Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Another Morning Spent on the Patio ~ Tuesday 1/17/16

Today my Middle Child officially turns 21!  Happy birthday to my favorite Photographer and a great son. He has a clear vision of what he doesn't want his life to be (which is good!)  even as he discovers what it could be, is kind to animals, passionate about what he learns, full of opinions (!), astute, street smart in a way his siblings aren't, and a hard worker when it matters to him.  He willing to take risks and not as stressed as his mother :)  I love him so much and look forward to spending more time with him this summer.

Greg and I slept OK last night. I think the kittens are maturing and not needing to be with us so much at night anymore because I think I only had one kitten with me and she wasn't even there the whole night. When I woke up, there weren't any kittens in the room but there was a toy mouse in the bed with me :)  And so my deep sleep periods were longer and I felt more rested this morning. I have to say that I agree with my sleep analysis graph from last night. I did only get up twice to use the bathroom.

Well, leaving at 6:50 a.m. to take Youngest Son to school made no difference compared to leaving at 7:00 a.m.  The line was just as long and it took me the same amount of time to leave the school parking lot.  So I guess we'll leave at 7:00 a.m.?  I kind of liked being home a little earlier so I could spend a few minutes chatting with Greg before he left. We'll see.

Three mysteries endure this morning:

  1. The kids who usually take the same bus as my son, but who wait at a stop further down the road were out waiting for the bus as we left. So obviously it still takes that route, and obviously the kids are waiting for it at the exact same time my son was. I'm not sure what the deal is, but I'll just plan on driving him from now on.  I put Vivaldi on the stereo and he relaxes while I mull what I'm going to do that day. He's not a morning person :)
  2. Most of my neighbors have their trash cans out on the curb this morning, as we're supposed to on Tuesday mornings.  Was it a renegade trash collector who came by yesterday?  Did someone steal the other neighbors' trash?! Inquiring mind wants to know...
  3. Look at what I spotted just a few blocks from my house when I was driving home... I hear it in the mornings but it's not close enough to my house to bother me. We live downtown, and even though our little town is in a semi-rural area, roosters (and all livestock) are not permitted within city limits. I have an idea of which house it belongs to but I don't plan on doing anything about it.  Unless it starts bugging me. Which it probably won't.

I came home to see a bright red cardinal male on one of my tomato cages and then it flew to the cardinal feeder!  How exciting, I hadn't seen one in my garden in months!  I had just opened the windows but I couldn't take a clear picture because we have window screens on every window. Aaargh. The kittens had spotted it as well so they were all crowding the sliding door and by the time I was able to open that screen to sneak out without the kittens escaping, the cardinal had flown away :(

But then I realized that there is nothing that prevents me from spending the morning outside again, so I'm here on the patio in my T-shirt (it's a little bit chilly at 58F/14C but typing keeps me warm!)  with my coffee, camera, and my large cup of water, waiting for some birds to return.

Only, I need to go collect the trash from the house and put the trash can by the curb and work on my...

  • Collect trash and take bin down to the curb DONE
  • Watch "Sherlock" (but probably while I fold the laundry tomorrow)
  • Gather the paperwork needed for Learner's Permit appointment tomorrow DONE
  • Read details of Diabetic Exchange program 
  • Do my foot exercises DONE
  • Exercise DONE
  • Finish putting away Christmas decorations
  • Wipe out a USB stick for library
  • Greg and I need to assign the IRA contributions to specific funds  Do it with Greg later this week. I looked at it today and couldn't figure out how to do it. Grrr.
  • Vacuum fridge coils
  • Declutter under window seat in Exercise Room
  • Compare music libraries between the 2 laptops and finish moving what's missing to my new laptop
  • Figure out what software I still need to move/reinstall on new laptop
  • Trying syncing my phone on new laptop
  • Clean litter box upstairs DONE
  • Add Osmocote plant food to rose and hibiscus bushes
  • Read Kiplinger's magazine I did read the Annual Forecast Issue
  • Clip Tabby Kitty's back claws and Explorer's claws  Arrgh I tried and he won't let me! I need to ask Daughter to hold him while I do that.
  • Sort coupons DONE
  • Work on shopping list DONE
  • Charge my fitness tracker? In progress
  • Fold the laundry
  • Put the laundry away
  • Vacuum living room
  • Sweep and fake mop the kitchen
  • Take Driscoll's surveys
  • Take RaceTrac surveys
  • Put DD214 away DONE
  • Make lemon poppyseed muffins or/and lemon squares with the "grapefruits"!
  • Pick the oranges
  • Zest the oranges and freeze
  • Cook black beans in pressure cooker (Tuesday but I didn't want to forget about it) Uh, I forgot about it...
  • Bake something with an ingredient from the side-by-side freezer (this week)
  • Schedule credit card payment DONE
  • Move fonts from old laptop and reinstall on new laptop
  • Take my measurements
  • Check when I changed the fridge water filter and reorder if necessary DONE
  • Talk to Greg about Personal Capital and Quicken Premier 2017 DONE
  • Find my notes from meeting with head of education foundation and read them again DONE

  • Youngest Son packed a lunch to take to school.

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work.

  • I aired out the house and the AC is off until this afternoon (high of 81F/27C).

  • I entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned 20 BR points.

  • I'm running "All You Can Eat" Swagbucks videos on my laptop to reach my 1st goal (105 SB, grrr).

  • I'm enjoying a lovely cool morning in my backyard, listening to the birds and the squirrels. And the kittens complaining that they can't be on the patio with me, hahaha.

  • Still using stretched out milk in my morning cereal! (I buy whole milk and half it with water when the gallon is halfway gone).

  • I earned the daily credits for Microsoft Rewards and I'm getting closer to getting a $5 Amazon gift card :)

  • Late last night, Greg downloaded a free Xbox One game thanks to his Xbox Live Gold membership (semi-monthly freebie, according to him).

  • My daughter gave me 5 Coke product codes that she collected this weekend :)

  • I actually qualified for 2 Swagbucks surveys, earned 150 SB and surpassed my 2nd Daily Goal, woohoo!

  • I also qualified for the 7-Day bonus by meeting at least my 1st Daily Goal 7 days in a row. I will get a 25 SB bonus next month.

  • I scheduled a credit card payment online and updated my checkbook. I only pay the bills on their due dates. The companies won't give me any breaks for paying early so I don't see why I should.  Paying bills online doesn't cost me anything, I love it!  Also, none of our credit cards are on automatic payment. I insist on Greg giving me all his receipts every night and I meticulously record every purchase in a number of spreadsheet. In our checkbook (which is an Excel Workbook), I have a tab where I record all credit card purchases, by credit card. In the main portion of the checkbook, under the due date of each credit card, the current balance of the credit card gets updated when I input new charges on the "credit cards" tab. This way, when I look at my main checkbook, all current credit card charges have already been deducted as if they were debit card charges, thus allowing me to see how much money we truly have (which is less than what the bank says we have) and prevents me from spending money we don't have to spend.  We charge almost everything so we earn rewards on our purchases and, if you've followed me for at least a few months, you know that I also strategize which credit card we should use at which store to maximize the rewards that we earn, by making us a cheat sheet every quarter that I laminate and that we keep in our wallets for easy reference. How do you handle your credit card payments?

  • I checked my Amazon orders to see when the last time was that I had changed the water filter on the fridge and it was past due (changed it in early June 2016) so I reordered one.  I used our Discover Rewards to cover the whole cost, and what the hey, I selected the No Rush shipping option to get a $5 Prime Pantry credit. I haven't checked Prime Pantry recently so I'll see if there's anything worth buying. If not, oh well.

  • I entered the Coke product codes into MyCokeRewards and earned 29 points thanks to my darling daughter :)

  • For lunch, I continued to use up the caviar that we opened at Christmas but didn't finish.  There is still enough left for me to have some more at lunch tomorrow. Yum!  I also cut up the cantaloupe that had been ripening. It was getting a soft spot so I think I got to it in time!  I had 1/4 of it for lunch and cut up the rest in chunks that I stored in a glass Pyrex dish in the fridge. I will serve them for dinner tonight.

  • I worked on my shopping list for tomorrow and decided that since I didn't need to go to Publix and Walgreens, I would go to Walmart. I will plan on buying several items that I would have otherwise bought at Aldi for less money... but my Walmart shopping trip will be entirely paid for by Swagbucks gift cards so it will be free to me. I'm trying to get my January Groceries total down as we spent money on celebrations and socializations lunches and dinners this month (2 birthdays, 2 lunches with friends).

  • I've been getting weekly emails from Microsoft with a few more opportunities to earn Microsoft Rewards when I click on links in the email, but Greg told me he wasn't getting the emails. Today I remembered to forward the email I received to him, and asked him to see if he could earn the bonus rewards through it.  He replied that he realized that he was getting them at his work email. He must have registered for the rewards with his work email address instead of his personal one!

  • Enjoying sitting on the porch in the shade of my patio umbrella at 1:00 p.m. wasn't conducive to my vacuuming the living room or baking anything, so I went to get a couple of issues of Kiplinger's and started reading. And tearing out pages. I'm terrible at remembering anything, much less financial stuff that looked interesting, so I tore everything that I thought I should keep and refer to. I probably won't, but you never know. That's the way I roll.  Specifically, I cut out every article about Social Security and Medicare that I came across because I don't understand those at all and they're actually very complicated systems that, if they still exist when we're of gate, could really screw us up if we don't know what we're doing. So I'm clipping articles and advice and if it's obsolete by the time we're ready to use them, so be it, I'll just pitch them.  But I want to keep those things front of mind, as I approach 50.  Yes, there's still loads of time and they might not exist. Who knows.

  • Several things came to my mind, reading the Kiplinger Annual Forecast Issue:
    1. No one knows what the economy is going to do. So it's probably better for us to do what we've always done and not make any changes to our portfolio.
    2. However, I believe that our rate of return is dismal and Kiplinger foresees the average return rate to dip to between 4 and 6% this year. Hell, I don't think we even made that on a good year!  The 8% annual return everyone tells you to bank on when calculating your retirement?  I don't think we've ever hit it.  So I might take a look at the specific funds that we're holding and see if maybe a few changes might be in order.  But not a lot.
    3. I'm thinking that maybe signing up for Personal Capital, which is free.  I don't like the idea of one site having access to all our account and indeed, if it gets hacked, we'll probably lose the 100% guaranteed coverage that E*Trade, Fidelity promise. But the tools that we described in the article that I read look interesting (provided that I use them!) and FrugalWoods, although she really gets on my nerves with her preciousness (hipster supreme, even though they seem to also be somewhat down to earth and nice people), recommends them all the damn time.  And did I mention that it's free?  A big plus.

    1. I'm also thinking that investing $75 (it's actually $55 on Amazon right now) in Quicken Premier 2017 might be another way to go because of the Tax Planner aspect.  I really think I might go that way too and then see if I would need Personal Capital or Quicken or both.  I don't intend to give up my Excel spreadsheets, though and last year I gave up on YouNeedaBudget after a couple of months because it really didn't do anything that my spreadsheets would do much better for me, and the double inputting was killing me. I suppose that giving access to Quicken and Personal Capital wouldn't require all the inputting since they'd get the information from all of our accounts. Hmmm.  I have to think some more on that.  I texted Greg to see if he would have any problems with me getting Quicken.

    1. I finally got too hot, came back into the house at 2:30 p.m. and turned on the AC. Btw, I did create a Google Calendar where I intend to keep track of when we turn on the AC or Heat and the high for the day.  Soon enough the AC will be on 24/7 but in the immediate future, I think it'll be useful when I analyze our electric bill.

    • My daughter did go look at apartments near UCF with her dad this weekend.  The cheap apartments that would fit within her BFF's budget are low-income apartments that they probably wouldn't qualify for. And I'd rather she lives in a nicer place if she has to pay for rent. She found a complex that's nicer and not too far but they'd have to share a 1 bedroom apartment for the rent to be affordable.  She doesn't mind, she says. Hmmm. Her BFF was sick this weekend so couldn't go look at them. I impressed on her that they need to put in an application ASAP after she accepts the UCF offer or they'll be stuck without a place since everyone else who couldn't get into a dorm is also looking for an apartment, but my daughter said that since her back-up was her dad's house that is equidistant to campus, the onus was on her BFF to get off her duff. So true :)  I kind of wish my daughter would live with her dad so she can save money, at least the first year.

    • So then I spent a long time putting an email together for my daughter, trying to make sense of what will be paid by what scholarship/prepaid fund next year. It's complex!  She needs to go meet with Financial Aid and ask them a bunch of 2 questions once she accepts the offer, but I did my best to try to explain some things as I understood them.

    • I tried charging my Fitness Tracker again tonight and after jiggling it a little in the USB 3 port of my laptop, it seems to be charging. It doesn't make me feel too good about the quality of the charger, though, and there is no indication of how long it'll take to charge. I'm supposed to go to bed in 10 minutes and I don't really want to leave the laptop turned on...  Oh, I found a user video on YouTube that says that it takes 1 to 3 hours to charge when plugged in to a PC.  Sounds like I'll have to leave the laptop on anyway...

    • Gas:
      • to take my son to school in the morning
      • and tolls for Greg's commute
      • for my Daughter to go to her college classes

      • Quicken Premier 2017

      • I should start keeping track of when we run the AC or Heat on a calendar because our electrical bill came in and I expected another very low bill but it was about $150. Still not huge but neither Greg nor I recall having the AC or heat on all that much if at all during the billing period.  We did have some Christmas lights strung during the day but it was only 2 strands and they were LED. The fuel rates actually decreased a little in between our last 2 statements so obviously we just spent more energy.  Perhaps because Greg and our son were home all day and they used their PCs a lot?!  I didn't even bake all that much...

      • Explorer won't let me clip his nails.  I need help from the kids to hold him!

      • I think I spent $55 for yet another program that I might not use.... Quicken was able to import some of our accounts but not others so our Net Worth calculation is off, and when I input those accounts in manually, it didn't classify them properly because I'm ignorant so the tax planning aspect of it?  Won't be accurate. Plus, it's the same company that makes TurboTax (which I used to like but gave up on last year as the return they tried to get me to file was inaccurate) so it's gonna want to feed our info to TurboTax, which I don't think I'll use again. So I'm annoyed right now. We'll see what happens. It shouldn't be that complicated, damn it!  I thought this would simplify my life, not make it harder.

      • Quicken Premier 2017: $54.99 
      • Free Xbox game with Greg's Xbox Live membership (Greg downloaded last night)
      • Several Coke products codes from my daughter
      • A water filter for the fridge on Amazon, using our Discover Rewards
      • I requested a free sample of Zing sweetener

      • Fed the kittens
      • Packed Greg's lunch
      • Laid out his breakfast ingredients
      • Drove my son to school
      • Collected the trash and recycling throughout the house
      • Took the large trash bin down to the curb
      • Cleaned the upstairs litter box
      • Earned credits on my rewards programs
      • Took surveys on Swagbucks
      • Chatted with Daughter
      • Sorted and filed coupons
      • Worked on my shopping list
      • Scheduled a credit card payment
      • Forwarded an email to Greg 
      • Ordered a new water filter for the fridge
      • Read the Kiplinger Annual Forecast issue
      • Educating myself some more about Quicken Premier 2017
      • Discussed apartments and financial aid with my daughter
      • Researched my daughter's financial awards for next year
      • Put together a recap and advice for her
      • Put away DD214 and gathered documents for Learner's Permit exam
      • Tried to clip a kitten's claws
      • Placed an order on Amazon
      • Tried to populate Quicken with our accounts' information
      • Cooked dinner
      • Unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher and started it
      • Washed a pot by hand
      • Requested a free sample
      • Exercised

      • I slept well last night!
      • I drank 2 cups of water before the first sip of coffee :)
      • Breakfast was a cup of Rice Krispies, half a cup of ~2% milk, and 1/3 cup of blueberries
      • I did my foot exercises.
      • Lunch was an egg salad sandwich, 8 mini caviar toasts, a quarter of a cantaloupe. I drank water.
      • Afternoon snack was an apple.
      • Dinner was a cup and a half of linguine with some 3-bean turkey chili and cantaloupe chunks.
      • Exercise was using my recumbent bike for 45 minutes (7.41 miles).
      • I read this article about how to interpret what you see on the scale with interest.  He advises women to only compare their weight month-to-month because of the fluctuations resulting from our cycles. Hmm, I think I'll stick to week to week, but I liked out he explains what happens when you eat carbs, or too much sodium, etc. And that think this chart will be really helpful. I'm going to print it for myself.  I did mean to take my measurements and I forgot to do it so I'm going to add it to my To Do List.

      • For the glimpse of a male cardinal at my feeder this morning and then seeing a flock of them fly away in the sunlight!
      • For a lovely text exchange with Middle Son
      • For my sister's email wishing her nephews happy birthdays


      • I spent time on the patio this morning and heard lots of birds, but much like the woodpecker I heard the past couple of days, they remained elusive.  I did spot 3 large black crows in the large tree bordering my back neighbor's property but the sun wasn't over the rooftops yet so my pictures didn't come out; They had something in their beaks that they were tearing apart while on the branches and I'm not sure what that was.

      • I didn't get to photograph the cardinal at my feeder (it was about 7:25 a.m.), but I kept hearing it call from a nearby tree and then saw it fly away, then followed by 2 others and then several others from other trees. They flew higher than I've ever seen them fly and the rising sunlight hit their plumage, which gleamed red so then I realized that it was a flock of cardinals flying away!  I had never seen more than maybe 4 at a time, so that was amazing!  I wish I could have taken a picture, but it wasn't meant to be.

      • At 9 a.m., I just heard a mourning dove close by.  A little bit ago a pair of them flew over the yard and it looked like they might land on the electric cable and perhaps eat at the feeder, but they decided not to do that at the last minute and flew on...  I was disappointed!

      • What a difference in the seasons... in the summertime, at 10 a.m. I'm already moving my chair back into the shade of the house and the patio is partly in sunshine.  Today, the whole patio and indeed most of the backyard are still completely in the shade!  The butterflies are starting to flutter by and the squirrels have come down from the trees and are foraging in the grass.  The mourning doves are moving from tree to tree bordering the backyard, maybe they'll decide to come to the feeder after all?


      • What's in season in January:


      Not sure if you ever saw this video a few years back but it's been a favorite of ours forever!  I have the song on my phone, LOL!  Now it's kind of our family anthem :)


      1. Omg! That video was stupid funny, but that's me. I want to hug every cat! Happy birthday to your son!

        1. Thanks Judy, I'll pass it on to him :) That video is stupid but we crack up every time we hear the song... and it's one of those ear worms for us. Greg was singing it while battling his evil robots or whatever game he was playing last night, lol.

      2. Thank you for the dryer repair link, Nathalie. Don't think I am brave enough to tackle anything more than cleaning out the lint screen, but I will ask my neighbor across the street if he can check the vent hose, etc. One of these days, when I am organized enough!

        And look at you, sitting on your patio and lunching on caviar! Good job! :D

        1. It felt quite decadent, hahaha. To be precise, though, we're not talking Beluga caviar. It's the much more common lumpfish eggs that I was eating, although the jar did call it "caviar" :)

          Good luck with the dryer! I hope it's something as easy as cleaning the vent hose.

      3. I don't know what kind of fitness tracker you have, but I had a fi bit that came with a "bad" charger--meaning that the device was loose in it and didn't make the contacts it needed to charge properly. I corresponded with fitbit online and they sent me a new charger with no problems.

        1. I'm glad they replaced yours! The real Fitbit is quite an investment. Mine is a cheapie generic one I just picked up at Aldi last week for $35. I could return it, I suppose, but I'm not sure if they still have them in stock (not sure if you shop there but their non-food items such as those are usually 1-week specials) and I think the manufacturer is in Germany. It worked last night so maybe I wasn't sitting the tracker into the charger properly. I'll have to see what happens when I try it again next week.
          Question: can you replace the battery in your Fitbit? In mine, you can't so when the battery craps out, you have to throw away the whole thing, I guess. I don't know how long the battery is supposed to last (several years, I hope!) but it would be nice not to have to throw it away, I didn't realize that when I bought the tracker.

        2. I don't think the battery can be replaced. I've had mine several years now with no problems.

      4. In an uber-Canadian move, I immediately thought the Coke caps were hockey pucks until I realized they were on your laptop πŸ˜‚. Those are some small pucks, eh?!

      5. How do you handle your credit card payments? <-- I have to say that you are way way way more organized about handling your credit and credit cards. We pay cash for groceries, restaurant meals, hair cuts, takeout, etc. (all those "little" day-to-day expenses). We use credit cards for gas, since it's a pain to go inside and pay cash and because we usually get gas at Sam's Club, where you can't use cash.

        Of course we have to use credit cards when we purchase stuff online and when we travel/fly/use hotel rooms. But we pay everything off each month. One credit card has cash back, another puts the "cash" into our IRA account.

        1. You have a credit card that lets you put the cash back into your IRA and you don't charge everything to that credit card?!? If you're going to pay it off every month, why not? Just enter your credit card purchases in your checkbook as if they were cash purchases and then when the bill comes in the money had already been set aside for it :)


      Anything you'd like to add? Share away!