Friday, February 5, 2016

Lots of Projects, No Money

I just finished booking two tickets to Ohio and 3 nights in a hotel for my nephew's campus tour of his parents' alma mater.  $1,500 so far and that doesn't include food, transportation to and from the airport, or dog-sitting.  It is the only long distance college visit I plan to make.  If he wants to see more schools, he can visit campuses while he is in California and Minnesota visiting relatives over the summer.  I do not like travel because it is so expensive and because I hate leaving my dogs to be cared for by strangers.  I worry about them the whole time.  I'm going to take my cat-cam and bring it to the house so I can watch the dogs remotely while I am gone.  I wish I had a remote dog biscuit dispenser too, although, my big dog would just camp out in front of it and eat all the treats.

Since I am broke this month, I am doing more research on the projects that I would like to do at the property.  Of course, this makes me want to run out and buy stuff for the projects but I must hold back.  This youtube channel has been very informative: Homesteadonomics  I know all of the theory already but it is so helpful to see the projects step by step.  The next tool I want to buy is an angle grinder because this fellow used one to cut metal roofing panels and it looked so easy.  I could finally cut the jagged aluminum siding around my new window and add the trim.  Just another one of the many projects on my list.

My nephew had another driving lesson this week.  He is going to drive me to my mother's house tomorrow to set up her internet.  I hope he does well, for my nerves' sake.  The water tank connected to his bathroom is super low on water.  If he conserves water it might last until next weekend when he has a school trip out of town and I am planning to transfer the rest of the water out of the pool in to his tank and then put the pool away.  I haven't looked at the water in the pool for a while.  Hopefully, it is still ok and will last us until school gets out at the end of May.  If not, I may be hauling water from the house in 50 gallon barrels so that I don't have to pay another $300 to get the pool filled again.

Once again, so many plans, so little time and money.  I just keep working at it one day at a time.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Can't Slow Down

Whew, busy weekend!  My mother flew in late Friday night.  My nephew wasn't sure about attempting to drive in the dark for the first time so I drove but half way to the airport he decided that he could do it since there were very few cars out on the road.  He drove the remaining 15 minutes and commented on how hard it was to see the lines on the street.  He was drifting in the lane a bit but luckily we weren't mistaken for a drunk driver.  After gathering my mother and her luggage, we all went to sleep since it was almost 11pm.

The next day I had a headache (I blame the weather change) and my mother had a headache too from the long trip.  In the afternoon, my nephew and I dropped off a box of baby clothes for a friend.  I wanted to buy a couple of outfits for her newborn but at $11-$15 a piece, I just couldn't spend the money.  I ended up buying a large lot of baby clothes on ebay and they all looked brand new.  She was thrilled and there is enough to share or sell for a bigger size in a few months.  After that we stopped by Culver's for lunch.  I bought half price gift cards online so our lunch was cheap.  Next stop, Kohl's for black and khaki pants and a shirt for the nephew.  The cashier was shocked that I did not want to sign up for a Kohl's card to get $30 off my purchase.  I shop at Kohl's maybe once every 5 years.  I definitely don't need another credit card.  Then we went to Sprouts to buy grass fed beef and organic things for mother.  Then Safeway for the other groceries  Finally done and my nephew drove home.  Next, my nephew did his homework while I tried to keep him on task.  Finally, I got to go to bed.  Yay.

The next day my nephew was our chauffeur to church and then we packed up my mother's car and drove to her house.  Her house was pretty much just like she left it except one of the front windows got a big crack all the way across.  I hope it doesn't cost too much to replace.  Mom had really been enjoying the warm weather but last night we had winds up to 50 miles per hour and today we had rain, hail, and snow in some places.  I'm glad it has calmed down but it is still going to be cold tomorrow.  I can't complain because it will be back in the 70's by the weekend.

Hopefully, next weekend will not be as busy.  I am supposed to hook up my mother's wifi and Roku if all the the packages arrive on time and the internet gets turned on without any problems.  What are the chances of everything going smoothly?  I don't think I have ever had the internet turned on without needing to call for an additional service call.  Perhaps, for once, everything will work out without a hitch.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mortgage Update for January 2016

January was a medium spending month.  I bought the light for the kitchen, new sneakers for me and my nephew, and paid for driving lessons for my nephew.  I was still able to put $1,200 extra towards my house mortgage which brought the total to $39,261.  Under $40K at last!  At $1,200 extra a month it will take me another 2 years 3 months to pay it off in full.

This has been a busy week.  Last week I left work early to pick my nephew up from school and take him for his driver's permit test.  The second time was the charm.  He passed! (one of the few kids there that did)  Now our plan to move back to the house for his senior year has begun.  His first behind the wheel training was this week and the instructor said he did well for his first time.  In 6 months he will be able to get his license and then a parking permit for school.  Since we won't have to rely on the school bus for transportation, we can stay at the house.  This means that I can finish draining the above ground pool (for water storage) and put it away until I sell the house and move out to the property for good after my nephew graduates from high school.

I haven't had a free Saturday to do chores out at the property.  Last week I stayed home from work on Friday with a miserable cold and was sick all weekend.  I still had to take my nephew to a choir audition for school on Saturday.  Soon he will be able to drive himself to such things.  

This week I had the feeling I was forgetting something but I couldn't figure out what.  Finally, on Tuesday, I remembered that I was supposed to submit the annual guardian report to the courts for my nephew.  Luckily, it wasn't due until February 11 but I need a medical report to go with it and I forgot to make a copy of his sport's physical last fall.  I thought I was going to have to take another half day off work to get him another physical but I called the school and fortuitously, they had the report on file and gave it to my nephew to bring home.  I ran over to the post office at lunch and got it mailed.  Only one more report to go until he is 18 and guardianship is over. 

My mother is returning to Arizona tomorrow.  We will pick her up late tomorrow night and take her to her house later in the weekend.  This will be her first time back since breaking her hip on her Florida vacation.  Her house is like a time capsule.  Everything is frozen in time from right after my father's funeral.  My sister and I will help her sort through it.  I hope she likes being back but she might want to go back to Washington state when the temperatures creep up in to the 100's.  She did always want to be a snowbird. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More Projects Completed

Many people around here, including my nephew, had a three day weekend.  Alas, I did not.  My nephew's godfather was nearby for work and stopped by to soak up some warm weather.  He and my nephew washed all of the cars (that's 4 cars including his) and he replaced the burned out light fixture in the kitchen.  It looks much better.  One more thing off my list.

You can't see it from this angle but this light is hanging from another burned out light.  Be sure to duck!
No need to duck and this one has 2 bulbs.  More light!
Tomorrow will be another trip to the MVD so my nephew can try for his driver's permit.  He has been studying the practice tests with his aunt.  If he doesn't pass, I will sign him up for the 8 hour permit class that comes free with the behind the wheel driving course.  He will get his license eventually.  I am determined.

I don't have any other big plans at the moment.  Most of my weekends involve transporting my nephew to some choir or youth group event so I am trying to keep my plans flexible.  I'm supposed to bring a potluck dish for his youth group on Sunday.  Hmm...beans and franks?  Ambrosia?  Maybe I'll make cookies.

I am saving money for the college trip in March and one of my dogs needs his teeth cleaned which is very expensive.  I have plenty of projects to work on without buying more supplies.  My 401K is down $10K so I don't want to look at it.  It is better to just keep working and saving for the small steps like my next extra mortgage payment.

For now, I will enjoy the nice weather and keep prodding my nephew through a successful junior year (I hope).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Busy Day Off

I took the day off today but I certainly didn't relax.  In the morning I had to meet the movers at my boss' apartment.  They were 30 minutes early so they had to wait for me.  I got there, unlocked the door, and wandered around making sure everything got into boxes.  It was cold and I wasn't dressed well enough so I was shivering most of the morning.  The movers were supposed to only take 2-2 1/2 hours but they took 3.  Then the tow truck driver who was picking up the car my boss donated didn't show up until after 12.  I was finally free at 12:30 and went to Home Depot to spend some of the $100 my boss is giving me for supervising his chores.  I wanted a cordless sander that I saw online and I thought it would be quicker if I just went in to the store to get it but I missed the fine print that said "online only".  They did have the same sander with a cord so I bought it.  My front door is still sticking from the rain and previous water leaks.

I tried it out this evening and it is wonderful.  So much easier than sanding the door frame with sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood,  The door opens without as much force now but it needs more sanding.

After Home Depot I stopped for lunch at Taco Bell (my favorite) and then bought shoes at the discount clothing store.  I always wear the soles unevenly and the cloth part behind the heal rubs off.  I bought a pair for my nephew too but had to exchange them later because he is now a size 12.  I should have realized that he isn't done growing.  I was able to get back to the mobile home and rest for 1 hour before it was time to pick my nephew up from school and take him for his permit test.  Alas, he did not pass.  Since I have to take time off work to take him to the DMV, I told him that he has to pay his other aunt for driver's education tutoring on Skype before I will take him back next week.  I can't be getting off 2 hours early every week just to have him fail.  I hope next week will be successful.

After returning the shoes, we stopped by the house to eat dinner, get the mail, fill up water bottles, and take showers with plenty of hot water.  I usually take a shower at the house on Wednesdays whenever I can.  It saves me from using our finite water supply out at the mobile home.  Then back out to the mobile home where I tried the sander on the door, fed the dogs, swept the floor, and wrote on my blog.  Whew.  That was a busy day off.

I did have a chance to get out my old scrap book to see if I kept my ticket stub from the David Bowie concert I went to in high school.  Yep, found it.  If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm kind of a pack rat.

I was a huge Bowie fan in high school.  No cameras allowed so no pictures of tiny Bowie on the stage.  Oh well, I have the pictures in my head.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Week One

One week down.  I thought each quarter of high school was 8 weeks but then I looked at the calendar and it is more like 10 weeks plus 2 weeks for spring break so that means I have at least 20 more times of traveling back and forth with the boy, the luggage, and the dogs.  Yes, I am getting tired of going back and forth between the house and the mobile home.  Operation 'Get Your License' has commenced for the nephew.  I got off work early, loaded up the luggage and dogs, picked my nephew up from school, drove to the house, nephew unloaded luggage while I unloaded dogs, drove nephew to the motor vehicles department (MVD), sat and waited for an hour and a half, found out that we were too late to take the driving permit test.  D'oh.  Good news is that we will have priority when we go back.  Bad news is that I have get out of work early again.  He needs his driver's license before his senior year starts in July so that he can get a parking permit for school.  The seniors get first priority and then the juniors get the leftover permits.  Once he can drive we can live at the house and not have to be near the school bus stop.  I love living out at the mobile home but there are challenges, lack of water, maintenance issues, needs electrical upgrades, dirt road, etc... It will be easier to live out there alone when I don't have the added financial responsibilities of a teenager and I have money available for home improvements.

I finally set up my cat-cam for the storage room.  I had hoped to catch a glimpse of my Siamese mouse-catchers but when the camera alerted me to movement in the room I saw this:

Who are you?
That's not my cat.  I am glad that it is a cat though.  A raccoon or rat eating the cat food would have been disturbing.  I have missed other motion notifications from my camera at 3am so I hope that my cats are still coming around.  Maybe they prefer to come out at night.  If my cats did flee, I hope this cat will stick around long enough to chase off any mice or rats while it is here.

I brought back the borrowed cat cage and table to the cat rescue.  They have a small boutique store that benefits the cats and there are cats to adopt that roam around the store.  My nephew loves cats so I brought him along and he was in cat heaven.  He was even considering volunteering there although he really just wanted to play with the cats.

Tonight's dinner, beef stew and biscuits made almost from scratch.  I bought one of those beef stew flavoring packets so I did cut corners a bit.  It turned out well with enough leftovers for another meal.  Tomorrow I need to plan ahead and pre-cook some meals.  More homemade lasagna, maybe I will try to make mac and cheese.  Cook more chicken because chicken is always useful.  I need 4 meals.  Monday-Thursday.  Beef stew, burritos, spaghetti, hmm...chicken and rice maybe.   I better have a plan.  If I don't have a plan, fast food will call to me like a siren.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Holiday Time is Over

What a nice, relaxing week that was.  I had time to sleep, get chores done, cook, watch TV, and even work on projects like making this stuffed whale for my nephew.  He asked for the Golden Whale from the Castle Crashers video game but it isn't popular enough to be a manufactured toy.  You can see what it is supposed to look like here.  I found a blogger who had sewn one so I followed her example and made it myself.  I think it turned out quite well.

I'm a Golden Whale!
My nephew comes back from visiting his relatives tomorrow and I need to have everything (clothes, his school stuff, food, dogs) out at the mobile home because his plane doesn't get in until the evening and I don't want to have to go back to the house and then unload the car in the dark.  It is my goal to get out there before noon and then have time to get things organized and relax before I pick him up.

The next 18 weeks are going to be busy but I am trying not to stress about it too much.  I will just focus on the tasks of each week and we will make it to May, the end of the school year.  After that, my plans depend on my nephew's driving ability.

Anyway, enough talk about the future.  The weather has been very nice this weekend and I did a lot of pruning and weeding in the back and front yards.  I didn't get to cleaning up the alley yet.  Maybe next weekend. My nephew is supposed to help me with that project.

I've been working on my cooking skills.  It started when I was watching Worst Cooks in America.  Ok, it started before that since I have always wanted to cook good tasting food, but during this particular break from work, I started watching that show and then I actually went out and bought ingredients to try things myself.  I cooked a whole chicken for the first time in my life and it turned out quite tasty.  I bought spices and I've been using them.  I also bought garlic and an onion but I only used the garlic so far.  I wish I had more time at the house with the oven because I bought ingredients for beef stew, lasagna, meatloaf, and macaroni and cheese.  I'm trying to make the meals from scratch that I usually buy as frozen bricks.  I'm not going to make every meal from scratch but maybe I can cook one or two meals on the weekend and freeze them for later in the week.  That would be a huge improvement from my usual routine of opening a can or putting a box in the microwave.

Well, break time is over.  I better keep up or life will pass me by.  Time to get this year started!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mortgage Update for December 2015

I know I said that I wasn't going to pay any additional principle this month because I spent it all on presents but, then I thought, I didn't really spend THAT much money on presents.  So, I looked at my credit card bill and added the checks I wrote to nieces and nephews and subtracted it from my extra mortgage budget.  I was happy to see that I had $500 left.  At least it is something.  Skipping a whole month is discouraging.  Of course, after I paid the $500 in extra principle, more expenses came up like dog medicine for Sassy (3 month supply to get the discount) and stocking up on toilet paper and paper towels with my 20% off coupon.  Not necessary but I have plenty of paper products now.  Perhaps I can consider that as pre-spending for January.

New mortgage balance:  $40,677
Time left at $1,200 extra per month:  2 years 4 months

So close to the 30's.  Next month will definitely push it over.  I have some big expenses coming up like a teeth cleaning for one of my dogs and a trip for my nephew to visit the college I attended to see if he would like to go there.  I think there is a wedding trip this summer and there are extra expenses for driver's training and insurance coming soon.  Ugh.  I don't want to think about all of the money that I will spend.  I'll just take it one day, week, month at a time and make it through.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fun Time is Over

Got to get up early tomorrow and go to work.  It's a good thing I am working this week instead of using up vacation days like most of the other people I work with.  I would just spend money that I don't have or watch Netflix all week.  So, what did I do with my 4 days off?  Not much.  I started to get motivated to build a 4'x8' deck in front of my mobile home door but then I added up the cost of the supplies and decided that cinderblock stairs are fine for now.  I cleaned the house, did laundry, pulled weeds, trimmed trees.  The usual.  I cooked stuff.  Not all of it was successful.  The cheese danish was terrible but the dogs liked it.  The T bone steak was over done, the rolls never rose (I tried the quick thaw suggestion) so they were little brickettes.  I ate the rolls anyway.  The next day I tried making pull-apart bread with the same frozen roll dough.  It rose so much that it tried to get out of the pan and the top burned a little.  It was edible though.  I simmered up all of my ripe tomatoes and made spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce, I'm not sure.  It went into the freezer for later.  Then I made nachos because I wanted to eat something that I knew would taste good.

I didn't go out to my property.  I plan to go after work one of the days this week just to get the bedding to wash, feed the cats and set up my new motion activated camera so I can see if I am feeding my cats or something else.  My mother kindly gave me money to buy paint for the barn-shed.  It's too cold to paint now but it will warm up soon.   I managed to walk the dogs 3 days.  I only meant to do it twice but they got so excited when I was sorting out the leashes and harness to donate that I had to give in and take them for a walk again.  I take two dogs at a time.  The first two go around the block as fast as they can go with a mid-way stop at the pee bush in the alley.  The other two go on a slow stroll in order to help exercise Sassy's injured leg.  She wants to go fast so when I make her go slow she uses all four legs to push.

Next year is right around the corner and the first 6 months are already too busy.  There is no way to get out of it so I have to just jump in and try to stay on track.  16 weeks of school until summer break!  Yes, I'm looking forward to it.  Not the heat, just the break.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spending Fatigue

Last weekend I had planned to take my dog trap over to a co-worker's house to get fixed but I just wanted to stay home and not have to drive anywhere so that's what I did.  On Sunday, I decided to put the dog trap in my truck so that I would be prepared to go over to his house after work.  Just for fun, I tried to start the truck which has been sitting for a few weeks now.  Of course, it didn't start.  Since I have 3 vehicles at the moment, I was able to jump start it all by myself.  I think that was only the second time in my life that I have jump started a car on my own.  I was nervous but thrilled that it worked.  Off to the auto parts store where the manager replaced my battery for free and asked me out.  I declined.  I also bought myself a battery trickle charger and jump starter because I don't plan on having 3 cars forever.  $65, Merry Christmas to me.

On Monday, I received a reply from the building department.  I had asked if I could close my building permit since I passed the pull test.  They said that I still needed to pass a grading inspection and a final inspection.  I could put off the electrical inspection until later.  I had no idea  I needed those other inspections.  I called to schedule a grading inspection because I was pretty sure my grading was good.  The grader I had hired was very good and made sure the drainage went away from all buildings.  I thought they would tell me what time to meet them out at my building but no.  I sat at work refreshing the permitting website in case an inspection time was entered.  I tried to call them but got transferred to a dead phone.  Finally, after lunch, the website updated and said PASSED!  I was so relieved.  Now I just need the final inspection if I decide not to put in the electrical wiring yet.  Since I just passed an inspection, I think I have another 365 days before my permit expires so maybe I should just wait and see if I can get the electrical in.  Or, maybe I am being too optimistic.  Anyway, I have spent so much this month already, I know the electrical isn't getting done any time soon.

I have the next 4 days off and I plan to spend them relaxing, cooking, and hopefully, getting organized.  Last weekend I made Dutch Baby pancakes and hot cocoa like my father used to make.  It was good.

After work today, I bought some gifts for my mother's neighbor in Arizona and then checked on my mother's place.  The tomato and basil plants had been killed by the cold but everything else looked ok.

I  must confess that this month's extra mortgage payment was spend on Christmas gifts.  That's what happens when I let remodeling costs get out of hand and don't have a specific budget category for Christmas.  What was I thinking when I thought that $650 pull test would fit in to my budget this month?  And then there was all the easy point and click shopping on my lunch break.  Except for the gift for the neighbor, I didn't even have to step in a store.  Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.  January will be back on track (as long as there are no unexpected car bills, vet bills, travel bills, etc... oh, and can't forget taxes coming soon!)

PS:  Dog trap was fixed and will be donated to a rescue group after I paint it.  It seems like every week there's another skittish dog on the loose.  I don't have the time to be driving my trap all over town so I will give it to a group who has time for that sort of thing.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


My alarm went off at 5am and I jumped out of bed.  I always get nervous before a flight and that includes other people's flights when I am responsible for getting them there on time.  I got ready and checked to see if my nephew had finished packing.  His suit was still hanging in the closet but his suitcase was full.  I opened it and found his dress shoes (at least he remembered those) and 5 pairs of cargo shorts (3 were camouflage pattern) as well as t-shirts.  I don't think he was thinking about the temperature in Minnesota.  The high is around 25 degrees.  Some of the shorts came out to make room for the suit and we left for the airport on time, I thought.  The line to check in was all the way to the door and then the line for security wrapped around the ticketing area.  He made it but, wow, I've never seen our airport so crowded.

I got to work early and drank a Coke to wake up.  I'm not a coffee person.  Usually I drink tea but occasionally I need something stronger.  We had our office audit so I was nervous until it was over at noon.  After that, my brain slowly tried to relax and prioritize my gift list which needs to get done in the next few days.  I tried to leave work early but ended up chatting with a coworker and then there was a huge traffic jam because an accident closed down the I-10 freeway and it was re-routed on to my usual way home.  I had to take another route which took twice as long.

Anyway, came home to just the dogs and didn't have to make dinner for anyone, well, except for the dogs.  I made pan fried asparagus in olive oil with JoJo potato seasoning for myself. It was good.

Here is a picture of the tree that my nephew and I decorated last weekend.  He wanted to know why I was bothering to put it up since he was going to Minnesota.  I said there wasn't a minimum occupancy requirement to have a Christmas tree.  He then commented that the trees of his childhood were much larger.  I was thinking, or maybe you were smaller, hmm?

I only put lights around the front window with some garland instead of stringing the whole house.  I have the window lights on a timer so I don't have to worry about it.  My cardboard "gift" boxes wrapped in paper are in the front yard.  They got rained on last weekend so I should recycle them and make new ones for next year.  They are easy to make.  Large cardboard boxes, a rock or two inside, wrap them and add ribbon and a bow.  A very inexpensive decoration if they can be protected from the rain/snow.

We have had freezing temperatures at night this week so my tomato plants have mostly died.  I pulled off all the green ones and they will ripen slowly.  I need more recipes for tomatoes. Maybe I'll make and freeze tomato sauce.

One of these years I am going to start a tomato plant inside so that I have tomatoes by the time my green tomato stash runs out.  That's on my to-do list after I quit my job.  Until then I will just have to appreciate my abundant tomato harvest while it lasts.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Keeping Up

After the buying frenzy of Thanksgiving and food for the youth group, I noticed that I had accumulated 700 points on my Safeway card to be used for discount gasoline.  The closest gas station that accepts Safeway points is near my work but it is also 20 cents more than my regular gas station so I only go there when I have at least 300 points.  Today I redeemed my points for 70 cents off and filled my tank for only $1.20 per gallon.  It is too bad that my tank only holds around 12 gallons.  I could have bought up to 25 gallons at that price.  Oh well, it was fun to see the price drop so low anyway.

While checking my bank account online today, I noticed a bounced check from the company that hauled away my old refrigerator.   Not only did the $30 check bounce but the bank charged me $12 for the hassle.  I called the electric company who was running the fridge recycle program and they said that yes, they were aware of the problem and would send me a new check and refund the $12 fee.  It seems the recycling company suddenly closed and went bankrupt.  It sounds like the electric company got scammed to me but I hope that is not it.  The electric company does a lot for its customers like offering rebates, recycle programs, and my favorite, selling $8 shade trees.  I hope they don't stop their good work.

Today was the last day of school for my nephew.  He does have 3 days of finals next week and then he will be flying off to visit his family for Christmas.  I will stay here and let my brain take a break from homework due dates and project deadlines.  Next semester is already looking incredibly busy.  I think that will be a good thing.  Maybe it will go by fast.