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!


“NOW” available at Meijer!

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:

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.

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.
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.

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:

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:

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:

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:
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.

I can see the outdoors!

I have been a trailer denizen for the last three years. Yes, even Fortune 500 companies make their employees work in trailers sometimes. The lease is up and they decided to drive away all the doublewides, so I’ve been relocated to a recently remodeled office area that has WINDOWS. Not like the window in my trailer cubicle which looked into the window of the cubicle in the doublewide right next to mine, but one where I can see SNOW today. Most of the window in my cube is blocked by the cube wall itself (great space planning, folks), but overall it’s a lovely place to while away my career and watch my 401k erode. Unfortunately this office and lab is scheduled to move to another building next year and I’ll probably move with them, and I probably won’t have such a tantalizing window then. But for two months I shall savor my awesome office!

Of course now my office’s regular bathroom is that one everyone in the building uses to take a crap.

The fabric walls here are a lovely stain-hiding gray pattern, much better than the brownish yellow trailer walls even Dwight Schrute wouldn’t have bought a shirt in. The real walls here are a calming sage green and there is a cold air return shshshshshshshshing away nearby to white-noise my neighbors. My drawers lock with eight copies of my keys. The desk actually fits me–who wants my massaging seesaw footrest thingy?

In the process of moving people out of five doublewides, a lot of office-y mess is left behind. My heart broke to see all the binders and inboxes in the trash bins after we left, so I found a cart and salvaged a couple loads of perfectly useful office supplies and put them in the–you guessed it–supply area! I also took home eight copy boxes of decorations and a six foot Christmas tree which was going to be trashed. I will Freecycle them and let the office decorations live on, spared from the landfill for now.

One glitch since moving: I can’t find my pens.

How to void your warranty

I bought a netbook for David as a birthday/Christmas gift. It arrived a few days ago, and already last night he had it all taken apart to swap the hard drive for something newer and cooler. It wasn’t really working last night after he did this, and this morning I noticed the new drive on the desk and the computer put back together. Let’s hope he was at least able to restore it to a functioning state. He was mad that they put one of the screws under a “void if removed” warranty sticker. Well, duh.

The pups were leaning against each other a few nights ago. They kind of looked like an octopus.

BTW, both cars are now fixed! I’m out $500 but no longer stranded.

Nicole spotted this gem on our way back from the gym yesterday!


I own two cars. One is very fuel efficient and I use it all the time. It’s about 3.5 years old. The dash looks like this.

My other car is a ten-year-old SUV. I bought it used when I adopted Casper so I’d have room to haul her around (and the bunnies). Later when I had a long commute I got a second vehicle with good mileage and the Jeep is just used to haul stuff (like hay!). The dash looks like this.

Yes, that’s right, as of this week BOTH of my cars have check engine lights blazing. The newer car has a glow plug (or several) out but due to some ridiculousness on the part of the manufacturer, the repair would be upwards of $400-700 at the dealer. I found someone who can fix it for much cheaper this weekend, but the manufacturer issue is so new that most independent places are unable to help. At least it can be driven in the meantime–until it doesn’t start one of these days.

The Jeep is in limp mode and just doesn’t shift well. It can’t be driven except to take it to the mechanic. The output speed sensor is supposedly the culprit, which isn’t supposed to be a difficult repair, but our local guy isn’t sure he can fix it so I may have to find a transmission guy, and the nearest recommended one is a half hour away. I should know more tomorrow. Oh, and the Jeep doesn’t want to start very well either but if you disconnect (i.e., replace) the battery while this particular transmission code is active you cause all sorts of extra problems.

Meanwhile David’s truck suddenly went lame and our three-cars-for-two-people plan wasn’t working so well. I didn’t really want to ride my bike to work since the temperatures have been in the 20s. So far so good on having a car working, and David’s truck was fixed today. I hope I don’t go broke fixing the rest of the stable.

On the plus side I have a couple of days off and I took a great nap today. That makes everything better, even if I’m stranded at home!

First slush

Last day of NaBloPoMo. I wonder if I’ll win a prize this year.

We found a fair amount of snow on the ground when we got up this morning. At least it had been snow, but turned to slush quickly. Casper isn’t fond of the wet stuff on her tootsies. My car is leaking again, thanks to the melting slush.

A grammar find in the toy aisle at Menards: Rule the Sea’s!

After a four day weekend I’m feeling better. I still have a lot of work to do (I have the other computer up too for work) but I got a lot done and was able to nap and relax and feel a bit rested. I have another long weekend in a few days!

Let’s see how much snow we get in the next several hours…

Brighter mood

On the happier side:
1. David had made a yummy onion soup complete with croutons and cheese broiled on top when I got home so late last night.

2. Most of the people I work for were out for a teambuilding event today so I had time to catch up on a few things.

3. Asian stir fry with tofu at the cafeteria and free flu shots today!

I’m going through old computer files at work and I found this meme-like one that was part of a get-to-know-you thing a couple of years ago. We were supposed to guess who the coworkers were based on their answers.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Rowing, pets

What is your favorite vacation destination?
Someplace with a beach and indoor plumbing

What ocupation would you like to have if you weren’t in your current position?
Actuary, editor, animal rescuer

What is the one job you NEVER want to try?
Sales rep–I don’t want to deal with the public or sell something I don’t think anyone needs!

What was your first pet? What was its name?
Frisky the guinea pig

Who is your hero? Why?
This always sounds like idolatry to me so I don’t have one

How many siblings do you have?
One younger brother

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Disney cartoonist

Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Mrs. Linebacker, who let me skip recess to do extra classwork

What was your least favorite subject in school?

Would you say that you are more “urban” or “rural” at heart?
Urban for the diversity (but I need a yard!)

What “historical figure” do you most admire? Why?
MLK Jr–a perfect vision and great approach to it

If you could possess any talent, what would it be?
Playing piano or singing would be cool

If you could be any super hero, who would you be?
Is there a Grammar Girl?

Day off!

Actually five days off. I needed to use up some vacation.

Today: got up early anyway, took Jeep in (I was going to thank David for using the compressor to fill the flat tire and going with me to drop off the vehicle for repair, but the tire was flat due to a drywall screw, which is probably his fault), found a laborer for David’s job AND didn’t have to do it myself, dug up the rest of the yew roots, planted four shrubs and a bunch of bulbs, watched the gossipy neighbor make his rounds and even call the Health Department on another neighbor, took bike in for tune-up, got gas for $1.85. Productive day! Maybe painting tomorrow if the weather holds.

My patient while his family is on vacation:

Either I’m really good at sub-Q fluids or he’s just lonely enough that he still purrs throughout the treatment. We cuddled for awhile too.