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Archive for June, 2009

quiet fiscal year end

July 1st, 2009 at 04:32 am

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $5 groceries

I wore a pair of pants today that I was not able to wear in awhile. Actually I've never been able to comfortably wear them until now.

At work, today was one of the quietest end of fiscal year ends ever. We still keep our books open a few days more, but I don't expect a mad rush as in previous years. Yet another indication of a deep recession.

DH reseeded one of the lettuce bowls for an early fall harvest. We planted Morgan's memorial catnip in the corner and it seems to be doing well - nothing has disturbed it yet. I had heard that if the catnip plant is big enough and you don't bruise the leaves too much, the plant won't get mowed down by rampaging cats. Hopefully that's what's happening.

Net worth, first half 2009

July 1st, 2009 at 04:17 am

The 403B went up quite a bit - I've been buying ever since October. The cash has been dropping due to my using it to pay tax, give to sister for the farmette ... and the low interest rate isn't enough to regenerate it.

I've wanted to invest the Vanguard taxable money (grandma's inheritance), and I came close, but somehow I could not pull the trigger. It is true that with stock market timing, you have to be lucky twice - know when to get out, and know when to get back in.


$132,579 IRA/403B
$202,207 Vanguard taxable
$18,351 stock
$12,444 I-bonds
$106,503 CDs
$38,281 ING, paypal, farmette savings
$1,689 immediate cash
---
$512,054 total

By comparison:
June 2009 ($512,054 total, $379,475 in taxable accounts)
Dec 2008 ($498,148 total, $386,021)
June 2008 ($524,261 total, $387,481)
Dec 2007 ($328,688 total, $192,747)
June 2007 ($176,422 total, $48,205)
Dec 2006 ($132,062 total, $40,329)
June 2006 ($120,261 total, $65,148)
Dec 2005 ($67,778 total, $23,740)
June 2005 ($46,115 total, $11,293)
Dec 2004 ($38,338 total, $7,558)
June 2004 ($29,050 total, $4,533)

bogged down

June 30th, 2009 at 03:47 am

Saving log - $11 tip box
Spending log - $10 library + $5 large limeade

Looked in my tip box and realized that with all the sadness, I hadn't put anything in. Sigh.

I noticed, along with fern, that I've been bogged down in saving money. I'm putting in the devil's contribution to my 403B ($666.00) every paycheck for the tax deferral. I've already added to my Roth, and now its just the tip box, $125 off the second paycheck of the month, feeding the Drps, and plowing the interest earned already into savings. Maybe about $300/month.

Interest is pretty depressing - I bonds are paying 0% interest, I'm not adding to my position. T-bills are maybe earning a bit more - still less than a dollar on $4K, so again, I'm not adding to my position. All of my savings accounts earn a pitiful amount of interest - the best of them earn about 2.5%. In other words, no account seems to be earning anything worthy of taking the time to put those few bucks into savings.

This recession trying my soul - I'd love to see some investment catch fire, but it looks like I have to make do with knowing that as long as I cover my bases, the next few years will be better.

I also am a bit late in pre-paying the 2Q tax bill (I'm now on the pre-paying quarterly schedule, rather than in April). Since I'm not earning a lot of interest, the tax bill is taking out a huge bite out of savings that I'm not earning back. I'm planning on talking with the tax guy to see if I should even bother paying the next two quarters.

At least I'm still employed - haven't heard anything yet about layoffs.

I stopped by the library to pay off my library fine. I went through my email and caught one from the library asking for donations. I've never seen that before, ever. Turns out that my library fine was $2.10. I gave the librarian a $10 and asked that the difference be considered a donation.

passed on favor and a lassi

June 29th, 2009 at 03:53 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $3.88 coffee, bagel + $1 donation + $27 groceries

Went back to some semblance of a routine and jogged that 3 miles. I did it in 48 minutes, but I didn't push myself particularly. The end of the jog puts me within a block of a PCC, the local large organic grocery chain (think Seattle version of Whole Foods), and from there I buy an organic apple.

Today I set my apple on the conveyor and the woman ahead of me said, "just an apple? Let me buy it for you." I was going to protest, but the woman asked, "you'd do the same for me, right? Just pass it on." I considered it for a milli-second and realized the universe was trying to do me a favor. "Sure," I said and thanked her.

Outside the PCC, a homeless guy was selling Real Change. I gave him the dollar that I would have used to buy the apple.

Passed it on.

I had a real hankering for a glass of lassi, and had a spare bit of fruit. This time it was a white nectarine. While a nectarine is not very Indian, the lassi was delicious.

Lassi

2 tbsp plain yogurt (I had the Greek stuff)
1 sliced up fruit
1/4 tsp salt
dash pepper (optional, but peppering fruit is pretty Indian)
ice cold water

Combine fruit, yogurt, and salt. Mash fruit into yogurt with a fork or use a blender. As you stir, yogurt will get thinner.

Add ice cold water to the yogurt mixture until the mix is about a milk consistency. Taste and correct for salt - salt brightens the yogurt and fruit flavors.

Pour over ice and enjoy!

back to finances

June 27th, 2009 at 05:00 am

At work: rumors have been flying about layoffs, aka RIFs. A couple of co workers had told me, in confidence, that they are planning on the fact that they will go. My boss doesn't think that anyone in our department will go, but everyone is so tight lipped that ...who knows?

I took a glance at the totals of my 403B - it broke 80K.

gratitude and love

June 27th, 2009 at 04:53 am

Thank you for your comment SMB - your words helped pull me out of my anger.

I woke up this morning at about 4 am to a grey twilight. Easy to see that people might be getting up and getting going, easy to see black shapes.

I'm left with a sad result of a senseless act. I could interpret dead Morgan in a box as an angry malicious act and lash out against my neighbors, or I can treat it as someone's last kindness from a horrible accident.

DH reminded me that if he was "caught" by someone peering into a box with a dead cat in it, that he would run too.

Gratitude has taken me a long way. I'm grateful to share Morgan for those six months. After all, she was six months old when we got her secondhand, so from the perspective of her first home, she had died long before. I'm grateful that I have no misplaced hope that my little girl will come back. I'm grateful that someone was kind enough to cover her up from indignity. I am grateful that someone called the police. I am grateful that in expressing my gratitude that I got some sort of answer from the police. And I'm grateful by your comments, dear readers. We've gotten more response from the universe than many others have facing the same situation.

Morgan was pure love to me. I have to remember to reflect pure love and gratitude back. Any other response would lead to madness and sadness.

I walked the stupa of Sakya Monastery, twirling the 32 prayer wheels clockwise and I felt a lot better. DH bought the biggest, leggiest catnip plant I've seen for us to plant. We plan to plant it in the southwest corner of the property - the first and best place Morgan ran to when she began exploring - furthest away from where she was found.

"answers" decidedly dark

June 26th, 2009 at 03:05 am

Apologies that this is so very far off the topic of personal finance.

I called and got a hold of my contact at the Seattle Police Dept. This is the situation that he told me, verbally (no police report):

Sometime early Sunday morning (before 4 am), a private citizen saw 2 males standing by the cardboard box resting by our mailbox (we are one of 4 mailboxes in a row). The citizen shouted, "what are you doing?" The 2 males ran off. The citizen opened the cardboard box, saw dead little Morgan, and called the police. The patrol officer came at 4:15am and wrote up the incident report.

So I feel certain that Morgan's killer is in our neighborhood, and knows that Morgan was owned by either us, the upstairs neighbor (we are a duplex), or the next door neighbor (also a duplex).

I don't whether Morgan's killer is one or both of the two males, the private citizen, the person who set Morgan in the cardboard box, or none of the above.

We still have the cardboard box. The irony is not lost on me that said cardboard box has a shipping address of Lifeway Christian Store with a tracking number (!) dated from Feb 2009 and has "Kings Elementary" (private Christian elementary school) handwritten on one of the flaps, while Morgan is an entirely black cat (8 white hairs at the throat), and we have a license plate that begins with "666".

North Seattle is not anywhere close to the Bible Belt, its not even a Bible headband or a bible ankle bracelet. At least I thought that. We are left with a box and the thought of a killer-nutball or a killer-scumbag in our neighborhood. DH and I are debating about calling the SPD back either right now (me) or wait because we assume that the investigation is on-going. My SPD contact has my number, and they know we owned Morgan.

In the meantime, anybody have the ability to trace a tracking number back to an order?

not great, but better

June 25th, 2009 at 03:54 am

Saving log - $0 tip box
Spending log - $2 coffee and sweet + $20 for 2 orders of takeout noodles

I'm a bit better today. I can now talk about what happened without totally breaking down. I've been playing telephone tag with the contact from the Seattle Police Department. I tried again to get the incident report. Nothing - we are now running up against the 72 hour limit. I phoned the police report line and heard the ominous phrase "we will not give you a report if its an on-going investigation."

Patience, baselle.

Though I have to admit that it would be ironic that Morgan working her way up the phyla (worms, flies, mice) in her death perhaps caught the biggest prey of all.

I haven't been hungry in days, just eating a bit here and there. Today was the first day that I even had an appetite. Yesterday I went to work, and kept my appointment to the gym. The trainer weighed me - 174. I told him that the news is not nearly as good as he thinks it is.

I am sadder today than you will ever know

June 23rd, 2009 at 04:29 am

I was yesterday also.

Sunday morning we discovered our cat, Morgan, dead in a box with a Seattle Police business card & incident number clipped to the lid. Morgan didn't have any marks on her, no broken bones, no blood. She looked like death literally caught her mid-yawn from a nap.

We tried getting the incident report but since it was written up during the weekend, it will take 24-72 hrs to come up.

You now know as much as I do. I am sadder today than you will ever know. She was a little princess, about to become an adult. Was.

Damn. Damn. DAMN.

my biscuits exploded on the bus

June 21st, 2009 at 03:17 am

Okay, I'll give you time to stop laughing and wipe your eyes reading that title.

Sister gave me a couple of pounds of rhubarb to do with as I pleased. Since I can't compete with her on the pie front, I decided to make a rhubarb cobbler. I've done the biscuit making in the past but I felt pretty lazy, so true to my Midwestern roots (we are the cooks who have most fully explored the uses of cream of x soup), I went for the easy route - biscuits in a can. I bought the biscuits, put them in a bag, then went on the bus. The bus hit a number of bumps and BANG. The most impressive part was that it startled the guy sitting across from me as he was listening to his iPod, drumming to the beat.

I sometimes get comments on how my pictures - how do I get such funny shots? Let me tell you about the ones that got away! For instance today, I failed to bring my camera, and I missed:

1. An extremely lazy panhandler downtown. He was standing at the corner of Olive and 4th, clean shirt, shorts and sneakers, intently reading the newspaper, and holding his cap out. That's it. I thought it was a bit of performance art for the tourists.

2. A message sign over Hardwick's that read, "Larry/Thanks for less than adequate service over the years."

Still might go back and get that one.

back to business

June 20th, 2009 at 04:21 am

Saving log - $5 tip box
Spending log - $9 groceries

So it is back to business fiscally. I deposited my monthly tip box collectings - $40 worth - into savings, which I need to do because I took out $400 out of savings to pay off the vacation from my credit card. All told, the vacation cost me about $800 - gift to sister for hosting us, 3 hotel rooms, incidentals, some groceries, a few restaurant meals including one big one for family and friends. DH bought the gas on his dime.

And speaking of the car, the insurance agent offered him two possibilities - $3200 and he keeps the car & fixes the bumper, but no comprehensive, or $3400 and they take the car. While DH is not wild about the car, its the "devil you know" - it gets reasonable gas mileage (even coming back and merely 'driveable' it got 28 mpg), is comfortable, its an automatic and I can drive it (I'm not comfortable using a stick which was DH's former car), and is large enough not to get crushed by a deer. Looks like it will be the $3200 solution. The clunkers tax break is tempting, but you have to buy the new car first, then get the credit. And DH is is very interested in getting a completely plug in model for the next car. That would mean waiting several years - next couple of years the first ones should come out and then you want the bugs to be worked out first. Why don't we have innovative cars? Look in the mirror. Smile

I went to the downtown grocery store for an apple, then for an apple and 1/2 and 1/2 for my work coffee, then I saw a deal - .99/lb for fresh, good looking green beans. Haven't seen that good a deal for a couple of years, so I bought a couple of pounds at the spur of the moment. And then I bought salad for lunch. A planned 60 cent purchase turned into $9 in the blink of an eye.

Got weighed for my gym session - still holding at 178, which is nearly miraculous, considering the fish-fry, the several restaurant lunches, the beer, the cheese, the baked goods (our hosts at the funeral home bake like crazy - yum, but yikes!), the driving-but-no-jogging. The trainer smiled - the more muscle you develop the more bad eating for a week you can get away with.

farmette garden

June 18th, 2009 at 03:36 am

As promised, this post is to show off the farmette vegetable garden and all the stuff I had to weed and plant. Sister started a little CSA - she has three people in Milwaukee paying her to grow all this.

Peas in front row, then onion, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets. Yum!


She's doing it organically, which means a lot of water, weeding, mulching, and compost. She has a couple of tricks for all you vegetable gardening newbies.

1. Double and triple rows. Sister plants one row, then a row 3-4 inches to the left, and a row 3-4 inches to the right. Especially useful if you have dogs that might misstep. If you have one row, missteps can really kill you; with triple rows you can consider missteps a way of thinning plants out.

A couple of triple rows of beets, freshly weeded. Compare this pic with the very last one on the post.


2. Mark your rows. Along with the regular seeding, sister puts in a radish seed every 6-8 inches. The radish seedlings come up in about 3-4 days, marking the row. Radish seeds are cheap and easy so if you really don't like 'em, pull 'em when the seedlings you want really come up. (and give them to us)



3. Plant, water, compost on the row, then mulch between the rows for weed control.



The week we were there we helped plant tomatoes. This picture was taken during the Caddyshack phase of planting.



We dug the holes, put a bit of compost in and mixed it with the soil from the hole, then transplanted tomato seedlings, then watered, then mulched around it. Sister let me finish with our secret way getting great tomatoes without blossom end rot - one Tums (with calcium) slipped into the soil about a foot away from the plant.

4. If your water is cold (ours was), let the water sit in a bucket to warm up for a little while. The seedlings won't go into shock. And let the dog have a bite!



The triple row of beets, a few days after the weeding. They really perked up.

Farmette adventures (long)

June 16th, 2009 at 04:51 am

As I said before, DH, Morgan and I took a two week road trip to Wisconsin and back. We wanted to spend as much time as possible at our destination so we drove it in 3 1/2 days getting there, and 3 days getting back.

Novel stuff we noticed (some economic, so it is appropriate for a financial diary)

1. Montana has a speed limit, which is a change from "cautious and prudent" and is now a bit more strictly enforced. We were stopped going 85 in a 75, and given a warning. The trooper confided that it was less a case of stopping speeders and more figuring out how you act when stopped. Calm lead foots get off with a warning.

2. We went through at least 20 construction sites through our route. Minnesota was especially forthright - big signs declared that it was "your stimulus money at work." Can't complain - the roads need work.

3. There are way more wind farms out on the route. We went through at least five. 1 in Washington, 1 in South Dakota, 2 in Minnesota, 1 in Wisconsin.

4. Kitty was well behaved in the car. Whew! We didn't have any problem finding a hotel - a couple hotels did give us a 10$ pet charge. One didn't (thank you, Best Western!). Morgan didn't do well with dogs, though.

5. The less coffee you drink, the fewer rest stops you need. (this one's for DH. Big Grin)

6. Sister still makes a mean pie crust.

Now for the adventures. We got to the farmette mid-afternoon Tuesday and were promptly given a tour and put to work. Sister is creating a bad-ass several acre organic garden and is running an informal CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for several people in Milwaukee. By the time I was finished for that week, I had: weeded 2 triple rows of beets, 3 triple rows of carrots, 2 rows of peas, weeded the raspberry patch, helped dig holes for and plant 100 tomato plants, 20 or so pepper plants, planted 1 row of popcorn by hand, scattered calcium pellets over an acre, planted two rows of lettuce, and 2 more triple rows of carrots.

Sister's partner came with the dogs, and they loved to chase things, including kitties. Morgan immediately hid up in upstairs and hung out there. She loved the attic and played princess in the upstairs. When she caught a mouse up there, sister told us that Morgan could come back anytime.

Sister and her partner ahve both done a fantastic job with the farmette - its now a fun party place and has been for the last couple of years, ever since sister decided to leave her job and be at the farmette for weeks at a time.

I showed DH the creek in back of the old property (now public land, owned by the state of WI), and sister and I showed him the other piece of property. Officially we were trespassing so out of country politeness we didn't stay long. It turns out that we sold to a developer who went bust and re-sold the property to the corporate farmer. Not great, but all things considered not bad. We got the best price, and while we don't own it, it is still being farmed.

We also spent the weekend in Milwaukee. Sister gave us the choice between staying with them or staying across the street with their friends who live in a refurbished funeral home. How could we resist? We stayed at the funeral home and got a great tour of the place. As a payback, we helped the owners clean up their computer.

The bad adventure came a couple of Fridays ago. We were still at the farmette, driving home from a Friday night fish fry when DH hit and killed a deer with our car, ripping up the cushmobile's left front bumper. Its still driveable as long as you drive during the day (no left headlight), but the insurance adjuster thinks its close to a total.

My other two projects were to help reconcile what sister spent in the year and a half since I last did that job. I also looked at the last of dad's old receipts and paperwork, determining what to keep and what to toss for tax purposes. In a sense, probate and the estate is supposed to close that door. I mean, how can you audit a dead guy? I was conservative, though, and had them keep the paper for 8 years, but anything pre-2001 I suggested that sister toss.

Pictures - the garden pictures under the next entry....

I call shotgun...


Wind farm and road work combined


The working living room (farmette)


The second living room, taken from the working living room (farmette)


The kitchen (farmette)


The mudroom. The black kitty is NOT Morgan, but Midnight, a two-year old semi feral tomcat. DH nearly got him calm enough to pet, then the dogs came and poof - both he and Morgan disappeared.


East side of the farmhouse. Funny how the paint job only goes so high.


The other piece of property. This year its in corn.


The other piece of property has sheds too. This is one.


The car after the deer kill. I have to look on the bright side. If you see that coming up to you at 75, you'll get out of the way. RIP cushmobile.

I'm back (yet again)

June 15th, 2009 at 03:29 am

DH, Morgan (our cat), and I went for two weeks to the land of my fathers ... aka Oshkosh and Milwaukee WI. Sister has done a lot with the farmette, and we had a number of adventures, most good, one not so much.

More tomorrow!