Holiday spirit as experienced by the frugal introvert

The pups are lined up head-to-butt on the couch twitching in their sleep. I heard a report at work this week from David that speedy Emmy finally caught that squirrel in the back yard… with bad results for the squirrel. Her face is a little scratched up too. Walter and David were rather disturbed by the scene!

Thanksgiving has come and gone (and it was tasty). Now we’re solidly in the holiday season. I feel like purchasing zero gifts and I don’t want anything, which is generally a good thing when it comes to saving money and not indulging in consumerism. I suppose there’s some element of economic crash if we all stopped shopping, but I think it would be a good move in this country at least. I didn’t share in the outrage many people online expressed about Black Friday shopping starting early or even about holiday decor going up too early in stores. I really don’t care if there are decorations before Thanksgiving. If you feel retail is pushing you, don’t open your wallet. Big deal.

I think I’d like to put up a tree this year, especially since I collected so many ornaments while I was abroad last year, but I’m not sure we have room. There’s a foster rabbit in the usual tree spot and clutter tries to take over any leftover real estate around here.

Just heard the unemployment rate is down to 8.6%, the lowest in 2.5 years. Seems somewhat positive.

Bit of a PSA: here’s where you can opt out of receiving telephone books. My bunnies eat them but they can’t keep up with the supply.

Cute link of “grammar” gifts like air quote mittens and punctuation mark lamps. (But don’t buy me anything. 🙂

I made a tortilla soup last week that was yummy, based on two other recipes. My version:

Tortilla Soup

vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
14 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can black beans, undrained
2 quarts vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 can whole kernel corn
2 avocados, peeled/pitted/cut into chunks or slices

Tortilla chips
Shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Saute the onion in oil in a large soup pot. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin, and chili peppers, cooking until onions are tender and spices are fragrant. Mix in the tomatoes, pour in broth and black beans, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
Mix corn and avocado chunks into the soup, and continue cooking 5-10 minutes. Serve in bowls over tortilla chips, topping with cheese.

Major Moves, major typo

Coming in as my second favorite typo so far, I give you: The I-70 ramp to RURAL Street. Ironically named since this street is in a gritty urban area, now I have a reason to pull off the road to take a picture and risk carjacking.

rualst
(Favorite typo: Village Panty)

Meanwhile David’s prototype coffee table bit the dust when he sat on it. All the items on the floor used to be on the table. Watching him land was hilarious. I should note that it was a prototype for size and shape, not construction quality.

coffeetable

A few of the smart asses from IASMH class of 1993 at their 16th reunion (because we were too lame to plan a 15th)
iasmh93-16th

And I’ve been bonding Harrison and Vegas (seen here in before-and-after haircut pics)
harryvegas harryvegas2

Who wants to do the Tour de Cookie?? I need to get my bike replaced! COOKIES!

Not smart enough (how to screw up your taxes)

Let it be known that probably only my dad and perhaps a few other anal code-readers may care about this post, but I wanted to point out what seemed to be an issue in the Indiana state tax online filing forms. After spending a couple hours reading about this online and writing the post, I think I determined I was misunderstanding a few terms and I-file is working ok.

I’ve been filing my taxes online for several years. Every year I find something glitchy or goofy, but in general the last two years have provided good interactive online experiences that resulted in easily direct-deposited refunds and simple logins that usually remember some of my data from the previous year.

I’m a bit stuck right now, though. I did my federal as usual at esmarttax.com, a site I’ve used for several years. Someone dumb there doesn’t know the difference between principle and principal, but otherwise the experience has been flawless for me. Once I file the federal online, to avoid paying that site to e-file my Indiana taxes, I use the free Indiana e-file site–or as they call it, I-file. BTW, sometimes when you click links on their site, the page dead-ends or crashes. And sometimes it works with a redirect to the right page. Go figure.

This year I was reminded of some idiosyncrasies in the I-file system, including when I could not remember their password rules: Not all lower case and not all upper case characters. Who does that? I’ve seen requirements for length and numeric characters, but this I couldn’t remember. It’s only after updating my email address (which can be done despite not being able to log in), then having them send me my username by email (I actually had that right but couldn’t tell), THEN using that to update my password using the security questions that I was able to enter my filing account. The site helpfully remembered my address and employer (though not their address on the W-2). And then… the property tax rebate stuff happened.

I previously posted a tip from in.gov to help you address your property tax rebate on your federal return, which I did and was promptly penalized my fifty bucks in federal taxes on the amount. This rebate situation (property taxes paid to state from mortgage escrow but refunded from state by check directly to me) complicates last year’s itemization, but I figured it’s an easy audit trigger and technically I did get that money back, so I spent a great deal of time determining how to un-itemize the rebated amount. Meanwhile I still paid into escrow for the whole year but the state’s asinine treatment of property taxes in 2008 means my escrow did not have to pay out for half of the year, so I’m still out the cash but I only get a deduction for that half portion. And then that’s reduced by the rebate. Sigh.

Legislators: no more property tax rebates. Just credit the next bill. How much money and time did we waste sending checks to Hoosier homeowners? Your PR stunt was not in our best interests.

Anyway, here’s what we find in the I-file:
ifile2
Technically, I think the actual amount paid for Tax Year 2008 (blue underline) would be zero because property taxes are paid in arrears, so until I pay my bill in 2009 which is FOR 2008, well, you see.

Then, green underline, same problem. Of course what I paid in 2008 was for 2007, as described above. But I am pretty sure they are asking if I paid late. This one isn’t worded as badly. Do I just know a little too much to do this right?

Next, I was happy/surprised to see a question about whether I told the feds I received a rebate. Way to keep Hoosiers honest (or something):

ifile1
*This is where I misunderstood! This state tax refund amount is NOT the rebate. At least I don’t think it is after pondering for way too long.

My logic went like this:
First of all, the line marked “taxable refunds blah blah blah” (see red underline) is not where you report the rebate. You read the 1040 instructions for this line (10) which refer you to another publication and that tells you to enter the amount on a different line (21). It’s still the income section and it still adds it to your AGI, so in the end the federal part is right and I-file is just telling you to put it in not-quite the right place.

I figured the spirit of the question was still answerable as Yes, so you’ll see where I entered my rebate in the next box with the purple circle. Lalala, I continued through the I-file pages until suddenly my $900 in paid property taxes (the amount escrow paid out for me in 2008 per the form they sent me), which I had entered on that first screen, became $1101 on the Indiana tax form line 8 called Indiana deductions! Magically, I get to ADD the rebate to my taxes paid, not SUBTRACT it from the total!

Well, surely I screwed up something, right? Even though one never puts a negative number on a tax form (instructions just add or subtract one line from another), I went back and entered -201 in that box with the purple circle. ERROR! Red letters tell me I must enter a positive number.

Well, now what? I think the answer is one of these:
1. I am doing something wrong. I should eventually get a deduction for the 900 less the 201 for a total deduction of 699, right?
2. The I-file calcs are wrong.
3. We are both right, but I didn’t realize Indiana felt badly for socking me with back taxes on my federal so it’s being nice and giving me this bonus cash.

After typing all this I think it is actually #1 and #3, sort of. “Indiana will not tax this rebate” is stated at that tip I linked, however it also says “You also will need to subtract the rebate off of your 2008 Indiana tax return.” I took “subtract the rebate off your return” to mean subtracting it from the amount escrow paid the state (my $900 deduction), but it might mean subtract it from the federal AGI (which made it ‘income’), such that I am not taxed on that enhanced AGI by Indiana–hence a ‘deduction’ of that amount is added to the ‘deduction’ of the tax bill paid. This is all very stupid and I’m still not sure I’m not being taxed by Indiana anyway (they use federal AGI to determine taxable income, so since that includes the rebate, aren’t I being taxed by the state anyway?).

Other than a brief glimmer of hope for an explanation when I found an in.gov tax blog (it turned out to be more of a silly press release written in first person format with lots of cliches), I couldn’t figure out what I should do on this form. I either get a refund of $23 (with the $1101 deduction) or $9 (not sure how I got that one) or $3 (this should be ‘right’ but was only achieved by entering the $699 net taxes paid as the ‘actual amount of property tax paid’ and telling I-file I didn’t put the rebate recovery state tax refund on the federal form). *This last choice seems to be correct now that I realize the line 10 stuff was not about the rebate. I think.

All this is to say I saved my session and didn’t file my state return tonight. I’m a pretty sharp girl. Am I overthinking it, or are my fellow Hoosiers doomed to confusion as well? It should not be this difficult.

*Posted anyway so you can see how my analytical mind travels the wrong track eagerly at times and so Dad can see that this is resolved…except for the state taxing the rebate they said they wouldn’t tax. Reading page 18 of the IT-40 Booklet (IN tax instructions) mostly explained it and even had an example. I wonder if I’d read those first if I could have avoided the confusion! Now where’s my three bucks!?

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!

rottie0109


“NOW” available at Meijer!
edys

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:
pbj

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

Vegetarian haggis

Well, I had to try it just because it was there. I’ve never had real haggis so I don’t know how it compares, but it was very seasoned and very comfort food-y. You can try your own (or the real version) at MacNiven’s on Mass Ave in Indy. Sorry for the dim camera phone picture. Unlike a European establishment, they WILL kick you out when you finish eating and other people want a table.

Vegetarian Haggis, Neeps & Tatties
Kidney beans, lentils, mushrooms, onions, neeps, peanuts, almonds, walnuts & oats make up this version, served with mashed potatoes & sweet neeps.

They don’t seem to have a real web page with menu (and prices are dated based on what I paid) but if you want to go to their myspace page with annoying autoplay music, be my guest.

This week I also tried the new Siam Square in Fountain Square. They have lots of veggie options! We had spring rolls, veggie tempura, eggplant chicken (but w/tofu), red curry, and coconut chicken soup (again subbing tofu). The appetizers were just good but the soup and main dishes were worth coming back. The ambiance was weird since we were in the overflow upstairs seating, but overall it’s a hip casual vibe and it was crowded on a Saturday evening. The downer for me was when the server guy threw a glass beer bottle in the trash. It’s not like those are hard to recycle.


One wonders if these guys really have no Ns when they obviously have three Vs.

Coming soon: I saw the BEST giant sign typo tonight! I have to go back for a picture later. I know you’re on the edge of your office chairs.

Also: It’s COLD!
Hey, how cold is it?
It’s so cold we had dinner with a bunch of Canadians tonight and THEY thought it was way too cold!
Meanwhile I didn’t know they said pasta as (living-in-the-)pas-tuh.

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!

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…