Sunday, January 31, 2010

Great Day...Awful Night

We went on a birding trip down the Texas Coast Saturday. It was too cold and windy to do much out of the van but we had a great time. One of the fun things about birding is that you never know what you will see. We went totally surprised to see a flock of 100 or so Sandhill Cranes in a field along a lovely Texas back road. I love the low burbling sound they make as they feed. The big surprise though was that we got to see a pair of Whooping Cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Area. That was the good day.

The awful night started at 2:30 with nausea and diarrhea; it is gradually getting better today but has thoroughly wrecked my plans for today. Ack!!

More tomorrow when I hope I am feeling better.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Planning the new budget

I am in the process of re-working the budget. For the past 5 years the budget has been necessities + paying the house off and that was just about it. I want to stay on a written, planned budget because 1. I know how easy it is to fritter a lot of money away on little things and 2. I like to be in control of my money. Experience has shown me that either I take control and make my money do what I want it to or money issues take over and run me. So there is some thinking to be done--what do I want to accomplish with the income that previously went to paying off the house??
1. Retirement savings--I called last week and resumed 15% going into my 403b.
2. New vehicle savings--I'd like to save $1000 per paycheck but I'm not sure that is doable; we'll see.
3. My WTHIPO list--Since this will vary from one month to the next, I'll need to find an amount that I can build up for more expensive items.
4. Travel--I'm not a good traveler but JMM and TSM like to travel so that will need to be in the budget.
5. Charitable / Church giving -- I am embarassed that I really have given very little in this category for the last several years. I wonder if I could just jump in with a tithe? or would it be better to choose a smaller amount??
6. Property taxes / Homeowners Insurance / Homeowners Assn.--I will have to have a savings account just for this--probably $450 per paycheck will cover it.

OK, now to put pen to paper to flesh out just how much goes to each new category. (Pen to paper?? more like keyboard to Excel spreadsheet...)

Thought for the Day:
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Goal 2009 (+27days) Update #23 (Final)

Free at last! Praise God, I'm free at last! I got a cashier's check from the bank for the payoff amount and sent it overnight by FedEx to the mortgage company. It is finished and I will never again have a house payment hanging over me. My main feeling is one of relief. I generally anticipate that things will take longer and cost more than originally planned but sheesh I never thought I'd be paying on a frigging house until I was 62. Oh well, hindsight is always 20-20. At least I won't be paying on a house when I'm 63. Hallelujah, I'm debt free!! I wonder if I can get through to Dave Ramsey???

Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mother's 100th birthday. She died of cancer in 1978.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Busy but Productive Day

I was up and out the door by 8 am this morning which wasn't easy since I didn't get home from work last night until well after midnight (long, sad computer meltdown at work). First stop was to get my hair trimmed. I wear my hair rather short and it is amazing how much difference 3/4 inch can make. From there to Hobby Lobby for candles and candle holders--I had a decorating moment--to put on fireplace mantle. Last stop was at Whole Foods for dinner makings--salmon for me and daughter and cod for husband who won't eat salmon, potatoes, milk, eggs, and a carrot cake. This will be the last time I cook until next Wednesday as I am working the next 4 evenings. I was back home eating my favorite WF sandwich and reading blogs online by 11:30. Now I am fighting off a nap with cats...lost cause...

Good Reading (Listening) and Watching

I have a long commute (70 miles round trip) to work 4 days a week. Since this commute plus work time cuts into my time available for reading, I have come to really appreciate books on CD. You know the book is really good when I am driving slowly on the way home so that I can "finish one more chapter". Such a book is Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee. Last night I was creeping along so that I could finish the section on towing the barges on the Illinois River. I had already finished the chapters about the HazMat chemical trucker driver and the one on the school for ocean going sea captains. McPhee just puts you up there is the cab of the 18 wheeler or the pilot house of the tugboat and gives you a real appreciation for the skill of these men. How I wish my father who was a Merchant Mariner could be here with talk to about this book.

I've been waiting for Dr. Finlay to become available through NetFlix and it finally did--It was worth the wait. It is a series about a young doctor who comes home to Scotland after WW II to practice medicine in the village of Tannochbrae. Warm, touching, understated humor, and the beauty of Scotland. Enjoy.

Thought for the Day:

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." Leo Buscaglia

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When the House Is Paid Off List

For the past 5 years we have been paying extra principal on the house and putting off everything that we could toward becoming mortgage free. When I would want to buy something, I would add it to my WTHIPO list. The final payment on the house will be February 1, 2010 and I will now be able to gradually work my way down the list. Here is the list ( not in any order of priority.)

1. Replace dishwasher
2. Replace cracked window
3. Window blinds & valances
4. Living room furniture
5. Tile in laundry room
6. Ceiling fans in bedrooms
7. Electric logs in fireplace
8. Repair wedding ring
9. Repair grandfather clock
10. Yard scooter
11. Refinish sewing machine cabinet
12. Linens--sheets, towels
13. Carpets cleaned

Since I have some savings goals for 2010, I expect it will take about a year to work my way through the list (unless Murphy makes one of his appearances...).

I. O. U. by John Lanchester

Subtitled Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. If you are interested in the recent global recession, this is a very readable book in very understandable language. I am interested in economics in general and have done quite a bit of reading about the recession and haven't found anything that is both as comprehensive and as understandable as this book.

In Lanchester's opinion the four basic causes of the global recession were:
1. Climate--the post-Cold War victory party of free-market capitalism
2. Problem--the subprime mortgages
3. Mistake--the mathematical models of risk
4. Failure--of regulation

Each of these areas are discussed in some detail and along the way he explains how the banking system works and what a Credit Default Swap is and a myriad of other interesting details.

My only criticism is that he is short on solutions. He says it is bad and not going to get a lot better any time soon and that's about it. There are a few legislative suggestions and why they probably won't be implemented. What I would have liked would be some concrete suggestions as to what someone could do to get out of this mess and prevent a repeat of it but none were forthcoming. We're going to be paying for a long, long, long time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An afternoon at the Met

No one but no one does opera like New York's Metropolitan Opera--perfection is the only word for it. We saw Carmen yesterday and it was magnificent. Elina Garanca sang Carmen like she was born for it and Roberto Alagna was the bewitched Don Jose. And the music, oh the music! The conductor looked like he was just having the time of his life and enjoying every moment and every movement. The sets were perfect-they set the stage without distracting from the performance.

Now the disclaimer, I wasn't in NYC yesterday--I went to a live HD broadast at a local theater. I actually didn't want to go but JMM wanted to give it a try and it was a birthday present for him. I just didn't think that it could possibly be enjoyable--3 1/2 hours in a theater to watch opera on a screen. Well, I was wrong--It was wonderful. Now don't get me wrong, actually being there at the Met and seeing it live really would have been better but since I couldn't see it live in NYC, this was the next best thing. And we got to watch backstage as the sets were changed--controlled pandemonium as things were moved from on stage to off and lowered or raised. We were able to see the conductor and musicians and see the performers closely.

All in all a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It is over, thank goodness!

I had my colonoscopy this morning and Dr. Dobbs removed 2 more polyps. It has been an unpleasant 24 hours with the prep and the procedure but it is over and I am very thankful that I have the means to take preventative care of this situation. I am also thankful for my dear husband who drove me there, waited for me, and drove me home.

Oatmeal allergy?? I am convinced that I have developed (or maybe always had) an allergy to oatmeal. As soon as I stopped the every other morning bowl of oatmeal, the allergy symptoms literally disappeared.

It is a rainy day and just about perfect for an afternoon nap with the cats. Baked potatoes and apple turnovers for dinner.

Thought for the day:
Liberty is the prevention of control by others. John Acton

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The day before The Day

My colonoscopy is tomorrow and as unpleasant as that is, I think the day & night before it is worse. Clear liquids today and that wonderful gallon of liquid plastic tonight...Ack!

On the good news side though is the weather has finally warmed up to normal--low about 40 and high about 60. My kind of weather. I don't know how the people up north stand the freezing temperatures for months!! I guess they feel the same way about our summers though.

It is 19 days until the house is paid off. I need to call the mortgage company and get an exact pay off figure. I can't wait!!!

I am listening to Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands on a set of The Modern Scholar CDs. I really am enjoying it. I love his Patience DoGood letters and of course Poor Richard's Almanac. I'm just coming to the Revolutionary times. So interesting.

Well I am off for a nice cup of broth for lunch...

Thought for the Day:
Well done is better than well said - Ben Franklin

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thankful to be inside today

It is cold and wet and windy outside. I am thankful that I can stay inside and quilt, read, and nap. I am especially thankful on days like today for all the policemen, firemen, servicemen who are out in the miserable weather making it possible for me to be warm and safe and inside.