Friday, July 27, 2007

Never Thought I Would Care About the Dow!

Seriously. I think an old person has taken over my body. Last night I got home about 6:30 and I turned on the news but had it on mute while I had a very lengthy phone call with Sam in Sydney. Out of the corner of my eye I saw people reporting from Wall Street and so I knew something was up but didn't get filled in until I checked this morning and immediately went to my 401(k) online account. I was down almost $400 from 2 weeks ago! Bastards! I know this is probably a good time to buy some stock but I had another epiphany today and it blew my mind and is now my primary financial focus.

I have a HELOC which I took out primarily to pay off my student loans because frankly making payments to someone named "Sallie Mae" disgusted me. "Sallie Mae" should hug you when you cry and make you creamed corn and country sausage and biscuits with red eye gravy, not take your money and screw you. Also not being able to deduct the interest disgusted me. Last night I started thinking ahead about debt payoff and so this afternoon I pulled out the last statement and found this ARM had "suddenly" gone to 10.25%! When I was in Japan, since this lender has no online payment option (SHAME ON YOU M&I BANK OF MILWAUKEE!) I set up automatic withdrawals so I would not default. I hate automatic payments because I prefer to be in charge but when one does business with a lender who in 2007 still keeps handwritten ledger books what can you do? Anyway, I realize even though the interest on this account is deductible I am no longer going to be passive about it. I have a firm plan to pay off some 0% interest accounts (promotional rate) before the end of the year and will then become extremely aggressive on this account. If I can do this I maybe can get it under control in two years.

I so encourage everyone to go over your finances with a magnifying glass at least once a year. You will be amazed at what you find out and will have the opportunity to re-evaluate your situation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wednesday's Dinner

I think last night I made the tastiest, most versitile dinner ever.

It was hot. I wanted something light and cool. Thanks to the internet I found it. Google it for a recipe you like. Seriously - they are out there all over the place.
Gazpacho and Black Bean and Corn Salad with Pan Seared Scallops

I have a conference call later tonight so just threw together the leftover black bean and corn salad with a bit of goat cheese and I am full and happy and good lord I want to just lie back and read but now I have the energy to get through the call!

So your mouth waters appropriately here is a close up of the bb/c/scallop dish -

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm Gonna Be So Rich!

Just call me "The Gaga." I checked my Adsense account today and already I have amassed a total of 40 cents!!! Woohooo! And I also checked and they do indeed send out checks once the total meets or exceeds $100, so I figure in about 4 years I'll have a check in hand depending on traffic.

Funny, I was so shy about blogging in December of 2004 when I set up my first blog for the sole purpose of allowing my family of 2 parents and 2 sisters to read about my month (haha) in Japan. Now not so shy at all. It's cathartic and allows me a little creative outlet and primarily it gets me to put things into writing which has the direct effect of allowing me to work things out in my dizzy blonde brain. In 2 1/2 years of blogging I have changed a lot. I'm still outspoken and opinionated and for the past 18 months I haven't had life in an exotic location to write about, only my totally great little life (great except for the attempts at dating that is, but don't get me started again).

Besides Adsense I also recently got an account at Google analytics, which provides cool graphs about the number of visitors to a website, their general location, what OS they use, what browser they use, how long they stayed on the page, where they came from. etc. Very interesting. In the 2 weeks since I signed up I see the maximum number of visitors to my blog has been 8 in one day. I think this covers Mom, possibly Dad, Sister Susannah (the new age nun), sister Page possibly, and Sam (the boss, who last time he was in town told me he thought I should write a book - best insane compliment of my life. Can you imagine that book? I think I missed my market in 1968 when I was 6). Maybe Aussie Paul. Suerk from time to time for sure because HE always leaves a comment telling me how much he loves me (y'all Suerk was my high school English teacher and directed me in Godspell [they are still talking about it 30 years later - no - I'm serious - this is why I have stopped communicating with people from my high school] and drove a VW van with an actual face painted on the front and also rode a cool scooter which is why to this day I covet a Vespa. He also ran 10 miles a day. My first year of college in Boston I was just standing out on Com Ave watching the runners in the Boston Marathon go by and freaking SUERK ran by and I screamed and I totally screwed up his time. He coulda been a contenda.). Sally from time to time and Miss Yawn to Come Hither. And of course Harvey. Arrigatou gozaimasu Ha-bi! So hey y'all!!!!

I've really gotten interested lately in the blog phenomenon and people who actually make a living from it (how do they do that?) and mostly I see they have a "niche." They blog only about home improvement. Or personal finance. Or knitting. Or cats (and if you don't know you simply must see. It's about the silliest thing ever). Or recipes and food. Or gardening. I kind of like all that stuff and it's all a part of my journey right now so I blog about it all in random and sometimes combined order. This is also why I will maybe only be moderately successful in life. So many things interest me that I try to touch on it all and I've always found it difficult to focus on one thing. Sometimes when I sit down to post (like tonight) I get started and then think of other stuff and I go on and on. Honestly there is only one other blogger I have found (so far) who writes the same way - . Don't even to begin to ask me how I found her but it has to do with and George Meegan (personal hero) and Tyler (who is just the greatest kind of wonderful person). Through her I met Harvey in actual person and because of her I have actually spent 2 1/2 minutes considering someday trying a KFC perfect bowl or whatever they call them.

I totally use parentheses too much.

Monday, July 16, 2007


My house sits on a weird little piece of property:
That's me - 12 - highlighted in yellow. When I bought this house 8 years ago 11 and I were the only two houses. Everything on 3rd and 4th Streets from my property line up didn't exist. It was lots of trees and growth. Then they built a bunch of cookie cutter houses which really was OK by me because it almost doubled my property value and allowed me to re-fi and pay off the bloody ex.

11 is Miss Jessie. 14 is the old trolley track easement which is owned by the county. There is chainlink fence between me and Miss Jessie and me and the easement but there is no other fence on any other line because it was never necessary.

When I went to Japan in January 2005 a new neighbor had just moved in at 23. She was a very strange little woman who had GWB stickers all over her car but she was friendly enough the few times we spoke before I left. I came back a few times briefly during that year - in March, May and August. When I came back in May I noticed right away something strange in my yard. When her house was under construction and the property lines were clearly marked I had transplanted some forsythia from up against my house out to about 2" away from the property line. In my absence neighbor Grace had dug them up, replanted them beside her driveway, and planted a cabbage garden in my yard where they had been! I very nicely approached her about this and she flipped on me. I showed her plat copies of the properties and everything but she insisted that it was her yard and she could do what she wanted with it. I decided to deal when I returned for good and when I came back in December the forsythia had been replanted (poorly) back approximately where they had been with cabbages still growing up around them. Luckily Grace moved before I got back. She has now rented her house to a couple of really nice sisters. Blood sisters, not nuns. These ladies are also confused about the property line because they keep mowing about 5' into my yard. Who am I to complain about this?

THEN. I was out in the far reaches of my backyard about 6 weeks ago when I noticed that the gay couple (not that there's anything wrong with that) in 22 had put in a gravel PARKING LOT that covered not only a good portion of the easement but also a portion of my property!!!! Sheesh! When Mom and Dad were here in June I showed them and they warned me about squatters rights. I looked into it (you could also google "Adverse Possession") and I think I have another 19 to 24 years before this is an issue but hopefully in 19 years I will be living in blissful retirement on a tropical island. Still, I will need to sell this place to do that so I want to get it straightened out.

I really don't want to confront my neighbors about this because confrontation isn't a happy place for me. I especially don't want to go there if I am not 100% certain so I have a call in to a surveyor for some pricing info. I have this solid budget plan for getting out from under all of my debt before the end of November except a bit sitting at 0% interest and I hate to blow it by spending money on a survey when I know good and well where my property lines are but I figure it this way. My house and tiny bit of America is the biggest investment I have. It is worth 7 times my 401(k). It is worth more than 15 times my savings. It is essential to me that I look after it.

There is a really crazy lady here in town. Her family goes back generations in this town and she owns a cafe up on Main Street and is one of those small town long time residents who thinks just because her grandpappy originally owned half of the town she has a right to it. She is my neighbor at 2. A few years ago she phoned me out of the blue (I have never met her and don't know her from Adam's housecat). She wanted to talk to me about buying a part of my back property so it would more closely resemble her Grandpappy's original property. I didn't hear back from her for 2 years. Last year she called again and came to my house armed with all sorts of documentation and property plats and it turns out she wanted to buy half of my backyard and her plans were to then sell it to a "nice young man" who wanted to build a house!!!! I told her I was not inclined to sell and she smiled and told me she would let me think about it and would call me back (southern eccentric). Thankfully I have not heard from her. If I do I swear I'll walk up the hill and kick her ass.

I am thinking I have a totally valuable piece of property since everyone seems to want a piece of it. I'm keeping it for now thank you very much!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Easy Greek Food at Home

Last night I made a few recipes from the latest issue of Prevention. It was a tasty, easy meal and so I pass it on.

Village Salad with Feta, Pork Souvlaki and Pitas with Tsatziki

2 c low-fat plan Greek-style yogurt (like Fage brand. And yes there is a huge difference)
1 c peeled, grated cucumber, patted dry
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
whole wheat pitas
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix yogurt, cuke, garlic, lemon juice, salt and red pepper in meduim bowl. Chill, covered, 1 hour.

Brush pitas with a bit of olive oil and heat in large skillet over medium heat until golden and puffed. Serve with chilled tzatziki,souvlaki and village salad.

Pork Souvlaki
1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano 1 tsp kosher salt
2 pinches ground black pepper
2 lb boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1" cubes (I used kabob pork pieces)

Preheat grill or broiler.

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of the oregano, 1.2 tsp of the salt, and a pinch of the pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Thread pork onto skewers (if using wooden swewers soak them in water for 30 minutes beforehand.) Sprinkle skewers with 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and pinch pepper.

Grill or broil 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally until brown and just cooked through. Remove from heat and brush generously with oil mixture on all sides.

Village Salad With Feta
1 lg English cuke, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
3 med tomatoes, halved and slicced 1/4" thick
1 lg onion, halved and sliced 1/4" thick
2 ox feta cheese, thinly sliced
kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp ground red pepper

Alternate slices of cuke and tomato around edge of platter, spiraling inward. Scatter onion on top. Layer on feta and scatter olives over top. Drizzle all over with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, oregano and pepper.

This meal is light, healthy and so flavorful. And if you are only one person it easily can be cut down. I had it last night and in the middle of the night I woke up and wondered if it would be bad to raid the leftovers! Luckily I waited until lunch today.

Upcoming kitchen experiments: I adore Thai green curry and I found a good green curry paste at the Farmer's Market Friday. I think I'll do a chicken green curry tomorrow night and will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rainy Days, Dating, Personal Finance, Home Improvement and (of course) Cats!

How can I ever live up to a title like that? Maybe the plan should be to just start digging away. It's what's on my mind.

Today started overcast and by 11 am was a thunderstorm and downpour. By the time it started monsooning I was already at Lowe's to buy a short hose to drain the hot water heater which I finally did. Done. Amen. My mind is at peace.

I'm taking Chantix now which is a new drug to smother the nicotine receptors in the brains of smokers so they will stop smoking. So far so good. I might point out that this drug has also recently been identified as possibly assisting with other addictions. Yeah I am still smoking - about 3 or 4 cigarettes a day as opposed to 30 or 40. I'm only smoking because it's a behavioral thing left behind and I need to get to work on that. No pill will be magic. On a more positive note I no longer feel the urge to gamble and have sex. Anyway, one of the side effects of this pill is really vivid dreaming. Sometimes this can be kind of great. Mostly for me I notice myself talking in my sleep. Coherently. In a calm tone of voice. Last night though I had a dream that my wallet and keys had been stolen which meant dealing with drivers licences and credit cards and checking account . . . I was miserable and it took some 30 minutes of gently waking up before I realized it was a dream. Once I was up with a cup of coffee in hand I realized I really should do what is suggested - make a photocopy of everything in my wallet and keep one copy on file and another with me should I travel. This makes sense to me - always has - but I have never done it. I will this weekend.

Dating. OK. Since it was a rainy day I did a bit of channel surfing and found an A&E show called Confessions of a Matchmaker. My experiences at eHarmony and finally found support. There was one guy who was 346 pounds - total slob who slurped his fettucini at the date table so it got all over his chin(ssssss) and clothes and insisted that he had always only been attracted to slender gals so wouldn't consider any woman weighing more than 140 pounds. This so goes along with my experience. Double standards abound in the over 40 dating world. You can be 200 ounds overweight but if I am a few pounds beyond the latest hot supermodel I am dog chow. Mr. X had a decent job but lived in a house that reeked of cat piss. His idea of a weekend was playing with his Wi (Wii?) and watching all the shows he Tivo'd during the previous week. For hours on end. Seriously. With the binds drawn closed so no sunlight could permeate his fucking cave. On his TV that was so dusty with electronic static it looked like it had a white feather boa wrapped around it. This one (and the 3 others now that I think about it) needed a Mommy, not a girlfriend. Several times I had him over and cooked good nutritious meals served at a table with silverware and placemats and napkins and the one time he had me over he heated up some focaccia bread to be eaten in front of the TV off of store brand paper towels. In hindsight I totally scored on the heating thing. In my 20s I could deal with this. In my (and HIS) mid-forties not so much. So I'm not dating. I have a few good friends and talk on the phone and get together now and then but not so much the dating. Anyway I thought the A&E show was kind of funny in a really depressing way. So anyway to make it official I am 45 now. Have wrinkles which are sometimes accompanied by zits. I need to lose 50 pounds to be at my ideal weight which makes me only a thin "curvy" person because that's the kind of body I got when I slipped down the chute. I smoke about 4 cigarettes a day now but that doesn't mean you won't do some stupid thing that makes me increase this just to defy you. If you want to play with your Wi get your own house. If you want to play with your remote without regard to my input get your own house. If we watch a DVD you won't go to hell for letting a few minutes of previews run. Sometimes I like these. Reminds me of what I would have seen had I not been holed up in your cave watching your TIVO. If you can't deal with 3 minutes of preview how can you be expected to deal with 5 minutes of foreplay? Oh. Wait. Nevermind. How silly of me. Sometimes I cook meals that don't have meat and might originate from other countries. If you don't like it get your own house. I work a full time job PLUS. If you expect me to do all the housework AND the home improvement which will improve and protect "our" investment get your own house. Whew. Thanks for letting me rant.

When I was draining the water heater today the hose had to go out the backdoor and despite my paranoia and diligence Dylan got out. When he got out I decided whatever happened would happen and I tried to relax. He nosed around the backyard for a bit and then later moved to a spot in the driveway underneath the truck. After a few hours I was out putting things in the recycle bin and he moseyed up to the gate. I slowly walked to it and opened it and he walked right in and when I opened the back door he came inside just like a good boy. I wish I could trust him to not go in the street. I would love to give him backyard privileges.

Blah blah blah.

Friday, July 13, 2007

If You Hadn't Noticed . . .

If you hadn't noticed I have little ads over on the right ======>. I did this because I am curious to see if people can actually make money this way. If you click on it I make something like ten cents but google doesn't mail a check until I've earned at least $10 or $20 or something like that. DON'T click on an ad more than once per visit (against the rules) but if y'all would have a look when you visit and click it would help this little experiment along . . .

I'm taking a vacation day today and again on Monday. I rolled over 9 days of vacation time last year and needed to use it up because I won't be able to roll any 2006 vacation over to 2008 and if I go to Santiago there will not be any vacation for a while! These two days will at least get me current.

I decided to go to the Farmer's Market today I love this place and rarely go but was reading my latest Prevention magazine last night and discovered some pretty great sounding Greek recipes involving things like quality EVOO and striped bass and italian crusty bread and, well, you just don't find ingredients like that at Kroger. I'm going to post about these recipes a bit later in the weekend I promise.

It's a great day here and not too hot so I'm going to plan to mow the yard. Also on my agenda this weekend is to purge my hot water heater. Will also blog about that later because I think it's a routine home maintenance things that is often ignored but an energy saver. Also it prolongs the life of your hot water heater.

OK - back to my long weekend. Hope you all have a great one and remember to click the ads!

Monday, July 09, 2007

One for the cat lovers

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Long Time . . .

Hey y'all! Since I haven't posted in over two weeks now I decided to put blogging on my Sunday to-do list to make sure I don't go another week without checking in. It's an overcast day and kind of on the coolish side so I think it's a perfect day to check in.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me with work. Also, on the heels of Harvey's visit came a visit from The Sarah and Captain John (my parental units). They were on their way through for a wedding and spent a couple of nights so they could help me celebrate my birthday (I'm 45 now y'all and all I keep wondering is how on earth this happened)! Anyway we had a couple of days to visit. They took me out for a birthday dinner at my very favorite Thai restaurant and got me a teeny tiny cake that even had a candle!
On the home improvement side of things I've accomplished one small project. I have this itsy bitsy laundry room that is barely big enough to hold the washer and dryer. As I have no storage in this old house it also serves as my linen closet, pond supply room and storage area for my tools, including a few power tools like my drill and circular saw. All these years there has only been one shelf in there. Although I de-clutter and organize once a year it seems it has always been in chaos. Now that I have my nifty deck storage box on the front porch I decided to put the tools and pond stuff in there. I also decided to add a second shelf:

Took maybe half an hour to cut, install, and organize. This is one of those "small investment for big payoff" projects and it's now actually pleasant to go in there.

My self-improvement project lately has been working on my annual financial review. You might recall that a year ago I took an online course in personal finance following David Bach's "Smart Women Finish Rich." I spent a lot of time getting educated about my money and lack thereof and the simple act of doing this made such a change in my mindset. So in the past week I've been reviewing my credit reports and credit card statements and have it all written down and have made a plan for paying off several cards and an old loan from my mom and dad before the end of the year. I also found a terrific web tool if you're interested in this kind of thing - You enter assets and liabilities on a monthly basis and get a line graph showing the progress of your net worth.

Here's a little 25 second movie I made Friday. I happened to be walking through the kitchen and glanced out the window and y'all, it is a nature preserve out there!

Other than that I am making a conscious effort to do earth and money saving things like turn off things I'm not using (printer, computer speakers, lights). I am trying to think ahead and consolidate errands to save gas. I am not fond of those compact flourescent bulbs because the light is so harsh and since I am "of an age" I like softer light. But since I live alone in a tiny house and don't normally burn lights in rooms I am not in I think I can forgive myself. I refuse to turn on the A/C until the inside temp reaches 80 and then I monitor the outside temp and once it evens out I turn the damn thing off and open the windows.

So that catches up pretty much. Hope you all have a great rest of the weekend and a good week. And I promise I won't let another 2 weeks go by!