A girl in the garden

We had a crapload of snow last night, which made me happy because we don’t get much down here and I grew up in lake effect country. This storm should satisfy me for awhile because yesterday’s shoveling was erased overnight and then I spent an hour getting to my Jeep in the alley this morning.

012809jeepsnow snowtrashcans

I also shoveled some paths for the dogs, who use them partway and then bound off into the virgin areas. Casper was smart enough to pee and poop in the cleared areas (and she’s not normally the smarter of the two), but Walt insisted he had to do his business exactly where he always does and every time he squatted he got snow on his butt and jumped away. He finally trampled enough area to do what he needed to and then he ran a few laps.

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The only thing that makes my super-white collie look dirty and not-white is fresh snow!
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A lot of people didn’t make it to work today and all the schools are closed. I thought I was in Shaun of the Dead when I drove down Michigan Street and it was full of random people staggering down the middle of the road since they had no other way or place to get around. Then a train blocked the street and instead of getting stuck behind a bunch of trapped city buses who were trying to turn around, I had to go down side streets for a mile until I found an underpass–that was bad news with no plows and a foot of snow. Thank goodness for 4wd. When I found the underpass on an actually plowed Washington Street, a semi had everyone stopped going the other way because he was too tall to fit under the bridge with all the snow under it.

I discovered fleece socks keep me warm at work! I need many more of these.
fleecesocks

Update on the hair situation: Nicole kindly stayed with me for moral support last week when I had half of mine cut off. Thanks to layers and thinning shears I can wear it down frequently, though it’s still very floofy on its own with an air dry. This dark pic is after the stylist spent a half hour drying/straightening/flat ironing it.
haircutwalt

Bonus pic: Someone got creative in the house numbers aisle at WalMart the other day.
wmcurse

Stress response: chewy

I’ve had my mouth guard for a little over a year. I’m supposed to sleep in it every night and probably only remember/bother about ten percent of the time. Well, I ate through it already. Check out the cracks all along the molars. I had to get a new set of impressions today to have another one made. The last one was $400…
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Told you I needed new teeth for a reason. Plus now I risk cracking the porcelain on all my expensive fake teeth, hence the pricey guard with softer plastic on the inside and hard on the outside. Not hard enough, apparently.

Meanwhile the assistant at the dentist’s office today seemed pretty new. She commented how awful it is to have impressions made. Are you kidding me? Do you know what I’ve had done to my teeth so far? At this point I think root canals are a piece of cake, and impressions are way easier and more comfortable than a routine cleaning. She had to do the upper and lower twice because she messed them up, which I predicted when I felt the trays in the wrong place. Can’t say much with a mouthful of goop though. I’m not sure the end result was correct but we’ll see after the lab tries to make the guard.

Before my appointment I traveled several miles out of my way to go to the post office that serves my old house. I had a postage due note for a mystery letter from Carmel. After driving to BFE, I discovered it was from a realtor trying to woo me away as my home listing had expired. I refused it and you can bet I’ll let them know how I feel about being inconvenienced and asked to PAY for their solicitation.

Walt gets close in the office chair again.

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Out and about

Yesterday I left the house to meet Nicole at the gym. As I was going down our steps, I detected a large creature in the yard. By the time I realized it was the neighbor’s escaped Rottweiler, I was in his sights and I went straight to my car, avoiding eye contact. After I got in, he went up our front steps and lifted his leg on the inside of our porch wall! I took this to mean: Your porch is mine, beeotch.

Then he patrolled the street by standing in the middle of it, trotting through other neighbors’ yards, and generally looking like he owned the place. Here he’s heading past my car after a jaunt down the street. We don’t even know his name but I’d like to know how much danger I’m in since he seems to get out a lot!

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“NOW” available at Meijer!
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Our site at work is sponsoring a peanut butter and jelly collection for Gleaners food bank as part of the MLK Day of Service. After a few days collecting last week we already had 450 pounds of it, but mostly I found the easeled signs at the doors funny:
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I joined Sam’s Club (they are offering $25 gift cards with new memberships for a few days) and found this great sign at the customer service desk. Of course the way they positioned it I really had no idea where the line formed, but, well, they had a sign with fun errors.
samssign

While looking for the peanut butter and jelly, I found Red Gold tomato products. David is a canned tomato snob and will only agree to Red Gold purchases (since they are local I can support this with a little less eye-rolling). Still, I thought 6.5 lb cans were a little much for a two-person recipe.
redgold
What’s amazing is that these 102-oz cans were only about $2.30, and a 14.5-oz can at a regular grocery is well over a dollar! It was tempting. I found an eight pack of the small cans for less than six bucks and was pretty happy with the price, but unfortunately that meant additional packaging.

I also found a composter at Sam’s (Dawn and I are in discussions about getting this started, seeing as how we have a lot of bunny turds at our disposal). I didn’t buy this one, but I appreciated the Sense of Humus.
soilsaver

Free FICO score

Update 01.19.09: The offer below has ended, but there is a 50% off code now, apparently good until the 22nd. Use 50FICOKIT at checkout for any of their products. Some more info at Slickdeals.net. I purchased my other two scores and the corresponding reports for half price. It’s good to check that stuff now and then.


Very limited time: Free FICO score (normally about $16) if you sign up for myFICO forums. This is limited to a certain number of free scores and once they are gone, they are gone. Best information is at this Slickdeals.net thread.

Last time this type of offer died in less than a day, so I hope you see it in time!

You will need to make an account at the forums and then once logged in, you’ll sign up again to get the score. Worked great for me just now. The score is from Equifax only. This is not a credit report–you can get those at annualcreditreport.com free every year (one per credit reporting company; there are three).

I was going to purchase my score anyway, so I’m glad the free offer came up!

Hair don’t

Permed and feathered!  Thank goodness that's over

Permed and feathered! Thank goodness that's over

My haircut: part down the middle, cut it off straight around the bottom. I use coupons to take a couple inches off at Fantastic Sam’s and places like that about twice a year to keep it from getting too annoying. The only thing ‘interesting’ about my haircut (it is not advanced enough to be a style) is that I often won’t brush it, so it might get a little messier on a given day.

I wear it in a ponytail or pulled back in a barrette (which makes it a wider, flatter ponytail) 85% of the time and in a messy bun the rest of the time. The only chance you likely have of seeing it down is when it’s not all the way dry from a shower so I haven’t put it up just yet. It’s actually several shades darker when it’s down because I have it pulled back so much that the part usually on top of my head has been sun bleached.

Normal fare: memday08

Down, the triangle:
halfasspic3h

I wash it every three days–it’s dry enough it doesn’t really need it more than that, and Day 2 is usually its ‘best’ day from a shine/oil/less volume standpoint. I use a pick to comb it then because it’s way too thick and tangled to get a brush through it wet. The following days I might brush it. Or I might not. That’s the entire routine. I think I might have used a blow dryer twice in the last year. I used a curling iron once, maybe. My favorite part about getting a haircut is that I get to pay someone else to comb it out–I hate washing and combing it that much.

It’s very thick overall but with a fine texture, which means it falls out of whatever styling I try (not that it happens often, but you’ll never get it to hold a curl without depleting the ozone layer from spray applications; I had it permed in middle school and the perm fell out the next day). My hair has a wavy section right at the middle of the back of my head but the rest is stick straight. I have identical hair to my mother (other than the color). It’s so thick that people frequently comment on it and wish for it. Should I feel guilty for not appreciating it?

Evidence of the curly stuff underneath:
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I’ve pretty much had this cut for ten years. I don’t really mind it. I just don’t care. I guess others care sometimes. Grandma says I shouldn’t cut it shorter (she also says I should brush it). David just wants to see it doing something one of these days (I did pay someone to do it for my brother’s wedding, but that’s it). Nicole encourages me occasionally to get layers. Or somebody did, anyway.

I wish I could chop it pretty short. I just don’t think my head shape is right. I’ve had a short bob before, but then it’s not heavy enough to weigh down that curly part in the back so the bottom edge flips up all wacky and it’s too thick like a helmet anyway. So I keep it long enough to be mostly straight all the way around and I have to be able to pull it back.

The short bob, with Ruth Simmons:
ruthgrad

I can’t stand it in my face, especially for sports. I also don’t really see the point of spending any time on it (this applies to my fashion choices as well): if a dude doesn’t have to style his hair or wear makeup or have clothing that varies from oxford/slacks with pockets/sensible shoes, why should I?

Of course all of this makes me look a bit granola or unfeminine or plain or whatever it is, and I still don’t care. But the implication that I should care alternately nonplusses/aggravates/insecures me. The insecurity is infrequent but darn it if I don’t feel hopeful AND angry AND sad when I watch What Not to Wear. I am the person in that show. But why in the world would I wear pointy shoes to work or get up early to use a flat iron?

See, granola wins. But I admit it would be reasonable to try a different haircut. Back in my younger and teen years I did go to the family stylist at JC Penney Salon, had highlights, permed my hair (it took after the initial one fell out). And I feathered it before school each morning and wore mint green eyeshadow. Fortunately that last phase was short lived! I have seen the light and the light shines on not doing my hair!

Hair is such a personal issue (which still stymies me to some degree), but I am willing to try a new cut after ten years. I still require being able to pull it back so I won’t have it in my face at the gym (or probably most times), but I admit the ‘dreaded triangle‘ may not be the most flattering look, just like the pulled-back version leaves something to be desired. I have a recommendation from Nicole to see her stylist (which scares me just because the salon reviews say things like “it’s so fun to go there!” “you get so pampered there!”–wth? This is far from entertaining for me, and I don’t even want to have to live up to this new hairstyle/image later!) and I made an appointment for next week. I don’t feel rich enough to maintain a professional haircut, but maybe they’ll help me find something I can do in this initial splurge. I think what encourages me most is that this woman can apparently thin my hair in addition to layers or whatever and that bodes well for being able to comb it. Does anyone in the thinning/balding category want a DNA sample to clone it? This mop is a thick mofo.

I discovered that Nicole actually has the appointment immediately before mine. I plan to blame her if this all goes poorly!

God help me, I am NOT getting my nails done.

UPDATE: Would you believe my friend Mymsie celebritized my hair? Such effort! For an example, here’s me with Jennifer Hudson hair:
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She made a whole bunch of them! I appreciate her efforts because I lack the picture handling skills to post stuff like that.

25+ ways I save money

Whether because it’s that new-beginnings time of year or because the economy stinks, how to save cashola is always a popular topic. I have to admit I’m just naturally frugal (or my dad brainwashed me anyway) and I get a high from saving or not-spending money. But I’ve also identified I’m pretty boring and unlike those I consider to be an average American consumer. Anyway, lots of people have shared their 25 ways they save here if you’d like more ideas, and PQ recently had a bunch of comments from readers who do all sorts of things to be frugal. Got any other good suggestions? I actually had a couple of extras.

Two things happened since I wrote this post last week and didn’t bother to publish it: I decided I didn’t really like the tone of the list, and I met with a financial advisor again. This process is new to me and I’m struggling with knowing how to invest. My income and situation is far different than the one my parents were in when I grew up and learned about money, so I don’t have a sense of what advice is good and what is just someone trying to sell me something. Or maybe some things that would be bad investment choices for a person stretching dollars are actually good investment choices for someone with more income and therefore more tax implications. One resource I’m starting to use is The Simple Dollar, a blog with a ton of helpful advice (even the comments are instructive) about personal finance. I did apply for disability insurance but don’t know where to head next.

Anyway, I decided to post my ways of saving after all. Reading other people’s lists helps me think creatively.

  1. I never ever pay ATM fees by planning ahead and only going to my bank’s ATM. The only times I’ve paid ATM fees in the last ten years were in England and Italy, when I didn’t have a choice to use my bank but also didn’t want to haul that much money around for the whole trip.
  2. I always take the restaurant leftovers home and eat them.
  3. I force myself to keep calling the cable company etc. when they randomly raise prices. I inspect the bill.
  4. I put everything (even car insurance, dental bills, charitable donations for larger/distant organizations) on credit cards with cashback, and shop through the credit card’s site to get additional cashback.
  5. I pay off my credit cards EVERY month. I don’t finance any larger purchases unless through a 0% APR and even then I pay it off within two months to be safe. Come to think of it, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve used one of those deals at all.
  6. I use coupons eagerly (especially at places that double them), but only for items I would buy anyway.
  7. I go to the store where my item is cheapest (based on ads or everyday pricing), but not if the amount I’ll save is not enough more than the fuel and effort it would take to make the extra trip. When my favorite items are on sale I stock up, and of course I combine errands when I’m out and about.
  8. I keep track of all my spending and income in a spreadsheet. Several years of data give me a great handle on where the money goes.
  9. I purchase lots of things online, after comparison pricing and getting free shipping, which also saves me a trip to the store and sales tax. During the holidays I saved several hundred bucks on gifts I already planned to buy just by watching slickdeals.net and shopping carefully online. I also used wishlists so we’d get what we would actually use and our recipients would actually want/use what we got them.
  10. I stopped getting the newspaper when the coupons weren’t good enough to warrant it (not a lot of plant-based, whole foods items… it’s all unhealthy packaged crap and household products that were tested on animals). However, I just got another offer in the mail from the paper to get Thursday and Sunday papers delivered for cheaper than my buying just the Sunday paper at the store, which I sometimes do. Hard to decide!
  11. I have friends save their papers for me to use in my litterboxes. If I can’t get enough that way, I’ve been known to take papers from central recycling boxes (but I prefer to avoid looking like I’m dumpster diving!).
  12. I have a lot of pets and I don’t compromise quality when I feed and house them. Instead I buy really good foods but in the largest bags with coupons and with a discount I get through organizations I belong to; I go in with others to buy local baled farm hay instead of pet store bags or shipping it in; I buy 40# bags of wood stove pellets at home centers to use as bunny litter.
  13. I don’t use all my cell minutes, I have rollover and free nights/weekends, and I have a cell plan that has the right number of minutes for my needs. I get a discount on my cell plan through my employer. I generally wait for my cell phone to die before I get a new one and enter another contract (the last two lasted three and five years). I don’t have a text messaging plan and I turned off my phone’s internet access because those features were just costing money.
  14. My home phone is the cheapest basic plan with no long distance carrier at all. I use the cell for long distance. We would ditch the landline but right now it’s important for our alarm system and we live in the hood.
  15. I don’t buy new clothes until mine wear out. (Yes, I’m fashion backwards–frugalit makes a good supporting excuse!)
  16. I take or buy used items from family and friends if they have something I need rather than shop for it.
  17. I use discount cards at restaurants (buy one get one free entrees, discounted gift certificates) and a $5 movie ticket card.
  18. I use the gym memberships my employer provides.
  19. I changed veterinarians to one who is awesome with our dogs but closer and lots cheaper.
  20. I reuse water bottles, filling them from coolers at work or from our tap which has a filter. I put the bottles in the dishwasher to make them last longer (and be less nasty).
  21. I always run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. I set the washing machine temperature one setting colder than the way I grew up doing laundry.
  22. I will always try the generic brand and I will keep buying it if it’s as good as name brand. But I won’t make us eat crappy foods or use inferior products; quality, health, longetivity, environmental impact, and animal welfare all play into my purchases and frequently trump absolute cheapness. I go in with a friend to order bulk versions of some of these so we can still save money yet have organic/safe/responsible products.
  23. I change my own oil. (I would so love to use coupons and pay someone else to do it, but my car is weird and can’t go to the quick places. That’s what I get for purposely getting an especially fuel efficient vehicle.)
  24. I order water instead of other beverages when I go out to eat (95% of the time anyway).
  25. I use my company’s 401(k) match, watch Suze Orman (warning! her website has annoying autoplay music), and have started working with a financial advisor to help me save long-term.
  26. I use mail order prescription services for my maintenance medications. If I need an acute Rx, I’ll use a new/transferred Rx store coupon to get a gift card too. I’ve saved a lot on my taxes through FSA, too.
  27. When possible, I buy nice boxed wine (on sale of course) instead of bottled wine. A box contains the same amount as four bottles and is nicer to the environment, too!
  28. I check current fuel prices at gasbuddy.com (indygasprices.com locally) so I don’t overpay when I fill the tank. I’ve even learned tips like when price spikes are likely to happen and which stations in town go up last.
  29. I do my own taxes online, keep good records, and make an effort to understand the rules so I can keep as much of my earnings as I can. All year long I save receipts and track mileage for my charities so I don’t forget to claim them later.

Free electronics recycling Jan 10 (plus cardboard and Christmas trees)

Mulch your dead Christmas tree, recycle your cardboard, and get rid of old electronics without sending them to the landfill or paying someone to take them on January 10 from 10-2 at four Indianapolis parks: Broad Ripple, Ellenberger, Garfield, and Krannert. As usual this is poorly advertised but if you happen to be on the right email lists you find out about these things. The event did make it in electric bills but for some reason is not advertised on the city government website that is sponsoring it… good job SustainIndy! There is a lovely flyer about the event here, complete with typos.

Note that some electronics (like computers and cell phones) can be recycled at ToxDrop/eCycle on all their scheduled days (every week). I get the sense that this park event will allow other electronics, or at least I hope so since the vampire microwave needs a place to go. TVs up to 27″ will be accepted at this event.

Seitan done right

I got this awesome deal through Restaurant.com that gave me $70 worth of restaurant gift cards for about $3.50. The place we tried to go with a gift certificate was closed today, so Plan B was to try Sesame Chinese restaurant. I had read on a local blog or comments or something that they had good veggie options, and since Chinese food has been boring since I went veg (it’s often hard to talk to servers about what’s actually in the dishes, so I mostly get fried rice), I was looking forward to trying this place.

It looked like a hole in the wall and not any more special than a Chinese joint on our side of town. The menu didn’t seem very different either. But since I knew to ask about other options from the reviews I’d seen online, I ended up with broccoli & beef made with seitan instead and it was great!! Our only experience with seitan at home was a disaster, but this had great texture, was cut to be the same as the beef you might get in the normal dish, and tasted just like the Chinese food I had been missing the past couple of years. Not only that, but the vegetable roll and pot stickers were the best I’d ever had, and the service was great. David had a spicy garlic eggplant dish which was also very good, but still was squishy enough (the curse of eggplant) that I was glad I chose something else.

sesame

I scanned their takeout menu for y’all. Any of the beef dishes can be made vegetarian like I had it! There’s also a nice selection of other veggie dishes (plus all the normal stuff you omnis want). Check out Sesame at 86th & Ditch in Indy.
Sesame Chinese restaurant menu

All hail 2009

Welcome to the new year and a snotty nose. I have been sick for nearly a week. Fortunately I didn’t have to go to work during this time, but it’s not like I got to enjoy many of the days off–plus work kept calling and paging me anyway. I did see a lot of crappy TV when I wasn’t knocked out with Nyquil (who knew Tori Spelling had a reality show, or that there was a lobster-catching show as well as the crab-catching show?), and today my aches had declined sufficiently to leave the house for a veggie burger at Denny’s. I thought I was on the mend a couple of days ago and met Nicole at the gym and then for a nice dinner, but whoops, I wasn’t so well. Even David got part of the sickness.

My exciting purchase this week is a new office chair, which I’m not sitting in because we’ve been too ill to carry it downstairs. I’m excited about it because it met all my ergonomic requirements (I don’t take that stuff for granted anymore… I guess I’m old) AND it’s 60% recycled AND it’s not leather! Awesome. AND I had an awesome coupon! I even paid eight bucks to have them assemble it for me because I just didn’t feel like doing it. I must have arrived at wealthy status, because the old Amy would never have paid someone to do what she can do herself. Now if it were twenty bucks that would have been different.

Right after I spent too much on a chair, our microwave died. I no longer find the microwave to be super essential (meaning buy it the same day it dies) but it’s still pretty essential (within a couple of weeks). David has hated my microwave from the start, he being a person who probably wouldn’t have one if I hadn’t brought it with me, but we agree it’s nice to have. The discussions now are where it will go–in the wall? Over the stove? We have to know these things so we know what microwave to buy. But I’m just pissed that my microwave died after only two 3.5 years (yes, I looked it up…time sure flies). I thought I bought a fancy 1200-Watt unit so it would last (maybe not as long as the twenty years the previous one lasted, but still), and here we are having to decide about an appliance together. Are we ready for this kind of commitment, people!?

Guess who’s 30 today?
matt83 matt88 matt89
My baby brother!