Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thankful Thursday May Recap

May was a wonderful month! Hubs and I were buried under good news. We both have new jobs (his won't start 'til the next school year). We will be moving some place where houses are less expensive so our pidly downpayment fund just might stretch enough to cover a downpayment for a home.

This OOTD got a ridiculous number of complements given
that I thought that I looked like some sister wife or something.

But getting used to working again after my relatively brief period of "unemployment" was rough. So I stopped keeping my good things log the weekend before I started working because I was "too busy" to keep it up. I also started playing candy crush, farm heroes, and 2048 on my phone under the covers after Hubs went to bed. (I am so bad and I need to stop doing that and start getting sleep.)

Gratitude Journal
4/24 - The baseball game was great and I had a great time with Hubs.
4/25 - We went for a walk!
4/26 - Hubs' parents had us over for dinner (tacos) and toasted my new job with champagne.
4/27 - We went to Orange Leaf for a date and they have Root Beer Float froyo again!

One of the highlights of the month was scoring this
Lilly Pulitzer Hot to Trot Classic shift on eBay. It's
perfect for my five year runion since I can pretend
the horses are white mules.

4/28 - I cleared my part of the DVR and read all my back logged blogs and webcomics.
4/29 - Hubs brought me a doughnut!
4/30 - I went to the NLS Happy Hour and it wasn't scary! Bars and strangers make me nervous. But this was great!

I made delicious spicy pickled carrots.

5/1 - I officially accepted the job!
5/2 - Hubs brought me 2 doughnuts and a cupcake!
5/3 - It was nice celebrating my FIL's birthday.

I celebrated May the Fourth Be With You.

New Year Resolution Updates?
I failed at all of my new year's goals except for spending less money on beauty products. I bought new shampoo and conditioner. My old stuff was by Bumble and Bumble and cost $30 each. The new stuff is by Burts Bees (the more moisture shampoo and conditioner) and cost about $8. So far it's pretty good. It's sulphate free so it doesn't lather up a lot but it leave my hair feeling clean and soft and it smells nice but isn't overwhelming (I grew up in a fragrance free house so I can't handle strong fragrances). Otherwise, I haven't been taking care of my body (no flossing or clarisonicng and drinking lots of soda). And, we've spent lots of money to celebrate the positive changes in our lives. I think this is just a case where I'll have to say May's been good but June can be better and resolve to do a better job flossing, &c. starting again in June.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day

Hubs and I woke up early to go downtown to watch the parade. Living in a small town is the best. I never went to the memorial day parade in my little suburban village of 27,000 people.

I was unhappy about having to wake up early on a holiday at
first but then I thought of something wonderful we could get downtown.
Their special coffee blend does in fact go great with doughnuts.
Reviewed and Taste Tested Here

They send the classic cars down first. The group included an eleventh generation thunderbird (a car
I wanted as my first car) and some Chevy SSRs (also a car from the turn of the most recent century).

Today was one of those days when it's okay
to let your child take candy from stingers.

Loud Noisy Bikers that made it so I couldn't hear one of the three marching bands.

My SIL's Marching Band

A truck.

The 4th Band Didn't March and were better for it.

More Old Trucks and a Fire Truck at the end of the Parade.

. . . and the drivers who had the great misfortune of
getting stuck behind the parade.
We went to my in-laws for dinner (hamburgers which were completed before the rain we had been promised all week arrived). I made pasta salad, pea salad, and cheese straws and I'll post the recipes for those next week.

I had Hubs take a picture of my OOTD in the yard.
#lillypulitzer #eryn #brooksbrothers
#marleylilly #hat #birkenstocks #pearls
I was not impressed with how this photographed.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

More Good News!

I won the laziest blogger ever award! Just joking. But I do feel bad about not having posted on time at all this week. I will queue up some more posts over the long weekend for sure since I will have time. I love my new job and it is keeping me super busy.

But now for the real good news: Hubs has a new job! I am so happy for him. But I'm a bit sad too since we'll have to move inland and further north. This suburban kid cannot quite handle the wilderness that is central Maine. (Although, I drove through tht area today to do some work on location and thought it was pretty.) I am so excited to get away from our crazy neighbors and maybe we'll be able to buy a home since the further north you go the cheaper houses get and our $10,000 towards a downpayment will go so much further.

Hubs' parents are kind of upset and sad because we'll be moving about an hour away. I am having a hard time being sympathetic because my parents live a 3 hour plane ride away.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Good Soundproofing Makes Good Neighbors

We live in a row of town houses and we share walls with two neighbors. One of our neighbors is a nice old lady--Hubs borrowed a cup of sugar from her once. Our other neighbors . . .

I affectionately described our neighbors as dirty old hippies. They are about my parents' age, wear hippy clothes, and listen to loud hippy music (stuff from the 60s and "world music" music. We're recent college graduates so the loud music didn't bother us too much. They seemed fairly nice if incredibly odd (they wear matching outfits) otherwise. They keep an odd schedule too, they work third shift so they usually leave for work right before we go to bed and come home from work as I'm leaving in the morning.

Occasionally we'd hear unusually loud noises. For example, one Christmas morning we were woken up at 4 AM by Pachelbel's Cannon in D coming through the walls. Sometimes it got to be a bit much for me while I was studying for the bar exam but I attributed that to bar exam nerves.

Over the past couple of weeks and months it gotten significantly worse. We started hearing them drumming and dancing (At first I imagined they were were like whirling dervishes.) I could also hear the woman whopping and shouting yipieeee! and other similar things sometimes. The drumming got louder and louder. I thought they have set up a pile driver in their apartment because sometimes they'd make really loud noises that shook our floor through the wall.

We assumed their music and dancing was getting louder because they were slowly going death because they listened to so much loud music and they were just compensating by turning everything up.

*     *     *

Last Wednesday morning I woke up at 4:55 AM before Hubs alarm went off to the sounds of drumming (or maybe pile driving) and what sounded like some hitting the wall. This went on all morning. So I drafted a letter to our neighbors to let them know that they really shouldn't be so loud so early in the morning. Hubs hit the wall to let them know we heard them.

This continued for most of the morning. When I came home from work I kept on hearing the loud sharp noises. I went to a Junior League function and came back around 9:30 and they were still making noise! Hubs had a Skype interview the next day and was anxious to get to sleep.

So he went over to talk to them, he also though talking face to face was more neighborly than sending a note. I was washing my face and brushing my teeth when he went over to ring their door bell. When I turned the water off I heard yelling.

I went downstairs. Our neighbor was cursing my husband out. I was so scared I grabbed the phone--I was worried she would hurt him and I'd have to call the police. (Hubs is a pacific and probably wouldn't hit an older lady even if he weren't.) I didn't catch much of their conversation  but I was really shocked by what I heard. She was yelling that we were "little shits" &c and she said I was just as bad if not worse than he was.

When Hubs came back in he was upset. He said that she said (hearsay) that they were making noise to retaliate for all the noise we were making. He called our landlord (our landlord is probably one of the best landlords ever) and asked him to come over and see if there was something he could do. Our landlord did. I think he sided with us (or at least thought our neighbor-lady was a bit worked up and maybe scary). But he let us know their chief complaint was about doors slamming.

I felt so bad and wished I had talked to them about their noise earlier. I don't think our neighbor should have shouted and used such corse language. But, I wish I would have opened up to them and started communicating with them before this so that her bad feelings didn't get so bottled up.

I don't think we're particularly loud. (We asked our other neighbor and she said didn't have any complaints about noise from us.) But I am clumsy and I go up and down the stairs pretty fast, which is probably really noisy. I throw our dirty sheets down from the top of the stairs sometimes and that's probably louder than you'd think it would be. Plus we both throw cans into our recycling bin in the basement from the top of the stairs.

So we were probably making more noise than we though. Also, I feel so bad because I vacuumed with bad thoughts in my head. I'd think "ha take that noisy neighbors I may not have a stereo system but I do have a vacuum and I will vacuum this apartment thoroughly including the linoleum bathroom floor so sorry if that's noisy but I need clean."

We've been trying hard to be extra quiet and there's been a détente since our landlord came last Wednesday.  I need to send him a thank you note. I also plan on writing a note to our neighbors. I plan to apologize for unknowingly disturbing them so much. I'd like to invite them to leave us notes if we're making noise. If they leave us notes hopefully they won't talk to us. I really don't want to talk to them but I'd like to give them a means to vent so they don't end up making retaliatory noise or cursing out my husband again. That was so scary. I also called my dad and asked if he'd give me and Hubs a low/no interest loan to make up the other half of a downpayment for a home. So maybe we'll be moving into a house sooner than planned.

Post Coming Later Today

I'll put up my post this evening when I get home. I ran out of queued up posts and Blogger wasn't cooperating with my last night. -eHa

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Better Butter

I'm all about saving money and eating "healthy." By that I mean we don't eat margarine or keep pop on hand other than ginger ale for upset stomach. But I eat choclate chips out if the bag.

The butter in action. The step by step photos I took
didn't turn out very well so I didn't end up using them.

I had been buying Land o Lakes spreadable butter with canola oil since it's spreadable and it should be lower in chloresterol since it's not all butter. (I have high bad  chloresterol so I try to exercise more and limit it in my diet.)

But I stumbled upon a make your own recipe!  And it was great.

Let two sticks of butter soften, whip with a hand mixer and add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if using unsalted butter, and 1/2 cup of canola oil. Wash out a 15 oz container of the store bought stuff and you'll be able to fill it up with homemade.

This was a game changer! We save almost $2 since it costs a little more than half as much to make as it does to buy it. It's not quite as smooth as the store bought stuff but it still spreads much more nicely on toast than real butter does and tastes great.

I can't wait to experiment and see if I can make lower fat spreadable butter by mixing milk back into the butter. I'll have an update once I give it a try.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Mothers' Day

My mom and me in Santorini with my Grandma (behind the Camera) after my Freshman Year of College.

In Honor of Mothers' Day I'm republishing something I wrote on my mother's birthday a few years ago. That day was her birthday and the day I was sworn in as an attorney and so in Boston, the place where America started, and I wrote about how important my mom was to getting me there.
Today was my mother's birthday and it was the day I got sworn in as an attorney in the State of Massachusetts!
None of this would have been possible without my mom (and my dad too but it's not his birthday). She is a wonderful role model and example. 
She taught me to be curious and explore things, since she is a surgeon she usually demonstrated in a sciencey way. I remember her helping me and my sisters dissect a mouse that had drowned in our pool and one Thanksgiving she helped us examine the turkey giblets and told us what the equivalent organs did in people. While I didn't become a doctor these experiments fostered my interest in knowing things and understanding how things work. She read me books when I was little and taught me to read which is a skill I used every day to get myself through law school. She taught me to always be prepared by packing lots of toys and activity books to play with on plane rides and long car trips. Being prepared is a very important skill for an attorney. 
Most importantly, her example showed me the value of hard work and education and taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be and that my opportunities were not limited because of my gender or sex. Everything that I've accomplished so far would not have been possible without her support.
Happy Mothers' Day Mom! I am so thankful you are my mother.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Hopefully, by the time you're reading, this I have started my new job and earning my first paycheck at my new place of employment. So I needed to update our budget to adjust to the influx of money and I thought it might be useful to share my budgeting strategy.

E3 Stole My Beanie Baby!

My Background, Some History
I am horrible with money. I grew up parents who made enough money that our family didn't have to worry about budgeting in order to pay for daily necessities like food or utilities nor did they really have to budget for the not quite necessities like yearbooks, restaurant food, sporting equipment, and other things that you don't need to stay alive but that you need to participate in school and society. My parents weren't irresponsible they tried to teach us to budget by giving us budgets for buying toys, later clothes, and budgets for souvenirs on trips.

But it's one thing to know you have X dollars to spend on beanie babies. It's different now though. One thing that has been incredibly hard for me is budgeting to replace things like my broken camera which aren't truly necessary like food or heat but are a common modern convenience that my parents would have replaced without much thought* because their income was large enough to absorb purchases like that without planning. Our budget isn't able to absorb event the tiniest unexpected replacement purchase, especially so when we rely only on Hubs' income (he takes home $960 bi-weekly1) and even now we don't have wriggle room since we're trying to save up for a home.

I Want More Pictures in my Wordy Posts
This is a Picture

How I Start My Budget
I start by tracking what I spend my money on. I want my budget to be a realistic reflection of my expenses. There's no point in limiting my gas expenses to $10 a month when I have to spend $30 a month on gas to get to work. I use to track my expenses since it pulls data from various fantail institutions and puts them all in one place where I can categorize the expenses. I think this concept is especially important for odd, irregular expenses like doctor bills, medicine, auto repair, heat, &c. Though each payment is kind of irregular, my hope is that the average amount we spend on these things per month probably a useful number. I used the average of the various irregular expenses in my budget. I also averaged out the cost of yearly expenses, like our car registration, to figure out how much they cost us each month. I like thinking month by month.

One thing that always gives me trouble with budgeting is the irregular but necessary expenses. Like my doctor bills or car repair. If I've already maxed out my prescription med budget but I get an infection and need antibiotics what do I do? I likely can't wait until next month when my budget resets to treat my illness, I might be dead by then. The same with car repairs if I need to drive to work, my car needs to be safe so that I don't crash. So even though I get numbers for those categories I know that I may have to tap into our emergency fund in regards to these sorts of expenses.

This is a picture of a plant.

I log on to Mint about one a week or so to make sure everything is categorized correctly, to make sure nothing suspicious is happening, and to make sure there's enough money in the bank to avoid low balance fees. But, I don't use Mint's budget feature too much. It stresses me out and isn't flexible enough. I do like that it sends us alerts when we have unusual spending or when we spend over a certain amount of money.2

I also use Mint to track what I call our "simple" net worth. Net worth is all your assets less your liabilities, it's the total money value of everything you have including your car, your car loan, your student loans, real property, investments, everything, &c. My student loans make me sad, I owe more than we made last year. I also have investments that I don't think of as mine since my relatives gifted them to me and seeing those fluctuate with the market makes me nervous. So I just keep track of our simple net worth that just includes our current credit card debt, don't worry we pay them in full every month and don't carry a balance on them, and our bank accounts. I like this number better that net our real net worth because it is a positive number and it only shows the hard work that Hubs and I are doing.

Actually Making a Budget
To actually make the budget, I didn't use Mint, I created a spreadsheet with categories and loaded in the data I got from Mint about how much we spent on things. I also created an ideal spending column as a goal. I to get the "ideal" expenses I tried to think about if I could reasonably cut back in that category. For example, when only one of us is working only one of us needs to drive to work everyday so we didn't need to spend so much on gas.

CategoryAverage DebitIdeal
One Income
Two Incomes3
Car Insurance and Registration$175$175$175
Life Insurance$19$19$20
Water and Sewer$27$27$30
Cable TV, Internet, Phone$120$120$120
Electricity (including Heat)$110$107$120
Professional Dues$27$27$30
Student Loans$175$175$175
Gas & Tolls$245$126$320
Car Servicing$14$14$30
Doctor Visits$63$60$60
Contact Lenses$9$10$10
Car Payment$321$321$325
Non-Food Groceries$10$10$15
Hair Cut$11$11$15
Toiletries & Makeup$30$15$45
Fun Money$0$0$160
Retirement Fund$0$0$550
Save for House$0$0$900

I totaled up each column using the SUM function. And then below that I displayed our "monthly income" less the total. To keep things simple I only looked at our take home income not our taxable income4. Similarly, to keep things simple and leave some wriggle room, I assume our monthly income is twice each paycheck. But that is not always the case. April, for example, had three paydays. So our actual yearly income average out over twelve months is slightly higher than two paychecks. We also have side jobs going on, tutoring and contract work, but because those are irregular I didn't include them in our income.

Not including our irregular income is one of the reasons is why I'm okay with those negative numbers up there. If things were really bad we would have saved more by cutting the cable, internet, and our phone bills. And, I would have increased my income with a more predictable part-time job. Fortunately, I found a job in my field before it came to that. I have no idea what I would have done without the internet.

A Feral Rooster on Kauai

Making these Numbers Work for Me
I'm really embarrassed because I did such a bad job saving money when I had my last temporary job. I thought: "Oh! I'll have a job for the next few months so I'll just try to save some of it." Then those few months turned into an almost year and our lifestyle grew and we were not saving as much as we should. For example, I am truly mortified that I didn't put anything aside for retirement until my last month at my temporary job. We were only able to increase the balance of our house fund a little. If we we had continued to live like we had before I got the temporary job, and I didn't put anything aside for retirement, we would have enough money for a downpayment right now instead of only being a quarter of the way there.

This time I have a plan! I am going to set aside money for a home and retirement first! My paychecks are being direct deposited into my retirement holding savings account.5 Then I'll set up an automatic withdraw for the amount of our expenses. I'll be paying myself first by putting my money someplace where I have to think about it before using it. So I won't spend it as frivolously. I just pay for the things I need and I use Mint's tracking features to make sure I'm not spending too much at the grocery store or burning thru my fun money too fast since those are really the only places where it's easy for me to spend too much.

I feel this seems needlessly complicated sometimes? Do you guys spend this much time and energy wrangling your budget?


I'm drafting a lot of blog posts that I can schedule or at least have ready to go with little effort so that I can focus on getting used to working again.

*Please don't laugh at me but I wanted to cry so bad when my camera and my fancy noise canceling headphone broke within weeks of one another right after I left my previous temporary job. I knew there was no way I could afford to replace either one and I could not deal. #richkidproblems

1 Teachers should be paid more. They have to work with children. Plus Hubs works so much harder and longer than I do. He regularly does work on the weekends. He leaves for work well before I do to prepare and he comes home at about the same time as me or later most days. Also, he's doing so much more to add value to our country than I because he helps young people realize their full potential or at the very least ensuring that they can be employed later on because they know how to do math.

2 FYI. Last summer I bought a lot at Lilly Pulitzer's Endless Summer Sale and Mint ratted me out to Hubs. And he was upset because I spent close to five million dollars on dresses without telling him about it beforehand. So though I generally don't encourage lying (including lying by omission) to one's spouse, you gotta do what you gotta do to stay safe so you may not want to use the alert feature if you are struggling with being honest with your spouse about your spending habits.

3 Like how I rounded everything to the nearest multiple of 5? My ideal world only has easy to work with numbers.

4 Our taxable income, the number on our W-2s includes money withheld to pay for our taxes at the end of the year and for benefits like Hub's retirement plan and our health insurance. It seems silly to add those things back in and then subtract them again so I don't. Some people do.

5 I like having lots of savings accounts for various purposes. I have one to holds retirement money before I put it someplace for the long term. My job situation is precarious and I don't want to put money someplace where I can't touch it until I am 70 if I may not have a job. If we have a real big emergency I want to be able to use that money now so that we can stay healthy and live to be 70. If I die before I retire it doesn't matter if I have anything saved. I have another savings account for the Lilly Pulitzer warehouse sale, it's full of money I made cleaning out my closet on eBay. We also have a savings account for our house downpayment fund. I have a savings account dedicated to student loan repayment so I know there's always money there for the automatic repayment plan to take without messing up my checking account.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Closet Clean Out Update

In my "Closet Clean Out?" post, I said "I am going to be more lenient with my warm weather wardrobe since I love shopping for summer. I would like to aim for between 34 and 26 warm weather work outfits and between 26 and 19 casual outfits." I had no idea how many summer clothes I had then. But now I do.

I Emptied my Tubs full of Summer Clothes on my Bed Before Hanging them Up

Over Easter weekend, I brought up my summer clothes and started cleaning my heavy sweaters so I could pack them away.* I also took inventory and counted:

Summer and All Weather Tops
Cardigans - 36
(Including a Good Number of J. Crew Jackie Sweater Sets)
Sleeveless Tunics - 2
Long Sleeved Tops - 21
Nice Long Sleeved Tees - 11
Short Sleeve Tops - 11
Sleeveless Tops - 11
Poloshirt, short sleeved - 8
Poloshirt, sleeveless - 3
Polo Shirt, Long - 1
Nice Shortsleeve Tee Shirts - 12
Oxford Shirts - 4
Tank Tops - 14
Blazer - 1
Total Tops: 135

My Sweaters and Shorts Neatly Folded
Summer and All Weather Bottoms
Shorts - 18
Capris - 1
Slacks, Work - 5
Nice Jeans - 3
Old Navy Jeans - 2
Skirts/Skorts - 33
Total Bottoms: 62

Summer Dresses and All Weather
Shifts - 37
(Mostly Lilly)
Sleeveless Dresses - 19
Short Sleeve Dresses  - 29
Longer Sleeved Dresses - 7
Total Dresses: 92

Some of My Dresses

Casual Wear
Work Out Tops and Bottoms - 12
Long Sleeveed Lounging Tees - 15
Work Out Tees -  21
White Tee - 4
Sweatshirts - 7ish
Long Pajama Pants - 2
Pajama Shorts - 2
Nightgowns - 4

Where I Keep my Off Season Clothes and Linens

Party Dresses - 9
Suits, all year - 7
Summer Suits - 1

Winter Only Clothes
Wool Skirts - 3
Heavy Long Sleeved Dresses - 4
Flannel Shirts - 2
Heavy Wool Blazer - 1
Casual Pants, Flannel Lined, &c - 3
Wool/Cashmere Sweaters - 11
Turtlenecks - 5

So I am not sure what to do now. I've got a lot of trimming to do. But while unpacking my stored clothes I realized that one of my favorite dresses was missing. I think I put it in with the clothes I was thinking of giving away! So there may be a few things I'll have to add back into my count. As it stands I have over 100 summer, spring, early fall outfits. How and I going to cut this number in half?

 I think I need more long pajama bottoms. I end up without a clean pair of long pajama pants in the winter and I end up freezing! I am also not sure what to do about all my cardigans they are so useful for layering over sleeveless dresses and tops. I've also been trying to keep a variety of shirt colors so I have lots of mixing and matching options but that also means I end up with 134 tops.

Any suggestions? I'm really now sure how to manage. #richkidproblems

*I "hand wash" my nice sweaters and while taking inventory I took out a lot of worn once things to wash before putting away for the season or I washed them just because I couldn't remember when I washed them last. So I had a horrible laundry backlog that's finally almost been resolved. My second batch of hand washed sweaters just finished drying. I did so much laundry!