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Archive for January, 2006

Home Spa Day

January 31st, 2006 at 08:05 pm

I'm home alone and feeling guilty for my eating and spending today. I decided it was time to stop and move to something useful, frugal and "feel good-y".

So, I got out the hair cutting scissors and followed a tip I got here - I pulled my hair into a pony tail and cut it straight across, this gives a layered look. Last time I did it, I pulled the hair to the top and that gave dramatic layers. This time I pulled it to just below the crown and the layers are much more subtle.

I think I cut about 2.5 inches off the longest section and one section didn't get cut at all. That was fine, that section didn't have any split ends.

Then, into the kitchen to mix up some henna to color my gray roots and jazz up my color.

When I first thought about henna, I asked a few friends and they made it sound soooo difficult. So the first time I tried it, it was difficult. But, now I've figured it out.

First, the directions say not to use metal. Which means I can't heat the water on the stove (I don't have any corningware), so I heat the water in the microwave in a pyrex bowl (little bitty one). In a slightly larger pyrex bowl, I pour out about 1/4-1/3 cup of henna. I then mix the hot water into that very slowly. I pour and mix, pour and mix. This is the best way to keep from having clumps. I add enough water to get it the consistency of honey.

Then, into the bathroom to don latex gloves and start putting in my hair. This time I didn't really mix enough, so I mainly concentrated on my roots. If I think it needs more, I'll add it tomorrow. I use my hands (in gloves) and the plastic fork I used to mix the henna to apply it. I find the tines of the fork really help to comb it into my hair.

Finally, I covered it with a hair wrap that I got with another dye package and a plastic shower cap. I'm sitting here with it wrapped until I'm ready for bed. Then I'll shower and rinse it out.

I like henna because it's natural and it's good for your hair. It's a natural conditioner. In fact, many hair dressers recommend the no color version for people who have hair that needs some more conditioning. It's also good if your hair is thinning because it coats the hair shaft and makes each hair thicker. This isn't an issue for me, my hair is still pretty thick, but there is a noticeable difference - a lot more body and you can definitely look at a hair and tell where the henna stopped.

I can get about 3 applications of henna for $5. Not bad when you compare it to a dye job in the salon.

Bad day

January 31st, 2006 at 07:09 pm

I caved. I totally caved.

First, I bought a Dr Pepper ($0.65 frivolous spending) then I ate some candy in the office.

Loverly. I guess I'll have to back up on the diet some. I'm getting discouraged with the diet, though, because it appears that I haven't lost any weight or inches around my belly. If anything, some of my clothes are actually tighter.

The good news? DH called and said they were stopping at the grocery store for lunch rather than fast food. So, we should meet our January goal of no eating out (I won't count the grocery store deli).

Other good news? DS1 woke up with no fever and didn't develop one before the time for them to leave and last time I spoke to dh still didn't have one. So he got well just in time to be able to go see his grandmothers.

How much money?

January 30th, 2006 at 04:18 pm

This is a question that was posed on an online forum a few years ago: How much money would it take to change your life?

At the time, I said $80,000, that was enough to pay off all the bills we owed. Now it would take more like $100,000 (traded to a larger house and had a job loss/cross-country move in there).

But, I've been thinking. That would be less stress, for sure, but it wouldn't change my life. I'd keep my job, dh would keep his job, we'd just have more wiggle room for other things. But nothing would really change.

If I were to really change my life - radically alter the course, it would take at least $1million. That's the sum that would allow me to feel comfortable breaking completely away from what I do and learning something entirely new.

Don't get me wrong, I like my life. It's a pretty good life. I like my job, my co-workers, my house, the area we live, etc. But, I can't shake the feeling that there is something else I should be doing. I think I'm a radical without a cause. I just can't find a cause I can get behind.

DH, on the other hand, could change our whole life with $200,000. That is the sum that would have him comfortable enough to pack up lock, stock and barrel and move onto something entirely new.

I've been thinking about life. I know that I'm in a holding pattern. I admit I'm afraid I will stay there, but I'm afraid to try something new and fail. At heart, I'm a pessimist.

My goal this year is to work on finding what cause I want to devote energy to, to being more optimistic, to feeling like I can make a change and be happy. And to be more willing to take the risk.

I don't expect to come into money anytime soon, but it never hurts to have a plan and be ready.

How much money would it take to completely change your life?

Sad News

January 29th, 2006 at 05:58 pm

We got the word that dh's grandmother died last night. This is his first grandparent to die. She's been in bad health for 2 years or so, so it isn't unexpected, but ...

He needs to go back to Oklahoma for the funeral. He's decided to drive, flying would cost $500 and we just can't swing that right now (not after having spent the money on the tickets for vacation). He's going to take the kids with him. I'm staying home, I can't get off work.

One kid is still sick, but we expect him to be better by tomorrow afternoon. They'll leave Tuesday morning.

So much for not eating out in January. But I'd say this doesn't count.

Relaxing day

January 28th, 2006 at 05:07 pm

Well, one kid well, now the other kid is sick. I'm not sure what it is, just a fever, no other symptoms. DS2 missed Thursday and Friday of school, now it looks like DS1 will miss Monday. DH can use his sick leave to take care of sick family members, but I'm not sure if he can handle 3 days off.

So, dh spent time hanging our new porch swing (one of those things where there was a very good deal and he just had to have it). I spent some time in it with him and then had to go tackle the grass that was crowding my pretty plants.

Then, we came inside and I opened my jasmine tea. This was a gift from one of my doula clients. Her mother brought it to me from China. It's much better than what I've gotten here. Very strong jasmine scent.

Now I'm sitting here enjoying a mug of tea waiting for dh to decide on something on tv. It seems like a good day, even if we do have a sick kid (and the well kid is starting to get cabin fever).

Gadgets that were a waste

January 27th, 2006 at 02:35 pm

I figured since I talked about gadgets which have made our life easier, I should talk about gadgets which were supposed to make life easier, but which are never used.

1) FoodSaver. DH insisted we get this. I knew it would be a wasted $150. We don't freeze that much that would go in those bags and who wants to drag the whole thing out for such a small amount?

2) Food Processor. This was an xmas gift. I did ask for it, though. I thought we'd use it to process veggies from the garden (grate zucchini for zucchini bread, etc), but it is rarely used. We do use it to make pesto, so it does at least get some use.

3) Dehydrator. DH insisted he would use this "lots". He brought home a big bag of jalapeno peppers and dried 2 batches and then let the rest of the peppers mold. He's never used it again.

4) Cuisanart Ice cream maker. We did make some ice cream with it early on, but found that it's actually kind of expensive to make good homemade icecream and is cheaper to buy the storebrand (which is really good).

5) Pampered chef ice shaver. Used only in product demonstrations. I'm holding onto it for now (we have the room) in hopes that my boys will get some use out of it as they get older (they're 5 & 7).

So, almost $300 spent (if not by me, by someone) on gadgets that aren't used and only take up space. Everyone of these gadgets was supposed to help save us money. And I'm sure that some people do save money using them, but so far it hasn't worked for us.

Vacation update

January 26th, 2006 at 08:13 pm

So, we've got a date set. It's right before the hurricane season. Kind of scary, there actually was a hurricane during this time frame in 2005. So, it's something we'll have to watch.

Costs so far:
Airfare (4 people) $1,770.00
Trip insurance $ 100.00
Total $1,870.00

We decided to go with the trip insurance because of the risk of hurricanes. I would hate to spend all that money and then have a major hurricane hit and not get to go. And given the 2005 hurricane season, you can't take anything for granted anymore.

The next step is to get our passports.

I can't believe we are spending this kind of money, wow! The good thing, though, is that FIL is picking up the costs once we get there. He's got us booked into a house that costs $2500/week (I think he got a pretty good discount) and he'll pay for the food and sightseeing.

I can't wait!

Better Living through Gadgets?

January 26th, 2006 at 06:45 pm

Since we've moved into our new house and have unpacked the kitchen, I've noticed several gadgets we own that have saved us money.

One is a thermos. This way I can heat the water for me tea, put it in there and then have hot water all day without having to keep running the stove. I don't know how much this saves because I don't know how much electricity the stove uses, but it is saving electricity.

Another one is the cheese grater we got from pampered chef. This is one of those "barrel graters" where you load the top with cheese, put the handle down over that and squeeze while turing the barrel. This way, we can buy the huge blocks of cheese instead of the bags of grated cheese (we tried grating the full blocks into a bag, but it didn't store well and when we tried to freeze it, it all stuck together). I have 2 graters, one I picked up at a thrift store for a dollar. It only came with the fine grater barrel, but that's great for dh's parmesan cheese. We put the graters preloaded with cheese into gallon size plastic bags and store in the fridge.

I'd love to hear about gadgets other people use to save money.

Family Game Night

January 25th, 2006 at 06:17 pm

Tonight we instituted something new - Family Game Night.

This will be every Wednesday night (we chose Wednesday, I guiltily admit, because it's a slow TV night).

Tonight we broke out our new Monopoly (bought on sale) and played. We decided to play until bedtime for the kids and then not count winners or losers. It was a lot of fun, teaching the kids how to play (btw - we played with one of the alternative rules listed in one of the threads on the discussion group - the money in Free Parking) and watching them add the spots on the dice and count to move. I showed off by telling them where to move just by looking (well, it's 10 on a side, with a railroad in the middle, it isn't that hard).

They enjoyed it so much, I'll bet we end up playing it next week. I've decided that we will definitely recommend board games as presents for family members.

Oh My Stars!!!

January 24th, 2006 at 05:23 pm

My FIL just called and said if we can get the time off and gather the airfare, he will take us to Mexico with him (the Yucatan) and pay everything else. For our family of 4 this will mean $1800 for the airfare. Which is a lot for a vacation, but what a wonderful opportunity.

I'm going to use this category to track the expenses incurred for this vacation - passport, new clothes, whatever. I don't think we will buy much extra, but I'm going to keep track of it all.

Cheated on my Diet

January 24th, 2006 at 01:39 pm

Argggh, I'm sick-ish. I have a sore throat, slight fever and a sore back. I've tried some of the home remedies but what has always worked best for a sore throat for me is a soda. I think it's the sodium and fizzy (I think the fizzy overstimulates the nerve endings and then it just feels like it doesn't hurt as much - but it's just a theory).

So, I spent 65 cents on a can of Dr Pepper. And I did feel better for 4 hours. Until I picked up my kids and had to start raising my voice to be heard over their bickering. It might be psychosomatic, but hey, whatever works. Too bad it was so expensive though.

DH has to work late tonight so me and the boys will do a pickup meal. I have some pizza leftover from their treat which will be great for them. For myself, I'll probably have refried beans with chili and cheese.

Confession - DH does almost all the cooking. I rarely, if ever cook. I hate to cook. Except, I don't mind making beans and baked goods. It works well for us, he likes to cook, he's good at it and he likes the things I make in bulk to use as ingredients for meals.

Frivolous spending - $0.65

Supplemental heating - Freezer cooking

January 23rd, 2006 at 05:21 pm

I live somewhere where it gets really, really hot in the summer. So hot, you think you will melt if you even so much as turn on the stove. So, we do a lot of cooking for our freezer in the winter.

I've found that cooking a big pot of beans to make into refried beans can easily raise the temp of an 800sqft home by 5 degrees, and the moisture added means it holds onto that heat longer. Dried beans are cheap, the electricity (or gas) to cook them isn't that expensive and cooked beans freeze extremely well (they can get mushy).

Just remember, it's best to add salt after you thaw your food. Salt taste can intensify upon thawing. This goes for all herbs and spices in a way. They all change intensity, some lose intensity so much taht you wonder why you even wasted your time and money and some increase intensity so much you can't stand it. So, I generally keep the seasoning bland and add it when it thaws.

DH grills as much meat as his grill will hold (which is quite a bit), then he slices and dices for use in later meals (fajitas, stir fry, barbecue, etc). Cooked meat holds quite well in the freezer, especially if you will be adding more seasoning later.

Bread and other baked goods tend to hold well too. I haven't baked bread in a while, I need to find a really good source of whole grain flour and a good recipe for whole grain bread - but once I do that, I plan to start baking again. Days when I cook beans would be perfect for bread baking - the extra heat and humidity will really jumpstart the yeast.

Grocery shopping day

January 22nd, 2006 at 06:14 pm

We walked to the grocery store today (I'm loving this being close enough to walk). It was cool-ish today, 56F, but when you start walking, you really get warmed up.

I'm out of steel cut oats and the grocery store doesn't carry them. They have all the rolled oats you could ever want - but no steel cut oats. It's so frustrating.

But we got bananas, milk and veggies for the week. We threw in a treat for the kids (cheap, store-brand pizza which was on sale) and then walked on home. We have meat stocked from buying beef and lamb from my in laws. We also buy free-range chicken when we find it on sale (but they're starting to raise chicken, so maybe we'll be able to get that from them soon, no more lamb for now though).

DH has an evening meeting in the city with the health food store, so he'll buy me some bulk oats. I'll also have him stop and get me some more yogurt for the smoothies I've been having.

Unexpected no-spend day

January 21st, 2006 at 10:28 pm

We had a date set up with a family to go to the cheap movie. The movie is about 1/2 mile from our house, so we walk (I mean, it takes 10 minutes door-to-door, we couldn't get in the car, drive, park, etc in that time). We get there and the other family isn't there (I'm not sure what that was about) but we were going to see the movie anyway. Turns out the theatre was closed - they had no power. I called the other family to tell them not to bother coming and it didn't really sound like they were coming at all.

Oh well, we came home, made fake milkshakes for the kids (we passed a McD's and were going to buy them cones, but the machine was being cleaned) using yogurt, milk, chocolate ovaltine and ice and watched "Around the World in 80 Days".

I'm supposed to call her tomorrow to set up another movie, but I think I'll wait for her call.

Bonus dividend

January 20th, 2006 at 07:15 pm

I belong to a credit union in Oklahoma. We haven't really been able to use it for several years now (because we don't live in the same city) but we maintain a small-ish savings account there, accounts for our boys and my IRA (paying a whopping 2.5%). This year they had a great year and paid a bonus dividend. Because the dividend is taxable, the bonus on my IRA was paid into my account tied to the IRA (I had to open a separate account just for me). That account had the $25 I was required to deposit to open the account. I opened the account in July and I ended 2005 with $12.50 in dividends. So, that little $25 account now has $37.50. LOL.

I need to talk to my bosses about what paperwork I need to do to open an account in their profit sharing plan. From what I understand it performs very well. They buy real estate notes (for a substantial discount), collect on them (at 10-13% interest) and if they default, I foreclose on them. Since we do all the work in the office, we don't lose much. We have no attorney's fees - it costs the $9 for certified mail, $2 to post the notice of sale and $65 to record the deed and affidavit - so less than $100. We then have a real estate developer who sells the property for us for a discount on his attorney fees (he carries notes and we do the closings and foreclosures for him). So, the profit sharing plan is generally paying out at 7-8% or more (they do have some administrative costs). I haven't been there long enough to get a match, but in April, I'll start getting a match.

I love my job, my bosses are great. My co-workers complain all the time about how cheap they are, etc. They have no idea how great they have it. Having worked places where the bosses seemed to think their job was to reduce you to tears and destroy any self-esteem you have, I almost cry when they praise me. They trust my judgment and turn me loose all the time. "We need such-and-such, bring me a draft when you're done". They just assume I can draft the document and be right. And I surprise myself by what I can do. It gives me great satisfaction.