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.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pizza and Progress

Another hard-working Saturday. But first, we filled up with a slice of pizza, a very, very big slice. Not a bad price either. Only $6 for a super-sized piece of pizza and a drink.  I've driven past this little pizza place hundreds of times and finally thought to look up the reviews, which were great, so we stopped in.

Before this, my nephew went to his ACT test prep class (the last of three Saturdays, yay!) and I continued painting the grooves in the barn-shed. A very slow and tedious process. 

After lunch, my nephew tried out the paint roller while I filled in the grooves. He is a did well for his first try but his clothes and shoes will have yellow splotches forever. Luckily, the paint came off his forehead.  He thought I should have painted the barn-shed red because of the green roof but I am trying to make it look more like a cottage and less like a barn.  It's more yellow than I wanted it because I expect the sun to fade it quite quickly.  We will see.  

After he finished paint rolling everything that could be rolled without a ladder, I introduced him to my reciprocating saw. He enjoyed lopping off tree branches much more than painting.  Every few minutes he was saying "what can I cut now?".

I have a lot more to paint and very little motivation at the moment. The upper loft walls, front and back, need to be painted, for sure, as well as the rest of the grooves. The porch area can be last because it is covered and shaded from the sun. I have very few weekends left before the weather gets unbearable. I was hoping to take next Saturday off from painting chores. If I want to do that I had better start painting after work instead.  I think I'm going to run out of paint too.  I haven't decided what to do with the porch itself.  The floor should be stained again, I think.  The beams and ceiling could be white.  I'm having trouble picturing how it will look.

Anyway, 6 more weeks of school and then a very short summer break.  I keep looking forward to a long summer break but school starts back up July 20-something.  Well, any break will be welcome.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Back and Forth

The days are so busy, I'm afraid blogging and taxes are getting shoved to the back although I'm going to have to make finishing my taxes a priority next weekend or the IRS will not be happy with me.

Last week my niece came to visit and my mother spend 2 nights in the hospital for a racing heartbeat. I used a day of vacation time so that I could take her home. Half day of vacation on Thursday, then the doctor decided to keep her another night, and another half day on Friday so that I could leave work as soon as she was set free.

On Saturday, my nephew had ACT test prep in the morning, same as last Saturday and next Saturday. While waiting for him, I spent my time painting the barn-shed yellow. Hopefully, with his help next week, I can finish the job.

After his class, he drove us to visit my mom for her birthday lunch. He is getting better at driving now that he has 17 hours of experience. He needs 9 more hours of night driving before the end of July. That will take some effort to accomplish since I rarely go out after dark.

I am sitting here on the couch, trying to decide if we should go out to the mobile home like we usually do or stay at the house another night because it has been raining all day and the dirt roads will be muddy.  If we wait, then I have to get up early to take him to school and go to the house after work to pick up food and the dogs. Decisions, decisions. Only 7 more weeks of this back and forth stuff. I can hardly wait.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Saga of the Table

Do you remember when I bought my bar-height table for the mobile home back in July?  The box arrived with holes and chunks missing.  

The instructions said to contact the manufacturer instead of returning it to Home Depot, so I did.  Since it was the table top that was damaged, they said they would send a replacement but that it was back-ordered.  I assumed that meant that they wouldn't do anything, but they took my information and I forgot about it.  That was around 8 months ago.

Yesterday, I arrived at the house to water the plants, check on the quail, get the mail and fill up my water bottles.  There were two large boxes under the carport.  First, I checked the name because I thought they might be at the wrong house.  Nope.  Then I called my mother to see if she had something shipped to my house.  Nope.  Then it dawned on me.  The table top.  But why were there two boxes?  For a moment, I thought they might have shipped me two whole new tables.  I opened the first one.  It was a very well wrapped table top.  I opened the second one.  It was another very well wrapped table top. 

We use the original damaged table top at the mobile home.  It sits against the back of the couch and has a table cloth so the dent on the side is not noticeable.  Now I have two more table tops.  Well, since I have to buy legs, I guess I could make them any height that I want.  I could have a matching coffee table and computer table.  More projects!  But more cost for legs.  For now, they will sit in my living room taking up space.  I haven't exactly embraced tiny house minimalism just yet, so I just keep everything for now.  Downsizing is on my to-do list for next year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mortgage Update for March 2016

March was a big month for extra bills since my nephew and I took a trip and I had my dog's teeth cleaned (cleaning was the cheapest part.  10 extractions and 2 growths removed were the expensive part).  Yet, I still made an extra $1,200 payment on my mortgage for this month.  I could have skipped a month and paid the bill all at once but I would rather borrow from my emergency fund and pay myself back over 3 month's time. 

The new mortgage total is $36,412.  If I can continue at this rate, I will have my mortgage paid off in 2 years and 1 month. 

At the vet's office last week, I asked if I could receive the "dental awareness" discount which is for the month of February but since my vet had the flu and had to reschedule to March, they gave me the discount.  Then, while waiting for them to bring me my dog, I reviewed the itemized bill and saw that they had charged me $14 for a cone collar even though I declined it, and $10 for pill pockets which my dog hates and they didn't give any to me anyway.  They gave me a refund.   

On Saturday I stopped by the hardware store and bought paint for my barn-shed.  Usually I go to the store close to my house but they don't carry paint in the 5 gallon buckets.  I checked my credit card statement just for fun today and noticed that I had been charged twice for the paint.  The computers were offline when I made the purchase and it looks like I got charged again when they came back online.  I called the store and was told to call the corporate office.  The corporate office said the store should have handled it so corporate called the store and straightened it out.  I still have to return to the store to get the credit put back on my card.  So many little things that need to be monitored.

And there were two other instances of being over-charged this month.  One was for Tracfone minutes.  I tried to buy minutes for my nephew's phone online and I got a message that said the transaction could not be completed and I needed to call Tracfone.  I called them and the customer service person completed the transaction over the phone.  When I checked my credit card later, I was double billed.  It took an online chat and another phone call to get it straightened out.  Then, my internet provider, CenturyLink, sent me a card that said my credit card was declined.  Called them and got it fixed but I still don't know why it was declined.  The agent told me I could increase my internet speed for only $5 more so I agreed.  Two days later a new router/modem showed up at my door.  Another phone call got me a return number and I sent it back but I still have to call to make sure I am not being charged for a leased router/modem.

Anyway, it was a lovely spring break at the house but now we are back to the school schedule, the mobile home during the week and the house in town on weekends.  9 more weeks until summer break!  I'm looking forward to it, except for the up-coming heat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Time Zone Hopping

What a week.  Sorry I have been gone so long but traveling wears me down.  We left for Ohio last Tuesday.  The day started at 4:30am and we arrived in Pittsburgh at 4:30pm three hours ahead of Arizona's time zone.  That would make it 1:30pm AZ time.  We met up with my sister and her children, checked in the hotel, went out to eat at Bob Evans (I had never been there) then dropped my nephew off with a student at the dorm who hosted him for 3 days.  The next day consisted of a campus tour, sitting in on classes, eating at the cafeteria and a leisurely walk down memory lane for me.  My nephew had a great time.  He met fellow anime and video game aficionados with whom he could converse until all hours of the night or morning.  Hopefully, this experience will motivate him to bring up his grades so that he can go to college right after high school.

I was reminded how much I dislike travel.  I will not fly American Airlines again if I can help it.  I could not believe that I had to pay for a premium seat for two of the flights because I did not know that I had to choose my seats before all the free seats were gone.  There was nothing "premium" about the seats either.  I did not get to sit next to my nephew on any of the flights.  Snacks were for purchase only.  No free peanuts or pretzels.  Boarding took forever as the gate agents read off the list of preferential groups, gold members, elite status, credit card rewards members, there must have been around 10 different groups that boarded first and then the remaining folks were lumped together.  The only reason I picked American was because the flight arrived close to my sister's flight.  She took Delta and got free cookies but they damaged her bag so I can't say that was better.  I will go back to flying with Southwest whenever possible.

I am glad that I went and have the memories but I am happy to be home.  My mother did a wonderful job of looking after my dogs.  They were all happy to see me and I could tell that they were more relaxed because they were familiar with the person caring for them instead of a stranger.  It is going to take a month to get back on track with the bills.  I travel so rarely and when I do I tend to spend money more freely than normal.  I paid for dinner for the group and handed out gift cards to my nieces and nephew and the kind students who showed my nephew around.  I am glad that I am careful with spending other times so that I can spend money on things that are important to me, like this trip.

I am back at work this week and my nephew still has another week of spring break.  Next week we will start the last quarter of his junior year.  Only 9 weeks until school is out!  Yes, I am counting the days.  If all goes according to plan, my nephew will be able to drive to school next year and we will live in the house in town.  The mobile home will be sealed up against the pack rats and that project will be put on hold for a year or so depending on how my life goes.  Then, once my nephew goes to college or whatever he chooses to do, I'll continue with my plan to move out to my property full time.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Day in My Life

I took Thursday off of work and I thought I would show you how my day went.

The main plan: Take down the pool! First step, pump the remaining water out.

I used the long extension cord from the mobile home to the pool since I have not added the right outlet down by the pool.

Next, I need the water pump which is in the shed. While in the shed, I notice light coming in from the corner. There is an inch wide gap that shouldn't be there.

Mental note to get ladder and steel wool since I don't plan to replace the wood at this time.

Notice tree that my co-workers bought in remembrance of my father.  Give it some water and admire the spring leaves which mean I haven't killed the tree, yet.

Go look for ladder in the barn-shed. Remember that I was going to cover that window. See sheer curtain that my mother left behind but don't have any screws for a curtain rod.

Go in the storage room to find screws
 Notice that the cat area needs more food and water. Let the dogs help clean up the stray cat kibbles, fill containers and find screws.

Back in the barn-shed, put up the sheer curtain although you probably can't tell the difference.

Wonder why I can't find the ladder and then remember that it is on the barn-shed porch, not in the barn-shed.

Use steel wool to plug the hole, then cover with plastic from a water jug and plenty of caulk. Also used Gorilla glue to glue down the loose shingles which may have been the way the water got in and warped the board. Added "fix shed corner" to my mental to-do list for someday.

Check on pool which has been slowly draining this whole time.

Ran out of room in the water tank which feeds the kitchen and my bathroom. Decided it was time to clean out the extra tank. Ick.

 Mopped out most of the dirty water but since the water going in wasn't clean, didn't spend that much time on it.

Was able to save around 80 gallons to water the trees later on.

Started dismantling the pool but soon realized that the pool cover was fused to the metal bars which make up the top frame. Since I won't be able to fold up the pool liner as compactly as I had planned, I decided to see if anyone I know wants my pool. No takers yet.

So, the pool is in pieces but still out on the concrete slab until I either put it in my shed or find it a new home. When I need water storage again I am going to buy some of those square tanks in the metal cages that have been recycled.

Next chore to tackle, the barn-shed tie downs. After many frustrating attempts at crimping these ferrules, I went inside and looked up a YouTube video for instructions.

Turns out I was not opening the crimping tool wide enough. Unfortunately, when opened that wide, it was impossible to get the necessary leverage while under the barn-shed to adequately crimp these things.

I gave up after one pitiful attempt. I added a bolt type cable attachment to help my first try. I have since decided to try crimping a loop on to each end of the cable out in the open where I will have plenty of room to work, running the cable from one anchor all the way across to the other anchor, then attaching with detachable metal clips which I haven't bought yet.  Tie-down saga to be continued...

So, that was my day. It was very typical for me to get distracted by other chores that need attention and de-railed by plans that don't work out and/or need more supplies.  All in all, it was a good day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Off to the Faire

Weekends are so short!  Last Friday, I arrived at the mobile home, as usual, puttered around a little bit, cleaning and pulling some weeds and just decompressing after a long week.  Then we loaded up the car with dogs, suitcases, and food and drove 30 minutes to the house in town.  I can't even remember if I made anything for dinner.  I was thinking about cooking some fish sticks but the lack of ketchup in the house made me put it off. 

The next morning, the dogs were up at 6am but I convinced them to let me sleep until 8.  After feeding them I cooked some eggs and bacon...mmmm...bacon.  My nephew isn't a bacon fan.  More for me and the dogs.  The dogs are definitely bacon fans.  After breakfast we got in the car and headed north to the Renaissance Faire.  Now, I had been warned that it was an hour and 45 minute drive and I had drawn myself a map.  My nephew was driving and I was the navigator.  2 hours later, I realized that we were way off course.  I had missed the turn off.  We turned around in a tiny town called Mammoth and I bought a map at the gas station, for future use.  3 1/2 hours later, we found the Renaissance Faire.  I was happy that we finally found it even though I would have rather been at home. 

First stop, stand in line for the bathrooms.  Next stop, buy some questionable food.  I wish I had seen the pizza before I bought the flauta platter.  It was chicken and green chilies inside a flour tortilla rolled in panko bread crumbs and deep fried.  The bread crumbs were overkill.  Next stop was the wooden sword shop which drew my nephew in like a magnet.  He didn't find the right style so we wandered to the next wooden sword shop.  Still no luck so we wandered some more.  It was my goal (and his, sort of) to find a show that he could watch and review for his school assignment.  Finally, I saw one starting in 15 minutes so we walked some more and came back for the show.  It was a musical group called Ghazaal Beledi with fire-eating belly dancers.  Definitely not boring.

After that, I was ready to leave but my nephew still wanted the perfect sword.  He found out where the other sword-makers were located and mulled over his choices, and mulled, and mulled.  He finally pick out a painted sword for $35 but I convinced him that it would be better to buy an unpainted sword for $20 and paint it himself with my many cans of spray paint.  He agreed.

I drove home and it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes with one quick stop for gas.  I was so happy to be home and out of the car.  It was a good experience compared to my nephew being inside playing computer games all day but I missed my Saturday to relax.  Oh well, maybe next Saturday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Never Enough Time to Relax

Last week , I got to stay at the house while my nephew went to California with his school choir.  This is them performing at Disney's California Adventure.

  It was a nice break for me from the rural life out at the mobile home. No dirt roads, noisy water pumps, unfinished projects.  Just water on tap, laundry facilities in the house, a house that is reasonably OK to look at, landscaping, a full kitchen.  Someday soon my mobile home property will be like that but I need more time and money.

This week we are back out at the property, hauling our drinking water, taking super short showers, trying not to think about all of the things I want to do to this place.  I'm considering taking a half day on Friday to finish emptying the pool, finally, and putting it away. The bungie cords have deteriorated from the sun and the tarp that was covering it is hanging on by a string. If I don't save the last bit of water soon it will just evaporate from these warm temperatures we have been having.  I'd do it on Saturday except we are going to the Renaissance Fair for another school assignment.  I can't wait for school to get out.  I'm so tired of being homework monitor.

Anyway, I seem to be just complaining but really things are going as planned.  This is just the long stretch in the middle if the semester. Almost to spring break and then another 9 weeks until the end. We can do this!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mortgage Update for February 2016

Another $1,200 extra for the mortgage.  Just to recap, I'm talking about the house that we go to on the weekends and holidays and that we are planning to live in next school year and that I am planning to sell in 2 or so years.

My rental house is paid off and rented at the moment.

My mobile home is where we live during the week on school days when my nephew needs to catch the school bus.  The mobile home and the weekend house are in 2 different school districts, the mobile home being in the far better school district which is why we go through this trouble.

So, back to the mortgage.  If I keep paying an extra $1,200 a month, I will have the house paid off in 2 years and 2 months.  Seems like it never gets closer but I know it is...slowly.  The new total is $37,839.

I got a letter from the bank today advertising their home equity lines of credit.  Hmm...I would like a new kitchen...but no.  If I do any improvements, I want them to be done right before I put the house on the market so that nothing can break or get ruined.  My kitchen works fine, well, except for the garbage disposal and the dishwasher which can't work now since the garbage disposal is dead.  But I don't use either of those anyway.

Today I am alone at home and it is a nice break.  My nephew is off to a school Disneyland trip and won't be back until Saturday night so I can do whatever I like and I don't have to think about homework or dinner or computer time limits or getting to school on time.  Ahhh... I like it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Two Biggest Expenses: Pets and Autos

Another long week and I am glad that it is over.  It is too bad that these days are so busy and stressful but there is an end in sight even if it is years away.  On Wednesday, I took my dog to work with me and then to his vet appointment.  The vet says he needs some teeth extracted so there's another appointment for next week.  As usual, he growled and barked at everyone.

There's a dog under my desk!
After the vet appointment, I stopped by the house to fill up the water bottles, check the mail, and water the plants.  I grabbed my nephew's suit coat and shirt for his choir festival this weekend but he ended up getting a cold and deciding not to attend.  He stayed home from school on Thursday.  That's the first time he felt bad enough to stay home.  He was back to school on Friday and I didn't catch this cold, which is surprising.  Maybe it was the same cold I had 2 weeks ago, although, I thought I caught it from him.

On the way to work on Thursday, I heard some strange scratching noises coming from the right side front.  When I tried to turn at my off ramp, the power steering was completely gone.  I drove straight to the mechanic but they said they were full for the day.  They offered to fill up my power steering fluid and maybe that would temporarily fix the problem but when the technician looked in the reservoir it was full.  Then he looked over where I heard the noises coming from and said that the power steering belt was broken.  Ah, that would explain the total lack of power steering.  They decided that they could fit me in since it was a relatively easy fix.  $155 later and I got my car back at the end of the day.

After work on Friday, I put up more snake deterring wire mesh on the mobile home fence before we loaded up the car and went to the house.  We are going to stay at the house all week which seems like a mini-vacation.  It would be better if I didn't have to work.  I'll have to get up early to take my nephew to school and he will have to stay after school in the library (working on homework, I'm sure) until I can pick him up at 5:30.  It's a short week because we have Rodeo Break here in Tucson.  The kids get Thursday and Friday off when the rodeo comes to town every February.  There's a parade and everything.  I've never been but then I don't get any days off for the rodeo.

Today was the first day in a long time that I didn't have to drive anywhere.  I almost went to a plant exchange but decided that I should spend my time cleaning up my garden plots instead of collecting new plants and perhaps spending more money.  Besides, anything I plant now will just die when the weather gets hot.  Next year when we are living at the house full time again, I can plant a garden.