Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weekend Accomplishments

It was gloriously WARM yesterday(it hit 77F degrees here!)and sunny on Saturday so hubs and I headed outside to work on an outdoor project we didn't get to last year.

This is the side of our house.  It's the westerly side and doesn't get much sun most days right next to the house.
We cleared it out last year(pulled up lots of tree and bush starts)and dug up a big ugly bush to the right of this photo.
The shrubs flanking the tree trunk are Forsythia.  The one on the left is too close to the house and just a spindly mess so we ended up pulling that one up too.

We found what looked like a buried GI Joe in there too but it was just his arm stuck in the ground.
Oh, the things you find years after your children grow up.......

So we got the area raked out of sticks and leaves, leveled the dirt abit and got the edging set and pounded into the ground.  Next comes landscaping barrier and then pretty white stones.  Once the tree leafs out this area is very shaded.  I plan on getting that bench this year to place into the bed and I'll hang my wind chimes in that little tree.  It will become a nice cool place to sit outside when the weather gets hot.  There may be a bird bath in the future near here, out in the side yard too.
Now we need to arrange for the delivery of stones.

This is what this area looked like last Summer.
It's impossible to get grass to grow over here so this stone bed will be a nice it will be less area to mow for hubs.

I also started cleaning up/uncovering the back garden bed on Saturday while hubs was doing the "down on your knees" stuff....

Lots of dead leaves.  It's still too early to plant here but I hope to get at least a part of the bed ready to sow some lettuce seeds soon.

Some onion sets that wintered over in this barrel planter are growing already too.
I need to get proactive this year with the garden.
Maybe I'll keep track of how much I grow this year like I did back in 2010!

We've got the leveled and round place in the backyard now where our above ground pool use to be.
It gets a lot of sun so would be perfect for growing stuff here.
Maybe I'll scrap all the sand off of there and turn it into a garden bed?
Or since it has electricity running back there, maybe I should put in a pond or put a fountain out there?

I don't know about a pond's a lot of work to maintain and real estate professionals will tell you that putting in too much outdoor/yard stuff will keep some people from buying your house(when we go to sell in 3 years).  People are turned off usually by landscaping and "stuff" in that vein since it all needs maintenance.  People don't want to spend their days working on their yards.  They want simple, nice looking and easy to maintain from what I've been reading.  There seems little sense to us to put in time/money into the yard that won't make it more saleable in 3 years.

What do y'all think we should do with this piece of the backyard?

We still need to clean up the front flower bed, get more plants to put in there and then re-mulch.  It's too early to plant yet but we can clean it up, probably next weekend.  By the time I can see again(after my cataract surgery)College Boy will be home and I can buy plants and have him help me get them put in before we go off on our road trip to Louisiana.

Today we are off to drop a load at Salvation Army, mostly made up of our daughter's cast-offs, and then to Maine Source for some produce and meat.

What are you up to today?



Friday, April 17, 2015

2 Refrigerator Pickle Recipes

I am sharing 2 pickles recipes with y'all today.
First my mother's fridge pickles recipe.  These are a quick and easy, "eat them right away because they won't keep" recipe.  More a cuke with some flavor than a true pickle.  A great summer side dish to use up some of those too many cukes in your garden.

Carole's Almost New Pickles

3/4  cup sugar
1/2  cup water
1 cup vinegar(white)
1/2 tablespoon dill weed
1-2 cucumbers, sliced

Slice cukes.
Combine 4 other ingredients in pot.
Boil until dissolved.
When cooled, pour over cukes and refrigerate.
Ready to eat in 4-6 hours.
Reuse liquid to make more pickles.


These are a bread and butter type of pickle.... not dill and not overly sweet.

Sluggy's Refrigerator Pickles

2-4 cucumbers(depending on size), sliced
1-2 medium onions, sliced(red or white)
2 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar(white)
2 tablespoons salt *
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 teaspoon mustard seed

Combine sugar vinegar and salt in a pot and heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add spices.
Put onion and cuke slices in a large glass jar or pickle crock. (I use two glass jars that 3lbs. of honey came in.)
Once liquid is cooled, pour over veggies in jars.  Put the lid on and refrigerate.  It helps to go shake the jar every so often as the turmeric will settle in the bottom and your pickles on top won't be as pretty yellow as the ones on the bottom.
Ready to eat in 6 hours but better the next day and onward.

If you find the flavor too strong you can water down the "juice" too, but try it first before doing that.

You can skin the cukes or not, your preference.  Be sure and wait until the juice cools to pour over the cukes, otherwise you will end up with soggy pickles.

*If sodium is a concern for you, you can reduce or omit the salt.  A little salt pumps up the sweetness though.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Food Shopping This Week & Other Shopping Splurges

Went to Maine Source restaurant supply store this week for some produce.....

4 x assorted peppers
4 x English cukes
2 x cantaloupes
2 x hot house tomatoes
1 x package of hot dog rolls
1 x Arizona zero-calorie peach tea

$16.93 OOP
$28.85 regular retail

 Then it was to Weis(PMITA)Markets for milk and the mushrooms I forgot that I needed for fajitas on Thursday......

As you can see I also ran into some instant discount stickers for salad greens, bakery products and tube-type meats. lolz

1 x Baby Greens 50%off sticker=$1.99
1 x Asst. Salad 50%off sticker=$1.49
.63 lb. mushrooms=$1.88(cheaper than buying the containers of mushrooms)
1 x Kaiser rolls 50%off sticker=.99¢
1 x Sourdough bread 50%off sticker=$1.69
3 x Bob Evans sausage $2off sticker(and on sale)=$1.99 each
1 x Smithfield smoked sausage $2off sticker(and on sale)=$1.34
1 x Hebrew National reduced fat franks $3off sticker=$3.69
1 x 1/2 gal. milk=$1.72 *not pictured*

Total after sales/discount stickers=$20.76 OOP
Regular Retail total=$40.81
Savings rate of 49%......

And what am I doing with all those cukes?
Why pickles Watson!......

Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles with Red Onions

Total spent on groceries this week.....$37.69
I know it's more than the $20 I wanted to stay under but this is how I shop and frankly spending an extra $18 on food during a week isn't going to bankrupt us. ;-)

You never know when those lovely discount stickers will appear and on WHAT they will appear.
When they do(and it's something we eat), I buy them and either change the menu to use something up fresh or I freeze them(if they can be frozen like meats) for later use.
It doesn't usually add much to my food bill and it keeps me from having to pay full retail to buy it when it's needed later on.
So in the end, shopping a little now saves me more later.

Do this long enough and you may never have to pay retail for food again(except for a few items around here like milk which, thanks to the strong PA dairy lobby, never goes on sale and is price controlled).
I did pay full retail for the loose mushrooms too at Weis.  I wanted to make chicken fajitas this week because Maine Source had peppers on a good sale but they didn't have 'shrooms on sale.  Weis had containers of 'shrooms on sale but the bulk loose 'shrooms are cheaper at full retail than the boxed stuff on sale.
Go figure! these are my "go to" 'shrooms.

As of today we have spent $208.21 and have meals planned/food for though April 18th of this month.
$91.79 left to spend on food and 12 days left in April to eat.  That's highly do-able.

I want to mention that we went out the weekend before Easter and bought "non-food stuff".
I don't often buy stuff/wants, but we did at the beginning of April.

Macy's had their "lowest price of the season" sale going on.
Funny but they don't say which season it is the lowest price of.....lolz
Anyway, I bought this..........

A toaster oven
Don't ask me why.
It was under $18 and everything being equal I prefer a toaster oven to a toaster.
Toaster oven is more of a multi-tasker and seem to last a bit longer than any of the toasters I've owned.
Our toaster is still humming along but once it goes to the great small appliance heaven, we will be ready to unpack this bad boy.

As it was an awesome sale on some kitchenware stuff and we have 2 young adults who can use said kitchenware stuff we also bought the older 2 kids these.....

A 10 piece set of stainless steel cookware.
After a coupon, sale and tax, they were each under $50 for a reg. retail of $180 set.
Nice cookware for 74% off?
Yes, please!

Macy's had a cheaper SS set(their house brand)for under $40 BUT this one is heat safe to a higher temperature and I know my kids.......they only know 1 heat setting....HIGH!
So we laid out an extra $10 for these puppies.
'Nuff said. ;-)

These and the 12 bottles of mead we bought at the Meadery the end of March have been our big spurges lately.

No shopping at Rite-Aid this week, except to pick-up Rxs.

How is your food shopping going this week?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Ready Are You For Retirement? Cheer Up, It's Not So Bleak!

Alex left a comment on the blog on my Random Money post about how your "income" will change in retirement......
"We try to put away up to 25% of our pay into retirement or other forms of saving. One thing I try to keep in mind is that we won't have to replace as much of or pre-retirement income because of what we have taken out now for the 401(k) and health insurance....."

Let's talk a bit about this idea.

All the retirement gurus say you need anywhere from 75% to 100% of your current income, while working, coming in each year in retirement to live the sort of life commensurate with the life you lived while working.

This is hogwash!

Let's talk rationally a little about the difference between your working years and your retirement years.

First off, when you retire, you won't need to be taking cash off the top of your income to save it for retirement.
We have arrived at THAT destination!
No more saving for tomorrow because tomorrow is here.
Of course it's nice if you don't need to spend all your income each month in retirement and you can put some back for another time, an emergency and/or something special you want to do.

Whatever percentage of money you save each month from your salary, you won't need to do that anymore.
If you make $80K a year and put 25%(or $20K) a year into retirement savings, you won't need to do that action in if you think you need income of $80K a year in retirement, you actually only "need" $60K to live your $80K a year "working life".

Get it?

Second, let's look at the long list of taxes you pay each pay period.  Once you retire and don't earn a paycheck, most of the taxes you pay while working go away.

* Federal Withholding  You get no paycheck, there is nothing to withhold anymore.

* Federal Medicare/Employee-Employer(also known as FED ME/EE)  This what you and your employer pay into to fund Medicare.  At age 65 you will begin to collect on this and once you stop getting a paycheck you don't pay into this anymore.

*  Federal Social Security(also known as FED OASDI/EE) This is what you and your employer paid into to fund Social Security.  You can begin to collect this anywhere between age 62 and 70.  If you collect it earlier you get less(but more payments over time), collect it late you get higher payments(but fewer payouts over time).  "Full" retirement varies as to when you were born and they keep ratcheting up the "Full" retirement age.  It use to be 65 but if you were born after 1937 it goes up incrementally each year.  Mine is 66 years and 10 months.  Anyone born 1960 or later it's 67 years for full retirement.

* State Unemployment Insurance(also know as Unempl EE)  This what you and your employer paid into your State government to pay you a benefit if you ever were unemployed/laid off through no fault of your own(not fired for cause).  You aren't employed any longer so you don't pay into this.

*  State Withholding  and other State or Local Taxes(aka LS Tax)  No job, nothing gets paid into for these.

A few years ago Hubs paid $34,066.35 of our income into these tax categories.  If we want to live on the income level he made that year, that is $34K we don't have to replace of his income to do so in retirement.

Of course your retirement income, depending on what state you live in and what the income source is WILL be taxed in some way so you WILL still need to pay some taxes.  The Withholdings state and federal, Paying into SS/Medicare/Etc. go away but are replaced by new taxes on your income/savings.

The 6 main sources of income in retirement are....
1-tax deferred accounts
2-taxable accounts
3-Roth IRAs
4-Social Security

You will still be taxed on your income in retirement but depending on which mix of sources you have(as well as how much you get each month)will determine what you pay out.
You can do some research now while still working to see which sources will be the most advantageous to have for your situation.  Pay careful attention to those "taxable accounts" as there are many types and the rates can be high depending.

So to sum this point up, taxes in retirement will NOT go away, they will just change and you will probably pay less than when you were working if you play the game right.

Thirdly, voluntary Deductions will no longer come out of your paycheck when you have no paycheck. 

There are Before-Tax and After-Tax types of deductions you have withheld from your pay at your discretion.

These costs include--
Money put into retirement accounts through work
Medical, Dental and/or Vision plan payments
(All these are usually of the "Before-Tax" variety of deduction.)
Various Insurances(life, long term care)
Charitable Contributions
(All these are usually of the "After-Tax" variety of deduction.)

Once you retire, depending on your situation and if you are eligible to collect Social Security and/or Medicare, these may go away or be less than when you were working. (Except generally speaking, Long Term Care and Life Insurance will rise as you get older and continue to hold those policies.)

Of course as we talked about in point one, the contributing to a retirement account will go away.

If you give cash to charities, you may feel like changing that out with contributing your time to charity instead once you no longer work and have more time.  This will still give you the satisfaction of contributing to worthy causes but holding on to that little bit extra cash you use to donate each year.  Trade your time in retirement for charitable causes rather than your money to conserve your cash.

Add in that expenses related to working go down or go away......things like gas and tolls for commuting, maybe expenses related to a second car if you can do with just one vehicle in retirement, clothing & clothing care costs if you need a "business uniform", any supplies or classes or whatever you had to spend out of pocket for to keep your job(that includes meals out too).

And if you have/had kids and they are grown and on their own once you retire, you will no longer be paying childcare costs, school costs, paying to feed/house/clothe/entertain them either.

And hopefully by the time retirement comes you will no longer have a mortgage payment or a car payment to make each month.  That should be a top priority for everyone--to have no debt and everything taking a big chunk of your income today, paid for.

So cheer up!
To live the lifestyle you do now while working, you do NOT need to replace anywhere near your entire paycheck while in retirement.

Thumb your nose at all those "The Sky is Falling!" Retirement Experts....unless of course, you haven't done a thing yet to prepare for YOUR retirement.  ;-)



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Weekend with Picture & Video PORN

Well we sort of got a lot done over the weekend.

Hubs got the deck swing awning put back up and the patio chairs out of the shed.
He also got his Winter/Summer clothes switched out in the closet.

We got everything hauled out of the daughter's old room.
It is presently occupying my living room........

So far all she wants, that I have told her about, is a box of her baby things, a belt and the gorilla suit.
Yes a full bodied gorilla costume.
Don't ask.....

After purging all her crap from that bedroom I started in on reorganizing what was left in there.  I can now almost fit all the toiletries either in the dressers or the bookshelf and I can fit all my tubs of fabric in the closet. Yay!
I might even be able to put my out of season hanging clothes in there.  That would be nice since our walk-in closet is so crowded....mostly with photo albums of family pictures from 3 generations.  While I have very few photos of my grandmother's, my mother was quite the prolific picture taker.  I have nowhere in this house to store ALL the photo albums together. sigh.  I need to come up with a better plan with these.

In the daughter's old bedroom there are also the open shelves of fabric which is a mix of what is left after selling off all I could in 2014/2013 and some of my personal fabric which I hope to use soon.

And speaking of fabric.......I relisted about 81 pieces of fabric last week on Etsy.  Nothing wintery or Christmas, just the lighter weight and Summer-y stuff.  And over the weekend I sold 5 pieces to 2 different buyers.
Go me!!!
These new listings expire in August and I'll decide what to do then...whether to relist anything and/or add the Fall/Winter fabrics depending on how it goes the next 4 months.

Late Saturday I had to go up to Rite-Aid and spend my last $3 of +Up Rewards.  I went earlier in the week but some Load2Card Qs came off unexpectedly(to me)so I still had $3 to use by Saturday night.

I used a Rain Check for trash bags($3.99), use my $3 in +Ups and paid $1.05 with tax OOP.
No more +Ups.
Sad Face.

I did my 1.5 miles on the bike too each day, and here is what I am up to so far for April.....

It's a fancy computerized bike so it tracks lots of stuff.  Note that under distance I have gone 19 miles so far this month.  Last month I worked myself up to 22 miles for the whole month.  At this rate I'll break 40 miles probably for April!

We also cleaned off the front porch and I did a little cleaning in the garage.
Then Hubs hung out his flag......

It was such a nice day on Sunday that we went out to lunch at Bob Evans just to get out of the house.
I took this video there.......

Please ignore whatever I was doing with the fingers on my right hand.
WTF was that?!? lolz

And here the food arrives......

We hung out when we got home.....reading, listening to music and relaxing.

I made a pot of "Sunday gravy" with meatballs for dinner and packed up the Etsy orders.
Before you knew it, it was time for my Sunday TV orgy.....Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge & Wolf Hall.

Wolf Hall has some very good acting.  It's a historical drama about the goings on of the Tudor court of Henry VIII.
I've always been fascinated by this guy(going so far as to take a history course in college on Tudor England).  In many ways he was one of the worst British rulers but he also changed the course of the world in some ways for the better.
Such a narcissist.
My interest is also heightened because supposedly one of my 5x Great Grandfathers is a descendant of one of Henry's bastard children from one of his mistresses while he was still married to Catherine of Aragon, Agnes Blewitt.
There are 7 known or suspected illegitimate children of Henry Tudor, only one of which he publicly acknowledged.

My supposed Ancestor from an illustration by John Dryden, courtesy of Wikimedia.

Yah, Agnes "blewit alright".......hehehehe

So there you have it.
My weekend.

Next weekend we have grand plans around here.  The project from last Summer we bought supplies for and never did.
Last year we made this nice surround area for our HVAC compressor on the side of the house.....

We had cleaned out next to the other side of the house last Spring......

We are going to make a similar rockfilled bed on this side of the house.  It will serve two purposes....1-to keep grass from right up next to the foundation(and impossible to get to with a mower)and 2-make it look nice and be low maintenance.  Plus we'll put a bench out in it so we can sit under the tree during the heat of the Summer.

I don't suppose it will get finished next weekend since we need so much stone we'll need to have it delivered and we haven't even began to look into having that done.  At least we can rake it out, level it, put down edging and a weed barrier(with enough stones to weight the barrier down so it doesn't blow away).

That's all I got.......

How was your weekend?


Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week on the Dining Table

The "The Sun Finally Came Out, It Warmed Up & We Went Out" Edition.....

It hit 64F degrees here yesterday so we went out for a bit.
We had lunch at Bob Evans(cuz I had a coupon!lol).  They have a mailbox as part of their exterior d├ęcor at the restaurant....I guess to give it a "home" feeling, right?

Well just to prove that there are idiots walking around among us, they needed to post this sign on the mailbox........
It says, "Not For U.S. Mail Decoration Only".
I guess some moron tried to put outgoing mail in the thing. 8-P

Anyway, onward to the meal planning!
Here's what was planned last week.......

1.  Easter ham, deviled eggs, mac & cheese, mixed Italian veggies, sweet potatoes
2.  grilled fish, leftover Easter side dishes
3.  chicken marsala, mashed potatoes, asparagus
4.  Assorted leftovers
5.  Boston baked beans, assorted leftovers
6.  leftover Popeye's meal stuff
7.  quiche leftovers

And this is what actually happened--

1.  Easter ham, deviled eggs, mac & cheese, mixed Italian veggies, sweet potatoes
2.  leftover Popeye's meal
3.  chicken marsala, mashed potatoes, asparagus
4.  leftover mac & cheese w/ham pieces, tomato and cuke salad
5.  leftover quiche, sugar snap peas
6.  Subway sandwiches
7.  leftover chicken marsala, mashed potatoes, corn

Everything went as planned except I didn't make the beans or the grilled fish meal.

Last week I made 1 trip to the Dollar Store and spent $9.00 OOP on $18.50 worth of reg. retail groceries.  Not quite NO grocery shopping but quite low.

I had 2 transactions at Rite-Aid last week and spend $1.55 OOP on $67.68 worth of toiletries.

For the week, $10.55 total spending on $86.18 worth of food/toiletries/HBA.

$172.32 spent of my $300 April food budget, leaving us $127.68 for the next 17 days of the month. 

Leftovers going into this week are--1 slice of quiche, corn, mac and cheese and a bit of ham and the bone. 
I will confess to a bit of food waste last week.  The leftover sloppy joe meat went moldy before I got a chance to use it up.  bleh.  Not a bit portion but wasting meat really chaps my hide because it is so expensive!
Why don't the junk foods ever go to waste? lolz

Here is the plan for this week.........

1.  Spaghetti and meatballs, salad
2.  Ham and bean soup
3.  Fish, potato salad, whatever veggies I can dig out of the freezer
4.  Kielbasa on rolls, grilled onions, Brussels sprouts
5.  Chicken and Confetti pepper fajitas
6.  Leftovers
7.  Maybe get Take-out or BLTs(if I can find some nice tomatoes this week)

1 night of leftovers and 5 nights of new dishes.  There will be leftovers of the spaghetti, potato salad, the soup and the fajitas and the take-out(if we get some) plus the quiche, corn and mac & cheese from last week.
What I need to buy for this menu......rolls, peppers, maybe tomatoes and we will need milk.  I plan on spending less than $20 this week.

What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?    

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten that week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week?