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Archive for December, 2010

Money mostly out; sad news

December 31st, 2010 at 11:02 pm

We made a bunch of purchases for the home this year and it's really improved the quality of living around here. I thought we'd taken care of everything we wanted for a while, but several strong wants (not quite needs) have been building up. Rather than being frustrated by the lack of these things, we've decided to go ahead and purchase everything. I'm using some of the money saved up for the lawyer; most of that money won't be needed until at least 2012, so we've got plenty of time to get to the full amount we need. AS still has a good connection with the place that's been sending her freelance work, and NT gets overtime pay pretty regularly, so I feel OK about it.

Today we purchased:
A crib/bed convertible thing (we have one of those drop-side cribs, which have recently been outlawed from selling due to safety concerns, so we've been wanting to replace it)
An area rug for the living room (so AA can practice walking with a softer surface to mess up on)
Electrical plug safety covers
Bumper for the edge of the coffee table (again for AA's walking safety)
Two humidifiers
Spice racks (to try and fix our miserably overcrowded, poorly organize spice cabinet)

Phew! I think that's nearly all. We're also on the lookout for an area rug for AA's room. Not only are our floors hard, we've realized, but slippery. AA needs a bit of purchase if she's going to get better at walking!

***

We had some sad news via a notice in the elevator a couple days ago, and we confirmed with building management: The man who rented our parking spot from us has passed away. We never met him in person; we made the agreement over the phone and he mailed us a check every month (or taped it to our door if he was in town). AS spoke to him one other time, a month or two ago, because we'd lost one of his checks, but other than that we didn't hear from him at all over the past four or so years that we've been renting to him.

We looked up his obituary and he was 71. He sounded a lot younger on the phone. He died of pancreatic cancer. It sounds like he was well-loved and active in the community.

Now we have to figure out what to do next. Do we owe someone a partial refund? Who's handling his affairs? Is his car out of the spot? We figure we'll call the building manager on Monday and see what she thinks -- she might have contact information for his next of kin. I suppose if he lived with someone in the building, they might want to keep the spot, but if he lived alone, I'm not sure what to do. Very strange, sad circumstances.

Last two debt payments of 2010; other debt stats

December 30th, 2010 at 05:38 pm

Hey, what do you know? AS's student loan payments did hit by the end of the month after all. $121 and $60 to principal, so $181 total.

That means $3219 was paid in December, and $29,240 total was paid in 2010!

I also made a weird discovery. One of AS's student loans, which I had listed in my debt spreadsheet as being at 4.5% fixed interest rate, actually has a 3.25% interest rate (fixed)! I have no idea how I've had that wrong all these years. I made the spreadsheet in 2007 and I guess never noticed that I had that number wrong.

So our interest rates are even better than I thought! Here's what we have at what rate:
$25,050 at 6.8% fixed (NT student loan)
$6,814 at 6.55% fixed (AS student loan)
$4,243 at 3.85% variable (NT student loan)
$170,944 at 3.5% variable (CJ/AS mortgage)
$13,568 at 3.25% fixed (AS student loan)
$1,030 at 2.25% variable (AS student loan)
$76,760 at 1.49% variable (NT mortgage)
$16,182 at 1.49% variable (NT HEL)
$17,038 at 1.49% variable (NT HEL)
And $19,991 of estimated future NT student loan debt (not borrowed yet)

Of course I don't expect interest rates to stagnate forever, and there are a lot of variable rates on there, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts!

My source of personal-finance inspiration

December 28th, 2010 at 06:45 pm

I was thinking about ThriftoRama's post, about what personal finance books inspire her, and trying to remember if I have any.

You know, I don't think I've ever read a finance book. My impression of them might have been tainted years ago, when I dated a guy who loved "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" but whose own financial situation was a disaster. He was in his late 30s and had just gotten nowhere, despite that book sitting next to his toilet. In fact, I'm pretty sure he broke it off with me because he'd borrowed some money and was embarrassed that he couldn't pay it back!

I did subscribe to some personal finance blogs outside of SA, but the bloggers that are doing it for money get real repetitive after a while, so I don't read any of them anymore. I do get Kiplinger and Smart Money magazines and usually read them (although the investing articles are still mumbo jumbo to me).

The best ideas I get are just from reading SA blogs. Through all the day-to-day chatter runs a thread of really original ideas that just come out organically and are all the more useful for coming from people's everyday experiences. The immediacy of this kind of blogging, rather than spending time distilling and analyzing information until it's like a magazine article, is really valuable for getting insight into other people's personal finance philosophies and cherry-picking ideas and practices to try in your own life. (Plus, it's just really neat to get that glimpse of a part of people's lives that you don't usually in real life.)

I can tell a lot of people feel the same as me, because my blog recently topped 500,000 views! Kind of amazing for just three and a half years of blogging. Thanks for reading, everyone; and, to those of you who blog here as well, thanks for letting me read about your lives! Smile

Supreme declutter

December 27th, 2010 at 06:33 am

Oh, I REEALLLY don't want to go back to work tomorrow! Frown I've been having such a great time. All the fun, food, presents and family & friends have been so wonderful.

I had to work a little late on the 23rd. But I had Xmas Eve off. We spent most of the day just cooking and playing new Wii videogames, and we went to our friends' place for a little gathering that evening. That was really fun, and walking between huge banks of snow to and from the bus stop at night was magical.

Xmas Day was fantastic; both of Neil's parents have finally figured out Skype, so they got to see Astrid in action for the first time since our October trip. She doesn't really know what's going on, but she's very interested by the pictures and voices coming out of the computer. It'll be neat when she can finally recognize her relatives. It inspired me to write to my sister to see if she could set up a webcam chat between me and my parents. She said she might try tomorrow. Which is good, because I never got around to calling my family this weekend! (Bad daughter.)

We got tons of presents, both from parents and from each other. Included were some new kitchen tools, tupperware and cookbooks. We knew we'd have to clear some space because our tiny, open-plan kitchen was already crammed to the gills. We got AS a marble pastry board that's huge, and heavy; and we got a bunch of other things too. But we took it super easy on Saturday, just playing videogames and hanging around. AA is determined to try and walk, so all she wants to do lately is stand up holding on to things. It's a little stressful because we have wood floors and sharp edges on our coffee table! I really need to remedy those things soon so we can enjoy watching her without wincing every time we think she's going to fall.

Then, today, we worked all day on clearing out the kitchen and tidying up in general. We have the housecleaners coming for the first time tomorrow, so we want as many clean surfaces as possible! The more clear areas there are to clean, the cleaner our house will be.

Anyway, we must've gotten rid of about 50 items, minimum. We still have some things hanging around while we try to Freecycle/give to our friends, but they're tucked out of sight. We're getting rid of at least 20 cookbooks!

It felt good, so I imagine this will propel us to get rid of some more things on Half, eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle. I always think we run a tight ship because of the space constraints, but I was kind of amazed at how much unused detritus we gathered up in just a few cupboards, so I'm sure we could do that in other rooms.

Soo yeah, just babbling and trying to ignore the fact that it's after midnight and I've got to go to work tomorrow. But, four-day week, and broken up by a few nice things: clean house when I come home tomorrow evening, one of NT's co-workers coming over for dinner Wednesday, AA getting to stay home with one parent or another most days. Then New Year's Eve we have a baby playdate in the afternoon and a low-key get-together in the evening.

I hope there isn't too much to do at work this week, because I'm kind of checked out there. If they don't offer me a raise by the end of this week, I've made a promise to myself to start looking for a new job. A hassle for sure, but necessary for my self-esteem to at least know that I tried to make the situation better. It sure would be nice if my boss just came through and got me one, but I have a feeling he won't, or that my job won't take him seriously unless I actually threaten to quit.

Sigh. OK, I'd better go. Happy holidays again! Thanks for letting me vent. Smile

Weight gain (no surprise)

December 27th, 2010 at 03:17 am

Considering I only worked out once this week and had much of the usual decadent Xmas fun, my 1.8-lb. gain is something I can deal with! Still .6 down from my starting point! Of course, I got some treats for Xmas that might delay significant progress for another week or two. ;-) But I can live with that, too.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

2011 goals

December 25th, 2010 at 12:27 am

OK, I'm going to post what I think are my finalized goals for 2011. (Hey, I still have a few days to change them if I want.)

This year there's a new wrinkle: I asked NT and AS if they wanted to record any goals here, and they each came up with one. If they come up with others I'll update the sidebar accordingly.

There's a mix of financial and non here, and it's a big list. I'm not going to be pessimistic and say I know I'm not going to reach them all. It's just a big list, that's all. But I feel like they're all important to at least strive for in 2011.

Thanks to Thrift-o-rama's great post recently, I'm also going to add a note here and there about how I plan to reach these goals.

CJ's goals:
*Pay off AS's DL student loan. Current balance is $6814. We pay about $100 per month in the minimum payment, plus I have $700 per month in the budget for extra repayment. So I hope to get this paid off by September at the latest. If we bring in extra money this year, could be sooner!

*Save $3600 to Roths. I have automatic debits set up for all three IRAs; $200 will go to AS's and $50 each will go to mine and NT's.

*Increase EF by $7000. I only put about $50 per month to the EF in U.S. money, but I plan to put all the extra income from NT's UK flat rental into his UK savings account and count that toward it. Most months we clear $500-$600, so this should be a no-brainer as long as there aren't any unexpected repairs or loss of rental income.

*Give $1800 to charities. I have $150 per month in the budget for this; each of us gets to decide where $50 of it goes.

*Get AS to positive net worth. Starting point: ($14,667). This should be pretty easy. Her minimum principal payments plus the extra student-loan payments plus IRA & 401(k) should change her net worth by at least $16,000. But putting it as a goal will help me keep it in mind and do something extra if need be.

*Pay off at least $20,000 of debt. Again, should happen easily. Our regular payments are more than $1000 to principal each month, and we plan to put an extra $700 per month.

*Get down to 139 lbs. NOW we get to the hard goals! LOL. Starting point TBD, but at present I'm at 153 lbs. So it'll be approximately 14 lbs. I've seen modest progress on weeks when I exercise regularly and eat semi-modestly, so I won't be trying anything extreme unless I'm having trouble sticking to moderation.

*Go on at least 2 trips (paid for in cash). I've already got tickets booked for one, and there are two others we're considering, so we may do more than two. Whatever we do, we'll only do if we have the money for it.

*Either get a raise or find new job. Super hard. My plan is, if they don't give me the raise I'm asking for, I'll start looking. I realize full-time well-paying editor jobs are few and far between, but I'm going to try my darnedest. If I find one, and I'm not eager to switch, I'll take the offer to my job and see if they can beat it.

*Complete estate-planning process (and pay for it in cash). This should be fine. We have about $5000 saved up and don't think we'll need nearly that much. We just need to come up with our answers to the big questions, and then contact our lawyer to get the process going.

*Either read a book or do a creative project each month. I do tend to crap out on this kind of goal, but I had to put it out there. I've barely read any novels since AA was born, and I'm not naturally craftsy or creative so it takes a little nudging to get me going in those areas. But I do feel it helps me be more well-rounded, and it's so satisfying when I finish!

*Make money with "side hustles." I hope to get some freelance editing, and I thought freelance writing could fulfill my creative goal, too!

*Organize at least one dinner party or other small-group get-together per month. We tend not to see people except at larger gatherings, where you don't get quality time with every single person. I thought it would be fun to invite a few people over for dinner once a month (or even invite them out somewhere) and strengthen our friendships a bit.

*Write a "Share Your Thoughts" blog post once a month. This one will require help from you! I love when there are more interactive things happening on the site, but there haven't been many this year. So I thought I'd post a topic or question once a month, give my thoughts, and then ask people to post their own entry on the topic (or just write a comment, if you don't have an SA blog). They will probably be mostly non-financial, more philosophical or about life experiences.

And now, NT and AS's goals:

NT
Get down to pre-holiday weight by end of January
Get down to 155 lbs.

AS
Make at least one thing per month (clothes, etc.)

That's it for now! Happy holidays to everyone, and good luck creating and accomplishing your own goals.

2010 goals wrap-up & big picture goals completed

December 24th, 2010 at 11:53 pm

OK, I've already covered my goals enough times, but I'm about to delete my sidebar for this year, so I thought I'd paste my results into an entry!

These are my goals--all accomplished well within their timelines.

Build birthday fund of $600 by 2/28/10

Pay off loan to Dad by 3/8/10

Save at least $1000 for trip to Va. by 6/1/10

Save at least $3000 for trip to England by 7/1/10

Pay off 0% Sears card (stove) by 11/1/10

Build Xmas fund of $700 by 11/25/10

Pay off Amex credit card by 12/31/10

Also, I'm going to clear the sidebar of completed big-picture goals, so here they are for posterity:

COMPLETED BIG-PICTURE GOALS:
Pay off personal loan by 12/31/09
Original balance (6/15/07): $30,000
Progress: DONE!!! 12/4/09

Pay off loan to dad by 3/8/10
Original balance (11/1/03): $12,000
Progress: DONE!!! 2/16/10

Pay off Amex CC by 12/31/10
Balance at start of challenge (11/13/09): $11,202
Progress: DONE!!

Total of above goals: Pay off all credit card and personal loan debt by 12/31/10
Balance at start of challenge (1/1/08): $70,251
Progress: DONE!!
(Full disclosure: I transferred $7402 of this debt over to student-loan debt, so I didn't pay that portion off.)

Woo hoo! Now on to 2011!

Some healthy progress

December 21st, 2010 at 06:40 pm

I believe I posted about my 2-lb. weight gain at my Sunday-before-last weigh-in. Well, last Sunday I weighed myself having only worked out twice during the week, and I showed as having lost 3.5 lbs.! I think it's more that my earlier weigh-in was thrown off by a heavy meal shortly beforehand, but still, great news.

Cumulatively I'd gained 1.1 lbs. since I started trying to be healthy, so with this latest loss, my cumulative progress is a loss of 2.4 lbs.

I actually think I look like I lost more than that, because I had no muscle on my body, and so building muscle might be slowing my weight-loss numbers. So I feel pretty good. I'm within 8 lbs. of my estimated pre-pregnancy weight. More important, getting in shape has helped me get through the snow, which has been crazy-deep this winter. There are a few times going to daycare when I've been very thankful about my slightly strengthened leg muscles!

Prepaid plan 2010 costs update

December 20th, 2010 at 08:40 pm

NT bought some minutes recently, which reminded me I forgot to update this record back in October. So I'm adding both purchases to my calculations:

CJ 1000 minutes late-March T-Mobile fillup: $107.78
NT 300 minutes late-March Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT 300 minutes late-May Net10 fillup: $32.82
NT 500 minutes + new phone late June: $21.56
AS 1000 minutes late-August fillup: $107.78
CJ 1000 minutes late-September fillup: $107.78
AS new phone + $25 phone card (200 min?): $32.32
NT 300 minutes early-October fillup: $32.87
NT 200 minutes late-December fillup: $32.87

Total cost for the year: $508.60

We're nearing the end of the ninth month of our cellphone "fiscal year," so our average monthly cost for this year is $56.51. Outstanding!

RECAP: I switched to prepaid in late March 2009. We have 2 phones on T-Mobile prepaid and 1 on Net10 prepaid. AS and I refill in 1000-minute increments and only need to refill when we run out or when it's been a year since our last fillup to stay active. NT needs to buy 300 more minutes every 60 days to keep his phone activated.

Our cellphone bill, for three phones on a family plan, used to range from $80-$95, depending on texts, calls to 411, etc. Usually it was close to $85. My goal for this year is to get my average cost to $50 per month, but any average number below $85 will be a savings.

December 2010 net worth update

December 20th, 2010 at 06:28 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
#1: 12,663 pounds ($25,326)
#2: 16,005 pounds ($32,010)
#3: 3,709 pounds ($7,418)
NT's 401(k): $10,812
NT's Roth IRA: $3,036
AS's 401(k): $4,751
AS's trad. IRA: $1,682
AS's Roth IRA: $3,035
CJ's 401(k): $37,866
CJ's Roth IRA: $3,036
NT's flat: 130,000 pounds ($260,000)
CJ & AS's condo: $160,000
Baby/emergency fund (shared asset): $8,790
---
Total Assets: $557,762

Total Debt: $351,801

Current Estimated Net Worth: $205,961

November 2010 estimate: $191,983

Change in net worth: +$13,978

Summary: I wasn't able to access NT's 401(k) account online today, so I couldn't record the probable gains (based on AS and I making leaps in our accounts). But it hardly mattered in light of the big overall gain this month! My dad gifted us $12,900, and I put over $11,000 of that directly toward our net worth, including retirement savings and debt pay-down. So it's exhilerating but hardly surprising that our net worth has topped $200,000. A great way to end the year!

I will update my "Individual Net Worth" page shortly so you can see how it breaks out per person.

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are fairly conservative. I don't have a way to check NT's UK pensions or flat value, so their values stay static for the purpose of this update (unless I happen to get some info by chance). UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $2 for every British pound, which was the exchange rate when I started keeping track. I maintain that ratio for the purpose of tracking progress, even though the exchange rate is now closer to $1.60 per British pound.

Debt goal met, plus catching up

December 16th, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Oh my, it's been ages since I posted! We've had an insane blizzard followed by a rather severe cold snap, and it's just thrown everything off for me--working out, eating; even my budgeting spreadsheet is so jumbled up with Xmas shopping debits that I'm probably going to just fudge some numbers to get it to work out once we're done with all this madness. I don't think I'll be too far off, but I'm bound to lose track of which purchases come out of which line item at some point, or double-count or omit something from my calcuations.

Anyway, AS's student loan payment hit. Since we'd made some extra payments earlier in the month, nearly all of this payment went to principal: $138. That means we've paid $3038 this month, exceeding our $3000 goal!

Other news...let's see if I can get to it all before I get hit with any work.

NT got news of his bonus and it should hit our bank account tomorrow. $3500 pretax!! Hard to say what it'll be after tax--I'm guessing $2100. We're each getting $100 out of it, plus we're giving tips to our barber and daycare lady, and most of the rest is going into our lawyer fund. I'm feeling really good about that fund; this should bring it up over $5500! Since my very maximum estimate for all that we want our lawyer to do is $9000, we're nearly two-thirds of the way there. And the $9000 is (I'm hoping) an extravagant overestimate.

We had our holiday party today, with some really good gourmet food, wine and champagne. I had fun hanging out with the contractor proofreader I helped hire--she seems nice but one or both of us is usually so busy that we barely ever talk. Turns out she's vegetarian too! We also got $250 each in Amex cards, and my boss also gave me another $150. I'm going to distribute that among us for fun spending, since it was COMPLETELY unexpected. I'm hoping this means my boss really values me and is going to fight for my raise (and I further hope he doesn't think this is an adequate replacement for a raise in my mind--it's very very nice, but it's not pacifying my desire for a real raise). Today's been super slow so I've taken the opportunity to order myself some Wii games with all this extra spending money. Hopefully some will arrive in time for Xmas vacation, because it's so enjoyable lazing around the house playing video games! I never liked them as a kid, but as an adult I find that trivial (yet slightly challenging) activities are an essential balance to all the work and stress of real life. And will hopefully help stave off senility! Smile

I sent my dad some smaller-than-usual Xmas wish lists for us, assuming after the big cash gift that he and Mom might want to take it easy on gift buying. No dice--I got an email with pointed reference to our "very short list" asking what kind of gift cards he could get us to "fill in" the apparent gap. So, I sent him some more gift ideas. Jeez, I was just trying to make it easy on him and mom! LOL.

During the cold snap, I avoided taking AA out to daycare, so AS, NT and I took turns taking some time off to stay at home with her. My job was good about sending me files to proof from home, which I was very glad about--I don't have any paid leave left, so I had to try and telecommute for those days. I think it worked out OK.

I'd gained 2 lbs. at my Sunday weigh-in; no big surprise since I'd only worked out three times in the week and had been eating like I was about to go into hybernation. I calculated my net loss/gain since I started trying to be healthy and I've gained 1.1 lbs. All told, since it is the most decadent (and freezing/snowbound) time of year, it feels kind of good that I'm holding steady. I don't expect to lose too much weight until the new year, so as long as I don't gain 5-10 lbs. over Xmas I'll consider my quest to be successful so far.

We've got to plan our holiday menu this weekend! Unbelievably, we're already over budget on groceries since I reset the budget last month. We're just not good budgeters when it comes to food, and the addition of formula and some disposable diapers has ratcheted up our spending. If we can't turn this around after the new year, I guess I'll have to consider taking money out of another budget item and putting it toward groceries/household. It kind of bugs me, but good eating is a big priority for us, so I'd rather do that than deprive us of the foods we love. We've got the money for it.

All my Xmas shopping is done as of yesterday! I don't get gifts for many people; just AS, AA, NT and my parents.

I'm still working on 2011 goals and will post them sometime this month. I've invited AS and NT to come up with goals that I'll post and track if they want, so I'm also holding off in case they want to get in on it. NT's been swamped with end-of-semester stuff, but his last final is this Monday, so we'll all have a breather until mid-January, hopefully.

I still haven't booked our March trip to San Fran -- typicall by now I'd have all our reservations made! Either it's busier than usual or I'm managing my time really poorly. That's another thing I want to handle over the holidays.

Another thing we need to do is solidify our goals for our estate planning and send them to our lawyer. We had a great, informative meeting with him recently where he explained different things like wills and probate and trusts. We just need to sit down with what he told us and come up with a good plan that covers all scenarios.

Our pics from the photo shoot with our friend came in -- see below!! There's another one of us all in formation with our heads at different levels; I call it the "Bremen Town musicians" pose -- that one we made into a holiday card to send our families. NT's parents keep promising to upgrade their computers/internet access enough to use Skype webcam service, but they're all absolutely hopeless in the web-savvy department. Hopefully the jaw-dropping cuteness of these photos will spur them to figure it out already!

Big chunk of debt gone! etc.

December 7th, 2010 at 04:40 pm

My extra payment, using my dad's gift, to one of AS's student loans went through. $2120 to principal! That makes it $2900 down, $100 to go on my December debt repayment goal.

Our Roth IRA money is finally showing up in those accounts; $3000 apiece. I feel so grown-up!

Last night we got a packet of questionnaires to fill out for our Friday meeting with the lawyer. The letter said they wanted it back by Dec. 6! We started going through them, but there are lots of big questions to answer, so I wrote to him saying we needed another day. Plus, the forms are geared toward couples, so some of the questions are confusing to try and answer. For instance, I have joint assets with AS and some with NT, and our checking account is in all three of our names. So there are going to be lots of scribbled notes trying to explain everything!

We got to preview the photos from our session with our friend and pick our favorite ones. They're so great! We picked out a couple for making holiday cards and other gifts for our families, and we'll probably get a few more later just for ourselves. I'll post one as soon as I get the final retouched version.

We went out for our anniversary dinner (a bit late) last night. I flaked on getting presents--felt so bad! So I bought all the cocktails. AA came with us and had a great time. She sat in a highchair, gnawed on a teething biscuit, charmed all the staff (including the owner), and went crazy for rice with a bit of sweet 'n' sour sauce. She's been off and on moody and refusing food and bottles, and this weekend she was kind of low-energy and had "the runs" (as my mom calls it), so I was glad she was eating and smiling. This morning she was cranky and refusing her bottle again, and now she hasn't had a poop in over 24 hours! I'm not sure what's going on with her, but the daycare lady didn't seem too worried, and I take my cue from her since she's so experienced. Anyway, she's got her regular checkup on Thursday, so if she doesn't get any worse, I think she can wait until then to see a doctor.

Blah, blah, blah -- I'm really rambling in this post! I think because I keep doing work and then coming back to it. Time to hit "Save and Publish" and be done with it. Smile

Some healthy progress!

December 6th, 2010 at 05:18 pm

Last week was rather iffy in the healthy eating department. Overall healthy meals with enough decadence mixed in that I was expecting no weight loss and wouldn't have been surprised by a small gain.

On the other hands, a couple of the workouts were more intense than the 10-minute ones I'd been doing in past weeks. Probably more like 20 to 30 minutes each on about four of them.

Apparently that was enough to make up for the bad food moments! I was down 1.4 lbs. according to the Wii Fit balance board.

I don't know my exact pre-pregnancy weight since I wasn't in a period of weighing myself regularly, but I estimate I was between 140 and 145, since that's where I'd been hovering. Now I'm 154, 9 lbs. more than my highest estimate. I would love to get to 145 before AA's first birthday in March! But even if I don't, just being within 10 lbs. of my possible pre-pregnancy weight is a great feeling.

I at least would love to hold steady through the decadent holiday season. Working out seems to be the key! We've got a mix of videos from Netflix, the fitness channel and free on-demand, so we're getting a bit of variety and aren't getting bored yet. My favorites are the Gilad programs from the fitness channel. They're evil, but he's kind of goofy and so it helps take my mind off how hard I'm working. Smile

Menu; modified recipe planning; money in the bank

December 4th, 2010 at 08:36 pm

Working on the menu for the week. NT requested tater tot hot dish (a very Midwestern dish I'd never heard of till I moved to Minnesota!), so I was looking around and found a promising vegan one. But I think it needs some modification, so I thought I'd post my revised recipe here, so I have it easily accessible for when I need to cook it!

White sauce:

* 2 cups soy milk
* 3 T. Earth Balance margarine
* 2 T. flour
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 t vegetable broth powder

Casserole:

* 24 oz of mixed frozen veggies (carrots, green beans, peas, carrots)
* 8-10 oz mushrooms, 2/3 chopped onion & 3 minced garlic cloves, lightly sauteed
* 1 bag Morningstar burger-style crumbles
* 1 bag of tater tots, use only enough to cover the top of the casserole
* 1/2 bag of Daiya cheddar cheese & similar amount of regular shredded cheddar
* several small dabs of Earth Balance margarine

1. Lightly saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic (about 5 mins over medium-high heat).
2. Over medium-low heat, melt butter and add flour to create a roux in small saucepan, whisking constantly. When light brown and bubbly, remove from heat and add soy milk slowly while whisking.
2. Return sauce to medium heat and cook until it thickens. Add salt, pepper & veggie broth powder. Use a wire whisk constantly as sauce thickens.
3. Once thickened, remove from heat.
4. In a 9 x 9 inch casserole, mix the Daiya with 1/2 the frozen veggies, mushrooms, crumbles and white sauce. In another 9 x 9, mix the real cheese with the rest of the above.
5. Scatter the dabs of Earth Balance on top.
6. Top with 1 layer of tater tots, side-by-side, end-to-end.
7. Bake for 45 mins at 375 F.

So here's the menu for today through next Saturday:
Tonight: Crispy vegan beef with Brussels sprouts & water chestnuts stir-fry
Sunday lunch: Baked portobellos, tater tots & salad
Sunday dinner: Pizza
Monday: Mushroom-walnut loaf, carrots & spinach
Tuesday: Tofu franks & beans
Wednesday: Baked stuffed peppers & lemon-butter broccoli
Thursday: Stir-fry with frozen tofu, broccoli & cashews
Friday: Veggie burgers or ribs with corn & carrots
Saturday lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup & salad
Saturday dinner: Tater tot hot dish and sauteed spinach

Oh, and my dad's gift made it into my bank account Friday!! I opened three Roth IRAs and set up an extra student loan payment that same day. Smile

Debt repayment progress, plus some rambling

December 3rd, 2010 at 04:09 pm

I've been super-busy at work and haven't been able to post my mortgage payments that hit on Dec. 1:
US: $407 to principal
UK1: $260 to principal
UK2: $55 to principal
UK3: $58 to principal

In total $780 down, $2220 to go on my December debt-repayment goal.

I'm not sure how I'm going to do at my weigh-in on Sunday. I've worked out three times and plan to get my fourth and fifth in over the weekend. However, I had breaded, fried mushrooms on Tuesday, Chinese takeout last night, and am having a pastry at work today. Plus tonight is NT's office party and they'll be feeding us at a fancy restaurant...Most of my other food choices have been good this week, so maybe it will balance out. The most important thing is being conscious about what I'm putting in my body, because it's when I switch off my brain and eat whatever and whenever I feel like that I go off the rails.

I've eaten non-home-cooked food a couple other times this week, and today one of the project managers arranged for food to be brought in to celebrate a particularly complex project being almost over. So today I'll have three outside meals. Very unusual unless I'm in vacation! And we have our anniversary meal on Monday (yesterday was the actual date of our commitment ceremony but the week was too crazy to go out). I'll probably be glad to get back to home-cooked when it's over, because restaurant and bakery food is so over-the-top in terms of portions, salt, sugar, etc. (Not saying I don't enjoy it, but I couldn't do it all the time!)

Tonight we have a friend babysitting AA while we go to the holiday party, but Monday we're bringing her out on our anniversary date. She's usually really well-behaved and loves seeing new places and people, so it should be fun!

Speaking of AA, we had our photo shoot with our photographer friend this past weekend. I can't wait to see the results. AA was in a fantastic mood and I think he got lots of good shots of her laughing and smiling. He tried to take portraits of us but I feel like such a dork trying to pose for pictures, so I don't know how mine will turn out. And he got some group shots of the family.

We got a nice email from NT's dad about our anniversary, and a nice card from my parents...addressed only to me and NT. Sigh. Well, I don't care if they understand about our relationship, as long as they get that our kids belong to all three of us. When AS is pregnant I'll have to explain that I intend to adopt her and NT's kid and she'll adopt AA. Hopefully that will finally get it through my mom's head. (I don't think she's rejecting the notion on purpose; I think she's just kind of dense and confused about it.)

Ooh, as I was writing this I just got an email from my dad that he's transferring the funds today! I wonder if they'll hit today or tomorrow or Monday...so exciting! Smile