Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Ahead: Goals for 2011

Personal goals:
1. Like everyone and their mother, work on exercising more and getting healthier.

2. Enjoy my free time more, by working on hobbies, taking classes, etc.

3. Make more of an effort to be social.

4. GET OUT of my hellish job that I've been at for over 4 years and MOVE ON with my life.

5. Keep improving my relationship with Turtle.

6. This goes with #4 but find a new job that allows me to shine and share my talents with others; where I am appreciated for who I am and what I contribute. Also, one that is family-friendly and has great benefits.

House goals:
1. Really finish fixing up and getting settled into our house.

2. Getting this house PAINTED top to bottom. I can do a lot myself, but for some rooms, I will need to call in the pros. The kitchen and our bedroom need to be done by pros b/c I take a long time, and we kinda need those two rooms to live in.

3. Start our garden in the early spring. We're already looking at seed catalogs (DORKS).

4. Buy new doors for the two bedrooms where the previous owners' sons bashed them in.

5. Paint our basement hatchway door.

6. Figure out a new/better method for firewood storage.

7. Possibly build a shed in our backyard.

8. Continue to keep things neat!

9. Put up some kind of tile/backsplash behind the stove. It gets messy back there and what's the sense in painting it if it's just going to keep getting gross?

10. More planting! Especially some trees.

Financial goals:
1. I've been trying to put away ~$500/month into savings, and I'd like to keep that up, if not increase it.

2. I've been socking away ~$150/month for a vacation, which I'm still going to do. We were going to go on a "big trip" in 2012/13 for our 5th anniversary, but I think instead we're going to try and go to Maine this summer. Besides a long weekend in Philly for our 1st anniversary, we haven't been away ANYWHERE since our honeymoon. We can still go away for our 5th anniversary, but not a "big trip." Maybe another small one. Who knows where things will be in 2 or 3 years?

3. Get Turtle enrolled in his 403b or whatever it's called. His company matches!

4. Get us in to see a financial planner and have him help us make the best of our money.

5. Keep avoiding credit card debt. We've done GREAT with this for years, and I just want to keep it going.

6. As I'm looking for a new job, I hope to be making more money (don't we all!). I want to increase my retirement contributions AND sock more into savings instead of going crazy with more money. Of course, then I'll be too paranoid to spend the money, haha.

Looking Back: 2010 Highs and Lows

Highs
- Having an amazing boss who helped me to see my potential and who gave me courage to get OUT of my current job. Her leaving is what I needed to get myself out of a toxic situation.
- Learning HTML and LOVING it
- Improving my relationship with Turtle
- Getting help for an issue that was affecting several areas of my life
- Working on this house and getting it into better shape/where we want it to be. It's not done, but it's better than it was!
- My friend finally getting pregnant after 7 yrs of trying and giving birth to her son
- My friendship with (above friend) getting back to what it used to be like years ago (we had a strained relationship for years)
- Saving money while spending (how does this happen? lol)

Lows
- Breaking my hand, surgery, therapy, having a slightly deformed finger now.
- My friend's baby being really sick
- Losing my grandfather and the subsequent drama
- Work nonsense
- Health-related issues
- Other friend stuff
- My boss leaving
- Other family stuff
- Stupid health insurance

Monday, December 20, 2010

My worst fears (at work) came true

My boss gave her notice this morning.

I cried on and off all day since the meeting. I couldn't help it. I really liked her. Not only was she an awesome boss, she was one of the nicest people I've ever met. I never had a boss like this...someone who actually cared, listened, tried to help her "people." She's been an actual friend.

I'm absolutely devastated. This is the closest thing I've had to as a mentor. And she'll be gone 12/31.

I know we'll keep in touch, but you know how that works out after awhile. We had a 1:1 later on this afternoon, and she gave me some really good compliments on my work, work ethic, etc. She also told me that it's time for me to go, and take that plunge to find something that will make me happier. She also told me that she'd be happy to be a reference, write recommendations, etc. etc.

I've gotta admit, I am jealous that she's leaving after only 1.25 yrs, and I'm STILL there (going on 4.5 yrs)...and any efforts of me trying to leave haven't been successful (or I just haven't tried hard enough, I guess). She really helped to boost my confidence about working there, because she actually CARED about what I did.

Of course, I'm scared about what will happen now that she's leaving...until I can get out of there. They'll be hiring a new marketing manager, but until then, it's a messy mix between the wife-owner (my company is owned by a married couple--and she is CRAZY and just horrible) and the IT MANAGER, which makes VERY little sense.

I've never written about work before, but today I had to. I know I need to get out of there, the place is just TOXIC, but where, doing what, etc?

This is when I want to give up and be a housewife...but I can't.

PS. I know I have some comments that need replying. I'll get to them soon, I promise. Tonight I'm just sad...going to go scrub a toilet to put my energy into something constructive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Busy busy busy

I'd say as a bee, but it's December 15, and it is FREEZING here. Actually, below freezing.

I'm long on things to write about, and short on time, so this will have to do for now.

I know I have comments from people, and I'd like to reply to them...but this house is cold, so I need to start a fire, then comes dinner prep.

We're having this tonight instead of whatever was on my meal plan:
http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/pasta-with-bacon-cauliflower-recipe-00000000029610/index.html I cannot wait, it looks delicious!

I have a ton of cauliflower that's in the freezer. Got it fresh a few weeks ago (thanks Dad!), steamed it, and froze it. Bacon was already pulled out, so why not?

Tonight is Turtle's late night so I hope he's surprised.

Most of all, I hope it's GOOD!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The 1000 Challenge, part 4

I'm at 200/1000. Christmas shopping will do that to you :) Plus, it was around 50* here on Saturday, so why not take advantage of the beautiful, sunny, weather and park further away from the stores to get some extra activity in?

I don't think I'll make 1000/1000 by 12/31, but it has made me pay more attention to my movement/activity level. While it's important for everyone to be active and stay moving, for me, it's even MORE important. I have some health issues that can be exacerbated by not moving/being fit...and I really don't want to be a statistic. (Although, sadly, I'm heading in that direction...but as my primary doctor says, "it's NOT permanent.")

Meal plan, week of 12/12

Sunday--We went out for dinner, just down the street to our local favorite place for burgers. We were supposed to have haddock, which was supposed to have been yesterday's dinner. Yesterday I was too busy running around Christmas shopping and doing stuff around the house, so we had roast chicken thighs instead to supplement the few ribs that were left over from Friday night. Tonight, the haddock was STILL not yet thawed! At least it's not going to waste, like I've done in the past...

Monday--haddock, tater tots, salad (last try for this one!)

Tuesday--breakfast (probably bacon and waffles, with peaches that we picked over the summer, scalded to take the skins off, and froze)

Wednesday--chicken cacciatore, over pasta, with veggies or salad

Thursday--leftovers

Friday--shepherd's pie, which is pretty much a meal in one pan! I use beef and throw a TON of veggies in there.

Saturday--leftovers

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The 1000 Challenge, part 3

I finally broke 100 minutes. What did it? This morning, we had a visit from the furnace repair man (it's not the heat, it's the A/C that's having issues, we've discovered, long story). Thanks to running up and down all of the stairs in my house numerous times this morning, checking the two thermostats, talking with the guy, etc, combined with speed grocery shopping last night, I'm 10% of the way to my goal of 1000 minutes of physical activity in December. I need to step it up though!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's beginning to look a little bit like Christmas

With the decorations, I mean.

It's a few minutes before Wednesday, so I guess this can count for my first Wordless Wednesday post. Although I'm typing right now, so there goes the "wordless" part. (more pictures of the house all decorated to come, really trying to make up for hardly decorating last year)


I do some weird things sometimes

Like take pictures of my empty fridge before I go grocery shopping. See?

In the Ziploc on the very top right is a Hostess Fruitcake. Tis the season. I can only tolerate it in very tiny bites. Mostly for Turtle's consumption. And yes, there is a half-empty gallon of cider.

One lone Greek yogurt, haha.

Meat drawer has a packet of American cheese.

Vegetable drawer has a few carrots, some celery, and a bag of baby carrots. Pathetic!

Fruit drawer--ZERO.


But if you're looking for condiments, we have plenty! Including two whipped creams. Why did I buy two?? Hmm... I probably won't have to buy any for Christmas now.









Look! No more evidence of the slow cooker fiasco! All clean.











Just realized that I should take some pictures of the "after" look:

It looks pretty much the same, but I swear, there is food in there. Especially since I spent over $100--there better be something to show for it!

Milk, creamer...oh look the lone Greek yogurt has 4 new friends! And sour cream...I bought more than just dairy items, really.

Our dinner is also back in the fridge--the Ziplocs on the second shelf on the right hold green beans and some kolbasi.

The fruit drawer is still empty...but wait a minute.


What's that in the veggie drawer?


Oh hello, portabellas! Peppers! Cukes! So lovely to have veggies in the house again. There's celery and carrots and some heads of Romaine in there, too.







Here's the fruit! Bananas, Bosc pears, Macintosh apples....and some tomatoes, which technically are a fruit.

Right church, wrong pew?

All of my life, I've enjoyed singing. I was always in the choirs/choruses from 5th grade on. Even in college, I sang for a bit--both in the college's women's choir, and for the liturgical choir. (I didn't last very long in either college vocal group--too much going on with my coursework!) I sing in the car, in the shower, while doing chores. I make up silly songs about what I'm doing, etc. (Regarding my previous post, I might be lazy, and my children might inherit that, but at least they'll be highly entertained by my made up songs!)

Anyway, one of the things I like about attending a Byzantine church is that the liturgy is entirely sung, and everyone is encouraged to participate.

I never considered myself a great singer. Sure, I'm good, I guess. I'm very humble about my voice. Part of it comes from growing up in a town and attending a high school that's very well-known for its choral singers. If you were great, you knew it. Everyone did. I never considered myself that great, because I never got any solos, never made it into the musicals, never made it into the show choirs. I can't really sight-sing, but I do know my notes. Dabbling in clarinet, violin, and piano will do that.

(However, I did shock everyone by performing a song, all by myself, at the senior showcase concert.)

Back to the present. Turtle has been complementing me on my voice more and more lately while we're at Liturgy...or, maybe more like afterward. Since we sit near the front, by ourselves, I don't fear anyone hearing me and thinking I sound horrible. I kept telling him, "sure...I'm not that great, really..."

One of our priests, Father T., has talked with Turtle about becoming more involved with Liturgy. I'm not going to say too much right now about that...I will discuss it more when the time is right. When Father T. had asked Turtle this question, he also asked me a question. The conversation went something like this:

Fr. T: Do you sing?
Me: Uhhh, well...
Fr. T: I see you singing during Liturgy, you should go upstairs with the choir. (The "blessing" of sitting so close to the iconostasis, the priests notice things!)
Me: Oh I don't know, we'll see. (getting redder and redder by the minute....)
Turtle: She really should, I keep telling her.
Fr. T: Well, nothing has to be decided now.
Me: Okay, sounds good!

Fast forward to Sunday. Our parish had a St. Nicholas brunch after Liturgy in our hall (which is in the basement--sounds funny to say "hall," but go downstairs). When it was time for us to go, we made our way over to Father T to say goodbye. He was talking with another couple who we see all of the time--the wife sings in the choir, and the husband...I guess he'd be called an usher? He sits in the back and keeps an eye on things, does the collections, holds the Gospel for Father, etc.

The five of us were chatting...and I felt terrible because we'd been attending Liturgy here for over a year, and we didn't know their names! Before I could ask them, the husband said to me "I just have to tell you, I hear you singing when I am passing the basket, and you have a beautiful voice." The wife said something similar later, and she reminded me that I had sat behind her during a holy day when the choir sang in the sanctuary instead of the choir loft. They both encouraged me to join the choir. (And we formally introduced ourselves, he is N, she is M)

My face was pretty red, and I was doing the "no, no...I'm not THAT good" thing that everyone does when they are humble about something.

Then Father T. "outed" Turtle by saying that when he does his "thing," maybe I would go up there so I wouldn't be alone during Liturgy. That took the pressure off of me for a bit!

I'll be honest: I have been thinking more and more about joining the choir--even before N & M complimented me. Maybe I am a great singer. Maybe my voice was destined for a higher purpose than show choirs and school solos. I'm trying to write this with humility...I'm not walking around, thinking about trying for a record contract. I'm still shy, I'd still be nervous to get up in that choir loft as a "newbie" and I would NOT be auditioning to sing/chant the Epistle any time soon!

That's what I meant about right church, wrong pew--maybe I was just singing in the wrong place all of those years? Maybe I do have a great voice...and it was just falling on deaf ears?

Clean the fridge, then go shopping

How many of you look at your refrigerator and think, "I should really clean that thing."

But when, right? Maybe you think of doing it while you're putting a car load of groceries away.

Maybe you think of it when you're going to have guests over, and you have to remember not to tell them "oh help yourself to some drinks" because you don't want them seeing the bit of spilled spaghetti sauce that has become a fixture to the shelf. But you don't have time to clean it before they arrive, there are THINGS TO DO.

Confession: I don't clean my fridge very often. Luckily, it's not too gross either, but sometimes, it gets a little dingy. If you read my slow cooker incident a few weeks back, when the sauce had bubbled over onto the outside of the insert (if you're confused, my apologies!) it also got on the bottom shelf of the fridge. And yeah, guess who didn't clean it up right then and there? Go me!

Yes, I am lazy. I fear for my future children.

Anyway...tonight I am going grocery shopping. On Sunday, I decided to go Tuesday (today). Which gave me last night (Monday) to clean out the refrigerator. Why haven't I done this before? It really makes perfect sense!

By the way, I have done the "oh crap, I have a car full of groceries, but the fridge is nasty, the food will be OK while I scrub down the inside." Luckily for me, and for Turtle, the food didn't spoil. We're still here.

Last night was probably the best time to clean out the fridge. I think this is the emptiest the fridge has been in a few weeks, maybe months. There wasn't much to move around or take out. I moved everything to one area, wiped down all of the empty shelves, moved everything back to where it really goes, then wiped the remaining dirty shelf. I also wiped out the drawers--meat, veggies, fruit.

The only thing I didn't do was the door pockets. They were pretty full--salad dressings, jam, pickles, oyster sauce, ketchup, sherry wine...you name it, we probably have it.

What a difference it made! Almost looks brand new. Did I mention I did this last night, around 9:30? Yeah, I'm a little out there when it comes to proper times to do chores. But it is done. Me, some Dr. Bronner's, hot water, rags and a bucket.

If we can keep it looking good until after Christmas, I might just let some guests help themselves ;-)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The 1000 Challenge, part 2

45/1000.

Slow and steady wins the race, or so I'm told ;-) At least I managed to get away from my desk on Friday for a brief walk in the cold. Walked a bit yesterday while getting lunch with a friend, and today, T & I cleaned out the garage and stacked some firewood.

I really hope I can get out tomorrow and walk for a bit! My boss is back from vacation and I'm not 100% on top of things. Some of my work fell through the cracks while she was gone, because I was doing some of her works, as well as assisting other departments (long story).

If not, there's always the treadmill waiting for me when I get home...

Meal plan, week of 12/5

Sunday--take-out pizza.

Monday--leftovers, stretching with soup if necessary

Tuesday--Wedding kolbasi*, mashed potatoes, green beans (We haven't tried this kind before, T grabbed it when he was last at the store where we buy our kolbasi, we'll see how it is)

Wednesday--Chinese style venison, rice, frozen Asian veggies

Thursday--leftovers

Friday--pork ribs in the oven, salad

Saturday--haddock, tater tots, salad

*You might know this better as kielbasa. So did I, until I met T. Kielbasa is the Polish spelling (I'm half Polish). Kolbasi is the Slovak spelling (T is half Slovak). Same thing though.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 1000 Challenge

I'm doing this for December. My friend, Michelle, over at Hey, Love, started this as a way of getting fit. She describes it much better, here: http://heylovedc.tumblr.com/post/2059201355/the-1000-challenge

I'm in. I plan on getting out of the office during the day and walking around the business park where I work. Even for 20 minutes. I have to move. Well, everyone needs to, but I'm overweight and I really need to get healthier. Also, I have a lot of stress (mostly self-inflicted!) from work, and I think it would be good for me to get out of the office. I rarely take breaks away from my desk. It's bad, and what better time to start, especially with all of the holiday temptations that will be sneaking into the office (and home too) over the next few weeks.

If you're on Twitter, feel free to join in. #1000challenge is our hashtag. I'll be updating my progress here, so if you see any references to (insert number here)/1000, you'll know what I'm talking about.

And oddly enough, Rachel at MWF Seeking BFF posted the following for her Research Wednesday post. The Hard Facts: Losing Together How timely!

Side note: I've never met Michelle, but have "known" her since ~2003. We "met" via a message board, then a bunch of us started a spin-off board, which had a few mutations, but the main bunch is still together and we also connect via Facebook and (some of us) Twitter.

Thanks Michelle! And good luck everyone!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Soap

Why does the bottle of hand soap in our bathroom have instructions for use on it?

I just noticed this yesterday, even though the bottle is old (we refill). No lie, it says something like, "wet hands, apply small amount of soap, rub hands together, rinse." It's a store brand, too, which surprises me even more since it should be no-frills. Um, didn't we all have people teach us to wash our hands when we were little?? God help us all if we had to wait to read it on the back of a soap bottle!

I really should take a picture of this. It cracked me up when I saw it.

I checked the soap in our bathrooms at work. We use Softsoap (national brand) and those pumps do NOT have instructions. Interesting. The more expensive stuff doesn't tell you how to use it. Should we consider this a bargain? Cheaper soap AND instructions??? :-)

Monday, November 29, 2010

We meal plan, too.

As mentioned in a previous post, we plan out our meals. How can you not, when you've got two people with different schedules and everyone needs to eat?

Sometimes it's a juggle to get food on the table with just two people. I can't imagine what it's like with MORE people, who have MORE things going on (sports, dance, religious ed, etc.), or...MORE likes/dislikes/intolerances/allergies.

I've noticed that there's a trend in the blogging community to make a post on Mondays about your meal plan for the week. I guess I could add mine too.

We usually do ours on Sunday afternoons. Here we go!

Sunday--beef short ribs w/ plum sauce in the crock pot (which has been thoroughly scoured!), rice, and salad

Monday--Chicken Big Mamou (courtesy Mr. Paul Prudhomme), served over pasta, and zucchini

Tuesday--leftovers (works out well since I have an appointment after work and won't be home until ~6:15 and T won't be home until almost 6)

Wednesday--(T works 12-8) grilled steak, some kind of starch and vegetable. Probably baked potatoes and a frozen veggie.

Thursday--deer chili (made out of stew meat, it's not your typical ground meat chili)

Friday--(T works 12-8) leftover chili (I think). I'm seriously drawing a blank right now as to what we're eating that night. This is what happens when your plan is at home, and you're posting from work. Although, fish keeps popping into my mind... Who knows?

Saturday--TBD. I am going to be with a friend for the majority of the day so I don't know what time I'll be home. Sometimes we end up going out or getting take out on Saturdays, or sometimes I'll cook if I'm around all day. Sometimes we eat odds & ends or leftovers.

Edited 11/30/10--I was right with this meal plan. Friday is deer chili leftovers. Sweet, no cooking!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slow cooker update

One should not put water into the slow cooker's base. Who knew there were HOLES????

Good thing I didn't pour in much. I poured in just a bit, and had turned around to grab a rag, and...OH HELLO dirty water on my table and floor!

Luckily that little bit of super hot water was enough to loosen up what was stuck/burnt on the bottom. A rag with some dish soap helped break up the rest of the grease and burnt on bits.

I'm still shaking my head at the holes. Really, I had no idea. It's not like you could SEE them with all of the burnt on stuff at the bottom of the cooker.

By the way, this was my mother's idea. She said, "just put some hot water in there, with some baking soda, like you do with a pan that's got stuff stuck to it." Tomorrow, I plan on letting her know that the slow cooker has holes in the base...just in case she decides to take her own advice. ;-)

In the meantime, we've been cooking for Thanksgiving tonight. We're going to my parents' house, and will be joined by my brother and Turtle's family (his dad, brother, and grandmother).

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it's all about food and family and just a good time. There's no deciding which church to attend, which Mass/Liturgy, how the food will get cooked while at church, etc. (Yes, I'm Catholic and attend church weekly, but it does get HARD when you have to juggle hosting or visiting with religious services!) There aren't any presents, there isn't any build up and craziness. It's just a day to reflect and enjoy.

I made this, which is still in the oven: Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic.

I didn't take the picture, I stole it from Allrecipes.com. At least I credited it!

It's so good; it's like dessert at dinner. We've made it a few times now, and everyone loves it. This year, I doubled the recipe because when we made it last Christmas, it was devoured. I love leftovers--it's one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving, so I would love to have some of this all weekend long! Thank you, Turtle, for finding this when you did.


Turtle made this, which is already done: Cranberry Conserve.

This isn't our picture, either. It's from FoodNetwork.com, where the recipe is from.

But it's from THIS GUY. How could it be bad!?

Don't worry, it's delicious. It puts any other cranberry to shame. The cranberries we used came from the Mother Land (Cape Cod) from my aunt who lives there. You can't get more authentic than that, especially at Thanksgiving. We also made double the recipe of this. And, tonight, we discovered that a little bit is quite good on ice cream. Just in case you'd like to use it elsewhere.

Ugh, now it's time to clean up the kitchen. This should be interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Monday, November 22, 2010

I thought I was done for tonight.

1. Does ANYONE know how to clean the base part of a slow cooker/crock pot? The pot roast I made yesterday bubbled over, and it didn't just spill onto my stove top. It also leaked from the insert into the base. Grr. It's a caked on, burnt on mess. I know not to immerse it in water, which I'm tempted to do.

2. Point of clarification from this post, also made tonight. The deer that Turtle shot was kept for meat. He did not keep the head to mount on the wall. I realized that my previous post might look as though he shot it, and left it to rot. OH NO!!!! Never would that have happened. Part of the deer is in our deep freeze, and the rest is at FIL's house, waiting to come home.

OH, which reminds me--there's another house purchase! Our big upright freezer, where we store almost everything that we buy in bulk that would tolerate freezing. Bread, veggies, meat, breakfast items...

It's late and I haven't eaten yet. Going to boil some pirohi that Turtle's grandma made for us a few weeks ago that was also in our freezer...and heat up some leftover pot roast. Good night!

Whoa. (budget-related)


















Now that I have a full year of expenses and income, I'm a bit shell-shocked. I think a money tree might make a great Christmas present for us, too!

Here's a brief overview, along with some commentary on where we messed up, where we can improve, things that will help, etc. I also keep track of income, how much goes into savings, how much we transfer from savings, cash withdrawals, but I didn't put those in, only because I'm still kind of private, and part of me didn't want to look like a fool in front of all you bloggers out there!

Oil: 1,994.50
With the purchase of insulated curtains, adding a real door to our basement (we just had a hatch thing, this will seal off the hatch) and the wood stove, we're anticipating this cost to go WAY down for 2010-2011.

Electric: 1,442.66
We live in one of the cheapest areas in our state for electricity, too. We're better about turning off lights and all of that stuff.

Phone, internet, and my cell: 1,756.52
My cell has a plan which is so old, AT&T no longer offers it. This expense has been static for years. I might try and see if we could get a better landline deal in the coming year.

Cable: 809.86
I've switched us to a cheaper plan since we don't watch much TV anyway.

Gas: 3,363.54
Granted, this is for two people, each driving almost 30 miles each way to work. I am going to be looking for a job that is closer to home AND more family-friendly in the new year.

Groceries: 6,831.04
This is kind of gross for two people, but then again, I don't know how much families spend. It's not like we're eating organic, gourmet stuff, either. Healthy food but not top of the line (and yes, junk too. We're not perfect). Also, this is JUST food, not paper products, cleaning stuff, etc.

Eating out: 2,247.53
Yeah. This is one area we need to work on. Part of it has been because of Turtle's schedule and dinner not being ready (or ruined) when he finally got home, part of it has been "Screw it, the meat can marinade another night, I'm hungry and tired, let's go down to [local watering hole] for burgers." Also, it has been due to me not planning properly. We've gotten much better with making a meal plan for the week, and using as much stuff as we have on hand before running to the grocery store.

I'm not the only one who meal plans. Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter does too. (This post is probably the best place to start, but if you look at her sidebar [on the right!], you will see a section called "Happy at Home: Food Organization" which contains many more posts about this topic.) I wish I could thank her for this brilliant idea, but I have to give the credit to my darling husband. Yes, he introduced me to this idea! :)

This category also includes Dunkin Donuts runs. I wish they weren't every where. And that's all I'll say about that.

Doctors: 7,798.80
I hope not to have to be hospitalized in the next year, and that will save us $1,500 right there. (Our share of a hospital stay.) Also, Turtle no longer sees a doctor that doesn't take insurance, so there is some more money saved. Not that it really matters much since our contribution to our health insurance increased, but hey, it's something.

RXs: 341.58
This will probably stay the same.

CVS: 642.65
Yes, CVS has its own category. I'm in there ALL. OF. THE. TIME. I really should get a second job there. It's right around the corner from my office, so I go there a lot to kill time, which I KNOW leads to unnecessary purchases--gum, candy, soda, magazines... I do buy important things there, including my RXs (and I'm sure some of those purchases are included here if I forgot to separate them into the other category). It's a very tempting place...

Misc. debit purchases: 1,987.01
This category is for those things that don't have its own category here. The random item needing dry cleaning, printer paper, that sort of thing. I don't know WHAT could have cost this much, though...

Clothing/shoes: 811.89
OK confession time: my mother has been known to "treat" me to new clothes. But only once or twice a year, at $200 or so a pop. I am not really a shopper, regardless.

Hair cuts/waxing: 584.09
I'm pretty low-key when it comes to this stuff. Turtle's cuts & tip are $20 total. Mine are about $53 total. If I get my brows waxed, that's another $10. Oooh, we're so fancy here.

Gifts: 758.26
This was the year of no weddings and only one baby. My maid of honor is getting married in April 2011, so I expect this to be much higher!

Memberships/licenses: 528.29
Both of our licenses expired this year, at $66 a pop. NetFlix is also in this spot, but that's only $5 something a month. Turtle's shooting club dues were due this year, and that also went into this category.

Auto maintenance/repairs: 2,419.33
I had a little run-in with the side of our garage and the passenger's door mirror lost. That was a LOT of money. Also, Turtle's car had some weird sensor thing go out, which was also a lot of money.

Auto insurance, taxes, registration: 2,900.12
Luckily, when we do our taxes, we can claim our state car tax on our federal returns...or something like that. We always get our car tax money back.

House purchases: 12,322.30
YIKES!!!!! Yes, the wood stove was included here, and that was about $4,100, so there's 1/3 right there. And our lawn tractor was around $1,800. That's half of the money. We didn't buy all brand new furniture--the only thing we bought brand new for this house was our TV stand, and that was just under $700. (It's solid wood.) Oh and ONE Billy bookcase but that was under $70, and NOT solid wood, haha. The rest? Paint, painting supplies, garbage cans, grass seed, fertilizer, garden supplies, shelving, curtains, stamps, cleaning supplies, paper goods, etc. And don't forget the new basement door!

Pets: 899.16
One cat got sick and had to sleep over at the vet's office. Everyone had their vaccines updated this year, but thankfully they are good for three years. The biggest expense was sick kitty needing to go on special food, which is just shy of $50 for a 20 pound bag. But it's cheaper than recurring bladder issues, which would result in more vet appointments and carpet cleaning!!

Donations: 750.00
Mostly to our church.

Bank Fees: 34.75
Mostly because of Turtle. I told him that if he didn't cut this out, he'd need to get a second job just for the fees. ;-)

Vacation Fund: 80.00
We just started this in September when Turtle got a raise. The "extra" money in his check goes here.


If you got through all of that, congratulations! I hope that next year, around this time, I can look back and see that I did a much better job. Especially since we won't need to do many of the house things we did this year. Here's hoping!

On my own, again

Turtle came home on "furlough" Saturday night, and stayed til this morning. Partly because he missed me and home, and partly because you can't hunt on Sunday here. He got his first buck on Friday evening--a 3 pointer. Big body, small rack--not worth keeping and hanging on our wall. He went back to hunting with his dad today, and will be gone until probably sometime on Wednesday. (Just in time to do a little cooking for Thursday!)

In my "time off" (so far) I managed to deep clean and really set up our family room. I also picked up and cleaned our library. Pictures to come in a few days, hopefully. Speaking of pictures, I've decided that the quilt made by my bridesmaid would look much better in the library. The colors just work better with our decor in there. In the family room, I plan on hanging a picture that Turtle took while we were in Hawaii on our honeymoon. It's of the Spouting Horn, on the island of Kauai. Turtle and I sort of came to a consensus on that at the same time.
















I think some other pictures from Hawaii would be fun to add to that room, too. This one was taken by yours truly. It's a hibiscus, and I think this was taken near our hotel on the Big Island.
















Next up is the dining room. Lord, help me... I have so many "antiques" from both grandmothers, a few great grandmothers, some aunts...I don't know what to do with them. Who needs all of this STUFF???? I don't need flower of the month teacups, I don't need little Asian figurines...I think I'll try consigning it, maybe I can make some money off of this stuff? The things that I have memories of, I've kept, but some of this stuff, I didn't know my relatives had until it came to live with me. Freebies are great, but only when they can really be used.

I'm finally getting around to updating my budget spreadsheets. Honestly! My checkbook registers are sitting on the desk in front of me. Yes, I still use checkbook registers! How else does one track monies which are withdrawn by two people on any given day, at various places? I'm a voracious debit card user and rarely carry cash. (A random fact about me.) I'm also on my bank's website daily, making sure I check off which transactions have cleared, which ones Turtle made, which ones I forgot to write down... It's good to keep track of these things!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The budget

It might be a dirty word to you, or it might be one of your most favorite words. Maybe it's a word you don't think of too often. Maybe it's a word that you think "ohhh, yeah, I should do something about that," but then you don't.

Around the beginning of the year, I started keeping track of our spending in a spreadsheet. I wanted to see where our money was going, and on what. Plus, we were new homeowners and wanted to make sure that we had our money going to the right things. I am also a data nerd (I actually enjoyed the two graduate level statistics classes I took) so the idea of making a spreadsheet, filling in the data, and then analyzing it sounded fun. Turtle did not think so. He also did not enjoy the stats classes HE took. This is part of the reason why I do the budget :-)

I had been doing a great job keeping up my spreadsheet, filling it in, comparing numbers from month to month, showing Turtle how much we were saving and things like, "hey, look, the electric bill was $20 less than last month!"

Then I fell off of the wagon. As many of you know, we lost my grandfather at the beginning of October, after he was sick for a few weeks in September. I just opened my spreadsheet this morning and that's where I fell off. September's spaces are not complete. Ugh, I have some work to do to bring me up to date.

What I would like to do after I finish updating it is to provide whoever is out there, reading this, a bird's eye view of a homeowner's first year. As with anything new, there were a lot of surprises--both good and bad. Do I wish I'd known more before buying this house? YES. Would I change anything, really? NO. I don't think you can prepare yourself 100% for anything, so regardless of how much research we did, how much money we had saved, there would have been something else to throw us off.

Speaking of surprises, I'm home from work this morning because something is wrong with our furnace, and a guy is here working on it. You might remember the A/C post from this summer. And this one, too.

I think he's almost done, and I haven't updated my spreadsheets. Oops. There's always tonight, or tomorrow, or...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm on display!

Sort of.

Crystal over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff has featured my costly health insurance issues in today's post!

Go check it out...and yes, now you'll see how much I make...and how little I really take home. Sad, but true.

One thing I really did want to focus on with this blog was money stuff. We really try to be frugal, and many of the blogs I follow are about budgeting, saving, etc. I wanted to talk about that here as well.

I'm a little discouraged with my blogging. Often times, something will inspire me (doesn't have to be money) and I'll think "what a great issue/opinion/topic to blog about!" But when I finally get a chance to sit and write, I've lost my creativity. So many things interest me...it's hard to focus on them in my real life, nevermind in my blog life. Hopefully I can carve out more time to write...even if I have to write quick things at work in an email and send them to myself to post here later.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

House to myself

Nope, didn't kick Turtle out. He's away with his dad, hunting, for a few days. Lucky him--he's got more vacation time than he knows what to do with...and there's me, going to work pretty sick because I have none left. His company is far more generous than mine. He'd beg to argue that, given that he makes less than I do and that I have more daily perks (regular trips to the bathroom, regular meal/break times, etc). But the grass is always greener....

Time for me to spend the evenings catching up on a few projects that have been neglected over the past few weeks. It'll be good to cross off some "to-do's" from my list.

I'll be in the TV room if you need me...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Plans for the rest of 2010--the downstairs

Looking ahead, here's what I'd like to get done by the end of 2010. I'm going to focus on the downstairs, given that's where we spend most of our time when we're home, and people see this when they come over. These are just the inside tasks--Turtle & I have a list of things to do outside, in the basement, and in the garage which can be done on weekends or over the winter. This post is more of the domestic/homemaker tasks that I enjoy doing, and that Turtle wouldn't care about because he's a guy! ;-)

1. Finish setting up our library/office.

(This was our library/office soon after we moved in. No newer pictures, those will come after we've really set it up. We did add some other furniture and a wood stove.)




We took two armchairs from my Grandpa's house which were old, but in very good condition. I bought slipcovers for them, so they'll have a new look, but they need something else. Throws? Pillows? I've got stuff around the house from other places I've lived and engagement/shower/wedding gifts that we still haven't used, so I can dig through those to find something.

Also need to clean up the JUNK that has migrated into here, and hang pictures on the walls! Make it more homey. This room is the house's formal living room, but we are not formal living room types. This room houses our desk, computer, books, papers, so why not use it more like a library? With two comfy chairs and a great big table we bought at a used furniture place for super cheap (a 4'x4' Lane coffee table for $150--score!) and the wood stove, it's going to be our new home for the winter. Because I don't know what the wood stove will do to the walls in terms of smoke and soot, I don't plan on painting this room for awhile. The previous owners painted it white and didn't do much damage to the walls, so everything looks fine to us. Plus, the biggest wall is covered with bookcases. Ahh, IKEA Billy. How I love thee.

2. Finish setting up the TV room.

(This was taken the day of the closing. It was gross, that's why no close up pictures. I think they lived in here... More pics to come, promise!)



This was the first room I painted. Ha, funny, that's the ONLY room I've painted! It's sage green. (By the way, Turtle is not a painter. Very much dislikes, so I do that job, but I actually like it.) This room doesn't need much more. I bought new blinds yesterday, since the ones which were left behind are dirty, gross and probably covered with nicotine. YUCK! Just need to put them up.

Also need to get new lampshades at the ones on the lamps in there have survived a few moves and are almost 10 years old. They've gotten a little...beaten up? Finding lampshades is harder than one might imagine, and they are also pretty expensive. But I'll keep on it.

One of my bridesmaids made us a lap quilt in our "wedding colors" and with our names and wedding date. It's absolutely gorgeous but I'd much rather use it as a wall hanging...so I must look for some kind of quilt rack/hanger. I'm also trying to figure out what else to hang on the wall. The biggest wall in the room is the one opposite the three windows. The quilt might go there, but I'm not sure.

We recently made our biggest furniture expense since we've moved in here--a new TV stand. We'd had one that belonged to my aunt from when SHE was single, so it's over 20 years old. My parents had it for a bit, then I took it when I got my first place after college. It's for a tube TV, not a flat screen, so when our tube TV died, we had to put the flat screen ON TOP of the stand, which was one of those 4' tall deals. It looked so funny but we waited to find the "right" new TV stand. It was delivered 2 days after my grandfather died, so moving things around got put on hold for a bit, but as of last night, all of the electronics have been moved, rewired, set up, etc. Just need to push it back to the wall and figure out how to hide the cords. Oh, and we have to rearrange the furniture since things got moved around before the stand was delivered. Lovely!

3. Paint the half bath.

I already have a color picked out, which took awhile. It's a tan color with a bit of peach thrown in. Glidden's Dapper Tan, but I don't know if I want to use Glidden specifically. I just grabbed a bunch of sample jars at Home Depot. I might have it color-matched in another brand.

The tile is white with gray and peach/tan vein things going through it, and all of the accessories are brass, so I think that color will look good. I'm not good at making decisions when I have 1000s of options. I also did not grow up in a house with wallpaper and paint (all wood, almost like a log cabin), so I am not seasoned in the way a typical 30 year old might be.

We need to take down the oh-so attractive border that the previous owner put up.



Then comes priming/Kilz/whatever the ceiling since we had a small leak due to a clogged gutter, then painting everything. The previous owners had sponge painted it with a dusty pink, which I couldn't tell until AFTER we'd moved in, since every time we'd been in the house it was either cloudy or near dusk. Whoops. You might be able to see it in this picture:



After that, painting the walls and the trim (white). I also need to paint the back of the door, because that is also pink. The previous owners were a couple (divorcing, or already divorced, yeeesh*) and their two teenage sons. I think this was the one room where the wife felt she could be girly. The lights are flower-ish, the mirror has flowers on it, so does the border. The curtains did too. It's just VERY pink and not me at all. I love pink (the sweater I'm wearing right now is almost hot pink!), but not like this. I want to make it more back to nature, more earthy. Which is why I'm going with tan and white, with wicker baskets. Just to "ground" things. I scored a valance for $6 yesterday--the material almost looks like burlap, both in color and texture, and there are faint shells printed on it in white. I also got a few hand towels in chocolate brown for $1.50 each.

4. Clear junk out of the dining room. I don't have any good pictures of the dining room--because the room is either completely empty or filled with the junk that went there after we moved in.

We did acquire an oak dining set (table, 6 chairs, and a hutch) at an estate sale for only $500. It was in very good condition and to buy it brand new probably would have been 5x as much, if not more. In all reality, I only paid $100 since my parents generously gave us the rest of the money--they had wanted to buy us something when we moved into the house, but I didn't find it until April.

We need to find homes for all of the miscellaneous things that have found their way into the room. We don't use it very often, but it's nice to have a place to put more people, as our kitchen table is only for 2 or 3!

It needs to be painted, and I'm pretty sure I can handle that myself, but I'm not sure when I'll get around to doing it. Definitely not before December 31st, as we will most likely be hosting Christmas dinner here.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the house is entirely white on white, save the TV room and two out of three bathrooms, so I'm lucky in that I don't have to look at too much hideous paint while I wait for the right time and save enough money to repaint things.

The kitchen and the entryway/hallway also need to be painted. I can do the entryway myself, but NOT the kitchen. There are some weird issues with the ceiling, which need to be fixed (and we don't know how to even begin to tackle that!) and I'd never be able to reach the areas above the cabinets because of my build and my low level of grace. Best leave a job like this to the professionals. I also plan on having pros paint our bedroom because I sometimes take longer than planned to do things, and I'd rather have it over and done with. Probably the stairway too, only because it'll be one clear shot--kitchen to hallway to stairway to master bedroom. But the rest of the upstairs I can handle. Just might take a week...or month per room. :-D

I'll talk more about the upstairs in another post. I think I've posted enough about my plans for today!

* I'm not against divorced people! But it sorta creeped me out that the reason that this house was for sale was because a family split up. We did have the house blessed.

One year later


October 26 was the one year anniversary of our house closing. October 28 was the one year anniversary of moving day. (The picture was taken after we'd lived there for about a month, and we hadn't done much at that point, especially to the exterior.)

Here we are, one year later. Wow. I know everyone says time flies, but in this case, it both did and didn't.

When we moved in, I had these grand ideas about what I'd do first and what color I'd paint which room and what I wanted to buy. But soon after we moved in, it was the holidays, so we got a bit sidetracked. Then it was the winter...and I think I had a little of that seasonal affective disorder. That, and home ownership overwhelmed me in regards to what to do first. I am very hard on myself, and I often bite off more than I can chew, even with just my ideas. When nothing gets done, even because I don't know where to start, I am hard on myself.

Spring came, and I was looking forward to spending time outside, reclaiming our yard. On April 1, which was Holy Thursday this year (see previous post to see how screwed up THAT timing was), I broke my hand. Lovely! Which, as many of you know, was followed by surgery, then recuperation, then physical therapy. It was July before my hand was close to normal. I scrambled to try and get things done before Fall set in, since when it gets cold here, it REALLY gets cold.

Turtle's work week is Tuesday-Saturday. Wednesdays and Fridays he works 12-8 and the other days he works 9-5. I work Monday-Friday, with flexible hours, but I try to keep it 9-5. I have a problem with getting myself ready and out the door on time, so if I get there AT nine, it's a miracle. If I get there BEFORE nine, my boss wants to take my temperature.

With only ONE day off together, it has been a challenge to get projects completed around here. Especially since our day off together is Sunday, and we attend a church which is a half hour from our house. Many projects could benefit with two people working together for two days, and we don't have that! We've had to rely a lot on my parents and his father to assist us. We are so grateful that they are healthy and able to help us, and that they live fairly close by. My mom has come over on Saturdays to help me clean the windows, my dad drops off firewood and has hung my curtains. His dad has come over on Mondays to help him split and stack said firewood. His dad, luckily, is retired, and has generously come over when we've both been at work to clean out our gutters or fix things. (The house next door is for sale, and we keep telling his dad to BUY IT! hehe)

Here's what we've done in our first year:
  • Had the carpets cleaned
  • Had the locks changed and a deadbolt installed
  • Painted the TV room
  • Cleaned all windows (inside & out)
  • Deep cleaned the house
  • Power washed the siding, deck and porch
  • Stained the deck and porch
  • Repaired the deck
  • Made/set up a work bench in basement
  • Cleaned up all flower beds, which included shrub removal, extensive weeding, planting some new things
  • Trimmed the trees in the front of our house, which experienced stunted growth. They'll never catch up to the ones the neighbors have which were all put in at the same time.
  • Rescued the lawn from a sure death
  • Started a compost pile
  • Grew awesome tomatoes :-)
  • Bought a wood stove
  • Acquired some new furniture, and not spending a lot of money in the process. Most of it was secondhand.
  • Learned how to reprogram the garage door opener and the "head" thing that is on the ceiling of the garage
  • Dealt with a broken AC unit
  • Battled with ants!
  • Found a firepit in the wooded area on the side of our property, buried in brush and overgrowth, and started using it.
  • Hosted our first holiday--Christmas!
I think that's it...I'm sure there are other things we did, but those are the biggest that stood out. Even with a broken hand, DH's very stressful job (he celebrated THAT first anniversary in August), my job issues, family stuff, health stuff...we managed to get that much done. Of course, I'm still beating myself up on what I didn't do.

What do I want to do? Separate post!

ETA: Apparently we HAVE done a lot of work becuase the neighbors have raved at how great we are doing and how fast we improved things. I know that the house was probably spruced up a "bit" before it was put on the market, but I would have loved to see what it looked like before they decided to sell. Probably in worse shape than we bought it...and it wasn't THAT bad really, just neglected a bit.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why Rabbit and Turtle?

It dawned on me tonight while driving home that I've never explained why this blog is called what it is, and why I go by this alias.

First, why an alias? Years ago, when I was younger and stupid, I was on a message board and posted my first name and where I worked. Hello, large university with an online staff directory. Someone put the pieces together, figured out who I was, and emailed the chair of my department, telling them that I was posting on this site and what I was saying (just ranting about how miserable I was at my first big girl job, wah-wah). While I never got into huge trouble--I was "spoken to" about my extra-curricular activity--this really scared me. Someone found me out! (By the way, I never was able to find out who ratted me out.) I've always been paranoid about being "discovered" ever since. Some of you do know my real name, and that's fine. I trust you. It's more for the people who might stumble upon this blog and say "heyyy wait a sec..." I try not to post too many specific details about my life, which is a double-edged sword. Posts might be easier to understand or easier to relate to if I could use names or details. But on the other hand, it gives me a sense of security, even if it's thin.

How did I get *this* particular alias? (it's a long story, better get comfy)

When Turtle and I were dating, he was in a bad accident and almost died. I'm actually debating on how much of THIS to share, but let's just say he was an innocent bystander and was minding his own business. Initially, his injuries presented as very minor, but a little stomachache, followed by a random CT scan probably saved his life. A year later, thank God, he made an almost full recovery. This was after a few surgeries, an ICU stay for 3 weeks including a medically induced coma, a temporary but life-changing procedure, a tenure at a rehab facility (for physical therapy, not painkillers, jeez people! I have to make a funny somewhere in this seriousness), more surgeries (including one to reverse the life-changing procedure), some freaky scares including ambulance rides back to the hospital...you name it, he probably had it. It was a slow and painful process to recover. He still has scars and pain, but for the most part, he's the same as he was before the accident.

Oh yeah, so how the names came about. The accident happened on Holy Thursday and he almost died the evening of Easter Sunday. Yeah, we get the symbolism, and it's really creepy, and Easter is very serious business for us. Moreso than it was prior to the accident. While he was in the "he'll be fine, he'll go home Monday" part of this adventure (before he got REALLY sick), I was putting a few things together in a little Easter basket for him. It was our first Easter together and I wasn't really sure what to put in a basket for a 27 year old man! Besides candy...

There was a turtle beanie animal (not a Beanie Baby) at the drugstore where I was getting the candy, so I thought, why not, and got that for him. He fishes and hunts and likes the outdoors, and if he didn't want it, we could give it to my cats. He didn't get the basket until months later, when he was in rehab, but he got the turtle almost immediately. I gave him the turtle to have while he was in ICU. He was heavily drugged as part of his treatment--his body was so sick/hurt that sedation was really the only way to help him heal--but I wanted him to have SOMETHING. The room was so bare and cold.

The turtle would become a metaphor, as well as a name. I'm sure you all know the Aesop fable. And when one is recovering from any sort of physical set back, you have to take it slow. Slow and steady wins the race, right? When he "woke up" and began to readjust to life after this injury, he was very slow. Even talking was difficult, since he'd been intubated. He said it was like the worst strep throat times 100. He couldn't really feed himself too well, as his body was "asleep" for 3 weeks. and pretty stiff. Everyone kept reassuring him that he'd get back to "normal" and that he just needed to take things slow and steady, like Tortoise in the fable. He had his little buddy there to remind him that he would get to his finish line, eventually.

The turtle was named Turtle and he had a lot of adventures, including going for rides in laundry carts and going for swims in washing machines! There were some near-losses, which freaked out the "real" Turtle. But he always came back to us. Now he lives on Turtle's nightstand, nice and safe and dry!

So...what about the Rabbit?

Hello there! I can get pretty hyper at times. I have a hard time sitting still when it's necessary. I can also be very impatient. I like to see results, and FAST. Tomorrow? No, how about YESTERDAY. Turtle's recovery was the best thing that ever happened to me in regards to learning to be patient. Just because the doctor said he could go home next week, didn't necessarily mean it would REALLY be next week. Oh, we have to wait for the infection to clear...bummer. What do you mean, my boyfriend doesn't want to hang out with me tonight at the hospital/rehab center/his dad's house because he's sick/tired/in pain/annoyed?

Also, looking back, there have been a lot of rabbits/bunnies in my life. I was a bunny for my first Halloween (like so many other babies, I'm sure), my favorite aunt called me Bunny when I was little, I was a bunny in my first/last (haha) ballet recital, there are some other instances, too. I also have an uncanny knack at spotting rabbits while driving, walking by a field, etc. Before anyone else sees them. While driving on an interstate, seeing them on the side of the road, nibbling grass. It's weird how I can spot them.

Although many years have passed since we acquired these names/identities/whatever, we still emulate them, but the lines have blurred a bit. (By the way, we've never called each other Rabbit/Turtle, it's always been more of "I'm being a Rabbit today" or "Remember, slow and steady.") I've slowed down somewhat (althought Turtle might beg to differ!) and Turtle's actually gotten a little hyper. I think the accident and recovery made him more impatient about the little things in life, only because he's dealt with serious situations many of us will never experience.

That's our story. I wrote it in two parts, so I think the writing is a little lacking towards the end. But I think the important details are there :-)

[Oh, another thing about anonymity on the web. We have a sort of built-in anonymity, as our first names are VERY common for people our age...so common that I'm sure you can guess what mine is ;-) Our last name is a fairly common Irish one. I mean, my first and last name together are SO common that there are THREE of "me" at my eye doctor's office! Two at my dentist! But still, you can never be too sure.]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Safety first!

Today, while at my parents' house, cleaning for the out of town relatives that will be arriving later today, I found almost this exact same image. (In this case, it was the bottom outlet, but who's counting?)


Yup, there was still one outlet with a child safety plug in it!! In the midst of my Grandfather passing away, my parents are having parts of their house done over. They had a new floor put down in their kitchen and downstairs hallway, and when they moved a hutch out to put down the flooring, this was there. So funny to find one of these, given that I'm 30 and my brother is 28. Meaning: it's VERY old (probably as old as I am). I wonder why my mom never pulled it out--probably because she couldn't access the outlet anyway when the hutch was placed in the hallway.

I wonder if she'll take it out now, or if she'll leave it as a mini time capsule of sorts...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saying goodbye

My grandfather passed away last week. He was 85 and had been in declining health for years due to strokes. In the last month, things had gone very downhill. Due to some family logistics, we won't be having the funeral until next Monday. (Yay family drama!)

My parents haven't been to church in awhile, and for my uncles it's been a VERY long while. It makes me sad that I'm the most religious out of my entire family--and now I'm the one working on the plans for the funeral Mass.

Tonight, while typing this, I'm reviewing hymns. My family's parish provided me with a list of hymns and in which parts of the Mass they are typically used, as well as a packet of the readings. Thank God for youtube, seriously, because I don't remember a hymn until I hear it. Just seeing the names doesn't do it for me, not to mention that I haven't been to a Roman Mass in months. Byzantine Liturgies don't have as many hymns. Plus, I want to make sure it's the "right one." I looked over the readings earlier, but I'm still not 100% positive on any of them. Turtle's better at that stuff, I might have him take a look too.

As for the hymns, I think we're going with:
Entrance: Be Not Afraid
Offertory: I'm torn between Come Back to Me (Norbet) and You Are Mine
Communion: Prayer of St. Francis
Recessional: On Eagle's Wings (One of the suggestions was Lift High the Cross--UMMM NO. That's too "chipper" for a funeral.)

For the Psalm: Still undecided.

This is hard. You want it to be appropriate, but fitting for the person. I think the only thing I can do is pray that I make the right choice. I know Grandpa wouldn't really care which song or reading was chosen--as long as the person chose it with their heart.

I can sense another post brewing from the statement I'm about to make: it's hard being religious when your family and friends are not.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why animals are not always better than kids

(I don't say the above comment, but I hear it a lot from my friends/other people who have sworn off children.)

We have three cats. They are usually pretty good. Tonight was not one of those nights.

I came home, and was about to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, when I felt my foot go sliding a bit across the tile in our back hallway. Thankfully I still had my shoes on, and thought "Oh gross, who puked???"

By the way, the lights weren't on, and it was getting dark outside, so I really couldn't see too well.

Flip on the light. At first I thought it was puke, but on further investigation, NOT SO! Ugh, really gross. Plus, the shoes I was wearing had treads in the soles. Yeah.

Off came the shoes! Thank goodness for old toothbrushes that I keep under the kitchen sink. That, and some vinegar and water in a spray bottle, helped get my shoes back in order. (And then I threw out the toothbrush!)

But the rest of the mess. Two areas on the tile. Lovely. Got that cleaned up with paper towels and the vinegar/water mixture. I thought "Now I'm gonna have to mop the entire floor, just to make sure I got everything." Get out the Pine Sol, the mop, and the bucket, go into the downstairs bathroom to fill it up....and OH NO!

OH YES. Someone had a big mess in there. I will spare everyone the details, but it wasn't fun. And they missed the litter box. So the bathroom floor was mopped along with the hallway floor. Cleaned out the litter box, took out the trash, and went upstairs to get some more laundry for the next load.

What do I find there? Puke. In the upstairs hallway. At this point, I'm thinking "Okay, someone did not have a good day here, and I need to check EVERY ROOM to make sure I don't miss anything." Good thing I did--there was more in the guest room.

A few rags and a lot of Nature's Miracle later, that part was cleaned up. The rags got tossed--I was beyond grossed out, irritated and tired.

All this, and then I still ate dinner! I was STARVING and exhausted by this point.

Anyone want some cats? LOL

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Yes, I'm still here

Hello, it's been awhile. Sorry for the lack of posting for the rest of the summer and most of the fall.

Sigh. I've been busy.

There are so many things that I'd like to say and post and talk about...and I never get around to it, and I feel like I should be better about keeping this thing updated.

I have ideas, and then I get distracted...plus, there is a thing called work...and I'm not 100% sure if blogger is blocked. I can read tons of other blogs. Plus, I don't know if I want work even KNOWING I have a blog. Pesky IT, never know what they can dig up on ya!

Maybe I need to make a plan...and then stick to it. Kind of a blog outline?

We're coming up on our 1st anniversary of living in this house...and there's still so much NOT done, but there are a lot of changes too.

I am very hard on myself, if you couldn't tell.

OK I shall return, hopefully sooner rather than later. ;-)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh hey, it's been awhile

Things have been good, very busy. I'll write a longer post later, but most of my time has been going towards the house.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A/C Update

The A/C was fixed. What was wrong? It ran out of freon--no big deal right? At first. Then the tech was telling Turtle how the unit was too small for our house, that it was working too hard, we needed new duct work (because the person who installed it should be SHOT--no joke!).

Turtle told him a polite "thank you" but before the tech left, asked how much this would all cost. The tech said, as a rough estimate, about $5K.

WHAT???? We plan on getting a few real estimates, but this was a shocker.

Have I mentioned that we want to put in a wood stove? Those, with installation, permits, etc, run about $4K.

There goes our nice home buyers tax credit, which we haven't touched since we deposited the check. We didn't plan on spending it all this fast.

Plan for the summer: try and use the A/C as little as possible and save save save.

Luckily, Monday was the hottest day last week. It's supposed to be around 90 tomorrow, but low humidity. We need A/C when the humidity is bad. Heat I can tolerate!

Monday, June 28, 2010

This is the part of homeownership I don't like

When something breaks.

And that something is needed pretty badly.

Our central air stopped working last night.

It was over 85 degrees yesterday with lots of humidity.

We are not happy campers.

I know, it could be worse, but it's more of an annoyance than anything else. Besides college owned apartments that I lived in for 2 years, this is the first time I've lived with central air. I didn't grow up with it, and I don't know how I managed to escape childhood sans A/C. Turtle did grow up with it, and when we lived in the condo we only had window units in our bedroom and living room--which made things miserable when it came time to cook.

Fortunately (well, not for HIM) Turtle is off today so he can call for someone to come take a look at our unit (IF someone is available!). Luckily we kept the window units when we moved, so if we don't have working A/C tonight, we're popping in one of those bad boys. And so funny, because yesterday I was looking at them, thinking "we should think about getting rid of them..."

I'm going to physical therapy early this morning, just to sit in their A/C, because right now it's 79* at my house, with 77% humidity. GROSS. I'm glad that I can go to work in (nice) shorts and a t-shirt...and don't have to wear makeup or do my hair. I don't look great, but I feel hot on the inside!


Oh, check out today's forecast:

Today
Scattered T-Storms
Scattered T-Storms
High
87° F
Precip: 60%


I cannot WAIT to see how much this will cost....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

So much to do, so little time

Who hasn't uttered this phrase, or at least thought about it?

I'm probably over exaggerating, and when am I not (?), but it feels like there is SO MUCH TO BE DONE AROUND HERE. Especially with working full time, commuting 1/2 an hour each way every day, appointments, regular household chores.... And those household chores are never done, or being put off because I'm tired or something else comes up...sigh. I would love to have a household that's up and running. Maybe someday?

Confession time:
We are not fully unpacked from when we moved in, 8 months ago. It's not anything major that needs to be put away, but still, there are a few boxes and things not put away in our front room. In most American colonials this would be the "formal living room that no one ever goes into except when Great Aunt Helen comes over." Well, for us it's our library/office and we have no Great Aunt Helen! Part of the reason is because since the stuff isn't in our way, why bother putting it away? When we were renting the condo (home before here), it was really small so we couldn't afford to be climbing over things. Now, it's like "meh, who cares?" I really should care, though!

We are not really decorated. Save a few icons on the wall, a crucifix and three, count 'em! THREE pictures on the wall, that is it. No wedding pictures, no family pictures, nothing. This is sad. Not really any decorative items, either (vases, baskets, etc.). I am trying to keep the house minimalist at best (both for my sanity and my budget) but this is bordering on "no one lives here." And it's not like I don't have plenty of stuff. I do. Most of the decorating stuff is still in boxes/bags.

We have only painted one room. The family room. It's a pretty sage green color...but that was it. My first time painting, too. I was really excited and gung-ho, and then it fizzed out. I finished JUST before Christmas, and then I took a break, then I broke my hand, and and and. The bathrooms should be painted, only because the PO did a horrific job on them, and I think that would add a small touch of "my home" to the rooms. The other rooms need to be done professionally only because those are the rooms we live in (our bedroom, the kitchen) and I couldn't do that to myself or Turtle. When I paint, the house shuts down. It happened with the family room. No TV for almost 2 months!? It was crazy. Could you imagine if I painted the kitchen myself? We'd never eat in the house again. (Kidding) The kitchen does need some work done on the ceiling (not sure if the taping is the problem) so I'll have someone do that, and they might as well paint the entire room if they are here. Plus, I don't know how to paint the wall that is above the cabinets. I'm a tall girl. I wouldn't fit! Better to let a professional deal with it. I'm saving money for this, so while it might not be done soon, it will be done.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with these weird confessions about her house, but sheesh, I really thought I'd be rearing to go when we moved in. I admit, I was overwhelmed. Me and too many choices do NOT mix well. So many rooms, what to put where, we don't have a lot of stuff--all of these things rattled around my brain. It was almost like I was afraid to commit a table or basket to one room, when that is so silly because I could just MOVE it if I didn't like it. I also know that part of the hold up was my hand, and then it got really nice outside, so we've been working a lot on the yard and garden. That's normal--I can't do that in December! I can paint whenever and I can put stuff away whenever. Who knows, maybe in October I'll be decorating and painting?

I really should be off of the computer and working on a pile or box. Ha. But it's time to unload the dishwasher and take out the compost. Oh, compost. I should write a post about that, too....

EDIT: I just tweaked my Things to Do bar...and maybe things are coming along better than I'd previously thought!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hydrangea Hype!


I have loved hydrangeas since the first time I saw them in my aunt's wedding bouquet, over 15 years ago. My mom has grown some in her gardens over the years, and I've always had to steal bouquets for my house. I just love the blues and purples (two of my favorite colors!) and the big snowball-like blooms. This past Easter, my mom gave me two small plants for my own garden. After we planted them, I wasn't sure how they would do. Luckily, the local garden center offered a class, which I attended yesterday. The instructor talked about the different types of plants that are out there--did you know there are "tree" types of hydrangeas and climbing hydrangeas? I had no idea. I had always seen the ones like the in the picture I posted above. While those new types aren't really my style, it's nice to know that there are other varieties out there. The best thing that I got out of the class was knowing more about how to take care of the plants--when to prune them, when to transplant them (if necessary), how much sun they should get. Unfortunately, when I spoke to the instructor after the class, he seemed to think that the ones my mom gave me (often called "florist hydrangeas") will not last the winter, and not to be surprised if they don't come back in the spring. While I'm a little sad at the waste of planting and my mom's money, I now know more about what to get for next year, if I choose to go that route.

In other news, my hand is slowly getting back to normal. I've had the pins out for almost a month now, and I've been attending physical therapy twice a week, trying to regain the strength in my fingers. You're probably thinking, "I thought she broke her hand?" Yes, I only broke one bone in my hand, but the way that the surgeon positioned my hand and fingers while the pins were in left me stuck in a not-so-great position for the long term. It caused some serious atrophy and stiffness in my fingers, mostly my pinky. I still cannot fully extend it, and bending it all of the way (like I can on my other hand) is really difficult. The hand is fine--the bone is healed, there is very little pain. I'm very lucky. However, this pinky issue is quite annoying, but I'm optimistic that I'll regain most of the strength and flexibility. I have to wear one sort of brace at night, one during the day, one for a few minutes during the day...and I get to play with Play-Doh! Well, not really, but similar. Actually it's more like Silly Putty. It helps me with my flexibility--I mash it, knead it, roll it. It's good for stress relief too ;-) Then I have "boring" exercises--bend and stretch!

OK, time to go do some laundry and clean the bathroom...fun stuff! It's kind of damp and cloudy here--it looks like the sky could open up at any moment--so no outdoors today. I'm itching to lay down more black plastic and mulch--this time in our front yard. The side of the house looks so great, I want everything else to look like that! There's always something to do around here, I'm learning...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Here's something I don't get

And maybe it's because of where I live (New England).

I subscribe/lurk/whatever on a lot of blogs that talk about frugality and simple living. Good blogs, nice people, great tips.

What puzzles me is how some people manage to eat well (organic, Trader Joe's/Whole Foods, farmer's markets, etc) AND eat meat! for as cheaply as they do. Some of my blogger "friends" are vegetarian, some limit the types of meat they eat (ie, no red), so I see the savings there, but then there are others who eat a significant amount. I'm guessing they don't live around here...

Why is it that food prices vary so much? It's really annoying. Yes, we eat meat. Pretty much every day--always at dinner. But even vegetables. Fresh produce can be ridiculous. We shop around, and pick the market with the best sales each week, so that helps a bit. I'm thankful that we have 3 different stores from which to select our food--I know in some places, it's one store or you have to schlep to another one miles and miles away. And there are food deserts, too.

I'm stumped as for what I can do. TJ's and WF's are a ways away, so I couldn't run there all of the time, and honestly, that part of the equation isn't 100% important to me. What's most important is healthy, fresh food and not to pay through the nose for it. Meats, produce, grains, fish, etc.

There are only two of us in this house. It is CRAZY how much money we spend on food, for ONLY two people, each week/every two weeks. God help us when/if we have a child and that child becomes a teenager!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Saturday of house stuff

Turtle had Saturday off (a rarity) because Memorial Day was his regular day off. His company offered yesterday as a "trade" and he took it. It was awesome to have two days off together.

We went to two places and looked at their stoves. There's really not much to say about the shopping experience, since there's not much selection. Basically you pick a company and a size. Maybe a color if you want a fancy door. We'll be going with matte black, thankyouverymuch. So really all we have to decide is the WHEN. When to order/buy and when they'll come out and do it.

Besides the wood stove shopping, we also hit up a local farm market (not a farmer's market) and a nursery. Got some whiskey barrels and plants to put in the front of the house. We got two of the red cedar ones (looks just like the one on the right).


We're partial to New Guinea Impatiens, so we got some of those in hot pink and light pink, but we also got some grasses to put in the center. Turtle says it's good for "height." They are on either side of our walkway, right before you go up the steps to the porch. Next weekend, I hope to lay down more of this black plastic stuff (it blocks weeds) so that I can finish the landscaping in front of the house. I hope to be able to extend the front bed and put down mulch, as well as doing a few other things, similar to this picture below...



My parents have these Belgian blocks (the white/grey rectangles closest to the grass) along their flower beds and walkways at their house. They ended up buying too many a few years ago when they installed the blocks, the remainders being left to sit in a pile on the edge of their property. They said that we could have them, which is a fabulous little gift! I would love to put them all around our yard, but it's not so important to have them in the back just yet. The front of the house and the left side (east side) would be a better start.

Speaking of the east side, since that's almost done, we have a new addition. Our neighbors gave us some irises yesterday so we planted those in front of the chimney. We plan on moving the existing irises from the back yard over here, too. (Just as soon as I find out when it's OK to transplant them, haha.) The hydrangeas that we planted are still doing well, and I'm taking a hydrangea class next weekend! I think we'll end up making the back yard's flower bed area (it was never really fully landscaped) into a vegetable garden of sorts. There are two tomato plants there now.

I figured out what the stuff popping up around the basement door was--it's some kind of daisy! I saw the exact same plant at the nursery yesterday, and last night I checked ours--there are buds starting already! Very exciting.

If this weather would decide what it's doing--it would be wonderful. It's hot, but one minute it's cloudy, then it rains...then the sun comes out...then it goes away. I just want to finish working on the house so it looks nice, but it's difficult when the weather won't cooperate!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wood stoves in June

It's 83 degrees today in our neck of the woods...and we're going to look for a wood stove today. GOOD TIMES!

We have a fireplace already (which had never been used in the 7/8 years this house has existed), but we know that stoves burn better and heat a home more efficiently than just a fireplace. Plus, I have "connections" to all the free wood I could ever want. So thanks to our tax refund, we'll be able to fund this upgrade.

More to come, post-shopping.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

This time, a real post

HELLO everyone!

It's 6:30 am and I'm up, drinking a smoothie, and blogging. Usually I'm still asleep, trying to catch a few more winks before the alarm BLARES in my face. I was up before 6 today. I haven't had any coffee yet. I have a load of laundry in the washer. This is too weird.

I think, after being so helpless for about 6 weeks, because of the cast and pins, my body and my spirit are thinking "LETS GO!!!!" Over the long weekend, I accomplished so much around the house--a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of yard work. It was really nice.

So what's been going on with me lately? Or, should I say, since I broke my hand? Haha. That's about 6 weeks worth of stuff...and it wasn't all too exciting.

I can talk about gardening, since it is spring and a lot has been going on...

At first, there was a feeble attempt at weeding the eastern side of the house. I had to sit on my butt to pull the weeds, since I couldn't put pressure on my left hand. That was interesting. Turtle helped, but he's really not into weeding. So by last weekend, the weeds had returned and looked terrible. We'd planted two hydrangeas on that side of the house just after Easter, but you'd never know it since the weeds were encroaching....and fast. Last weekend, I weeded a bit, then Turtle and I laid down some black plastic/paper stuff that is supposed to help keep weeds at bay. Then we put down mulch on that side of the house, over the black stuff. Let's see how this goes. There's nothing else planted over there right now, besides the hydrangeas, but I like the minimalist look. Plus, the mulch makes that side of the house look SO much cleaner/neater than it did prior to us doing ANYTHING. Have I mentioned that the previous owners (POs) didn't do much landscaping??

In the front of the house (north side), there were a bunch of shrubs and bushes, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. There were also these two barberry bushes. I don't know if you've seen one, but they aren't really that nice. Also, they have PRICKERS. Not fun. I don't know why someone would plant these--they must have been cheap. The front porch needs to be painted and we wouldn't have been able to do so, because of these nasty guys. Turtle and his dad pulled them out a few weeks ago, and now the front of the house doesn't look so...choked? We also discovered that one of the bushes is indeed a smaller lilac variety. I LOVE LILACS and was so excited to find out what that deliciously smelling plant was! Over this weekend, I weeded the two beds (there's one on either side of the walkway up to our house) and pulled out all of the rocks that the POs had used as a border. Not really my style (they were just random rocks they found in the yard), plus they hadn't done a good job of maintaining the border, so the earth was starting to shift and go OVER the rocks. We plan on extending the bed that's on the north east side, so that the two beds are even. I like symmetry :-) Not sure about what we'll plant...we need something that's lower to the ground, since there are bushes already there... But it'll be a fun challenge to figure out what to plant.

In the backyard (south side), there's not much, but along the garage wall, I noticed that there were some green things popping up. Two weeks ago, they blossomed into IRISES! Very pretty deep purple ones. Turtle's dad gave us two tomato plans, and we stuck those a few yards down from the irises. Last night, I noticed that they already have flowers!!! There's not a real garden there...but the grass didn't really grow, and it looks as if the POs had tried to start some kind of bed? I don't know...we plan on turning it into a bed of sorts. Probably for vegetables. We wanted to do a HUGE veggie garden this year, but there's just so much to do when you have a new house that we decided to wait until next year. Probably a wise decision. There's also something popping up around the basement door...it's thick and really green. I think it might be echinacea, just looking at the dead stuff from last year, but we'll see. This is the best part of being a new homeowner, looking to see what surprises unfold in the garden! We also have a deck in the back, and I'm not going to plant anything around or near that since Turtle and his dad have some work to do on that, first.

The west side of the house is mostly the side of the garage, which faces the main road. It is desperately in need of a power washing. Very green. (Our house is beige) I don't think we'll be planting much/anything there...it's very shady and damp.

The grass is getting greener. When we first moved in, it was mid-fall and things looked pretty bleak. We had many comments from the neighbors! Well, I don't know if Turtle has a green thumb, or we just care more than the POs or what, but we've actually gotten COMPLIMENTS on how the lawn is looking! We do have a lawn service that comes every few weeks to put down lime or some fertilizer, but everything else is on us. I'm not 100% keen on having a service...but the pesticides are at a minimum and things lawn-wise were pretty bad. Maybe next year we won't need it?

ACK! Time to go get ready and get off to physical therapy before work. Yes, they have hand PT. My hand is still pretty stiff and I can't extend my pinky all the way, but there's hope. And exercises. Lots of them.

I wrote a ton about gardening and there's so much more to talk about that's been going on around here. Hopefully I'll have more time soon to hop back over...work is busy and the fact that a lot of stuff is now blocked doesn't help.