Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thinking about the new year

I've never been one for resolutions. The few time's I've done them I've fallen in with the majority of the population that ends up breaking them by April. This year I'm going to work on goals. Some are financial, some are career related, and some are personal.

Pay off my car by May.

Buy Gameboy a new car before his current car dies.

Work Roth IRA's into our 80/20 plan. Also convince Gameboy that we should both be doing Roths.

Get to know one of my neighbors.

Give more.

Figure out a better work life balance.

Reduce the knitting stash.

Join/serve on a nonprofit board.

Move 10 minutes each day. This can be strength, aerobics, yoga, whatever.

Grow my own food (well some of it) this summer.

I could keep going but that is more than enough to start with. Anything major you're working on in the new year?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Self Escrow

Between the house and 2 cars we pay a lot in taxes. Usually we can work the payments into our monthly finances, but I don't want to have to worry if we have a bad month. So I think the best thing for us to do is a bit of self escrow.

When we bought the house we had the option of having them escrow our home owners insurance. Instead of us paying once a year the mortgage company would add the total amount due per year divided by 12 to our monthly payment. We decided not to have them escrow because we'd rather have our funds grow (with interest) in our own accounts.

The flaw in our plan? We forgot to start saving. We paid for six months of car insurance this month so it seems like this is as good a time as any to start. I renamed one of our ING accounts insurance and plan to start working our self escrow amount into our January finances. I haven't decided if it will be a monthly or a biweekly thing but the money will be put aside for the three payments we have in 2009. At least mostly. Our payments are due in June, July, & December, so in July we won't have the full home insurance payment, but it will be close enough.

The formula looks like this:
Annual home owners + 6 months car insurance x 2

So each month we're saving money for our appliances, insurance and retirement. After that and bills everything will go towards paying off the car loan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wrapping it up

So the presents are bought. I've yet to figure out wrapping, but that's ok because Gameboy believes that wrapping paper is only for children. He tends to use random boxes and or plastic bags that we have around the house. If you ask him he'd say because it's cheap, not green. I say it's because he's lazy, but no matter what the environment & our budget benefits. I tend to be a bit more creative, but still avoiding the paper. One year he got a folded hoodie that had goodies in the pocket, hood, and sleves.

Though I still need to figure out wrapping, I am in the mood to put super cute bows all over whatever I do. All you need are a few brads*, some magazine pages, scissors, and maybe a hole punch. If you have poor cutting skills like I do a pencil and ruler will also help.

The basics:
  1. Cut your paper into 9, 3/4 to 1 inche strips.
  2. Twist paper like you're making a ribbon for your lapel. You want the end of the strip and the middle of the strip on top of each other.
  3. Repeat with the other end.
  4. Hole punch (or carefully poke holes with scissors) through all three layers and slip the brad through.
  5. Repeat until you have used all of the strips.
For a picture tutorial head over to A Heart for Home, where I learned about this fun.

*These are the fasteners you use on paper dolls. Round dot on top with two straight parts that start off together and split once you make the hole.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A bit of coming clean

This is a partial update because I haven't updated my monthly spreadsheet. But I looked at my personal net worth sheet and Networth IQ and realized a bit of a discrepancy. When we bought the house we got a no interest bridge loan from mom at the last minute. The loan program we'd chosen originally had an 8% deposit requirement. We could handle 8% and worked everything out. Due to all of the loan craziness happening in the mortgage industry it moved to 10% 1.5 weeks before we signed papers. So the bank of mom transferred me some money so that we could pay the downpayment and not decimate our savings just beforem moving.

Since then we've tried to repay some of the money with little success. I transfered her some of the money (love joint accounts on ING) and she transfered it back saying to use it on student loans*. She does not want to be paid back until we've paid off my car and figured out what we're going to be doing about Gameboy's car. Really she wants us to prioritize money we owe to folks who are charging interest.

The other part of that is our appliances. There were none when we moved into the house. So we did a bit of shopping. Usually I'm not a big fan of store cards, but since we were spending around $5K we decided to do a 1 year 0% offer. If we needed to we could pay it off today (savings for the card, efund, other savings) but we'd rather have the money working (albeit slooowly) for us than for Lowes. I may get a sidebar going for that in the near future.

I can't remember why I didn't add them to the tally back in July but they're they're now and reflecting a much more accurate picture of my finances.

*She feels like as a parent this is her responsibility and tries to help out when she can.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Yesterday I wrote about giving for gifts. Today I'm writing about general giving. I should probably start by saying that with the exception of one summer as a temp and a year of high school retail every organization that I've ever worked for has been a .org or a .edu. Federal & state budgets, paired with donations from individuals, foundations, and businesses have paid for 95% of the money I've earned in my lifetime, allowing me to help others while working.

When I got the new job I decided that the difference between my new and old salary would be donated. However due to my procrastination it hasn't happened. This weekend I'm planning on sending the money. Where you ask?

Heifer International- Yesterday I wrote about why I love them.

Reading is Fundamental- In a sentence- free books for children to inspire a love of reading. I have always been a reader. I was the kid hanging out of bed reading by nightlight after lights out. So getting free books from school a few times a year was awesome! As an adult I've gotten to volunteer at RIF distributions and the looks on kids faces are always precious. For any parents reading they also have some great literacy and pre-literacy games for kids on the sight.

United Way- My local chapter is working on School Readiness, Youth Success, and Adult Self Sufficiency. We partner with them for some of my current work and I volunteer with one of their sub organizations, so I get to see the great work they are doing.

That is the love list for the moment. I may throw in a local food bank because of the current economic situations. If you don't have a love list of your own visit Charity Navigator. They give charities start ratings based on their tax info to give you a bit more insight. Also, on this page you can put in the search criteria that matter to you, including looking for programs in your zip code.

In addition to the feel good factor giving back can have financial benefits as well. If you are claiming more than the standard deduction, donating money can save you on taxes. In the past, filing as a single person with no property or anything special going on, I've never passed the standard deduction. This year with the house and student loan stuff I think we'll be crossing that threshold.

Do you have any favorite places to donate?

Sigh of Releif & Help

In my thankful post I mentioned having a job I love 95% of the time. What I didn't say was I love having great coworkers. We are a small group- our director, 2 program managers, and 2 assistants. In our grant driven world this time of year can be challenging, so the unexpected deadline we received 9 days ago was a lot to manage. We hit our goal a few hours to spare yesterday.

Now the help- holiday party with friends. The host is making chili and cornbread. She has also baked a ridiculous amount of cookies. Everyone else is supposed bring something but I have no clue. Usually I would have spent the past few evening looking for recipes, but that work thing got in the way. So does anyone have any great recipes that are not super hard?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Giving to Help Others

This is the time of year for giving and this usually extends to nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofits are feeling the slowdown in the economy. So giving to an organization that someone supports may be a great gift option. As time winds down this holiday season

Donation in someone's name- I'm thinking about getting some chicks through Heifer Int'l for my mom. Families in need around the world (and including parts of the US) receive animals appropriate for their area that can provide nutritional sustenance and/or financial opportunity with the ultimate goal of self reliance. After some time the recipient has to help their neighbors with a gift of animals, usually offspring of the original offspring. My mom's home country is on the list of countries served by this organization (though you can't designate where your money will go) and I think she would prefer this to a scarf.

Gift Cards- A newer option is gift cards for giving. The beauty of this is the recepient get's to choose where their money goes. I really like this idea to get kids interested and involved in giving. Some send actual plastic where others do online cards/emails. Looking around today I found: The Good Card, Tis Best, Charity Gift Certificates and JustGive. I haven't used any of these organizations myself, so you may want to do a quick search for reviews. The other caveat is to check out the fees because each organization charges a fee* of some sort, like most gift cards.

Buy from nonprofits- To increase their ability to bring in funds many nonprofits also produce products. A few things that come to mind are: cards from children's hospitals and Ten Thousand Villages. The other half of my mom's gift is going to be something from The Women's Bean Project. They work on breaking the cycle of poverty and unemployment, by providing jobs coupled with life skills training. In the process they produce soup, bread and cookie mixes that I've heard rave reviews about.

Whichever you choose add a little note about the good the gift can do in your town, state, or the world. I wouldn't give gifts because of this, but an added benefit is a tax deductions for the first two options for the gift giver.

*These pay for the staff, website, and other operational costs to offer the program.

Around the House

On the plus side- our closet is done! Well 90%, but close enough for me. Our house was a foreclosure and the previous owners took all sorts of random stuff, including the rods & shelves in the (custom) master closet, the garage door opener, and the pantry shelves. We've been doing things as we can afford them instead of relying on credit cards. I'm still working on getting my clothing into the closet but am enjoying the thought of not having to pull on sweats so I can walk down the hall to another closet and then get dressed.

On the down side we've just realized a crack in the window in Gamedad's room. It's been too cold for plastic, so we made a ghetto fix with some packing tape and old curtains I got from freecycle a while back. So far it seems to be working and his room is the average upstairs temp- for some reason our house seems to defy science. You know that old addage, heat rises? Not in our house. Our upstairs is between 5-7 degree's colder than downstairs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm finishing up my work for the day. The day started with emails at 7:15 and didn't stop. orward to January when 80% of the crazy will be over. Usually this would be really overwhelming. The thing that's keeping me going were a few words at work.

A bit of back story- I work for a council with a staff of 5. We sit in two different locations b/c neither has room for all of us, but both are free. The council's chair leads the office where I sit. Her deputy is a nice guy who is very focused and whose main interaction with me has revolved around closing the blinds at night. Today he walked up to me and said I've been hearing good things about your work from the council.

It seriously made my day. This was especially great because our entire staff is under deadline (4 to be exact) and frenzied. It gave me the charge to lead my evening, be the queen of spreadsheets, and otherwise keep working tonight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Work Fun

It looks like it's going to be one of those weeks. Yesterday we got a letter from a one of our main funders. It went something like: Since you didn't meet a crazy deadline (that your director's predecessor created with no basis) 6 weeks ago (while I was on maternity leave) we will start retracting your funding (the basis of my annual salary) if you don't meet crazier deadline in 1 week.

So for the next week it looks like I'll be back to at least 12 hour days for the next week. At minimum. We're pulling one of the assistants off of another project with a deadline 1 week later, so I'll probably be pitching in so the other program manager meet her deadlines.

On the plus side I get to meet 25 or so people my organizations just gave scholarships to later this week. I just have to figure out what I'll be telling them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tires, Part II

Yesterday I wrote about discovering (in the snow) that my tires were bald last Friday.

I'd hurt my back later that night and did not feel like driving all over town to figure things out. I also didn't want to just walk into a random place and be at their mercy. So Saturday morning I camped out on the couch, armed with my phone and laptop. Another added bonus looking back is we save a lot of gas not driving around to get info.

This is probably a good time to say neither Gameboy nor I owned a car before 2006. His family never had a car. I drove my mom's car and occasionally took it in for service, but nothing major. As a woman and as a person who doesn't know much about cars I like to arm myself before dealing with mechanics.

First, I visited Single Ma. A while back she wrote about her last tire buying experience. She explained those mystical numbers on the sides of your tire.

Second stop, a list of the car repair shops within a few miles of out house. I thought up a few then called an oil change place for a few more recommendations. I made a list and called each place (4 total) asking what tires they had in stock (time was of the essence) in my size. I typed notes as I went along.

You know what's next-research! I googled the different tire names, checked out consumer reports, and then I found this gem. There were lots of reviews from customers in addition to little quizzes to help you make a decision. Keep in mind that they do sell tires.

With 2-3 favorites I made a second set of calls. I asked 3 important questions:
1- How much does each tire cost
2- What fees are charged (installation, disposal, balancing, etc)
3- Are there any specials/deals going on.

This information let me know how much I would be paying in total (well plus tax). Number 2 is really important because it can vary so much. Of the 4-5 places I called they ranged from $2.50-18.00 per tire.

Information in hand Gameboy and I conferenced about price and time. We chose a place that would be open on Sunday (it was getting late), had decent fees, and a total price that could work with our budget.

The next day we drove over, let them know what we wanted, and handed over the keys. The service guy handed me the estimate and after a quick review handed it right back. The price was $150 more than I had come up with based on the phone conversations. 2 warranties had appeared and the buy 3, get 1 free deal were not there. I let the guy know all of those things would not work for me and asked for a revised quote, based on reason and reality.

Two hours later my car was back to riding well. Good thing too, because our second storm of the season blew in Wednesday.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Wheels

No, I didn't take Monday's mini shopping spree to the nth degree. This weekend I literally got new wheels for my car. It went something like this:

Friday evening, leaving a Thanksgiving party, we find 2-3 inches of snow. I think 'I hope I have my scraper and wow would closed shoes be good now' but otherwise keep going. I clean off the car, jump in and slowly pull off. I turn around and gently apply the brakes. Only my car does not stop. It's deserted so I'm not freaking out but little alarm bells are going off.

I don't have my phone so I decide to wait for Gameboy & dad to finish warming the other car* in case something scary happened. Slowly following behind, with a few car lengths between us, we take the two turns (with stop signs) for the main road. This is where I start to freak out.

The snow was beautiful powder. No ice or slush in sight. But I was slipping and sliding every which way. Each stop was taking about a car length more than it should have. Deep breaths, hugging the wheel granny style, and twenty slow minutes (it's a five min drive) I pulled into my driveway. Then I got stuck.

I made the mistake of stopping to pull in the recycling bin. After shoveling out the wheels I pull it into the garage and begin inspection. The tread on the outside looks great (well ok). Then I slide my hand up under the wheel well. Instead of nice deep grooves all I feel is smoothness. We're talking baby's bum smoothness.

Problem identified. Too bad the dealership failed to notice (or maybe mention) the bald tires during my 2 hr visit last week.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how I solved the problem.

E.C. over at Not Living on Ramen was not so lucky this weekend. She was in two accidents in the same night and is recovering. Send some good thoughts and wishes her way.

*I have a tendency to get sick at the host's house (cats) so I went a few hours later.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Tipping Point

Gameboy-Possible Gift Spoiler Alert

Whenever possible I try to buy local/support local businesses. At times this saves money, but sometimes there can also be an increased cost. The questions is how much more (if anything) are you willing to pay for the local service.

This came about during my gift hunt. I emailed a friend of Gameboy's who owns a gameporium. He knows what Gameboy likes and responded in less than 12 hours to an email asking for suggestions. In a second round of emails he let me know how much the two games are and how many are in stock.

The frugal in me did some googling to see what the going prices are. I can save $13 on one through an Amazon seller and 1 cent locally at the other. That factors in shipping costs, but not tax. Even if both were more I'd get one from him because of the reccomendation and to support a friend.

But if I decide to get both should I get both from him? Or should I save money on the second game online? Each person's answer will probably be a bit different, depending on available resources and what they value most. Another example would be is the local apple worth the extra $1/lb at the farmers market?

Over the next day or so I'll probably puzzle over this and decide which is more important to me at this instance.

December Goals

  • Only buy breakfast 3 times, excluding our coffee shop staff meetings.
  • Earn $150 in extra income
  • Attempt a dry run on our taxes
  • Invest the money I've been saving for my Roth IRA
  • Figure out giving (some holiday, but mainly for the difference between my paycheck at the old/new jobs)
  • Make it to 5 more yoga classes at work
  • Spend no more than $250 on groceries
Updated: I forgot a very important one- Working on finding a work home balance. After working from home and because this job is pretty flexible I find myself goofing off a lot during the day and making up for it at home. I need to work this out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why I Avoid Shopping

I'm pretty good on the day to day shopping. I can get in and out of most grocery stores and Target with just the things I planned on buying (or remembered that I need-the problem with lists in your head). Usually I just avoid other shopping, though I have decent restraint.

Yesterday I decided to see if there was anything worth it for cyber-Monday. I looked at TV's. I looked at kitchen tables. I found a great deal on 2 seasons on Gameboy's favorite show. I found another item I wanted to buy him. And then I found this...

In my defense I did not go searching. It's like the evil folks on the other end of things knew that I've been wanting one of these for 2 years. At the old place our kitchen was too small though. And they're expensive. To make the situation a bit weirder the night before I told my mom that I didn't think the mixer was a good wedding present b/c Gameboy wouldn't really use it. The grill (or part of a grill) would be a better present for us as a couple.

Most days I could have walked away. In fact I did, twice. But we're talking $140 below sticker price (after $20 rebate) with free shipping. Then I mentioned (or maybe re-mentioned) it to my enabler husband.

Though we don't NEED it he knows I've wanted one for some time. He mentioned the price being right. I hemmed and hawed, meanwhile thinking about all of the lovely things I could make. Then he said we can easily afford it and told me to click buy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cyber Monday

Has anyone besides me had a hard time getting back into the swing of things today?(as evidenced by not 1 but 2 posts this afternoon)
Or spent way too much time looking for cyber Monday deals?
Just wondering if I'm the only slacker.


I never got around to setting November goals. I was putting a lot of time into the Obama campaign and then we had the car issues that took a while to resolve. There were also the blah's (lack of motivation) that I mentioned yesterday.

Somehow despite all of the craziness it was a really good month. Gameboy's industry seems to be doing well* so his commissions really helped. Our spending (ie credit card bill) has been pretty low over the last two months, leaving a lot of room for saving and debt payment.

Most exciting: Emergency fund=100% Eventually we will bring this up. It's 2-3 months of bills or up to a medium catastrophe. Once we get out debts paid down we will work on a 6-8 month fund.

Once the emergency fund was complete we shifted attention to the car. In the past months there was some disagreement over where extra funds should go. In October we made an agreement and I think the shared focus has really helped. We sent 2 principal only checks in this month. October's check was also finally cashed. It all came to $3,360.

My student loan** and the end of PMI (mortgage insurance) percentages continue increase at the speed of molasses in the winter. If anything it's a good indicator of why I never want to just make minimum payments.

Next month won't be nearly so exciting. We'll be paying off some medical stuff from last year that we were waiting to hit their internal collections (on purpose). That craziness is another story for another day. Suffice to say the majority of our extra money will be headed there.

The most important thing is it feels like we're finally getting somewhere.

*knock on wood and fingers crossed
**if you're paying close attention to the sidebars it looks like student loans jumped 4.5%. There was an error in my spreadsheet math that I discovered this weekend.

Personal Coupons

Gameboy- Gift Spoiler Alert

I always love the idea of personal coupons/certificates as gifts. In general I prefer to give experiences than stuff. I also look at it as a way to spread the feeling of the holidays throughout the year. That said-I've never done them. This is mainly because I a)procrastinate and b) I get a bit type A about gifts.

The key is getting something that the person you have in mind would really like. A few generic (but nice) ideas are a nice dinner (in or out), a fully prepared picnic, a massage, and doing their chores. For kids some ideas are a day at the zoo, doing their favorite activity, a day off of chores, or being able to stay up late. I try to think of things that I'm not likely to do on a day to day basis or would make life easier for the other person.

This year I'm planning on pairing coupons with the things I'm buying for Gameboy's Christmas and birthday presents. So far 'stuff' wise I'm planning on DVD's of his favorite show or a few movies he loved this year. He loves playing games of all sorts (hence the name) so I'm also thinking about getting a few board games. Another item on my list is gear for me for his favorite team.*

To go with those gifts I'm thinking about coupons making coupons for the following. I'm still working on better names.
'Watch any movie you would like' (2-3)
'Game day' (a whole weekend day of games)
'Game night' (inviting friends over, I'll do the extra cleaning I'd ususaly make him do and make something yummy)
'Sunday Pass' (gametime treats & watching the whole game with him)
'Sunday Pass 2' (taking in the game at the bar of his choice, I'll pick up the tab)
'Bake-off' (I'll make one of his favorite treats, ususally reserved for specical occasions)

For some these may sound weird but they are things I know he would really enjoy. Most of the things I've come up with won't cost me anything. The things with an associated cost will be stretched over the coming months, also making holiday spending easier.

To make the certificates look nice I'm planning on using:
clip art/logos around the text
colored paper
a hole punch and ribbon/yarn to hold it together

*He's mentioned that he would like me to be able to dress up with him for games.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Blahs

I've got a case of the blahs. I'm pretty happy but lacking all motivation. My snowflakes sidebar is indicative of this. Outside of June/July when I had jury duty, we were moving Gamedad to live with us, and buying our house it's been a while since I made the little money.

It all boils down to a lack of effort. The 3 babysitting jobs were all parents calling me. Usually I have one or two calls, but I actively put myself out there, looking for jobs. Everything else is money that automatically comes in or based on work in October.

I need to slowly ease back into earning the extra income. But honestly, I have no clue how at the moment.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do You Black Friday?

Only once in my life have I been shopping on Black Friday before the sun came up. It was last year while I was working with a camera crew on one of the college football games, so really I was paid to shop...and that's why I avoid it.

I don't have a long list of people to buy for and my guys are pretty quirky. I looked through the fliers and didn't see anything that would make me leave my house when it was still dark. Well I saw a few things (read 40" flat screen for our room), but nothing that I should actually buy.

I'm not a morning person. I don't like the cold, especially standing around in it. And with every year I become a bit more like my mother. She hates crowds and avoids them as much as possible. I still love a great concert, but I can't handle crowds at the stores. Last year's experience confirmed what I have thought for the past few years- it's just not worth it to me.

I get caught up in the frenzy and spend money I otherwise wouldn't have. So I'll loose out on a few deals but save more money in the long run.

Have you been able to make Black Friday work for you?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


In no particular order, some of the many things I'm thankful for:

the two people on earth that love me more than anything (Gameboy & Mom)
my crazy extended family
the people that listen to me whine (otherwise known as my friends)
everyone who reads my blog
bloggers who keep me entertained and help me learn
a job I love 95% of the time
my experiences traveling
$1.64 gas
the internet
my house
the library

Hope you had a great day with people you are thankful for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mix tape!

Though I've been thinking about holiday gifts since mid October I've yet to take the plunge and you know, buy anything. I have a list of things I want to get for the husband and no clue on my father in law. What I'd planned for my girlfriends is still in the conceptual stages. Despite the failings to act in my personal life I have all sorts of ideas that I'll be sharing as we get closer to the holidays.

Mix tape
As a kid I remember thinking about the mix tape that a future boyfriend would make me. By the time I got to the dating age we were in the age of mixed CD's. The point thought is a mix of music that makes you think or someone or that you think someone would enjoy. When Gameboy and I were long distance I made a mix of what I listened to every night when we were on the phone.

If you want to take the mix tape/CD up a notch make a CD booklet. Lyrics, why that song makes you think of that person, and/or pictures special to you and the giftee make the mix CD extra special. Word art in Word makes this a bit more fun also.

So far Gameboy has gotten two (I've named them Vol I, Vol II) of these as Xmas/birthday presents. Out of all the gifts both years this has been his favorite because it's personal.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gameshow Groceries

Grocery shopping is my household chore. Sometimes, even thought I'm happy to do it, getting out the door is hard. Yesterday was one of those days. A few weeks back Gamedad but a lot of unread newspapers in a big box and put it upstairs. This included the coupon circulars. So after procrastinating all day I sat down to weed through the box, separating circulars, newspaper for the worms, and the random glossy stuff for the recycling bin.

When I finally left for the store it was a little after 10. I didn't think much of it b/c the store closest to my home and the stores near our old place are all open 24 hours. Too bad I wasn't going to any of those stores... I walk in and it's blissfully empty, but there are boxes out for restocking here and there. No worries. I go through the produce section, mentally checking off my list. As I round the corner to get cereal the lights go off. Not totally dark, but to the overnight lights many business have. I realize I'm the only customer I can see and wonder if the doors are locked and I'm stuck for the night.

I found a guy stocking shelves and asked if they were still open. He said yes, but they'd be closing in 25 minutes. I think of what else I need and think I'll have enough time. Then I try to turn down an isle. Along each side of the isle there are boxes haphazardly thrown for restocking.

All of a sudden I felt like I was on some warped version of Supermarket Sweep, or any of those other early 90's supermarket shows I loved as a kid. Instead of light so bright they make your eyes hurt the lights were dim, even off in many of the refrigerated cases. Instead of try to spend as much money as I could (diapers, formula, and meat heavy carts always seemed to win) I had to spend as little as possible. All while dodging boxes. In a store I'm not familiar with.

In the end I came out ok. The whole trip (including 20 mins driving round trip) took just over 40 minutes, half of what we need for Thanksgiving is in the fridge/pantry, we've got 1-2 months of cereal for the guys, and I only spent $46 and change.

Photo credit:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

If you have to make a dessert for Thanksgiving this is an easy and relatively inexpensive one to try. A couple years back Dave Lieberman (Food Network) did an episode called Thanksgiving for $45. Since seeing the episode air I've made this pie at least 8 times, quite possibly more. During the holiday season it's my go to dessert.

You'll need

2 sweet potatoes, about 10 ounces each
1 3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers, finely ground)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted (regular will work in a pinch)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (whole will work in a pinch)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pie plate
glass with a flat bottom
mixing bowl

The first thing you want to do is wrap the sweet potatoes in a double layer of foil. Roast them in the oven at 350 for 1 hr 15 minutes. The goal is really soft tender sweet potatoes.

While the potatoes are roasting stick 15 graham crackers in the food processor or a big resealable plastic bag and crush them until they're really fine. These two steps can be done a few days early to make your life easier. You could also grab a prepackaged pie crust, but it's not nearly as fun.

Measure 1 3/4 cups of the graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup brown sugar into the pie pan. Mix lightly. Pour the butter over the cracker/sugar mixture and mix until it's evenly moist. Use your glass with a flat bottom to press the graham crackers into an even layer in the pie plate. I like to start in the middle and work my way out.

Stick the crust in the over for 10 minutes at 350 to firm up. Take it out when it's golden brown and smelling all sorts of yummy.

Grab your cooled potatoes. Unwrap the foil then peel off the skin. This should be really easy to do. Put the potatoes in the mixing bowl and mash with a fork/potato masher. The consistency you mash your potatoes to will be the consistency of your pie, so do a good job. If you have any pieces that aren't soft enough stick them in the microwave for a few seconds.

Mix the remaining ingredients into the potatoes. Dave says to use a whisk, but I tend to use a spoon. When the batter is smooth pour it into the prebaked pie shell. Put the whole thing in the oven and cook approx 40 minutes until it is set.

The absolute hardest part of this is waiting for it to cool before you dig in!

How much does this cost?
I keep most of the ingredients for this in the fridge/pantry year round. The only things I have to buy are the sweet potatoes, cream, and graham crackers. For one pie these will run me around $3.50 if I'm just grabbing things, less if I plan it out and buy things on sale.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkey time

This will be my third year doing Thanksgiving. That sounds a lot more impressive than it is because the past 2 it's only been Gameboy and myself. Year 1 we were sick on Thursday and actually made the big meal on Sunday. Year 2 we ended up working one of the Thanksgiving college football games. We had dinner with the crew (and my uncle who was heading things up) and made dinner on Friday.

This year Gamedad is involved and we've invited a few single friends to drop by if they feel like company. So far the menu is:

Stuffing (w mushrooms & apples)
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce (fresh with orange)
Sweet potato pie

We bought the turkey already (20lbs for $10). Everything else, except maybe the mashed potatoes will be procured this weekend. I also need to figure out some veggies, but that will be based on sales. The only other things is if I (as a vegetarian) want a main course. Really it will come down to what I see when I'm at the store. Gameboy went grocery shopping twice this month, so even though I didn't set a grocery budget, it's blown.

What are your Turkey day plans?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A mini rant

Dear Dog Owners,

I know you love you dog. You want to spend a lot of time with your dog. For some they are like children. This is all wonderful. But can we talk for a moment about bringing your dog everywhere with you?

I'm still hanging out at the dealership, but instead of sitting in the comfy chairs I'm standing and typing in the intake area. Why? Because someone just walked in with her dog. It's 9:15 and starting the day with an allergy attack is not my idea of fun. I also know kids who are terrified of dogs. Should I have to leave the comfortable waiting area or should parents leave kids who are scared of dogs home so people can bring their dogs everywhere?

So can we please take the dogs doggy friendly places, like the dog park and pet stores? thanks

A smile at the pump

Usually when I fill up, then drive a block and see gas for $.14/gal less I get upset. While I don't think it makes sense to drive all over town for lower priced gas, I like to spend as little as possible. But even though I saw cheaper gas as soon as I'd topped off on Sunday night I was ok. Why you ask? Because my fill up was $21.48!

Our gas prices have continued to drop, so today I could fill up for almost half of the going rate last May. This would be an easy time to slack off and drive for the sake of driving but I'm still going to still try to hypermile and plan trips for smart driving. I am at the dealership finally getting my car serviced so hopefully I'll be able to push my MPG up 1-2 more miles.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Helping a Friend

I have a good friend that is ready to take a few financial leaps. She's 28, about to buy her first car (currently borrows from her parents) and lusting over buying a house. We were in grad school together and she has a hefty student loan bill. The other drains on her finances are a cute, but extremely mischievous dog. In the 6 month's she's had her puppy she's had 2 of the worst diseases puppies can get, chewed her way through many leashes, and at times required a special (expensive) diet.

Back in February we talked about paying off our student loans earlier and I encouraged her to open an ING account. After we talked she sent a few extra payments in, but otherwise didn't really act. Now that the need for a car and house down payment is looming, and with all of the economy fun she's decided she needs some direction.

We talked about things on our walk from her local ice cream/gelato shop.* When we got back to her place we got her an ING account (earning her $25, me $10), started a budget at PearBudget, and discussed whether she should cash in some Treasury bonds. Her plan is to have some of her paycheck go straight to ING for savings and track what she spends over the next month. She doesn't have any problem paying off her credit card bill at the end of the month, but she said she pretty much buys whatever she wants. I have been spending a lot on things that I think are frivolous, so I'll be traking my spending with her.

*Honey lavender gelato- need I say more?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Yesterday's post is a good example of why I haven't been posting much this week. The majority of my free (and not totally wiped out) time has been in the early morning- which is not a good time for me. I tend to be whiny and see things in a negative light.

Work has been busy. Every time I feel like I've found my footing things get shaken up. That and I'm still learning to negotiate the political side of things. My position was open for a while and the council I work for just recently moved from a staff of 1 to a staff of 4.5. This equals a lot of requests for things, some of which I can do, some of which I can't. The fun part is telling folks with a lot of authority that I can't follow their request.

I've been working some outside of work and trying to get the house ready for winter. Clearly, not doing such a great job since yesterday's storm threw me off guard. I have been spending a lot of time in the car lately (or at least it feels that way). There are all sorts of things that I want to write about coming up in the near future.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Snow

In our household Gameboy gets up 1-1.5 hours before me. He's amazing about being quiet as he gets ready b/c I'm a girl who likes my sleep. So this morning, waking up to him exclaiming an expletive was a bit weird.

Groggily I asked what was wrong. Then he said the S word. Not one of the words little kids aren't allowed to say. Snow. Last year this would have meant rolling over and asking him to wake me 20 mins early to deal with traffic. But this year we are homeowners. We've discussed getting ready for the snow- buying salt and shovels, getting the scrapers in the car, and putting kitty litter in the trunk- but despite a trip to two home improvement stores on Sunday* it didn't happen. I blame it on the fact that I was wearing flip flops.

So today I am out of the shower before my alarm goes off. As soon as my hair is reasonably dry
I'll be headed to the big orange store 10 minutes away and buying salt and a shovel. Outside of the early part I'm irritated because I'm not figuring out the best price for items and blending that store into my regular routes to reduce gas consumption. I also have no idea about the environmental impact of salt or good alternatives.

What I do know is a pack of elementary school kids will be walking along the sidewalk in front of my house in around an hour and it needs to be safe for them and anyone else that crosses our property lines.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Moving Forward

Despite the fact that I'm sick, today is a pretty good day. The extra payment finally made it to the car loan folks. Usually I don't update the sidebars mid month, but since I sent the payment last month I figure it's fair. Half of the loan is gone! Just over $7,000 seems like a really manageable number.

The issue that had me seeing red is resolved. I'm still irritated about the situation*, but Gameboy's car has 4 good wheels and I have my car back. I think this week I'll be writing to their corporate offices. I didn't realize how attached to my car (really all the stuff I have in it) I am, but it's a relief. I was also unaware of how fast I like to drive. I always stay within 5-14 of the speed limit, but most of my driving happens on roads 45 mph or higher. 3 days of driving at 40 mph was killer.

On the house front we're financially ready to move on to the next project- finishing the closet. Our room has a beautiful built in, but the previous owner took the rods and boards. Today we tried, somewhat unsuccessfully to get the parts we need. We may have come across a solution and have a few other ideas to try. Getting the closet together will be the last step in unpacking, so any possible move forward is exciting!

Hope you had a great (and frugal) weekend!

*When we got tires in June they put on snow tires instead of what we paid for. That's right, snow tires in June. Then, instead of going down the customer is always right route, or really displaying any tact at all, my integrity was questioned by 4 different staff members.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Seeing Red

It's time for a post, but right now I'm too angry to write about money. Outside of the fact that 3 men at 2 different stores essentially accused me of trying to milk them for $270 in tires, when their chain made an error. Tomorrow I will try to resolve the matter, though it's pretty much assured that it will eat into work time that I can't afford to loose.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

It's finally here! I'm headed out the door in a few minutes to volunteer for my candidate. If you don't know where to vote or what to bring visit Rock the Vote. Also, in all of the states I've lived in electioneering withing a certian distance of the polls is not allowed-this includes wearing candidate gear.

I leave you with some cute kids bringing you the same message.

Happy voting!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Wrap Up

It's November 1, and I'm actually getting my October wrap-up done.
  • Get my Roth funds above 60%. I’d hoped to have this funded by the end of the year and without some crazy action I’m not sure if it will happen. 63! Getting closer by the day. I'm looking forward to the holiday babysitting season.
  • Decide where I want to invest my 2008 Roth money. My last Roth is with Vanguard, who I like, but am not necessarily married to. I’m also trying to decide on what type of fund, specifically if I should go with a socially responsible fund. I haven't made a final decision but I'm closer. I've read a few prospectuses and am getting there.
  • Only eat lunch out 3 times (not including lunch meetings). I did this, though I ate out way too much for breakfast/dinner.
  • Keep grocery spending under $300. $302.38- this is what I get for going on vacation and not over stocking meat. In the 5 days I was gone the guys spent $122.15.
  • Be mindful about house purchases- waiting until we can afford to buy outside of regular maintenance.I think I did ok on this. Though there was an immersion blender purchase...
  • Go 400 miles on one tank of gas. My mileage at the pump the 3 times I filled up this month: 386, 398.8. 400.1.
All in all it was a good month. Have you looked at the sidebars? Notice how everything except student loans has moved upward? It's really a beautiful thing. Once my check is processed the car number will be even happier! I think we'll be able to reach our current emergency fund goal this month and send another check to the car folks.

I'm still pondering goals for the month. Between campaigning and friends in from out of two I think I'm going to be pretty busy this weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to Make Extra Payments

I'm remembering why I don't like checks. All of my bills either get charged on a credit card (and paid off that month) or auto debited/transferred to the bill collector. I love auto debits/transfers because they're easy, I don't have to find an envelope or a stamp, and most importantly there is near instant gratification. Usually by the second day the new, lower balance (or higher for savings) is there for me to look at.

This month we decided to make an extra payment on the car loan with our mid month surplus. I started to send it the usual way and then remembered another way lenders make it harder to pay off debt sooner. Generally you make a make a monthly payment. When you make an extra payment it can either be applied to future monthly payments or the account principal.

If you have a small windfall but are not sure about your ability to make monthly payments in the coming months having the money applied to future monthly payments makes sense. But when you're trying to pay down debts, you want the money to go towards the principal right now. This reduces that principal owed and the interest you are charged on said principal.

We had just over $1850* to play with. I called my loan folks and they said sending the money in to the normal place would just push my next due date to April. If I want the money applied to principal I have to send a check to a special processing center.

ING sent the check on Monday. It's Wednesday. And I want the difference to be reflected now. I know that it will be more like next Wednesday so that's why I don't like checks.

*Snowflakes I'd accumulated but saved before buying the house in case if emergency and Gameboy had great commission.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Week

For those of you who are sick of politicals ads and talk there is only 1 week left! I live in a swing state and am ready to go back to ads trying to make me spend my money on things I don't need.

I'd hoped to be writing about my early voting experience today, but that hasn't happened. Though I schlepped the ballot book to visit my mom, but didn't open it once. I spend most of my flights sleeping, talking to my neighbor, or reading socially responsible investing prospectuses. So I'll be voting tomorrow or Thursday instead. So far I've figured out candidates for President and Senate, and positions on half of the ballot initiatives/referendum.

In other voting/finance news I'm taking off election day to work with the campaign I support. This will either take my vacation time to 0 or will be time without pay. I'm still trying to work out a glitch from my last vacation so I'm not sure. In these final days I'm also going to try to make it to my local campaign office for an hour or two every night this week. I'll definitely loose potential income, but I also haven't given any campaign contributions.

I'll leave you with this- if you can early vote, go do it now!

P2P Quiet Periods

Prosper seems to be going through the same process Lending Club went through a few months back. Both are peer to peer lending sites where an individual can apply for a loan that is funded by other individuals, not banks. My understanding of the quiet periods is that both work(ed) to obtain the ability to give promissory notes. So instead of lending $25 to Joe, you're investing in a $25 note, applied to Joe's loan. Lending club went "quiet" on the lending/investing side in April and came back last week. I haven't gotten an email from Propser, but when I poked around my account today I fount the message.

I started investing with Lending Club (LC) early this year. I opened accounts with both, but the buy in for LC is only $25 where it's $50 at Prosper. In total I've lent $175 using both sites, from March to September. I've gotten back $20.24, which considering that the loan periods are 3 years, I'm happy with. None of my lenders have missed a payment (crossed fingers).

Now that LC is back, and Prosper is quiet, I'll shift any P2P investing back to LC. When Prosper is back I'll probably go back and forth between the the two.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Minor Heart Attack

So I got home today and instead of doing work (like I should be doing) I decided to do some money transfers and make a few extra payments. I usually handle all of our household finances (from our joint account) the last week of the month. I make sure that all of our auto transfers are set for the following month and that the money to back them up are there.

We had some money left over mid month so I happily logged into the car payment site and hit the payment key. And then there was red! Specifically $xxx due on October 15, in red. I started panicking, wondering how I could have missed a payment and otherwise berating myself.

I call the company and log into ING simultaneously. I hear that the payment has gone though and see that the money is gone. I could have hung up then, but I stayed on the line to let them know that there was a glitch, or if that's standard it needs to be fixed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I'm at my mom's enjoying her company, realtive warmth, and all the sweet tea I can get my hands on. In the process I'm trying not to spend too much of her money or my own.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

S word

Today is the second day that the S word is in the forecast. Really there are 2 S words, but they're equally icky- snow and sleet. I've always lived places with winter, but October is just too early.

As the season continues I'll try to keep the whining to a minimum, but if you think about it snow is really bad for the budget. Normally we get a lot of sun keeping the temperature moderate. Snow = clouds = colder = more heat. It also means treacherous driving which can = costly car repairs. Finally it makes me want to hide in bed, which = not enough financial snowflakes.

So I'm not really whining, I'm worried about my finances :) Here's hoping I wake up to wet grass and not much else.
One more word on voting- if she can do it, so can you.

More than just the president

A lot of people are excited about the presidential election. But they are just the beginning of the choices for election day. There are elections for positions in Congress, state houses (the local version of congress), city/town/township councils, and if you live in a state like mine, amendments to the constitution and referendums.

I've been slowly education myself on the amendments (14!) and referendums (4) that will be on my ballot this November. When combined with all of the other stuff I'm looking at more than 20 choices when I enter the booth. Our topics included reducing tax incentives for certain industries, to working on the challenges previous amendments laid out,* to changing our organized labor structures.

These issues aren't getting as much play in the media as the top of the ticket does, but the impacts are just as serious. Your local and state laws dictate much more of the day to day activities and services you are able to access. So as time winds down (14 (or fewer) days left!) take a few minutes to read over all of the down ticket items for an informed vote.

For those of you who can vote early- happy voting. I'll probably be voting next Tuesday. I'm going to take advantage of the flight time to read our state booklet on the issues and make my big decisions.

*We have 1 amendment that limits the amount of taxes the state is allowed to hold on to and another that mandates an increase of inflation+1% for one of the largest spenders in the state.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Second tank, mission accomplished.

Now that I've gotten here I think I'm going to change things up a bit. I've noticed that I'm significantly over 200 at the half tank mark and just make it to around 400. So for the rest of the month I'm going to try filling up at the 1/2 way mark and see if my miles per gallon go up any more. Right now I'm holding steady at around 34-36

Happy driving!

Low Earnings

Since starting the new job things have been going well. My monthly paychecks are up, but I'm not counting it because I haven't gotten my 403b stuff in yet. In the end my new job paychecks will be even with my old job paychecks.

This month I've also had a drop-off in the snowflakes coming in. This is largely because I haven't been focusing on increasing my earnings. I've decided that I'm ok with that through November 4th. This is largely so I can focus some extra time on my candidate and because the next two weekends are essentially spoken for. I'm headed to visit my mom on Thursday (first time in over a year!), headed from the airport to a concert on my return, and the following weekend is a surprise b-day party for a friend. Five friends are coming in from all over.

Since I'll be spending so much time focused on other things I'm going to do my best to reduce spending and enjoy all of the things going on around me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reducing Water

Every once in a while I participate in Thrifty Green Thursday, a great carnival where contributors share tips that combine saving money and helping the environment. A few weeks back someone* wrote about using a bucket to catch shower water and then using the water for plants.

My first reaction was ick. It seemed cumbersome and like more effort than I was willing to make. But over the following week I thought about it a few times. If your shower is like mine it takes a minute or two to heat up. After 2 weeks I decided to give it a try.

I use one of the buckets I got from the grocery store bakery, aim the shower head at the bucket, and wait for the water to warm up. When the water is almost warm I put the bucket just outside of the shower. Every 3-4 showers yields 2.5 gallons- which I think is a crazy amount. Instead of going down the drain the water goes to the veggies I’m growing in containers and keeping the worm bin moist.

So there’s my I tried it. Thanks to whoever wrote the original post for sharing a tip that is saving me gallons of water!

*If you wrote the original post please let me know so I can link to you. I just looked back but couldn’t find it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Voting Options

Now that you're registered you may have to decide how to vote. In my city there are 3 options on the table- vote by mail, early voting, and election day voting. The deadline for a mail in ballot in my state is this Friday, so I only have a few days to figure things out.

So far I've decided that I won't be voting on election day. The turnout is expected to be historic and though I had a fun knitting and chatting in line for 3.5 hours during the 2006 election I don't want to do it again. Instead I plan to either be a poll worker or volunteer with my candidate's campaign.

I'm left with early voting or voting by mail. My conspiracy theorist friends say voting by mail (with a copy before you drop it off is the safest). The party I'm affiliated with is also recommending mail in ballots, to help track voter turnout. On the other hand I'm really bad about misplacing important papers. And there is something special about going into the booth and getting the cheezy 'I Voted' sticker.

Do you have options outside of voting on election day? And what are your thoughts on early/mail in voting?

The final bit of election news is that tomorrow is the final debate.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

It's October. In my mind it's way to early for retailers to start putting up Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa decorations but time for me to get cracking on gift ideas. In some ways I have it easy. I really only have to worry about Gameboy, his dad, and a few good friends. That's also why it's such a stressful time of year for me.

Half of my mom's family doesn't celebrate Christmas. This includes my closest (proximity) aunt growing up and her daughter who is more like a younger sister to me. Over the holiday breaks we spent a lot of family time together, so gifts usually weren't a part of the equation. Things were pretty laid back and usually involved lots of favorite foods from my mom's country.

As a result I'm much more of a see it and give it gifter as an adult. I see something that I know a family member/friend would love and I give it to them so they can start enjoying it. If I'm gifting a craft I work on it at a steady pace and then hand it over.

This worked well until I got serious with Gameboy. My guy who loves Christmas and his birthday which are only a week apart. His family didn't have a lot growing up but his Christmas/birthday memories a)sound like things out of the movies b)had his living room resembling a toy store. He believes holidays should be celebrated on the holiday* and with big fanfare.

So to keep things frugal I have to start now. I've been ruminating for a few weeks about what to get him, if I want to knit/crocket anything, and what to get his dad. By the end of the month I want to have a list of possiblities for Christmas and Gameboy's b-day, leaving me two months to shop arround. I'm also going to do a test run on what I want to make for my girlfriends.

Is anyone else thinking about the holidays yet.

*no more discount fare flying on Xmas day for me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Human Error

This morning our parking lots were full so I had to park on the street. We've had to do this quite a bit lately so our boss got us parking cash keys, which is up there with the computer and IPOD for best inventions ever. It's essentially a debit card for the parking meter. The beauty is it keeps you from having to dig for change or come up with creative ways to get change, especially when you're in a rush.

I was all ready to write a post about how I'll never have a parking ticket again thanks to this little miracle. And then I forgot to move my car when the meter was up. While miraculous, the parking key won't magically make human error go away.

Losing $25 will hurt my personal budget, but it won't break the bank. I'm considering this an expensive lesson in remember to feed the meter (or at least setting a Outlook reminder) and moving on with what has otherwise been a good day.


That's how far I went on my last tank. So close to 400 I could taste it.

In my head I'm going to call it a victory. The gas light came on last night and using the following theory I could have gotten over 400- I just decided to play it safe. My car manual says the light comes on with 1 gallon left (though I think its a little higher). I can get 30+ miles to the gallon, so from the gas light turning on I theoretically could have gone 30 miles. I'd driven home 10, so my 17 mile drive to work could have worked. But who wants to play games with the gas tank when it's in the 40's, you're driving on the highway, and it's rush hour?

I could have gone to a different gas station that would have put me over the line, but I decided going out of my way to reach a goal was a little silly. Not to mention the extra 30 cents I would have spent filling up.

I'll probably go through 2-3 more tanks before the month is up, so I'm going to keep striving for 400.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Veggie Pot Pie

It's getting chilly and icky. Yesterday was drizzly and cold enough that our furnace got its first workout of the season. For me, this means it's time for warm yumminess coming from the kitchen. Currently I'm making some apple butter (and it smells GOOD). Once I've finished I'll post the info. In the mean time here is a cold weather favorite from our house- Veggie Pot Pie.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

12 oz of assorted frozen veggies

handful 'mixed veggies' (the peas/carrot stuff)
2 red potatos, diced

1 portobello mushroom or a handful of regular mushrooms (optional)

1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of anything soup

Herbs (thyme & savory mix), salt, pepper to taste

Biscuit Topping:

1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour (pastry if you have it)

½ tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons butter

¾ cup buttermilk

1 tbsp honey

2 quart pyrex dish

  1. Sautee onions over medium low heat. While the mushrooms soften chop potato and mushroom while it cooks.
  2. Add potato, and mushroom, stirring occasionally, approx 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1bag of frozen veggies and a handful of the carrots/peas mix. Cook until defrosted/ you’re at a stopping point with the dough.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Using a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
  5. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and honey. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork to form a stiff dough. Add more buttermilk if the dough is too dry.
  6. Add one can cream of mushroom soup, ½ cup of water to pot, and spices. Mix a little and let simmer.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Knead dough lightly in the bowl for 3 to 5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a shape to cover the casserole dish.
  10. Pour veggies into casserole dish. Lay dough over dish. Don’t push down, but make sure it fits within the dish. Use a sharp knife to cut some vents in the dough. Put on baking tray put in the oven.
  11. Bake 25-30 minutes. You know its done when the dough is lightly browned and the insides are bubbling. You can use a knife to see if the crust is done or eyeball it.
  12. Let it sit for a few minutes. Dig in.

The ingredients for the filling are very flexible. Gameboy has added a few different types of meat (if you do this reduce the veggies some). I use whatever bag of assorted frozen veggies strikes me at the moment. The only thing I'm picky about is the 'mixed veggies' to add peas and carrots to the mix.

I always have questions about recipes I read online, so feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

ISP fun

Earlier this week we tried to do what should have been an easy task- connecting another laptop to our wireless network. All we needed was the network key that the repair (after install problems) put together. 5 hours on the phone that night and then 3 days later we had internet again.

On the plus side our next bill should be all canceled out with the monies we were promised when things went wrong along the way...

Monday, October 6, 2008

One tank, 400 miles

On Thursday Jadefly asked how I was going to reach my goal of 400 miles on one tank. Here are a few facts/details:
  • Usually 9.5-11 gallons = 330-360 miles.
  • I hypermile around 1/3-1/2 of the time I drive.
  • This time of year I rarely use AC/ need windows open.
  • Three fill ups ago I made it to 392.
  • My local highways and I are BFFs
  • I run late a LOT
My theory is if I can drive more mindfully (with hypermiling principles) I will be able to get more miles per gallon. This means leaving in a timely manner to get places, so I'm don't have to rush. When I'm running late I revert to what I refer to as NE urban driving :).

The commute from the new house to the new job (really the new house to anywhere) involves driving on the highway so I get to spend a lot of time between 45 and 60 mph. I just have to reduce the amount of time I spend over 65 mph- the speed limit half the way. The graph on the left shows fuel economy at various speeds. It can be found here with some more tips. What I'd love to know how many data points were used to make the graph.

The other thing that is still on the agenda is getting my car tuned up. I'm way overdue for an oil change and approaching one of the 15,000 mile checkups at the dealership. If I can hit 392 with the maintenance light on 400 once it's all cleared out should be a breeze right?

The final, and probably one of the harder things I'll have to do is keep my lead footed husband out of the drivers seat in my car. I swear he just likes hearing the car go vroom!