Monday, June 27, 2016

Mortgage Update for June 2016

Another $1,200 contribution to the principle of my mortgage for a total of $32,099.  1 year 10 months to go.  It is great to have this break from thinking about my nephew's school progress, but, with the extra room in my brain, I have started thinking about how I can speed up my plan.  Nothing has worked out so far.  When I have to consider another person in my plans, it is best to just continue as I am doing.

Here are some of the things I thought:

Get a cash-out refinance because my current interest rate is 4.5% and the 15 year interest rate is 2.8%.  Take out $20K, fix up the kitchen and master bath in my house and be ready to sell (or rent it out) as soon as he leaves for college next year.

Or, the super-fast forward version:  Take out $50K, pay back my mother for the barn-shed, fix up the house to sell, finish off the barn-shed interior.  Everything finished by the time he goes to college.

But, from what I read, cash-out refinances are not a good choice because of the high closing costs.  Home equity lines of credit are a better choice because there are no closing costs.

Ok, so a home equity line of credit would work for the kitchen and bath remodel.  But then I went out to the property to get the mail and check on the cat food/water.  In the mail was a big packet for BACK TO SCHOOL.  Medical forms, open house, meetings, deadlines, fundraisers, senior, choir and youth group activities, yearbooks, cap and gowns, HOMEWORK!  My brain suddenly froze up and those lofty ideas of doing remodeling while having a full time job and parenting a senior in high school flew away.  I should stick to my plan of paying off my mortgage and downsizing until he is 18 years old and securely planted in college.  One more year and then I can revisit my options for accelerating semi-retirement.   We can do this!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Travels and Travails

I'm back from Washington state!  It was a rushed trip with very little down time but that was good because I wanted to get back home.  Let's start with last Wednesday.  I got my 40 pounds of chicken breasts.  The 40 pounds of chicken thighs which I got last month, arrived flash frozen.  I expected them to be not frozen.  So, I thought the breasts might be flash frozen too.  My plan was to toss them in the freezer at my mobile home and get back to work.  They were not frozen so luckily, I had a box of freezer bags there and I stuffed the chicken in all of the bags.  That was done and I rushed back to work. 

On Thursday, my mother came to my house to spend the night before our trip.  Friday morning, my mother, nephew and I loaded up her car and we drove to the Phoenix airport because Southwest Airlines does not fly between Tucson and Phoenix on the days we wanted.  After not being able to find the economy parking lot 3 times, we ended up in $25/day parking but my mother graciously paid. 

This is how we found our car when we returned. Took a picture of the parking map. It worked well.

 We made it to the gate and my nephew and I went on a hunt for lunch food.  Once on the plane, I pulled out the Kindle Fire that I bought for my mother with this trip in mind.  There is a whole story behind that which I should tell you.  Here's the short version:
Mom's computer dies.
I look for computer alternatives and find a Chrome Bit for $85. (It's a Google computer that runs apps)
I try to buy all of the components on Amazon needed to turn a Chrome Bit in to a complete computer.
I need something to add to my order to get free shipping.
I see a Kindle Fire on sale for $40.
I think this might be good for the trip and as an interim way for my mother to get her email.
I start to think that Amazon Prime might be a good idea.
I sign up for Amazon Prime and cancel my mother's Netflix since she can use mine (I have the 2 screen plan).

Ok, so, I downloaded some movies on to the Kindle.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to buy noise cancelling headphones so my mother could not hear the movie on the plane.  I worked great for me though.  She was able to take it home and get it connected to her wifi so she has email access until I bring her Chrome Bit down tomorrow.

My sister was waiting to pick us up from the airport and drive us another hour and 45 minutes to the rehearsal dinner where we met the groom's family.  The next day was the wedding.  Simple and sweet, the bride bought her dress for $11 at the thrift store.  Sounds like something I would do.  There was a brunch reception and then off to pick up a headstone for my father's grave.  Yes, we mixed a wedding and burial in the same weekend.  That night was a barbeque at my other sister's house.  The next day was the burial and then ice cream and good-bye's to everyone. 

My nephew stayed another night with my sister while my mother and I went home.  It was 112 degrees at 7pm in Phoenix when we landed.  We got home around 9:30pm and I was so happy to be home.  My nephew is now safely at his grandfather's house in Minnesota and I have 3 weeks of not having to think about another person's wants and needs.  Maybe I can get some cleaning and organizing done around the house, that is, if I don't squander my free time watching all the free TV shows and movies that I now have access to on Amazon Prime!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Enthusiasm for Painting has Dwindled

I had high hopes for last week but, sadly, it didn't cooperate.  Thursday was good.  After work I picked up my nephew and we met my sister for dinner.   Afterwards, we went to her hotel for some lovely night swimming, or I should say "floating" because that is mainly what we did.  I took a vacation day on Friday and my sister gamely met me at 8am out at my property for more painting fun.  I was excited to try out my new paint sprayer.  Unfortunately, I didn't read all of the reviews so I missed the part where it doesn't work well with latex paint.  The description said "thinned latex paint" but when I thinned it, it was so thin that it didn't cover and just dripped everywhere.  After 3 hours of messing with it, I switched to a brush to get the edges covered before I roasted in the sun. 


I still didn't get the upper panel done in the back.  My sister was a big help and painted the groves on the south side of the barn-shed.  That afternoon it rained.  Oh well, The back side is just going to have to wait until I have time to go out there again.  Later on I read all the reviews for the paint sprayer.  The one I bought cost $75 and the one that says it can spray latex costs $130.  I don't think I want to even try another sprayer.  I was just as messy with a sprayer as I was with a brush and I worked at about the same speed. 

I had also scheduled a permit inspection to close out the current permit which is just for the barn-shed to be legal on my property.  I waited until noon but no inspector showed up.  On Saturday, I remembered to check the inspection results online.  It said FAILED.  The reason was that the inspector couldn't find the address and said that I didn't answer my phone.  That is so frustrating!  I never got a call and this was the same inspector as last time so you would think he would know where it was or use google maps or something.  Next time I will have to leave explicit instructions on the recorded message and hope that he can find it.

Besides those two disappointing things, we have been trying to get my nephew's 10 hours of night driving practice done before he goes on his summer travels.  As of today we have 2 1/2 hours left and we plan to do an hour tonight.  He has come such a long way since those first terrifying trips back in February.  A friend wants me to drive around with her son who is learning to drive because she is too nervous.  I can't say I'm eager to do that.

Tomorrow I need to sneak out of work for an hour while I go pick up my Zaycon Fresh 40 pounds of chicken and stuff it in my freezer in my mobile home.  I'll sort it in to smaller bags when I return from my niece's wedding.  Good thing I have 2 freezers because the one at the house is already full of chicken thighs.  So much to do and organize!  I thought my life was going to slow down when school got out but so far it hasn't happened.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Inferno Days

June opened up the furnace on Arizona.  To be fair, May was exceptionally nice in the weather department.  It was 112F this week but I don't feel like I can complain because I heard it was 120 in Phoenix.  Once, when I lived in Yuma, it was 123.  It's not much difference to me if it is 110 or 120.  As long as I can hide inside I'm fine.  The humidity is beginning to creep up in anticipation of the summer rains.  40% humidity probably doesn't sound like much to most of you but I can tell that the evaporative cooler is not working as well and my hair is getting bumpy waves in all the wrong places.  There's even a 20% chance of rain tomorrow through Saturday.  I call it "ponytail season" for the next 8 weeks because my hair won't hold a curl from the curling iron and it will look like I just rolled out of bed.  The only way to make it look half decent is put it in a ponytail.  I also get the urge to chop it short this time of year, as if cutting off the bumpy waves would help somehow.  I've tried it before, it doesn't help.

My wild and crazy sunflower.
Last Saturday was nice.  I got up early, fed the dogs, watered the plants, and went back to bed.  Around 1pm, I decided to get my errands done.  First stop, Goodwill.  I was looking for a dress or skirt for the upcoming wedding.  I found one dress for $4.  Next, the hardware store for one more gallon of yellow paint and 3 more turnbuckles for the barn-shed tie-downs.  Then, the feed store for turkey food for my quail.  I should be keeping track of how much my quail cost me but I haven't done it.  I can't remember when I bought the previous bag of food.  With the errands done, my nephew and I watched The Matrix because he had never seen it. 

My nephew needs 20 hours of day driving experience and 10 hours of night driving at the minimum.  We have plenty of day driving time but the night driving time is harder to get because it doesn't get dark until 8pm and I don't like going out at night.  So far we have 4 hours.  It is going to take some effort to get those last 6 hours since he is going to visit family for 3 1/2 weeks and I want him to get his license before school starts on July 22nd.  If that doesn't happen, guess what?  We'll be going out to the mobile home again so he can ride the bus until he gets his license.  It wouldn't be that bad but it is a pain to have to pull the window A/C's in every time it rains at the mobile home.  I prefer to not do that again.  It's only the window in his bedroom that has that problem.  If I built an awning over it, it would probably fix the problem.  Oh, and if I used something to block above the A/C unit that was waterproof instead of a piece of paneling inside a garbage bag.  But, really, if he gets his license in time, we can stay at the house and won't have any of those problems.

Ok, enough rambling.  I'm hoping to take Friday off so that my sister can help me finish painting the barn-shed.  It will be nice to get that done before the rain.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cooler Fun

Last Thursday, when we loaded up the luggage and dogs for the last time of Junior year, we arrived at the house in town to find water dripping off the roof.  If it had been raining, this would have been normal, but it wasn't raining.  After unloading the car, I got out the short ladder and looked for the source.  I saw a spray of water coming from the evaporative cooler.  Since I had already taken the tall ladder back out to the property, the only thing I could do was turn off the water and wait.  The next day after work, I drove out to the property to get the ladder.  I didn't get around to climbing on the roof until Saturday and I couldn't find anything obviously wrong.  I went back down, turned on the water, climbed back up and saw water spraying from where the copper tubing goes in to the cooler.  I moved it and it sprayed more water and I could see a hole, then the tubing broke off.  I turned off the water again and attempted to unscrew the fitting but the water float on the inside of the cooler just spun around.  That's when I knew I needed to call the professionals.  Of course, it was 4pm on a Saturday on a holiday weekend so they couldn't come out until Tuesday.  Luckily, the temperatures were only in the low 90's and not 108 like they predict for next weekend.

It was hot in the afternoons and I remembered that I had a broken portable cooler in the shed.  I got it out, cleaned it off and re-attached the water pump hose.  Ahhh....it worked and we had cool air for the living room, at least.  On Monday, my mother, nephew and I went back to the mobile home and collected up all of our things like food, clothes, and bedding, and cleaned as much as we could.  I nailed a board over the dog door and I hope that keeps any critters out.  I covered the south windows with extra sheets and insulation.  


There is more that I want to do, like reinforce the areas where pipes come through the walls (which is where a mouse got in) and put an awning of some sort over the door that leaks when it rains.  But 108 degrees makes me lethargic (and it hasn't even happened yet).

On Tuesday, I used a vacation day and took my nephew to get his 4 wisdom teeth extracted.  He was a sad puppy for 5 hours and then up, eating and playing video games after that.  He didn't even ask for pain medicine last night.  I know they say that the younger the better but that was amazing.  I hope the rest of his recovery goes as smoothly.  The cooler repairmen arrived at noon, replaced the copper tubing and the float and gave me a bill for $102.  Ouch, but at least it is working.  I got a nap since my room was cool again and my mother even helped pick up dog poop in the yard.  Thanks Mom!  Today I am back at work and looking forward to another weekend coming soon!  I don't have any plans outside the house so I hope I can get more de-cluttering done.  We already cleaned out both of our closets and gave the clothes to a friend.  Next, maybe I can tackle all of those surfaces that attract mail, broken things, and cool doohickies that I will definitely use one day!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mortgage Update for May 2016

Mortgage update and last day of junior year for my nephew!  (I wrote this on Thursday) He wanted to know when he is considered a senior, after the last day of school or on the first day of senior year?  I said after the last day of school assuming he passed all of his classes.  Next school year is going to be a very busy, fun and scary year for him as he makes his way towards college and independence. 

I put another extra $1,200 towards the principle of my mortgage.  New total is $33,542.  1 year and 11 months left at this rate.  It is very tempting to stop the extra mortgage repayment and work on new projects instead but the heat will probably deter me for a few months, at least.  I find myself often watching youtube videos on installing a metal roof on a mobile home and dreaming of block walls for a secure yard and garden.  All in good time.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Almost Over

So many responsibilities... Next month will slow down, right?  Nope.  The days just keep filling up.  Last Monday I attended my nephew's choir performance.  It was nice but long.  On Wednesday, I brought my mother to the airport for her flight to California.  On Friday, my nephew and I went to his awards banquet for choir.  They said it would be 3 hours.  I thought it might end early.  It ended up being 4 1/2 hours long and I got home at 11pm.  My nephew stayed for the all night movie lock-in while I went back to the mobile home and set my alarm for 7am so that I could pick him up at 8am sharp.  We loaded up the car with luggage and dogs and drove to the house where I took a nap and he didn't crash until 4pm.  Then, I met my sister for dinner.  She was driving through on her way to vacation in Texas.  On Sunday, I finally tired of looking at my nephew's tattered and paint splattered shoes and took him to Kohl's where for $130 we bought shoes and two pairs of jeans, one black and one dark blue, which he can wear to dressy-casual affairs such as the up-coming wedding of his cousin.  The items were on sale but, still, I hate spending that much money on clothes.

Sunday night we drove back out to the mobile home for the last time of the junior year (and hopefully forever if my plans go well).  This is finals week until Thursday and then we get to go back to the house for a long time.  It will be nice to give my brain a break although I seem to be coming up with all sorts of plans for the property now that it is too hot to do anything out there.  Building a deck, planting trees, finishing the skirting...  All of that needs to wait for later.  What I really need to do is finish painting the barn-shed, figure out how to make the tie-downs tighter (I'm not sure if they need to be tight or not), and put some sort of drip edge over the front door in an attempt to keep rain from leaking in like it did last year.

June is filling up now and I don't even want to think about July because school starts up again in July.  So, I will just think about this Thursday, the last day of school, and be happy for a little while.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Another Year

I celebrated my 44th birthday on Wednesday.  There wasn't much actual celebrating because Wednesdays don't allow for such frivolity if I want to be able to stay awake at my desk the next day.  My co-workers and I went out for ice cream sundaes at lunch.  I love ice cream but if I don't eat it almost totally melted I get horrible tooth/nerve pain around a half an hour after I eat it, thus I was in pain for an hour or so afterwards.  I did finally take some Tylenol, which helped.  After work I stopped by the house to do the usual watering of the plants/quail, filling of water jugs, and collecting the mail.  I also got the tall ladder that I used to get on the roof because I need it back at the property if I am ever going to finish painting the barn-shed.

Birthdays always make me melancholy since my plans are usually based on my age.  I want to be retired by 43. No I'm already 44.  45 probably not.  47 maybe?  I have two more years to pay my mortgage at an accelerated rate plus $8K to pay back my mother and $8K I hope to contribute to my nephew's college.  Today at work there was more grumbling about our new boss because he was hired to cut costs.  Everything is getting scrutiny which makes people squirm.  I probably shouldn't be writing this from my work computer.  Thoughts go through my head like, what if I was laid off now?  What would I do?  Would I sell the house, rent out the house?  Get another full time job?  I despise looking for jobs so I hope to hang on to this one for another 3 years at least.  Job unrest, political unrest, stock market unrest, plus another year older.  I think I want to take a nap. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cool Breeze

Three weeks to go!  Even less if you consider that the last day of school is on a Thursday.  My nephew made a comment that we will have to go back to the mobile home for the first week of school because he won't have his license yet.  Whaaaat???  Did I miscalculate?  I asked him to look at his driving permit to see if it had a date.  It did, January 20th.  School starts July 22nd.  Since he has to wait 6 months after getting his permit, that gives him 2 days to pass his test.  If he doesn't pass the first time then I will probably just drive him to school for a week until he can try again.  I think he would be able to ride the bus but it would be a bit late to notify the school district that we need bus service.  Oh well, we will deal with that if needed.  I am optimistic that he will pass. 

Last Friday, I took the day off.  Sassy went to the vet for her Valley Fever test.  Her results came back today and, unfortunately, her numbers are even higher than last time even though she is not limping at all.  The vet recommended changing pharmacies for her pills since the vet has noticed a decline in potency of the medicine they supply.  So, I ordered through a different pharmacy and changed to capsules instead of tablets.  Hopefully, the medicine will work this time.  After that, I headed over to my nephew's school to help judge the senior career projects.  They were all very interesting and I learned a lot of great tips for my nephew's senior project next year.  The best presenter brought in her clarinet and played for us.  Another girl brought in glass pendants from her time learning about glass blowing.    The other students had photos in a powerpoint presentation but bringing items for the judges to see made it so much more interesting.

On Saturday, I thought I was going to tackle some yard clean up but first priority was getting the evaporative cooler started and it wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  My nephew and I went on the roof and took the metal panels off. 


 I poked around and finally figured out how to turn it on, plug in the hose, turn the water on, etc.  The only problem was that the water was not getting to the cooler pads and it wouldn't send out cool air.  After many frustrating trips up and down the roof and watching how-to videos, I was still stumped.  I decided to write a desperate email to my old HVAC repairman.  He replied by the next morning which surprised me because he isn't even working in the HVAC business anymore because of bad knees.  He told me that I need to make sure the two pumps are plugged in to the correct outlets.  I never would have figured that out.  I didn't see any markings anywhere.  Anyway, so after we spend a nice afternoon with my mother for Mother's Day, I went back up on the roof and switched the plugs. 

I marked them for next time.

 Voila!  Cool air!  I was so happy!  Now I really should go back up there and do a better job of cleaning out the hard water deposits but it is supposed to get to 100F this week and, now that it is working, the priority has gone down.  I'll be sure to clean it up well when I shut it down in the fall.  I saved $75 by doing it myself which makes up for the expensive Mother's Day lunch we had by mistake (note to self, look at prices BEFORE going in to a fancy restaurant.) 

This week is normal.  On Saturday, I get my 40 pounds of chicken and then next week is super-busy.  I'll just try to take it one day at a time as usual.   

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May Days

May is already jam-packed full of projects and commitments.

5/6 Day off!  Volunteering at nephew's school.  I should also try to finish painting the barn/shed as the weather will only be getting hotter.  Sassy has a vet appointment for another Valley Fever test. $$$

5/8 Mother's Day, spending it with my mom.

5/11 My birthday.  I don't have anything planned because it's a Wednesday.  Maybe pizza.

5/14 Pick up my order of chicken from Zaycon Fresh.  Yes, I ordered 40 pounds of chicken thighs.  I will have to split it up and figure out where to put it all.

5/16 My nephew's end of year choir performance.

5/18 Take Mom to airport to go to my niece's graduation from Vet school. Yay!

5/20 Take nephew to choir end-of year lock in.  That should be fun although he should be studying for finals.

5/21 Have dinner with my sister who is stopping by while traveling to Texas.

5/24 Don't forget to pick up Mom from the airport.

5/26 Last day of nephew's junior year.  Everyone goes back to the house in town!  I will be back to keep things maintained, tree watered, and the cat food filled.

5/31 Nephew is getting his wisdom teeth removed.  I have planned to take the day off.

Then June begins.  Eek.  I hope it isn't as busy but we are going to my niece's wedding in Washington so that is expense plus travel stress but it is only 3 days so I think I will survive.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mortgage Update for April 2016

April mortgage update.  Another extra $1,200 went towards the principle for a total of $34,980 left.  2 more years to go at this rate. 

April is almost over which means I will do my usual denial through May that summer is here.  Then 4 months of 'too hot to do anything' followed by pretending that the weather cools down in October but usually it doesn't cool down until November.  I have shade cloth up at the house for my bedroom sliding door and for the little patch of garden that is growing very well since we had an early spring.  I have tomatoes, pole beans, and sweet potatoes growing together with sunflowers for shade.  Most of them are volunteers from last year.  I love low maintenance gardening.

The mobile home still needs some weather protection around the front door and window.  Maybe just more caulk and a drip edge above the door will do it.  I had better plan a Saturday soon for those chores or else it will be 110F before I know it.  I hope to employ my nephew to help me with some improvements on the property next year.  I would love a little porch on the mobile home for shade.  I have pictured it in my head a thousand times but I have never built a porch and it seems like a daunting task.  Maybe with his help I can get it done. 

My projects always outnumber my available weekends and energy.  I still haven't finished the tie-downs for the barn-shed and had the final inspection yet.  Plus, I haven't finished painting.  I have plenty to do and in the meantime I am chipping away at the mortgage so that very soon I will have the time and money to do all of these things I've been dreaming about.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Like Sand Through an Hour Glass

These weeks are flying by again.  Only 5 weeks to go until school is out.  That means only 5 more weeks of being at the mobile home during the week and only 4 more weekends of traveling between the house and mobile home.  I wonder if the dogs will miss the car rides.  I will not miss being at the mobile home as it is now.  I am looking forward to the day that I can move out there permanently and have the time and money to fix things up the way I have been dreaming about for years. 

Last week, my nephew took the ACT test.  It will be a few weeks before he finds out how he did but he is hoping for a score higher than 21 which is the score he needs for the college that he wants to go to.  If not, he will take the test again.  We spent the last 3 Saturdays going to his ACT prep class so I hope that preparation paid off.


On Wednesday, we went to the county fair to see TobyMac in concert.  I was not impressed with it but then hip hop and rap are not my style of music.  It was so loud.  I wonder if my hearing is permanently damaged.  My nephew thought it was ok.  He has to write a 2 page review on it for his choir class.  We didn't get home until 10 and I didn't get to sleep until 11:30 because of the caffeine I drank for dinner.  The rest of the week I was dragging.

So, last Sunday, I finished my taxes and it turned out that I am getting $150 back from Federal and $500 back from the state.  I was worried that I would owe money like last year but I think that my rental house being vacant for 2 months and then having to pay the maintenance costs for the tenant turn-over reduced my tax liability.  For state, I pre-paid $400 last December, half to my nephew's school and half to our parish school so I get that money refunded.  That was a huge relief that I didn't have to pay. 

I really wanted to stay home last Saturday, and, since the tax worry was over, I decided to treat myself to a little present.  I could stay home if I had a plan for finishing the barn-shed painting.  I used my credit card rewards to buy an electric paint sprayer to paint the grooves on the barn-shed.  The idea is that painting will go much quicker with the sprayer which made it ok to stay home on Saturday.  We will see if that is true.  The paint sprayer arrives today.  Saturday was lovely.  I napped, pulled weeds, attempted to get on the roof to start up the evaporative cooler but found that my ladder was too short.  Next week I will bring out my tall ladder.  I've never started up my evaporative cooler by myself but everyone tells me it is easy and I can do it myself rather than pay someone $50-$80 to do it for me.

This week I am looking forward to getting my paint sprayer, starting up the evap. cooler, and attending a meeting about the career-shadowing project that my nephew has to do next year.  A meeting for next year's senior parents already!  He wants to do the project on playing video games professionally but he doesn't know anyone who does that so he might have to pick a less glamorous occupation to research.  Reality gets in the way of dreams sometimes.