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Archive for November, 2006

mish mash

November 30th, 2006 at 05:46 pm

We're finally getting new hires on our work team, and - surprise! - I'm training one person in, starting Monday. I haven't had to train anyone for years. It should be interesting. We're also mixing it up; my cube partner is moving to a new spot, and I get a new person. Someday, when I finally get an office with a door all to myself, I will be ecstatic.

Last night I created four wine corkboards for holiday gifts. I just have to glue them together and *poof*, four sources of holiday stress, gone. A friend of mine is picking up corks from a restaurant for me tonight - more free materials! If you drink wine and hang on to the corks, let me know, because I'd love to have them. Smile

I'm a little nervous about making biscotti. My sister told me it is harder than it seems. Guess what I'll be experimenting with this weekend?

My sister and I took a step back in time last weekend and tried to think like a 6-year-old girl. My niece asked me to make her a scarf, and of course, her favorite color is hot pink. Sister and I hit the craft store, and juggled several skeins of hot pink yarn until we found the perfect fit. I might need to wear sunglasses to crochet it, but my niece will love it. Good thing I had my sister with me, because I never liked pink, not even as a kid.

I ordered my TransUnion free credit report, and it was decidedly unthorough. It had the least amount of information of the three. I didn't bother getting my credit score this time around - $7.95 for a number? No thanks. I have more important things to spend that money on, like fudge ingredients. Wink

I've got three weekends left to finish the fudge, bread, biscotti, truffles, magnets, scarves, jewelry, and gift wrapping. Eep!

I like the idea of the garden to relax in...perhaps a lovely one like Fern's? Smile In a more temperate climate? Something to dream about...

another reason for meditation

November 29th, 2006 at 05:13 pm

pri∑va∑cy n.

- The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others.
- The state of being free from unsanctioned intrusion: a person's right to privacy.
- The state of being concealed; secrecy.


I realized last night that privacy has become a foreign concept in my life. I get up in the morning because the cats are yelling and stepping on my head. I take a shower, and though I lock the cats out of the room, they continually throw their furry bodies against the bathroom door in an effort to open it, and scream incessantly. I walk to the bus stop, alone but not alone, since I live on a busy street and most drivers have a staring problem. I take a very full bus to work. I sit at work, watched by my coworkers who slyly monitor my computer usage. Mostly women work in my department, so there is always at least one other person in the restroom. Even at home, when I'm alone in the bathroom, the cats scream at me through the door, and SO is often lurking nearby because he somehow always needs to use it when I do.

I am by nature a rather private person. Sometimes I'd just like to be alone. Perhaps learning meditation would allow me to escape when I really can't.

So, what is the cost of privacy? Or the lack thereof? Sometimes I think buying a house would be worth it, because I'd require it to have at least two bathrooms, and perhaps another room I could call my own and retreat to. Houses, and moving, are both a bit pricey.

This is not to say I always want to be alone...just now and then, it would be nice. I love having SO's company, and the cats (when they aren't yowling), but I rarely have the opportunity to be by myself anymore. I spent a lot of time alone growing up, so it's a bit hard for me to continually live like this now. I admire those of you with children, because I know you rarely get time to yourselves! I don't know how you do it.

I wrapped most of my holiday presents last night! Smile It's nice to have that done so far ahead of time. I have a lot of projects to get cracking on!

2007 vacation

November 28th, 2006 at 03:27 pm

In 2007, I am taking a vacation, come hell or high water.

If I'm frugal for the next couple of months, I'll have plenty of cash saved up by mid-February. I'm still dreaming about a week at Isla Holbox in Mexico. I could take a bite right out of that piece of paradise...swimming with dolphins! Gazing at manta rays! Kayaking through mangroves! Digging my toes into the sand! Sounds like heaven.

I've been working on my year-long 2007 budget, and I added a vacation fund. I plan to have my smaller college loan paid off by June 2007, and my holiday savings fully funded by August.

My sister noticed my budget spreadsheet and asked about it. She seemed really interested in developing a budget - I'll have to make one up for her. I often stop and think about how much being a part of this website has helped me over the past couple of years. I think about money and acquiring "stuff" differently, and I'm proud of that!

Have you ever gone back to a salon and complained about a haircut? I got mine done last week at a new place, and I really donít like the cut. I'm leery about having the same person fix it. Certainly in this case, having a coupon did not pay off. I should have just gone to my regular salon!

beautiful Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2006 at 10:31 pm

What a perfect Thanksgiving day. The weather was gorgeous, so we visited the goose park again - this time I brought my digital camera. I'll have the photos up soon (take a peek to the right, and you'll find my new flickr links). The food was amazing; my sister-in-law made some incredible no-knead bread and cranberry mousse. I could have sucked that mousse through a straw, it was so good. The younger kids are learning how to form and write sentences. I absolutely love the sparkle that learning to read and write gives kids...I could have worked on it with them all night. Wink

I've got about $85 left to spend for holiday gifts. We're debating about the Christmas tree...last year we bought a live one, which I love, but it was a little pricey. Boughs give off a nice pine scent and cost a lot less. My niece requested a crocheted scarf, so I'll have to get some hot pink yarn. I'm feeling pretty good about my gifts; now I've just got to wrap them, and start baking like mad.

Today's weather is a repeat of yesterday. It's 54 degrees right now! Love it. I wish I had the day off, but I'll bask in the warm air as soon as I walk out the door.

Have a great weekend!!

Isabel Allende

November 18th, 2006 at 05:38 pm

Last night SO and I attended a MPR Talking Volumes segment to see Isabel Allende. I've read most of her books and have long adored her writing style. The show was incredible! She is absolutely hilarious! The show was sold out, and seating was general admission, but SO and I were taken right to the front row for some reason. We had wonderful seats, and afterwards got three books signed by Allende. I can't wait to get the podcast of the show. She was so entertaining, and the host really didn't have to prompt her much at all. It was the best $10 I've spent in a long time - far better than any $50 concert ticket. If you have the chance to see her, I encourage you to go, even if you haven't read any of her novels. Some may not agree with her politics, but I thought she was spot-on, and so funny. It was delightful to hear her read excerpts from her new book in Spanish...she's still got a bit of the Chilean accent, and it brought back memories. I dreamt in Spanish last night.

This morning I'm making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and might step out to pick up a couple of holiday gifts. I took one cat to the vet earlier today and she is healthy as can be. Now both of my furry babies have microchips - what a relief, if they ever escaped.

I've got to start crocheting and beading if I'm going to get gifts made in time!

50 tidbits

November 17th, 2006 at 06:43 pm

Jeffrey has caused yet another savingadvice.com sensation. Smile

I have tons of stories! It was hard to choose.

1. I have only carried a credit card balance once in my life, and I never intend to again.

2. I was born in California, and I spent most of my childhood wishing my family had stayed there.

3. I was the high school marching band drum major.

4. Iíve never broken a bone, but Iíve had four surgeries.

5. Iíve never gotten a speeding ticket, and have only been pulled over once.

6. I wouldnít recognize most of my cousins if I ran into them on the street.

7. I majored in music in college, and can play lots of instruments, but I canít sing to save my life.

8. In college I did free tarot card readings on a regular basis.

9. I miss writing letters with a pen and paper, so Iíve started sending my sister a postcard every week.

10. Iíve never been to the east coast (with the exception of Florida), but someday Iíll get there.

11. I once was within 90 miles of Antarctica, and I wish I had spent the money to fly over it.

12. I know what itís like to tell someone youíll never love them, and Iíve heard those words myself.

13. I went to three high school proms.

14. I absolutely detest mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and the smell of dill.

15. I started several lists in grade school Ė 'Things To Do Someday', 'I Love It WhenÖ', 'I Hate It WhenÖ', etc - and I still maintain them.

16. My first car was destroyed in a tornado.

17. I have the unnerving ability to answer questions before they are asked.

18. My great-grandmother was friends with Al Capone, and used to drag my grandmother along to mafia wakes.

19. Most people assume that my eyes are so blue because my contacts are colored. They arenít.

20. Iíve gone skinny-dipping in the Mississippi River.

21. When I was a small child, my parents visited a man selling an expensive horse. The man offered to give my parents the horse for free and kick in an extra $10,000 - in return for me. He had a young blond son...apparently he wanted a matching set.

22. I lived in California for over a month during fifth grade, and my teacher mailed me my homework.

23. I once found myself stranded in Peru and slept on a bar room bathroom floor.

24. Iíve had a few stalkers. If someone never returns your phone calls, take the hint.

25. My best friend and I pretended to have multiple personalities for an entire year during junior high. We wrote each other notes and even talked to each other in different voices. Thankfully, none of them stuck around.

26. I hate horror movies but have a morbid fascination with cemeteries and the TV show First 48.

27. I was caught by the cops for underage drinking and charged with a minor in consumption on Friday the 13th.

28. I waitressed (poorly) for two months. Someone left me a 9 cent tip.

29. I found myself stranded on a boat on the Missouri River for several hours in the middle of the night. I was wet, and it was cold.

30. My favorite animal is the stingray. They like to keep to themselves and are gentle creatures unless provoked.

31. I watched a man eat matchsticks and wash them down with beer on a Greyhound bus.

32. I was 10 years old when I took my first plane flight alone. The flying bug bit me, then and there.

33. Iím part Irish but I canít stand Guinness. Itís too much like slurping motor oil.

34. I crashed an ex-boyfriendís wedding and reception. The bride was not too happy.

35. Everyone in my family can see, feel, and/or hear spirits. The most frequent visitors are grandparents and pets.

36. I wish I had a culture.

37. Someday I will scuba dive, rock climb outdoors, sky dive, and swim with stingrays.

38. Iíve been on a balloon ride over the St. Croix River Valley. Watching the sun rise from that vantage point was amazing.

39. I believe in reincarnation.

40. I am agnostic but mentally cross myself every time I see roadkill or a cross propped by the side of the road.

41. I grew up in a relatively lax Mormon household, and was allowed to choose my own path and we did not attend church. I get very defensive very quickly when people make stereotypical assumptions about Mormons, despite the fact that I am not.

42. Iíve always wished I was more athletic.

43. I carry pepper spray with me everywhere. Iíd feel better if I had a pistol.

44. I am obsessed with learning everything about Queen Elizabeth I and the Tudor family line.

45. I used to be a makeup artist for stage productions, and Iíve done makeup for wedding parties.

46. I hate the circle of life. I canít watch animals die.

47. I didnít speak to my father for over a year. Our relationship is probably better now because of it.

48. I love the smell of new books.

49. I prefer to eat Snickers bars in layers.

50. I make a point to never regret even one millisecond of my life. Everything happens for a reason.

working on 2005 vs 2006 $$ chart

November 15th, 2006 at 09:59 pm

My car is back from the shop, after forking over $470. That's a little over half what I paid to fix it in March. It's been a pricey repair year for a car that doesn't get driven too often, particularly when compared to 2005's numbers: a mere $190 spent on car maintenance.

2006 has also been an expensive year for medical needs. I finally decided to do something about my headaches, had to visit the chiropractor for a few months, and experienced some other medical issues. My latest daily headache medication is really not cutting it, and the only option I have left is anti-seizure meds. I have decided to try a healthier diet and more exercise to treat my heachaches before moving on to any other meds. As part of that effort, I took a brisk 25 minute walk during lunch today. It had to be brisk, walking in 35 degree weather. Wink

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of my 2005 vs 2006 chart after the end of this year. So far, I'm managing my money better in most of the budget categories. I'm really glad I keep track - not only does it give me something to ponder on slow days, but it really keeps me honest about exactly what I'm spending my money on.

The coupon train is apparently suspended in space somewhere. I hope it's not lost. I have so many coupons to put on it, it's ridiculous! My coupon pouch is bulging at the seams, and I have 5 more newspaper inserts to clip. Yowza.

Two quick food reviews:
- Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat beer: My new favorite beer - light and crisp, with a hint of blueberry aftertaste. Really one of the best beers I have had in a long time. I hope I can still get Leine's after I move out of Minnesota.
- Tofu Shirataki Noodles: Supposedly a decent substitute for pasta, with a fraction of the calories. I'm hoping the reason the "noodles" turned out like chewy rubberbands (or bad calamari, if you've had it) is due to user error, and not how they are supposed to be. Last night I placed a forkful in my mouth and could not stop laughing long enough to swallow it. Rubber bands! Covered in cheese! Mmmm Mmmm Good!

the fears that hold you back

November 14th, 2006 at 08:15 pm

I've been contemplating writing a lot lately. I'm still reading that how-to fiction writing book every day at lunch, and last night I thumbed through a writer's retreat kit. My mom mentioned a computer program on the market that helps you start writing (a computerized kick in the pants, if you will). All this contemplating, yet still no writing. Last night the little voice in my head kept saying I don't have enough creativity to write. And then I'm too tired. And the laundry needs to get done. And the cat is screaming at me for attention. And and and.

The same thing happens with other creative pursuits of mine. I've starting making jewelry again. At this time last year, I perused our workplace craft sale and thought, "I could make better jewelry than that!" Did I? No. A year later, I should have more inventory than a dozen pieces. I could have a table at the craft sale today, but I don't. I sometimes get frustrated with jewelry-making in the same way I get frustrated with writing, or practicing my bassoon if it's just not a good day for it, or trying to learn a new piano piece.

The problem, however, is not that I lack creativity. It's that I have trouble ignoring that annoying little voice. What's there to be afraid of, anyway? So I can't make necklace look quite right...so what? So no one wants to publish my novel...so what? So my clay pots are hideously ugly...so what? I'll just take the class again, and get better.

I think I've had the "must have natural talent" drum beating away for so long that I've forgotten that nothing comes easily. I've got to work at it.

Hmmm, something financial.....today I compared my net worth in October 2005 to my net worth now. I've gained over $8,000. Pretty good! Perhaps this time next year I'll be $5,000 in the black!

the Ford...again.

November 12th, 2006 at 12:20 am

I dropped my car off at the shop last night. The rear passenger wheel feels like it's going to pop right off every time I hit a pothole or go around a corner. It needs new struts, apparently, and they aren't sure if they'll be able to replace it cleanly since the car is 12 years old. They couldn't get to fixing it today, so I'll get it back on Monday. The damage will be at least $430, if it goes well. If it doesn't..*sigh* I'm really hoping it goes well.

This news made me realize that I need several savings funds:

1. Emergency Fund ($1000 minimum)
2. Car Repair Fund ($2000 minimum)
3. Vacation Fund ($1500 minimum)
4. Family Fund ($500 minimum)
5. Holiday Fund ($500 minimum)
6. Pet Emergency Fund ($500 minimum)

Plus my Roth IRA, 401K, New Car Fund, House Downpayment Fund, Stuff I Want Fund...etc etc. I've been working on 1, 4, and 5 for a while, but I know I need the others as well.

Time to crack down on excess spending!

snickers fudge recipe

November 10th, 2006 at 09:58 pm

Snickers Fudge

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Filling
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow cream
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts

Caramel Layer
14 oz package caramels
1/4 cup whipping cream

Top Layer
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Directions
Bottom Layer: Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread onto the bottom of a well-greased 13x9x2 pan. Refrigerate until set.

Filling: Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sugar and milk. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in the marshmallow cream, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add peanuts. Spread over first layer (work fast!). Refrigerate until set.

Caramel Layer: Combine caramels and cream in a saucepan; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Spread over the filling. Refrigerate until set.

Top Layer: Combine chips and peanut butter in a saucepan; stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Pour over the caramel layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cut into 1 inch squares. Store in the refrigerator.

poll: the holidays

November 10th, 2006 at 09:33 pm

Too bad I can't make a real poll within my blog. Here's my question:

How do you/did you split the holidays between your family and your significant other's family?

This has been a hot topic in my household as of late. My parents live several hours away, and they only have me, my sister, and my SO. SO's parents live a short drive away and have four kids (with four spouses) and six grandchildren. We see his parents all the time. We see my parents maybe a few times a year.

I haven't been home for Thanskgiving, Easter, the 4th of July, my birthday, my Dad's birthday, etc in years. I make an effort to visit my parents every Christmas. Last year, I spent Christmas with SO's family for the first time and went to my parents' house a few days later. My family did not celebrate Christmas at all until I got there. I felt horrible!!

This year, I'm going to my parents' house, with or without SO. It's also the week of my mom's 60th birthday, which I don't want to miss.

I'm not sure how to deal with this. SO wants me with him, but also wants to be at his parents' house. I am going to my parents' house. A friend of mine feels it is unfair of me to expect SO to stay at my parents' house for a week (although, he has family nearby that he could visit, too). She thinks we should get a hotel room whenever we visit my parents. That might make SO more comfortable, yes, but my family would be so disappointed, not to mention the cost of a week in a hotel!!! Plus driving - it would be at least a half hour drive one way to get to a hotel from my parents' house.

So, your thoughts and experiences, please. Do you alternate holidays every year? Is there any alternative to splitting the holidays or going our separate ways during that time? Am I agonizing over this too much?

(I'll get that Snickers Fudge recipe out next!)

what goes on in billing depts?

November 9th, 2006 at 09:54 pm

My chiropractor's billing department has taken to sending me a bill every month, for services rendered in August...services that were also paid in August. They don't answer the phone, and don't return phone calls, so today I wrote a letter. Enough is enough.

A different doctor's billing department just got around to sending me a bill from services rendered in August. I still haven't received a bill for September. I guess they aren't too concerned about getting their money!

My health insurance is going up $427 a year. Ouch. I am lucky enough to work for a place that allows me to have my SO on my health insurance. We will split the extra cost. Bummer, though!

I'm making a list of things I can make to send to people for the holidays:

- jewelry
- bubble magnets
- framed photographs
- rosemary bread
- truffles
- snicker's fudge
- dipped pretzels
- biscotti

Any other ideas? I can crochet as well, but just about everyone has received a hat and scarf (or 2).

kaboodle.com

November 8th, 2006 at 10:19 pm

Now, I realize that this site promotes frugality, conscientious spending, separating needs from wants, paring down clutter, etc...but I found a great wish list site today!

Let's face it - some people just WANT to buy you a gift for the holidays. Personally, I love buying gifts for other people (that's one of the budget busters I'm working on), and it's great to get something that you know the recipient will love. What I love about kaboodle.com is that you can pull information from all websites, not just amazon.com, etc. You can also organize it - I chose to organize mine by category. Love it.

That said, I certainly don't expect gifts, nor do I enjoy extravagant displays of affection. All I really need is love!! I personally like having a wishlist because it reminds me of the books I'd like to read (from the library), or what I'd most like to spend a gift card on, or what I'm saving up for (like my Olympus E-500!).

Another neat thing about kaboodle - you can have numerous pages. I added a vacation page, too, to remind myself to save for Mexico!

net worth

November 7th, 2006 at 07:51 pm

Thanks to Tina's motivational post, I figured out my net worth today.

-$3663


It's not as bad as I expected, but not good. Maybe sometime in 2007 my debt to asset ratio will even out.

I had an unprecendented experience over the weekend. I tried on a pair of jeans - and they fit on the first try. I tried on another pair - and they fit, too. I didn't have to grab a bazillion other sizes or styles like I normally do. Amazing! Even more surprising to me was that they were Target jeans! $20 each, I can handle that.

I did my part this morning and voted. I went with my gut and voted for governor accordingly. It will be interesting to see how a couple of Minnesota races turn out. You never know with this state!

Good news! I just received a cash award for all my hard work at the office this year. This place never ceases to surprise me!

Anyone in the vicinity - visit Como Zoo when you have a chance. They had a baby giraffe and a baby zebra born last month! So absolutely adorable!

November Goals

November 3rd, 2006 at 09:35 pm

What's that? Whatever happened to October's goals? Don't ask.

Goals for November:

~ Spend grocery gift cards only on perishables (dairy, eggs, & produce), since the pantry and freezer are pretty darn full.

~ Spend $300 or less on groceries, household needs, and eating out.

~ Drive to work three times or less.

~ Finish holiday shopping.


Last night brought the annual 1.5 hour phone call with an old friend, someone who was also close to the friend I lost so long ago. It was good to catch up. A little weird, though...we don't talk often enough anymore, but I knew all day that he would call at 7:00pm (it hadn't been planned in advance). At 6:40pm, my subconcious popped in again and said, "kashi, go eat dinner, the phone is going to ring at 7:00." So I did, and lo and behold, precisely 20 minutes later, the phone rang. Bizarre. The mind works in mysterious ways.

Holiday gift progress: I'm done with SO, my dad, and my in-laws; mostly done with mom and sister. Four people left to go, plus stocking stuffers for my parents, and homemade goodies for my aunts and landlord. This is the first year I've saved up for holiday gifts throughout the year, and I'm so glad I did. It really helps take some of the stress out of the season.

spies

November 2nd, 2006 at 04:40 pm

Yesterday my work team was informed that someone in the office has taken it upon him or herself to report to our supervisor that he/she feels we are all on the internet too much. It sounded like someone who walks by our cubes on a regular basis. Unfortunately, pinpointing that person would be impossible because dozens of people walk down the main thoroughfare near our desks every day. Thankfully our supervisor does not see this as a major problem, but advised us to be more careful.

When can I work from home? and at what point did I regress to grade school? "Teacher, the other kids in the class aren't playing nice!" Give me a break. If we were all on the internet constantly, we would never get any work done. I wish people would just mind their own beeswax.

I've noticed, though, that this seems to be a particularly crab-filled week. I'm not sure what's in the air, but everyone is in a mood. I can't wait until it passes (my own irritable mood included).

A friend of mine died in a car accident 9 years ago today. I always wonder what she would be doing now, had she survived. I imagine she would have been an international businesswoman...or maybe a great mom. Maybe both! November 2nd always reminds me to take a step back and remember that I may not be here tomorrow, so enjoy life (preferably without going into debt!). Smile