Friday, October 30, 2009

Blessings of the financial kind

God is so very good and I am so very proud of my hubby!

Hubby met with his boss today to discuss his job performance and how hubby feels about the company thus far. He walked away with a raise and a bonus! Praise the Lord!

Hubby's boss also gave him a $50 gift card to the Olive Garden so that hubby can take me out on a date. It's the boss' way of saying "thanks and I'm sorry" for taking up a good portion of our evenings and weekends in October. Hurray! We've never spent that much money at the Olive Garden. This means we'll be able to get an appetizer, two entrees, and dessert! What a treat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Busy, busy bee

I think the craziness has already started. Yesterday was busy, busy, busy.

I woke up at 7:30. That's really late, even for me. I usually wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight. I had to wear jeans, socks, and a sweatshirt all day! Ate breakfast, sent hubby off to work, and talked to him during his 45 minute drive.

After hubby arrived at work, I settled into work. My contract assignment took two hours. Then I washed all the dishes, vacuumed, ironed clothes, made lunch, ate lunch, and washed more dishes! I washed and hung up a load of laundry. I took a 10 minute break to talk to a friend on the phone. Made dinner when hubby called to say he was on the way home.

Hubby had a last minute work assignment so I curled my hair and then talked to my mom on the phone for a bit. When he was finally finished with work, we left for our date. We stopped by the mall first to spend a $10 gift card I received for my birthday. I found some really pretty lipstick for $10 and the store was nice enough to not charge me any tax. Free!

We drove over to the Phoenix Art Museum and attended a lecture on the newest photography exhibition, a survey of portraits that covered the entire history of photography. The lecture was okay. We learned a bit about the thought process of the curator when she designed the exhibition. We also learned about the history of the most famous Winston Churchill photograph. After the lecture, we browsed through the European painting section and visited all of our favorite paintings. Then we drove home and crashed into bed!

The day was very busy, didn't slow down from start to finish. I had wanted to work on my Nano prep a bit but never had time. Now it's almost 3PM Thursday and I still haven't worked on it!

Tis okay. Making peanut butter cookies for my hubby was way more important. Now that all my chores are complete, the cookies are baked, and the laundry is hung, I need to get to work. Nano starts in three days!

Monday, October 26, 2009

5 days until the craziness begins...

National Novel Writing Month starts in five days! I can't wait to get started but I'm really nervous. The first half of my novel is outlined but the second half is really sparse. I only have one character developed and she's not even fully rounded. Character development is the hardest aspect of fiction writing, I think.

Plot is easier this year because I'm writing about what it could have been like to live through the plagues of Egypt and the exodus. The overarching plot is already written out for me, though the details of the story are completely open.

I'm trying to focus on finding God through the plagues and exodus. What would it have been like to live in slavery? How would people feel when Moses shows up and says that God is ready to deliver them? What was it like to work under harsher conditions because Moses demanded their release? What was it like to watch the plagues occur and to be affected by a number of them? How would people have seen God through this situation?

I'm sure that everyone's experience was different, much like it would be if it happened today. My response to God would probably be different than your response to Him which would be different than the neighbor's response. It all depends on your history, your life experiences, and your attitude toward life. Would God seem mean? Caring? Loving? Would you be scared of Him?

These are the things I want to explore in writing my novel next month. I hope to grow closer to God through the experience as I seek to understand how He dealt with a lost people, a stubborn Pharaoh, and a meek leader.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2/3 complete

$703.48 starting balance
- $3.66 payment

= $699.82 current balance (66% paid)

We're making progress!

This upcoming week, my paycheck will clear the bank and that payment will be sent to the credit card. That should be another $160. We're so close I can taste it. Thanksgiving will be oh, so sweet because we will be slaves to one less lender.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Sabbath, all!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Menu planning

I've started working on next week's menu and shopping list. During the summer, we shop on Fridays after my hubby gets off work so that our cupboards are full for weekend cooking. Now that sundown is earlier, we shop on Sundays. I prefer early mornings but sometimes we don't make it out the door until the afternoon.

Next week, I want to try Baked Chimichangas. I'm still pushing myself to try at least one new recipe each week. The ingredients in our chimichangas might be a bit different than the recipe calls for but the actual cooking process is new to me.

I'm also researching pumpkins. I'm trying to determine if the regular pumpkins available in stores right now are recommended for cooking. According to most websites I've visited, those pumpkins aren't that good for cooking because they aren't as sweet and the texture is rougher than cooking pumpkins. If that's the case, now I have to determine where to buy cooking pumpkins. So far, all I've seen are pumpkins for carving.

I want to make pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie... the list is extensive. I love fall and all the seasonal flavors. I just have to figure out where I can the pumpkin and how I cook it! Anyone know where I can get a cooking pumpkin?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Change in terms!

We've reached another financial roadblock. Yesterday we received a letter from the bank saying that one of our credit card interest rates is going up to 19.24% (variable, of course). We've done nothing to warrant this change. We've made all payments on time, haven't gone over the credit limit, etc. This is the same credit card that we are trying to pay off by the end of November. Coincidentally, the interest rate change will go into effect on December 1.

So far, this doesn't sound like a problem since the card will be paid in full. We were hoping to receive or apply for a balance transfer rate on this credit card because it is currently our lowest interest rate. Now it will be our highest. Balance transfers to this card would not be beneficial at a higher interest rate, even if the balance transfer is 0% for six months. Our plan was to transfer a balance from a higher rate card and then let the balance at 0% interest sit while we aggressively paid off a higher rate card. That's not going to happen now.

I've seen numerous articles that say that some banks are now starting to charge fees if the user does not charge anything to the account or annual fees regardless of usage. The new credit card legislation (link is a pdf) goes into effect in February and I'm afraid the banks are trying to take advantage of the last few months before they are restricted. I'm really nervous that we're going to be getting rate increase notices on all four of our credit cards.

Now we have to decide - do we close the accounts for which we receive notice of increased interest rates? Keeping the accounts open and facing increased interest rates is going to hurt our finances. Closing the accounts and taking the hit on the our credit scores is also going to hurt but only if we try to apply for credit. I hate credit cards and regret the mistakes I've made with them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My birthday present to myself - I'm going to bed with a clean sink and no dirty dishes on the counter. That's a rarity.

Monday, October 19, 2009

False advertising

"Life is too short for oatmeal."

So claims a sign from a local convenience store.

Life is never too short for oatmeal. Especially when the advertisement claims that a store bought cinnamon roll is better than homemade oatmeal. Especially when it's homemade oatmeal with chopped apples and cinnamon.

As soon as the temperature cools down, I'm making homemade oatmeal and homemade cinnamon rolls. Life is too short for store bought cinnamon rolls.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Over the halfway point!

$1,028.48 starting balance
- $25.00 minimum payment
- $300.00 snowball payment

= $703.48 current balance (65% paid!!)

It feels good to make some real progress this week. We owe less than a thousand dollars!

I hate that the bank will only allow me to make payments every three days. I probably need to start making one payment a week instead of sending multiple smaller payments. The $300.00 payment hits our account on Monday because I had to schedule it in the future due to having just made the minimum payment. It doesn't seem fair that the bank can charge interest on my daily balance but I can only send payments every three days. That's just a bit lopsided in their favor.

For this upcoming week, I should be receiving a paycheck for my contract work shortly. As far as I know, that will be the only payment for the week. The only other possibility is the mail in rebate for our tire purchases but I don't expect that check in the immediate future. The fine print stated that rebates can take up to six weeks and I mailed in the paperwork a week ago.

We are in route to having this credit card paid off by the end of November, which was our goal. I am very excited and can't wait to see one less bill each month.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free price book app

Is anyone interested in trying out a free price book application for the iPhone or iPod Touch? Because of yesterday's post, I was contacted about offering feedback on a new app.

About Price Book:

"The 2.0.0 version of Price Book comes with a free companion website. Data can be entered in the website and downloaded to your device and data can also be exported from your device to the website. In this way data will always be safe and secure on the website.

"There are also a number of new features in this latest version of Price Book such as comparing prices in the same unit group. There are four unit groups: 1) weights, 2) fluids, 3) lengths, 4) areas. Prices in the same unit group are compared using the smallest unit for those prices. For example, milk sold in gallons and liters would have their price per unit cast in liters so that an accurate comparison can be made."

I think this app sounds wonderful and is something I would test out if I owned an iPhone or an iPod Touch! Would anyone else be interested in testing it out? If so, let me know and I will pass on the information so you can download a free copy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The benefits of price comparison

One way I'm trying to save money is by shopping around and doing price comparisons. I'm putting together a price book that includes all products purchased on a regular basis and which grocery store has the lowest price. By doing this, I can tell when a sale is actually a good price and when I need to stock up.

Walmart recently stopped carrying my preferred yeast, Red Star's Active Dry Yeast. Walmart charged $6.49 or so for a 4-ounce jar. When I found out that Walmart stopped carrying my yeast, I looked at several grocery stores and found that Frys was the only one that carried that particular jar of yeast and they were charging $7.99 for 4 ounces. Ouch.

Enter Amazon. However people feel about large corporations driving the little guy out of business, Amazon can usually beat any price. When you're trying to get out of debt, the savings is vital. I should have looked for yeast on Amazon a long time ago because they have a terrific price.

The jar on the left is my normal jar of yeast. The bag on the right was ordered from Amazon.

Jar: 4 ounces, $7.99 + tax
Bag: 32 ounces, $14.88 + shipping (if applicable)

The bag from Amazon is a terrific deal. To buy 32 ounces worth of jars, I would be spending $63.92, instead of $14.88 to buy a bag online. Because we were also ordering hubby's birthday present, shipping was free and we saved $49.04. I would consider that worth ordering online and waiting for the shipment. I just refilled my jar and tossed the rest of the bag into the freezer for later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Today is my hubby's birthday as well as our fourth wedding anniversary. Hubby and I became engaged in September 2005 and the following month we decided to elope. I had already requested hubby's birthday off work to surprise him. When we started seriously talking about eloping, I spilled the beans that I had scheduled a vacation day on October 14th. I'm not sure if that's considered romantic, but it worked for us!

Thank you, darling, for four amazing years together. I praise God that you have enjoyed another year of life and that He has given us a wonderful year together. I pray that we will have many more years together growing in God and closer to each other.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quilting for children

The women's ministry program at the church has a mission to provide children recently removed from their homes a bag with a quilt, toiletry items, a toy, and a stuffed animal. Oftentimes, children are removed from their homes without the opportunity to take any of their belongings. The women's ministry project attempts to give these children some small amount of comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.

Volunteers make each of the quilts to give to these children. The church provides all the materials - fabric, thread, and batting. Women are encouraged to pick out fabric from the church's stash, take it home, and bring back a completed quilt. If women are unable to complete the entire quilt, they are welcome to piece blocks or even sew the entire top but leave the actual "quilting" process to the other ladies. In this way, women can contribute as much as their time and ability allows.

I believe this is a great ministry and I was invited to participate. When I informed the ministry leader that I didn't know how to quilt but was eager to learn, she invited me to attend this month's meeting. Plenty of ladies would be willing to teach me the basics so that I could get started.

The meeting was wonderful. It was overwhelming at times, as I don't know much about quilting and needed to be shown everything. But once the ladies showed me how to complete a step in the project, they let me continue on my own and answered any questions. I learned a little bit about how to pick out complimentary fabrics, how to iron the fabric, how to cut strips, and how to sew strips of fabric together and then cut it to make the blocks.

Here's my first block:

I was sent home with enough fabric to complete eight additional blocks. Next month, the ladies will teach me how to determine what size sashing is needed, cut the sashing, and design a border. By this time next month, I might have completed my first quilt top! I'm really excited about this opportunity. Not only do I get free lessons, I'm helping out children who have been removed from their homes. I hope that in some small way, my quilt will make a little boy feel more loved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's quote

"Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance."
Bruce Barton

I'm headed off to a women's ministries meeting at the church. I'll be learning how to quilt today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One third complete

$1,278.60 starting balance
- $244.00 contract paycheck
- $6.12 payment

= $1,028.48 current balance (35.3% paid)

When we started aggressively paying off this credit card, Bankrate calculated that it would take 60 months to eliminate the balance. Calculating our current balance, Bankrate now states that it will take only 36 months of minimum payments. In only 6 weeks, we have eliminated two years of minimum payments! Every little bit really does help.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weather, kitty update, and to do list

I can't believe how quickly it has cooled down. Just two weeks ago, it was reaching 105 degrees by afternoon. Today, my windows and doors are all open, a cool breeze is blowing into the apartment, and I'm actually a little chilly. Our highs are now around 85 degrees, which is starting to get chilly for Arizona. I've lived in Arizona for 10 years and I've acclimated fairly well. While I won't complain about temperatures in the 70s, I will be wearing jeans and possibly a long sleeve shirt!

My kitty seems to be feeling better. Hubby saw him eating breakfast and he's a bit more feisty. Hubby also caught Bruno and Susano on the counter early this morning eating one of my houseplants. Bad kitties!

I've neglected my six most important things list. I'm not sure why I stopped but not writing the list lowers my productivity levels. So today I decided to post my six most important things on my blog and see how much I can accomplish.

Preparation Friday:
Wash and dry the sheets; remake the bed
Sweep floors in kitchen and bathrooms
Clean kitty litter boxes
Clean toilet and bathroom sink

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sick kitty

I think my kitty might be sick. He's been lethargic all day and hasn't eaten much. I'm giving him all the attention he wants and letting him sleep as much as possible. Poor baby.

I've never felt so close to a cat before. Hubby and I both raised him but Bruno connected with me. He follows me around every day, freaks out when I leave home for more than a few hours, and insists on staying by my side. He's never that far away. I must have been the first thing he saw when his eyes finally opened and he's never let go of me since. It hurts to watch him not feel well. Hopefully he's feeling like himself tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First time for everything

What a great day of firsts!

  • First day we've not turned on the air conditioning since June. I hope it stays that way!
  • First time I've filled out a Citizen Survey for my city.
  • First time I've gone shopping at Walmart at 5AM. Great customer service and the store is perfectly clean.
  • First time I've applied to participate in a credit card program. Earn 20% of any balance paid above the minimum for the next three billing cycles. I can't use the card (no worries there) and my credit line will be reduced by the amount paid above the minimum. I had called to find out why my interest rate was raised 1.75% and they offered this instead. I applied, but hubby and I discussed this program and decided we won't take advantage of it. Because the payments are applied to lowest interest rates first and we recently transferred a balance to this card at a much lower rate, we would actually be losing money by paying off the 1.9% interest instead of the 10.24% card we're paying on now.

We might be visiting another small art museum for the first time tonight. It depends on how tired we are after doing the last bit of grocery shopping at the farmer's market.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The balance grew...

I meant to post this yesterday but I fell asleep at 6:30 last night and woke up at 6:30 this morning!

We made NO progress on the credit card last week. I have a feeling that the first week of each month will be the one that we are unable to make a payment. Hubby gets paid at the end of each month but most of our bills are due within the first 10 days of the month.

$1,266.04 starting balance
+ $12.56 interest

= $1278.60 current balance (19.6% paid)

This week will be much better. I was paid on Friday but I'm waiting for the check to clear the bank. As soon as that clears, I'll be sending a payment.

Our snowball will also be affected this month as our car wouldn't start on Sabbath and we found out our battery needed to be replaced. We missed church. That's another $100 we've had to put into the car. Combine the new battery purchase with the new tires and we've paid almost $550 into car maintenance in less that two weeks! The beauty of it all is that we have an emergency fund (for the battery; the tires were budgeted) and haven't had to use the credit cards. God is very good!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Have a very blessed Sabbath!

Come to Me,
all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest

Matthew 11:28.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Branching out, trying something new

One of my goals is to try new things, whether it be experiences, food, or styles. I am a very conservative person and have not experienced much because I've always been afraid to try something different. This is true in my diet, my music, my hobbies, and even my interactions with other people.

An easy way for me to branch out without too much risk is our food. Our menus are very limited and we get bored eating the same things day after day. My culinary repertoire is mostly Mexican and Italian dishes. I thought it would be fun to attempt apple butter today.

First I peeled the apples and quartered them. All the apples went into the Crock Pot with some vanilla. Then it cooked for eight hours.

After three hours, my apples were already starting to liquefy.

After eight hours of cooking, I added cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and white sugar. I stirred it all up and then let it cook for another two hours. The final product in my lovely recycled Classico jars:

I haven't tried it yet. I was waiting for it to cool off and now I'm ready to eat a piece of homemade Amish bread with my homemade apple butter. I hope it turned out well!

I used this recipe for inspiration. I halved the recipe and didn't cook it as long as the recipe called for because the apple butter was starting to turn dark brown and stick to the sides of the Crock Pot. Hopefully I made the right decision to end the cooking early. If not, I'll just have to try again with a full recipe.