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Friday, December 31, 2010

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off....

You know what? You guys are right; activity does seem to help.  We also had some sunshine today, albeit a bit thin.  I'm feeling a wee bit better about things, and I think that making a list of goals for 2011 was a step in the feel good direction.

I gave up New Year's resolutions a l-o-n-g time ago.  At a certain age, I forget which, I realized that I'm pretty set in my ways and I'm not about to change.  The only change happening to me these days is gravity related, and I'm coming to terms with that.  But the time of the end of the old year is a great time to set out goals for the coming year, and I've set mine into a separate list off to the side there.  I'm not sure what happened to 2010's list, or how much of it I got done, but I figure if I keep my list here where God and everybody can see it, it will keep me honest and on task.

At some point, I want to try to assign different goals to different quarters of the year, which I've found helpful in the past. I just can't do it now because there's a good possibility that I'll need surgery shortly, and recovery for it might set me back, time-wise.  I have a couple of things going on in my heart, and I've known all my life that heart surgery was in my future (not that that makes it any less scary), and I'll know probably in a couple of weeks how soon that's going to happen. Nowadays they can do this thing called robotic surgery, for which the recovery time is almost nothing.  (Steve told me to ask the surgeon if he does robotic surgery, and if he doesn't, why is he still doing stone age surgery?) But I don't even know if my problems will qualify me for robotic surgery.  One of the things that needs to be fixed is my aortic valve, which is a serious bummer for me. For either choice, pig valve or artificial valve, I would need to be on medication that would either prevent my body from rejecting the pig valve, or medication to thin my blood to keep the artificial valve from sticking.  With both meds, you can't drink alcohol.  *Sniff*  But I like my nightly tipple.  So that little wrinkle is a little depressing, huh? No more depressants!

I've also had several suggestions to get chickens to lift my spirits, and I plan to do that, but I want to do it after I get my bees installed.  Or at least, a little later…probably late winter or early spring.  But poultry are definitely on the list.  I need to put their coop together first, and I guess deciding on where it's going to go would be a good idea too.

And then I also remembered that a good way to lift your spirits is to stop thinking about yourself!  Gah! The world doesn't revolve around you, so snap out of it!   Nothing seems to work as well for taking your mind off of what's going wrong with you than making someone else your focus for awhile. So Steve is getting a lot of attention these last few days, which is making us both happy.  He goes back to work next Monday, and I'll be left to my own devices again, but now I'll have a to-do list to get started on. 

So thanks to everyone who left advice and well wishes because I appreciate all your kindness and ideas.  And absolutely everyone have a Happy New Year, and a Peaceful, Productive, and Prosperous 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Would Whatever It Was That Stole My Groove Please Bring It Back?

Well it's been nearly ten days since I last posted. I haven't been doing anything remotely homestead-y, and then Christmas happened.  I really hope everyone had a great holiday.  I have mixed feelings about mine because I went down to visit with my family, which was great!  But it wasn't quite the boost in the arm that I was hoping for.   I don't know if it's being out of work for over a year and feeling pretty helpless about that, or if the somber Oregon rainy weather is doing it, but I'm finding that I'm having trouble lately being interested in the many things in which I'm interested, and that usually means that I'm depressed.  Maybe blue is a better way to put it- I am not one of those pitiable individuals who are racked by depression.  I just get down every once in awhile.  Everyone does, I suspect.  I don't think it's the weather so much; I generally enjoy inclement weather and the feeling of coziness that not being out in it engenders.  I really think it's the feeling of no longer being wanted or feeling useful that's doing it.   I haven't even been out of work as long as others in this country have, and while statisticians and politicians tend to look at unemployment in terms of numbers, I wonder if anybody really has an idea of the toll that high unemployment costs the country in terms of optimism and confidence and hope?  I never managed a degree, so I'm dealing with the want of that, but what about the young people who are graduating now- what's it doing in terms of their futures? Nothing good, I'll wager.


One view of the Room of Shame.  It's a shame, isn't it?
One thing that going home for Christmas has done for me was seeing with eyes anew the incredible piles of crap in my mother's house.  My mom is one of those who grew up in the Depression, and she tends to hang on to everything, just in case.  Consequently, she has at least three rooms in a five bedroom house that are packed full of piles of things that might come in handy some day.  Between that and the hazard to navigation that the dog crate in the middle of the kitchen creates, and the overflow of people that is seven siblings and their spouses and their children and their dogs such that you can barely move in one direction in the kitchen and actually have to go around the other side of the house by way of the living room to get to the table….the chaos is amazing.  No wonder my brother-in-law who didn't grow up with this bedlam has been dealing with Christmas at my mother's for twenty-five years by drinking early (he started at nine in the morning) and taking lots of naps throughout the day!  Anyway- being there was truly a good time- I miss my sibs and mother- but I'm also determined to treat the Room of Shame that is my guest room with a far more critical and severely editing eye and start throwing stuff out.  And get a bid on redoing the sliding closet doors so that I can turn it into a craft closet to hold the stuff that I truly must hang onto.  Maybe if I get the guest room under control, I'll feel like I have more control over the rest of my life.  And then at the very least, the fact that winter is finally here means that spring is next. And hope springs eternal in the spring.  I hope.

What do you do to get your groove back when it disappears?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ow!

Maybe I should rethink getting the fondue forks sooner rather than later.  Last night we had fondue again, and I skewered the bajeebers out of my left middle finger.

I mean, it's supposed to go through meat; why wouldn't it go through your finger?  Fortunately my bone was in the way, which stopped the skewer.

I'm glad you all weren't here, or you'd have found out how extremely colorful my language can get.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm Cheap, And You Can Fondue Me

I am of the opinion that cheese ought to be in its own food group, and anything with cheese is a good thing.  Well, almost anything with cheese is a good thing; movie theater and convenience store nachos are barely fit for human consumption, but you can't really call that stuff cheese, now can you?  In my comments on my Failing at Frugality post I mentioned that I want a fondue pot.  I also said that I never met a cheese I didn't like but then corrected myself because I think jalapeno jack is disgusting, largely because I don't like jalapenos.  I don't know why.  It's not their heat; Serrano peppers are hotter than jalapenos, and I like Serranos just fine; there is something about the flavor of jalapenos that I just don't like.  But forget about peppers- this post wasn't supposed to be about peppers; it's supposed to be about cheese.  Rich and lovely cheese melted in dry white wine and slurped up with crusty French bread and juicy apple chunks.  Mmmmmm.  Fondue!  Which  is one of my favorite things to eat.  I love raclette, too, but those raclette machines are really expensive, and I'm perfectly happy with fondue.  I've been wanting a fondue pot for awhile, and watching Rachel Ray make fondue the other night while waiting for something else to come on TV reminded me to pipe up and tell Steve that I wanted one.

"Okay, but we're not buying a new one.  That's something you can find at a thrift store."

I had to admit that he was right and that was a good idea, but then I also had to say goodbye to the idea of getting a Le Creuset or Emile Henry fondue pot, which are pretty nice.  They're also pretty pricey.  So we started hitting the thrift stores on Sunday.  Bad idea- only one was open on Sunday.  It had a fondue set but it was meh, not so nice.  Monday we were coming down 82nd from Trader Joe's and saw two thrift stores near enough each other that we could park the car once and check them both out.  Somewhere between the two of them we saw another, old teflon-coated thing that was pretty icky, so  we passed on that.  Tuesday, we made the trip back up 99 where we'd gone on Sunday, and at the last thrift store I found it while Steve was checking out the beer glasses.  The whole set, minus the forks, was sealed in a plastic bag and looked pretty good, and since it was marked at $4.95, we bought it.  We stopped at the grocery store closest to home to round out the cheese and wine stores I'd need to make the fondue, which at this point I was practically panting for.  I would have had it last night, but I'd already defrosted several short ribs from the freezer, which I cooked up in twenty-five minutes in my pressure cooker. (Really, get yourself one if you don't have one.  What a time and fuel saver.  I'm going to try to remember to use it more often!)  Steve had been stuck in a meeting all day, which means he was on the phone all day, and since he doesn't particularly like meetings (who does?) or talking on the phone, I thought he should have a nice treat for dinner and short ribs sounded like just the thing to make him happy, which they did.  So I had to put off my fondue fix for one more night.

Today I took the set out of it's bag, and guess what?  It's never even been used.  It's stainless steel and there wasn't a scratch on it anywhere.  It even still had it's Made in China sticker on it.   So score!

Granted, the cheap Chinese fondue pot itself is pretty cheesy
We wound up having to burn a can of solid Sterno under it because the grocery store didn't have any liquid Sterno, which kept it plenty hot, but it also scorched the cheese a little, so I really need to find some liquid Sterno for it because the Sterno burner that came with the fondue pot is a lot lower, and it's adjustable.  Other than that, though, it turned out great, and for five bucks, I'm extremely happy.  I feel like I'm back on the Frugality Wagon. 

Except now I need to get some forks, which can be had fairly inexpensively from Amazon, but those can wait.  We're making do with skewers.  We only had to fish a lost chunk of bread out a couple of times.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cozy

Failing At Frugality

Frugality was heavily featured in 2010.  Getting out of the red is the new black, so to speak, and being frugal is hip, it would appear.  Far from being hip (far from it), frugality for us has been the status quo ever since we got married, which was in November of 2001.  The market had tanked since September 11, and there were many rumors of layoffs where we both worked.  We decided then to refinance our house, which was at 7.5%, and got a new rate of 4.75%, which when coupled with just paying the principle and interest only, cut the mortgage payments nearly in half.  We did this so that we could manage to keep the house if one or both of us were laid off, which we fully expected.    Steve and I have been living beneath our means for many years, and have a padding of a few months' living expenses should the very worst happen.  That's why when I lost my job in September of 2009, I was bummed, but I wasn't panicked.  I'm still not panicked.  In all honesty, I love being home, but I am starting to feel the strain of not being 'out there' because I should be.  I also don't love that Steve is pulling all the weight, and frankly, I'd like him to not have to work where he's working.  Things have not been great for him since the company was purchased two years ago, and the stress is starting to tell on him.  He actually woke me up grinding his teeth in his sleep the other night.  So I need a job so I can get him out of there.

I'd really like both of us to not have to work.  Early retirement, to my way of thinking, is a fairly noble goal.  Do what you need to do so that you can get out of the race and leave your job open for someone who needs it.  And unless you're a trust fund baby, which I am not, you have to be frugal and do what you can so that you don't have to put off retirement until you're too old or sick to enjoy it.  I'm reminded every once in awhile that my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of fifty-six and died when he was sixty-two. He didn't get to retire.

The conventional wisdom is that to be able to retire at a fairly young age, you need to be frugal, and whatever's left over you invest.  For more information, you might want to check out Early Retirement Extreme blog.  I'm not sure that at the late stage of fifty-one years of age, I could actually qualify for retiring early, especially since it will be awhile.  I would just like to retire at a reasonable age.  But I'd  also like my husband, who is six years my junior, to be able to retire with me, so he would be retiring early.  And to do that, we need to pay off the house and invest as much as we can, and to do that we need to be frugal.

Being frugal, I've discovered, is a lot like being on a diet.  I understand all the rational reasons for frugality, but like dieting, once you're committed, it's really hard to stick to it.  We'd planned to really cut back on spending starting in November, but I needed a new crown.  Steve needs a bite guard.  Then the car needed $510 of work this month, and next month it will need close to $1000, which needs to be done before we leave for Mom's for Christmas.  Today I had some blood tests done, although the bill probably won't show up until next month.  This is all stuff that we can handle without a problem (because we don't spend everything we make) so I'm not complaining about this stuff ruining my efforts at frugality.  Stuff happens.

But I didn't really need to hit Amazon.com three times this month.  The first time was to get an iron trivet for the wood stove so that I can keep a kettle hot on it without actually boiling all the water away.  The second time was for a DVD that I wanted for Steve.  The third time, I really tried not to buy The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson, but there were fifty-six holds on the library's copy, and I can't wait until sometime next spring to read the next installment.  Besides, the neighbor from whom I borrowed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo also has the third book, but not the second, so I should really return the favor by getting the second and lending it to her.  You see how I rationalize all this stuff?  Steve also purchased a false bottom for his mash tun, and I think he said he needs a length of heat proof hosing for it.  On some things you can't compromise.

I've already decided that with the beginning of 2011, I'm going back to recording absolutely everything we spend, which I haven't done since we left Florida.  I just got out of the habit and haven't gotten back in it, but it's time I did.  This also means that I'll have to set a budget for 2011, which I should probably get started on today.  Part of that budget is to earmark $2000 a month extra for paying down the principle.  If I can manage it, I can get our mortgage out of the way in a little under five years.  I may not be able to do that if Steve jumps ship and goes with another job, but I'll do it as long as I can, at any rate.

So going forward, I have to be a lot better about not spending online, or anywhere else, for that matter.  Books are usually in the budget- I mean, they've always been before, but I need to show a little restraint the next time.  I also need to figure out some other things to do.  Generally, we don't spend a ton on food because I'm a scratch cook, and we don't go out to eat that often.  We are going to the movies this afternoon (more on that later), but that's usually in the budget too.  I think the best way for me to watch it is to go back to recording everything.  I think I also need to do that little trick of writing down what I want and then waiting a month, and then if I still want it, then figure out how to do it.  Maybe part of the budget should be to set a goal of seeing how much cash I can hang on to every month.  I'm much more motivated when it's a game.

And since I started this post, I've received a letter from the State of Oregon indicating that my unemployment benefits have expired.  Boy! They sure didn't waste any time, did they?  Congress just let them expire and the State jumped on that bandwagon.

This just means that I have to redouble my efforts at frugality, and at finding work.  Failure isn't an option this time.