Thursday, August 28, 2008

Going to the

chapel BEACH and we're gonna get married...

I'll be back by next Thursday, have a great weekend!

Monday, August 25, 2008


After a lot of talking, thinking, and hand wringing I decided to resign from my current job and take the job I was offered. Though it was a tough decision, in the end we decided it would be the best move for my career and financially.

The new position is definitely a step up, with more responsibility and a wider range of work. It's more in line with the kind of positions I envisioned when I went back to school. The increased salary will allow more savings for retirement and possibly (depending on how much goes to retirement) accelerate paying down our debts. I'm excited about having something more than a Roth earning money for the future.

My boss didn't take it well, but has recovered gracefully. The COO and the President at my current company both offered congratulations and said that while they are sad to loose me, they are excited about the company insight I will bring to the new position.

For the next two weeks I'll be working on closing out all of my files so that the burden on my coworkers is minimal. Then I'll be headed to the new place.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Small Scale Rain Barrel

Water, especially when you live in an arid climate, is a precious resource. Before we started looking at houses I envisioned a rain barrel sitting along the back of the house, catching our intermittent rainwater. For those of you that aren't familiar, this is a barrel that collects water from your downspout systems. Your entire roof serves as a catchment surface and you get free (and non chlorinated) water to use in a garden, on a lawn, or whatever else you need.

The problem- commercial rain barrels are expensive. We're talking $100-200. There are plenty of instructions on how to create your own rain barrel, but they require tools and time that we just don't have at the moment.

My small scale, free, approach is to use 5 gallon plastic white buckets to catch rain. I get these for free at my local grocery store's bakery. They wash out the icing buckets for me and then I give them another wash at home. When I know it's going to rain (if we're getting rain the newscasters practically dance on their desks) I put the buckets in the yard open. When it's finished raining I close them up and the use to fill my watering vessels.

While 5 gallons isn't as great as say 55, it's working for now and every little bit helps.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Job Dilemma

When you're looking for a job it always seems complicated and crazy. When you're not looking sometimes things just fall into you lap.

Last summer I worked on my thesis at local nonprofit. While I was there another contractor was doing a project that overlapped with mine occasionally. We worked together well, and I looked up to her, but over the last year we lost touch.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago. I was going into the office to drop off some paperwork and she was headed into my building for a meeting. She said she knew of a great job for me and couldn't believe that we just ran into each other. I gave her a card, we did a bit of small talk, and went our separate ways.

I'll spare you the details here, but I after I got a little nervous looking at the job description she asked me to interview as a favor b/c another applicant backed out. I agreed because an interview practice never hurts. The interview was great, it was my first where I don't NEED the job and I relaxed and had fun with it.

The problem? I've only been with my current job since 1/2/08. In addition to the fact that a short stint doesn't look good on a resume I think about the resources my current employer has put into my training. I also think about the bridges I may be burning. The new job is in the same field of my industry, in fact approx 1/4 of my work involves working with individuals at my current company.

My current job is great in many ways. I have a lot of flexibility. I work largely on my own. Nice benefits for the field. I get to travel around the state (though not in a style I like). I also work with a great group of women.

The possible new job is more along the lines of a 9-5, 30 minutes (in good traffic) from the new house. It's in the same industry, but where I evaluate and tell folks how to improve at the current job, the new job is serving as a resource for those folks. The office is under a mayor's office committee, which makes the work political. I would have a wider range of responsibilities. I'd also be moving from a 30 person organization to a 3.5 person organization.

All of these things are appealing and worrying at the same time. A lot of the safety net that I feel I have at my current position would be gone. I also know I'm more likely to be working 40-50 hour weeks, instead of my usual 35-40 and current 15-20. The reward for these risks is a title bump (program specialist to manager) and a $9.5K salary bump. The new position is also more in line with the master's degree (and corresponding student loans on the side bar) that I got last year.

The new job would also likely mean delaying having kids by at least a year. Gameboy is ok with this, and I'm (we're) young enough that it shouldn't have negative effects on trying to get pregnant. Really, my current job is the perfect job for a mom with school age kids.

So I'm trying to find the balance between:
  • loyalty and career goals
  • job flexibility and compensation
  • title/responsibility and working hours
  • family plan and career goals
I got the official offer tonight and asked for 2 days to discuss with Gameboy and a synopsis of their benefits.

Thoughts o wise readers?

Yard fun

Dear weeds,

I now understand why people use toxic chemicals to banish you. Halfway through last nights front yard ordeal I almost gave in. Small front yard weeds, consider this a warning. You were spared last night. In the next week boiling water, vinegar, or my fingers are coming at you. Just give up ok? And backyard weeds- those of you that didn't succumb to the vinegar two weeks ago- your turn is coming. I'm not sure when, because the next few days are busy and I am sore, but don't expect to be around too much longer.

I have learned your tricks. I know who has prickles. I know who a bit more vinegar will kill. I've also perfected the grip/twist/pull technique that seems to be your downfall. As the new kids on the block the yard can only look crazy for so long. The leather gloves, full long sleeves, and closed shoes- I learned my lesson on 3/4 sleeves and flip flops last night- will be headed your way.


Friday, August 15, 2008


You know those weeks where on Monday you think "this is going to be an easy week" and then it all falls apart- I've had one of those weeks. There was no one thing that was really bad just lots of little things buying up my time.

Tuesday I interviewed for a new job.
Wednesday & Thursday I took care of twin 4 yr old boys
Friday I spent the day in meetings.

Sadly I can't remember what I did on Monday. This weekend I plan on writing some more about the job I interviewed for and the qualms I'm having (not that I've even been offered the position).

How has your week been?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kitchen Amnesia

The appliances are all delivered. The pantry and pans are unpacked. The fridge has food in it. This should be the perfect trifecta for lovely homemade meals in my new kitchen.

For a little perspective I should explain that my last kitchen was about the size of a postage stamp. It was near impossible for two adults to stand simultaneously try to do anything without running into or stepping on each other. In the lovely new kitchen we have cabinets to adequately store things and abundant counter space (including an island).

So why am I suffering from kitchen amnesia? I define this as what happens when you can't think of anything to cook. Outside of two meals (a pasta bake and baked mac and cheese) I can't think of ANYTHING to cook.

For the sake of my wallet (in my world kitchen amnesia = a lot of takeout) and waistline (have I mentioned that we're getting married in two weeks) I need to get myself back into the kitchen. I"m going to try to unearth to cookbooks* and spend a little time online looking for recipes. If you have any veggie recipes that you love send them my way.

*note to self cookbooks and regular books shouldn't be packed together.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Natural Weed Control

As many of you know we just bought a house. It was a foreclosure, on the market from late winter- meaning no water all season. The arid environment and the lowest rainfall in a years equals a lawn that looks like straw. We've watered, tried lawn tonics, and done rain dances trying to bring it back.

The only thing that has come back so far are the weeds. The special lawn tonic, water, and sun have turned tiny little weeds that barely caught my attention into small shrubbery. My mom's solution was to buy weed killer and douse the lawn, but that doesn't really work with my trying to be green ethic. Also the prices I saw at the big box store- not my cup of tea.

Instead I sought a natural method of weed control. A spray bottle full of vinegar was my method of attack. On Tuesday morning I visited each weed in the backyard, giving the base a few squirts of vinegar. I'm happy to report 3/4 of the weeds are shriveling up.* The ones that aren't dying are the ones that didn't get full sun while I was spraying so one of these afternoons** I'll be spraying those in the afternoon.

Vinegar Weed Control Tips:
-Spray only the base of weeds. Vinegar will hurt other plants, so try to target each individual weed. A spray bottle or power sprayer*** is probably your best tool for targeting the individual plants.
-Sunlight is your friend. This method works because the plants suck in the vinegar as they grow. A lot of sun speeds this process up.

If the next round of vinegar doesn't work I'll be moving to boiling water. I would have tried this first, but I'm a clutz and I see things not ending well.

Have you had any luck controlling weeds naturally?

*including the evil cactus-like weed that attacked me the other day
**when my quads stop being sore
***we have a 1 gallon pump sprayer that can spray as fine stream

Monday, August 4, 2008

Things not to do

Was a $48 check. Now I get to call the family I worked for and ask them to mail me another one...

UPDATE: I kept putting off making the call. The day I told myself I had to call I found the checks. Now checks go immediately into the wallet.

Month End Review

My number one goal for July was to stay sane. I am happy to report that I've met that goal. Finacially things are all over the place. The sidebars are updated and descriptions are below.

So one savings and one debt payoff tracker crossed the 1/3 milestone this month. (Insert small happy dance) Unfortunately the e fund took a hit, dealing with Gameboy's dad's legal expenses, dropping from 70% to 50%. My student loans are staying steady at .3%, a number that makes me sad but based on the current plan is realistic.

The spectacular dive in net worth is due to the house. Though I'm further away from breaking even the house is worth it. I'm using half of the house value and half of the equity for my numbers. I do the same thing with our shared accounts.

So far August is looking good income wise. I have a lot of babysitting lined up, time to take surveys, and Gameboy's commission checks are starting to roll in. I'm pretty confident that we'll get the networth line moving upward again in the next month.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

I was defending my capstone project. This was the large project that served as the culmination to my Master's program. I spent 4 months surveying and then analyzing 3 neighborhoods about educational issues. This was followed by a report for my professors, a report for the sponsoring organization, and a report for the school board. The final bit was explaining my work and defending my conclusions to two professors and my representative at the sponsoring organization.

I remember being nervous and excited. It was an accelerated program, 2 years worth of classes in 2 average semesters. Life revolved around studying and trying to stay afloat financially. I was so excited to be finished, start looking for work, and preparing for an international trip.

In this year we've made much progress. We think about what we're spending, but how we'll pay the monthly expenses isn't really a worry. We both have jobs that we like. We are saving for retirement. Our wedding is planned. We bought a house.
We still have a lot to do, plenty of room to grow. Lots of debt (especially after the house) to pay off. Ambitious savings goals. But overall, looking at what we've accomplished in the past year I'm happy.
Picture credit: 【Jaz Q6r】Bرb

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Moving Expenses

We're officially out of the old place and into the new place. The move and getting everything set up has presented a hose of financial challenges, so that we've handled well and others that could have gone much better.

I mentioned movers for our furniture a while back. This was probably the BEST $300 we've spent in a long time. I love Gameboy dearly, but one if his faults is underestimating how much work big jobs will be. This results in not enough time, frustration, and all around grumpiness for everyone involved. A friend reccomended movers who charge by the piece and I decided that was a great idea for our furniture. They guys who dilivered it struggled and I pictured Gameboy and a friend hurting the walls, or worse yet themselves, trying to move it. Our quote was $255 four our bedroom (4 pieces), office (3 pieces), living room (5 pieces). The guys were great and Gameboy was ready to pay them double after the first 10 minutes. They threw in some extra stuff and Gameboy took them to McDonalds and gave a healthy tip.

I've continued to spend an excessive amount of time and (at least in my opinion) with the Big Box stores. One error I've made in this area is not checking about reshelving fees/properly measuring. The pantry- the gloriously huge pantry- needed shelves and brackets. Prepared with approximate measurements I did some really fuzzy math and ended up with shelves that are way too small. The restocking fee to return them is around $1 off, but I may have been a bit more careful if I'd known about it. I also don't like that when I asked about return policies they just said within 30 days with a receipt.

Outside of cleaning and shelving the next biggest drain has been our lawn. I live in what could easily be described as a desert on a mountain. We recently broke a 100+ year record for straight days in the 90's or above. We're also at about half our usual summer rainfall. I've tried a few lawn tonics service guys and internet searching informed me about. The tools to apply the tonics, the ingredients, and time amaze me. I think if we haven't made progress in the next two weeks we're going to try the comercial chemically stuff. I've been trying to keep things relativley natural, but it's sad. On the plus side we don't have to worry about mowing any time soon.

I haven't run tallies yet but I'd guess we're in the $600-800 range on stuff from Home Depot, Lowes, and the grocery store for the house. All of the receipts have been relegated to what I'm calling the organization table. Only problem is it's surrounded by boxes, making it hard to you know, organize.

There are a lot more things that we want/need to make our house a home, but I'm doing my best to keep a tight reign on things that aren't necessary for day to day life. Bookcases for our many books would be great- but they can hang out in boxes for a few more months.

Any lawn tips? Or even better, how to make all of our stuff unpack itself?