower is finding money or cheap deals and coupons or good lotto bets.

The punitive crawl of humility to stable finances (Part One)

August 23rd, 2013 at 09:50 am

Soundtrack

The bummer of returning home is to see how much the finances resemble 1942 Guadalcanal or 1917 Vimy Ridge and having sole responsibility of cleaning that mess up.

Il buono
I paid my optometrist bill. Isn't it odd how some people are keenest to pay the creditors who've positioned themselves as given the customer a break? My bill wasn't overdue but as I don't know what balance is on the high-deductible health spending account, I postponed payment for a few salary payperiods. There was enough $$ in the HSA for my eye exam, yay. The optometry office staff treat me so well I feel abject and unworthy.

I sacrificed my vanity scooter plate to save $32 on my license tab renewal. I knew hubby would pout but I said "Virtual Private Network" to him.

The entrepreneurial tot got his 1995 Topps Larry Walker (MLB:Expos,Rockies,Cardinals) card signed, multiplying his card's worth by 5000%.

il brutto

I have forgotten when my spouse gets paid. When yesterday I dared peek at our chequing account balance it was around $1900. So I am guessing he gets paid next week. I left the spouse with $300 in the account on August 5, I know that much. He has the password to our credit union online access, but he's not ON IT like I am fifty weeks of the year.

Update: He was paid today
I deduce that he must have used the credit card for everything, looking at our CC balance.

I have a serious case of the wants after house-sitting a "monster" designer house in the burbs. Not the size of the house: too much to clean! Not the electronics: too many manuals to keep and read! But furniture: I could use a dinner table that doesn't rock, a better organization system in the kitchen and bedrooms. And here the 2014 IKEA catalogue tempts me.

il cattivo

Scooter insurance payment gets mailed today.

Most school supplies have been purchased. My boy is ramping up toward manhood (learning to cook, absorbing Facts of Life/Birds and Bees, acquiring first USB drive--RadioShack tried to interest me in a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes character drive, but I declined: dignity is crucial to the tween).

I don't know where this is in the buono/brutto/cattivo Venn Diagram, but very little changed in our fridge during our absence. Condiment-heavy fridge shelf, vegetable crispers untouched. I did not see any pizza boxes or empty beer bottles/cans. I do see that most of our frozen meat stash has gone. I have to do another inventory, but I can safely state that a Costco trip for bath tissue and paper towels is due.
That's what I'll do: play "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" on my mp3 player while I shop at Costco.

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Lagniappe: Most common questions/comments I received in British Columbia
"So how's that marijuana legalization working out?"
"Now you know why we shop for dairy in Washington!"
(seriously, how can veal be so affordable but milk be so pricy up there?)

Welcome is a beautiful word in any language

August 20th, 2013 at 11:12 am

And I love hearing "Welcome back" from Americans. (I never get "Welcome back" from Canadians, ever.)

staying beyond initial exit date

August 17th, 2013 at 08:44 am

No, I'm not defecting (I never lost citizenship so repatriating is not the right word). But now I find that my library books are going to incur dues, I'm spending more money than allotted, I still have license and medical bills to pay when I get back... hope the hubby isn't having pizza and beer every night! I'm so penurious at home too!

Shockingly, despite all our fun and friends and adventure, I'm ready to return home, if the dream I had this am is any indication: my mom was ignoring me and having fun with her friends going off somewhere, and in a fit of pique I gave her the finger, said a sentiment associated with giving someone the finger, and added "I'm going back to Seattle!" I'm only here because the family whose house I'm squatting in extended their vacation.

Anathemic: "It's only money!" I love so much reconnecting with my friends and family at their leisure, seeing more of the area than I did when I didn't have a car or made one-day trips. The kid is rarely bored, having access to sports channels on cable television, his Don Cherry Rock'em Sock'em DVDs and other Canadian amusements. I'm sure I will regret at leisure the spending, but my spouse will thank me for bringing the tot up with me, the tot will thank me for an extended stay at his "homeland."

Is the simple life for me bcuz I'm a simpleton?

August 7th, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I used to be a technical editor. I am house-sitting. So far I've made subpar coffee with a coffeemaker when I'm used to a French press; had to go online to find why the dishwasher couldn't unlock to accept my touch-button command, and now find I cannot even play a DVD in the player supposedly connected to the 42" flatscreen LG monitor. I gave up and am watching through the computer. My life is a freaking Jacques Tati/Mr. Bean movie.

Everything I touch that is to be plugged in either doesn't function or requires an instruction manual.

I did manage to pair the phone with the Toyota Pious, so I can talk and make calls through the car. Waiting for some wag to say "Michael, this is KITT. Take the TransCanada Highway east until you are truly beyond Hope."

Hard to budget to the penny for a vacation

August 5th, 2013 at 08:39 am

I sold some gold to finance gas, admissions, parking, and treats for twelve days. Then I learned there wouldn't be much left in the fridge where I was staying, so I must buy groceries. Today's a civic holiday.

Also DH is visiting us for a weekend, so tickets for bus fare, plus anniversary dinner. I'm telling myself it's the #1 city in Canada we're visiting, thus the expenses will be justified.

Speaking of former stomping grounds, went on an eyeball bender with baselle, and a 5K gumshoe through a Seattle neighborhood. We had good weather, eagle eyes with "limited" mental filters, and enough blood sugar to last us three hours. We finished up yesterday, just the two of us, to limit the chaos and take best advantage of her close-reading aptitude.

Holiday Treat Time

July 4th, 2013 at 09:37 am

Have fun with Independence Day.
Great Men Repeat Themselves.
Back when the US had better things to do than to spy on its citizens and tax-paying foreign nationals, a love letter from a Canadian. And one from Albert Brooks.

If you're worried about these offerings from a ferner, they're tame and pro-American.

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Lost 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) and am now under 160 lbs! I'm beginning to think I can get back to 140...

Free Adventure Sunday

June 30th, 2013 at 03:35 pm

I drove us up to a big beachside park one county north (again), and we fortuitously drove right past an artesian well, so we stocked our water bottles with fresh spring water en route. We hiked down to the beach area, saw a BNSF train go past, mucked around, and then walked back up close to a mile, uphill. DH and I are so in need of cardio workouts: my uterus loves me, but my legs do not.

Not free, but we visited the retail outlet of a successful ice cream wholesaler company out in the boonies, which delighted DH (Kentucky Bourbon flavour) and DS (cookie dough).

My lungs are still recovering. Not used to doing that much work. Interesting to see if my energy and metabolism spike.

I may ask FreeCycle populace for some large jugs with lids so I can get more spring water for drinking. Our county water is chlorinated and fluoridated.
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Halfway to go until the Dirtnap for Dollars 2013 ends. Still in the lead but it's tiny, not like last year's runaway stretch. Very slow first six months!

Berry Picking Adventure Time

June 29th, 2013 at 08:36 am

Yesterday afternoon DS and I ventured to the rural county up north for strawberry picking. The conditions were perfect: sunny weather with ripe, gorgeous red fruit. I found the best rows to pick in, getting five pounds within 45 minutes, and I was selective about my berries too. The boy managed one pound.

DS found a woman's credit card so we're going to the credit union's head branch up there to return it. A quick internet check shows the woman lives close to the berry farm and the credit union, but it's safer to return it to the credit union as she may have moved.

We went to an old-time ice cream shoppe in the nearest small town for Coke floats. I hardly ever have pop, once a month, but on a hot dry day I well understand how Coca-Cola got to be popular. It doesn't take much to send DS into ecstasy: baseball, ice cream, and sunny days.

Our dinner expenditure came to under $10: I was busy washing and hulling the strawberries for freezing and didn't have time for cooking, so I made chicken salad which we had on croissants. I like no-cook summer meals.

In which I geek out and get a free snack, plus surprise $!

June 12th, 2013 at 10:06 am

Two weeks ago I learned my city is one of two hosts to a monthly event where teams solve puzzles. That monthly event transpired last night, at a bar disclosed in a video puzzle of "Twin Peaks" clips.

I was by my lonesome, but the puzzle coordinator set me up with a friendly couple and away we went, solving puzzles of varying difficulty (the last one was fiendish: I used a chart to complete it). I liked that the couple was bright and capable of solving, but was happy to cut its solving time by adding a third person.

We actually did finish 2.5 hours afterwards (the couple was there for its second time), with correct answers. I don't know if we won, probably not, but the couple was so thrilled they paid for my snack and my drink. I insisted at least on a tip.

I will bring someone with me next time though. I do so much better on these puzzles with an extra brain.

If it weren't for the fuel-up ($38) and the groceries ($28) I would have had a no-spend day.

Update: Just fetched the mail. The credit union says it had overcharged us for credit report fees in our July 2011 mortgage and are refunding us $298.14!

I've got to label my self-hypnosis recordings and play that money magnet one daily for a few weeks...

Attempts to save and spend money

April 8th, 2013 at 01:31 pm

Influenced by scfr's low-cost anniversary milestone celebration, I am gathering ideas for celebrating my own birthday. Especially as there does not seem to be more than one result on Yelp.com for "moderate price + casual dress + good for kids + no tv + 4.5 stars". I've learned I can take a ferry from one WA state port to a BC Prov port for free. Could be fun to have a beer or cocktail in Victoria. My underage kid would want to come along though. Don't feel like signing up for national restaurant "clubs" for free food. I may try the women-only sauna spa in the middle of the city, but that is not free. Make myself a spa experience with gifts of soap and clay masks, diy skin scrub and of course, coconut oil.

What I did to save money: Made tooth powder, as my Tom's of Maine toothpaste ran out: two tablespoons baking soda, one-eighth teaspoon of stevia, and two drops of peppermint oil.

Bought two pair of khakis (Bostonians keep their khakis in their pockets) at the thrift store.

I have learned that buying wine at Safeway does not contribute to the gas rewards. Ratzlefratz. I am, however, using up the grains in the house: looking forward to using bulghur and millet in a variety of breads.

I was feeling sorry for my family overspending on Feb and Mar until I saw the four-digit (left of the decimal point) balance in our health savings account. Now I've taken my tot to the dentist, next week it'll be his DTAP shot, I'll go see my doctor for an annual physical, I've renewed my prescriptions for the next five-six months... I feel like I'm on a giddy spree having inherited some money.

back from Jeopardy! Audition

March 9th, 2013 at 09:43 am

or "Buster Brains and Brain Busters"

I feel the audition went well. Nobody knows right then if they got on the show. We all did "really well" on the written test, according to the Jeopardy! staff. I think I got up to eight wrong in every test, probably still passing. We're given eight seconds to write our answers, not in the form of a question. Now I know what I suck at and need to study.

Wikipedia has a good description of what goes on in the audition process

The staffers, I'll call 'em "Brain Busters" for they drive around in the "Brain Bus", warmed us up, had a question and answer session, made some Sean Connery references.

42 people at each session, three sessions a day, three sessions a week at one city. Twelve cities. Four hundred slots in the next taping year. This means I have a lesser chance at being on the show as a Canadian has at becoming Pope, and a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup this year.

The hardest thing was coming up with five interesting things about myself. What I perceived as being difficult before I undertook it was the mock Jeopardy! play in front of the fellow aspiring contestants, with two other competitors. I buzzed in three times, all with correct answers. The competitors in each set all got to respond at least once. When they all blanked, the "peanut gallery" invariably came up with the correct response.


My favourite restaurant hands down in Cottage Grove, Oregon: Buster's Main Street Cafe. More Buster memorabilia inside!


Where is Brown? There is Brown! Mr. Brown lives in this town! (Seriously this is the Capitol building.) The governor's mansion is around somewhere, but we didn't look for it.

Temple Coffee in Sacramento is the best coffee in the country, but mind you I have never had coffee in the East Coast, nor in Alaska or Hawaii.

In-n-Out burgers are yummy, and the buns are superior to what you'd find at Wendy's or Burger King, but the fries were not all that. I need to try Black Bear Diner next time.

We fell in love with WinCo Foods in Medford. Easy walking distance from our motel, cheap cheap groceries in an EMPLOYEE-OWNED supermarket.

If the Jeopardy! people do call I have two-three weeks' notice. I would fly there and back. If the unlikely happens and I win more than five games, I would commute by air and make sure I smell fresh for the TSA Grope Patrol.


My secret weapon: "Potent" Potable capsicum & dill Brainalizer (alcohol-free, but loaded with stimulants), which I have not seen for over eleven years. Available next to Buster's, in the Bottle Shoppe. The Bottle Shoppe proprietor was super friendly and knowledgeable about "The General" filming. The best part of travel is lucking into friendly and knowledgeable locals who are unofficial ambassadors for their towns.

How we saved money:
1. Took the Prius. 45 mpg. Only four fill-ups in a 1500-mile jaunt.
2. Nibbled on Trader Joe's snacks on the way back after a huge breakfast at Rooster's in Medford. We went to Buttercream in Medford on the way to CA.
3. Used DH's Choice Privileges for reduced rates at motels.
4. Ate at cheap and cheerful diners with the exception of ten22 in Old Sacramento, which is reasonable yet wholesome and fancy by Seattle standards. Recommended!
5. Walked everywhere in Sacramento.
6. I had water everywhere, except for in the accommodations, where I had some Blood Orange San Pellegrino, frugally purchased for $2.99 a sixpack.

things I did to save money today

February 2nd, 2013 at 05:27 pm

We visited some libraries. I returned a book and some CDs to avoid fines: DH and DS borrowed items, I did not. We wrote Valentines at a cafe near a library and a post office: that was not money saving except we used a coupon to get one drink free.

We walked to get some money-saving microfiber cloths. Suddenly Frugal author Leah Ingram says they are a good deal. I used my Target RedCard. Then we walked downstairs with a 75-cent coupon to buy two Whisker Lickins packages for the cats.

We went to Safeway to bulk-buy cat food, which was on special for 20% off, and bought other things on sale for "poverty food week" like baked beans and meat for under $2.50/lb.

Total spent: $58.00
Total saved: $15.75

Speaking of poverty food week, here's my meal plan for the week

tonight: sausage, tomatoes, and cream farfalle
Sunday: pork katsu w/soba noodles in dashi
Monday: beef stew
Wednesday: potato pancakes w/sauerkraut
Thursday: beanie weenies
Friday: Shepherd's Pie

We drove to another library near a drug store to recycle a CFL bulb. From the library I took out a Berlin Philharmonic recording of some Paris songs and a book on how to be Smarter on Sunday (Jeopardy! cramming) and an Edward Abbey comic novel about environmentalists flirting with ecoterrorism.

Used the library to investigate quality plumbers with competitive prices for our water heater.

I'm a wee bit disappointed with _Suddenly Frugal_, although there are some good tips. For instance, if I know my child plans to continue with his chosen instrument, I could buy a used clarinet instead of renting. Nobody in my area watches rare silent films on VHS so I must advertise on eBay. But the author calls her food budget benchmark $180/week, which is what we spend roughly on food ourselves. Unless she has three teenage boys and two Great Danes, this is not really a frugal grocery budget.

My African-American History month reading is _Invisible Man_ by Ralph Ellison.

I'll yammer more on this later, but I am scratching my head as to how to live this well or less on the decreased take-home pay. I keep wanting to stretch and expand instead of constrict.

J is for January and Jeopardy! update, jumpin' jiminy

January 30th, 2013 at 02:20 pm

J is also for Jaunts and Jollities.

Jeopardy! - The letter streets of Sacramento are where the action is in March. Now I can ensure I don't stay somewhere 25 miles away and get lost or stuck in traffic or anything else anxiety-provoking.

How I saved money today: got free mustard with purchase of two Hebrew National kosher 12 oz frank packages. Such a deal. Saved 80 cents off celery at Target. Used the Redcard, saved about 15% all-in-all.

Debt payment report this month:
$697.35 paid to mortgage; $781.50 paid to car loan; $304.74 paid to Visa; $82.72 paid to HELOC. $1561.57 paid off. Foresee $12400 paid off for 2013, unless we sell house between April and July.

Glad I didn't sell any of my stocks this month:
21.51 to 22.49 this month for GE, 37.86 to 39.80 (WAG), 68.65 to 75.08 (wow) (PG). This is well beyond 3% annualized growth for all stocks.

I tried to get OverDrive Media Console to work with my 64-bit Windows 7 platform, and Windows Media Player 12, but there's DRM-wonkiness that isn't allowing WMP to play WMA nor WMV files. The DRM-free SAMPLE files from Overdrive work just fine! One of the leading library systems in the United States based on usage blocks Seattle residents from using its OverDrive DRM-protected electronic properties. Even though the ghastly entity that gave us Windows Media Player 12 is across the lake, I expect NO success getting this resolved. Everyone relies on useless scripts, and not on obscure, little-known DLL conflicts or a company's shyness in admitting its 32-bit app doesn't work on 64-bit systems, or where Windows 7 is installed from image. The lay people who are not employed as PC technicians or systems network support folk are supposed to figure this stuff out by themselves.

Gave blood last afternoon: our blood bank really needed it, they're at a five-year low for my blood type. They're also at a low in trained staff and volunteers. We made it to a great bakery and cafe one block up, but the energy my body used to digest the sugary treats used up remaining blood from my ankles, stomach, and brain. I did not pass out but I did make like a Muslim at prayer on the floor in the cafe. Then I went into the bathroom, did something natural twice, and lo! I felt way better and made it three blocks to the car unassisted! I felt awful, but the shooting at yet another neighbourhood hangout made me think that there are some innocent victims or cancer patients who need my blood.

Goals for gaining and losing pounds in 2013

January 18th, 2013 at 09:42 am

A kindred spirit has asked today about my availability to visit London (England, not Ontario) with her. So glad I renewed my passport! As we both are "women of size" (she is 6'3", I am 5'9.5") I cringe at the idea of being wedged into an airplane seat so will see if I can whittle my hip circumference by an inch or two. First class is no doubt roomier, but hella expensive.

Also, a Brit told me pound sterling is cheaper to accumulate in winter months, so will try to gain those. If nothing else, could be a fun arbitrage play.

2013 looks so exciting to one who has energy, hope and goals to aspire to!

My first NSD of 2013, doing without Costco, more

January 17th, 2013 at 03:44 pm

Quite by accident I had a no-spend day. I was planning to have an espresso while waiting for my car during its scheduled maintenance (free), but free fresh coffee was available in the guest lounge.

I am postponing renewal of Costco membership. We found a great deal on canned diced tomatoes, canned beans, canned broth, and tomato sauce, beating Costco by 12 cents a can. We found whole bean coffee on sale at a regional supermarket for $7/lb. We normally buy bulk coffee at close to $6/lb in 5 lb bags. However, you know Costco has that membership fee, and with many of its products being comparable in price, we may not be saving all that much. We are especially not saving with frozen fish at Costco. I'd need to save at least $55 a year shopping at Costco. I may be a cranky-puss but some days I am not up to the metal rattle of carts and parking lot congestion.

We filled our gas tank for the first time this year: 8.6 gallons, $27.39. First fill-up since December 27.

I made a pantry inventory and posted it on the fridge, so I am reminded to use what we already have.

What I did to be frugal: I washed one cashmere and two wool sweaters at home. That is right, I did not use a dry cleaner, but opted for the washing machine and Woolite for Machine use. I used the Wool WAshables sitting, avoided agitation (this pills the fibres), and let them soak for over ten minutes before the spin cycle. I used a drycleaner formerly, until the laundress told me she was recovering from cancer. Then I thought of the chemicals used in drycleaning. I did not roll up the sweaters in towels, though. One of them, the cashmere, should have used that treatment. Instead I stretched them out on a clothesline over our heads. But they smell nice, and they fit, and they look clean.

I am also making a Frugal Living, and a DIY list of eBooks, eAudio, and regular books on my library account. Right now it is accessible only to Puget Sound area people, although the Frugal Living list compiled by the Bellingham Public Library got me started.

A good budget-buster

January 3rd, 2013 at 04:38 pm

Guess who passed Jeopardy!'s Online test for adults and will be invited to a city (700 miles away) for audition?

I learned this of course two days after I registered for the 2013 online test (consequently I shan't be taking it), and close to a year after I took the 2012 test.

(Practicing with the son's Wii game 2x/day)

Gratitude Tuesday

December 11th, 2012 at 02:50 pm

What I am thankful for today:
1. My red jacket smells like someone accidentally poured Dr. Bronner's Rose soap on it and the fragrance has left me feeling more positive and loving today.

2. A short, productive shopping session at a consignment store for a decent blouse I can wear to my tot's winter concert, under $15. I received also a beautiful rose print paper bag for it as I forgot to bring a bag with me for shopping. I found lots of neat things in that shop and expect to be a regular there.

3. Reviewing the Report of Sale document I filled out Saturday night today and figuring out I need to return it to a licensing office pronto. Not only did I visit the office and take care of that important business, but I had exact change for the filing fee.

4. My insurance policy provider making it superbly easy for me to amend or update our policies online. I have eleven minutes on the phone for the next week so I am loath to dial anyone right now.

Something I am not happy with: water heater started leaking when I took my shower today. The water heater is nearly twelve years old, seems too young to start leaking.

Bought a New(er) Car Today

December 2nd, 2012 at 03:42 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 10:51 am

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.


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