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Archive for December, 2010

Fifteen items

December 31st, 2010 at 03:03 pm

This week's 15 items:

loaf of bread -- on sale
hot chocolate packets -- house brand on sale
2 cans tomato sauce -- on sale
2 lbs. bacon -- BOGO
wedges of Asiago & Parmesan -- on sale & $1 coupon
3 Lean Cuisines -- on sale
DiGiorno pizza -- on sale
bag of spring mix lettuce -- on sale
8-pack of Activia yogurt
18-roll pack of toilet paper -- house brand on sale

I am planning to make pasta carbonare, thus the bacon and parmesan. Because of the deals, I ended up getting two bacons and two cheeses. Even then, after fulfilling my "musts" I had room for more. I chose the tomato sauce just to have on hand, and the pizza and Lean Cuisines for easy meals in the future. Lean Cuisines help me keep the calories down at lunchtime, and make packing my lunch easy, so I do like to get them when they're on sale. The pizza, too, will mostly be for lunches after I bake it for the first time for dinner.

Total: $48.63
Savings: $13.30

I also got my 1-cent frying pan. I needed only one sticker to finish my "book," so when I went through the line, I handed my extra's to the man behind me in line. He was so delighted! It's fun to do stuff like that.

My new pan is very nice. 10-inch Thomas brand; nice finish on it. I will enjoy it.

I shopped until I dropped

December 31st, 2010 at 12:49 am

Today I decided I was going to spend some of my gift cards, before they ended up forgotten.

My first stop was Border's. I had a $25 card. They were having big sales, and after a lot of looking, I picked out seven books and came in $5 over. Most are fiction, but one is Jean Chatzky's "Ten Commandments of Financial Happiness." I'm not expecting a lot out of it, but it doesn't look bad. The other books I will read for pleasure and either pass to friends or sell on

Then it was on to Macy's. I needed boots. It took me a long time to figure out they just didn't have what I was looking for -- but then I found a pair that I decided I liked even better than what I had in mind. They are London Fog, short, with fleece and fur lining, not leather but some kind of waterproof material, quite stylish in cut, low heels. They were half-price, $44.50 down from $89, and with my $25 card I got them for $22.95.

I was starting to get tired, but I carried on to TJ Maxx. I had $25 to spend and not much idea of what I wanted. I kept picking up things for other people, but I was determined to shop for myself for a change. Finally I found (another) book that I had seen on the Today Show, "Happy for No Reason," and that got me rolling. I ended up also getting a nice, thick exercise mat and an oven glove. These weren't marked down any more than usual, so I was $14 over, but I decided I wanted all three things.

I kept thinking how hard it was to shop for myself. I remember how I used to shop and just yearn for the things I saw. Now, it's very hard to find anything that interests me. I supply so many of my needs at thrift stores and garage sales that retail stores now seem silly and overpriced.

But I was happy with all my purchases, and then I came home and dropped!

This and that

December 29th, 2010 at 02:49 pm

I made a reservation for a taxi to take me to the airport for my Florida trip next week. $37. I can't get over how much it costs, but I can't ask someone to give me a ride at 4:30 a.m. And I can't drive and park, as I am leaving from Midway but arriving at O'Hare.

I may have to pay for a taxi in Fort Myers, too.

The one thing I will REALLY try to do is to pack in one carry-on bag. It's only a four-day trip, and I'll have a washer/dryer available on the other end.

I'm off work till the 10th of January, though I am on call. I am the only researcher on staff, so I can never really get away. Someone always ends up needing something. It's frustrating.

I just bought a $5 Groupon for two movie tickets. Part of my plan for my time off is to see some of the Oscar-nominated (or at this point, Golden Globe-nominated) movies. I hope I don't have to use the two tickets at once though. The last time I got a Groupon, it just came in the form of an email document to print. I hope they can figure out how to split it for two movies, not two seats. We'll see.

Today I'm going to get my fifteen items, pick up a prescription and browse Goodwill. I'm planning to shop Goodwill all year for gifts. I realize I missed out on some good opportunities this past year.

My son made me a friend on, so that is how I am tracking my food. I've had one day under goal and one day over, but the calorie count they set for me is really low. I will probably go over it a lot but still be in the neighborhood of my personal goal.

Gift cards and goals

December 27th, 2010 at 06:10 pm

I had a great Christmas -- I will spare you all the details, but it was definitely one of the good ones!

I got quite a few gift cards, so one of my challenges will be to make the most of them. Macy's, Border's, TJ Maxx, Dunkin Donuts, and AMC Theaters. Hmmm, I must be hard to buy for? No matter, I LOVE gift cards!

The day after Christmas is like the start of the New Year to me, so I made my resolutions.

1. I will write down everything I eat.
2. I will walk at least 3 times a week, even if it's cold! I DO have access to two gyms, after all!
3. I will increase my net worth by $20,000.
4. I will do a better job of keeping in touch with my extended family. (That one is vague, but there is lots of room for improvement).
5. I will look for Christmas presents all year long.

That's about it. I like to keep it simple.

I used my Groupon for Nordstrom Rack. I bought two more Wacoal bras. I think now I have enough that I can retire my oldies but baddies. A Wacoal bra retails for $50-60, but, with the Groupon, I got these two for $15 each. That's my Christmas present to myself.

Fifteen Items

December 27th, 2010 at 02:36 pm

On Christmas Eve, I bought my fifteen items at Jewel. They were:

Apple Juice -- on sale
Oat Cereal -- house brand, on sale
18 eggs -- on sale
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Butter -- on sale
Shredded Cheddar -- on sale
Dunkin Donuts coffee -- on sale
Dishwasher Detergent -- house brand
Jiffy Peanut Butter -- on sale
2 half-gallons Edy's Peppermint ice cream -- BOGO
2 packages of batteries -- $1 off coupon

After I finished shopping I got a call from my son, asking if I would bring wine for Christmas dinner. Since I didn't have an unopened bottle, I had to turn around and make a 16th purchase. But those things can't be helped.

Grand total -- with the extra wine -- $48.76

I'm going to try to do this all year -- see how far I can go before I have to break my rule!

Water bill is covered

December 23rd, 2010 at 03:26 pm

Yay! My deposit from was $14.40, which, along with two $3 payments from Pine Cone, will pay for the overage on the water bill.

Yay, again! I thought I had to work Christmas Eve, but I donít!

Yesterdayís office Christmas party was great. In the Yankee Swap, I got a singing Hervey doll, which was a hit with my grandsons. The gift I brought in was a fancy frame from Talbotís (which I got from Goodwill, not Talbotís), and it was very much appreciated by the person who got it, who happened to be my boss!

The chicken & dumplings dinner with the grandsons et al was a hit, too. Maybe weíll make it a Christmas week tradition!

Today our group is taking our boss out for lunch. It should be a fun day. Tonight I shop and clean, and tomorrow Ė laundry, and then I hit the road.

Donít know when Iíll check in again, so everyone, have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Nordstrom Rack & Breakfast Casserole

December 22nd, 2010 at 03:45 pm

I went to Nordstrom Rack last night because they had a big sale and because I had a Groupon. Well, everybody else had the same idea. I never saw such long checkout lines Ė ever Ė in my life. I was looking for boots and didnít find any. My next choice was underwear, but it wasnít marked down any more than usual, so I decided to come back another time. I tell you, those people at the end of the line must have been clutching some REALLY good bargains!

When I went home I had to assemble an egg casserole to bring to work today. I let it sit in the fridge last night and baked it this morning. But in between I had a dream about it Ė that it had been in the oven all night, but was still soggy and unbaked, and I was in a panic. In reality, it turned out great, and I have already received a lot of compliments. If anyone is curious about it, google the Jimmy Dean Breakfast Casserole. I play around with the meats and the vegetables a lot, but itís always good. This time I used bacon, red peppers, onions and mushrooms.

Then I cleaned up a little because my sonís family is coming over for chicken & dumplings tonight. I am proud to say that I have stuck to my fifteen items a week plan and STILL was able to take pie & a veggie tray to my weekend party, make the egg casserole today, and prepare the chicken & dumplings for tonight. I have to say, though, my pantry and fridge are starting to look a little bare.

No spending since Sunday. Tomorrow I go get my fifteen items Ė and then itís Christmas Eve! It came so fast!

A Tree Full of Robins

December 21st, 2010 at 07:50 pm

Iím looking out my window here at work and I see a tree full of robins. I donít know why the robins are still here, but they look pretty against the backdrop of snow. There must be thirty of them! I wish you could all see the view from my window. My office looks over the football field, so at this time of year it is an unbroken expanse of snow. Then beyond the field is a row of small snow-covered buildings and the train track going parallel to the horizon. The trains are frequent, and from this distance they look like toy trains going back and forth. Itís a very pretty scene, a bit of Americana straight out of Charles Wysocki!

Today Iíve logged in $6.00 in Pinecone payments, and Iím expecting a payment from soon. I love these little income streams, small as they are. I had a larger than usual water bill, so Iím glad to get a little bit extra to make up the difference.

Iím starting to look forward to getting my tax refund. I used to dream ahead about what I would buy. Now Iím excited that I will have a chunk of money to put in savings. How things change! Last year my refund was more than $2000, but I believe it will be less this year.

Christmas Part One

December 20th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

We had our first two rounds of gift opening this weekend, with two more to happen on Christmas Day! All these different working/vacation schedules in the extended family are making this Christmas strategically difficult. Still, it was a fun day Ė good dinner, lots of laughter, and the kids had a ball.

On Sunday I felt I had to go get a few more ďfunĒ things to open on Christmas Day. My plan was to find stuff at Goodwill, but I got there too early. Even after I went out to breakfast to kill time ($12), it still wasnít open, so I went to Target. I found some things there, all right, but I spent a little over $100. Then I went to Goodwill and found a few more things for $13 Ė and that included a pair of jeans for me. Of course, the Target stuff is going to be much more appreciated, and more useful, and I donít really regret anything I bought. While I was out, I also got gas for $30.

Anyway, I hope I am really done now.

This evening I am taking another sold book to the post office, picking up a package that was left at the leasing office, and then Iím going to crash! I barely slept last night. I got myself into a dither about finances, and what I would do if I lost my job (which I donít think is a real issue, but it seems that way in the wee hours of the morning). I just think all the reporting about the sad economy is getting to me. I couldnít fall asleep. Today I am just dragging, but soon I will rest.

Tomorrow Iím planning to go to Nordstrom Rack after work to use my Groupon Ė NR is having a big sale Ė and I also have to assemble an egg casserole that I will bake in the morning and take to work for our all-day Christmas feast. Then in the evening, my son and his family are coming over for chicken and dumplings. The chicken is already cooked; it will just be a matter of putting it all together and heating it up. On Christmas Eve I will go to my sonís house to bake gingerbread for Santa, and after the gift opening there in the morning I will go to my other sonís house for more.

On Thursday or so, I need to make time to get my fifteen items at the grocery store.

Right now it seems like a lot to do, but thatís because all I want to do is sleep! Soon, soonÖ..

15 Items or Less

December 17th, 2010 at 03:38 pm

My fifteen items:

5 lbs. flour Ė on sale for 1.69
Bakery cookies Ė supposed to be free, but I paid 3.99
Bread Ė on sale for 2.00
2 bottles of ginger Ė BOGO Ė 5.39
Wine Ė on sale for 6.99
Cream of chicken soup (26 oz.) Ė on sale for 1.89
Whole fryer Ė 4.96
1 dozen large eggs Ė on sale for 1.99
1 can pumpkin Ė on sale for 1.69
Kitty litter Ė 8.49
3.5 lbs. cat chow Ė 5.79
16 lbs. cat chow Ė 12.49
Gallon milk Ė on sale for 3.09

I must have miscounted in my cart, because there are only 14. Which is a shame Ė I took back juice because I thought it was over the limit. (I did get a small bottle of OJ free at work, as well as a couple of oranges, so Iím okay on that front.)

My asleep-at-the-wheel snafuís: I had a coupon for free bakery cookies, which I laid on the conveyer belt, but now that I look at the receipt, I see that it was not used. I sure wouldnít have bought cookies for 3.99 otherwise. And I bought kitty litter with a peel-off coupon, but I forgot to peel it off and use it. Thatís not so bad, I can use it next time. I donít know what to do about that cookie coupon, though. I canít prove that I had it. I guess I could plead my case to customer service and see what happens.

I guess itís just as well that there were only 14 items, because I have to go back to buy a pie pan. I decided not to buy a pie, but make a pie, for my DILís Christmas dinner. I found a pumpkin pie recipe that uses a crumb crust, but I forgot I no longer have pie pans. I donít make pies very often, and I usually use a frozen crust in a tin foil pan. I donít think I have anything that will serve as a pie pan.

Getting only 15 items is forcing some adjustments. I was going to buy two cans of chicken breast for the chicken & dumplings, but bought a whole chicken instead. That will give me extra meat and broth, and it was only one item! After much deliberation, I decided to buy the two little bottles of ginger since I got the second one free, even though I donít need that much ginger. Maybe Iíll make gingerbread for Christmas. I bought a gallon of milk, even though I donít use it up quickly. I will have to freeze some of it. I bought a bigger bottle of wine, in hopes it will last two weeks! It is cheaper that way, too. Even when it came to buying the chicken soup, I bought the big can. What I donít use in the chicken & dumplings Iíll save for something else Ė freeze it if I have to.

Cookie party recap

December 16th, 2010 at 08:48 pm

The cookie-baking was a bit of a disaster. I was in charge of the peanut butter cookies with the Hersheyís kiss on top. Trouble was, the only brown sugar that was available had hardened to a rock. (The bag had split open inside the box.) No matter what I did, I couldnít soften it. Finally I had to add water to the batter to break it down; then added flour to stiffen the batter; then added sugar to compensate Ė in the end, they were not very tasty cookies. But edible. We brought all the cookies to work this morning, and they have all been eaten up, so I guess they werenít TOO bad. All the other cookies were fine. And we had a good time.

I ended up bringing home the sugar, chocolate and nuts, but we did use up the flour, so itís going on my 15 items list.

Iím going to do my shopping tonight. I have to buy cat litter and food for both my cats and the feral cats (my cats get better, more expensive food, so I have to buy two kinds), and I also have to get a pie to take to the Christmas celebration at my sonís house this weekend. I need staples like milk, eggs and bread, and Iím planning to buy the ingredients for chicken & dumplings, so keeping it down to 15 is going to be VERY challenging! Weíll see how I do.

Also have to get some gas. Iím under a quarter tank and I know thatís not good in cold weather. At least I donít have to count that in my 15, as gas is not available at the grocery store!

Goals and cookies

December 15th, 2010 at 07:14 pm

My goals for 2011 are really nothing new. I want to continue building my savings. My overall goal is to increase my net worth by $20,000. That is a stretch, but I think I can do it, especially since the College will finally start contributing to my retirement fund in May. (I had to wait two years Ė even though in my previous job I had been invested for more than 20 years. Iím sure it was a cost-saving measure for the College.)

I will continue making automatic $100 payments to my money market fund, and automatic $25 payments to my savings account. I will also continue to shift the balance left in my checking account to savings every payday.

And, by the way, today was payday, and despite the heavy expenditures of this month I was able to put $100 in savings. Finally, my EF is again above $4,000.

Yesterday I said that I raised my NW by $13,000 this year. Well, today I checked my TIAA-CREF account, and gains in the stock portion have put the increase at $14,000. Woo-hoo!

Tonight I am invited to a fondue dinner and cookie-baking party. I asked the hostess if I should bring baking supplies, and she said I could bring small bags of flour and sugar if I wanted to. Well, I didnít want to go to the store Ė not ready to get my 15 items yet! Ė and anyway, I would hate to buy small bags, itís so cost-inefficient. So I am just bringing the flour and sugar I already had on hand, as well as some baking chocolate and walnuts, just in case those are needed as well.

Another snowstorm is predicted for this evening, so I hope I donít get snowed in while making cookies!

Top ten

December 14th, 2010 at 07:21 pm

Last year about this time I listed the top ten highlights of the past year. It's time again!

Number one, of course, was my son's wedding.

Number two, my recovery from a severely broken ankle.

Number three, conference in Anaheim & visit with my cousin.

Number four, trip to North Carolina to visit sister and cousins.

Number five, new computer and printer.

Number six, a new grand-niece!

Number seven, took my grandson to "A Christmas Carol."

Number eight, went to a Bears game.

Number nine, saw Billy Elliott & had a great meal downtown.

Number ten, lots of birthday celebrations and showers.

A pretty good year!

Also, it looks like I've raised my net worth by $13,000. Woo hoo!

Christmas decor is up

December 13th, 2010 at 12:17 am

Boy, I really didn't want to, but today I dragged out the big Christmas box and the tree. When I was about halfway through, I was exhausted, the house was a mess, and I thought I probably shouldn't have bothered.

But now it's all done and the house is cleaned up and -- like I am every year -- I am dazzled by how beautiful it is! I love my house when it's decorated for Christmas! Whatever "house" I'm living in (it's an apartment right now), it is always transformed by my familiar decorations. I feel so peaceful and happy.

I also finished ALL my wrapping. I honestly can't think of one more thing to wrap. The only thing I might do is buy a couple of stockings to collect the small gifts. But on second thought I could use gift bags for that and not spend the money.

My lazy days are over. Tomorrow it's back to work. But I have enjoyed my weekend retreat at home.

Oh, and I sold a book-on-CD on and made $5.88! That's more than I usually make.

Day Two of the Indoor Life

December 12th, 2010 at 03:10 pm

Didn't even get to the dumpster yesterday. Started to, but it was raining. Today, it's snowing. But I will get the garbage out there. It is still my big outing!

I got a few things done yesterday that I have been wanting to get around to. I sewed snaps on a winter coat with a broken zipper. It would have been quite expensive to replace the zipper, but snaps were economical and will close the coat just as well. It was a bit of a pain, though. Took longer than I thought it would.

I also refitted the outdoor shelter for the feral cats. The "shelter" is a big domed litter box. I put a thick layer of wood shavings in the bottom and put a fleece/canvas cat cube on top of that. Covered it with the dome and then wrapped a mylar "blanket" around that. Unfortunately, the mylar rattles noisily in the wind and I think I'll have to take it off. I think it will scare them away.

Other than that I cooked, did laundry, housework, read, watched movies, did puzzles. Altogether my kind of day.

Hoping to have another just like it...

I'm a couch potato

December 11th, 2010 at 03:07 pm

I'm staying in all weekend, barring an emergency. The only big outing I have planned is to take the garbage to the dumpster! Snow and cold is predicted, so I'm electing to be housebound.

This morning I created a breakfast casserole out of things I needed to use up. I chopped up three sausage links, an apple, two slices of bread, and soaked it alll in a mixture of 3 beaten eggs, milk and syrup. I have often made savory breakfast casseroles, but this is my first try at a sweet one. It turned out okay, but not yummy. Well, I'm going to be eating it for a while. Maybe next time I'll drizzle some extra syrup on top.

Later I will make some tuna salad, carrot soup, and applesauce.

I started a new book, Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. Really interesting so far; it's set in post WWI Germany and the main character is a dwarf. Once again, I am reading about people struggling with money. I love peeking in on other lives and cultures and generations and seeing how they deal with financial issues. Reminds me how lucky we really are.

Last night I was intending to see a free viewing of ďIt's a Wonderful Life,Ē but it started at 8 o'clock, and I was already in bed by then. Hope I can catch it sometime this season. It would have been nice to see it without ads.

Anyway, I hope to catch a bunch of Christmas movies on Hallmark. I haven't set up my Christmas tree yet Ė and I'm not really in the mood Ė but I know once I do it I'll be glad I did.

My only financial news Ė I got $8 from, and I spent $20 on restaurant gift cards to give to my sons for Christmas. Mainly, I bought them to support the volleyball team, who is raising money to go to Italy.

15 Items or Less

December 10th, 2010 at 02:08 pm

This week I really had to make choices. As my stash in the pantry and freezer dwindles, it will probably get harder. But here is what I selected to buy:

Toilet bowl cleaner Ė on sale for 1.99
Kotex pantiliners Ė on sale for 2.89 (package of 64)
Sutter Sweet Red wine Ė on sale for 4.49
Bag of Tootsie Roll Midgees -- 2.99
Fresh Express 5-lettuce mix Ė on sale for 2.55
Jewel Kettle Corn, package of 3 bags Ė on sale for 1.29
4 boxes of Sweet & Salty bars Ė 1.75 ea.
2 boxes of DiGiorno 200-calorie pizzas Ė 2.99 ea.; coupon for $1 off
Crystal Light raspberry green tea mix Ė on sale for 3.99
Generic oatmeal cookies Ė 1.99
Jewel French vanilla coffee creamer (32 oz) Ė 2.50

Some of these choices may seem odd Ė for instance the tootsie rolls? I feel obligated to buy a bag every so often because I do help myself to the community bowl at work.

I got four boxes of the Sweet & Salty bars in order to get $3 off. Anyway, I love to have them to throw into my lunch bag.

I had to buy two boxes of the pizza to be able to use the coupon.

The Kettle Corn is something else I keep at work. My boss comes in every once in a while asking for it Ė she is very busy and sometimes misses lunch Ė so I try to keep stocked on it.

The creamer Ė I planned to use a coupon, but it turned out the store brand was a better deal. I donít use a lot of creamer but I like it on weekends. This big bottle should last a while.

The wine Ė I sip a glass every evening for my heart health. My ďconstitutionalĒ as my great aunt used to say. Okay, I like it, too.

Before I went to the store, I mailed a package at the post office (a sale on I bought a book of stamps. It occurred to me later that that may have been cheating a bit Ė since I could have bought the stamps at Jewel, perhaps they ought to count toward the 15 items. But it wasnít a deliberate cheat, so Iím not going to worry about it.