America, the Beautiful

In the midst of my music downloading spree yesterday I was struck by just how beautiful lyrics can be. Observe my proof:

“If they wanna ride, they ride, if they wanna roll, they roll. He can roll with the punches as long as he feels like he’s in control.”

“Like leaves and kings, all things must fall.”

“Throw your cameras in the air and wave them like you just don’t care.”

“Embers, we’re burning bridges down. Envelopes stuffed with feeling found. To write this down as means to reconcile.”

“Oh baby, you’re a classic, like a little black dress.”

“Why don’t you sit right down and stay awhile? We like the same things and I like your style. It’s not a secret, why do you keep it?”

“Feelin’ good, yes I am I got it oh la la
I’m so chill, I’m so fresh, I’m so cool-la la
I’ve you’ve got it sing it out la oh la la
oooo oooo woah
I’m having the best of days ain’t got no bills to pay
I’d like to make a toast that goes out to everyone that is luggin,
Feels like the summer weather,
I’ve got some extra cash,
Man, I love my Visa card…”

Of course I would be remiss to leave out the undisputed geniuses of song titles, Fall Out Boy, with songs such as:

  • Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes
  • Don’t you know who I think I am?
  • A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A little More “Touch Me”
  • Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song We Won’t Get Sued (aka OLMUCTNOFSSWWGS)
  • It’s not a Side Effect of the Cocaine. I Am thinking it must be Love
  • Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things To Do Today
  • Reinventing The Wheel to Run Myself Over

Anywho, all that to say the author of the words “amber waves of grain” is a damn poet.  I took my usual drive home and took this shot:

my town
my town

I really wanted to do a Russel Crowe and walk into the field letting my fingers run along the top of the grain but a) I’m not in Gladiator, b) I had on flip flops and c) I’m afraid of snakes. And mice.

view of town
view of town

See all those green growing things in the background?  Those are sunflowers! I love sunflowers like most people like oxygen.  I’m definitely going on a midnight stroll in my boots when those start blooming!

Of course I do have my own bloomin’ things (except bloomin’ onions, those are pretty difficult to plant…)

I trip to Big Lots last week was very profitable as  I stocked up on their potting soil for just $3 each for a 8-pound bag.

soil de Big Lots
soil de Big Lots

An indoor plant I received in March has been looking a little, okay a lot, droopy. I’ve taken to calling it Eeyore. Anywho, the plant roots look a bit crowded and while the woven basket was nice it had a poor drainage system.  Water could be overflowing in the house and yet the plant would be dry.  Here’s Eeyore before the repotting:

mostly dead
mostly dead

I was going to post the “after” picture but to be honest it looks pretty sad still.  Hopefully it’ll rebound in the next few weeks and I’ll get a pretty picture up. If not we’ll never speak of this again.

The big win at Home Depot this lovely Sunday afternoon was a wood planter box.  See, I’m one of those hot and cold gardeners. I’ll wander through the nursery section and wonder what kind of idiot pays hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars for something you can’t eat and draws bugs like a magnet.  Then I turn the corner, find my favorite flower and fold.

empty box
empty box

On my “someday list” I’d described a planter just like this one.  See, if I’m going to go through the trouble of finding the flowers, feeding and watering them and ensuring they don’t die then you bet I’m going to find a way to take them with me when I move! But I don’t necessarily want someone to come steal my beauties so my insurance goes in the bottom of the box:

box o rocks
box o rocks

It looks weird but let me tell you, this sucker is heavy!  On top of the rocks I put a bag and a half of potting soil and mixed in a cup and a half of organic plant food that will make the soil more acidic and turn my hydrangeas blue. I put in the flowers, filled in some soil and all done!

favorite flowers
favorite flowers

Finally, some fake flowers to share:

In Memorial
In Memorial

This is the arrangement we picked out for Grandma’s grave site on Memorial Day.  Her grave marker had just been installed and I went back later in the week to clean the dirt away. Maybe next year I’ll have some fresh hydrangeas to take.

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99 things in 99 days

Well it is soon to be the summer of 2009 and I have a list of 99 things I want to accomplish! Stop looking at me like that, I already know I’m kraze.

Here’s the master list numbered and ordered by location.  I’m not necessarily going to work on these in order but I will check back here and update when items are completed.

Since I won’t be starting the list until Monday, June 1st I have two days to get a little bit of shopping in to prepare!

1        Distribute soil in back flower beds                       Yard – DONE August 4th

2        Figure square footage of front and back yards      Yard – DONE September 5th

3        Move rocks to garage                                       Yard – DONE September 5th

Before:

rocks
rocks

After:

no rocks
no rocks

4        Price sod                                                                Yard – DONE September 6th

5        Trim dead branches on trees                        Yard – DONE September 5th

6        Trim roses in the backyard                                Yard – DONE June 2nd

7        Plan backyard hardscapes                                 Yard – DONE August 7th

8        Scrub dog pool and refill                                    Yard – DONE July 4th

doggy pool
doggy pool

9        Distribute soil in front flower bed                        Yard – DONE June 2nd

10      Price chest freezers                                        Garage – DONE June 3rd

11      Rearrange the couch in the garage                     Garage – DONE June 4th

12      Recycle plastic bags in car and garage                Garage- DONE June 4th

13      Collapse packing boxes                                     Garage- DONE June 4th

14      Extend gray primer the length of the wall             Garage – DONE June 6th

painted half the garage
painted half the garage

15      Measure space for chest freezer                        Garage – DONE June 1st

16      Touch up gray primer on wall                             Garage – DONE June 6th

17      Clean out Freezer and wipe shelves                     Kitchen – DONE June 1st

18      Clean out Fridge and wipe shelves                      Kitchen – DONE June 14th

19      Note loose doors and missing knobs           Kitchen – DONE June 2nd

20      Organize kitchen cabinets                                 Kitchen – DONE August 9th

messy before
messy before
organized pantry
organized pantry

21      Price new kitchen door knobs                             Kitchen – DONE June 13th

22      Price dishwashers                                           Kitchen- DONE June 13th

23      Find scratch and dent appliance stores                Kitchen – DONE June 2nd

24      Touch up red paint in kitchen                            Kitchen – DONE June 2nd

kitchen paint
kitchen paint

25      Wash 3 kitchen windows inside and out               Kitchen – DONE July 3rd

26      Measure dishwasher space                                Kitchen – DONE June 1st

27      Mop kitchen floor                                            Kitchen – DONE July 10th

28      Touch up brown paint on walls                           Living Room – DONE August 21st

29      Vacuum the couch and fluff pillows                      Living Room – DONE July 21st

30      Clean tiles around the fireplace                          Living Room – DONE June 2nd

31      Measure the couch for a custom slipcover           Living Room DONE August 21st

32      Paint the baseboards                                        Living Room – DONE September 6th

watching paint dry
watching paint dry

33      Clean 1 living room window inside and out            Living Room – DONE July 3rd

34      Get color samples of the paint and carpet            Living Room – DONE August 13th

35      Get quotes for replacing frame                           Living Room – DONE September 5th

36      Have cable company out to fix tvs                     Living Room – DONE August 5th

37      Paint front door trim                                         Living Room – DONE September 5th

38      Price replacement light fixtures                          Bathroom #1 – DONE August 21st

39      Price replacement shower head and faucets         Bathroom #1 – DONE July 17th

40      Wash bathroom rug                                         Bathroom #1- DONE June 4th

41      Clean the mirror                                              Bathroom #1 – DONE June 17th

42      Measure the mirror space                                  Bathroom #1 – DONE June 3rd

43      Mop the bathroom floor and clean up paint           Bathroom #1 – DONE August 20th

44      Paint baseboards                                                               Bathroom #1 – DONE August 20th

ALL done!
ALL done!

45      Clean desk chair                                              Office – DONE June 20th

46      Measure for baseboards                                    Office- DONE June 4th

purchased, painted and installed too
purchased, painted and installed too

47      Move heaters to the garage or closet                  Office – DONE June 1st

48      Polish desk, drawers and sides                            Office – DONE June 20th

49      Prime and paint door frame for closet                  Office – DONE August 5th

prepping
prepping
finished
finished

50      Put more pictures on the wall                             Office- DONE June 13th

more pictures
more pictures

51      Vacuum floor and closet                                    Office – DONE June 1st

52      Paint closet header white                                  Office – DONE July 10th

53      Paint door trim                                               Office – DONE July 10th

54      Wash 1 window in office inside and out                Office – DONE June 21st

55      Measure for new bookshelf                                 Office- DONE June 4th

56      Clean air vent in hallway                                    Hallway – DONE June 16th

57      Finish filling picture frames                                 Hallway – DONE August 1st

hallway between office & guest room
hallway between office & guest room

58      Price entry way mirrors                                      Hallway – DONE June 3rd

59      Paint door trim in hallway                                  Hallway – DONE September 5th

60      Replace hallway light bulbs                                Hallway – DONE September 5th

61      Tack down phone cord in hallway                       Hallway – DONE June 20th

62      Program A/C unit                                                    Hallway – DONE July 28th

63      Paint baseboards in hallway                               Hallway – DONE September 5th

64      Sort and organize linens by size                         Guest Room – DONE August 21st

linens sorted
linens sorted

65      Measure walls for square footage for paint           Guest Room- DONE June 4th

66      Vacuum floor and closet                                             Guest Room – DONE June 20th

67      Wash 1 window in guest room inside and out        Guest Room – DONE June 21st

68      Choose a paint color                                           Guest Room – DONE July 27th

dis one!
dis one!

69      Take down and wash mini blinds               Guest Room – DONE August 20th

70      Price wall mounted lights                    Master bedroom- DONE June 13th

71      Pull out boxes of clothes                                   Master bedroom – DONE June 7th

72      Select accent paint for Master bedroom wall        Master bedroom- DONE June 4th

73      Clean off shelves in closet                                 Master bedroom – DONE June 7th

74      Donate old clothes to Goodwill                           Master bedroom – DONE September 5th

75      Select paint color for Master bedroom walls          Master bedroom- DONE June 4th

76      Sort clothes                                                   Master bedroom – DONE June 7th

organized clothes
organized clothes

77      Take nicer clothes to consignment                     Master bedroom – DONE September 5th

78      Wash sliding glass doors inside and out                Master bedroom – DONE June 21st

79      Vacuum the carpet and closet                           Master bedroom – DONE June 2nd

80      Measure bedroom for baseboards                        Master bedroom- DONE June 4th

81      Measure corner for TV cabinet/hutch                  Master bedroom- DONE June 4th

82      Peel off fish trim                                                            Bathroom #2 – DONE September 6th

beginning to peel
beginning to peel
90 minutes later - all done
90 minutes later - all done

83      Pick out paint for bathroom walls                       Bathroom #2 – DONE June 6th

84      Price new toilets                                             Bathroom #2 – DONE June 21st

85      Clean the wood cabinets and doors                    Bathroom #2 – DONE July 15th

86      Mop the bathroom floor                                    Bathroom #2 – DONE September 5th

87      Price replacement light fixture                            Bathroom #2 – DONE August 21st

88      Price replacement shower heads and faucets        Bathroom #2 – DONE July 19th

89      Wash the bathroom rugs                                   Bathroom #2- DONE June 4th

90      Catalog books I own                                         Online/Other – DONE August 2nd

a few of the books
a few of the books

91      Change the oil in my car *50,000 miles*              Online/Other – DONE June 2nd

92      Pick up photo albums from C.G.                          Online/Other – DONE June 21st

93      Scan family photos and organize                         Online/Other – DONE September 6th (Well, not exactly done but I did get started! See cute picture of me for proof)

ain't I cute?
ain't I cute?

94      Transfer all music from laptop to desktop             Online/Other – DONE June 1st

95      Update movie database with films I’ve bought       Online/Other – DONE June 1st

96      Update movie database with films I’ve watched    Online/Other – DONE August 3rd

97      Update Racers and Savers thread                       Online/Other – DONE June 16th

98      Organize my photos and backup on USB drives      Online/Other – DONE July 13th

99      Organize work files and archive                           Online/Other – DONE August 3rd

100     Take a SPA day!                                             BONUS

Go ahead, tell me I should be committed….

Big Bad B Word

June is almost here and it’s time for me to buckle down on my budget and find out just how much I can save in one month.

(No the B word doesn’t rhyme with “itch” so don’t even ask! But I love that you’re reading Mom!)

This is the nuclear meltdown budget.  While it’s not as low as I could go, it gives me a pretty good start on figuring out how much I really need in an Emergency Fund in case of a job loss.

June Budget

Mortgage $1100

Car/Life Insurance $140

Home Phone/Internet/Cable $100

Gas/Electric $50

Trash $60

Sewer/Water $75

Fuel $150

Dog Food $40

Food $100

Medical $20

Clothes $75

Student Loan Payment $52

Savings – SM $300

Savings – Car $25

Savings – EF $50

Savings – Roth $50

Total: $2387

There’s only 720 hours in the month of June and I want to spend as little of that time shopping as humanly possible. Granted, I could buy NOTHING but it’s not very realistic. I will probably end up doing a lot of pricing shopping (see the master list)

Keep in mind that I will be working 40-hour weeks at job #1 for a total of 178 hours (22 days at 8 hours a day); approximately 4 (hopefully 8) shifts at job #2 for about 40 hours, plus writing 2 full length articles for job #3.

But work and sleep only take up so many hours!   Therefore I’m adding the following goals:

walk 30 minutes a day -or-
15 minutes on the trainer -or-
two segments on the yoga video

It seems so simple and yet, so hard!  June will probably bring another WIR meeting at my house so I plan on making the house as presentable as possible.  I have a long to-do list this summer of chores I want completed before the end of Labor Day weekend Tuesday, September 8th.  That gives me 99 days starting on June 1st.

The next post will detail my Master to-do list which will (hopefully) cost very little money to complete as I have most of the supplies I need already.

More House Pics

Old television and bench:

old tv
old tv

After two years of a television that didn’t work correctly I caved in and bought a new tv:

My new tv!
My new tv!

I also added some chairs for my kitchen island:

the kitchen
the kitchen

Dad also hung the mirror above my fireplace:

the mantle
the mantle

And lastly, a print I picked up from a street vendor in San Francisco for my office.  It was taken in St. Helena and the detail is beautiful:

office art
office art

As soon as I get a frame and put this up in the office I’ll take a better picture.

House Update

I finally got a chance to work on the house with parents this weekend and we got so much accomplished!  My old pantry was nice but now I have a custom, installed pantry designed by my dear old dad:

new pantry
new pantry

here’s the wide view of the pantry. To the right is the dog food, toys, bowls and treats.  More treats are along the bottom next to the carrier.  The carpet is a remnant from my living room.

Wide shot
Wide shot

we also hung the new pictures in my kitchen nook:

new kitchen nook
new kitchen nook

smile for the close up:

discount art
discount art

I got these three on Clearance for 1/3 the price and I love them!

Day by the Bay

I don’t get many weekends off work and I certainly can’t remember the last time I had a 3-day weekend without work. Come to think of it, probably 4th of July 2008.  But this Memorial Day I was able to trade  a Sunday shift and have three full days all to myself.  So naturally I stayed home to knit and meditate.  *snort* Yeah, no.

Saturday I met some friends in San Francisco to hang out. No real plan, just walk around and be touristy and catch up.  Except they couldn’t meet me until late in the afternoon and I get up at 5am. So I managed to squeeze in another meet up with friends and had a very full day.

Despite traveling to San Francisco once or twice a year my entire adult life I found myself experiencing a few new things with new friends.  First was a long hike up to Coit Tower.  Coit Tower looks like a fireman’s nozzle (hehe) and sits on a hill overlooking the city.

Tower de Coit
Tower de Coit

The hike up to the tower is very scenic but very, very steep:

up, up, up and away
up, up, up and away

Along the way you find some amazing gardens and properties:

hydrangas
hydrangas
San Francisco home
San Francisco home
boo-te-ful!
boo-te-ful!

Surviving a Job Loss

 

Without a doubt in today’s economy one of the scariest things that can happen is an unexpected job loss.  Unless you’re in the upper levels of management you’re unlikely to know if money isn’t coming in quickly enough and just how bleak the prospects for clients may actually be. 

Don’t beat yourself up.

The fact is that job losses happen to the best of us and we can’t always see them coming.  With the uncertainty of this economy it’s best to imagine the worst and hope for the best.  Even if you believe your job is secure I challenge you to read through this list of simple suggestions I’ve compiled about surviving a job loss.  If this makes you uncomfortable because your debt is high, your savings are low or you just don’t know what you’d do if you lost a job tomorrow then stay tuned for my “Nuclear Meltdown June Budget” series. 

Job Searching

Consider what you’re proficient at, what you’re naturally talented at doing and how you want to spend your time.  Make this not just a list of skills like “proficient at Microsoft Excel” but a strength “I enjoy taking raw information and using Excel as a tool to provide readable reports to assist in managerial decision making.” Consider your preferences and make them known in a positive, productive manner.  “I love the synergy of a team atmosphere but also can get a large volume of orders processed working alone with minimal supervision.  When issues come up I like to know my manager is willing to answer my questions to assure the company is getting the best deal possible.”

Start networking with old co-workers and friends.  This can be as simple as writing an email saying “I was updating my resume and thought about you when we worked on project X together.  How are you doing?  If you have time in the coming week I’d love to catch up with you over coffee!”

Join this site and create a great profile.  Actively search out former co-workers and join networks.  Keep it positive though, no one wants to hear about how your last boss was the biggest jerk in the known universe.

Google every possible version of your name (potential employers will) and manage any negative content that you find. Time to eliminate those photos on My Space from your bachelor party. Sorry.

Call temp agencies in town and in the next major city. Set up interviews and bring your resume.  Show up interview ready as if you’re meeting the owner of the company.  Temp agencies want to know you are ready to see their customers on very short notice.

Plan on performing lots of informational interviews and be prepared to ask for a working interview.  This may be a day long test of how you handle phones if you’re in for a clerical position or reviewing a set of plans if you’re up for an engineering job.  The longer you spend time with a company the better they’re going to get a feel for your personality.  Ask lots of questions and always research the company beforehand.  Even if there’s not a lot out there you make this a selling point in the interview.  If you’re interviewing for a marketing position you may say “the city resources page didn’t have your company listed as a local resource for quality x; I’d love to work with your team to make that happen.”

Get the name and position of each person you meet during an interview.  Write down the company address and get business cards.  Within ONE DAY write each of the major interviewers to thank them for their time and the honest discussion of the position and your talents.  Make sure you spell the company name right. 

Contact former supervisors or teachers and ask for a personalized recommendation letter.  DO NOT forget to send them a personal thank you note for their time.

Drop by your local colleges and check out their course schedules.  Audit a class you want to learn something about and network with other student and the teachers. Develop a proposal for a class the college should offer that you would love to teach. Check out the flyers for inexpensive yoga classes, students who need tutors, $1 beer night and upcoming concerts. Walk around campus and enjoy the beautiful landscaping – it’s free.

Remember that a company doesn’t hire because you need the money or you’re too bored at home playing Donkey Kong in your pajamas.  Show up with a good attitude and demonstrate how you’re going to save or earn the company money. 

Bills

Sit down with all adults in your immediate family and decide what’s necessary to survive. Plan your budget around that.

Keep a positive attitude; it’s easy to get discouraged.

Review any upcoming bills or statements.

Decide what can be paid back over time (like medical bills), put on hold (some student loans) or negotiated (family loans).

Call every company you pay on a regular basis.  Let them know you can no longer afford their service and need to make different arrangements.

This is definitely the time to cut back or eliminate expensive cell phone plans, cable, subscriptions, maid service, lawn service, personal trainers and internet subscriptions (not broadband per se, but World of Warcraft).

Take a good look at your savings and be realistic about how long you will be able to pay the bills.  Now, go back to your bills and make more cuts.

Saving Money

Losing a job, whatever the reason, is stressful.  Don’t become complacent in your jobless existence or you’ll find the money has dwindled to nothing and your options are few. 

When you’re faced with a job loss this is precisely the time to make the incredibly hard cut backs.  Think about this: a coworker I’ll call JC was without a job. Still JC went to Starbucks every day, bought new furniture and started a training program. JC played video games all day and stayed up most of the night. JC did not have a single interview in five months, was on the verge of losing the house and JC’s only priority was buying a hot tub.

Now is the time to think ahead and plan ahead instead of spending money without thinking.

Take inventory of your household needs.  Check the bathroom and find out if you need soap, toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant.  Do you need resume paper, ink for the printer or personalized business cards?  Don’t just rush out and purchase them – find the best deal and shop smarter.

Go through your libraries and cull out books you don’t read, movies you don’t watch and music you’ve already downloaded.  List everything on Amazon, Craigslist or eBay.

Contact an organization and talk to the volunteer coordinator.  Get out and meet people who can see you in action.

Your biggest asset right now is time.  You can spend 30 minutes comparing prices at two grocery stores and save 15% on your food expenditures. You can comb the racks at a thrift shop until you find a suit jacket in your size and good condition, drop it off at the dry cleaner with a coupon and repair that loose button yourself. You can absolutely drive slower to conserve gas and shop at off peak times.  Don’t be like my friend JC and ignore the value of time – JC managed to run a red light, get caught, and spent $500 on the ticket and traffic school.

Saving Money on Food

I’m certainly no expert on cheap eating but there are a few strategies I’d like to share.  First is that you must know what you have and what you like to eat.  It’s not use buying a 30 pound bag of beans if you hate them and throw the entire thing away the second you get a new job.

Take inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Without even looking I can tell you I have over 10 cans of tuna, four boxes of cereal and six brownie mixes in my pantry plus three loaves of bread and two gallons of milk in the freezer.  Cereal and milk for breakfast, tuna sandwiches for lunch and brownies for dinner?  I’d survive.  The first step is to know what you have.

Google “meals under $15” and start bookmarking recipes. 

Find ways to substitute. Burritos are just as tasty without chicken and you can live with off-brand mac n’ cheese.

Use the amazing power of the internet to find cheaper ways to do everything, including cooking.  You’ve got a ton of pasta?  Research the best cheese and milk to make better than Kraft mac n’ cheese and make it in bulk. 

If you don’t already have one, buy a used chest freezer on Craigslist.  Fill it with milk jugs filled with water and start stocking up on food when it’s a great deal.

Check the bread store for markdowns on bread and snacks. 

Pick up vegetables at Angel Food Ministry

Ask family and neighbors for their extra tomatoes, lemons, zucchini and oranges. 

Use this list to determine what fruits and vegetables are in season and stick with those.

Call your grocery store and ask when they do regular markdowns on dairy, bread and meat.  Shop during those times and find items you can freeze or eat quickly.

Use this site to learn how to combine coupons, money back offers and sales to buy the food and household products you need at the drug store for pennies.

Making Money on the side

Take inventory of your closets and garage.  Note clothes you’ll NEED to buy (summer shorts for the kids or an interview suit) and pull out the ones that don’t fit or are not worn.  Clean those clothes up and take them to consignment or sell on eBay

A correlation to cutting back on goods and services you no longer find necessary when you’re in a period of unemployment is finding a way to do those tasks yourself and perhaps make a little money.  

If you’re now cutting your own lawn why not let your neighbors know you’ll do theirs every Saturday for the summer for a set price.  You’re local, they know where to find you if you don’t make it over and it frees up their time and probably a little money if they hire out like you did.

If your decision to sell unused items on eBay really takes off, offer to sell your friend’s items for a percent of the selling price. Again, they should know and trust you’re not going to take their item and leave town plus you have a financial incentive to make sure they get the highest possible offer.

Do you have a trailer you can’t sell?  Advertise at Ikea or Home Depot that you’re available for hire out, an hour at a time, to transport those bulky items home.  Many people, me included, can’t take advantage of deals on furniture or appliances without paying huge delivery charges.

What else am I forgetting? Please add your suggestions in the comments section!