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Thanksgiving dinner tonight, plus Menu Plan

October 8th, 2012 at 07:43 pm

We bought 1.3 lbs of turkey breast, a prepared apple pie, broccoli and a can of Boddington for beer bread. I made sweet and sour cabbage and DH made beer bread. Martin Frobisher's gratitude for getting through his third exploration voyage to the New World with most of his ships in the late 16th century is the seminal reason for us celebrating Thanksgiving: an Act of Parliament in 1957 fixed the date as the second Monday of October. So we had a holiday dinner, one the boy greatly looked forward to.

Menu Plan:
Tu - Grilled or Baked Salmon, apple walnut kale, quinoa
We Indian Summer Chicken, potatoes, broccoli
Th - Nut Burgers and Red Pepper Soup
Fr - Dover Sole in Lemon Sauce, brown rice, carrots
Sa - Something Hungarian with Veal Scallops. Saturday is luxury meal day. Potatoes and more cabbage, no doubt.
Su - Beef Stew, potatoes, salad or greens.

Neither my mother or grandmother ever told me cabbage could be made into entrees other than cabbage rolls. I enjoy finding tasty, sweet ways for using cabbage.

Boddington Ale was okay, but I prefer Anchor Steam or Guinness Stout for beer bread.

Maybe I SHOULD do envelopes -- ISO sane budget method

October 6th, 2012 at 08:06 pm

I am having crazybrain. Not the type where I think cats make for good eatin' or that the imaginary ants crawling on me would die if I suffocated them underneath a train, but the crazybrain that comes up with a new thing to do every three minutes or eighteen different budgets. Or makes me feel I am deprived and poor because I cannot buy a car, pay off my HELOC and have an emergency fund over $10K at the same time, while at the same time I eye the veal scallops at the meat counter thinking "say, I could afford that.."

Birthday boy flipped a coin last night to determine whether we go to the kinda pricey but delicious (and bad for my endocrine system) pizza, or if we go to the cheesy cheap family restaurant for his birthday. Happy to say the cheap family restaurant won out, so we went to a frozen custard place afterward. I had baked apple cookies and chocolate bars for his class, in lieu of a cake, so that saved us some $$ as well.

The craziness I believe is the binge-purge mania of my budget. I have some $ left over from the last payperiod, it gets divided into debt and savings. On the weekend we buy whatever, as long as we need it, and for the weekdays I either aim for no-spend days or I set a limit of $60, and divide what I don't spend that day on debt and savings. I feel I should work more at building up the cash reserves, but I argue with myself: do Savings Bonds count as cash reserves, or is it just money market account, savings accounts, and Certificates of Deposit? Then I think of my friend who is not paying off her HELOC but rather investing in the stock market, and I think but I have to diversify, and how can I do that when I have maybe less than $100 each month to give to: stocks, stock trading, retirement, etc. I am reminded that savings should never be the final or leftover item on the budget: I try to make it the first and last, seriously.

Our family agreed on the idea of having more vegetarian entrees more often. We still love meat, but more beany, legumy, tempeh and fungus dishes will help us make food faster and more cheaply, and then we can regard veal scallops and bay scallops as sweet luxuries. We did spend $107 at the meat counter in the Public Market today , right next to the world-famous Flying Fish dudes, then $113 at the supermarket for Halloween candy ($1.50 off), cat treats ($0.75 off), fish (one whole salmon plus 2 lbs dover sole), cheese, apples, juices, bread, butter, pretty much everything that was obviously a great deal that we regularly consumed). The $$ for the boy's field studies on the peninsula has been taken by the school, but $300 still remains on the VISA card and must be paid off in three weeks.

In addition, what is driving me crazy is seeing money go everywhere EXCEPT toward a newer car, and a better wardrobe for me. I have three pair jeans and one pair velvet pants. I tossed out two pairs of ratty shoes, a pullover and a cardigan that did not fit, and I did not give myself some $$ to check out the consignment and thrift shops for bigger, fluffier, less threadbare sweaters.

So if you wisely scrolled past all the diarrhea, I am looking for GOOD vegetarian cookbooks. I have _More with Less_ and _Feeding the Whole Family_ which have lots of veg. recipes, but want to see what is out there.

Oh yeah, I reduced my risk of breast cancer today by taking vitamin D3 and serving steamed chard for dinner with kielbasa and sauerkraut.

End of Month Reckoning, also RIP Saving Dinner

September 30th, 2012 at 04:37 pm

I must have done well at not eating out this month because I fantasized this afternoon about fish'n'chips and tacos, none of which is a mainstay menu item at my house. We used to go out for fish'n'chips when the English lived with us (my stepfather and his mother, from Liverpool).

Leanne Ely's Saving Dinner paperback died in the car. I braked, my purse and its contents plummeted to the floor, the paperback in several pieces. I relied on it a lot! It had nutritional data: protein, carbohydrates, fat, and suggested side dishes, and weekly menus that always included one vegetarian dish, and some slow-cooker recipes. I need the more durable spiral-bound edition. My Canadian cookbooks are decades old and still in use because they are spiral bound. Tangentially, I notice every Canadian cookbook I have has a recipe for butter tarts and for Yorkshire pudding, except for my ultra-regional Vancouver cookbooks.

We did eat out for lunch twice: once because my spouse earned a leisurely lunch through enduring enough stress that he felt entitled to one at our favourite cafe; another because our friend from British Columbia was visiting. And we ate Chinese food takeout from the supermarket: got two meals each for two people out of $20, and that time earlier at Billie On Burgers.

We ARE going out for my son's birthday next Friday. And I have enough food in the freezer and pantry now to last at least a week.

Outfitting boy for his field studies is DONE, with an exception of a 2 ounce bottle of Dr. Bronner liquid soap for his toiletry! I thank JC Penney for coming through with flannel jammies and bathrobe for less than a third of what I would have paid at Land's End.

Serendipity: $15 haircut for boy today in an instant walk-in, instead of $25 at the hipster two-hour-wait-on-Sundays barbershop my husband likes to go to (truth: my husband gets buzzcuts for about $15). So that is $46 saved from haircuts this month.

Food was probably around $700. Gas only $55 for the month (including scooter). Coffee we cheated, probably $46 instead of $40.

Car Fund: $278 less than August 18 balance
Stocks: up $150 from September 1
Debt: down $916.43 from September 1


I need a challenge for October.

Menus for this coming week

September 23rd, 2012 at 09:35 am

Black beans have soaked in a pan for two days now. Still looking for a recipe to use with nishiki short-grain sushi rice, leftover from my sister's stay.

Saturday (last night): Swordfish Salad on watercress with soba noodles and Oriental dressing
Sunday: Mexican Black Beans and Rice Salad, or Black Bean Tostados, not sure yet
Monday: Tri-Tip Roast Beef w/Yorkshire Pudding, Triple-A (Arame, Almond, Avocado) Salad
Tuesday: Nori-Wrapped Salmon, Quinoa, Beet Salad with Pumpkin Seeds
Wednesday: Lentil Soup with Paprika with homemade dinner rolls
Thursday: Vegetable Soup with homemade Beer Bread
Friday: Baked Salmon, Brown Rice, leftover soups if any

What I spent money on today

September 22nd, 2012 at 04:58 pm

Yesterday I made a freezer inventory, a list of entrees for this week, and needed ingredients, plus a list of items we are low on.

Early this morning the beau and I went shopping. Today is Mayor's Day of Concern, when food bank drives dominate most supermarkets, even the ones just outside our city. We bought 80% of what was on my list, three impulse buys of salami, cheese, and olive oil. $111.43 prior to the box of oatmeal for the food drive. Most of it was vegetables: I plan for a lot of juices, soups and salads this week. What was nice: the checker was patient while my beau scouted for a food bank item, and she deducted the cost of the five bags we brought (25 cents) even though we used three.

We cheated on the coffee budget and had espresso at the supermarket. I wanted to spend less than $100, but that wasn't going to happen with the impulse items.

The bulk Spike (seasoning salt) went up in cost from $11.49 to $17.69 a pound. Yikes!

Then I started early on Christmas presents shopping, and bought a CD for myself, which I hardly ever do. I did in this case because I would like the artist, who won a music award in the UK, to see royalties, and from what I heard on our local listener-powered station, the cuts on this album are more cosmic and less melancholic. The boy received a MAD Magazine. Who doesn't love MAD?

Also bought weedblock fabric pegs and mulch/bark cover. Did not take as much time as I thought to spread.

Went to the corner supermarket to see what they had for coconut oil and apple cider vinegar, but was distracted by chips on special, and yet another group collecting food for food banks. Bought two cans of vegetables to donate, and kept chips for myself.

So that is about nine days' worth of dinners in the freezer and pantry and refrigerator. I do not normally purchase groceries in excess of $100 anywhere but Costco, but at this rate, I only drive for groceries once a week.

Small, fun kitchen hack

September 16th, 2012 at 04:04 pm

I have several 16-ounce clean jars that used to contain coconut oil. I learned I can screw the top of one of those jars onto the black container cushion. So I placed the gasket, then the blender blade, on the container cushion, and put my smoothie ingredients in the 16 ounce jar, enough for one serving. Then, yes, screwed the container cushion onto the jar top, turned the whole thing over, put it on top of the blender, and plugged in.

100% Success without the Mess!

I also like to use those jars for storing seeds, nuts and grains.

What I will try next, now that the temperature is getting colder, is use one ice cube tray to freeze buttermilk, so we can have pancakes, blueberry muffins and other baked goods in the winter.

I am slowly starting on tidying up the house. I am supposed to call the agent in three weeks and start looking for rentals, but all I want to do is dump out the ugly furniture, put the rest in storage, and be like Eloise in some ExtendedStay America place until the house sells. Maybe I will go relearn what a contingency loan is. My son's best friend is moving to one of the islands. We would not go to an island: still considering somewhere just directly north of Seattle, or maybe even just north of the lake if my husband goes back to a large aerospace company. I like Bellingham but I may be the only one.

Passing notes

September 12th, 2012 at 08:39 am

$256.97 spent on groceries and meals/treats out this month so far. Half of the groceries were purchased at a Big Box warehouse store as mentioned: pantry items like canned tomato products, quinoa, brown rice, sugar. We buy a lot of fruit, apparently, as I need to refill our fruit bowl every five days. Sadly, we saved on average 23% per purchase too. So keeping a price book, planning meals, using coupons, making inventory lists of pantry, refrigerator and freezer still are not sufficient in helping me meet my goal to bring food spending down. Without the eating out, the grocery spending is $198. But we are still $5.00 away from meeting our $40/month coffee quota!

I also bought a cheap bottle of Riesling for poaching trout, used a cup of it and then brought it to book club, where it found several good gullets to go to. For fellow book nerds, we discussed _Anna Karenina_.

We bought Guinness Stout cans at 75% discount, to be used in some FANTASTIC beer bread.

DS goes on a three-day outing to Olympic National Park in November. I must find the handout he brought home and check his wardrobe for needed items, then budget for them.

DH's grandmother died last night but as we were over there last month, when she was confined to her room and unable to recognize her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, we get a pass on returning, especially as there is no service, only one of us could go during the school year (obviously the husband) and she was cremated hours after the death certificate was signed. I nudged my husband into sending flowers to his parents, in sympathy.

I don't know that there is a lot of grief left in the in-law household: two septuagenarians, one working full-time, the other recovering from knee surgery, spending shifts at her bedside, getting little sleep. They got to go together for coffee once the body was carted away, something they used to do daily before the lengthy languishment, and that they did once while we were there. But now they can rest and sleep and order danishes and nonfat lattes.

I need a new pair of walking shoes that do not crush nor fracture my toes. Also in need of replacement: our chairs -- I can get a desk chair for $10-$25 at the university surplus store. In the meantime, I shave off my VISA balance.

Disorganization Blues

June 14th, 2012 at 08:28 pm

Today I found a recent 401(k) statement for the spouse. This set me off on a hunt for the retirement statements I have. I have piles of papers scattered in the spare room, our bedroom and in the living room. Never mind I have three crates for filing these.

In rooting for these statements like a blind pig who trapped her snout in lavender oil for a half-hour, I learned I miss investing. I have not invested for three months, instead saving $$ for house, taxes, laptop, family vacation. I must return to dropping envelopes of hot love to my brokerage of choice, and dabble in foreign currencies and precious metals.

I have also learned I cannot have control over my life until I tame my clutter. Then I will have organized and prioritized. Everything is a wildcard right now. I want so much to keep things simple, but the monkey mind reigns supreme. I hate this because I set a bad example for my child who is even more organizationally impaired than I.

But in also rooting for the statements I have found a library book I feared I would never see! That goes back tomorrow.

$306.13 optometrist bill today. I wonder what kind of high deductible we have in our health savings account.
He understands though, and spots me some prescription medication when I visit for my regular examinations, saving me $89.

What else: oh I was tabulating the finance statements for our bridge loan application outside a closed cafe (no, baselle, not THAT one) when the killer's dad (TKD) comes up. We are alone as the spouse had gone across the street for cheap roadtrip reads. I give TKD a hug, we talk about the grieving process, bridge loans, nuclear detritus washing up on the West Coast (note to self: do not move south) and why the cafe is closed: owner hastened downtown for a permit to participate in the local farmers market which started today. I did not tell TKD that I bought gift cards for the recovering barista/cook (RBC). Some stalking, errr, research showed that RBC was threatened with foreclosure three years ago so he presumably is not a wealthy person. I got a Target card for him and a Petco card for his little cat friend who could well be his "cheap therapist" as he recovers to return to work. A man who rides a motorcycle and owns a cat melts my heart.

A fearless, organized life filled with vitality and love: that is my goal to work toward.

Lent!

February 22nd, 2012 at 03:48 pm

According to data from the Federal Reserve Board, the ratio of homeowners’ equity to value at the end of the first quarter of 2011 was just 38.0 percent, the lowest on record. If this includes the 100% equity of paid off houses, I request permission to gulp audibly.

Slept through Ash Wednesday morning Mass. I did get replacement tabs and registration for the car -- well timed, as today they expire, so there is my penance. I also renewed our Scarecrow Video 10-punch account, taking out a Pokemon DVD for tot, and a Guy Maddin film for me (it was two-for-one Wednesday today, so one film would be for free).

No giving up disordered attachments of the flesh, other than the resistance to exercise. I do have some abundance--flesh, books and clutter, but scarcity in other areas. Disordered attachments of the mind and wallet will be surrendered, once I figure out what the disordered attachments of the wallet are. Library fines? Wasted food? Five-minute hot showers in February? Acrylamide-laden potato chips? Extra payments toward principal of extremely cheap loan? Sending heavy pricy coffee table hardcover books to eastern Canada while people starve on the streets? Disordered attachment of the mind is thinking how lowly and lonely I am. Certainly there are others who feel more lowly and lonely but I need to know how to find them to care for them. Thinking I need all the books and back magazines I have is disordered attachment.

Chequing account is now under $100 from now until payday.

Lenten practice possibilities:
sell books on shelves. divide proceeds between donating and debt.
empty a junk drawer.
Push-ups and sit-ups. If a starving, freezing Jew can do them in The Book Thief, I could do them.
clean one floor of pieces of paper.
Fast. Sleep on the floor.
Donations for every Vancouver Canucks win (22 games played between now and Easter).
Donation for every Dead Pool win I get between now and Easter (this should be easy -- I may have hit my limit).

ides of february

February 15th, 2012 at 09:52 am

hate long posts getting timed out. Why do I not habitually write in a barebones editor then paste in here?

1. Doing taxes today! Two months to come up with the surprise the IRS demands from me is reasonable.

2. Learned I was overly aggressive thinking I could pay back $7400 to my accounts in one year! That's $20/day, practically. I'm $4600 of the way there with 113 days to go. Jean Chatzky's $10/day paydown seems doable and reasonable.

3. HELOC interest greater this month than last, because I repaid $440 from Dec to Jan, and $280 from Jan to Feb.

4. Valentine Feast kinda frugal: in-house veal in lemon, with steamed carrots and asparagus, and to drink grenadine sodas. Truffles for treats.

5. The Boy, who last week was hot-to-trot to earn a whopping 0.1% on his account, mislaid his money this week and didn't open an account after all. Oh the special developmental challenges of tweens.

6. I calculated I am earning 25% the amount of the interest I am paying on the mortgage and home equity line of credit, on my accounts outside of stocks, bonds and precious metals. Long-term loans of 3%-3.75% doesn't look bad, except it's 7.5-9.2x what I'm earning.

Update: Looks like I owe about $1787 this year. I am displeased. I know, I know: "at least you have the money to pay it!"

Hello 2012, plus 52-4-U-2

December 31st, 2011 at 02:59 pm

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Link Du Jour: Aretha Franklin sings Auld Lang Syne

2011 Spending: It happened. Some of it has yet to happen.
2012 Spending: It will happen.

Hubby bought new clothes at closeout prices!
I made restitution to the library. So good to me: despite a kaput copier, a librarian offered to photocopy the Saturday NYT crossword, for a fee of course, which suited me fine. I paid my dues and got a replacement card.

2011 Reading: Finished The Pickwick Papers. It's a wonder Dickens didn't go blind or get carpal tunnel syndrome. Watched BBC comedy special Dickens parody "The Old Bleak Shop of Stuff" which is either wonderfully silly or silly garbage, depending on your point of view. Best reads: Beat the Reaper, King Suckerman. Best film: Hugo.

2012 Reading: Burr, I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President (Daily Show writer pens young adult novel, throws in jokes about Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" album), stuff on my shelves, 1Q84.

Major thing I did wrong in 2011: let events beyond my control affect my life.
Major incorrect beliefs in 2011: Opportunities come when I feel ready for them. My stomach will reduce if I reduce my caloric intake.

Things that went right in 2011: Won my dead pool 3-0. Was less in debt in December 2011 than I was in December 2010. School board election. IBM stock price. Mortgage refinance (on a single income!).

From Leo Babauta via Barry Ritholtz, 52 Tips for Happiness and Productivity
Try rising early.
Do less.
Slow down.
Practice patience.
Practice compassion.
Find your passion.
Lose weight.
Exercise.
Eat healthy.
Meditate.
Get organized.
Think positive.
Simplify your finances.
Simplify your life.
Accept what you have.
Envision your ultimate life.
Set long-term goals.
Review goals.
Life mission.
Plan your big tasks for week and day.
Maintain focus.
Enjoy the journey.
Create a morning and evening routine.
Develop intimate relationships.
Eliminate debt.
Enjoy the simple pleasures.
Empty your inbox and clear your desk.
Build an emergency fund.
Keep a journal.
Use the power of others.
Read, and read to your kids.
Limit your information intake.
Create simple systems.
Take time to decompress after stress.
Be present.
Develop equanimity.
Spend time with family and loved ones.
Pick yourself up when you’re down.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Focus on benefits, not difficulties.
Be romantic.
Lose arguments.
Get into the flow.
Single-task.
Be frugal.
Start small and slow.
Learn to deal with detractors.
Go outdoors.
Retire early.
Savor the little things.
Be lazy.
Help others.

Projects for 2012: Classical Education and Writing tutoring for kid, Japanese language, Price book. Get a Real Job, either in US or Canada. Home fix-ups: fence for the back, replacement door for the back, replacement stair material.

End of Year Collections

December 30th, 2011 at 01:13 pm

Link du Jour: Otis Redding and Carla Thomas - New Year's Resolution

Last payday of 2011. I crash-saved $400 over the past two weeks. That doesn't sound like much, but I also finally brought the VISA card down to a flat zero balance.

Today we bought a framed illustration of SCTV's Dr. Tongue and Bruno (John Candy and Eugene Levy) for $10. It is not in 3-D. This is a $90 markdown from what we saw at Cafe Racer. I wrote to the artist and said I liked it and he sold it to my husband.

Also bought, finally, replacement motorcycle helmet, at about $80 less than I expected to. Yay for girl rider discounts!!

I logged into paypal, and saw that PayPal threatened to close my account within 30 days if I did not accept all-electronic communications. Deadbeats. Through PayPal I will pay for YNAB.

I also put some $$ into each of the savings and chequing account in my other credit union, because I can never remember how they debit me for annual safe deposit box rentals. It occurs to me I could give myself an "allowance" weekly and deposit $ to these accounts for investing, or secret gift money.

Silver was down 22% for the year in 2011. Gold was up.

Today I used my price book for shopping! I forgot one item but I was in a rush so my spouse could use the car.



I am unhappy about the home value and my equity taking a dive over twelve months despite the new roof but it happened to seven properties on my schadenfreude sheet. Californians who remember 2008 are nodding. Sometimes I think of paying enough down on my HELOC to get my equity past 60% but that would mean losing the APR on my money market account, and jeopardizing my ability to pay in cash for my car. I imagine some people my age have worse scenarios. I've paid just 6% of my mortgage in four months (good!) and have paid 38% down of the sale price for the house for 13 years (ugh).

taking YNAB tutorial right now online

December 21st, 2011 at 06:15 pm

Somewhere between being baby-la-la and "oh I never thought of money that way". Comfortable with YNAB's philosophical approach and Rules.

Keep forgetting I have stock. My stock balances are very low though: I haven't added to them this year in favour of an investment yielding 22% instead. I bought one share of P&G. I have enough stock to liquidate if I needed to pay tax for the new vehicle.

Paid mortgage through the mail this month.

Can it be? A No-Spend Day!

December 20th, 2011 at 04:38 pm

Yes. But tomorrow won't be one: I'm buying turkey sausage for bean soup, ground veal and ground pork for tourtière. My scheme for the next eleven days is to spend under $100/day, and put what I didn't spend into the VISA card, then the HELOC, then into silver, money market account, Procter & Gamble Direct Purchase Plan (DPP), and Walgreen DPP. Target by Value Line and Standard & Poor's judgements is worth buying as a Direct Purchase Plan BUT! The initial purchase charge is equivalent to my TD Ameritrade account charge; and when I signed up to receive the Direct Purchase Plan by mail, the Bank of New York/Mellon website's form did NOT accept my name, although when I used the Contact Us form to complain, my name didn't hold up any processing script.

I have been blessed with heaps of bean sprouts so am making chow mein, chop suey, egg foo yung before they get slimy beyond use. The More-With-Less cookbook is helping me out.

I dropped off three cans of tuna, one box of macaroni (it was Barilla, the good stuff), and one package of whole wheat spaghetti at the local food bank.

Has anyone used the YNAB software program with success? Has it paid for itself? I have a trial program but only a seven-day trial key.

My Dead Pool 2012 lists are ready.

Today's Special

December 3rd, 2011 at 06:04 pm

The hip, upscale diner my friend and I went to for debt group chat played "oldies" music (Modern English, the Smiths, Duran Duran, Echo & the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Talk Talk). The diner was not that populated, which surprised me. When it's the four of us we opt for something cheap and north, but my friend and I are Seattle foodies, and although we are in debt, we have enough to pay once a month for some good food. This was kinda economical for us anyway because we combined our occasional "let's eat somewhere good" urban pleasure with debt group.

My husband and son ate out "to get even with" me. I have been eating out for brunch/breakfast nearly every month for eleven years with my debt group.

Was asked for money as I went home from the library. Minutes later I bought an issue of Real Change and spoke with the vendor at last, telling her I'd been passing her by because I didn't have a dollar, not all my walks have "commercial intent", and I end up giving to food banks and homeless shelters, and badged Real Change vendors this year.

I just thought of something. Catholics have Advent calendars, I wonder if many North Americans have Add-debt calendars. Open a door, see a "Gold Box/Red Hot" savings opportunity every day, bring out the card.

My husband has been waiting for eight days for his birthday gift. We are hoping it hasn't been stolen: we've been at home every day, and I have received two packages in that periods.

Read that 18 percent of mortgaged homes in a nearby county are underwater. 17% of mortgaged homes on my sheet are underwater. Washington’s negative equity mortgages accounted for 17.2 percent of all mortgages, according to CoreLogic. The county south of us is hurting with 29% of mortgages underwater. Titanic real estate!

Also learned that things are so tough, that someone broke into a house to steal toilet paper, chicken cutlets and milk. No electronics, just protein and disposable paper. I got my family to lock our car doors now: guess the battery dying from some dimwit using the cabin light to find the gascap release lever snapped the spouse to attention. You have to be broker than broke to steal gas from a 1990s-relic automobile, and to break into a house to steal something not for pawning or for crystal meth production.

For 2012 I will concentrate on getting a job that will allow me to pay off the HELOC or build up our savings so we can work on the house and sell it and move, or rescue my sanity. Also, my friend and I agreed that while many people (myself included) look for the magic one-shot savings tip that will save them 10% on their expenditures, the reality is that dozens or hundreds of cheap little tricks are going to do it, and lots of them require forethought and organization.


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